Not ‘statistics’ in the sense of paired t-tests or ladies tasting tea (not t), but ‘statistics’ in the sense of ‘how many people read this stuff, what exactly do they read, when do they read it and from where do they read it?’ (Several professors tried valiantly to instill in me an understanding of and an appreciation for the former. They failed. Miserably — the first sign of anything faintly resembling a standard deviation still sends me, screaming, in search of someplace to hide. All I remember from those classes is that it was fun to taunt the guy that marked the assignments. Oh, and there was a very pleasant young lady who habitually wore rubber boots. I don’t remember her name, just her footwear.)
Despite this character flaw, I think that blog statistics can be interesting. On occasion.
It’s interesting that people from eighty-seven different countries have ‘been here.’ It’s interesting that my maunderings are three times more likely to be read in Latvia than Estonia. (I recognize that’s an insignificant statistical anomaly, but it’s still interesting.) It’s interesting that almost no one could bring themselves to read about my pathetic, dysfunctional interactions with Asian seasonings.
Well, I think so, anyway.
(I would make the claim that I’m less interested in the volume of hits and more interested in the ‘wheres’ and the ‘whens’. I mean, it’d be nice to think that bazillions of people enjoyed my stuff, but I know that’s simply not true. I’ll admit to a modicum of jealousy for a friend who gets millions of hits because next to him I’m pathetic. Being pathetic doesn’t really make me happy but I don’t lose any sleep over it.)
I also enjoy anomalies — and when you talk about statistics of any kind, there are guaranteed to be anomalies. That includes blog statistics and I don’t just mean anomalies like Latvians liking me three times as much (or three times as often — whatever that might mean) as Estonians. In the current context, I’m thinking of the anomalies that can arise from the process that gathers the data that becomes statistics.
In particular, it’s pretty clear that there are at least two different processes that gather data. (There may be more, but I’m only going to talk about two.) One process ‘looks for’ (probably by scanning log files, but the exact mechanism doesn’t really matter) page hits. The documentation suggests that it runs about once every five minutes. The second process looks for ‘visitors’ — a similar but subtly different thing. This process runs every couple of hours. Taken together, this means that it’s possible for anomalies to happen. One of the anomalies is mentioned here. In addition, the statistics can show page hits made by, well, nobody.
This happened last week. (Well, it probably happens regularly — I just noticed it last week.) In particular, when I looked at the statistics, they showed one page hit and… no visitors. Clearly, (if you took the statistics at face value) that page hit was made by Mr. Nobody — hopefully not the supervillain.
WordPress also told me that Mr. Nobody visited (or, rather, didn’t visit because there were no visitors) from the Balkans. Interesting — I actually know someone in the Balkans (He’s Ms. Rose’s baby brother and his name is Beaker. Well, in my mind it is; he may have different thoughts on the subject.) so I immediately leaped to the conclusion that the ‘hit’ was made by Beaker. I found this funny — to me it seemed that they were suggesting that Ms. Rose’s brother was nobody.
I chuckled for a while; I remember thinking that if there was a little more to the story it might be worth telling.
(The operative word there is ‘might.’)
The next day I spoke to Beaker’s (and by extension Ms. Rose’s) dad. I’ve mentioned him before; he attempted to teach me chemistry Back In The Day and he has a history of being remarkably patient with my assorted antics. That day we drove to the mushroom store. (As an aside: in this part of the world the first serious winter storm is often accompanied by a rash of minor but annoying automobile problems — the cold brings to light every weak battery, every loose cable, every desiccated wiper blade, every worn-out tire. Hence the ride.) On the way to purchase Agaricus campestris I mentioned that I thought that I had ‘seen’ his son the day before. He seemed interested.
This opened a can of worms — it meant that I had a bit of explaining to do in order to provide enough background to explain why I found the situation funny. So, rather than formulating a useful précis I launched into an overly long explanation of the format of web server access logs, the syntax of perl scripts, Narcissistic personality disorder and dissecting frogs.
Eventually, though, after an elaborate shaggy dog story with a garnish of web servers, I got to the point. To the punchline. To the (anti)climax: the company that hosts my blog said that his son was nobody.
To my complete surprise, he found it funnier than I had.