November 26, 2006 The Pump Handle 0Comment

by revere

[This is another cross-post from Effect Measure but it fits here because it lays out some of the history of the progressive public health blogosphere and welcomes The Pump Handle as its newest — and we hope brightest — member!]

This weekend is Effect Measure’s Second Blogiversary and it coincides with two other events: the new Flu Wiki Forum and the incipient debut of a new progressive public health blog, The Pump Handle, to which The Reveres will be occasional contributors (some original posts, some cross posts). We are semi-thrilled to still be around after two years. Semi-thrilled, because two years is a long-time in the blogosphere, especially if you blogged all 730 days of it. Just a few under 1500 posts all told. We know there are a lot of blogs more prolific than ours and older. Our hats are off to them, because we know it’s hard work. If we had known just how hard, we probably wouldn’t have started it. The Reveres are still bickering about who got us all into this. Assuming of course there is more than one Revere. If there’s only one, then he/she/it is working too hard. One thing we’ll admit to. There’s only one at a time.

So what do we have to show for it? One thing is a devoted and intellectually active readership. Considering how much we piss you off sometimes (thanks for sharing) and considering how truly wacky some of you are, it’s a wonder we’re still together. We mean this in the nicest possible way, if there is a nice way to say some of you are orbiting slightly past Pluto. Fortunately we are sane and so are most of you. And we really do appreciate having you around. OK, sometimes we semi-appreciate it. Good enough.

Our readership is quite steady — and global. Yesterday we posted a random map of our last 100 visitors to prove it. If we weren’t so cheap we’d be able to show you our last 500 visitors (that costs extra on sitemeter) where we’d have captured a bunch of time zones not in the middle of the night when the map was compiled. Our traffic is B-list size, around 1000 unique visits a day, but it shoots way up when something happens in the bird flu world. We are not crazy enough to wish for a pandemic for the sake of our traffic volume, however. Nice and quiet is how we like it.

When we started, in late 2004, there was little about public health from any political point of view, much less a progressive perspective. Jordan Barab at Confined Space had pioneered things and been blogging for about 18 months at that point and we consider him a hero of the progressive public health blogosphere. His specialty is a narrow, but extremely important, slice of public health, occupational health and safety. He is still around and has a plum slot over at Firedoglake as well as his own place. He’s also a terrific writer. A blogger who signed himself The Bloviator had a short run at Public Health Press but went dark when things got busy in his job. Since we were both anonymous, it was a pleasant surprise for us to find later he was a former student of mine. He is now a respected academic, so I didn’t completely ruin his life. Another politically progressive blogger who started not long after we did is cervantes at Stayin’ Alive. It turned out after we had several encounters in hyperspace, I gave a talk at his institution and said some things he recognized from the blog. Public health is a pretty small world.

We hear from a lot of you in the comments and not infrequently via email. We don’t reply to most comments and often don’t reply to emails, for which we apologize in advance. We are overwhelmed in our day jobs and are trying to maintain the blog off hours, so something has to give. But we try. More important than the number of visitors is who they are. We know from a variety of sources you include folks at the highest levels of a number of national health systems (including the US and at NIH) and many more are in the trenches of public health. This has given us an influence disproportionate to the size of our readership compared to more general political blogs. We are a specialist blog and we attract specialists as well as the general public. Among them are names flu bloggers and the public health community would immediately recognize.

The “who is reading” is important to us because it goes to part of what Effect Measure is about. We didn’t want to just have a conversation with the blogosphere, although we are delighted one has developed. Our aim was to change the conversation within public health. We didn’t think most public health professionals were going to agree with everything we said or even most of it. But we wanted to legitimize saying it, making the topics we brought up and they way we talked about them part of the conversation in public health. It’s not just the topics like war and religion that are usually not considered part of public health. It’s public health topics that we talk about in a particular way. When we talk about pandemic influenza preparation, for example, we emphasize community mobilization, cooperation and collective action. We’re not interested in individual prepping, although we don’t say it is unimportant. It’s just not on our blog agenda. We also push transparency and honesty and credibility as cardinal virtues of public health practice. All of those things have political correlates and we aren’t shy about pointing them out.

As we head into Year Three the landscape has changed in many ways. Leaving the recent midterm elections aside, there are now many voices in the progressive public health blogosphere. My colleagues at talk frequently about public health topics, many new sites have sprung up, The Flu Wiki thrives and evolves (hopefully faster than the virus) and The Pump Handle is coming online with some outstanding public health figures blogging under their own names.

That’s progress. Despite the alternatives, we hope to have you still with us as we trek into the future. Whatever it brings.

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