Make blogging great again

This site has been overdue for a design update — the last time I made significant changes was 2012 — and yesterday I took the plunge into doing a major overhaul. The old look was starting to feel a bit dated. And in one important aspect, it was very dated. It wasn’t mobile-friendly, with some of the elements being static and rigid. A lot of reading on the web has shifted to mobile devices, and last year Google started putting greater weight on mobile accessibility in its site rankings, so fixing those problems was vital for getting search traffic. The new design is flexible, minimalist, and should read easily on whatever device you’re using.

The last time I re-designed the site I celebrated with a book giveaway, and that seems like a tradition worth keeping, especially now that I have a book of my own on the market. I’ll send a signed copy of my collection of beer cocktail recipes, Cocktails on Tap: The Art of Mixing Spirits and Beer, to one lucky commenter on this post. Just leave a comment here by midnight this Saturday, February 27th [date corrected], and I’ll randomly select one winner to receive the book. (One comment per person, obviously, and be sure to include your email address so I can contact you. It won’t be published.)


A few design notes: The last two times I redesigned the site (which has been running for thirteen years!), I had to use feature-loaded themes like Genesis and Thesis to get the flexibility I wanted. This time I tried out the free, default WordPress theme for 2016. Recent default themes have tended to place more emphasis on large photos or magazine-style layouts. This one feels a lot like a return to a classic blog format, with a simple header, a main column for content, and one sidebar. There’s plenty of room for photos, but I’m liking the way it handles text-heavy posts as well. And the minimal design — perhaps too minimal — transitions very easily to a mobile display. (This retrospective on default WordPress themes is interesting reading for blog nerds.)

Twenty Sixteen is by far the easiest out-of-the-box design I’ve done so far. I do wish it had a few more customization options, however. To get the site where I wanted it, a few tools came in handy:

1. This custom CSS tool makes it easy to tweak design elements like text size and color without having to make a child theme.

2. Finding the right CSS elements to modify can be tricky, but this post covered 90% of what I was looking for. Combine it with the tool above for easy editing.

3. This trick for creating a drop-down navigation menu cleaned up the masthead.

That covers most of the changes I needed to make. If you notice anything I missed, please let me know!

Update 2/29/16: And the winner is Tim T.! Thanks to everyone who commented.


2015 blog in review

Cocktails on Tap blue 250

As in 2014, I spent little time blogging this year in favor of working on long-form writing projects and non-writing work. 2015 did see the publication of my first book though. Cocktails on Tap: The Art of Mixing Spirits and Beer, debuted in March, with photography by David L. Reamer and an introduction by Stephen Beaumont. Reviews have been positive and it made the long list of nominations for a best book award at Tales of the Cocktail. If you’ve yet to pick up a copy, get on it.

I wrote a few pieces for other publications this year: On vape bans for The Oregonian, on beer cocktail bans for Reason, on drinking hot beer for The Atlantic, and on smoking bans, aquavit, and Berlin drinking destinations for Eater. I’ve been writing spirits reviews for Distiller. Here at the blog, I wrote a skeptical take on tobacco death tolls, explored why Georg Riedel would make a fine illusionist, explained the Affordable Care Act’s impact on infrequent smokers, and discussed dirty hands and raw meat. I’m also about 20,000 words into my next big publication, which I’ll hopefully have out in the year ahead.

Despite rarely updating the site, this turned out to be its busiest year of traffic ever, with 200,096 visits. That’s up from 64,993 visits last year. The bad news: More than 70% of this year’s page views came from my dumb stapler post from 2007, which has proven to be the gift that keeps on giving. That post received 50,000 visits on one December day alone thanks to a post on Reddit.

Top posts of 2015
1. The stapler’s secret
2. Spirit of Sri Lanka: Coconut arrack
3. MxMo Retro Redemption: Harvey Weissbanger
4. My coffee smells like tuna fish
5. Using a jigger? You’re doing it wrong
6. Mixing with the Mad Dog
7. How grilling meat really is like smoking a cigar
8. Defining “tobacco use” for cigar smokers
9. Camel crickets invade DC
10. How to get rid of camel crickets

Search traffic is too low to be of much interest anymore.

Top search referrals of 2015
1. weird fish
2. apple cider gastrique
3. arrack
4. coffee bitters
5. coconut arrack
6. how to get rid of sprickets
7. Jacob Grier
8. arrack Sri Lanka
9. cider gastrique
10. apple gastrique

The countries with the most visitors is not much changed, though Sri Lanka, India, and France fell out of the top ten.

Top visitor countries of 2015
1. United States
2. Canada
3. United Kingdom
4. Australia
5. Germany
6. Netherlands
7. Sweden
8. Singapore
9. Philippines
10. New Zealand

There are no surprises in the city list either.

Top visitor cities of 2015
1. New York
2. London
3. San Francisco
4. Los Angeles
5. Chicago
6. Toronto
7. Portland
8. Sydney
9. Houston
10. Seattle

Reddit and Buzzfeed dominated this year’s referrals.

Top non-search referrals of 2015
1. Reddit
2. Buzzfeed
3. Facebook
4. Twitter
5. Alcademics
6. Home Brew Talk
7. The French Exit
8. EcoSalon
9. Liqurious
10. Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

I don’t expect my output to increase here for at least the first half of 2016, so hopefully the stapler post will continue to excite the internet in the year ahead.


2014 blog in review

In my annual blog review last year, I noted that 2013 was the first year in which traffic to this site dropped substantially. That trend continued in 2014, with traffic dropping 13% to just 64,893 visits. That’s not surprising, given how rarely I’ve updated this year. On the plus side, I’ve done more writing for external sites and more long-form writing, with at least one book slated to come out in 2015.

Here are the top posts of 2014, three of which were actually written last year. Staplers and camel crickets continue to grab the stop spots.

Top post of 2014
1. The stapler’s secret
2. MxMo Redemption: Harvey Weissbanger
3. Spirit of Sri Lanka: Coconut Arrack
4. Camel crickets invade DC
5. My coffee smells like tuna fish
6. Quick Little Pick Me Up
7. How to get rid of camel crickets
8. What proposed FDA regulations mean for e-cigarettes and cigars
9. Defining “tobacco use” for cigar smokers
10. Mixing with the Mad Dog

I used to get a lot more traffic from random searches. Today only a few search terms draw significant traffic.

Top search referrals of 2014
1. weird fish
2. camel cricket
3. arrack
4. coffee bitters
5. Harvey Weissbanger
6. coffee bitters recipe
7. apple cider gastrique
8. Sri Lankan arrack
9. spider crickets
10. shaker

As seen in the searches and country traffic, being one of the few English speakers writing about Sri Lankan coconut arrack has apparently brought in a decent number of visitors. I think this is the first year Sri Lanka has been in the top ten countries to visit the site.

Top visitor countries from 2014
1. United States
2. United Kingdom
3. Canada
4. Australia
5. Germany
6. Sri Lanka
7. India
8. France
9. Netherlands
10. Sweden

The list of cities is predictable except for tiny Boardman, Oregon. I don’t know how to explain that one.

Top visitor cities from 2014
1. New York
2. Portland, OR
3. Chicago
4. Los Angeles
5. London
6. Dallas
7. Washington
8. Seattle
9. Boardman, OR
10. San Francisco

No big surprises in the top referrers list.

Top non-search referrers from 2014
1. Buzzfeed
2. Cool Material
3. Facebook
4. Twitter
5. Reddit
6. Chuggin McCoffee
7. Alcademics
8. Liqurious
9. Overlawyered
10. Pinterest

I can also break down the stats to see which posts in the cocktail recipe section of the site are performing well. It’s interesting to note that four of the top ten are for ingredient preparations, not finished cocktails.

Top Cocktail Recipes from 2014
1. Apple Cider Gastrique
2. Clarified Lime Juice
3. Clubland
4. Shift Drink
5. Harvey Weissbanger
6. Aquavit Hot Toddy
7. Averna Stout Flip
8. Spiced Plantain Syrup
9. Swedish Punsch
10. Straits Sling

In the past few years social media has replaced blogging for conversational purposes and writing for other outlets has replaced much of my writing here. I don’t expect that to change in the short-term, but stay tuned for links to writing elsewhere and the occasional update.


2013 blog in review

“Sometime in the past few years, the blog died,” Jason Kottke wrote recently for Nieman Journalism Lab. “…[The] function of the blog, the nebulous informational task we all agreed the blog was fulfilling for the past decade, is increasingly being handled by a growing number of disparate media forms that are blog-like but also decidedly not blogs.”

Increasingly, the blog is where I write things that are too long for Twitter and too esoteric or personal for other publications. Use of the site as a means of sharing links is basically dead, replaced far more effectively by Twitter and Facebook.

My own blog didn’t die this year, but it was certainly wounded. For the first time in the ten years that I’ve been blogging, overall traffic dropped precipitously. In 2012, this site recorded 96,344 visits. In 2013, that number dropped to 74,616, a decline of 22%.

There’s no mystery as to where the missing traffic went. Surprisingly, traffic from nearly all sources is up. The one giant exception is search referrals from Google, down 66% from 2012. The total number of site visits dropped by about 21,000, but visits from Google alone dropped by nearly 30,000. I don’t know what I did to make the Google Gods angry, but that’s clearly something I need to work on.

One predictable result of this is that the infamous post about camel crickets is no longer the most viewed entry on the site. That honor now goes to the almost equally inane stapler post, thanks to a huge surge from Reddit. Two posts from 2013 cracked the top 10, one on tobacco policy and the other an April Fools’ post.

Top posts of 2013
1. The stapler’s secret
2. MxMo Redemption: Harvey Weissbanger
3. Camel crickets invade DC
4. My coffee smells like tuna fish
5. How to get rid of camel crickets
6. Defining “tobacco use” for cigar smokers
7. Using a jigger? You’re doing it wrong.
8. How to make coffee bitters
9. Mixing with the Mad Dog
10. Get sweet on liqueurs

As mentioned above, search was not the key driver of traffic this year. Here are the top twelve results (counting two extra because the top result being my name without a space in it seems fishy).

Top search referrals of 2013
1. jacobgrier
2. weird fish
3. jacob grier
4. coffee bitters
5. how to get rid of camel crickets
6. french vermouth
7. coffee bitters recipe
8. camel cricket
9. clarified lime juice
10. crickets
11. curse of scotland cocktail
12. what is the other side of the stapler for?

Though the order switched a bit, the list of countries visiting this site the most is completely unchanged over the past two years.

Top visitor countries from 2013
1. United States
2. Canada
3. United Kingdom
4. Australia
5. Germany
6. India
7. Netherlands
8. Sweden
9. France
10. Philippines

The city list is fairly similar too, with London the only international city cracking the top ten.

Top visitor cities from 2013
1. New York
2. Portland
3. Los Angeles
4. Chicago
5. Washington
6. Phoenix
7. London
8. San Francisco
9. Seattle
10. Boston

For the second year in a row, Reddit is the number one referrer of traffic to the site. Blogs have notably fallen off the list, with The Pegu Blog sneaking in at the ten spot. One interesting result: Referrals from the Facebook website dropped 26%, but this was partially offset by a 67% increase in referrals from Facebook mobile.

Top non-search referrers for 2013
1. Reddit
2. Buzzfeed
3. Facebook
4. Twitter
5. Gojee
6. Pinterest
7. Foodjournaling
8. StumbleUpon
9. Liqurious
10. The Pegu Blog

Late in 2012 I added a new section to the site devoted entirely to cocktail recipes, both for convenience of presentation and in hopes that it would be good for search engine optimization. That hasn’t quite worked out, with the section as a whole pulling in only 4,538 visits. Interestingly, the top two traffic cocktail posts were for ingredients instead of finished drinks.

Top cocktail recipes for 2013
1. Clarified Lime Juice
2. Apple Cider Gastrique
3. Clubland
4. Shift Drink
5. Cleared for Departure
6. Ethan Allen
7. Averna Stout Flip
8. Spiced Plantain Syrup
9. Aquavit Hot Toddy
10. Alto Cucina

There are still lots of good reasons to keep a blog, both as a repository of news and research and as a way of increasing my profile; I get a decent amount of consulting work as a result of having the site. And with the notable exception of Google, traffic from most sources continues to increase. I’ll be curious to see if the decline reverses in 2014.

When I started this site in 2003, blogging had cachet. Now, not so much. As Jason Kottke harshly puts it, “blogs are for 40-somethings with kids.” But there’s no point in stopping now. I embrace my role as an old man in internet years and will probably continue blogging long after the kids have moved onto HoloTumblrs.


Achievement unlocked: One decade of blogging

I realized late this afternoon that my blog turns ten today. That’s like retirement age in blog years. Blogging isn’t quite as much fun as it was when I first started, back when bloggers would gather for happy hours based solely on sharing a publication format, subject matter inconsequential. Because we were bloggers! And that was reason enough. Much of what I used to post is now better suited to Twitter and Facebook, and the professionalization of the web makes it more sensible to submit longer content to existing publications than post it here. Nonetheless I’m grateful for those of you who do read this blog and continue to find value in posting, even if SEO has become a bigger consideration than trying to build a daily readership.

I could go on, but in adherence this site’s rules for good blogging…

Rule #1: Be meaningful.

Rule #2: If meaning is elusive, be amusing.

Rule #3: If meaning and amusement are both out of reach, be brief.

… I should probably shut up and post a cocktail recipe.

The Plantain Pisco Sour is exactly what it sounds like, a Pisco Sour sweetened with the spiced plantain syrup I like so much. This is an updated version of a drink I made for competition a few years, minus the foam. Use a good pisco like Campo de Encanto, the kind of pisco that actually tastes like it was distilled from grapes, for best results.

2 oz pisco
3/4 oz spiced plantain syrup
3/4 oz lime juice
1/2 oz Dimmi
1 egg white
bitters, for garnish

Shake everything without ice to aerate the egg white, then shake hard again with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with drops of aromatic bitters. Etch them into tiny hearts for that extra special mixologist touch. (I use Novo Fogo Cherribiscus Bitters that my friend Evan Martin made, but any colorful and aromatic bitter will do.)

And if you’re looking for more drinks to try, remember there’s a whole section of the site devoted to cocktails now.

[Photo by Will Ray.]


2012 blog in review

As is annual tradition, here’s a look at this site’s most popular posts, referrals, and searches. Traffic is up slightly this year according to Google Analytics, with 96,344 visits compared to 91,504 in 2011. As measured by SiteMeter, the numbers are 109,911 and 105,669, respectively. All the stats below come from Google.

Interestingly, the percentage of traffic coming from search dropped from 62% last year to 50% this year. Referrals from other sites rose from 21% in 2011 to 33%. Direct traffic remained almost exactly the same at 17%. The biggest factor in the change appears to be continued growth in sharing on social media and Reddit.

I had hoped that this might be the year that the camel cricket post is unseated from the top slot. Alas, it’s not to be. The stapler post, a gift that keeps on giving, moved up to number two. Only two posts from this year made the top ten: A cocktail named after the Pigou Club and a review of Tyler Cowen’s book about food, showing the importance of the econoblogger demographic.

Top posts of 2012
1. Camel crickets invade DC
2. The stapler’s secret
3. How to get rid of camel crickets
4. An Economist Gets a (Zero Martini) Lunch
5. Virginia ABC gets slightly less archaic
6. Made in Oregon, stolen by Portland
7. Get sweet on liqueurs
8. Miracle fruit — I’m a believer!
9. My coffee smells like tuna fish
10. Finally, sampling miracle fruit tablets

As in previous years, camel crickets dominate the top search keywords. The most surprising appearance on the list is the Norwegian town of Haugesund, which is mentioned briefly in a post from 2005. Amazingly, 736 different search phrases that include the word “stapler” brought people to this site, including questions like “what does stapler do” and “what does a stapler looks like?” These people lead lives that are either far more boring or far more exciting than I can possibly imagine. “Sex at Starbucks,” “neuticles for humans,” and “what to mix with MD 20 20” are other intriguingly or depressingly common search phrases. If included, my own name would come in at number three.

Top search referrals of 2012
1. how to get rid of camel crickets
2. weird fish
3. camel cricket
4. Portland Oregon
5. Haugesund
6. French vermouth
7. coffee bitters
8. shaker
9. spider cricket
10. Ayn Rand Medicare

There are no major changes to the list of top ten countries from which people visit, with the exception of Sweden knocking Spain off the list. At the city level, visitors from New York surpassed Portland, London rose in the ranks, and Boston replaced Philadelphia.

Top visitor countries from 2012
1. United States
2. United Kingdom
3. Canada
4. Australia
5. India
6. Germany
7. Philippines
8. Netherlands
9. France
10. Sweden

Top visitor cities from 2012
1. New York
2. Portland
3. Washington
4. London
5. Chicago
6. San Francisco
7. Seattle
8. Los Angeles
9. Boston
10. Houston

There are a lot of changes among top referrers, with social media remaining strong and Reddit taking the top slot (thanks primarily to multiple Redditors discovering the stapler post). Google Plus came in at 29th. Econobloggers show well in this list too.

Top non-search referrers for 2012
1. Reddit
2. Facebook
3. Gojee
4. Twitter
5. Marginal Revolution
6. The Hairpin
7. Liquorious
8. Greg Mankiw’s Blog
9. 12 Bottle Bar
10. Lifehacker

For what it’s worth, I have a couple weeks of data for the cocktail section of the site. I’m hoping that this will get a lot more search traffic in the coming year; as of now, search accounts for just 7% of the visits. The most popular recipes so far are as follows.

Top recipes from the cocktail section 2012
1. Averna Stout Flip
2. Hot Buttered Chartreuse
3. Aquavit Hot Toddy
4. Amsterdam Hot Chocolate
5. Hot Caipi
6. Menta e Cioccolato
7. PX Flip
8. Clubland
9. Van Houten
10. Spiced Plantain Syrup

As always, thank you all for reading, and I hope you have a fantastic 2013.


New cocktail section

I’m launching a new section of the site today devoted entirely to cocktail recipes. I’ll continue updating this blog exactly as I always have with whatever topics are of interest to me, including documenting drinks. The new section complements the blog, presenting recipes in a way that’s user and SEO-friendly. Read the introduction and check out the site, including another new drink from Aquavit Week, the Aquavit Hot Toddy pictured above.


New site design and book giveaway

After more than three years of running Thesis, I’ve given the site a long overdue design update and switched to the Genesis framework. Aside from finally enabling threaded comments, most of the changes are just aesthetic for now. Stay tuned, however, for the likely addition of new sections and more frequent updates. (And if you’re reading this via RSS, click over to check out the new site.)

To kick off the new design, I’m giving away a few books. Publisher Scout Books from Portland, Oregon, recently invited me to contribute to a new series of pocket recipe guides called The Cocktail Hour, launching with a trio devoted to rum, gin, and vodka. The books include recipes from me and many other West Coast bartenders and bloggers, including Camper English, Sue Erickson, Jordan Felix, Lauren Fitzgerald, Brian Gilbert, Ricky Gomez, Tommy Klus, Tom Lindstedt, Junior Ryan, Mike Shea, Daniel Shoemaker, and David and Lesley Solmonson, among others.

The books retail for $12 a set and would make a great stocking stuffer. For this contest, I’ll randomly pick winners for the following prizes:

First prize (one winner) — A complete set of The Cocktail Hour: Rum, Gin, and Vodka, plus a copy of my out of print recipe guide from 2010, The Cocktail Collective.

Second prize (two winners) — A complete set of The Cocktail Hour: Rum, Gin, and Vodka.

To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post, one comment per person. I’ll randomly select winners from the list of comments around noon on Wednesday, November 28, 2012.

Update 11/12/2008: The contest is now closed. Winners announced here. Thanks to everyone who entered!


Blog birthday links

Today marks the ninth anniversary of this blog’s existence. This is also the year that I’ve pretty much given up on frequent updates as a means of driving traffic, finding that it’s more effective to focus on writing substantive content and disseminating links via Twitter and other social media (follow me at @jacobgrier!). But for old times’ sake, here’s a round-up of recent links that have caught my attention.

Last week’s discussion of Google’s self-driving cars has been fascinating; Tim Lee has a good post on the topic. If this technology lives up to its promise it will revolutionize cities and make investment in light rail and streetcars in low-density cities like Portland appear even more absurd. Why spend money on transit that is expensive, runs on a set track, and offers infrequent service if efficient self-driving cars are the way of the future?

The Oregonian comes down hard against raw milk. In 2008 I visited a raw milk dairy for Reason magazine, drank the milk, and lived to tell the tale.

Having already banned most kinds of flavored cigarettes, the federal government’s next step may be a ban on flavored cigars. FDA regulation of premium cigars is potentially devastating for the industry.

Californians have less than two months left to enjoy foie gras before it becomes illegal to serve in restaurants.

Someone should do this for six-packs of beer.

FUDS: A Journey in Taste from Mouth to Toilet, Traveling the Ultimate Expanse of the Greeko-Japo Pan-American Dining Experiences.


2011 blog in review

It’s time again for the annual blog review. This year’s stats are slightly complicated by a combination of two freak server accidents happening within a short time of each other, which resulted in the loss of dozens of posts. I was able to recover them from the RSS feed, but it took months for search traffic to catch up to previous levels. Thus overall traffic is down a bit this year, but I suspect it would have beaten 2010 without that incident.

The number of visits tracked on Google Analytics is 91,504 compared to 99,423 in 2010. Measured by SiteMeter, the numbers are 105,669 for this year compared to 116,764. As with last year, my frequency of posting has declined with more content going instead to social media, including Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

Google is of course the number one source of traffic. 62% of traffic came from search referrals, up from 53% last year. Referrals from other sites dropped from 31% to 21%. Direct traffic stayed about the same at 17% compared to 15%.

Camel crickets, miracle fruit, and the stapler’s secret continue to dominate the top four spots for most viewed posts. Approximately one fifth of my total site traffic is related to camel crickets. I also find it hilarious that the silly stapler post is still so popular. Only three of the year’s most viewed posts were written in 2011: the April Fool’s Day post about homeopathic cocktails, a qualified defense of Ayn Rand accepting Medicare, and some notes on rum and trademark law. No posts about tobacco policy made the list.

Top Posts of 2011
1. Camel crickets invade DC
2. How to get rid of camel crickets
3. Miracle fruit — I’m a believer!
4. The stapler’s secret
5. Homeopathic cocktails: Blessing or curse?
6. A qualified defense of Ayn Rand on Medicare
7. Finally, sampling miracle fruit tablets
8. Made in Oregon, stolen by Portland
9. Rum and trademarks
10. Everybody loves an Irish Car Bomb

A few posts that I liked, but that didn’t make the top ten:
Two years later, no heart miracle in Oregon
Literature-inspired food carts in Portland, Ore., that did not stay in business for very long
Signs of Occupy Portland
Crystal Caipirinha and Cleared for Departure
In memory of Don Younger

I didn’t think t was possible, but this year’s list of top ten search phrases is even more dominated by crickets than 2010’s. Once again my name is technically on the list, but I’ve removed it because I find it hard to believe that that’s not partially due to a bookmarking glitch.

Top search referrals of 2011
1. camel cricket
2. camel crickets
3. spider cricket
4. spider crickets
5. Ayn Rand Medicare
6. weird fish
7. how to get rid of camel crickets
8. crickets
9. allspice dram
10. miracle fruit party

There are no surprises in the geography of the site’s readership. The top ten countries are almost exactly the same as last year, with Spain replacing Malaysia in the tenth spot. Portland, New York, and Washington are again the top three cities.

Top visitor countries from 2011
1. United States
2. United Kingdom
3. Canada
4. Australia
5. Philippines
6. Germany
7. India
8. France
9. Netherlands
10. Spain

Top visitor cities for 2011
1. Portland
2. New York
3. Washington
4. Chicago
5. Seattle
6. Los Angeles
7. San Francisco
8. Philadelphia
9. London
10. Houston

Last year Radley Balko’s site The Agitator was my top referrer and I was recently able to follow through on my promise to buy him drinks. This year his site doesn’t even make the top ten, so next time drinks are on him! I only recently became a contributor to Gojee, so it’s great to see that site doing so well. Behold the power of the cords at #9. I have no idea what the Etiquette Hell referral is about.

Top non-search referrers for 2011
1. Facebook
2. Liqurious
3. Reddit
4. StumbleUpon
5. Twitter
6. Gojee
7. Kids Prefer Cheese
8. Velvet Glove, Iron Fist
9. Corduroy Appreciation Club
10. Etiquette Hell

Thanks to everyone for reading. If all goes according to plan, I’ll have a redesigned site and more content coming this spring. Here’s to 2012!


Curse the lightning

Talk about bad luck: A couple weeks ago the backup server for this site was taken out by a lightning storm, and then last week a second lightning took out the facility holding the main server. So the site has been down for the past few days and the most recent backup we’ve been able to recover is from November. Fortunately I have copies of the lost comments and posts, but I’ll have to manually republish them, which will be time-consuming and result in duplicate posts showing up in your RSS readers. Apologies for the inconvenience.


2010 blog in review


All things considered, 2010 has been a fantastic year. After enjoying a couple months of funemployment when Carlyle closed in February, I unexpectedly landed a rather enjoyable job promoting Bols Genever (one of my favorite spirits) throughout Oregon and Washington. Portland continues to amaze me with its food and drink scene, hitting far above its weight in quality. A modest amount of travel included Seattle, San Francisco, DC, New Orleans, Houston, Tequila, and Upper Peninsula Michigan. Collaboration with other bartenders, including the successful Brewing Up Cocktails events, put me behind ten different Oregon bars this year. I’m ending the year with a new gig at the excellent restaurant Metrovino. More professional writing opportunities have come my way: I do a monthly drink column at Culinate, I blog about policy at the Washington Examiner, and I published a slim volume of cocktail recipes. Though I do miss some aspects of the intellectual life in DC, I’ve never been more certain that leaving the city a few years ago was the right decision.

For this blog, traffic is amazingly identical to what it was last year: 99,423 visits tracked on Google Analytics compared to 99,442 in 2009. Or according to SiteMeter, 116,764 in 2010 compared to 124,155. I don’t know why the numbers are so discrepant. Though the number of visits has stayed roughly the same, my frequency of posting has gone way down. I’m not sure if this information should be depressing or liberating. However, given that much of the old blogosphere conversation has moved to Twitter and that I’m doing more outside writing, overall traffic is of less importance than it used to be.

Google continues to be the number one source of traffic, though direct visits have risen slightly in proportion to search referrals as a percentage of the total. Search accounted for 53% of visits in 2010, referring sites 31%, and direct traffic 15%.

Of this year’s top 10 posts, half of them were written this year, compared to just two of 2009’s making last year’s list. Nonetheless camel crickets, miracle fruit, and the stapler’s secret continue to dominate the top 4 spots. Anyone selling insecticide or miracle fruit want to buy ads on those posts?

Top posts of 2010
1. Camel crickets invade DC
2. Miracle fruit — I’m a believer!
3. How to get rid of camel crickets
4. The stapler’s secret
5. FDA bans product for tasting good
6. Libertarians and Fair Trade coffee
7. Finally, sampling miracle fruit tablets
8. A simple sparkling cocktail
9. Reuters hypes thirdhand smoke fears
10. Hypocrisy, thy name is DC Councilman Jack Evans

The national anxiety over camel crickets is even more evident in the top 10 search phrases of the year.

Top search referrals of 2010
1. camel cricket
2. camel crickets
3. spider crickets
4. miracle fruit
5. miracle fruit party
6. how to get rid of camel crickets
7. Sobieski vodka review
8. weird fish
9. Dolin Blanc
10. allspice dram

Weirdly, “Jacob Grier” is actually the number 4 search term, but I find this hard to believe. I’m attributing this to people bookmarking from a search page. “Bull balls,” last year’s 11th place result, has fallen to 62, knocking one of my favorite blog posts off the top 10.

Top visitor countries for 2010
1. United States
2. United Kingdom
3. Canada
4. Australia
5. Germany
6. India
7. Philippines
8. France
9. Netherlands
10. Malaysia

Top visitor cities for 2010
1. Portland, OR
2. New York
3. Washington
4. Los Angeles
5. London
6. Chicago
7. Seattle
8. San Francisco
9. Raleigh
10. Atlanta

This is the first year Portland outpaced New York as the number one source for traffic. Atlanta replaced Arlington, which dropped from 7 to 15. Otherwise the list is pretty much the same as last year. I assume the Netherlands’ appearance in the top 10 countries list is due to posts about genever and kopstootjes.

The next time I see Radley Balko, drinks are on me: The Agitator is this site’s number one source of referrals for the second year in a row.

Top non-search referrers for 2010
1. The Agitator
2. Facebook
3. Velvet Glove, Iron Fist
4. Twitter
5. Liqurious
6. Reddit
7. The Daily Dish
8. Marginal Revolution
9. Cheap Talk
10. The Blog to End All Blogs

Thanks everyone for reading, and here’s to an even better 2011.

[Photo of the Hawthorne Bridge by Thomas Hawk.]


New email server

While I was in Mexico my email host made changes that resulted in some messages not being delivered. I’ve moved email hosting to a more reliable server, so if you’ve sent me something in the last week that I haven’t responded to then I might not have received it. Everything seems to be working now.


About those morning links…

Since January, 2008 I’ve been posting daily collections of links each morning Monday through Friday. I think it was a good idea at the time; traffic and RSS subscriptions both increased significantly for most of that period. However I’m no longer sure they’re worthwhile as a regular feature. I haven’t had as much time for blogging lately, my work keeps me out at night, and Twitter and various other tools have somewhat replaced blogs as means for spreading simple links.

I’ll be upgrading and redesigning the site soon and need to decide whether or not to keep a space for morning links, so for the next month or so I’m going to experiment with format. I’ll mostly be writing shorter, more frequent posts. This doesn’t preclude posts of assembled links, but I won’t be writing them every day. They may or may not show up on the sidebar (they’ll appear in RSS either way). Let me know what you think.

Toward a supply-side theory of assorted links


An addendum few people will care about

Sort of related to the previous post, I realized recently that I’ve been using a seriously flawed metric for this blog’s RSS traffic. In a post a few months ago about the selfish benefits of using Twitter I wrote:

I no longer count on a blog post to get traffic on its own. My number of subscribers on Google Reader has languished around 160 for months while in a little over a year I’ve picked up more than 550 followers on Twitter. Today if I want a post to get attention I link to it on Twitter and Facebook.

The morning links feature and the prominent placement of the RSS icon at the upper right of the page are both intended to encourage RSS subscriptions, so the total failure to increase the number of subscribers in Google Reader was disappointing.

It turns out I just wasn’t looking in the right place. When I redesigned the site last year, I kept the RSS feed at the same URL so that it would keep working. However I did change the name of it from this blog’s old title, “Eternal Recurrence,” to simply my name. This apparently caused Google Reader to treat it as a new RSS feed and so none of the new subscribers showed up in the version of the feed I check in Reader. I thought I had lost 10 or so subscribers over the past year; in fact, I’ve gained about 120. That’s not a huge number, but taken as a percentage of where this blog started before the redesign it’s a major increase. Twitter still showed faster growth, however RSS for this site was not as dead as I’d led myself to believe.

If you’re a blogger keeping track of your RSS subscribers, make sure you’re accounting for all of your feeds. (I now have three, including one from my MovableType days that has only seven subscribers in Google Reader.)


2009 blog in review

2009 has come to a close and everyone seems to welcome its end. Personally I couldn’t have asked for the year to be much better. I started the year unemployed and end it with the lead of a fairly high-profile bar, a strong web of new friends in a new city, and a larger online presence than ever. My non-blog writing has slowed, something I hope to change in 2010 along with addressing a wider variety of topics, but in compensation I’ve become a far better bartender and polished my magic abilities back into the best shape they’ve been in since the early part of the decade.

For this blog, 2009 has been a year of cocktails, nanny state foolishness, and morning links. Total traffic has hit its best year ever, with 99,442 visits according to Google Analytics or 124,155 according to SiteMeter. That’s still a lot lower than I’d like, but doesn’t include people reading via RSS or Facebook.

Most visitors continue to come from search engines. According to Analytics, 57% of visitors come from search, 31% from other referrers, and 12% from direct traffic. I’m very much writing for Google. Of the 10 most viewed posts of 2009, only 2 were actually written this year:

Top posts of 2009
1. Camel crickets invade DC
2. Miracle fruit — I’m a believer
3. Finally, sampling miracle fruit tablets
4. How to get rid of camel crickets
5. Who will watch the Watchmen smoke?
6. The stapler’s secret
7. Dark ‘n’ Sue Me
8. Buy miracle fruit
9. Stocking your home bar, pt. 1
10. The Mystery of the Five-Inch Bull Balls

That’s a little disheartening, but on the upside I’m glad to see that the Rocky Mountain oyster post still gets so much traffic.

Here’s what people come here searching for:

Top search referrals of 2009
1. miracle fruit
2. camel cricket
3. spider crickets
4. miracle fruit party
5. camel crickets
6. how to get rid of camel crickets
7. sobieski vodka review
8. miracle fruit tablets review
9. miracle fruit tablets
10. where to buy miracle fruit

Clearly my strategy for 2010 should be selling ads for miracle fruit and insect poison (which is not to say the two should be taken together). Other intriguingly popular searches this year include “bull balls” at number 11, “nutmeg facts,” “make your own dragon,” “jacob grier human consumption,” “miracle fruit sex,” and “the widowmaker pizza.”

Here’s where this site’s readers live:

Top visitor cities for 2009
1. New York
2. Portland, OR
3. Washington
4. San Francisco
5. Chicago
6. London
7. Arlington, VA
8. Raleigh
9. Seattle
10. Los Angeles

Site traffic is low enough that my own visits to the blog are enough to artificially boost Portland, but I’m glad to see that I’ve found some local readership and that the constant cocktail posts haven’t turned off political readers in DC and Arlington. The other cities I’ve lived in land at spots 17 (Nashville) and 24 (Houston).

For non-search referrals, this was the year for social networking. Two sites send a ton of traffic from their blogrolls, probably attributable to the same few people clicking daily. Thanks go out to Radley for once again sending the most readers my way.

Top non-search referrers for 2009
1. The Agitator
2. Liqurious
3. Facebook
4. The Blog to End All Blogs
5. Twitter
6. The Daily Dish
7. Reason
8. Lifehacker
9. Zhubinness
10. The Pegu Blog

Thanks to everyone for reading, have a fun and safe celebration tonight, and I’ll see you back here in 2010.


Good news from Google ads

I hate the teeth-whitening and flab-vanishing ads that sometimes appear on this page just as much as you do. I ban them sometimes, but there are too many to keep track of and Google’s best filtering options aren’t offered to weblogs. So this is excellent news:

Google has made a minor shift in its policy that has major implications. Up until now it has taken action against ads, not advertisers. If an ad violated one of Google’s terms of use, the search giant would take it out of circulation, but that’s it. Google briefed TBM on its new policy: It will now ban the advertiser, not the ad, effectively neutering the advertiser’s ability to shift from one ad and shell site to another. Think of it like the struggle between the police and a graffiti vandal. Up until now Google has only been erasing the tags after they’ve been put up. Going forward, they’re going to take away his spray cans and put a GPS collar on him, making sure he never does it again. It would be a principled stand by any company, but especially by Google because of its position in the market. I worry, though, that the rest of the industry won’t pay attention. On this issue, Google might be a leader without any followers.

I trust the scammy nature of these ads is obvious to the dentally and physically perfected readers of this weblog, but I was unaware of just how scammy they really are:

There are handfuls of these get-beautiful/healthy/rich-quick schemes floating around the Internet, and all their advertising structures behave the same way: Some sketchy ad leads you to some sketchy testimonial page, which then leads you to the sketchy product itself. When you order the product, the vendor doesn’t always make clear that you’re signing up for a free trial, and when that’s over you’ll be charged up to $90 every month until you find a way to cancel. There isn’t much information about why all of these scams operate in the same way, even though this kind of Web advertising is quite prevalent.

Honestly I would have been just as happy with a “Don’t display unsightly human anatomy” ad filter, but this solution seems much more feasible. I hope Google’s new program works and that such ads will be showing up less frequently here in the near future.

[Via BoingBoing.]