The Bullet and the Foot, Nov 27, 2009

Quote of the Day
If you learn one useless thing every day, in a single year you'll learn 365 useless things.
--Mod Fortune
Strange things I've learned from Web-Mastering
Anyone who knows me knows that I have strange taste in part time hobbies. Running this website is, of course, one of them. What can I say, I've been doing this stuff since the Dotcom era, and I've never really lost the interest in what interests people.

I was playing around trying to figure out if it was worth my bother to continue to post the day's article on Twitter. My thinking was thus: Twitter only allows you a short headline, and the URL has to fit within. Meanwhile, facebook will post a whole headline, I can get fancy with the URL, and post a preview blurb.

The poor showing on Facebook, or so I thought, was simply because people aren't used to following a random link. I have 350 or so friends, vs. 30 followers. All common sense dictates that facebook should be a greater source of traffic.

Well I found a service, that while it has it's quirks. (Like not posting articles for hours if not days) does post my new releases to both Facebook and Twitter at the same time, in a manner that is most appropriate for both. It also gives me a running tally of how often someone followed the link to my article.

After about a week, here is what I've found: I get more traffic from Twitter. Not by one or two hits mind you. By a factor of three to one. I'm not exactly a high volume publisher, mind you. I'm lucky to see 20 visitors in a day. But it got me to thinking, what is going on behind the scenes? Am I really getting that much more attention from the short headline crowd?

Google Analytics was useless in that regard. They give me a total number of visitors on the site, and their tools for drilling down to a specific page is more difficult than what it takes me to look at the raw logs and analyze them myself. Plus, for whatever reason, I'm a popular destination for google searches. ("Irish Chili" being the most sought after topic, "sean woods" being the second.)

As I look through the logs, I can do a pretty good job of discerning a real visitor from a robot. Yesterday's article is a great example. It was posted at 10am. Within a minute it had 10 hits. It wasn't until 2 minutes later though, that someone grabbed the background to the page. Translation, none of those 10 hits were people. Sometimes the bots are nice and advertise themselves as "Googlebot", or "Msnbot", etc. Usually though I have to play detective. And when I see things like the article being pulled, but none of the graphics, that's a robot.

So, when I peal away robots, I actually had 3 visitors. Two came in from the twitter link. One from facebook.

So it looks like my original observation stands. It's simply more depressing... (Just kidding.)

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