September 2, 2006

What would we do without Site Meter?

I see that Site Meter malfunctioned some time around 2 a.m. -- not just here, but on all the blogs I checked. I'm assuming they'll get it fixed soon, even that they'll eventually show the accumulated traffic numbers, but at least that they'll get it going again. But what if they don't? And even if they do, what if they stop later? Blogging will go on as long as human beings have the web -- right? -- but will Site Meter always be there? How much do we rely on it? And then there's that deep, dark downside -- the way you keep checking it. What are you looking for? Connections? Progress? Signs of winning a game?

Would you blog differently if you couldn't look at the Site Meter records? Do you know any bloggers who won't use Site Meter? Not seeing the symbol on the page doesn't mean they don't have it. If you pay for premium service you can opt not to show the symbol. Most bloggers seem to have Site Meter but not to pay for premium service. I think I'm in the smallest category: those who pay for premium service but don't hide the symbol or even block access to the records. I just like seeing the detailed records! What am I looking for? I'm not sure, but I have more to look at.

Some bloggers are proud of having no traffic meter, and others express pride in rarely checking the meter. They seem to think it affects the content of the blog and the whole feeling of being a blogger, and they are probably right. I'm a big meter-checker myself, and I probably started out as the kind of person who would be a meter-checker, but all that meter checking over the years, so closely connected to the daily practice of writing, has got to have had an effect on my mind. If the meter were taken away from me now, what would become of me?

UPDATE: Note only is Site Meter back, with all the accumulated statistics in place, but David Smith, the creator of Site Meter, stopped by the comments to this post to say:
Sorry everyone. Site Meter had a little problem this morning and the statistics are currently delayed a little. They should be back to real-time soon. I plan on Site Meter being around for a long time.
Thanks, David. I (heart) Site Meter.

And some people have been asking in the comments if the Site Meter information affects what bloggers write about. It's hard to say for sure, since you can't experience that alternate reality of life without Site Meter -- unless today's little outage gave some insight. Perhaps I'd write less if I had no information about whether anyone was reading. But does it affect what I write? I don't really think so. I can see what gets linked and which links bring the most traffic (and also what gets the most comments), but I think the blog is what it is because of the whole mix, and the whole environment means something, even the posts that seem to get less attention. I just keep going following my own personal sense of what's interesting, and maybe I even especially like to do a post about something that I think no one else cares about.


The Tiger said...

I'll dodge your question a little -- what you would do, Professor Althouse, is that you would sign up for the next site-meter service: Extremetracking, or something.


But if you had no sitemeter, no comments section, and no e-mail responses, you'd start to feel a little (virtually) lonely, wouldn't you? Would the more old-fashioned media for getting one's point across become relatively more attractive, then? Newspaper-column-writing, or some such thing?

The Tiger said...

(Of course, you do that already. But the rest of us would feel that pull, perhaps, if we lost our site-trackers...)

Ann Althouse said...

I assume the columnists check to see if they are on the most-emailed list, and there must be internal records of which pages get clicked to the most. But this must drive the TimesSelect columnists crazy.

Gahrie said...

I'm just curious as to who's reading my blog and how they got their. The absolute number is meaningless to me as I have no ads and I am a very minor league player.....

The Drill SGT said...


Ann's doing that nasty Bush stuff. I always knew she was a fascist. She's "god forbid" data mining site meter data looking for insights.

j/k :)

Ruth Anne Adams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rightwingprof said...

I mostly use sitemeter to check referring pages, to see how people are getting to my blog. I'm not very interested in traffic itself.

amba said...

SiteMeter is feedback. It tells you (me, us) which posts are hitting a nerve and drawing the most readers, and as such, just like positive and negative reinforcement in a Skinnerian behavior experiment, it probably shapes our blogging practice to some extent. We go where we're wanted (shades of Sissy's "importance of being noticed"), and we do more of what we're wanted for.

Put the emphasis on the "to some extent." There's bread-and-butter blogging in which, even if we're not getting directly paid to do it, there is some ulterior motive: more traffic will drive up our ad revenue, our reputation, our chances to do prominent paid work (like op-eds). And then there's discretionary, amateur, for-the-hell-of-it blogging, the posts we would write even if nobody read them, though we're disappointed when nobody does, and often puzzled and fascinated by what gets people going and what doesn't. (I'm often puzzled and fascinated by which of your posts trigger the comment frenzies and which don't.)

I do both kinds of blogging, albeit on a tiny scale by comparison. And, for the record, I check SiteMeter not only for the numbers but even more to see who's been visiting me so I can return the compliment; to be reminded of good blogs I used to read more often who've been kind enough not to forget me; and to discover new blogs who have discovered me. That aspect of SiteMeter is sort of like a dog sniffing a fire hydrant to see who's been there.

class-factotum said...

The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is check my numbers. Then I check my ranking (I'm on journalspace). Did I make the top 20? Why not if I didn't? (I still haven't figured out what makes that sort of difference -- for me, that is. Queen of Sky is top 10 because she puts semi-nude photos of herself in her blog, but even if I did that, I would not get that sort of traffic. I would have to put semi-nude photos of someone else... The other writers are there because they are good.)

Did I get any new readers? Where did they come from? I am a total data junkie. One of the most fun things about blogging is being read. I could write every day just for myself, but it wouldn't be the same.

Ann Althouse said...

Checking Site Meter is also a kind of relaxing break from trying to write and understand text. It's often a lot like looking out the window for me. I'm not really gathering new information, just looking at the blog from a different perspective.

Rick Lee said...

I've got an Instalanche going as I type this but my Sitemeter says zero visitors for the last hour. How frustrating is that?

Bruce Hayden said...


Amba indicated that to some extent her blogging is dependent upon what is getting read - feedback, but only partly so. Does so compulsively reading the stats affect what you blog about? How you do it? And do your Site Meter results correlate with the number of comments you get per blog?

I should note that I am often surprised at what gets a lot of comments here and what doesn't. Mostly, it is a case of "Why would anyone be interested in that?" (and, I am sure they think the same about what I comment upon).

JSF said...

I do use it to see who had read the posts and where they came from. I have few links to my site (so far), but wghen I do post, I send out emails to some on my Blogroll to at least look at the post.

JazzBass said...

it is nice to be able to see where people came from when they visit. the odd email about a post, whether a yea or a nay, is good too. who wouldn't be curious as to how many hits they are getting, how long they are staying, etc? i figure since it's there and free, use it.

but i never check it anymore. a summer mired in depression left my postings at nil for a solid month. i figure anyone who had liked the brusque satire or burlesques on what passes for commentary in this era had long since stopped looking.

Then Chris Muir left a comment during the hiatus and i was floating on a cloud. Vanity, thy name is richard.

David said...

Sorry everyone. Site Meter had a little problem this morning and the statistics are currently delayed a little. They should be back to real-time soon. I plan on Site Meter being around for a long time.

-=David Smith

Bensilly said...

Correct me if I`m mistaken, but was`nt the premise behind blogs,a diary? That everyone online could see?
Psych thang goin on.

Site meter: gives you an idea who`s looking at your stuff. That excite you? Hmm
Psych thang goin on

The reward should be in the words

'a working class hero is something to be'

vrkqdgxd-wrd veri

Jason Coleman said...

Sitemeter gives me an opportunity to single out traffic to my blog versus other traffic coming to the domain. In addition to my public blog, I have a private site that supports my business and a semi-private site that family members use primarily as a "group blog" among themselves.

My hosts' urchin stats, give me a picture of the total traffic allowing me to manage bandwidth and diskspace, while sitemeter gives me a heads-up on where the blog is going, or more specifically, who's coming to it.

Like most I suspect, I focus mainly on the referral pages to see where people are coming from so I can go look at what they have to say. Trying to do that with the big stats pages from my hosts would be more than tedious.


Maxine Weiss said...

"Does so compulsively reading the stats affect what you blog about?"


And it becomes all about 'supply and demand'

Creative license, and artistic endeavor are then crushed ....under the weight of the numbers game.

But not Ann's, I'm talking about bloggers other than Ann, of course!

Peace, Maxine

mrsizer said...

Not to dis' SiteMeter, but you can get the same information a zillion different ways. It's all in the web server logs.

jas said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sloanasaurus said...

I think site meter is a great idea. Most bloggers do this stuff for free. It takes time to wrtie. At the very least bloggers should get the reward and satisfaction of a crowd coming to see them.

duplicate_user_id said...

I'm a techie, but I use a log analysis package, so that I can control the data myself, modify what I'm tracking, and generally be the technical control freak that I am.

If you don't run your own server, or at least pay for a virtual server somewhere, this option is a little harder.

Kev said...

I'm a small-timer, and am likely to continue to be so, save for the remote possibility that I were to become well-known as a musician. I got SiteMeter because it was interesting (and not so much because "all the cool kids were doing it"), but it doesn't really affect what I write; I still post what I want, when I want.

However, knowing that the Meter is there, I do occasionally get a twinge of guilt when a day passes where I'm too busy to post, though that usually passes after a while.

Palladian said...

Site meter? We don't need no stinkin' Site Meter! The coolest website operators can check their own stats on their own server, not to mention getting far more information than Site Meter can give you! One of the (many) advantages of having one's own host rather than using a free service.

Ann Althouse said...

Palladian: But other people people can't see them. That's part of it.

Ann Althouse said...

Also "on their own server... having one's own host rather than using a free service."

You mean you "own" it in the sense that it belongs to someone else, but they let you pay to use it? That Blogger is free is not why I use it. It seems to me people who pay for their server have problems too, and they especially have problems when they get "too much" traffic, a non-concept here at Blogger. Blogger is part of an established business with a huge stake in keeping people happy, people who in no way accept the excuse that you get what you pay for. I'm betting on Blogger, and I think I'm right.