06 October 2016

Stats for Bored People

I could have titled this post New Stats for M-W.com, but since that title was already used (October 2015), I had to think of something else. The problem started when my web site went missing for a week -- see Site Available Again (August 2016) for the details -- then ended up migrated to a different host. Although outwardly exactly the same as before, inwardly it was much changed.

Take its statistics package, for example. Like everyone else who runs a web site, I like to know what visitors are looking at -- what's hot and what's not, as they say. I look at the overall stats once a day to make sure that everything is working correctly and to identify any anomalies as quickly as possible. After watching the stats for a while, I get used to certain recurring patterns in the numbers and know intuitively when something is off.

Near the end of last month I noticed a 50% jump in 'Visits' on one day and wondered what the cause of it might have been. The best place to get details is the server log, where actions are recorded for all files delivered to fulfill specific requests. I have database software to analyze the logs on the previous host, but did the logs on the new host use the same format? Thanks to a standard known as the Common Log Format (wikipedia.org), they turned out to be almost the same. The biggest difference was that where the logs were previously stored monthly, they are now stored daily.

I downloaded the log file for the day in question, loaded it into my database, and did some preliminary analyses. I quickly discovered that the spike in activity was traffic to the index page of my World Chess Championship site. It came from a domain called RandomWebSite.com. From the name I could guess the purpose of the site, but when I tried to access it, I received the message 'Server not found'. A search on the domain name returned top results like TheUselessWeb.com and Pointless.com. Another top result pointed to Random Website Machine, which explained,

Great for:
- Bored People: At least it's not Candy Crush!
- Web Designers: Looking for some inspiration? Or just some fresh ideas? Start here!
- Network Technicians: Need to test DNS servers? Make sure you aren't getting cached data, by loading totally fresh, random websites.

Since I doubt that anyone is coming to my site for tips on web design or testing DNS servers, that leaves bored people. My stats for September also showed that RandomWebSite.com was my top external referrer for the entire month. I hope those visitors found everything they expected!


In the unlikely event that anyone has randomly arrived at this post and read this far, here's a graphic from the new stats package.

It shows the number of visits (pages, hits, bandwidth) to my domain during every hour over a 24-hour day. The numbers include bored people.

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