March 17 Day 374: Baiting the Reader

There is something intoxicating about a social media post that a lot of people read. It confirms a belief that the time putting words on the page is well spent. In my limited year-long blog writing experience, I have learned that posts are popular for various reasons:

  1. Voyeurism. Show a car crash and people click on the post. Hint at a breakdown and people click on the post. Break a taboo and people click on the post.
  2. Celebrities rule. Mention a celebrity or have your work reposted/promoted by a celebrity and suddenly, the engagement metrics soar. And yes, there are mathematical celebrities like Francis Su, Chelsea Walton, Traci Jackson, Laura Taalman, and Art Benjamin. By mentioning them will it increase engagement? Let’s see.
  3. Right place, right time. Sometimes you just get lucky and post exactly what people want when they want it or you create something they will come back to again and again—like my oral examinations experiences (Spring 2020, Autumn 2020, Winter 2021 is to come) during the past year. Delivering remote assessments while trying to minimize student temptation to liberally interpret honor codes, forced consideration of new (to some) assessment practices. And it is often better to learn from those that have tried before you than to reinvent the wheel on your own.

It’s a good thing that I am not writing for the clicks because my personal favorites show vulnerability, humanity, and hope and in this day and age, that just doesn’t seem to sell.

Published by Jenny Quinn

Mathematician. Mother. Wife. Leader. I am a professor of mathematics at the University of Washington Tacoma. Mother of Anson and Zachary. Wife to Mark. President of the Mathematical Association of America.

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