(ⓜ = members only!)
This week… some site statistics, a brief overview of the Faith and Astronomy Workshop, and how I met Bob Trembley…
How We’re Doing (some stats): The big news this week was the Faith and Astronomy Workshop and I’ll talk about that in a bit… but first, the recent posting by Chris Graney on Galileo’s letter has generated an unusual amount of traffic, about double our usual posting. That’s great! But it occurs to me that it might be fun to give you some overview of who reads us, and how they find us.
Word Press, the software we use for this blog, gives us the chance to track our most-read postings and a sense of where they come from. We generate a lot of traffic from Twitter and Facebook, for instance. But still, it looks like most of the folks who log in come to the web site itself. (At one point I was thinking Facebook was the big place where people found us, but when Bob Trembley was here this past week we dug into the numbers and found that wasn’t the case.) Typically we get about 400 to 500 people a day checking out our site. But the day that the Galileo Letter posting went up, that post alone generated more than 600 visitors. The all-time winner was Chris Graney’s post a few years ago explaining with great patience why there was no particular significance to the planets near the constellation Virgo in September. Apparently that was A Thing On The Internet and his posting did a great job of gently approaching the issue. We were getting thousands of hits a day when that went up. After September passed and the end of the world did NOT happen, the traffic fell back to normal levels.
At the moment we have just over 8200 people signed up to get notifications of these posts either via Twitter, Facebook, or directly asking for email updates here. There are 2600 followers on the Vatican Observatory Foundation twitter account, for example. But in addition, there are more than 8,500 followers of the Vatican Observatory twitter account itself (the observatory, not the foundation) and they all see the reposts I do of the VOF tweets, including announcing each new posting here.
Of the roughly 14,000 people (substituting in the VO tweet followers for the VOF tweet followers) who know we exist, therefore, about 500 of them read us every day. That’s less than 3%.
Now, one of the things we hope this site will do is encourage people to become members (like you!). At the moment we have three classes of members, and oddly enough each class generates about the same income. All told, we have 115 members contributing about $30,000 total to support this site and the other work of the Specola. One way to think of it is that our supporters are about one quarter the size of our regular readership. Of course, a lot of our supporters probably are not regular readers…
If we could double the size of the readership, would we double the number of supporters? It’s probably not that simple… but it would certainly help.
The FAW: We just finished our fourth Faith and Astronomy Workshop. I’ll let other bloggers give you the details. From my point of view, it was a wonderful success; people went away enthusiastic about talking about science and faith in new ways to their classes and parishes, and no one was injured in the making of this workshop! The whole logistics of how these events are put on would be worth a separate post, but here I will answer one question I have gotten, a lot…
Where Did You Find Bob? As with most of the good things that have happened in my life, it started with Science Fiction. As an MIT student I had a friend from the science fiction club there, the MITSFS, who went off to Illinois to do grad work in astronomy. He ran into SF fans there. Mutual introductions occurred.
Many years later, 2014 or so, I was giving a talk in Detroit and two of those fans, Bob and Connie Trembley, invited me over to their house for dinner. We started chatting about my then-new job as President of the Vatican Observatory Foundation, and I started describing my dream of a blog site where people could learn about astronomy and maybe have some reflections on how knowing astronomy helped them grow, spiritually and intellectually and all the rest. Not just, “oh wow, look at the stars” but real astronomy. The trouble was that I knew enough about blogging to know that setting up a web site was just a little more of a new trick than this dog wanted to learn. If only I could find someone to do the coding for me.
Bob puts a funny look on his face. “You realize,” he tells me, “I do that for a living.”
And that, folks, is why I believe in the power of prayer.