Scott Hanselman

Blog Stats are Confusing - GETs, Views, User-Agents, Readers, Eyeballs

January 15, '08 Comments [12] Posted in Musings
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There's some discussion going on an internal MSFT mailing list about blog statistics. I don't check my web statistics more than once a month, as I'm more interested in blog comments or what's going on in the forum. If I get a lot of comments on a post I feel good. I like to get discussions going and bounce ideas back and forth.

That said, some blogs at Microsoft track their statistics and need to know if a particular post or new theme brings in more readers. One particular blog (not mine) recently saw a 16x increase in "hits" which is probably a good thing. A discussion started, and here's part of an email I wrote with my ideas that I thought you might find interesting, Dear Reader. I've made a few [edits] to make things clearer.


I think it's killer, to be clear, so in no way do I want to take away from [that blog's] most excellent work, but the web stats [in this case] specifically "smells" wrong. Possibly a bot, spammer, something, but still, a 16x increase in web traffic [in a single] month feels exceptional. It's the ratios [of GETs to projected humans] that are confusing to me.

It'd be interesting to use some heuristics to turn the RSS Feed HTTP GETs into Unique users. For example, most RSS Readers poll so one individual will hit your feed (in my experience) between 8 and 16 times a day, depending on their reader and how long their computer is on. Online readers are smarter that Smart Client readers like Outlook and FeedDemon. This usually means one has fewer readers than they think, if they are looking at GETs.

Additionally, online readers [usually] only hit once (here's how that works) [and rather] "tunnel" your subscriber numbers in the HTTP User Agent like "NewsGatorOnline/2.0+(http://www.newsgator.com;+250+subscribers)". Meaning, you might get one hit or 10 hit, but regardless they are representative of 250 individuals. This usually means one has more readers than they think, if they are looking at GETs.

Why do I mention this? I mention it because looking at HTTP GETs isn't representative of people, but of GETs. It took me a few years to figure this out, and I've been thrilled with the analysis work done by FeedBurner (my RSS Feed is hosted there, saving me over 400 gigs of bandwidth a month) to turn GETs into Humans.

Here's a real world example. FeedBurner says I have around 22,000 regular readers [as of today...it varies based on weekday/weekend]. That's aggregated across all News Readers:

clip_image002

My stats package shows about 50,000 page views a day or about 1.6 million a month. This varies, confirming [an earlier] comment about folks hanging around [a site] and reading stories, which is cool. However, if I look at "hits" I see 16.5 million. Of course, that's not [a useful stat], because that included images, css, etc.  Visits, on the other hand are one individual hanging around for a period of time and reading. For example (these stats don't include RSS anywhere, including bandwidth):

Page Views - 1,596,548
Visits - 806,251
Hits - 16,500,422
Bandwidth (KB) - 209,759,564

For me, these stats make sense, because I have a readership of about 20,000 that show up every few days and hang out, representing [roughly] 50% of my traffic. The other 50% comes from Search Engines and [incoming] links from other blogs. So it's important that one distinguishes between hits, page views, and visitors, and tries to correlate those back to readership, IMHO.

The question that we need Blog Stats to answer is that of readership. What does [a] 600,000 RSS hits number mean? 600k/30days is about 20k hits a day, so how often are these readers hitting the feed per day? Once we come up with a standard-ish formula, blogs could get a rough +/-30% idea of how many human eyeballs [are actually reading].

Just my two cents, thoughts?

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Your Opinion Matters - Screencast Techniques Survey RESULTS

January 15, '08 Comments [17] Posted in ASP.NET | Microsoft | Musings | Screencasts
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One month ago I asked you, Dear Reader, to participate in a survey about Screencasts in order to help me, and indirectly Microsoft, improve our screencast techniques. I got 1000 responses in just a few hours and I thank you for it!

You also wrote a lot in the free form comments field with 319 of the 1000 responses including typed feedback. These comments were read by not only myself, but (surprisingly) my boss and ScottGu, so that's cool. It's also cool that 1/3 of you felt compelled to offer more feedback. Thanks!

Here's the feedback we received.

Answer Options Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree Rating Average Response Count
Seeing a PIP (Picture in Picture) of the presenter is more engaging than no video at all 38 147 286 394 135 3.441 1000
Panning and Zooming to key areas enhances the experience 15 50 194 500 241 3.902 1000
Screencasts should include high quality audio 5 36 138 436 385 4.16 1000
Mouse clicks should be called out visibly 24 95 300 439 142 3.58 1000
I wish I could watch a screencast on my portable device 54 131 359 253 203 3.42 1000
Screencasts should have minimal visual clutter 5 18 157 531 289 4.081 1000
Too much PIP (Picture in Picture) video of the presenter is distracting 37 136 249 440 138 3.506 1000
Screencasts should only include audio and a full-screen capture 89 389 308 165 49 2.696 1000

It's hard to see the patterns, of course, as it's tabular data, but here's how I interpret it and a few other ways to think about the results.


results

UPDATE: Here's a much better visualization above from Dylan Beattie. Thanks Dylan!


Screencast_Survey_Results

UPDATE: Here's another visualization from Brian Boatright. Thanks Brian!


Analysis

First, if someone says Agree or Strongly Agree, let's call that AGREE.

Ah, now this is more useful. Looks like folks really agree on these points.

  • 82% agree - Screencasts should include high quality audio
  • 82% agree - Screencasts should have minimal visual clutter
  • 74% agree - Panning and Zooming to key areas enhances the experience

Which is expected. Screencasts should sound good, only show you what you need to see, and some amount of pan/zoom (which is arguably an extension of the "minimal visual clutter" rule) is useful.

Now these are more on the fence, but I did include 1000 results so I consider them fairly valid.

  • 58% agree - Too much PIP (Picture in Picture) video of the presenter is distracting
  • 58% agree - Mouse clicks should be called out visibly

Seems that two much of a good thing (i.e. my (or anyone's) fat head) is distracting. This was confirmed in the comments. Basically, if you're showing something within the interface, or if you're just typing, don't show your head/PIP.

As for the mouse clicks issue, this is a tough one. I think I'll keep the effect, but I'll speed it up and make it smaller, so that we can find a "best of both worlds" option to please the most people.

These were interesting to me. Basically half of folks think that PIP is interesting, but it's clear that it's not necessary. According to the comments those that like PIP feel it "helps one engage with the presenter" and "keeps my attention." Others said "it seemed like you were talking to me" and "I'd be more likely to watch a screencast all the way through if it had PIP at some points."

  • 53% agree - Seeing a PIP (Picture in Picture) of the presenter is more engaging than no video at all
  • 46% agree - I wish I could watch a screencast on my portable device
  • 21% agree - Screencasts should only include audio and a full-screen capture

I was surprised that 46% of people wanted to watch on their portable device. Depending on your point of view this may seem like a small number or a large one. However, it's a significant number of people, in my opinion, if over 460 folks out of 1000 would like to watch a technical screencast on their portable device. This requires less effort on the part of the publisher than you'd think. I'll post about this issue later and what you can do as a creator of screencasts to make them usable on Zunes and iPods and other PMPs.

Finally, 1/5 of folks feel that screencasts (perhaps they are screencast purists?) should include only audio and the full screeen.

Also, as with most surveys, this one was arguably biased towards a specific point of view, namely, mine. One could say it was poorly written and two people did in fact say just that. However, I'm not hiding the fact that I believe judicious and reasonable use of these small techniques can make for a better screencast, but I'll be more careful with future surveys to include both sides of the perspective.

Written Comments

As with my blog, it was with this survey. The interesting content is in the comments. There were 319 comments, but here's a slice:

  • "Would like transcripts of screen casts so that the material can be searched." and "For foreign users who do not speak English as a native language, it is easier to understand the screencast, if there are subtitles in English"
    • This was a common request, as were subtitles for the deaf and folks for whom English was not their first language. I'm looking into ways to do this without breaking the bank. (There's less money for these than you think.)
  • "I'd also like for a lot of the screencasts to be fairly short, so that I can watch them without investing too much time at once on them"
    • Agreed. I talk a lot and I personally like the 45 minute format. However, I think 8 to 15 minute might be a better length.
  • "why not a close up of the text being typed" or "use keyjedi"
    • These were interesting, and I'll look into it. I agree that it's hard to see what's happening with hotkeys and quick cuts.
  • "I really like to see presenter one side, content on the other, clear separation"
    • Interesting idea. I'll try it.
  • "I really think the content is key. If the topic and execution are solid, the presentational stuff is only window dressing" and "Script work and rehearsal go a long way."
    • I agree 100%.
  • "I think Microsoft Webcasts are of poor quality and should be replaced with screen casts. Often issues arrise during a web cast and it is much more transparent to us if they are produced instead of thrown together. No Web Casts more SCREEN CASTS!"
    • Interesting perspective. I see your point, but sometimes Live is better.
  • "Proper support of standard codecs." and "I want to watch this on my Xbox360."
    • I totally agree. If we do an MP4 version, it should work everywhere.
  • "Too much panning and zooming will make me sea sick. Your MVP screencast is very good but it borders on the unbearable. Slower pans are better, one axis only pans are better. Avoid pans & zooms at the same time and get yourself a cinema book for beginners (seriously)."
    • This was one of two comments where the reader was ill from watching the screencast. I think the one-axis pan idea is really interesting and I'll try it out.
  • "Please support wide-screen format."
    • I was very surprised but out of 1000 folks, there was only ONE comment that I use Widescreen (16:9) ratio. I'd have expected a lot more.

Also, I received this one: "there... i filled out your survey... motherf******! ( lets see how anonymous this really is) :)" Note that I've alerted your mom and your boss about your naughty language, Mr. Anonymous. ;)

And finally, "No beards! Beards are distracting!" Hm. I don't think you want to see me without a beard, I look 12. Seriously. More importantly, what are we going to do about this guy?

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Book - Professional ASP.NET 3.5: in C# and VB

January 15, '08 Comments [17] Posted in ASP.NET | Microsoft | Programming
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Professional ASP.NET 3.5: in C# and VBSeriously, 1728 pages? We couldn't drop a page or two? Nope. In keeping with our strategy that a person who buys our book should be able to beat off attackers with it, we're keeping it big and phat.

Coming in a few weeks, it's Professional ASP.NET 3.5 and it's heavy as heck. And, it's insanely cheap right now, only $32.99 at Amazon. Amazing.

We've added many hundreds of pages, new chapters, new samples and new coverage. It took a LONG time and it was very tiring.

Here's some text from the back cover:

  • Thorough coverage of how to implement ASP.NET 3.5 AJAX and the ASP.NET AJAX Toolkit
  • An introduction to LINQ and many LINQ examples throughout the book side-by-side with the related SQL example to show you the differences between the two
  • Enhanced coverage of XML use in ASP.NET including the new XML Schema Designer Add-on, LINQ to XML, LINQ for XML examples, and XSLTC.exe, a command-line XSLT compiler
  • A new chapter on CSS design for ASP.NET and the Visual Web Developer CSS design tools
  • A new chapter on the ASP.NET lifecycle and architecture best-practices
  • Increased coverage of ASP.NET with SQL Server 2005 and Oracle as the databases
  • Coverage of enhancing your ASP.NET applications with Microsoft’s new Silverlight for stunning video and animation uses
  • Coverage of Scott Hanselman’s famous productivity tool picks for developers to help make you a more productive ASP.NET developer
  • Updated coverage of migrating applications for previous ASP.NET versions

The whole team worked very hard with Bill taking the lion's share of the work. We include examples in both C# and VB. We've also added parallel samples in the XML chapter that show how to accomplish a task with LINQ to XML as well as with System.XML, and Devin's added an all new chapter on LINQ with new LINQ samples throughout. We re-tested every code sample on Visual Studio 2008 and Vista, we re-shot every screenshot and we included IIS7 coverage on both Vista and Windows Server 2008.

As far as I know, it'll be published on Feb 14th, no matter what Amazon's page says. Enjoy.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Hanselminutes Podcast 96 - Starting Small with F# with Dustin Campbell

January 14, '08 Comments [4] Posted in ASP.NET | Learning .NET | Microsoft | Podcast | Programming
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My ninety-sixth podcast is up. This episode was recorded at CodeMash in Ohio last week. Dustin Campbell is a lead developer at DevExpress working on CodeRush and "Refactor!" He's also a gifted teacher and gave a great session on F# at CodeMash so I know I wanted to get him on the show. He's only been working with F# for less than a six months, but his grasp of the historical context that F# should be placed in and knack for explaining it made his a great talk.

In the vein of becoming a better programmer by reading more code, Dustin suggests that we improve our C# by borrowing concepts from F#. Be sure to check out his blog and his list of resources on F#.

Subscribe: Subscribe to Hanselminutes Subscribe to my Podcast in iTunes

If you have trouble downloading, or your download is slow, do try the torrent with µtorrent or another BitTorrent Downloader.

Do also remember the complete archives are always up and they have PDF Transcripts, a little known feature that show up a few weeks after each show.

Telerik is our sponsor for this show.

Check out their UI Suite of controls for ASP.NET. It's very hardcore stuff. One of the things I appreciate about Telerik is their commitment to completeness. For example, they have a page about their Right-to-Left support while some vendors have zero support, or don't bother testing. They also are committed to XHTML compliance and publish their roadmap. It's nice when your controls vendor is very transparent.

As I've said before this show comes to you with the audio expertise and stewardship of Carl Franklin. The name comes from Travis Illig, but the goal of the show is simple. Avoid wasting the listener's time. (and make the commute less boring)

Enjoy. Who knows what'll happen in the next show?

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Hanselminutes Podcast 95 - 2007 The Year in Review

January 14, '08 Comments [6] Posted in Podcast
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My ninety-fifth podcast is up. In this end of year wrap-up, Carl and I chat about 2007. How was the year for Developers? For the Web?

Subscribe: Subscribe to Hanselminutes Subscribe to my Podcast in iTunes

If you have trouble downloading, or your download is slow, do try the torrent with µtorrent or another BitTorrent Downloader.

Do also remember the complete archives are always up and they have PDF Transcripts, a little known feature that show up a few weeks after each show.

Telerik is our sponsor for this show.

Check out their UI Suite of controls for ASP.NET. It's very hardcore stuff. One of the things I appreciate about Telerik is their commitment to completeness. For example, they have a page about their Right-to-Left support while some vendors have zero support, or don't bother testing. They also are committed to XHTML compliance and publish their roadmap. It's nice when your controls vendor is very transparent.

As I've said before this show comes to you with the audio expertise and stewardship of Carl Franklin. The name comes from Travis Illig, but the goal of the show is simple. Avoid wasting the listener's time. (and make the commute less boring)

Enjoy. Who knows what'll happen in the next show?

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

facebook twitter subscribe
About   Newsletter
Sponsored By
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.