Adding Up

By Jim McCloskey

It was entirely coincidental, but the last edition of the WaterShapes digital newsletter included two of the most popular of all articles ever to appear on our Web site:  Tommy T. Cook’s “Casting Nature,” which originally appeared in the printed magazine in November 2010; and Scott Cohen’s “Beware of Exploding Lava Rocks,” which was published exclusively through the newsletter on March 16, 2011.

It’s easy to recall how popular Cook’s article was when we first published it:  He described the process of making concrete castings of huge Gunnera leaves to make fountain bowls and spillways, and for several weeks thereafter, it seemed like all I did was answer questions about where the leaves could be obtained and whether I knew if the elephantine plants could be grown in one specific region or another.

The article was translated to digital form in April 2013 (click here), and in the four years leading up to this date, it has been opened a phenomenal 28,950 times.

We published Cook’s article as part of our effort to bring the world of decorative concrete to the attention of WaterShapes readers – a campaign that included coverage, among other things, of the utterly amazing projects of Fu-Tung Cheng.  When we went all-digital in 2011, we carried on with this program with the assistance of our friends at Concrete Décor magazine, and I’m not quite certain why it’s not still part of what we do.

I also recall the quick, strong response to Scott Cohen’s article:  It appeared at a time when the beds of lots of fire features were jumping like popcorn through ill-advised use of certain types of lava rock.  What I heard then were plentiful corroborating stories – and tales of serious accidents narrowly averted.

This article (click here), which later appeared in the book, The Candid Contractor:  Lessons Learned from the Construction Defect Expert Witness Files of Scott Cohen, was a web-exclusive piece we uploaded on March 16, 2011.  In the six or so years since, has been read 17,488 times.

These two articles are joined in the all-time top ten by “How to Make Durable Pool Plaster” (by Kim Skinner), “Vanishing Edge Pools:  Problems and Solutions” (another item from Scott Cohen’s “Lessons Learned” web series) and “On Grounding and Bonding” (by Paolo Benedetti).

I have noticed the popularity of these articles and others, of course, and have used them to guide or inspire additional topic coverage through the years – although I have to say that Tommy T. Cook’s article is so singular that it didn’t leave me much leeway in finding similar subjects to cover.  It’s all about a specific form of art and artisanship, and I have long suspected that a large portion of its following comes from beyond the ranks of professionals who are the primary readers and users of

The same can be said for several of the other top-ten features:  While professional watershapers are certainly opening them, the subjects make me think they are also of interest to curious consumers who are collecting information and setting expectations for their experience of watershaping – although a text on grounding and bonding may be carrying this point a few steps too far!

As I see it, this is all the wonder of the Web.  By making WaterShapes wide open to search engines and at this point attracting upwards of 40,000 unique visits each month, we’ve created an environment where “civilian” readers, ranging far beyond the professionals we count as the core of our marketplace, have found a resource they can use in formulating their personal approach to – and preferences within – the realm of watershaping.

That’s cool, I think – not only for what it says about the diversity of, but also for the multi-layered industry it serves.

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