Sunday, December 31, 2017

Least Popular Posts of 2017

2017 was a really bad year. The U.S. is more divided than ever, the truth is meaningless, well-researched journalism is called FAKE NEWS, the President lies once every minute, white supremacist rallies have been normalized, some tech companies1 continue to invade our privacy/extract personal data, exploit the middle and lower classes,2 and displace long-time residents from urban areas. And who knows what health care and Alaska will look like in 2018.

Yes, this is classic Neurocritic pessimism.3

While everyone else rings in the New Year by commemorating the best and brightest of 2017 in formulaic Top Whatever lists, The Neurocritic has decided to wallow in shame. To mark this Celebration of Failure, I have compiled a Bottom Five list,4 the year's least popular posts as measured by Google Analytics. The last time I compiled a “Worst of” list was in 2012.

Methods: The number of pageviews per post was copied and pasted into an Excel file, sorted by date. Then the total pageviews for each post was prorated by the vintage of the post, to give an estimate of daily views.5 

Results: The posts are listed in inverse order, starting with #5 and ending with #1 (least popular).

5 Most Unpopular Posts of 2017

5. Terrorism and the Implicit Association Test – I actually worked pretty hard on this one. It's about the stereotyping of Muslims, the importance of language (e.g., Theresa May: “the single, evil ideology of Islamist extremism that preaches hatred, sows division, and promotes sectarianism”), a demonstration that semantics derived automatically from language corpora contain human-like biases, the Arab-Muslim IAT (which found little to no bias against Muslims), and some general problems with the IAT.

4. Smell as a Weapon, and Odor as Entertainment – This was from my two-part olfactory series, which covered the interesting history of Olfactory Warfare (e.g, stink bombs, stealth camouflage) and the use of smell in cinematic and VR contexts. {or at least, it was interesting to me}.

3. The Big Bad Brain – This featured a fun and catchy music video (High) by Sir Sly, which was an earworm for me. But too esoteric and not much staying power.

2. What's Popular at #CNS2017? – This falls under the perennially unpopular category of “yearly conference announcements”, which is only relevant around the time of the meeting.

1. Olfactory Deterrence – This was about the prospect of nuclear war and how putrid smells might deter the use of nuclear weapons, along with eradicating cavalier attitudes about them.

Discussion: We can easily see some themes emerging: the IAT, olfaction, music videos, and the Cognitive Neuroscience Society meeting.

Conclusion: People are sick of the IAT, aren't thrilled about the sense of smell (especially in relation to nuclear war), and do not like music videos or CNS Meeting announcements. However, they do like meeting recaps, as shown by the popularity of What are the Big Ideas in Cognitive Neuroscience? and The Big Ideas in Cognitive Neuroscience, Explained.


1 Uber deserves special mention.

2 This one is from 2016, but it's a real eye-opener: The Not-So-Wholesome Reality Behind The Making of Your Meal Kit.

3 This has been the worst-ever year for me personally as well, so I see no reason to be optimistic.

4 Actually, #5 is Survival and Grief. I cannot bear to feature this one, so the closely ranked #6 is a stand-in.

5 The post with the absolute lowest number of views (Brief Guide to the CTE Brains in the News. Part 2: Fred McNeill) was written on 12/11/2017. For a true reading of yearly “staying power” we'd need to follow all posts for 365 days.

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