What brings people here?
I know that some people arrive here because they’re family or friends and they either feel obligated to take a look (“Aw mom, do I have to?” “Yes, dear. He’s your friend so you have to.”) or they just can’t believe that I can say nothing month after month (after month after month…). “It’s like a train wreck” I hear them saying. “I can’t look away. As much as I might want to.”
People also arrive here because they’re looking for something. What might they be looking for, exactly?
Hmm. That sounds better if John Spencer says it. No matter who says it, though, it’s a question with some (to me) unexpected answers.
Take spammers, for example. (Please.) They’re Bad People. Heck, spammers are pretty much the definition of Bad People. Nobody likes them. (Except maybe Marv — he might. Maybe — they might be too icky even for him. But I digress.) They’re looking for gullible people, but a certain kind of gullible people. They’re looking for people who are willing to buy what they’re trying to sell but who are also smart and determined enough to wade through their fractured syntax, bizarre prose and wildly misleading ‘contact’ information. That’s a pretty narrow window.
Oh well, who am I to criticize an obviously successful business model?
So spammers come here. How do I know where they go? Well, they leave comments. If I follow up on the ‘information’ contained in their comments, then they win. If I merely approve their comments then they still win — just not as much.
The odd thing — the thing that confuses me — is what they ‘visit’ in order to leave their comments. I assumed for a long time that what spammers ‘visited’ was, to a first approximation, random (ish).
Apparently, I was naive. Because it’s not.
I don’t have complete statistics, of course because the majority of spam comments are caught by software so I never see them. Of the ones I do see, though, I have a bunch of notes scribbled on bits of paper and they point to an interesting (well, I think it’s interesting) picture.
As we all know, technological change is largely driven by the ubiquitous human desire to see other humans naked.
In short, porn.
And what comes with all that porn? (Besides shrill social activists and weird studies by graduate students in psychology, of course.)
I get a lot of porn spam here. (You probably do too — the internet is for porn, after all.) That doesn’t surprise me but what does is that a startling percentage of the porn spam this blog receives is ‘aimed’ at some scribblings I, um, scribbled back in 2012…
on the failing eyesight of aging gamers.
Well, that was unexpected. Bifocals as a predictor of porn consumption? Who woulda thunk it? Not I.
Another species of spammer is the one that advertises ‘business opportunities’ so I can MAKE. MONEY. FAST. This type of spam has been around, for, well, a long time. It’s evolved, of course, but at its core it’s still the same: the sender has a way to become rich which he’ll share with the recipient for ONLY….
Yeah, right. (But it clearly works or they wouldn’t do it.)
So I get regular money making ‘opportunities’ offered to me. But, again, these offers are almost universally directed toward a single post: a whiny rant about Friendface from two years ago.
I didn’t see that coming when I wrote it.
A third type of spam that I get is not quite as focussed. It’s related to the above — it’s from people who claim to know Important Truths that will aid my visibility on search engines (and, by extension, bring me fame and fortune. Or at least fame. Sort of.). This stuff isn’t aimed at a single post. No, they’re less discriminating (?) and send their valuable offers to a broad selection of stories I’ve written about…
Again, not really what I might have predicted.
That’s spammers. But what are Real People looking for? A little history might be in order.
Once upon a time, when someone clicked on a link on a web page the address of the page where they were when they clicked was passed to the ‘new’ web page. So, in principle, any web server would know where any visitor ‘came from.’ An interesting corollary to this involved search engines — if someone arrived on a web page by clicking on a link at a search engine, the ‘new’ web page would know what the visitor had been searching for.
Werdpress is no exception. On the stats page that Werdpress provides to the obsessive-compulsive narcissists that compose their blogging population are two relevant fields: ‘Referrers’ and ‘Search Engine Terms.’
The ‘Referrers’ field tells you where they come from. (The history of this term is interesting, partly because the originator of the name originally spelled it ‘referer‘. If you’re looking for information on it, make sure you search for both spellings. Apparently, computer scientists can’t spell any better than the rest of us. Well, that or they can but are more perverse. Either is plausible.)
‘Search engine terms’, of course, is what the visitor was searching for if he arrived here from (duh) a search engine. This field is usually not particularly helpful — usually it just says something like ‘unknown search terms.’ The documentation suggests that this is due to encryption and privacy:
Some search engines don’t reveal search terms for privacy reasons. Google, for example, has been encrypting the vast majority of search terms since 2013. That’s why we often can’t specify which search terms were used by visitors who arrived at your site from a search engine. When we don’t know the search terms, we show them as Unknown search terms.
Despite the dearth of data I can still infer a few things. I can see, for example, that a few posts stand out as having things that people occasionally look for. (Not just valuable insights into the curling delivery. Or advice on how to watch sports on television effectively. Or even the use of computer technology by potential organ donors.) In particular, three posts stand out.
The first is a ‘what if’ post written in response to a challenge. I have no idea what search brings people to it — it’s fairly short and there’s not much to it, really. The second is a story about how an eighty-seven year old man taught me a thing or two about how to insult people. (I defer to his uberness.) For that one, I actually (think I) know what visitors are looking for: apparently I’m virtually the only person on the entire internet to transcribe the ‘Doonesbury’ comic strip from January 8, 1975. And people who didn’t (I assume) buy the book sometimes look for that. Who knew?
And the third?
ALL RIGHT YEW MAGGOTS
So I’m the world-wide place to find that particular piece of poorly spelled invective.
On reflection, I couldn’t be more proud.