The Blogging Life: 16 Months and 87 Countries Later

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This blog has been around for 16 months, so it’s time to take stock. Some posts have been better than others, admittedly, and there have been dry periods, when other projects have distracted me from blogging for weeks. But I’m stickin’ to it until I literally run out of words.
Since I’m taking stock, I’ll be egotistic for a moment and share a few amazing facts about my readership. One of my favorite analytic tools is FlagCounter, which you can see in the right-hand margin of my blog. Flag Counter, among other things, tells you from where in the world your readers have visited.

School Communications 2.0 has received:

1,782 visits from the United States (I’m going to assume that 100 of those visits were from the author)

290 visits from the Philippines

243 visits from Canada

169 visits from the United Kingdom

141 visits from India

107 visits from Malaysia (who knew?)

77 visits from the Netherlands

66 visits from Australia

And the list goes on, with a good number of visits from countries in Europe, as you might expect. But it’s when the numbers begin to dwindle down to single visits that I’m reminded how awed by the Web I continue to be. Here are just a few of the visits that fascinate me:

4 visits each from Jordan, Vietnam, and Kenya

2 visits each from Croatia, Moldova and Oman

1 visit each from Mongolia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Islamic Republic of Iran, Kazakhstan and Morocco.

And finally, on March 27, I received a single visit from the Holy See (Vatican City State).

My guess is that someone at the Vatican stopped by to read my post about the Pope’s YouTube page. Perhaps the Official Papal Social Media Guy. Whatever. The point is, he stopped by.

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Visit Ancient Rome via Google Earth

Ah, Google Earth. One of my favorite distractions, along with Trio, a little game I installed on my iGoogle page.

Google Earth, which I once used to “fly” along the southern Italian coastline with my son, has unveiled the remarkable Google Earth view of Ancient Rome.

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The three-dimensional simulation painstakingly reconstructs some 7,000 buildings of ancient Rome, including the Colosseum, the Forum, and the Circus Maximus.

The program also hosts a new layer that allows you to see how Rome might have looked in A.D. 320, a city of about 1 million people under Emperor Constantine. Ingenious pop-up windows provide information about all the monuments, and you can “enter” some of the sites, including the Senate and the Colosseum, to study the architecture and marble decorations.

Bernard Frischer, who heads Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, told eSchoolNews that experts worked for about a decade to reconstruct ancient Rome within its 13-mile-long walls. Now Googler Earth Rome can be used for broader educational purposes and Google is sponsoring a competition for U.S. teachers, offering prizes for outstanding curriculum using the new tool. Here’s the video introduction about Google Earth Rome:

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Lessons Learned: The Gustav Information Center

A lesson for your classes this week — the power of the Internet during a crisis or catastrophe.  The latest example of how the Web joins in to get vital information out is the Gustav Information Center, a wiki created on Ning by Andy Carvin. This wiki, which I joined (see my widget at the bottom of my sidebar), is providing news updates, weather maps, photos, forums and videos. Teams of people are working on getting the word out to families, pet owners and others on a minute-by-minute basis.

It would be a great class lesson to examine the online efforts of individuals and groups to get the message out instantaneously during events like hurricanes, tornados, natural disasters or large-scale violence.

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Google Analytics Makes Me Happy

OK, so I’m a newbie, a Web adolescent. A rookie. A mere child of the blogosphere. But hey — since I hooked my blog up with Google Analytics, I’m as inspired as ever to continue blogging for school PR professionals and school leaders who want to learn more about Web 2.0.

Here’s why: I thought no one was reading my blog because very few people have commented on my posts. Yes, here and there I’ll hear from complete strangers who like my suggestions or who write that they’ll try something I’ve mentioned on the blog. Not one of my friends, colleagues or family members have commented and I’m shy about bothering people with spam emails.

Still, I was curious about whether anyone in the world reads my blog or even opens my blog. So I signed up for Google Analytics to get reports about its use. Egomaniac that I am, I now find myself opening my reports daily. Here’s what I learned just two days after signing up: 93 unique visitors (meaning not me)  had taken a peek at my blog, with the vast majority of them being directed by bookmarking sites or by links elsewhere on the Web. Cool. Of those people, 83% were first-time visitors, which for little old me is awesome.

The best feature of Analytics is the “map overlay”:

This map shows where all my U.S. visitors hail from, with the dark green states representing the largest number of visitors and the lighter green states representing smaller numbers. So naturally, in the U.S., most of my hits came from New York (upper right corner, folks). But I still had a handful of hits from California, Texas, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and so on. And this is just the U.S. map. I also had folks visiting from nine other countries, including the U.K., India, Slovenia, Singapore, the Netherlands and Canada.

Now, I know that the world’s most popular bloggers and Technorati wunderkinds are chuckling at my measly 93 visits. But that’s OK. Because I’m pleased with my vain, Newbie self.

I Have Gas…

Another Web 2.0 innovation, for those of us infuriated about endlessly rising gas prices. gas-pump.jpg provides you with the latest gas prices at your neighborhood gas stations. You simply enter your zip code or hometown, and a list and a map pops up with the lowest to highest gas prices and the locations of local service stations. When I used it today, gas prices in my region ranged from a low of $3.30 to a high of $3.79, for Regular gas. That’s quite a difference, and for anyone penny-pinching the gas thing these days, this website (and others like it) is a godsend. Because it’s a Web 2.0 site, it depends on “user-generated” content, meaning real-time and updated contributions from its members. So far, gaswatch has 163,000 “member spotters,” and 409,000 prices were entered onto the website this week.

Gaswatch also identifies those prices that are less than 12 hours old with a green gas tank, prices less than 24 hours old with an orange rank, and prices that are more than 24 hours old with a red tank.