We’ve been doing some sophisticated computer-aided analysis here at Message in a Bottle headquarters, and we’ve determined that—wait, let me examine the precise figures…yes, they all check out—many people are reading our posts. We could even say many, many people. If we were number crunchers instead of word fiends, we might be able to tell you exactly how many, but as it is, we’re pretty satisfied with our results.
Not only do we know that we have readers, we also know how they’re finding us. Somewhat surprisingly, most of you are subscribers. That is, you regularly receive our posts via email. This is really good news as far as we’re concerned, because it means that you like what you’ve read in the past and want to read more of it, whatever it turns out to be. Insider secret: We don’t always know what kind of post you’ll be reading until a couple of hours before you read it. The deadline muse can be very inspiring.
The next largest group of readers visits the blog itself, and many of those are sent to it by the links we put on Facebook each time we make an update. Others follow the permanent link on our store’s website, and still others know that they can always go directly to http://www.mercerislandbooks.tumblr.com to see what’s new.
Now, some of you are forgetful, and you have to do a little searching to find us. We can tell, because records indicate that quite a few of you come to us only after plugging a phrase like “island books message bottle” into Google. Or into Bing, although that’s so far just a hypothetical. This is the equivalent of not knowing a street address but navigating by landmarks. “Turn left at the drugstore and look on the right for the blue house with the weather vane.” Works perfectly well, especially when you’re in your own neighborhood. We’ll leave the porch light on all night, just in case.
That covers almost everybody who visits us virtually, but the most entertaining oddities in the data pile are the singletons, the obscure search terms that directed someone to us just once. These are readers who probably didn’t know exactly what they were looking for and stumbled across one of our posts serendipitously. In some cases, it seems clear that they found something relevant when they arrived, but in others…well, who knows what they were thinking. Let’s look at some examples:
- drugs jungle central america: I hope this wasn’t someone looking to set up an import/export business. This phrase directed the searcher to Miriam’s fine post about Ann Patchett’s most recent novel State of Wonder.
- andorrans: I like to imagine that this word was typed into a search engine by a lonely expat from the Pyrenees looking for her kinfolk. If so, I hope she was interested to read a post about vanished nations from the days of yore.
- fictitious worlds in one scene: Possibly related to the search above, as the natural landing page for this one was this post about realistic imaginary landscapes. Peter Cameron’s Andorra was one of the books mentioned.
- famous friendships in literature: This led to one of my favorite Message in a Bottle posts, in which Miriam talks about her best friend since childhood and inadvertently calls her a pig. OK, not really. Charlotte and Wilbur from E.B. White’s classic novel do come up, though.
- donald barthelme the baby, whats the message: A confused student probably got more (and less) than he bargained for when he ran across part three of my series on books and parenthood.
- ill-defined and disreputable literary banana republic: This is a quote from Stephen King that describes the novella, and I used it in this post.
- the north wind and the sun: A Wiccan practitioner? A budding meteorologist? Who knows, but whoever it was found a charming post that’s inspired by a fable from Aesop.
- how to build a lego hot air balloon instructions: It’s not exactly a how-to, but Miriam did discuss the topic here.
- judas hanged himself: This searcher was undoubtedly surprised to click onto a piece about truthfulness in journalism.
- how to draw catching fire symbol: One or the other of two posts must have been the destination for this searcher, but neither of them says anything about draftsmanship.
And then there were those searches that will remain forever cryptic:
- i will have less sader [sic] days ahead: Hopefully true for the person who initiated a brief encounter with us. Feel better, anonymous visitor.
- cool teen boy picking up something on the ground: Very specific and very strange. Maybe it led here?
- sweater for book lovers: My mom used to buy patterns from McCall’s, but to my knowledge, I’ve never mentioned it on the blog.
- french wife swap: Don’t want to dig too deeply here.
Yes, you read that last one correctly. If you read Arabic, that is. And if you do, maybe you can explain what it means and how it led someone to Message in a Bottle. Until we figure that out, I’ll just say marhaban to you, mysterious guest from far away. And the same goes to all of you readers out there.