Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Log analysis is masturbation

I thought I’d start with some year-end statistics and bookkeeping, since I thought it would be a good time for answering the question “How many people read this thing, anyway?” So I downloaded all of my logs to my home machine, and used the handy grep, cut and wc commands to crunch away on the raw logs. But before we start, a few disclaimers.

Disclaimer #1: I did not “wash” these logs to remove search engine crawling in any way. I’m sure there are nice tools to do this, but I’m doing this in the most rudimentary way. And just from looking at raw logs, there are a fuck of a lot of search engines out there hitting web sites. If someone told me that 50% of all web traffic was currently web crawlers, I would not be surprised. And even though Google and their huge image-crawling project are the cause for much of the traffic, everyone and their brother is running a web crawler. Jabronis in garages running searches to find email addresses for spam operations are all over my logs, with malformed headers and IDs to try to protect their get-rich-quick operations. Oh, and they’re doing it with the bandwidth I pay for, which is even more heartwarming.

Disclaimer #2: I’m not using a log analysis program. There are hundreds of programs out there, and 99% of the web is using Analog, one of the least interesting of the bunch. Why? Try to get any of the others to work and you’ll find out. If your ISP has some neato package to generate reports on how long people view your pages and stuff like that, great. I’d rather pay for an ISP that’s always working and won’t be shut down in a year when the owner goes to college. So anyway, my stats are based on just raw searches and counting of logs, and nothing fluffier.

Disclaimer #3: Of course, hits include both people who read every word of a page and enjoy it, and people who typed “butt sex” in google and somehow ended up at my page and didn’t read one damn thing when they saw there were no free videos.

Okay. In 2005, Rumored.com had 1,508,132 hits total. In comparison, there were 86,022 hits in 2004, and 53,972 in 2003. That’s about double from last year. There was a similar trend on just the people that came to any of the URLs south of rumored.com/journal (I.e the page you’re currently reading.) 2005’s total hits were 153,586, while 2004 was 86,022 and 2003 was 53,972, which is close to the same trend.

What about unique users? Overall, the entire site had 55,044 in 2005, compared to 44,917 in 2004, and 40,592 in 2003. (I calculated a unique user as a unique IP number or hostname in the logs. I realize that the same person could read both at home and at work and be counted twice; but then many people reading behind a firewall or NAT appliance or whatever could all be considered one visitor, too.) That means that in 2005, the average person read just over 27 pages. Of course, when you factor in all of the people who googled over to my page hoping to download some free Metallica MP3s and only read one page, it balances out with those of you who read all of my entries.

As far as the unique visitors on the journal page, there were 7008 in 2005, which is down from 2004 at 8612 and up from 2003’s 6994. I don’t know why there was a drop, although it’s possible that all of the press I got about Adam Gadahn in 2004 bumped up the number, plus I didn’t write as much in 2005. (56 entries in 2005 versus 91 in 2004.)

So those are the numbers. 7008 readers (minus the search engines and people looking for free porn) is orders of magnitude higher than I would expect, based on the comments and the fact that I really don’t know that many people that read this thing. I don’t advertise; I am not in any weird web rings or communities or whatever; I don’t really socialize with bloggers (I don’t even consider this thing a blog to begin with) and I don’t really whore things out as far as links and whatnot. I did blogexplosion briefly, and go there when I’m eternally bored, but most of the blogs there are either mommy blogs or are so hopelessly useless because they’re nothing but political repostings of day-old news.

I’m happy with the numbers only in that this isn’t my life. It’s a side project, something I do when I can’t write and I don’t have other things to do, and the main reason I do this is so that in five years, I will be able to go back and read this and enjoy it. My guilty pleasure is to go back a few years and read my old entries, and I really love it when I hit stuff I’ve almost totally forgotten and I love the old writing. I put out a book of the first three years of the journals, and it sold about 6 copies, but I admit one of the reasons I did it was to have a paper copy I could read in bed. I still waver back and forth on whether or not I should do a second volume, and maybe throw in some pictures or scans of paper journals or something just to make it interesting. Maybe I will. Who knows.

In other news, I finished reading First Man, James Hansen’s authorized biography of astronaut Neil Armstrong, and I really did enjoy it. Armstrong kept out of the public light for years, hoping he wouldn’t get mauled by the media like his hero and friend Charles Lindberg. For years, there’s been little information about his life, and various second-hand info from other NASA colleagues about the lunar mission. This is a huge book (almost 800 pages) but it was very rewarding as far as how Neil grew up in rural Ohio, went to school at Purdue, joined the Navy and flew jets from carriers in Korea, and became a test pilot before getting tapped for the astronaut job.

I think a lot of the reason I liked the book is that Armstrong was so different than other astronauts or test pilots. He was all about the science behind the mission, and he loved the engineering aspect. Strapping into an X-15 rocket plane and flying to the edge of the atmosphere wasn’t about the joyride, or the “extreme” aspect of the mission; it was totally about gathering the data to prove or disprove the theorems that the guys with the sliderules were throwing down in the labs. Armstrong probably could have been elected king of the world in 1969, but he was always shy about politics, and though it was best to not discuss one’s political views, as has become the national sport in the 21st century. He was greatly honored to meet both LBJ and Nixon, but not because they were the highest red or blue, but because they were in charge, and you honor the office over the person. He was from a very religious family, and certainly was religious, but he said so little about it, people accused him of being an atheist. Instead of becoming a token president of a fortune 500 company, like some of his other Apollo buddies, he taught undergrad physics at a small university. He could have just had his name put on the door of a big university, so he could do nothing or maybe dabble in research. Instead, he wanted to go somewhere that would let him teach, because he thought furthering kids’ educations was more important. It’s all of those little things that make him so much more interesting to me, and now that I got a full dose of the official story, I’m happy. (But, Neil’s crewmate Michael Collins’, autobiography still stands as the best I’ve read sofar.)

Quiet Saturday here. In a week and a couple of days, we go to Vegas for the annual birthday celebration, and I can’t wait to get out of town. Until then, I’m taking it easy…