Friday, September 25, 2009

Global sequential hits. Odd. Disconcerting.

My computer sits in a corner the master bedroom. By 6 a.m. each morning I am often sitting at the keyboard tapping out my thoughts and hoping someone else will enjoy sharing them.

Lately, I have been getting over 155 hits a day on my various blogs. Very gratifying. Or is it?

What do the numbers really mean? For instance, I know that one IP address hit my site 77 times one day. 77 times! I traced the address back to a local company. I don't know why I was hit 77 times but I do know it wasn't because I was immensely popular. It was a one day event.

This morning I noticed that this picture, posted months ago, was hit four times overnight. What search criteria would one use to stumble upon it and why would three different sites in three wildly separated locations all stumble upon the same picture over the course of just a few hours?

Are these computers connected?

Why is this question important? First, the New York Times was hacked the other day and a virus attached to files on their site. They warned their readers and purged their file servers, but if it can happen to the NYT what about me? Could someone attach a virus to my blog?

And the next question is important to those planning on making money from their Internet hits; people like those who run newspapers. If their numbers are inflated, possible grossly inflated, then they do not have the number of Internet followers that they think they have.

If newspapers should decide to charge for their content based on calculations using their Internet hits, they could find themselves walking the plank into a sea of red ink.

When I worked at the local paper, we used to get a lot of hits out of Norwich, a little town some kilometres from London, Ontario. The folk in charge did not question those numbers, even when I raised questions. They liked to assume that for some unknown reason we were exceedingly popular in Norwich.

Well, my sites have attracted a lot of Norwich hits on certain days and I don't assume that I am exceedingly popular in Norwich.

I know of one company that bragged about its surprisingly large number of Twitter followers. When I checked their followers, I found fully 66% of the followers were meaningless - many were links to porn sites. (Since then I have learned that this is not uncommon. I have rejected at least 90% of the follower requests I have received.)

So, why was a picture of a Ford Focus reflecting a sunset in London, Ontario, of interest to surfers in Doha, Qatar, Istanbul, Turkey and Wilcox, Arizona? (I have blurred the IP addresses as I don't know the legalities of publishing them.)

If you work for a newspaper, you should check Newsosaur's take on inflated Internet numbers too often quoted by newspapers.

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