Felt along the heart: My top blogs of 2020

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It is the end of another year of blogging and in previous years, I would look at at my webstats to find out the top blogs of that year.

This year, I don’t have any active plugins to interpret my hits and clicks to tell me my tops blogs. Instead, I have gone old school and felt along the heart, as Wordsworth once put it. That is to say, I have used my memory and my heart to compile a list of my top blogs.

Without further ado, here they are, my top blogs of 2020:

1. Stardust and supermoons (March, 2020)

The replica moon of Rochester Cathedral

It has been two years since my mum died and I mourn her still. Her last words to me were: I want you to leave and never come back, and I told her that I would do as she asked because I loved her.

She died one week later.

I wrote Stardust and supermoons in March of this year because I miss my mam. This blog was a different experience to when I wrote about her face in Comfort (September, 2019). This newer blog helped me remember her as she used to be before she was ill, and it was lovely, even though I cried a river writing it as I felt like I’d lost her all over again.

2. The heart of computer programming (February, 2020)

III of Swords Rider-Waite-Smith

I spent the first part of the year writing blogs about data science as I was getting ready to begin lecturing full time again. Along came covid-19 and as awful as it was, and still is, it gave me the space and time to see what I really wanted to do, as Buzz Lightyear says in Toy Story 4 to the old plush rush: Well, we’re not doing that.

A prospective employer described me a humanities-centred computer scientist and after asking myself: Is that even a thing? I wrote the heart of computer programming as I wanted me to define the type of computer scientist I think I am.

I know for certain this blog – the heart of computer programming – got A LOT of hits as I was using the slimstat plugin at the time and must have logged on just as the blog was shared on ycombinator. I remember drinking my coffee as I watched my dashboard register hit after hit from all over the world which made me nervous – all that attention, all those people reading, as someone else defined it, my left field opinions.

I followed that blog up with Teaching my girls how to code in python (February, 2020) as I have things to say, and more than enough teaching experience to share which I think is all the better for the left-field opinions and the deep love of English literature.

3. Heather James: artist (November, 2020)

Heather James: Drawing my way round London

I wrote this one, Heather James: artist, at the end of the year. I had never written a profile before, and I’ll be honest, I sat at my desk a few times not knowing how to start. Heather was great as she sent me some notes which she had made after we first decided she could be a great blog subject. Later, we had a glass of wine over a zoom call which was fab and I made more notes, and Heather gave me some wise advice too as I had just been offered a job I didn’t want, but even after that, I sat at my desk some more really not knowing where to begin.

Once I started, it was a magical experience. I don’t remember ever writing a blog which made me glow. That is the only way to describe it. As I was writing I was captivated by Heather and her work and I felt like I was glowing on the inside as I took what we had talked about and the story of her life, and wrote it in words, with quotations and pictures. It was a lovely, lovely uplifting afternoon in the middle of #lockdown 2.0 and for that I am very grateful.

4. Fifty shades of my grey hair, (December, 2016)

Grey Mona Lisa

This one and its follow-up My grey hair two years on (May, 2018) got soooo many hits during #lockdown 1.0. I guess not going out and no access to hairdressers would make it the perfect time to wonder about how to grow out grey hair.

I am here on my journey of grey four years on and I still have days when I look in the mirror and go: Bloody hell, no. How grey is my hair? Then I take another look and admire the colour and tell myself that is why people stare at me in the street.

It is not without it’s moments though as grey hair has a different texture, mine is super curly and frizzy not helped by my hot tub habit but I am a big fan of coconut oil which keeps it shiny. Apparently, it’s good inside and out too as I was reliably informed in Holland and Barrett. I blushed at the #tmi: Oh lady, we’ve just met.

5. Bikram: Three years on (March, 2019)

the 26 Bikram yoga poses
The Bikram sequence

I am and will always be a fan of Bikram. I have written quite a few blogs here, including a series about the 30 day challenge I did in November 2019 culminating in 38.5 hours and 51.426 words later (November, 2019). All of them regularly a get big surge of hits depending on what is trending and who is sharing. But Bikram: Three years on got loads and loads during #lockdown, even though I wrote about doing Bikram at home: Four years of Bikram yoga (June, 2020). My Bikram practice got lost when it turned cold after I moved house in September and I was unable to return to the studio and there was no summer sun in the park to practice under, so I was doing yin instead, but yesterday after running into a Bikram buddy I was inspired to start practising the sequence again, so I did, yesterday and again, today.

I may be experiencing some stiffness and aching along with a general #lockdown #tier4 Christmas is coming chubba chubba but I know that is just temporary. In the mean time I am enjoying the glow up the Bikram sequence gives me every single time and even better I can do the whole thing without squeezing into yoga pants since no one is watching me, hubba, hubba.

6. Westworld and the ghosts of AI (March, 2019)

Westworld

I am cheating here a little as the blog that gets the most hits by far in my Westworld blogs is: Westworld: Robots and 10,247 lines of code (January, 2020) but the one I love the most is Westworld and the ghosts of AI. It was a continuation and yet a completely different conversation of another favourite blog of mine The ghosts of AI (February, 2018) when I first realised that we tell lots of stories, true and false, in technology as much as anywhere else. So, with Westworld on TV I enjoyed blogging a mash-up of literary tourism, sex with robots, and how hygiene was different in the 1940s, even the late Doris Lessing said so in her autobiography. Fiction is great but robots are not going to be fact for a long time even with deep learning and excellent human-computer interaction.

7. Human-computer interaction, cyberpsychology and core disciplines (February 2018)

A heat map of the multidisciplinary field of HCI @ Alan Dix
HCI disciplines heat map by Alan Dix

Ahhhh human-computer interaction (HCI), oh great joy and a great big love of my life. I wrote the above blog back in 2018 and have watched it get hits daily ever since. In September 2019 I finally decided to create that online course in HCI that I had been talking about since 2016. I know I talk a lot. For the rest of 2019, I enjoyed dreaming and designing it and my usual business of blogging and Bikram and Tarot until #lockdown happened in March 2020.

From then until the end of the academic year 2020, us Stalker-Firths were all mainly at home, and everyone had structured days apart from me. I had lost my Bikram and even though I spent some lovely time doing Hegarty maths with my girls (I love Hegarty maths) I needed something tangible to show that wasn’t just a blog series so I dived head first into recording and editing my Course (August,2020) in human-computer interaction.

It took a lot longer than I imagined it would and each time I wondered why I was doing it, I would look at the hits on the HCI blogs collected in one big list here: 101 ways to do human-computer interaction (August, 2020) and in particular this one: Human-computer interaction, cyberpsychology and core disciplines and realise that there were plenty of people out there who liked my particular brand of HCI.

As the course launched I created a few blogs with taster videos in them, which is an easy way to blog and I regularly update the course page which I did today with two reviews and a coupon to celebrate Christmas. I am so proud of my course, out there for people to take and look forward to updating and improving it too as more and more feedback comes in.

Scrying Ruth

Most surprisingly this year during #lockdown 2.0, I began reading the Tarot over on Youtube. I told myself that it was so that I can use the data from the channel to further explore the data ideas I came up with when I designed my Tarot app for my HCI course. But in reality, I love the Tarot and I love my daily check-in. I can’t wait to see where that takes me.

I still have a few drafts of blogs I haven’t quite finished for one reason or another, but this seems to be the first time I can remember for a long time that I haven’t got a list of new blogs to write. Instead, I have some projects that I am doing slowly in the same way that I did my course and I will probably blog about those when the time comes, but it feels different, my approach to work feels different and that has been my silver lining in the cloud of covid-19 in 2020.

That said, I love blogging and I love this website. It is magic that I can come here whenever I want to and reflect on those things that are felt along my heart. So from my heart to yours, I send you love, I send you peace and wish for you laughter and light as 2020 draws to a close.

Keep loving, keep living, and keep safe.

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