When I started Commonplace on September 9, 2014, it was a way for my sons and me to document and share things that grab our interest. The first post was a minor trivia item about Franklin D. Roosevelt’s phobia about fire. I thought these things might be of interest to a few others, but after five years of blogging, I continue to be surprised at what people find fascinating and how they end up stumbling across this site.
It’s also interesting to do some self-examination. In the 1,612 days since starting Commonplace, I have published 1,093 posts — more or less. There were a few I took down because they were so badly written that it was an embarrassment. A couple were really good — trust me on this — and due to my technological incompetence were lost to the ages. Either way, that’s pretty close to one post per day. When I sit down to write, I feel a sense of adventure. With no constraints imposed upon me other than my own interests, I basically ask myself, “What do I want to learn about today?” and set about finding something that is interesting, entertaining, or thought-provoking.
The amazing thing is that there are so many others out there who find the same types of things interesting. On May 8, 2015, I published “How Herbie Goes Bananas Led to a Radioactive Disaster.” It got a scant 30 visits over the rest of that year. Then, in 2016, it caught someone’s attention and got posted on Reddit and linked in another article, and all of a sudden my phone kept beeping with notifications from WordPress: “Your stats are booming!”
Something similar happened with a February 21, 2017, post, “Indiana Jones and the Swallowed Bug.” The article briefly examines the life-changing question of whether René Belloq swallowed an insect during a scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark. A whopping 63 people read that post in 2017. It wasn’t much better for the first half of 2018. Then, in May of that year, I started to notice some curious data in the report of the search terms people use to lead them to my site. Words such as “Indiana Jones fly swallow,” “Indiana Jones bug in mouth,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark swallows fly,” and many variations were showing up almost every day in my stats report. That post rapidly started to outpace “How Herbie Goes Bananas Led to a Radioactive Disaster.” When the WordPress notifications started up again, telling me my stats were booming, I tracked the increased activity to a Russian post with fun facts about famous movies. The author of that article kindly linked my post as the source for his information, and now readers in English and Russian can rest more easily at night, knowing whether Belloq really swallowed a bug in that scene.
Sometimes the articles just happen to line up with what is going on with popular culture. Since I spent a significant part of my career as a prosecutor, I am always interested in crime. I came across the fascinating story of the kidnapping of J. Paul Getty’s grandson and the miserly way Getty dealt with the ransom demand. When I wrote “The Getty Kidnapping: How Much is a Grandson’s Life Worth?” I had no idea they were making All the Money in the World and that it would trigger a renewed interest in the subject that would lead thousands to Commonplace in search of more information.
What is most intriguing to me is the search terms that bring people to my site. The fact that someone found Commonplace by typing the words, “Nicolie [sic] Tesla made mark twain poop himslef [sic]” is interesting enough, but that those exact words, complete with misspellings, on multiple occasions just makes me scratch my head.
On the subject of head-scratching search terms, consider some of the following that led people to Commonplace:
- “jokes about nyctophobia”
- “Whoopee cushion facts”
- “the plain truth is, that he was a most intolerable ruffian, a disgrace to human nature”
- “did Liberace have gangrene”
- “mal lok ibdiana jpbrs eats fly”
- “fun facts about stone man syndrome”
- “fun facts about brutal torture”
Although I don’t understand what it is that brings people to Commonplace, I am grateful for every visitor. In the first month of 2019, there have already been more visits to the site than in all of the first full year of its existence. Thanks to all who visit, share, comment, and like my posts. Here’s looking forward to another year of trivia, fun facts, humor, and interesting notions.