A blog for odd things and odd thoughts.

Happy Birthday OddThinking

On April 10, OddThinking celebrates its first anniversary.

Girtby.net’s first anniversary was celebrated with a retrospective of the year, and I found that to be quite fun, so I pay homage to that format here.

In the last year, there have been a total of 183 posts, 645 comments and over 2600 spams.

Highlights by Month


First Post – it still remains one of my favourite posts. I wish I could still write them like I could in the old days.


First puzzle analysis. This post gains an enduring popularity that surprises me and then disappoints me, as I think there are other posts more deserving.

My first personal attack. Never been particular proud of that one. I have thought about deleting it.

First style change

First comment from someone I haven’t met… I think.


Hugely prolific month.

First post to mention local politics

First time I realise (to my disappointment) that geeky subjects get more response than non-geeky ones.

First swear word (“damned”)


First user poll

I posted a comment to Google Blogoscoped that got referenced as a comment on Coding Horror, and before I knew it I had thousands of readers checking out CLOSE THAT WINDOW!. So now, not only is one of my favourites, but it is one of the most popular. It’s all been downhill from there!

Alastair reports that he noticed a surge in his blog traffic just from referers from that page in my blog. Never been more proud of OddThinking!

Looking through the fossil record, the earliest I can prove I received comment spam was July 12. Suspect it was really earlier, but evidence lost.


First surreptitious retraction

First WordPress plugin: EmailShroud


First “hot bot favourite”: an article about plugins which bots seem to hit disproportionately more often than humans.

First use of the “Aside” Style: The practice of including an “aside” to the main blog thread proved to be so common, I created a special style to make it clearer.

First accusation of interfering with elephants.

Resolved to make blog articles stick to one point. Comments rate surged. However, correlation does equal causation.


First use of the F-word (That word is “fuck”, in case you weren’t aware.)


First book review

First graph

First appeal to the readers for info… and it fails miserably.


I write a 200-word post claiming no-one cares about dreams. I get a heap of comments totalling 600-words. So, I follow up with a post saying people do care about dreams, and include one of my favourite anecdotes. No-one comments. I am clearly a blogger who knows what his readers want…

Resolved to make titles less punny.


Most prolific month ever. Over one post per day.

Series on Rational 1000 starts. OddThinking is soon the top link for “Rational 1000” on Google. Too bad no-one ever searches for it.

First guest author


Most overtly political blog article.

Finally another topic to rival Sudoku in search popularity: Kakuro.


Second WordPress plugin: CRCRLF


Here are some of the statistics I pulled from the logs.

Note: Much of the statistics is limited to data collected since September, when I installed BAStats. I’ve tried to eliminate the influence of bots from the statistics.
Most Read Pages
  1. EmailShroud 1.0.1
  2. Pursuing Sudoku with Pseudo-code
  3. A Kakuro Solver
  5. Browser Comparison: Password Management
  6. 20Q
  7. WordPress versus RSS versus Bloglines

Most of those articles above are geeky articles. What’s popular when people aren’t in the mood for geek, and just want a story?

Most Read (Non-Geek) Stories
  1. Indoor Marbleous Championships
  2. The Doctor’s Son
  3. Statistical Outliers
  4. Spaghetti Express
  5. Air-Traffic Control – In Space
  6. Ice-Cream Flavours and Personal Bests
I’ll probably use the results of this review to create a Greatest Hits list that I’ve been mulling over for a while.

Another way of assessing a post is by many comments it provokes. Let’s look at the statistics there.

Note: All discussion of comments includes (a) pingbacks and (b) comments made by me. I figure that being provoked myself to respond is at least as valuable as provoking someone else to respond!
Most Commented Posts
  1. The Case for Case-Preserving, Case-Insensitivity
  2. WordPress versus RSS versus Bloglines
  3. Small shift in OddThinking Look & Feel
  4. EmailShroud 1.0.1
  5. Marking Up Sections and Headings

Who is making all those comments?

Most Prolific Commenters
  1. Me!
  2. Alastair from Girtby.net
  3. Aristotle Pagaltzis from Plasmasturm
  4. Sunny Kalsi from The USS Quad Damage
  5. Alan Green from Cardboard.nu
  6. Casey Whitelaw from CaseyPorn
  7. Chris from Brainsnorkel
  8. Casinos from a variety of web-sites offering Texas Hold’em

Thank you to each and every one of you (except the many elephant-interferers who sign themselves “Casinos”.)

The Extreme Lengths I Will Go To

I played with a number of styles of post.

I never did achieve Girtby’s brevity.

Here’s as close as I got:

Shortest Posts
  1. Pots and Puns
  2. The Trouble with the Web
  3. Fodder first time in Sydney
  4. Pingbacks are back
  5. Small shift in OddThinking Look & Feel

On the other hand, I wrote some doozies:

Longest Posts
  1. Comparing Strings: An Analysis of Diff Algorithms
  2. Business Presentations and the Cognitive Style of Edward Tufte
  3. Analysis of the Australian Bush Game
  4. Revoking Australian Citizenship
  5. The No-Nos and Yes-Yeses of the Nonogram solution

Bots Statistics

The top 70 bots (identified by manual inspection of User Agent string) account for 16% of all visits, and 73% of all page hits.

My main complaint about the BAStats plugin is that it doesn’t distinguish between the two, making all of its reports 73% irrelevant.
Searchiest Search Engines

(i.e. whose bots crawl the most)

  1. Yahoo!
  2. Google
  3. MSN
  4. Bloglines
  5. AskJeeves

While not visiting me as often as Yahoo!, Google referred more people to my site.

Search Results

A fair number of visitors come to OddThinking straight from a search engine. A record is kept of what they were looking for when they got here.

The most popular search terms change each month… slightly…

Most Popular Search Terms, by Month

Month Top Search Term Runner-Up Search Term
Apr 05 statistical outliers avrack skins
May 05 sudoku statistical outliers
Jun 05 sudoku wordpress google sitemap
Jul 05 sudoku statistical outliers
Aug 05 sudoku nonograms
Sep 05 sudoku codewords puzzles
Oct 05 sudoku fill-a-pix/statistical outliers
Nov 05 sudoku code wordpress filters
Dec 05 sudoku code 20q algorithm
Jan 06 sudoku code spaghetti express
Feb 06 kakuro solver sudoku code
Mar 06 kakuro solver riddle how could the boy be his son
Often the second (and third and fourth) most popular search term was a variant on the most popular search term. I ignored it in these cases.

OddThinking gets the top billing on Google for “Spaghetti Express” for a cute little story. I believe the searchers are really looking for one of various restaurants of the same name.

These aren’t the only searchers who aren’t going to find what they were looking for on OddThinking. Here is a list of other search terms that seem to alight at OddThinking.

Most Misguided Search-Engine Referrals By Month

Month Search Term
Apr 05 how many decisions do we make each day
May 05 we are all unique
Jun 05 how do you make a 7 year old cry twice
Jul 05 can paint shower -bridal -baby -curtain
Aug 05 chrysler flaking paint
Sep 05 distinguishing facts about my father
Oct 05 battlestar gallactica plot synopses episode 2005
Nov 05 the data at the root level is invalid
Dec 05 black names shithead
Jan 06 women are boring
Feb 06 how much is 300000 bytes
Mar 06 find a nickname for julian

Posting/Commenting Frequency

The following graph links together several statistics about how prolific I was, and how prolific you were. It’s a bit complex, so I explain it below.

Post and Comment Count Graph

The tops of the vertical bars show how many posts I made per day. They should be measured against the scale on the left.

In the first couple of months, I tried to be prolific. I had tried blogging before and was rather sporadic. I figured there was a good chance that the blogging bug would leave me after two or three months. I wanted enough posts by then that if someone stumbled across my blog there would be enough posts to make the visit worthwhile. It turned out that I underestimated how much I would be able to churn out in later months.

It is hard to see much of a trend here. After thinking about it for a while, I suspect there’s a strong inverse correlation between the number of posts I make and the number of photographs I take. (Each photo needs processing work to be done on the computer before I host it on a photography web-site. Photography and blogging have the same bottleneck: available time in front of the computer.)

The green and blue boxes show how the posts are split between the posts that never received a response and those that did receive comments.

It’s not entirely clear what my success metrics are for this blog, but avoiding “the sounds of crickets” seems to be one of them. I did a good job at provoking responses in September/October, but not so well in the more prolific month January.

This ain’t the best metric to optimise. One way to provoke a response is to say something really stupid, or to put an apostrophe in the wrong place.

The light blue line (using the scale on the right-hand axis) shows how many comments I receive per day. Unsurprisingly, it is strongly correlated to the number of posts I made. I really enjoy receiving comments, so that’s another number I want to increase.

The dotted yellow line has no scale shown. It compares how many page hits I have had each month, since I started measuring at the end of September. It seems to show correlation with the number of posts, combined with a healthy growth rate.


Q: Ignoring inflation, how long before Google Adsense will pay enough money to buy my own weight in chocolate bars?

A: 125 years.

Adsense pays less than 20% of my hosting fees. I am not quite giving up my day job just yet!

Summing Up

Lots of thanks to my regular 5-star readers and to everyone who provided comments.

Here’s to another year. I have already exceeded the life-expectancy of this blog about four times over, so who knows – I might even make it!


  1. It’s all been downhill from there!

    I was so, so disappointed when I saw that. After the first couple paragraphs, I was baiting my breath to get to the end of the article to post a comment saying “it’s all downhill from birth.”

    Oh well.

    It’s all downhill from birth.

    Because, I kind of noticed the same. I was recently going through my posts, and found that lately, the bulk of stuff is just quotations, and of the posts which aren’t, very few are nowadays the sort of musings that I love looking back at, like the various wiki-themed reflections. I think the most recent really good one is the one about URI design from December, four months ago.

    I’ve written good stuff in the meantime, sure, but they’re all do-ish articles, not think-ish ones. If that makes any sense. And it feels kind of lame.

    I think the culprit was making a feed for the log, because it forced me to have titles, and titled entries work very differently from the more stream-of-consciousness style logging that I used to do. I don’t know if I can explain the difference very well, as it’s sort of subtle: titled articles with permalinks are more like individual units, whereas my previous writing was more of a contiguous, if meandering and somewhat fractured monologue. (Note that length of entry doesn’t come into play at all; the old entries I still like were no shorter than the ones I write now.)

    Hmm. Expect to see an edited version of this comment up on my log.

  2. (PS.: I can’t believe I wrote I was “baiting” my breath.)

  3. That’s okay. I always figured “baited breath” meant it smelled of fish.

    p.s. Still waiting for the blog article!

  4. What chocolate bars are you referring to? Are you going top shelf, economy, or somewhere in between? And would you buy them all at once? (If this is the case, you could invest the money in the meantime, so it would take less time to build the required wealth, plus you could probably get a discount by buying in bulk.) Also, losing weight would decrease the amount of chocolate required and hence the money/time taken. By employing these strategies, and maybe some others (a good financial adviser can help), I reckon you could get those chocolate bars before you die (unless you get murdered and raped by an evil pact of sex-crazed necrophiliac blog-readers in the near future).

  5. Cassie,

    You raise some interesting and important questions.

    I had selected Mars Bars as canonical representative of a chocolate bar – not top shelf, but not a family block of milk chocolate either.

    Unfortunately, that was the end of the rigour in my calculations, as I neither accurately priced the bars nor did I accurately weigh myself.

    I fear that any good financial adviser would laugh me out of their office until I finish performing these two basic pieces of research.

  6. I try to help.

    I think buying your weight in chocolate from the proceeds of blog advertising is a worthwhile pursuit, and one that I would actively encourage.

    Obviously I don’t have the necessary figures either, but I just want to warn you not to be too set on Mars Bar (or similar). The family block may be more financially viable, and there are still plenty of good options in this size.

    However, the contrast between the lengths you will go to for other projects/analyses, and the obvious lack in this one, leads me to believe that you are not really serious about this project. That disappoints me.

    BTW, a good financial adviser would laugh you out of their office at the mere mention of the project, regardless of whether you had completed the research.

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