June 22, 2012

Casual Friday: Survey Results!

Today marks the first installment of a new feature on the RAW blog – Casual Friday. We’ll try to post a little something every Friday around noon, Pacific Time: an interesting link, an intriguing image, a timely announcement or a call for papers. Today, for our first ever Casual Friday, we have what you’ve been waiting for: the results from the 2012 RAW Blog Reader Survey!

We had a smaller response rate (sixteen responses) than we had hoped, but we still hope to draw some useful information from these results. And in the meantime, we thought we’d share some of what we learned with you.

First, our readership is geographically well-distributed. We had two respondents each from California, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Utah, and one respondent each from Connecticut, Washington, DC, Florida, Iowa, Montana, New Jersey, and Wisconsin. The prize for most-far-flung respondent definitely goes to the person who’s reading this blog in Papua New Guinea! Now we are proud to claim an international readership!

Over half our respondents are educators in a college or university setting, while just over 30% are students in college or graduate school. As you might expect, most described their academic interests using some combination of the words religion, America, and West, though there were a number of variations, ranging from “religious history” to “cultural history of the American West.” There were also a lot of permutations on these themes: ecology, race, natural history, theology, Mormonism, Mexican Americans, media… We are a diverse bunch indeed.

We were excited to learn that at least one of our respondents found the RAW blog when they saw it in a bibliography of a book they were reviewing. We’d sure like to know what book that was – anyone out there care to tell us? It’s exciting to be cited!

Only a few respondents admitted to having commented on the blog, and the comments about how to motivate people to comment more frequently were revealing: apparently our readers are much more interested in reading than commenting. That’s really helpful for us to know – we’ll stop worrying about the infrequency of comments now. But we’ve also changed things up (you might have noticed) so that you can see the most recent comments in the left-hand sidebar. We’re also going to try to figure out how to simplify the technical process of commenting. With these changes, you’ll be able to get involved in the conversation more easily, should you so choose.

Your answers to the last two questions – what you like, and suggestions for improvement – were heartwarming to those of us in the virtual RAW blog offices. Really, they were so very positive – thanks! We’re glad you appreciate this space and find it a useful resource. One person suggested that we “publicize!” – and we do, a bit, but we’ll keep working on that and we’d like to take a moment to request your help. Please spread the word about this blog to whomever you think might be interested in it. If you have a chance to link to it, or tweet about it, or tell people about it, carpe diem! Help us spread the word.

Mostly, we’d like to thank all of you who took the survey and everyone who has contributed to the blog. One respondent wrote, “I appreciate the collegial feel to the blog that results from the diversity of topics and writers, but perhaps more importantly from the highly suggestive and occasionally experimental posts that appear on it. It really feels like a small, generous community of scholars collaborating on a topic we all enjoy rather than an attempt to carve out some sort of orthodoxy. I appreciate how willing the contributors, editors, and readers are to engage broad definitions of the West and of religion in ways that consistently open up new avenues of inquiry rather than closing them off.”

Wow. That’s really high praise, and we’re honored to be a part of creating such a space. Thanks to everyone who has helped make this happen!

Now, with the cockles of your heart appropriately warmed, have a great first weekend of summer!

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