Archive | Housekeeping

This Is Always Nice To Hear

Apropos of my post on the Gerber and Gibson article about transit authorities:

I’m a regular Monkey Cage reader. I work as a budget analyst for the state of [redacted] and have an interest in political science. I read the post today and wanted to let you know that you scored a small victory for introducing political science research into public discourse as well as the decision making process. In about 2 hours, I’m going to talk with the Governor about how to structure a regional transit authority in the southeast part of the state. The post today and the paper you linked to are directly related the issues we will be discussing. While the posts on the blog are often partially relevant to my work, this is the first time that they’ve been directly related to something I was going to do that day. It’s awesome. Just wanted to say thanks.
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Steven Kelts Visits The Cage

We are pleased to have Steven Kelts, our colleague here at GW, as a guest blogger this week. Steven is a political theorist who focuses on democratic theory and liberalism. He is currently finishing a book on Locke and has also written on the American founders. He also won GW’s highest teaching award last year. Welcome, Steven!

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Academic home-pages

Jacob Levy:

I’ve done a round of cleanups on my home page, including links where appropriate to published versions of things that previously had links to SSRN drafts, complete citations, etc. Also tied ‘em all up together in a single “recent papers” list, forgoing the annual sublists. … I’m aware that some friends and colleagues have fancy homepages. But it seems to me that the more bells and whistles it has, the harder it is to update regularly—is that so? (Or is it just a matter of having appropriate software?) The pages I know of that are both fancy and constantly updated are more of the promotional-site-for-one’s-public-intellectual-career type than of the research-and-teaching-stuff type. In comments, I encourage readers to identify particularly good examples of academics’ homepages. Who’s setting a high standard?

I’ve been thinking about this meself, as my home page is badly in need of updating, but have been vacillating between doing a fancy looking homepage with Dreamweaver or similar (advantages: can have RSS feeds on the side; disadvantages: given my lack of any artistic talent or familiarity with CSS, is likely to take a lot of time), a basic text-based job with LaTeX and/or Markdown (advantages: quick and easy to do; disadvantages: needs some aesthetic chops to make it look un-blah), or Movable Type (advantages: easy to update; disadvantages: do I really need more bloggy-looking output on my website?). Any opinions on the above? And also – on Jacob’s question – who out there has a good-looking and useful homepage that I or others can borrow tips from?

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Hans Noel Visits The Monkey Cage

We welcome as a guest-blogger Hans Noel, a professor in the Department of Government at Georgetown (currently on leave as a Robert Wood Johnson fellow at the University of Michigan). Hans’s work centers on political ideology and political parties. For example, he is a co-author of a new book on presidential nominations, The Party Decides, which argues that party organizations actually have a lot to do with who gets nominated. Hans also directed an award-winning film. We’re glad to have him aboard for the next couple weeks.

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Based on this post and ensuing comments, I’ve constructed what I am loosely calling our “Political Science blogroll.” It is on the right-hand side, a little further down. If there are mistakes or omissions, please let me know.

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This Is Our 1,000th Post

Which ain’t necessarily a tremendous feat, especially with people like Andrew Sullivan pumping out 1,000 every month. But we’re proud enough to celebrate with a song. Granted, the song doesn’t exactly have a celebratory mood, but, believe me, it’s better than this or this.

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The Monkey Cage’s First Anniversary, Part 2

Yesterday’s post summarized the numbers. Today’s shares my reflections on this past year. I do not presume to speak for my co-bloggers; perhaps they will chime in with their own posts or with comments.

In our inaugural post, I set out four goals for this blog—each of which Lee, David, and I continue to share (as do Henry, Phil, and Andy, who joined The Monkey Cage later):

1. To publicize political science research.
2. To provide informed commentary on political events and issues.
3. To think out loud.
4. To indulge our non-academic interests.

By these standards, we have succeeded. We digest political science (and other related) research routinely (e.g., here). We try to comment on current events, at least when we have something to contribute from a political science perspective (e.g., innumerable posts about the campaign). Thinking out loud happens, for better or worse (e.g., for better in this post from Henry). And non-academic interests appear routinely. A quick scan through our “frivolity” section will tell you who is largely responsible.

In working toward these goals, we have also benefited from some generous guestbloggers, including our GW colleagues Forrest Maltzman, Sarah Binder, and Jim Goldgeier, as well as Jennifer Hochschild of Harvard and Adam Berinsky of MIT. Many others have tipped us off about relevant topics, analysis, papers, etc.

Gratitude is also due to those who comment on posts, especially those who do so regularly. Most of our threads are not long—unless we’re talking about bagels—but they are (with one exception) fairly civil. We are glad for that.

What can we do differently or better?

  • We have averaged about 2 posts a day. I would like more. Three is a good average, with a little more on weekdays and, naturally, a little less on weekends.
  • There are times when, due to other commitments, we are slow in responding to current events. And, for better or worse, there is often a narrow window to do so, especially if we want to capture the attention of more popular blogs or the “mainstream media.” For instance, I collected a handful of Electoral College forecasts from political scientists and the usual websites (538, etc.), but I never published a post-mortem on their accuracy. I could do so now, but would anyone care besides a handful of political scientists? Hopefully, in our second year, we will be more consistently timely.
  • It would be interesting, at least to me, if more political scientists showed up in our comments (ideally using their real names). For example, when I posted a while back about a study on civil wars, a commenter (who at least sounded like a political scientist) noted some other relevant literature—not all of which I was familiar with. It would also be interesting to get some scholarly impressions of articles we publicize. I wouldn’t want our comments to devolve into navel-gazing or inside baseball, but some collegial back-and-forth would enrich the content of the blog. I certainly would learn from it and I think it would better publicize “the discipline.”
  • I think we have been successful in getting regular attention from some popular political blogs, e.g., Pollster and those of Matthew Yglesias, Ezra Klein, and Kevin Drum. (These three are all from the left; our attention from elsewhere on the ideological spectrum, leaving aside an occasional reference at Cato or Commentary, is less consistent.) But I cannot tell that we have generated much attention from the mainstream media. There are exceptions, such as my own op-eds, which were solicited by an editor at the LA Times who read the blog, at least until he recently took a buyout from the paper. Nevertheless, I don’t think we’re really on the radar screen of most political journalists. I don’t know an easy way to change that, in part because most political journalists probably don’t see a need to follow political science. (I’ve complained about this before, so I won’t rehash my points here.) Suffice it to say that I would hope our blog can push a little political science in front of journalists. I may ask a few journalists that I know how we can better do that.
  • A larger readership? Yesterday, I noted than an average weekday brings us 1,000 unique visitors. Should we try to increase that? I’m frankly unsure whether this is a relevant goal. Of course, ceteris paribus, I’d love for The Monkey Cage to have more readers. But at the same time, blogs about politics tend to be most popular when they (1) are partisan or (2) focus on polls and other data that interest political junkies, and we are neither of these, obviously. So, I have only modest expectations about the hypothetical audience for an academically-oriented political science blog. But perhaps I am not ambitious enough.

If any readers have thoughts about the blog—things we can do more or less of, things we can do better, things you’d like to see—please leave comments.

And thanks for reading.

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The Monkey Cage’s First Anniversary, Part I

The Monkey Cage had its first birthday last week—on November 26, to be precise. This date slipped by me, and perhaps my co-bloggers, but I didn’t want to leave it unremarked.

This post will focus on statistics from the first year. The second will provide some of my thoughts on how this first year has gone.

In our first year—that is up to Nov. 26, 2008—we wrote 807 posts, for an average a little over 2 per day. These posts received 1,961 comments, for an average of over 2 per post.

There have been almost half a million pageviews (463,964) of this blog as of Nov. 26, 2008. There have been 170,205 “absolute unique visitors,” which roughly translates into 170,205 different people who have viewed some content at The Monkey Cage.

Here is a graph of the number of unique visitors by day:


Within most every week, the trend is cyclical, with readership higher on weekdays than weekends. If we ignore the spikes for a moment—by eliminating the days with more than 1,500 unique visitors—a simple regression of the number of visitors on the age of the blog suggests that we gained approximately one additional visitor for each day the blog existed this past year. As of these past few months, a typical weekday earns us about 1,000 unique visitors.

The spikes on the graph derive from a sudden influx of visitors who came upon Monkey Cage posts via links on other, more popular websites. I’ve denoted the largest spikes with the numbers 1-4. The numbers correspond to these particular posts:

1. Headscarves (37,041 pageviews, extending for several days past the initial spike)
2. Who Is the Most Powerful Member of Congress? (9,942 over a few days)
3. Nixon and Elvis: The Rest of the Story (4,385, almost all in 1 day)
4. Sarah Palin favorability rating (8,502 in about 2 days)

All praise is due to these websites for these, and other, links. #1 was placed on Stumbleupon. #2 was mentioned at Marginal Revolution. #3 was mentioned by Andrew Sullivan. #4 was discussed by Matthew Yglesias and Kevin Drum. A consequence of these spikes is that about 54% of our visitors have visited The Monkey Cage only once.

As for geography, we have received visitors from 181 different countries. Of course, most of our visits come from the United States (~260,000). (Note: visits are different from visitors. See here. Google Analytics will not give me visitors by country.) Canada and the UK are next, with about 10,000 apiece. Australia and various countries in Western Europe round out the top ten. We have also received 338 visits from Iran, but none from Turkmenistan, Niger, Chad, Angola, Suriname, Papau New Guinea, and a few others.

Because many of our readers are from academia, I also looked to see which schools supplied the most visits. Google Analytics can tell us the “network location” of visits. Most come from network locations denoted only by the internet service provider, such as Verizon or Comcast. This means that I am undercounting our academic audience here, as many no doubt view us from their homes. But leaving this aside and counting only those visits from an academic network location, here are the top 5:

1. GW (8,986 visits)
2. Princeton (3,603)
3. Columbia (2,701)
4. Harvard (1,977)
5. Cal State Fullerton (1,454)

#1 and #3 are no surprise, given our contributors. As for #5, most of the thanks is likely due to reader and occasional commenter Matt Jarvis.

More to come. Maybe next year we’ll have some cake to celebrate our second anniversary.

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Adam Berinsky Visits The Cage

We are pleased to have Adam Berinsky, a professor of political science at MIT, guest-blogging for the next week or so. Adam’s first book, Silent Voices, examines how polls may misrepresent opinion when respondents find ways to “cloak” socially undesirable beliefs. His forthcoming book, America at War, reconsiders the nature of public opinion in war time. Among his many findings is the unimportance of casualties or, more generally, battlefield success and failure, in public support for war. Lee blogged about this here.

Adam will be discussing the accuracy of presidential election polling and, in particular, the Bradley or Wilder Effect. We welcome him aboard.

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