Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Blog site counters—or spyware?

I used to have Sitemeter installed on this blog, rather than just the simple blog counter I’m using now, but I uninstalled it after only a few weeks. I still use Sitemeter on my Quotes About Creative Women (QACW) blog and have enjoyed seeing that that blog has found readers in India, South Africa and the United Kingdom, even while reader numbers were in the low 40s (that’s not 40,000 but just plain old 40).

I hardly check the Sitemeter icon on the QACW blog because I don’t go on it every day. (That’s because I usually spend half a day a month finding quotes and loading them onto QACW, and post-dating them so that one automatically publishes each week.) Even when I do look at the blog, I mostly forget about that little green icon for Sitemeter at the bottom of the page. Since I'm not writing the material, I don't have as much ego invested in it, I guess.

But I go on this blog more often. And when Sitemeter was on it, I checked it to see if friends who said they would read this blog had, in fact, read it. There’s a function on Sitemeter that lets you click on “Recent Visitors: By Location.” This brings up a page where country of origin appears in the first column, as a small flag icon and country name (which is why I knew that someone from S.A., India and the UK had looked at my quotes blog), and a more specific “Location” is listed in the second column. Through this function, I’ve discovered the blog also has had readers from South Carolina, Illinois and Canada.

Even more specific is Sitemeter’s “Recent Visitors: By Details” function. This brings up a page that lists domain name, visit time and visit length. This offers a little more detail than I want. For instance, most people have visited the QACW site for 0 seconds—not very reassuring. Obviously, most of QACW readers have stumbled upon it by accident, either through “Next Blog” or some chance Internet search and have declined to stay.

I’m not sure why I need to know how many are (or who is) reading my blogs, but I can't bring myself to erase the counters. They are addictive. In anxious moments I scan them to see if the numbers are going up. Even a small increase (more than five), has kept me going another week on my lesser-read blogs.

So, I'll keep them for a while longer. Yet I wonder if the information on who is reading what is being gathered somewhere, by some organization, trying to predict consumer spending/reading habits or, worse, political affiliations and grievances. I worry, then, that these are tools on more than one level and that this and other blogs could be conduits to information gathering in some other place. Such tools are free, but I wonder what price we might all, ultimately, pay for them.

1 comment:

Beth Blevins said...

After saying all that, today I gave into the urge to put Sitemeter on this web site. I've discovered that you can use Sitemeter to find out how people found your blog--there's a feature that lets you look at the search phrases that led people to it. On my QACW blog, I've found that people have gotten there by searching for "creative women" or particular authors, etc. I'm just too curious about how people are finding this blog. I'm also curious whether people in other countries are finding it, as they are with the QACW blog.

This may be only a temporary fascination, however, and I'll try not to use it to spy on which of my friends have recently looked at my blog. This may or may not provide me with the tools to increase my readership, but I'll also say that's another reason it's there.

Note to the curious: Sitemeter starts at "0", even if the blog is already in process and has been read repeatedly, so if you're looking at numbers there, add +385 to whatever total you see.