Saturday, February 17, 2007

Personal website statistics tell me what visitors are considered about


Both of my two main personal sites (doaskdotell.com and billboushka.com) come with Urchin statistics packages that run once a day and tell me the number of page requests and hits on each file, the number of page requests from each major search engine or other domain or link, and even what countries. The reports also tell me the search arguments used by visitors to find the material.

I haven't yet figured out how to get the search arguments from Blogger (maybe somebody knows and can comment). But the Urchin stats on my main domains tell me a lot. I can tell that many visitors are concerned about potential issues that are relatively little covered in mainstream media, such as filial responsibility, certain forms of Internet censorship, potential uncertainties in tax laws or social security benefits laws, various issues with civil unions and domestic partnerships, the possibility of mandatory national service, and, of course, the granddaddy, "don't ask don't tell" for gays in the military and especially what might happen with it if there were a return to the draft. And, yes, on the movie reviews, I can tell that some visitors do have certain body image concerns.

I cannot identify specific visitors, although from server logs I can identify IP addresses for specific searches and, when the addresses are associated with specific companies or government agencies, track them down with a reverse WHOIS search (I cannot identify roving IP's such as AOL or other similar IP customers. Also, fixed IP addresses for high-speed or wireless connections from providers like Comcast or Verizon cannot be easily tracked to individual customers -- that may be reassuring.) In at least once case in 2005, this possibility gave important information about a serious workplace issue in a public school system. It would be possible to determine if someone accessed the site from work (in a situation where an employer forbids outside personal Internet surfing, which is common).

But domain reports are very useful to me in telling me what visitors want, and maybe even what they would pay for. When I learn that visitors have become concerned over some subtle question, I research it and usually modify one of the files on my sites with the information that I found, or, often, develop an appropriate blog posting. Therefore, if you, as a visitor, visit one of my sites with an unusual question, it is likely that you may find some kind of an answer in a few days if I can find something out.

Of course, I always welcome constructive comments or emails (with legitimate questions or reactions.)

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