Sunday, May 07, 2006

Visitor mapping - Clustr and MapStats

50 days ago I introduced the Clustr map to this blog and I just love it! Clustr shows the location of all the visitors to this blog on a global map (see the right hand column) and gives me a real flavour of my readers. I'm truly amazed by how the blog has been accessed by people in an enormous range of countries across all continents (except Antartica!) since I introduced it. Quite awesome.

Maybe I should explain. My first degree is in Geography and I've always loved traveling and seeing new countries so I really relate to being able to see where you all are.

We're now up to 6,281 people since 18 March - which I calculate means that in 50 days there has been an average of around 125 visitors per day. (Although I think some of those are me creating posts and editing the template as I don't think it's got an 'ignore host' gizmo yet!)

Seeing all those little red dots every day reminds me all the time that what I'm writing is being read by people all over the world - which helps with thinking about what to write, how to write and what links to include. Mind you - I'm presupposing that people like having access to more information about places in other countries in the same way that I do!

On Friday evening, I decided to have an update/maintenance session and came across MapStats from BlogFlux - which provides a good range of statistics and charts around visitors to the blog (as other stats software also does) but also has this rather neat little box which lists the locations of the last 10 visitors to the site. I've been completely riveted by it since introducing it! It's just under the Clustr map.

In relation to privacy - absolutely no information is being derived from your computer by this blog that isn't also being obtained on a regular basis by other sites using similar software to track their visitors - which in reality means most sites. However, the stats data I get is totally anonymous in that I'm never provided with any personal data whatsoever about any of my visitors - although it does tell me about your computers (and what a lot of Firefox devotees there are out there!), where you are (IP location - which generates the maps), where you came from (where you were on the internet before arriving at the blog), what keywords you used in a search engine and which posts you visited. Again - can I emphasise this is data which is typically obtained by statistical software on most sites you visit every day with a view to improving the visitor experience.

I certainly won't be supplying anybody with the statistical information provided to me by the tracking software. However I personally find it very useful for tweaking the site to reflect technology being used, people's interests (eg key words searched) and the popularity of different posts (more of this and less of that!).

So - what do you think - do you like the information about visitors on my site? Do you think it's too intrusive or about right? Let me know.

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13 comments:

I love Munich said...

Your visiting my blog lead me to yours ... thanks so much Kathrine! I love the drawings you make ... they are very beautiful! If there is one talent I do not at ALL have ... it's just that - so I really admire what you're doing!! Come visit me again and come along to see my hometown through my eyes - the eyes of a native! You're MOST WELCOME to join!

Katherine said...

What a nice idea - it's great when people show off where they live. I'm trying to do that in a small way with the Sketching East London series.

And I totally forgot to mention that the biggest benefit for me of the tracking software is all the new blogs it leads you to!

Bart said...

I do not really know what to think of it Katherine. It does feel a little bit intrusive as visitors from less common places around the world can easily be recognised. In itself that shouldn't be a problem - but it sometimes can keep me from often visiting a site.... silly me!

But you are perfectly right in saying that it doesn't collect more data than an average tracker -and in a way you are honest about it by showing the results.
I read your blog through Bloglines and only visit your site to comment or look at your great collection of links. I can see you have some more subscribers through this program. Suppose you could add them to your impressive amount of visitors.

And I can comfort the silly side of me by thinking that this box showing places of visitors is indicating that I am from the Copenhagen area, which is on the other side of the (small) country.

Katherine said...

I know what you mean Bart about the smaller places - that's why I asked.

Overall, my thoughts were that it's 'close to home' enough to ask people what they think about it and distant enough in reality from people's actual homes for it not to be intrusive. After all, the location showing up in the MapStats box is the address of the IP provider not your home - which I guess is why for you it's coming up as Copenhagen.

The real issue for me is not whether I know the information - which I would do anyway because of the way the stats software is configured - it's whether it should be shown on the site.

r.e.wolf said...

I'm actually going to add one to my blog and try it - purely because I think it's a neat visual. My stat counter collects the same info - I find the results interesting, but I neither keep them nor pass them along to anyone. These days, I'd say you'd be hard pressed to find a site that doesn't track - whether you can see the tracker or not.

AhmedF said...

Just wanted to chip in that we value your privacy greatly. The information we collected (Blog Flux) is never shared (or used by us).

Katherine said...

Ahmed - maybe you could identify your capacity/connection with Blogflux?

AhmedF said...

Im the co-owner :) I post on http://blog.blogflux.com/

Freiluftmaler said...

Hi
once a day I look by if there is
something interesting. The accuracy
of the clustrmap is quite limited and that applies to MapStats as well. I never heard about Seehaus,but probably that`s the place were the server sends out my signals today. I`ll come back tommorrow to see were I have been moved :).

Martin

Bart said...

"The real issue for me is not whether I know the information - it's whether it should be shown on the site."

Yes, that is also what I reacted upon.

I personally compare it to a shop. The shop owner can see who is entering and what people are looking for - how much time they spent etc. So for me it is normal for you as the owner of the site to build in something to let you see who is entering etc. After all you put in a lot of work and share thoughts and drawings.

I even introduce myself by writing a comment on a blog that I read more then once in a while as I somehow find it slightly impolite not to let the author know.
I also trust you and -in this case - Blog Flux to handle the information with care, I am not so afraid of that.
It is indeed more the question if others should be able to see who visited your site.

Freiluftmaler said...

Good morning,
today I post from Oldenburg about 400 km north of Seehaus :).
At least the country is correct..
but that´s not why I come here.. keep up the good content!
Martin

AhmedF said...

Let me elaborate on how the system works and how we deal with the privacy implications.

Every time a user visits your site, we store the IP locally. When you visit your MapStats page, those IPs are then converted into cities, including their corresponding latitude/longitude, and then are placed on the map. Any ancillary info we have is also displayed on the map (eg what page they were reading, where they came from, and etc).

At midnight we process all the stats to get a summary info for the day. This includes unique visitors, pageviews, most common search terms, and so forth. This data is then *wiped out* and only the aggregate information is stored in our database.

We are very strict about privacy (a lot of marketing companies have tried to purchase the data) and take it very seriously. As your IP is only stored for a day you can be sure we are not tracking your behavior or anything similar.

Katherine said...

Thanks for the clarification Ahmed.

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