Scott Hanselman

7 Blogging Statistics Rules - There is Life After Page Views

March 26, '08 Comments [50] Posted in Musings
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A lot of folks spend a lot of time analyzing blog traffic. Josh Bancroft wrote a very good article in January about "Site Statistics I Care About as a Blogger" where he talks about the various and sundry statistics that Google Analytics provides and how you should read them. Ultimately this all comes down to two things:

  • Do you care who reads your blog?

and if so

  • Will you change your behavior given statistics on who reads you blog?

I used to care deeply about my blog, the way one cares about tending a garden. I'd watch it every day and revel in each new visitor. Now, after almost 6 years of pretty active blogging, I now think more about people than pageviews. You can't trust a referrer or a trackback.

Rule #1 of blogging stats: The only way to know if a human is reading your blog is if they are talking with you.

Given that realization, I look at my stats maybe twice a month, and I'm most interested in seeing what posts folks really liked that month. I used to (maybe 3 years ago) look at every referrer and stats daily, but then I realized that my personal litmus test for my blog's success or failure is comments and other folks' blog posts, and nothing else.

I feel like we've (that means me and you, Dear Reader) have a little community here. When you comment, I am happy because I feel more connected to the conversation as this blog is my 3rd place. I blog to be social, not to have a soapbox. I'm even happier when the comments are better and more substantive than the post itself. I would take half the traffic and twice the comments any day. If you're a "lurker," why not join the conversation?

Anyway, some blogs use their stats as a measuring stick (to measure all sorts of thing) and some keep them secret. I was thinking I should just publish mine occasionally, and perhaps others would do the same. You can't trust stats, usually, as on never knows how many bots are visiting their site spidering. I know that Google Analytics and any analytics package worth its salt filters out spiders. DasBlog, for example, doesn't do this, so the statistics you'll get from DasBlog (any many other blogging engines) will be artificially inflated. The same thing happens if you just run a script over your web server logs looking for HTTP GETs.

Rule #2 of blogging stats: HTTP GETs don't equal warm bodies.

I was "tweeting" with Brendan Tomkins of CodeBetter about this and he thought it would foster a sense of openness and give everyone in our tiny slice of the blogosphere an idea of who's out here.

There's a little FeedBurner chicklet up there in my blog that shows a ballpark number of how many subscribers I have. Here's more on how FeedBurner comes up with that number. That number goes up and down based from day to day by 10-20%, depending on such mundane things as whether your computer was on to make the request.

I have only had Google Analytics on since March 3rd so I'm not sure how accurate this data is, but here's the stats since then. There seems to have been some kind of ramping up process, so this is about a 2.5 to 3 week (not a full month) slice, as I'm not sure how to count the ramp-up days.

 image

Notice the regular dips? Those are weekends. The peaks? Mondays. Folks love to read on Mondays.

Here's another rollup:

image

Rule #3 of blogging stats: PageViews don't equal warm bodies.

See the difference between Visits and PageViews? You can't take a number like PageViews and correlate that directly to "# of humans" although you'll see that a lot when folks quote stats.image

Rule #4 of blogging stats: You have a worldwide audience!

(Hi Sri Lanka!)

Folks come from all over!

image

...using lots of different OS's...

image

Rule #5 of blogging stats: If it can browse, someone will visit you with it. 

Not sure what to do with the 2,200 visits by 800x600 people. I have made an effort to make the site mobile friendly though.

image

Rule #6 of blogging stats: People like what they like

This I thought was really interesting - the number of URLs (posts/comments URIs) views vs. number of views, and the top pages for this ~3 week period. The Programmer Themes Gallery is popular this month, as is the tools list and my Outlook GTD post. Also, I can see that folks do enjoy the Weekly Source Code, so I know I'll keep doing that. I can also see that referrals via search sent 94,850 total visits via 64,239 keywords over this period.

It's funny, the posts that I like writing, the deep technical stuff, programming languages stuff, it seems like no one cares about. I think this is the Digg influence. If you post a Gallery or a List or anything post with a Prime Number and the word "Rules" in the title, you'll get traffic. You post smart, compelling content, you need to be wicked smart before folks take note. That said, here's rule #6.5

Rule #6.5 of blogging stats: Blog for you.

You can certainly use these statistics make decisions on what to blog and only blog things that the largest number of people would like, but "meh." Would you really want to do that? I continue to blog about Baby Sign Language and Diabetes and I get no traffic for those topics. Ultimately, I blog for me, and that's why I keep this blog on my own server where the content is my own.

image

I also use FeedBurner, which provides RSS-specific and site specific stats, and it sometimes offers differing stats. This might have to do with how many people browse with Javascript turned off (gasp!) or use an Ad Blocker like IE7Pro or AdBlock for Firefox. FeedBurner has an interesting view that breaks down the details of how many folks subscribe in what reader.

image 

Rule #7 from Mark Twain: There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Don't trust any of these values. If you've got an engaged audience, they'll comment, blog, talk, chat, twitter, email and generally engage in the conversation. All else is poo.

I've only been using Google Analytics for a few weeks, as you can see, but I think I'll install Microsoft adCenter's Analytics Package side-by-side and do some comparisons and see what kinds of stats I can get out out of it.

As Josh so rightly said, and I'll steal borrow from him, if you ever want to flatter me, just subscribe to my feed (and leave comments!) 

Well, that's all I've got, so Dear Reader, Blog your Stats and let's learn from each other what works.

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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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IronPython and the DLR march on

March 22, '08 Comments [12] Posted in ASP.NET | ASP.NET MVC | DLR | Python | Ruby | Silverlight
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I've got a number of emails complaining that folks haven't heard much from the DLR (Dynamic Language Runtime) and things like IronPython and IronRuby.

I think it's due to mostly one thing, the fact that the ASP.NET Futures Page still says July 2007. That's one of the reasons I personally fought to have the ASP.NET MVC not use a Date in its name. It just makes things look, ahem, dated.

I'm working to get that page updated, but I just wanted to make sure folks know that there's lots going on around the DLR. I talked to Mahesh on a video call just yesterday.

There's lots going on and here's some collected resources for you:

Once you've had fun with all that, you might look at John's Dynamic Silverlight in ASP.NET MVC article.

Here's John and Jimmy's talk on Dynamic Silverlight at Mix08:

All other goodness is at http://dynamicsilverlight.net/. 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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The Weekly Source Code 21 - ASP.NET MVC Preview 2 Source Code

March 21, '08 Comments [9] Posted in ASP.NET | ASP.NET MVC | Learning .NET | Programming | Source Code
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And so, Dear Reader, I present to you twenty-first in a infinite number of posts of "The Weekly Source Code." I'm doubling up this week, but the ASP.NET MVC Source was released today and I wanted to share more thoughts. I would also encourage you to check out TWSC 17 on Community ASP.NET MVC code.

Read the Comments

When you're reading source, look for words like "TODO," "HACK," "REVIEW," etc, to find parts of the code that the writers are concerned about.

In the SelectBuilder.cs, there's a comment that says:

// TODO: Should these be HTML encoded or HTML attribute encoded? Need to review all helper methods that call this.
string thisText = HttpUtility.HtmlEncode(listData[key].ToString());
string thisValue = HttpUtility.HtmlEncode(key.ToString());

This is an interesting question. He's asking if they should use System.Web.HttpUtility.HtmlAttributeEncode or HtmlEncode. HTML Attribute Encoding encodes <, " and &.

In ViewUserControl.cs we see these:

public virtual void RenderView(ViewContext viewContext) {
// TODO: Remove this hack. Without it, the browser appears to always load cached output
viewContext.HttpContext.Response.Cache.SetExpires(DateTime.Now);
ViewUserControlContainerPage containerPage = new ViewUserControlContainerPage(this);
containerPage.RenderView(viewContext);
}

This is a tough one also. Chasing caching issues is a huge hassle and consumed at least 10% of my time when I was writing banking software. Even now it feels like there are subtle (and not-so-subtle) differences between IE and Firefox. Seems like Firefox really caches aggressively.

There's a few marked "REVIEW" like:

    // REVIEW: Should we make this public?
internal interface IBuildManager {
object CreateInstanceFromVirtualPath(string virtualPath, Type requiredBaseType);
ICollection GetReferencedAssemblies();
}

And this one, which is kind of funny. The property IsReusable in an HttpHandler indicates whether or not an instance has state and as such, should not be reused by ASP.NET property. If you write an HttpHandler and it has no state, just a ProcessRequest, you can "reuse" it which should result in a small perf gain.

protected virtual bool IsReusable {
get {
// REVIEW: What's this?
return false;
}
}

Here's one about overloads:

//REVIEW: Should we have an overload that takes Uri?
[SuppressMessage("Microsoft.Design", "CA1055:UriReturnValuesShouldNotBeStrings",
Justification = "As the return value will used only for rendering, string return value is more appropriate.")]
[SuppressMessage("Microsoft.Design", "CA1054:UriParametersShouldNotBeStrings",
Justification = "Needs to take same parameters as HttpUtility.UrlEncode()")]
[SuppressMessage("Microsoft.Performance", "CA1822:MarkMembersAsStatic",
Justification = "For consistency, all helpers are instance methods.")]
public string Encode(string url) {
return HttpUtility.UrlEncode(url);
}

We've all written comments like these. The trick is to make sure you've included all your key words in Visual Studio so that all your comments will show up in the Task List and can be dealt with before you ship.

Check out SuppressMessage

Microsoft uses CodeAnalysis a lot and you should too. However, sometimes CodeAnalysis offers suggestions that are wrong or not really appropriate and you'll want to suppress those.

[System.Diagnostics.CodeAnalysis.SuppressMessage("Microsoft.Design", "CA1024:UsePropertiesWhereAppropriate",
Justification = "There is already a ViewData property and it has a slightly different meaning.")]
protected internal virtual void SetViewData(object viewData) {
_viewData = viewData;
}

Looking for references to SuppressMessage is a good way to find out where unwavering "purity" analytics fall down and pragmatism should win the day. That said, it never hurts to reevaluate these occasionally as opportunities for refactoring.

The most interesting aspect is the Justification attribute which is actual prose written by the developers. For example, this is the contents of GlobalSuppressions.cs:

[assembly: System.Diagnostics.CodeAnalysis.SuppressMessage("Microsoft.Design", "CA1033:InterfaceMethodsShouldBeCallableByChildTypes", Scope = "member", Target = "System.Web.Mvc.TempDataDictionary.#System.Collections.Generic.ICollection`1<system.collections.generic.keyvaluepair  `2>)",
Justification = "There are no defined scenarios for wanting to derive from this class, but we don't want to prevent it either.")]
[assembly: System.Diagnostics.CodeAnalysis.SuppressMessage("Microsoft.Design", "CA1033:InterfaceMethodsShouldBeCallableByChildTypes", Scope = "member", Target = "System.Web.Mvc.TempDataDictionary.#System.Collections.Generic.ICollection`1<system.collections.generic.keyvaluepair `2>[],System.Int32)",
Justification = "There are no defined scenarios for wanting to derive from this class, but we don't want to prevent it either.")]
[assembly: System.Diagnostics.CodeAnalysis.SuppressMessage("Microsoft.Design", "CA1033:InterfaceMethodsShouldBeCallableByChildTypes", Scope = "member", Target = "System.Web.Mvc.TempDataDictionary.#System.Collections.Generic.ICollection`1<system.collections.generic.keyvaluepair `2>>.IsReadOnly",
Justification = "There are no defined scenarios for wanting to derive from this class, but we don't want to prevent it either.")]

Here's a good example of a justification:

[System.Diagnostics.CodeAnalysis.SuppressMessage("Microsoft.Design", "CA1054:UriParametersShouldNotBeStrings", MessageId = "2#", Justification = "The return value is not a regular URL since it may contain ~/ ASP.NET-specific characters")]
public static string SubmitImage(this HtmlHelper helper, string htmlName, string imageRelativeUrl) {
return SubmitImage(helper, htmlName, imageRelativeUrl, null);
}

Code analysis is warning that there's a string parameter with the name "Url", but the justification is valid: "The value is not a regular URL since it may contain ~/ ASP.NET-specific characters"

Look to Utils

As I've said before, whenever I start reading code, I look for things marked "Util." These tell us a few things. Things named Util show the "underbelly" of code and point out where things could either be better factored, either in the thing your reading, or in the larger Framework whatever your reading lives in.

In ASP.NET MVC's project there's a Util folder and a Pair.cs file, so let's check it out.

//------------------------------------------------------------------------------
// Copyright (c) Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
//------------------------------------------------------------------------------

namespace System.Web.Util {
using System;

// Generic Pair class. Overrides Equals() and GetHashCode(), so it can be used as a dictionary key.
internal sealed class Pair {
private readonly TFirst _first;
private readonly TSecond _second;

public Pair(TFirst first, TSecond second) {
_first = first;
_second = second;
}

public TFirst First {
get {
return _first;
}
}

public TSecond Second {
get {
return _second;
}
}

public override bool Equals(object obj) {
if (obj == this) {
return true;
}

Pair other = obj as Pair;
return (other != null) &&
(((other._first == null) && (_first == null)) ||
((other._first != null) && other._first.Equals(_first))) &&
(((other._second == null) && (_second == null)) ||
((other._second != null) && other._second.Equals(_second)));
}

public override int GetHashCode() {
int a = (_first == null) ? 0 : _first.GetHashCode();
int b = (_second == null) ? 0 : _second.GetHashCode();
return CombineHashCodes(a, b);
}

// Copied from ndp\fx\src\xsp\System\Web\Util\HashCodeCombiner.cs
private static int CombineHashCodes(int h1, int h2) {
return ((h1 << 5) + h1) ^ h2;
}
}
}

This is a simple but clever class that uses generics to make a Pair of any two types. The interesting part is the CombineHashCodes method that takes the hash codes from each object and combines them in a way that makes that pair's hashcode unique enough for use in a Hashtable later.

The Pair class is used to create a combined object inside the TempDataDictionary class like this:

private Pair<Dictionary<string , object>, HashSet<string>> _sessionData;

...where the Key is the actual TempData storage dictionary, and the value is the list of keys that were modified during one request so that they might survive to the next.

There's lot more to learn from reading this code, and it's going to be fun to watch it grow, change and improve!

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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ASP.NET MVC Source Code Available

March 21, '08 Comments [5] Posted in ASP.NET | ASP.NET MVC | Programming | Source Code
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image My boss's boss has blogged about what's been going on this week: The ASP.NET MVC Source is up on CodePlex at http://www.codeplex.com/aspnet.

You can download, read and compile it now.

The goal is to start releasing drops really often. If you're into it, then watch the source code tab, if not, that's cool too, you can wait until it releases later.

You can enter bugs in the issue tracker or complain in the forums and watch the roadmap as it evolves. You can see how to compile it (unzip and build) as well.

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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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Hanselminutes Podcast 104 - Dave Laribee on ALT.NET

March 21, '08 Comments [6] Posted in ASP.NET MVC | Learning .NET | Nant | NCover | NUnit | Podcast
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RWS2-Big My one-hundred-and-fourth podcast is up. In this episode I talk to the always thought-provoking David Laribee (blog) who coined the term ALT.NET just last year. It's turned into a Open Spaces Conference and continues to challenge the status quo, reminding .NET developers of the importance of being agile and enabling processes for continuous improvement.

What does it mean to be to be ALT.NET? In short it signifies:

  1. You’re the type of developer who uses what works while keeping an eye out for a better way.
  2. You reach outside the mainstream to adopt the best of any community: Open Source, Agile, Java, Ruby, etc.
  3. You’re not content with the status quo. Things can always be better expressed, more elegant and simple, more mutable, higher quality, etc.
  4. You know tools are great, but they only take you so far. It’s the principles and knowledge that really matter. The best tools are those that embed the knowledge and encourage the principles 

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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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.