Recent post on Win-Vector blog, plus some musings on Audience

December 21, 2014

I put a new post up on Win-Vector a couple of days ago called "The Geometry of Classifiers", a follow-up post to a recent paper by Fernandez-Delgado, et al. that investigates several classifiers against a body of data sets, mostly from the UCI Machine Learning Repository. Our article follows up the study with seven additional additional classifier implementations from scikit-learn and an interactive Shiny app to explore the results.

As you might guess, we did our little study not only because we were interested in the questions of classifier performance and classifier similarity, but because we wanted an excuse to play with scikit-learn and Shiny. We're proud of the results (the app is cool!), but we didn't consider this an especially ground-breaking post. Much to our surprise, this article got over 2000 views the day we posted it (a huge number, for us), up to nearly 3000 as I write this. It's already our eighth most popular post of this year (an earlier post by John on the Fernandez-Delgado paper, a comment about some of their data treatment is also doing quite well: #2 for the month and #21 for the year).

Some of you reading this may also know that I write another blog, Multo, about folklore and ghost stories. A few years ago I wrote a little throwaway post called "The Scent of Old Book". The topic of the post is a bit of a departure from my usual subjects on that blog, but the post got Freshly Pressed, which means it was featured on the Wordpress site for a while. The resulting attention got the article enough hits the month I posted it that two and a quarter years later, it is still my second most popular blog post of all time (Multo does not get nearly the readership that Win-Vector does). I feel a bit sorry for the people who followed Multo on the strength of that post; I rarely post that style of article, so it was a bit of bait-and-switch.

(My most popular Multo post of all time, incidentally, was also a throwaway: a verbatim re-posting of a Filipino fairy tale from a 1904 collection that is on Project Gutenberg, plus a cute little childhood story about crayons. That post never did dramatically well, but for a year and a half, hits have dribbled in almost daily, with occasional spikes in readership. I've never been able to figure out what causes those spikes. But at least that post is on-topic with the rest of my blog.)

All of this perhaps goes to show: no effort is too small. You never know what will resonate with readers -- except that it's never what you expect it will be.