Tech Life, Writing Your referrals are your salary

Referral Rant

Back in the day, Pants wrote a silly piece of Perl to watch the Jerkcity logs in real time. In a terminal window, you could watch who was reading Jerkcity, where they came from, and how many strips they read. Yes, it’s ego_ware, but it demonstrated a couple of interesting points.

First, at the time, Rotten.com would occasionally throw some free PR our way with a front page link. We sometimes knew when these links were coming and it was fascinating to see the flood of hits appear. Lesson: You may think you get a lot of hits. You don’t.

Second, I could see where hits where coming from and see what type of community Jerkcity was resonating with. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE.

Through a couple of server moves and continued code hackery on the Jerkcity engine, the Perl developed bitrot. I started to use webalizer for traffic analysis… it wasn’t real time… or maybe it was and I didn’t throw the switch, but who cares, I’d moved on.

I stumbled on Textism’s Refer utility whilst surfing my NetNewsWire feeds and immediately throw it on the RinR server. In a nutshell, the script:

  • Analyzes all hits to your HTML pages
  • Throws them in a database (mmmMmMMM database)
  • Provides real time analysis of what they’re looking at and where they’re coming from
  • Provides filtered aggregate views which gives you referral counts for the past 24/72/week as well as lists of which queries were landing at your site

Hardly a holy shit, barely a gee whiz, but worth talking about.

As mentioned above, referral surfing is ego_ware, but then again, so is a weblog, so let’s stop getting all giggly when we publicly discuss referrals. Say it loud, say it proud, I CARE WHETHER OR NOT PEOPLE READ MY STUFF.

The #2 reason on why you should weblog is: “Shrink the world, Meet people you may not hate”. That’s right, you’re surfing weblogs to find interesting points of views… these views are attached to people. Don’t tell me you’re not community building because I know you are.

A recent example. I sat down this evening to scan the logs and found this gentlemen had referred to the N.A.D.D. article. Turns out, he’s based in Las Vegas and plays a lot of poker. What’d I do? I fired up iChat, dropped him a line and got the skinny on poker rooms in Vegas because I’m headed there next week. What that’d cost me? Well, the cost was taking the time to write down observations that everyone else sees, but hadn’t bothered to record.

The real question: What’s the benefit? What’s in it for me? I got paid in information. I now know which poker room suits my needs… probably saved me a couple hundred bucks in drunkenly bumbling around Vegas.

Let’s stop thinking we’re weblogging for free. Information is the currency here and your weblog makes you either a broker or a bank. You’re either passing on carefully selected information to others or printing your own for consumption. Probably. Your success in doing this will not be rewarded in cold hard cash, it will be rewarded in… wait for it… more information. The kicker is this information “should” be prefiltered to be relevant to you because folks hang with people they relate to. Like attracts like. I’m sure there’s fancy math here which proves this, but I’m not a math guy and, if I’m right, neither are you.

Choosing to ignore this information, these referrals, just doesn’t make sense. If you didn’t care to see your impact on the network, why are you weblogging? Why are you learning XHTML and CSS2 when you could be simply writing in that leather bound journal sitting next to your bed?

5 Responses

  1. “Say it loud, say it proud, I CARE WHETHER OR NOT PEOPLE READ MY STUFF.”

    Fuck yes.

    I only recently discovered that I could check stats on my blog (yeah, I’m an idiot). Coincidentally or not, this was right after I joined photoblogs.org. Lo & behold, someone had linked to me and I was getting referrals from her right and left. My heart literally leapt for joy in my chest. It was the first real validation I’d gotten that anyone besides my friends was checking me out and it made me feel like a million goddamn dollars. I’m not just posting into the void.

    I don’t put stuff up just to see myself post. I see a lot of blogs and online journals that seem geared towards that kind of attitude and it makes me more determined than ever to not to waste my little corner of the web on bullshit. If I put something up it’s because I think it’s worthwhile, and I want to know that it’s received – whether people hate it or love it matters less to me than knowing that they took the time to think about it.

  2. I couldn’t agree more! I check my logs all the time to see where people are coming from and what pages they are looking at. I found a nifty little program called TFS Statisitcs a few weeks ago and I’m loving everything that it tracks for me. It’s a nice PHP script that works with MySQL and the developer has been great with suggestions and personal hacks I’ve wanted for it.

  3. thanks for the tip about Refer. hate having to run webalizer manually or wait until like 5am for it to cron … also it’s heck of ugly.

  4. My webhost offers three stats packages but I look at my Refer logs the most. Always interesting to see in real time that a particular entry is attracting hits.

    I did find that Refer attracts referral spammers running a program called StarProse (and probably other things). Lots and lots of false hits from porn sites and even John Kerry’s campaign. Using robots.txt to keep the results out of Google diminished that greatly.

  5. One thing you neglect to factor in when stating that we’re not math guys is that most people have many different interests. My two main interests happen to be computers and math/science.

    I read your site on a regular basis because you have some good blogging stuff, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have other interests. It’s ironic, really, that the main readers on my site are neither computer geeks nor scientists… they’re just people who like me for whatever reason.