Many people, especially in the Western Hemisphere, make New Year’s resolutions. Some of those resolutions are about blogging. Indeed, blogging is a great way to perform personal introspection, it’s a professional development aid, and a way to connect with like-minded people all over the internet. Do these resolutions work? Do blogs registered around the new year have higher chances of surviving longer than blogs registered at other times of the year?
Before answering these questions, we need to make several decisions. For example, do we want to include spammers in our analysis? Sure, one’s New Year’s resolution might be “spam more to get more money.” However, since most of us dislike spammers, and Automattic, the company that hosts WordPress.com, actively chases spammers, we will exclude them from this analysis.
This was an easy decision. What about people who create a blog, and lose the motivation to update it the day after registration? Sounds like a clear “exclude” decision, right? What about one week? One month? How long should we wait before we decide that a blog is no longer active? Is one month enough? Not always. What about a year? A year sounds like too long for most of us.
As you can see, there are many unsolved questions that need to be answered before addressing the question that really interests us. Luckily, in a comparison study like this one, applying reasonable decisions to all the analysis groups reduces the effect of the arbitrary choices.
So, do blogs registered around a new year have higher chances of surviving longer? To answer these questions, we looked at WordPress.com blogs that are:
- Don’t host spam or mature content.
- Do not belong to the WordPress.com VIP program.
English. Since New Year’s resolutions are a cultural phenomenon, we’ll only concentrate on an English-speaking segment of WordPress.com.
- For which the difference between the “last updated” and the “registered” dates was at least seven days.
Now, we need to set the criteria that indicates an abandoned blog and pinpoint the time at which that happened. Again, we have to rely on arbitrary decisions. For the purpose of this analysis, a blog updated at least once during the last 60 days is considered to be an active blog. If the blog has not been updated in the last 60 days, we consider the date of the last update as the blog’s date of abandonment.
We’ll separate the entire population into two groups and track the “survival curve” of the blogs in our study. In the “New Year’s resolution” group, are all the blogs that were registered one week before or after a new year.
As we see from the curves above, blogs registered around the new year have a higher probability of being active six months later: 5.4% higher than the “general population.” Is a 5.4% increase in blogging survival probability a significant improvement? I don’t know. However, if you want to try blogging, NOW is the right time to start. You see, according to our data, blogs that start before or on the new year have a slight advantage over blogs that start after it. Better now than later.
The cautious reader will note that the correlation (the connection between observations) does not imply causation (that one event causes another one). It is true that we don’t know whether starting a blog around a new year increases its chances of survival, or whether people with high motivation tend to start their blogs around a new year. Some research suggests that public commitment (such as a New Year’s resolution) is an effective way to ensure persistence. The truth is that you will never know. On the other hand, the only certain way to fail is not to try at all.
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Omphaloskepsis image by Gregg Tavares under CC-BY 2.0. cropped