Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Reader-survey summary

Five weeks ago I posted to announce a survey of SF and Nonsense readers. Briefly, I asked about subjects that bring visitors, their familiarity with aspects of my published writing, and their specific interests among science and tech topics.

Readers have spoken
That survey recently closed, and today I'm posting about the results. (There are results. We will get to them. First, though, let's get the caveats out of the way. If caveats don't interest you, that's what the scroll wheel is for.)

How many of you responded? Well, I know how many responses were reported by the polling service. But did every response get to me? Of course I don't know what I don't know -- like which responses ended up in a bit bucket.

I do know that website usage stats are notoriously unreliable. For this blog I get page-hit data from two independent services -- and they never agree. They're seldom even close. Even different views within the same service sometimes show different/inconsistent data. Plus, I know that not all readers actually hit my blog directly: SF and Nonsense is subscribeable through RSS and email, and it's syndicated through Goodreads, my Amazon Author page, and other sites. Maybe online polling data are more dependable -- but I'm skeptical.

Hence: I don't assume I got every reply. (You took part? Of course I got your input, and thanks for that. It's that other guy whose input went astray. You feel better now, right?) I likewise can't be sure I know how many people viewed the specific post that announced the survey. If I were to take the available data at face value, about one in four who viewed the invitation clicked through and completed the actual survey. That would be a decent response rate -- how many among us take every survey sent our way? -- and I appreciate it.

Having said all that, I believe I can draw valid inferences from the relative frequencies of responses. That is, it seems unlikely that any particular type of response is more likely to have gone astray than another type. (And having said that, I recognize that those who responded self-selected. They may not be representative visitors to the blog -- but a case can be made they are among the most interested visitors.)

So what what did people have to say? Read on ...

Question 1: In which of the blog's major topic areas (choose up to three) are you most interested?
  • News and commentary about the author's published fiction: 93.3%
  • News and commentary about the science-fiction genre: 66.7%
  • News and commentary about science and technology: 60%
  • News and commentary about current events: 20%
  • News and commentary about the author's published nonfiction: 20%
  • News and commentary about publishing and the business of writing: 6.7%
Since blogging isn't my main activity, I'm (of course) pleased that an overwhelming majority of (responding) visitors have at least some interest in what is: my authorial day job.

Runner-up visitor interests are overall SF genre news and science/technology. Given -- see the page header -- that this blog claims to provide "Thoughts (and occasionally fuming) about the state of science, fiction, and science fiction," it would appear I've achieved truth in advertising.

If you're curious ...
Question 2: In which aspects of the author's published writing (choose up to three) are you most familiar?
  • The Fleet of Worlds series (collaborations with Larry Niven): 80%
  • Short fiction: 40%
  • Standalone novels: 40%
  • InterstellarNet series novels: 40%
  • Nonfiction: 13.3%
  • I am not familiar with his published works: 0%
My collaborations with New York Times bestselling author Larry Niven are my most popular titles, so visitor familiarity with them wasn't a big surprise. But that last answer? That all (surveyed) visitors are at least somewhat familiar with at least some of my writing? Honestly, I'm surprised and delighted. Now I wish I'd included a chicken-or-egg question in the survey ...

If you're still curious ...
This was a "pick up to three answers" question, so it's harder to interpret the mid-tier responses. There is presumably overlap among, say, those who are familiar with my solo novels and those familiar with the collaborations. I suspect there's synergy: that when someone enjoys one part of my writing (including the collaborations), they're apt -- sooner or later -- to sample some of my writing from another category. When it happens, I'm okay with that :-)

Question 3: Among "science and technology" topics, which of the following (up to three choices) is of the most interest?
  • Astronomy and physics: 86.7%
  • Space exploration: 73.3%
  • Computer science: 40%
  • Security and privacy: 33.3%
  • Biology and medicine: 6.7%
  • Tech gadgets: 6.7%
  • Other: 6.7%
  • I am not interested in posts about science and technology topics: 0%
This was another "pick up to three." My take on astronomy and physics is clearly a popular topic, as is my take on space exploration. I began my career in physics and spent seven years as a NASA contractor, and both are matters of great personal interest. 

I'm also a computer engineer by training and parts of my career, and I was pleased to see related topics make a strong showing. For whatever reason, I combined the related topics of astronomy and physics into one choice but split computer science and privacy/security (which in this blog usually involves vulnerabilities in computer systems) into separate choices. Given that formatting inconsistency -- my bad -- I'm inclined to interpret that CS/security as a shared category came in tied with space exploration, and so, likewise close to physics/astronomy.

Comments or further thoughts, anyone? 

The survey was helpful for me (and for those who have read this far, it was presumably of some interest to you). Next post, I promise, you'll see less introspective subject matter.

And in closing: if you took part in the SF and Nonsense reader survey -- again, thank you.

1 comment:

Edward M. Lerner said...
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