Google Reader and Operations Research

I has been some months now since Google has announced the end of Google Reader.  I have gone through many of the stages of grief (getting stuck at “Anger” for a while) and am now entering acceptance.

Personally, I have no problem with Feedly or one of the other readers.  But there is another aspect of Google Reader that seems harder to replace.  On my blog, I have two sidebar entries:  a “From the OR blogs”, giving recent posts from the OR Blogroll, and a listing of the OR Blogroll itself.  I think both are pretty useful since they given automatic visibility to new (and existing!) blogs in OR.  I don’t think they get a ton of use, but they are nice to have.

Google Reader provided scripts for both the recent posts and the blogroll.  I need  a replacement that

  1. Allows easy addition/deletion of blogs
  2. Show recent posts from all the blogs
  3. Can also act as my personal reader

The last requirement precludes most of the wordpress scripts (I use wordpress on a local machine to handle this blog).  I do not want to keep, say, a feedly list of blogs along with a separate “ORBlogRoll” within wordpress.

Anyone found a Google Reader replacement that can do this?

A Belated Happy Birthday to the Blog!

FourthBirthdayThis blog was begun on October 24, 2005, so it had its fourth birthday a couple of weeks ago.  As my family knows, I am not great with birthdays, so I managed to forget it.  But, better late than never, Happy Birthday to Michael Trick’s Operations Research Blog!

Here’s what I wrote last year about the statistics on the blog:

I posted 133 times in the year (up from 83, and well past my goal of 2/week).  I’ve had 237 comments in the last year, up a lot from 69, so you too have been much more active!  I get about 3500 visitors per month (up from 2000), and, new this year, Feedburner tells me about 450 people subscribe through google reader and other rss feeds (that don’t typically hit my server).  Spam is running at about 10/day, but my system catches it, so it is no big deal.

Number of posts in the last year was 134 (my goal was 150, so I fell a bit short).  The blog got 420 comments, so you all are doing your job!  Spam is up to about 35 or so per day, with a peak of 560 on one day in early October.  I’m up to 11,500 visitors per month, with a peak day in October of 5300 visitors (due to a nice posting on reddit).  Feedburner gives me about 850 subscribers through rss feeds.

Thanks to all of you who read the blog and commented on it.  It is encouraging to get feedback about what I write.  And thanks especially to all those writing away in the blog-OR-sphere:  it is great to be part of this community.  Here is to another year of exciting news from the world of operations research!

Moving on to San Diego (both my blog and I)

I’ll be guest blogging at the INFORMS Conference in San Diego, so I’ll be posting over there for the next few days. There are 12 guest bloggers, so the conference should get some pretty good coverage.  I’ve got a news feed on my main page sidebar trying to track the blog, twitter feed, hash tags, and so on.

I have put in my first post on the extra preconference steps needed on the social network side:

When I started attending INFORMS (actually ORSA/TIMS) meetings in the 80’s, the preconference steps were clear:  pack, find the (paper) airline tickets, print out my talk onto transparencies, go to conference, wander around wondering what was going on.  There are few extra steps now:

  1. Follow @informs09 on twitter
  2. Check out the #informs09 tag on twitter, and remember to use it on own posts.
  3. Sign up for the daily e-news to stay up to date on conference news and activities.
  4. Subscribe to the INFORMS 09 blog (or remember to check back a lot!) to follow the official news and the twelve (!) guest bloggers.
  5. Join the Conference Linkedin Group (122 members and counting).
  6. Pack
  7. Find memory stick with talk
  8. Print out boarding passes
  9. Go to sunny San Diego

The extra steps are worth it.  No more wandering around wondering what is happening!  See you soon!

Usage and Reddit

For the most part, I don’t live or die on the number of readers of this blog.  I’m not making money off this, so extra readers don’t  have a direct effect.  Of course, I am gratified that people want to read this:  since one of my goals is to make operations research more famous, it helps if there is a readership!  And I greatly enjoy it when people comment on my posts (something that is happening much more often):  that can’t happen without a readership.

Determining the readership of a blog is kinda tricky.  Some people wander by through the web, or have the page bookmarked, or search on a term that occurs in a blog post, or otherwise access the blog as a web page.  Somewhere around 150 or so people a day see the blog that way.  Of course a number of people are searching for “sex market” or some such, and hit a post from my past entries that includes those words. In fact, now that I have included that phrase here, they may end up on this page.  If so, then welcome:  this probably isn’t what you were looking for, but there are some fascinating posts, so browse around for a while!

Another group subscribes to the blog through RSS readers, like google reader.  They may not hit my website directly at all, but read the postings through their reader.  Feedburner tells me I have about 700 subscribers that way.  This number is an estimate, but presumably all of these subscribers are actually interested in operations research.  This is the way I access blogs:  I subscribe to all of the operations research blogs listed in the right hand column of my front page, and I subscribe to an additional twenty-five blogs that are not operations research but have caught my interest.  I also subscribe to about dozen blogs on operations research that appear to be inactive:  if a post comes through on one of those, then I can move it over to the active list.

Putting things all together, I put my readership at about 1000 people truly interested in operations research, which is a gratifying number.  I certainly have not given a technical talk in front of 1000 people (the recent EURO conference was perhaps the largest, but it was not 1000 people).

Usage at
Usage at

Once in a while I get a spike, due to an entry on other sites.  I have never had a successful entry on Digg or Slashdot, which is probably just as well, since my poor server probably couldn’t stand the strain.  But my recent posting on “P=NP (or not)” did get some play on Reddit (thanks cavedave for the shoutout), which resulted in a spike in usage (up by a factor of five or so).   It was great to see the spike, but it will be even better if this results in more permanent subscribers and more interest in operations research.

New Design

There is now a new design for the page. I wanted to find something that made the “comments” a little more obvious. Further, I think a new design every three years is not too much. I would appreciate your thoughts on this, even if (especially if) you hate it.

One other change is that the “Things I am Reading” page is now “New from the OR Blogs”. The difference is that everything that appears on one of the OR Blogs now appears in the sidebar (not just things I flag). Of course, if it appears that some sites are not providing relevant material (I’m looking at you sci.op-research!), then I can simply drop them from the list.

Thoughts and opinions on the changes are very much welcome.

Added Oct 25. I decided to separate out the newsgroups from the blogs, since otherwise we might get a series of newgroups postings (particularly when they are in a flame ware on something) rather than the blog postings appearing in the left sidebar.

Happy Birthday to the Blog!

This is the blog’s third birthday!  It has been an exciting year, both personally and in the world of operations research.  Personally, at this time last year, I was in New Zealand, waiting for the weather to warm up and wanting to get back in the water.  Since then, we have returned to the US, and I have gotten back into my “normal life” as a Tepper School faculty member.

In the world of OR, this year will go down as a year full of flux in the commercial world.  ILOG is acquired by IBM (not quite yet, but things are underway); Dash is acquired by Fair-Isaac; Gurobi announces its formation.  There were some sad entries, including the passing of Rick Rosenthal, Mike Rothkopf, and Lloyd Clark, among others.   I went to some fantastic conferences, including INFORMS Washington, CPAIOR Paris, and, particularly, IFORS South Africa, a life changing experience.  Operations Research seems to show up more and more in the popular press, and is showing up in books aimed at the general public.

Just a few statistics, providing an update from last year’s birthday post.  I posted 133 times in the year (up from 83, and well past my goal of 2/week).  I’ve had 237 comments in the last year, up a lot from 69, so you too have been much more active!  I get about 3500 visitors per month (up from 2000), and, new this year, Feedburner tells me about 450 people subscribe through google reader and other rss feeds (that don’t typically hit my server).  Spam is running at about 10/day, but my system catches it, so it is no big deal.

A special thanks to the other OR people blogging (check them out in the sidebar).  I like feeling part of a community!

Reading through the past year’s postings, I am reminded strongly what a wonderful job it is to be a professor, and how lucky I am to have ended up in a field as wide and fascinating as operations research.

Update on the blog-or-sphere get-together

I have confirmation from bloggers Laura McLay (Punk Rock Operations Research), Aurelie Thiele (Thoughts on Business, Engineering, and Higher Education), and Bill Hart (William E. Hart’s Blog) that they will be at booth 504 (the Coin-OR booth) at 8PM on Sunday at the INFORMS DC meeting (or at least will try hard to do so). If you are blogger and will be there, let me know so I can add you to the list. And if you are an adoring (or not) fan, be sure to drop by and say hi!

Update Oct 10 3PM. Ian Frommer (Green OR) will be at the Blog-OR gettogether.  Five bloggers and counting!

Meet at INFORMS?

I had meant to do something a little more formal for the blogging world at INFORMS DC, but until recently it was unclear whether I could make it to the conference (I am teaching now, and with a final exam coming up, I wanted to be sure my classes were ready). But I will be at INFORMS, and would like to meet up with the rest of the people either blogging or reading the blogs. Given the late date, why don’t we plan on an informal get-together during the Sunday reception. I will be by the “COIN-OR” booth at the Sunday reception at around 8PM. It is booth 504. It would be great to see you there!