2011: The year in review

2011 was a year of two halves here at SLS; we were posting regularly up until about June, but never really got started again after the summer break. Embarrassingly, we only managed eight posts in the last quarter, and two of those were apologies for inactivity. Unsurprisingly our traffic has fallen off a cliff in the last few months, and is now sitting around half of what is was this time last year.

Anyway, here are our top ten posts by traffic for the last twelve months:

  1. The Social Network
  2. Second Life demographics – a brief review
  3. On Second Life and addiction
  4. What’s up
  5. Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space
  6. Virtual alchemy
  7. 2010: The year in review
  8. Second Life, with graphics, on the iPhone?
  9. Zombie Epidemiology
  10. Plunging Necklines

Only one of these, The Social Network, is from this year, but at least it is the top post, and one of our better ones too. I’d love to think its high ranking was due to the quality of the writing, but actually it’s because Google kindly chose to link it with the search term “Sean Parker Facebook” for a while over the summer. The addiction and demographics posts from last year continue to do well, probably because no one else can be bothered to write anything on those topics. There is always a steady interest in Second Life zombies, and Olivia’s 2009 Nosferatu-themed post Plunging Necklines made a welcome return to the chart, possibly on the back of the Lab’s promotion of SL as a platform for vampire role-play.

Of the other posts we managed to crank out this year my favourites were, in chronological order:

If I had pick one post of the year it would be The Solution, which I think encapsulates everything we try to do here at SLS; spare prose, literary and political allusion, self-conscious pretension, and all in the service of an utterly inconsequential point.

But what of the world beyond this blog? What of the Arab Spring, the war in Libya, the tsunami in Japan, the News International phone-hacking scandal, the death of Bin Laden, the UK riots, the Eurozone crisis, and everything else that has been going on this year? We did manage to comment on most of these events, but brief blog posts aren’t really the best medium for considering weighty issues, so it was all rather superficial. We might try to follow a couple of topics in more depth next year – perhaps the economy, and the US elections.

Back in January I promised that we would publish more book, film and music reviews, but this hasn’t really worked out. Part of the problem is that I’ve been trying to spread my output over too many projects; I have been doing a bit of critical writing, but I’ve published it in other places. (I could re-post some of my pieces here I guess, but I’m a bit paranoid that someone might Google a passage and link this blog with my other online identities.) The main thing though is that I’ve not been terribly well engaged with contemporary culture; I’ve been on a diet of classic literature and films from the 70s, and the world isn’t necessarily crying out for my belated impressions of The Mill on the Floss or McCabe and Mrs. Miller. At least I kept up with the music scene enough to be all excited ahead of the release of what turned out to be my favourite album of the year, the eponymous debut by Wild Flag, and I also liked Civilian by Wye Oak, Angles by The Strokes and Only in Dreams by The Dum Dum Girls; the latter record’s melancholy tone mirroring the slightly depressing arc of my personal life recently. Overall though I will have to try a bit harder on the cultural front next year.

Finally, what about our core task, the mission to, in the words of our very first post, “wander around the likes of Second Life and report back on what I find, enlightening readers with erudite comments on the interaction that occurs there”? We have been rather remiss in this too. I know why; just about everything interesting there is to say about the psychology of Second Life we have already said in previous years, and I haven’t had the energy to try to put a new gloss on it. The promise that virtual worlds would open up a new understanding of the human psyche has, sadly, turned out to be hollow. There was for a while some interest in watching the dynamics of the conflict between the corporate goals of Linden Lab and the aspirations of the more committed residents, but even that has turned dull since the boringly efficient Rodvik Humble took over at the top. It seems unlikely that this will change in the immediate future, but I will keep an eye on the academic literature in case anyone has any novel ideas.

What does this mean for the year ahead? Perhaps I should accept that this project has run its course, and let it bow out gracefully, but we have been going for nearly five years, an epoch in blog terms, so it would seem a shame to give up now just because things have been a little quiet of late. Politics, culture, psychology; I should be able to make something interesting out of that if I apply myself a little more.

So I guess I’ll be seeing you next year…

In the Bleak Midwinter

December hasn’t exactly been a vintage month for our humble blog; the stuttering output of the last few months has staggered to a complete halt. There are a few things going on in my life at the moment that might partially explain this, but I think that the main cause of my current creative paralysis is the enervating effect of yet another harsh North-European winter.

In years gone by I used to enjoy the bracing challenges of this season, but over the last decade or so it has become gradually more wearing, and this year the grey days and long nights seem to have completely drained my vital essence.

Oh well, the winter solstice has passed, and I can look forward to the days lengthening and the promise of new life in the springtime. In the meantime I’ll try to keep things ticking over here, and hope that inspiration strikes again in the new year.