Daily Archives: January 16, 2007

Statistics – a story of blog growth

Yesterday saw a new high in my daily hits. I thought I’d share an annotated stats graph, to illustrate how things have grown.

annotated stats

Around mid-December, I was seeing hit rates of around 200-300 per day. Then, just before Christmas, the hits “spiked” to a peak of 794. I was in the office with Richard Brown at the time, and we talked about why this might be – not coming to any clear conclusions. We did both agree that a sudden surge from the 300 mark to nearer 800 was probably an anomaly.

From the chart, you’ll see that over the Christmas period itself, the hit rate settled back down towards the 250 mark. I wasn’t posting, and I suspect that most people were, quite sensibly, spending time with their families and not reading my blog.

After Christmas, I started to read Ted’s book, and to apply some of the ideas – things like intelligent linking; choosing the titles of my posts more carefully; thinking about keywords; and generally trying to analyse the content that readers were interested in and produce more of that. I’ve also been trying to work on “pillar” posts… read the book for more on that! When I posted the light tent series, I got a pleasing (and so far sustained) increase in traffic. Since then, the hits have stayed high, by my standards – even over weekends, which were historically low points.

Yesterday I couldn’t believe my eyes when the hits had zoomed past my previous high of 894 by just after lunch. It ended up at the magic 1459 figure – just short of 1500, but still more than double the number from the previous day – and with no new posts! There’s a deep drop so far today, but it is going up by the hour, so it may well level off to where it was last week.

Why the sudden interest in little ol’ me?

The number one culprit is the now-infamous Renewing car tax online post. On the “spike” days, that single post can easily attract several hundred hits alone. Taking that one out of yesterday’s stats, the total would have been 646.

Why the periodic surges of interest in that post? I have a theory. Car tax falls due on the last day of the month. I reckon that the DVLA probably sends out letters to remind people to renew somewhere around the middle of the month. I won’t be able to check this for sure for another 2 months, when mine will be up for renewal again. However, both of the significant spikes have been mid-to-late in the month.

Interestingly, the way that most people seem to find their way to the post is by entering the URL for the DVLA’s tax renewal page into a search engine, which brings them to me.  The weirdest thing (to me) is, why do they search for the URL, rather than typing it into the browser address bar? And when they have searched for it, why do they click through to my site, rather than going to the DVLA? Depending on the search engine, I’m only 5th or 8th or something on the list or results, whereas the actual site is 1st.

Now what I need to do is to associate some kind of advertising with that post – there must be a way to make some money here 😉

The nicest part is that the overall trend is upwards, despite the spikes. Over a 90 day period, that stats graph would show a significant upward trend from the 100/200/300 hits per day November and December 2005, to the average ~700 last week.Various posts, particularly those on Photography, the TomTom, and Second Life, are continuing to see traffic on a daily basis. I’d like to say that my more specifically work-related entries are popular too, but I guess it is a while since I posted anything earth-shattering, and I’m trying to post in other places now, too.

I’m still learning how to do this blogging thing, but hopefully I’m making progress. Thank you for taking an interest in my writing.

Managing digital music

Heidi has a great pair of posts about managing her downloads, and using her MP3 player with Rhapsody. Fred also mentions Rhapsody. When I start to read stuff like this, my mind naturally starts asking, “Am I missing out?”.

During the past couple of weeks I’ve installed iTunes on Windows. The sole purpose of installing iTunes was to enable Mugshot to let others in my network see what music I’m listening to (and by the way, when you all start adding “quips”, it can be quite an addictive and entertaining experience). I don’t own an iPod… my little USB stick music player just plays MP3 files, that’s all. I have lots and lots of CDs, but I don’t buy music on download (yet). I might sometimes grab a free MP3 download when one is on offer. At home I’ve got an old, old Linux server which runs some old, old software (ample) to stream a smallish set of MP3s, and I sometimes connect to that using Windows Media Player or iTunes. We currently don’t own a stereo. I’m far less sophisticated that I may sometimes seem 🙂

iTunes, then. Well it works well enough as a music player, and is OK for managing my library (love the flippy-CD cover view, although it is somewhat gimmicky). I got an iTunes store account so that it could fetch album artwork for me. I switched it to rip CDs as MP3s. If I buy stuff from the iTunes store it is going to be DRM’d and in .m4p format, which my player doesn’t recognise… so although I can see lots of stuff I might fancy in the store, there seems to be little point in purchasing it, as I’ll only ever be able to play it on this laptop. Ideally I want to be able to buy stuff online, without DRM (!), in MP3 format, and play it through any of my devices, and also then let Mugshot or whatever social software advertise it. Incidentally, I see that Google Talk also has some music sharing features, which work with a range of players (WMP included, which Mugshot doesn’t currently support).

I don’t think there’s a solution right now, but I’m prepared to be convinced. I’m aware of this last.fm thing, but I haven’t used it and I’m not entirely sure that I know what it does. I played with Pandora once upon a time. I haven’t even looked at Rhapsody, in fact I didn’t even know about it until I started to read my feeds over the past couple of weeks. Which company or service is the least “evil”? I don’t know *sigh*.

Frankly, the brave new digital world of music is a total minefield. And I’m supposed to understand technology. Allegedly.

I’ll close with the link that started it all – well, it was the one that made Heidi think twice – CDs vs Downloads, from Lifehacker.

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Installing Sky Broadband

My mother’s Sky broadband went live yesterday, so I dropped in on my way home from Hursley to get it set up.

The package they sent her contained a box inside a glossy Sky sleeve. In the box was a rebadged Netgear DG834GT router (with a Sky logo on the front, and the wireless network presets printed on a label on the bottom). Unfortunately, although the friendly manual said to start by putting the CD in the drive… we checked and checked again, and we couldn’t find the CD.

I decided that it couldn’t be too hard to get things running without a CD – I have a DG834G which is essentially the same device, except it doesn’t cover the 108Mbps “Super G” band, and I knew that you only need a web browser to get going. We plugged it in. Before I’d even had a chance to point a web browser at the router, the yellow Windows Update shield ‘!’ appeared in the task bar and announced that it was downloading updates, so I knew that the connection was working. It really was as simple as that.

Next, I wanted to take a look at the router settings… at which point, I realised that I didn’t have the login details. Fortunately a quick Google search turned up a couple of hits with more information (admin/sky, for the impatient; oh, and The router was preconfigured with a wireless SSID and password, in WPA-PSK mode (very sensible and helpful). The only presets that I wasn’t too happy about were that “Respond to ping on Internet WAN Port” and “UPnP On” were enabled, so I switched those off. Other than that, it appears that the firmware has been customised for Sky, so it is probably not a good idea to try to flash it with an updated version. Indeed, apparently it is a very bad idea, since the details for logging in to the Sky broadband service are hard-coded in the firmware.

She’s now up-and-running, and it is far cry (for her) from dial-up. I got her onto Google Talk; installed Skype (although she doesn’t have a microphone yet); updated AVG Antivirus; installed the latest Windows patches; and tidied up various other things. We browsed my Flickr photos, which had previously been a painful experience on a 56k modem. Having the broadband connection and wireless hub also means that I no longer have to try to “borrow” a wireless connection from the neighbours when I visit, and can now use her connection at full speed from a laptop. Superb.

So the only thing missing is the CD. As far as I could tell from the manual, all that is going to give us is some temporarily “free” antivirus software like McAfee or something, and we don’t need that. I might raise a call with Sky to report that they failed to send it through, but it doesn’t seem like such a big deal.

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