O'Really?

May 18, 2012

Web analytics: Numbers speak louder than words

Two hundo! by B. Rosen

Two hundred light painting by B. Rosen, via  Flickr available by Creative Commons license

According to the software which runs this site, this is the 200th post here at O’Really To mark the occasion, here are some stats via WordPress with thoughts and general navel-gazing analysis paralysis [1] on web analytics. It all started just over six years ago at nodalpoint with help from Greg Tyrelle, the last four years have been WordPressed with help from Matt Mullenweg. WordPress stats are unfortunately very primitive compared to the likes of Google Analytics and don’t give you access to the server log files either. WordPress probably flatters to deceive by exaggerating page views and encouraging users to post more content, but it doesn’t count self-visits to the blog. Despite all the usual limitations of the murky underworld of web analytics and SEO, here are the stats, warts and all.

As of May 2012, this blog is just shy of 200,000 page views in total with 500+ comments (genuine) comments and 100,000+ spam comments nuked by the Akismet filter. The busiest day so far was the 15th February 2012 with 931 views of a post in a single day which got linked to by the Wall Street Journal. The regular traffic is pretty steady around the 1,000 views per week (~4000 views per month) mark. Most readers come from the United States, United Kingdom and Germany (jawohl! in that order) which breaks down as follows:

Top posts: What people read when they get here

The most popular pages here are as follows:

Page Views
Home page / Archives 33,977
Impact Factor Boxing 2010 17,267
Impact Factor Boxing 2009 10,652
How many journal articles have been published? 7,181
Impact Factor Boxing 2011 6,635

Are we obsessed with dodgy performance metrics like journal impact factors? I’m not, honest guv’, but lots of people on t’interwebs clearly are.

Top search terms: How people get here

The search engines send traffic here through the following search terms:

Search terms Views
plos biology impact factor 2010 3,175
impact factor 2010 1,631
impact factor 1,589
plos biology impact factor 1,566
impact factor 2009 1,333

Is there a correlation between Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Impact Factor (IF)? Probably. Will it ever stop? Probably not.

Referrals: Spread the link love

It’s not just search engines that send you traffic…

Referrer Views
Search Engines 16,339
cs.man.ac.uk 4,654
Twitter 2,334
friendfeed.com 2,262
flickr.com 2,077
researchblogging.org 1,904
en.wordpress.com 1.037

… social media (twitter, friendfeed, flickr, researchblogging and wordpress etc) refers nearly as much traffic as the search engines do. I fit the demographic of bloggers previously described [1]: male, educated and a life scientist.

Top five clicks: How people leave

This is what people are clicking on:

URL Clicks
isiknowledge.com/JCR 914
feeds2.feedburner.com/oreally 407
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_on_arrival 396
aps.org/publications/apsnews/200811/zero-gravity.cfm 363
plosbiology.org 305

Dear Thomson Reuters, you should have an associates scheme like Amazon. I’m advertising your commercial product (Journal Citation Reports) for free! I’m far too kind, please send me a generous cheque immediately for my troubles or I will remove all links to your product.

Lots of people looking for the lyrics of the Friends sitcom jingle don’t know what “Your love life’s D.O.A.” means. Glad to be of service.

Conclusions

Traffic here is fairly modest compared to some blogs, but is still significant and to my mind justifies the time spent blogging. It is great fun to blog, and like most things in life, it can be very time consuming to do well. There is a long way to go before reaching the 10,000 hours milestone, maybe one day.

What people are actually interested in reading, and what you think they will be interested in reading are often two completely different things. Solo blogging has disadvantages and it’s been very tempting to try and join one of the many excellent blogging collectives like PLoS Blogs, Occam’s Typewriter or the Guardian science blogs. For the meantime though, going it alone on a personal domain name has it’s advantages too.

So, if you’ve read, commented or linked to this site, thank you very much. I hope you enjoy reading these posts as much as I enjoy writing them. Like smartphones and wifi, it’s hard to imagine life without blogs and bloggers.

References

  1. Shema, H., Bar-Ilan, J., & Thelwall, M. (2012). Research Blogs and the Discussion of Scholarly Information PLoS ONE, 7 (5) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0035869

May 3, 2012

Need to re-invent the Web (badly)? There’s an App for that!

The Mobile App Trap

The App Trap: Why have just one Web App when you can have hundreds of mobile Apps? A selection of popular Android apps from Google Play, also available for iPad and iPhone from the Apple App Store

I love the convenience of mobile applications but hate the way they re-invent the wheel and are killing the Web. What can be done about it?

I’m in love with the mobile Web

I’ve been smitten with the Web since first venturing out on the information superhighway back in the nineties. This love affair is taken to a new level with the advent of the mobile Web. As an incurable information junkie, having access to news is on the move is great. Using location based services like Google Maps is fantastic, on foot, bike or in the car. I love nerdily scanning barcodes to read Amazon book reviews while browsing the shelves in bookshops, much to Tim Waterstone’s annoyance. And it can be great to have wikipedia in your pocket to settle arguments down the pub.

I hate the mobile Web too

But there’s a big problem with all this appy clappy mobile fun, it’s killing the Web through fragmentation, both for producers and consumers of information. Let me explain.

One of the great things about the Web is that you there is one app to rule them all; a “killer app” called a Web browser. There are several flavours, but they all basically do the same thing using similar technology: they let you surf the Web. One software application (a browser), gives you access to an almost infinite number of Web applications. Wonderfully simple, wonderfully powerful – we’ve got so used to it we sometimes take it for granted.

Now compare this to the mobile Web where each page you visit on a mobile suggests that you download an app to read it. Where there used to be just one application, now there are thousands of glorified “me too” Web browsers apps many of which have re-invented the Web, badly.

Consider the applications in the table below and illustrated on the right. They are all accessible from a Web browser on one of the “four screens ”:  desktop, mobile, tablet and smart-TV:

Native mobile app Purpose Web app
Amazon mobile Online retailer Amazon.com
BBC News mobile News and propaganda news.bbc.co.uk
The Economist mobile More news and propaganda economist.com
eBay mobile online garage sale ebay.com
Flickr mobile photo sharing flickr.com
Guardian mobile Even more news and propaganda guardian.co.uk
Google Reader mobile Feed reader reader.google.com
Google Maps mobile Maps and navigation maps.google.com
MetOffice mobile UK Weather metoffice.gov.uk
PostOffice mobile Postcode / Address finder royalmail.com/postcode-finder
Google Search mobile Search engine google.com
Google Translate mobile Language translator translate.google.com
Twitter mobile Entertaining time-wasting application twitter.com
Wikipedia mobile Encyclopædia en.wikipedia.org/wiki
WordPress mobile Blogging tool wordpress.com
YouTube mobile Videos youtube.com

As you can see, users are encouraged to download, install, understand and maintain sixteen different apps to enjoy this small part of the mobile Web. And this is just the tip of the iceberg, there’s bucket-loads more apps like this in Google Play and the App Store. As a user, you could just use a mobile Web browser on your phone, but you’ll be discouraged from doing so. We’ll return to this later.

Producers and consumers both suffer

As well as being a pain for users who have to manage hundreds of apps on their phones and tablets, the pain is magnified for producers of data too. Instead of designing, building and maintaining one Web application to work across a range of different screens (a challenging but not impossible task), many have chosen to develop lots of different apps. Take twitter for example, in addition to the desktop and Web apps, twitter currently makes no fewer than five different applications just for tablets and phones:

    1. twitter.com/download/ipad (for iPad)
    2. twitter.com/download/blackberry (for Blackberry)
    3. twitter.com/download/wp7 (for Windows phones)
    4. twitter.com/download/android (for Android)
    5. twitter.com/download/iphone (for iPhones)

So a challenging task of delivering content onto a range of different devices has now been transformed into an almost impossible task of building and managing many different apps. It’s not just Twitter, Inc. that chooses to play this game. Potentially any company or organisation putting data on the mobile Web might consider doing this by employing an army of android, blackberry, iPhone and windows developers on top of the existing Web developers already on the payroll. That’s good news for software engineers, but bad news for the organisations that have to pay them. Managing all this complexity isn’t cheap.

Not Appy: How do we get out of this mess?

In the rush to get mobile, many seem to have forgotten why the Web is so successful and turned their back on it. We’ve re-invented the wheel and the Web browser. I’m not the first [1] and certainly not the last [2] to notice this. Jonathan Zittrain even predicted it would happen [3,4] with what he calls “tethered devices”. One solution to this problem, as suggested at last months International World Wide Web conference in Lyon by some bloke called Tim, is to develop mobile Web apps rather than native mobile apps:

There are lots of examples of this. Sites like trains.im provide train times via a simple Web-based interface, no app required. Many Web sites have  two versions, a desktop one and a mobile one. Wikipedia has a mobile site at en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki, Flickr at m.flickr.com, The Economist at m.economist.com, BBC at m.bbc.co.uk/news and so on. But in many cases these sites are poor cousins of the native mobile apps that software developers have focused their efforts on, diluting their work across multiple apps and platforms.

Maybe it’s too late, maybe I’m suffering from the suspicious of change” syndrome described by Douglas Adams like this:

  1. everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal;
  2. anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it;
  3. anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.

The mobile Web makes me suspicous because many apps re-invent the wheel. I’ve argued here that it is against the natural order of the Web, we’ve waved goodbye to the good old Web [5] and its the beginning of the end. I really hope not, it would be a tragedy to carry on killing the Web as it’s given us so much and was designed specifically to solve the problems described above. Let’s hope native mobile apps gradually turn out to be alright really.

References

  1. Gary Marshall (2011). Could smartphone apps be taking us back to the days of “best viewed with … ”? Net Magazine
  2. Jason Pontin (2012). Why Publishers Don’t Like Apps: The future of media on mobile devices isn’t with Apps but with the Web Technology Review
  3. Jonathan Zittrain (2007). Saving the internet. Harvard Business Review, 85 (6) PMID: 17580647
  4. Jonathan Zittrain (2009). The Future of the Internet: And How to Stop It Penguin, ISBN:014103159X
  5. Hamish MacKenzie (2012) Web 2.0 Is Over, All Hail the Age of Mobile, Pandodaily

December 3, 2009

It’s Snowing (JavaScript)!

You know it’s December when it starts snowing in your web browser. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Or programmatically:

snowStorm = new SnowStorm();

There was a time, not so very long ago when JavaScript snow would have been “best viewed in browser x”. Thankfully now JavaScript much more reliable, the JBrowse [1] Genome Browser provides a nice example of this in bioinformatics. JBrowse is one of many proofs that JavaScript can be used to take some of the computing load off the server, and do it in the client (web browser) instead, while providing more sophisticated applications for users – not just gimmicks like snow.

References

  1. Skinner, M., Uzilov, A., Stein, L., Mungall, C., & Holmes, I. (2009). JBrowse: A next-generation genome browser Genome Research, 19 (9), 1630-1638 DOI: 10.1101/gr.094607.109

[Creative Commons licensed snowstorm picture by Atli Harðarson, JavaScript SnowStorm code by Scott Schiller, move your mouse around to guide the snowstorm.]

June 2, 2009

Blogging For Profit: Costs and Benefits


Business Graph by nDevilTV
The organisers of the Science Online London 2009 conference are asking people to propose their own session ideas (see some examples here), so here is proposal:

Title: Blogging For Profit: Costs and Benefits

What are the costs and benefits of blogging and how can you make sure the latter justifies the former?

This (proposed) session will look at two kinds of profit, and the costs associated with each.

  1. Research profit (in science and academia), building digital reputations on the Web. Can blogging help your next grant proposal for research funding and if so, how? How can blogging be used to increase the visibility and impact of published research via the likes of ResearchBlogging.org, blogs.nature.com and other aggregators?
  2. Financial profit (in business), making blogging pay the bills. What business models (and infrastructure) exist to support blogging? Including, but not limited to: Nature Network, ScienceBlogs, Google AdSense, “20% time“, “free” tools (WordPress, Blogger, OpenWetWare etc). Going solo vs. joining a club – which business models and tools are right for you?

This could be followed by a general discussion on these benefits. When do they justify their costs (and risks) and make for profitable blogging?

If this is a successful proposal, I’ll need some help. Any offers? If you are interested in joining in the fun, details are at scienceonlinelondon.org

[CC-licensed Business Graph picture by nDevilTV]

May 26, 2009

Subscribing to O’Really?

Filed under: technology — Duncan Hull @ 4:53 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Feed the WorldJust a quick note about subscribing: if you are a regular reader of this O’Really blog and you don’t already subscribe, there are two ways you can receive automatic notifications when new posts are published here:

  1. Point your feed reader at http://feeds2.feedburner.com/oreally, (the preferred method) or …
  2. Point your feed reader at http://duncan.hull.name/feed/ (the WordPress method) which unfortunately gives unreliable subscriber stats. This  feed is linked to by the blue or orange feed icon (pictured right) you should be able to see in your web browsers address bar.

The first feed, is just the second feed re-routed through the magic of FeedBurner, which gives more useful viewing statistics.

April 9, 2009

Upcoming Gig: The Scholarly Communication Landscape

The Scholarly Communication LandscapeDetails of an upcoming gig, The Scholarly Communication Landscape in Manchester on the 23rd of April 2009. If you are interested in coming, you need to register by Monday the 13th April at the official symposium pages.

Why? To help University staff and researchers understand some of the more complex issues embedded in the developments in digital scholarly communication, and to launch Manchester eScholar, the University of Manchester’s new Institutional Repository.

How? Information will be presented by invited speakers, and views and experience exchanged via plenary sessions.

Who For? University researchers (staff and students), research support staff, librarians, research managers, and anyone with an active interest in the field will find this symposium helpful to their developing use and provision of research digital formats. The programme for the symposium currently looks like this:

Welcome and Introduction by Jan Wilkinson, University Librarian and Director of The John Rylands Library.

Session I Chaired by Jan Wilkinson

  • Is the Knowledge Society a ‘social’ Network? Robin Hunt, CIBER, University College London
  • National Perspectives, Costs and Benefits Michael Jubb, Director, Research Information Network
  • The Economics of Scholarly Communication – how open access is changing the landscape Deborah Kahn, Acting Editorial Director Biology, BioMed Central

Session II Chaired by Dr Stella Butler

  • Information wants to be free. So … ? Dr David Booton, School of Law, University of Manchester
  • Putting Repositories in Their Place – the changing landscape of scholarly communication Bill Hubbard, SHERPA, University of Nottingham
  • The Year of Blogging Dangerously – lessons from the blogosphere, by Dr Duncan Hull (errr, thats me!), mib.ac.uk. This talk will describe how to build an institutional repository using free (or cheap) web-based and blogging tools including flickr.com, slideshare.net, citeulike.org, wordpress.com, myexperiment.org and friendfeed.com. We will discuss some strengths and limitations of these tools and what Institutional Repositories can learn from them.

Session III Chaired by Professor Simon Gaskell

Sumary and close by Professor Simon Gaskell, Vice-President for Research

November 7, 2006

People 2.0: Pioneers of the next generation Web

UK news-rag The Grauniad has a series of interviews with some of the people behind the next generation web, so-called Web 2.0. After reading these interviews, I can’t help wondering, who are the equivalent pioneers in bioinformatics?

The interviews include…

  1. Wikipedian Jimmy Wales
  2. WordPresser Matt Mullenweg
  3. Technorati’s Dave Sifry

…and several others too. Most of the interviews are worth reading, I particularly enjoyed Mullenweg’s which contains a wonderful quote:

Q: What is your big idea?

A: I don’t have big ideas. I sometimes have small ideas, which seem to work out.

So who is currently pioneering the “Web of Science”, Bioinformatics 2.0 if you like? Ensemblian Ewan Birney? Ian Holmes at Berkeley? Or somebody else?

[Image credit: Picture from Steve Jurvetson, this post originally published on nodalpoint with comments]

The Rubric Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.

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