December 2014 has been a busy and interesting month for Open Borders: The Case. This post summarizes some of the most exciting developments.
As detailed in the November 2014 review, traffic to the site exploded shortly after US President Barack Obama’s deferred action announcement. We capitalized on the interest both by publishing relevant content and by promoting some of our older content and promoting ourselves on Facebook.
The greater interest in migration continued through the first week of December, and we also published posts daily during that week. We got 10,000 pageviews in the first week of December, and over 2,000 on some weekdays. Traffic then started dipping, and our posting frequency also reduced.
We expected the week of Christmas (Monday, December 22 – Sunday, December 28) to be a very slow week, and the first two days of the week were indeed slow. But we published a number of topical posts related to Christmas and migration, and actually got higher traffic on Christmas Day than the previous day. On December 25, UTC, the site got 786 views, compared with about 200 last year on the same day.
Social media successes
Of the posts published this month, two stood out as unusually successful:
- Frederick Douglass: Migration is, and always has been, a fundamental human right by John Lee, December 3, 2014. The post has 676 Facebook engagements (likes + comments + shares) and 29 Twitter engagements as of January 1, 2015. The Facebook engagement is the second highest among our blog posts. There was also an Open Borders Action Group post discussing the unusual success of the post.
- Merry Christmas: From natives, immigrants, and foreigners by Scott Freeman, December 23, 2014. The post has 726 Facebook engagements (likes + comments + shares) — the highest of all our blog posts so far, and 9 Twitter engagements as of January 1, 2015. This was one of our three Christmas posts.
Both the posts benefited from our paid Facebook promotion, but the reason we promoted them was that they were already doing well organically. It’s impressive that both our highest-performing posts on social media were published this month.
Some of our earlier posts continued to accumulate social media likes, shares and comments. John Lee’s Thanksgiving post reached 410 Facebook engagements (it had 282 at the end of November). Lee’s post on Argentina’s open borders policy reached 221 Facebook engagements.
We did three posts on the occasion of Christmas:
- Merry Christmas: From natives, immigrants, and foreigners by Scott Freeman, December 23, 2014, discussed above.
- You Are No Longer Strangers and Foreigners by Nathan Smith, December 24, 2014, that discusses his interpretation of Christian theology and its moral lessons in conjuction with the Christmas holiday.
- Santa Claus is an Illegal Alien by Michelangelo Landgrave, December 25, 2014. This satirical post got 113 Facebook engagements (likes + shares + comments) and 13 Twitter engagements.
Hacker News and Reddit
Prior to Obama’s deferred action announcement, we had received only about 500 visits from Reddit through our entire history, and none from Hacker News. December was a turning point. Many of our posts were widely shared (and panned) on our Reddit, and we received attention from people who didn’t follow the site closely.
On December 26, 2014, somebody (we don’t know who) posted a link to Hacker News to John Lee’s post How did we come to be so certain that closed borders are our salvation? from July 30, 2013. Even though the post didn’t do well on Hacker News (it stayed on the front page for only a few minutes, and it got only 26 net upvotes) it still drove over a thousand views to Lee’s post. As is the case with most Hacker News traffic, it was shallow traffic: most people bounced off the article, but a dozen or so explored the site in depth. We discussed the matter in the Open Borders Action Group.
It turned out that high-skilled migration had become topical at Hacker News because of a post by Paul Graham on freeing high-skilled migration published Friday, December 26. On Saturday, December 27, Vipul Naik mooted to the Open Borders Action Group the idea of writing a response post, and got encouragement and suggestions. On Sunday, December 28, the post was published. It did not get picked up or posted on Hacker News, but it did get posted at many places on Reddit, and got a lot of shallow traffic from Reddit.
Two other posts by Vipul Naik received a fair amount of Reddit and Hacker News attention: Why the Cuba “wet feet, dry feet” policy should continue and Visa versus authorized stay: why can you not renew your visa in the United States? Neither did well in social media terms, but both are likely to gather more search traffic over the longer term.
In some cases, posts about a relatively less-well-covered region can get a lot of traffic when that region becomes the subject of international news. Two noteworthy examples from last month:
- Nepal and India: an open borders case study by Vipul Naik, March 21, 2014. The post got 279 views during the month, mostly from search, and mostly concentrated in the last two weeks, after some news announcements related to new border arrangements between India and Nepal.
- Lifting the Cuban Travel Ban Is Good for U.S. by Alex Nowrasteh, October 16, 2012. This post got a surge of search traffic after news broke of Obama and Castro negotiating a new chapter in US-Cuba relations.
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman’s guarded critique of open borders prompted two responses:
- Paul Krugman and the Immigration Act of 1924 by Joel Newman, December 4, 2014. The post received 43 Facebook engagements.
- Krugman and Cowen on immigration; or, rallying the economic profession around open borders by John Lee, December 12, 2014. The post received 72 Facebook engagements and 25 Twitter engagements.
Paul Crider returned after a long hiatus to write a post arguing for a more human-centered focus in the case for open borders, following in the broad tradition of the human capabilities case for open borders. Crider’s post got 139 Facebook engagements and 8 Twitter engagements.
Nathan Smith wrote a post on why the open borders movement should (mostly) avoid emulating the gay marriage movement, a follow-up to his post on what open borders can learn from abolition of slavery. Published December 22, 2014, the post sparked a conversation in the Open Borders Action Group about the diversity of perspectives in the open borders movement and the need to include disclaimers when authors express opinions on topics not very directly related to open borders. We included a disclaimer on Smith’s post and on some older posts, linking to our general blog and comments policies page, and quoting this passage from it:
The moral and intellectual responsibility for each blog post also lies with the individual author. Other bloggers are not responsible for the views expressed by any author in any individual blog post, and the views of bloggers expressed in individual blog posts should not be construed as views of the site per se.
- The number of pageviews of Open Borders: The Case was reported as 35,318 by WordPress Jetpack Stats and as 34,374 by Google Analytics. Both counts exclude views of posts by people through RSS feeds, and also exclude views by site administrators when logged in. This was the second highest among all months in our history, the highest being November 2014 (about 38,000 pageviews). The corresponding number of pageviews in December 2013 had been about 12,000.
- Our Twitter follower count now stands at 1014, up by 44 from its value 970 at the beginning of the month. We crossed the 1000-follower mark on December 27, 2014.
- The Open Borders Action Group increased in size by 70, from 643 to 713.
- Likes of our Facebook page grew by about 700, from a little over 3400 to a little over 4100.