Watching you watching me

In this post, I want to talk a bit about how I am monitoring who is viewing my blog and how often they appear to be doing so.

When I began blogging back in June of 2001, it was solely for the purpose of finding out whether I could post things on the web. Some of the content I posted back then still shows up in some unexpected places. For instance, I posted my friend Paul Moor’s CV on my first attempt at a blog at Tripod.com, and recently I discovered it is listed as a “weblink” (near the bottom of the entry) in this page on the German version of Wikipedia.

Since those early days, my experiment has continued first at Blogger, then at WordPress.com, and since May of 2006, here at my own hosted site, the one you are viewing right now. In the ensuing years, I’ve made some new friends who are also bloggers but whom I’ve never met in person, like Colm Smyth and Tom Simpson, and some local blogging friends that I have met like Daryl Houston, Mike Neel, and Tish McQueen. Perhaps more surprisingly to me, at least one old friend, Jerry Pounds, “found me” and my blog while Googling “blasts from the past,” and either soon after or just prior to his finding me, he began his own blog.

My point is that more people view my blog than I would have ever dared to hope. How do I know? Well there are at least three sources of information that I am currently using to find the answer to that question. One is the new WordPress.com Stats plugin. It is simple, succinct and focuses on the few items that most of us are interested in, such as how many page views we got, what posts were viewed the most, where the traffic is coming from and what people click on when they leave. A second tool I use to see what’s going on with my site is Google Analytics that has recently undergone a remodeling. This link provides a tour of its functionality.

The final tool I sometimes use is Technorati, which purports to show “Everything in the known universe about It’s News to Me.” It tells me that as of this morning I rank #219,796 in the blogging hierarchy. What does that mean? Dorion Carroll explains here. Like a golf score, the lower the number here the better. As you can see, I have just a little way to go before I’m #1.

And just this morning I discovered a new Technorati service called WTF (and no, it doesn’t mean that, it stands for “where’s the fire”). Lars-Christian explains what the WTF service is and how it might benefit us bloggers.

We bloggers who are way down the list in popularity are nevertheless always interested in knowing whether anyone is watching us, so we watch you watch us, in the hope that we can learn something about how to make our content more relevant and interesting to you. In the end though, as I’ve said many times before, I blog more for the joy I get from posting things on the Internet than because I think you need or even want to read what I post. Still, however, it is rewarding to know that you stop by occasionally. So thanks for visiting; you’re always welcome here.

Advertisements

9 thoughts on “Watching you watching me

  1. Dan Grossman

    If you really like to watch people while they’re on your site, try out W3Counter. It’s free and works equally well on websites and blogs, and has an Online Now view where you can spy on each person currently on your site, watching them move page to page.

    Reply
  2. Perry Post author

    Thanks for the suggestion, Dan. I’ll take a look at it.

    Update: Well, that’s quite impressive on first viewing. I particularly like the demo that let’s you view the service in action. I might just sign up for a while and see how much use I make of it.

    On the other hand, “spy on” is an unfortunate choice of words, I think. I have no interest in spying on my visitors, but seeing what they view in real time is an amazing bit of technology. (I know “a rose by any other name,” etc. …)

    Reply
  3. Tish

    It is indeed very interesting to see where your site traffic is coming from. The neatest thing that has happened to me is that my favorite baseball player’s (Jared Ball) father googled his son’s name and stumbled upon my blog. I had blogged about his son and posted photos from the games. Jared’s father emailed me to thank me for being a fan and offered to send me some baseball cards. He sent three different cards, all personally autographed for me! Jared’s father and I now keep in touch by email on a regular basis.

    Keep in mind that there may be additional readers who are viewing your blog through RSS feeds. I often look at your posts on Google Reader. You’ll see me visit if I leave a comment, but otherwise, you won’t see a visit.

    I love the WordPress Blog Stats!

    Thanks for the most recent WordPress info! 🙂 Happy blogging!

    Reply
  4. Perry Post author

    Hi, Tish. Yes, I have also had a friend tell me that he Googled for his name on the Internet and found it in a post I made on my blog. So it’s fun to have such things turn up.

    I am aware of the prevalence of people reading posts through RSS readers. In fact, I frequently do that myself, though of late I’ve taken to visiting the sites, even if I don’t plan to leave a comment just so I can “help” my friends’ stats. For A-List bloggers, I don’t always do that. They don’t need my help, but for us “bottom feeders” visits are always welcome.

    By the way, I had added the W3counter that Dan Grossman mentions above and I find it too is interesting, sort of a cross between Google Analytics and WordPress Blog stats, except in real time. On the other hand, I don’t spend time at my computer “watching for someone to show up.” It’s too much like fishing when the fish aren’t biting. 😉

    Reply
  5. Colm Smyth

    Hi Perry, I think blog stats are vital, especially when so few people leave comments. I think of them as the web equivalent of an answering machine message – “hi, I’m 192.168.0.1 from Dublin Ireland, I was sent here by http://www.google.com/, I tried to reach you here and here, I’m but somehow we didn’t quite connect – maybe next time, sorry, bye!”. For me blogging is first and foremost a conversation, so I like nothing better than coming across folks with some overlapping interests and having a quick gossip (or maybe an extended dialogue) about something current, so watching dozens of hits leaving no comments is a bit like coming from a small town where you know everyone and then walking down a big city street and finding that folks don’t even make eye contact, let alone smile and say “hi”.

    From the stats it’s also interesting to see what people were looking for, and just once in a while, I write an article about exactly that. But stats are a bit addictive, and it’s too easy to just start posting just to get a reaction!

    I’ve been using StatCounter (nice analysis but the free version only has a history of 100 page views!) and Google Analytics (but it reports fewer page-hits than SC, so I’m a bit leery of it). W3Counter sounds interesting, thanks to Dan Grossman above for this pointer!

    BTW Tish, Google Reader does seem to cause at least some visible hits to blogs, but you may be right that they are fewer because it accesses the RSS feed.

    BTW Perry, I visited Mike Neel’s site, thanks for pointing him at my blog and I’ll drop by there once in a while too.

    All the best everyone, keep wagging the long tail!

    Colm.

    Reply
  6. Perry Post author

    Thanks for the comment, Colm. You and Mike have a lot in common, so I’m sure he can talk programming with you better than I can. Let me know what you think of W3counter, if you install it.

    Reply
  7. Jerry

    It is rumored that the CIA has been politicking for approval to place an internal camera in every computer screen–purportedly for homeland security. It would only be used in the event that there was “just cause.” (If you believe that, please call me and I’ll hook you up with a wolverine pup for a house pet.)The FBI wants to do the same to identify pedophiles and anyone who is having active discussions about drug related issues.

    Hackers would most certainly start using it for their own interesting reasons. The Religious Reich could start using it to identify Godless heathens. Plastic surgeons could use the visuals as the basis for a focused marketing effort. Obviously our government is right to do whatever they need to do to protect us all from the Mongol horde, bird flu, and gay marriage.

    It will be easy to adjust–just don’t take your computer into the john with you or do anything perverse in front of it. Better still, when using our computer we should all probably start wearing head masks like insurrectionists.

    I say lets get on board the patriot train and cooperate with our government. Everyone needs a big brother to watch over them.

    Reply
  8. Perry Post author

    Thanks for your clever Someone to Watch Over Me comment, Jerry. I’m sure that I’d be a likely target for the FBI, the Religious Reich, and the Plastic surgeons too. I promise not to take the computer into the john with me, but I can’t possibly give up doing perverse things in front of it, even if I may be arrested. A fellow has to have some fun, don’t you know!?

    Listen to my friend Perry do a musical accompaniment to this comment.

    Reply
  9. Jerry

    I try to stay away from this kind of music…it is too painful to remember the 50s and the other world I came from. Marcel Proust would have had a field day with the exquisite pain of subtle sensations created by this kind of music.

    The world of the my youth was innocence and ignorance and optimism. I know how Eve felt after she bit the apple. All that history is part of the irretrievable. Only death’s dream kingdom will allow some reprieve.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s