Monday, May 11, 2009

Meta Blog: Disappointing Expectations

I don't know about you other bloggers, but I've had almost as much fun with the blog counter as I have with the blog itself. I'm still learning how to analyze all the information it provides, mostly I just think it's cool to look at a world map with little markers of all the places people have stopped by for a visit. I can't claim they all stay to read the posts where they land though; it's often quite clear that what I've written was not actually what the google searchers (or 'googlers' if you will) were looking for. Usually I don't think I can be held accountable; it can be wild what gets some people to my site. Someone recently was looking for what Bruce Chatwin said about Donegal. I mention Chatwin in one entry, Donegal in another, so Bob's your uncle. The photos of my aloe plants are very popular, for some reason, and it's not just one person stopping by for multiple visits, not unless she's an international traveler. Right now it's a toss up which of two searches are my favorite for randomness. It's either 'cretan wildcat' or 'good gay, bad gay effeminate'. Actually, both of those searchers may have actually appreciated what I said on their respective subjects, now that I think of it. But many of these searches, whoo boy, I cannot be blamed if they bring people to my site.

Some of the misfires, I will take some blame for. I was unaware, for example, that dragonfly stories are some kind of genre; I don't what defines them exactly (gonna stop by wikipedia later, I guess), but it's clear from many of the searches that people have something specific in mind when they come looking. As it happens, I have two entries entitled Dragonfly Story (I and II, natch), and they both continue to get a steady stream of (I assume mildly disgruntled) visitors almost a year after they were posted. In my defense, dragonflies do figure in both stories, but I doubt I'm observing the rules of the genre. So my bad, but I'm not losing any sleep over this one, since I think it's safe to assume anyone who landed there turned up a whole lot of other hits that gave them what they wanted.

Some of the false expectations, however, are not of my construction. A few weeks back, for example, my steady trickle of visitors suddenly more than tripled in number. I was at a loss to explain why, until friends Java and the Midnight Gardener enlightened me. It turns out another friend had seen a portrait of me hanging in a local art gallery, and mentioned it on his very popular blog. Besides the portrait of me, the post also mentioned visiting a renovated sex club. Having the words 'sex club' in the title probably didn't hurt. Now maybe I am misunderstanding what brought my visitors from Tony's blog, but I strongly suspect they were hoping for something a bit more sexy or racy than, well, a chipper post about Patrick taking a happy jaunt, hippity-hop, to Fort Tryon Park. But that's what was waiting for them there. There were pictures too, but they were of flowers, in particular heather, because I do loves me some heather. The spike in readership lasted for about three days, before things dropped back down to my previous average, so I don't think I won over a whole lot of new people. Next time I'm showing skin on this blog though, I'll be sure to contact Tony.

That was maybe the most amusing example of disappointed expectations, but it was pretty quickly explained. There's another one that perplexed me much longer. Almost at the beginning of this blog (way back in April of ought 6, it was), I wrote a short, very silly little entry that for some reason regularly got hits, and recently has been growing in popularity. At the moment it is the fourth most popular post on my blog, actually. And it's just not that clever or interesting, so I really hadn't a clue what was going on there. It was the first time I specifically mentioned the blogging juggernaut that is Joe.My.God, so if I thought about it at all, I figured people who found themselves there had googled him, and for reasons of their own decided to go WAY down their list of hits. Not much of an explanation, really, but it was the best I could do.

Then I realized that the comments on posts show up in google searches. Ah, that made things much more clear. I had written this one back before blogger made it so ridiculously easy to create links in one's posts that even a computing knuckle-dragger such as myself could create them, and the subject of the post, while actually about how and why I love Joe.My.God, spent a certain amount of time bemoaning the fact that I was reduced to writing out the entire addresses, rather than creating elegant links that don't break the flow of the text. So Brian, ever helpful, particularly on subjects computer and internet, kindly wrote a detailed explanation of how one created links writing the html code. The oh so random example he chose, THAT was the magic phrase that was drawing random strangers to that entry. Since I'm trying NOT to torment these people further, I'm not going to write what the magic phrase was, but you can go see for yourself. Hell, if you know Brian, you can probably make an educated guess.

Now, I didn't feel too badly about getting people's hopes up on this issue either, since again, I assumed their google searches too were turning up more satisfying hits. The thing is, not only is it getting hit more often of late, for some reason this baby has also gone international in a BIG way. More and more the visitors are coming from non-English speaking countries, many of which consider the search topic involved to be criminal behavior. It's even possible just doing the google search is illegal in some parts. So if people are taking that kind of risk, and hell, probably typing one-handed while they do it, I feel bad for misleading them, and boring them on top of it. One poor bastard even had the whole thing translated, just to make sure he wasn't missing anything good. And he really, really wasn't.

So, while I don't mean to suggest my blog has any great clout on the world stage, I think I will be taking that post. It just seems cruel.


Java said...

A-ha. I see the ruse you used, however unintentional, to direct more traffic to your blog. And yes, those looking for that phrase will be disappointed by what you offer. It's a shame, really, because you offer so much more valuable substance, wit, and intelligence than that for which they come.

The lesson: if you type it, they will come.

I also think your satiric style works pretty well.

EB said...

So you don't feel that having this kind of data has a negative affect on how you write? That's my concern, that's why I don't have a blog counter etc. I've thought that if I were trying to make posts more popular, self-expression would be hindered. Since my stuff is mostly photos of shrubs, maybe this nicety is a bit wasted...

Patrick said...

Java: yes, I'm ever so clever, am I not? But I'm also hoping to spread the wealth around, to other blogs I feel exhibit some fine substance and wit too, such as yours.

EB: you know, that thought hadn't even occurred to me, but now that you mention it, I can see the temptation. Maybe this indicates just how self-involved I am with this blog; as Java says 'if you type it, they will come.' What this has meant in my case is, I jot down whatever random synaptic firings are going off in my head, then I'm surprised at who else shares my obsessions. I have found myself writing posts with particular readers/commenters in mind, as part of an ongoing conversation, but I don't know how to interprete the general statistical data well enough to have it influence my writing. I'd have never predicted that pictures of my aloe plants would be as popular as they are, for example. Once you figure in cookies, who leaves them, who doesn't, I wind up having no clue what the counter is telling me. But the map is cool.

Brian said...

Hah hah hah! Don't you dare take that post down!

I am very pleased with myself right now.

Butch said...

I have always found your blog interesting and enjoyable. Though, I haven't visited nearly as often as I would like, when I do stop by, I'm never disappointed.

My word verification is: pardi
( . . .like it's 1999 )

Greg said...

Ha ha ha...I will add my voice to the clamour: you simply mustn't delete that post - the people googling it NEED to be exposed to something different, and that post - between your title and Brian's wonderful example - is a sort of double whammy, anyway, eh? "Links a Go-Go" just conjurs up naked sausage for me, anyway...but that's what I get reading blogs in lieu of lunch, perhaps.

Thanks for the reminder - I've been missing having that counter tag on the Wordpress version of the Midnight Garden - I have always enjoyed knowing who's visiting and from where and - poor bastards - why. WP doesn't seem to offer that level of support.

Nice to see that springtime (I assume the season is responsible) is seeing you so prolific, pal! Your words are always a pleasure.

Birdie said...

I don't know if my counter can tell me which posts are popular; I'll check into it just 'cause it's interesting. I've got hits from all over the world for ONE google term: strelitzia. Those looking for bird of paradise info are going to be sorely disappointed, as perhaps some of your readers are. But if your accidental guests stop to stay and read, I'll bet they're not disappointed at all.

Word ver: caters. My second actual word.

Patrick said...

Brian: why doesn't it surprise me that would be your reaction? Okay, for you. I'll see about returning the favor on your blog, very soon.

Butch, Greg & Birdie: you're all very sweet, I didn't mean to beg for compliments. One of the thing that has delighted me about the whole blogging phenomenon is the way so many like-minded folks have found one another. As a further answer to EB, I would say I'm always surprised by which blog entries garner the greatest number of responses. It rarely works the way I would predict, but if there is a trend, I'd say that the more passionate I am on a subject, the more likely I am to connect with like-minded folks. There's some valuable lesson there, I think.

Stephen said...

I have been Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered by the hits on my blog also. Thanks for the info & opinions by you & your friends.
I must is a bit a thrill to see that someone in Dubai or New Zealand is reading my blog at the same moment that I am posting etc.

I like your blog a bunch & visit fairly often.