stats: a Sprig for 2008

née: Sprig of Mint for 2008

My Office: 1/9/08 08:35

Looks great from the outside, no? I need some kind of quick-release for my camera. I have it with me all the time, but I rarely take it out because I have somewhere to be. Yesterday morning there was construction blocking my usual cross-walk, so I was waiting for the light to cross in a different spot than usual and backed by the warring stormy/fluffy clouds, the building looked pretty cool.

Last year I got much more into my blog, going through a few changes in the site design, trying to post more often, add interesting things into my feed, etc. In all that I was paying more attention to my site statistics and I was using Google Analytics and FeedBurner to track activity, but I was looking for a more locally hosted solution. I found it in a great plugin called FireStats. It was a little overwhelming as I could see, in real-time, people visiting my site, which pages they were hitting, where they came from. I was seeing a lot of site hits a day! Unfortunately a lot of those were from site crawlers, which is a bit of work to keep out of one’s site, and with FireStats is a full-time job keeping those hits out of the site rankings. I was able to block a lot by User-Agent, but even so I’d see “visitors” clicking through page after page in rapid succession and I knew that it was a bot indexing my pages. Sometimes good like Google or Microsoft, but most times not so much. As a free/donation-ware solution, FireStats is great, but you have to enjoy a lot of tinkering and fiddling to ensure that you get what you want from the results.

Earlier this week, Chris was having trouble getting FireStats to work on his site, giving a lot of error messages and generally frustrating him. Running WordPress, it helps if one is a web developer, PHP coder and sometimes even moreso when one has nothing to do but devote time to it — instead of working one’s day job. I asked him if he’d ever taken a look at Mint, not to be confused with Mint which is also pretty cool. I’d heard about it a few times in the past and all good stuff. He looked at it, purchased it and was pretty easily converted over to its ways. After seeing a screenshot of his Mint page with additional add-ons, I knew it wouldn’t take long before I’d buy and install it myself.

The main thing I like about Mint is that it uses javascript to track visitors, so it will generally catch real people looking at my blog pages instead of search bots and crawlers, assuming someone has javascript turned on. It’s main data collected is pages, search results and referrers, additional add-ons can tell you where people are visiting from, there are also add-ons to track how your feed items are being viewed as well as who’s viewing your myspace page (yeah silly, but cute). One of the most fun things is that people have created a dashboard widget for Mac OS X and a sidebar gadget for Windows Vista so I don’t even need to keep the Mint stats page up in my browser to see how many hits/visits I’m getting. My inner stats geek is quite happy, and unfortunately also quite mesmerized.

It’s a busy day at work trying to roll out a site for a customer, so I won’t have much time for RSS feeds, though I’ve added a few LJ people to my Google Reader list via a proxy to authorize LJ feeds, I’m tracking the Brians, Bill and Norman to start with and aside from sending all their posts in a big lump, it seems to be working out ok. More additions will follow, but for now it’s back to the grind!

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