I’ve implied (well, I did more than imply) that bloggers often exhibit a trait that’s something akin to narcissism and that the various providers of blog space enable (how I hate that word) it. How? They provide a vast array of tools to check blog statistics. (One could do much the same thing with access to web server logs and a perl interpreter but things wouldn’t be nearly as pretty. And, hard as it may be to believe, not everyone is proficient in perl. What are they teaching in schools these days?)
These tools are not, of course, perfect. They have some… failings. (For example, sometimes they add incorrectly. How do I know? Sometimes they see site visits from multiple countries and don’t conclude that those probably represent ‘visits’ from different people. Similarly, sometimes they ‘see’ something that they interpret as a visit from someone new but don’t conclude that they must have looked at something.) I assume that these failings are fairly small (If I assumed otherwise then I couldn’t believe anything that they say. As it is, I just assume that there are error bars — hopefully small ones but one never really knows.)
In addition to the obvious stuff (‘How many people visited and from where?’) blog sites provide a large amount of other data: What referred people to the blog? Did they use search engines? If so, which ones? What were they searching for? What posts were looked at? How many times? What comments were left? By whom? And….
What did they click on?
Now, while this doesn’t directly feed my narcissism, it is interesting (Well, I think so, anyway.) because it provides a snapshot into what other people find interesting. (Either that or a glimpse into the subjects that make other people wonder “What the hell is he talking about?”)
The first thing I learned is that people really don’t click on all that many links. Using a recent (end of August) post about fashion and personal inadequacy (‘Touching‘) I did a back-of-the-envelope calculation (not about turbine blades) and concluded that visitors to that post had a less than 8% chance of clicking on a link. Any link. (It’s actually probably closer to 4% but I cut some corners when I counted things so there are several fudge factors to make sure I’m not too far off in any ridiculous claims I might make.) I made a very half-hearted attempt to see if anyone had talked about this subject before. I mean, I assume someone has but putting certain words into a search engine (‘click’ and ‘rate’ for example) produces massive volumes of data (several hundred million hits, Google says), mostly from advertisers and marketers and other parasites on humanity. I couldn’t bring myself to wade through that… stuff. (I managed to get the number below 100 million by chosing search terms carefully, but that’s still way too much dreck to wade through.)
After looking at click rates (having said that, this post will now join that hundred million but I would claim that I’m not a parasite on humanity — or at least not that kind of parasite.) I turned to what had been clicked on and was surprised again.
What surprised me was that I was looking for a pattern and… there wasn’t one (at least not one that I could see). Not only was there not a pattern but nothing stood out.
This is, of course, utterly unimportant but I found it interesting that there wasn’t anything… interesting.
Things changed at the end of august. One particular post (‘Touching’, above) got a ton of hits and, by extension, 4-8 percent of a ton of clicks. Was there a pattern? Did anything stand out? This time, yes something did: four times as many people looked up the definition of ‘Schadenfreude‘ than anything else before or since.
Now I just have to figure out what that means.