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The stratigraphy of my blog #1: A look back on one year of blogging

September 26, 2007

One year ago today I created this blog and published the first post. I wasn’t sure I would like blogging…it was an experiment of sorts. I have liked blogging…quite a bit actually. Like many, I find it is a fantastic writing outlet. At first, I really didn’t care if anybody read anything. As time goes on though, i’m trying to improve my popular science writing and find my ‘voice’ within the blogosphere.

Blogs are distinguished from ‘traditional’ websites in that they are presented in reverse chronological order (i.e., the youngest post on top). The parallels with a sedimentary succession are obvious. As I keep blogging, the older posts keep getting buried by the newer ones. Each post is a distinct sedimentation event in the stratigraphic column.

So, let’s do some very basic stratigraphic analyses of my blog.

First, a more objective quantitative look of something we can measure. The plot below shows the number of posts per month.


In stratigraphy (and geology, in general, for that matter) you get used to trying to find general trends in relatively messy data. This is what we do – try to uncover recognizable patterns and relate them to processes or conditions that caused them. There’s a general trend of increasing posting frequency through time in this stratigraphic column. There are a few ups and downs, however.


The plot above has some annotation explaining why certain months appear to be anomalously low within the trend. Clearly, being away from a computer due to travel led to diminished posting frequency.

A stratigraphic column cannot be looked at with just objectively measureable data. Interpretation is a critical part of geology and must be integrated with the objective data. This, of course, adds subjectivity to the process…but, interpretations are our hypotheses for the community to test with more work or state-of-the-art methods. Okay, now let’s do a little more qualitative and subjective analysis of my blog stratigraphy.

The plot below shows the number of posts per month that I deemed to include either (1) a little more in-depth geologic information, (2) interesting commentary or review of some story or issue, or (3) a combination of both.


As you can see, my interpretation is that the quality of the posts has increased over time. But, i’ll reiterate that this is just my interpretation. One of the great (and sometimes frustrating) things about stratigraphy is that you’ll get a unique interpretation from each person. Hopefully, they’ll converge on one answer…although sometimes they don’t.

So, now you might be saying: “Well, of course the quality posts increased…the absolute number of posts also increased!”. The plot below normalizes this with a simple fractional quantity herein termed the post quality index (PQI). This is simply the number of quality posts divided by the total number of posts per month.


The apparent increase in quality is much more subtle when normalized in this fashion. Of course, one could try some more sophisticated analyses with these data…but, I’ve already spent too much time with this. I do have some real work to do!

I guess my goal would be to get the PQI as close to 1.0 as possible. My guess is that the total number of posts would decrease if I spent more time fine-tuning drafts than posting once every couple days as I do now.

Finally, one thing to point out is that this blog stratigraphy is both perfectly preserved and has a perfect chronology. An actual stratigraphic column typically has little, if any, absolute age control and much of the information within the posts would be fragmentary and jumbled. If it were in the Archean, this whole blog might be a few words arranged nonsensically and a fragment of an out-of-focus photo. The challenge is to interpret the history of such a record with whatever information is available.

So, I hope you all have enjoyed Clastic Detritus…I do plan to keep it up. I’m not sure what will happen when I finish the PhD and move on to the next chapter in my life…but, I sure hope blogging will continue.


8 Comments leave one →
  1. September 26, 2007 12:20 pm


    I like how geochronologists are always there…waiting, and ready to rain on a stratigrapher’s parade with real and significant concerns about time scales. Bah.

    The dating method for the blog stratigraphy is…well, it’s simply the date. So, the question is how good is the internet at time-stamping blog posts? Or, if you’d like to dive deeper into this, what are the problems with our current calendar system?

    I’ll leave that debate to the geochronologists and assume that problems with precision and/or accuracy of blog time-stamping over a one-year period are insignificant within the context of my analysis above. Take that!

  2. September 27, 2007 5:15 am

    I reckon we should do a Fourier analysis and see whether post frequency or quality is related to Milankovitch cycles

  3. SFoxx permalink
    January 28, 2008 7:55 pm

    I think if you look closely at the raw data or strat chart, that you can see a roughly cyclic nature, with intensity increasing upward. The cycles could indeed correspond to Milankovitch cycles, and the intensity increase could relate to global warming. I predict a decrease in intensity in roughly 400 years.

  4. RaiulBaztepo permalink
    March 28, 2009 2:15 pm

    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language ;)
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

  5. April 12, 2010 3:18 am



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