Saturday, 16 April 2016

Full disclosure

It's full disclosure time. I use StatCounter's excellent free visitor tracking code to provide analytics for this and other websites that I am involved in. I don't pay this data much attention - I am mostly only interested in how many visitors I have, how they get to me and which pages are popular. In the past, I've looked at the percentage of visitors who have JavaScript enabled before deciding to do something JavaScript-y. But that's essentially it. Here's a detailed look at a recent visit to this very site:

So what does this tell us? Some boring stuff first - the user in question was browsing with Firefox on Linux, with JavaScript enabled and a pretty high screen resolution. And before you think StatCounter and I are wizards for working this out, your browser tells all that stuff to every website you visit.

Other stuff is more interesting. IP address and location for starters. Now I've obfuscated these, to preserve the anonymity of the visitor. And if you're sat at home browsing through your domestic ISP, whether that's BT or Virgin or whomever, well, the ISP is pretty accurate but the location isn't always. The right half of the right country is about as accurate as it gets. However, and here's the full disclosure bit, if you're surfing from work, and your employer is big enough to act as its own ISP (as is the case in this example) then the location is accurate. So I know where you are and who you work for (also obfuscated in this example).

Fear not though, I'm not stalking you. I don't care who visits these little websites of mine - they're just a hobby, after all, and my only real concern is that there aren't enough of you. The only time I ever look even this deeply (and that's still pretty shallow) is when something unusual catches my eye... as in the example above. Someone geographically very close to me is having a good read, not just of this blog but of another I maintain too. And looking at where they work, that's only 800m from where I work, as the crow flies (according to Google Maps) ... but to the best of my knowledge, I don't know anyone that works there. So maybe I'm the one being stalked? Or maybe we have a mutual acquaintance? Or maybe it's just coincidence? (And for those who don't have much time for coincidence, read the lottery anecdote in this excellent interview with Stephen King.) Who knows, or cares? Not I. But at least you now know what I know and what I don't. Please don't let that stop you visiting, mind!

Right, enough. Time for bed.

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