Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Mysterious growth in visitor numbers from China

Readership statistics according to Blogspot
It is now 3 years since I started this blog and so I decided to review the visitor tracking statistics. I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was an apparent dramatic increase in the number of page views near the end of 2012.

This surprised me since I hadn't changed my blogging habits in any significant way. Therefore I decided to dig a little deeper. When I started the blog, I enabled Google Analytics tracking because the statistics provided by the Blogspot platform was much more limited. It turns out that the statics provided by each tracking platform were quite different and Google Analyitics doesn't see any  similar growth in visitors.

To understand why there might be a difference you need to understand that Google Analytics works by executing a snippet of JavaScript in the visitor's browser. Almost all browsers today support JavaScript soI would not expect many normal visits to fail to be registered. However, visits to the blog that come from automated programs won't register. It seems that there has recently been a huge leap in the number of visits to my blog that come from automated bots.

The other thing that has changed is the location that the visitors come from. When I looked at the location of my visitors from 2011 most of my visitors came from Ireland (which is not a surprise) and  I had no readers at all from China (I assume that this was because the great firewall of China was blocking access to the Blogger platform). However, I got my first visitor from China in 2012 and they now represent the a very significant proportion of the visitors (according to Blogger statistics, but not according to Google Analytics)

There is definitely something dodgy going on, because I don't think that I am suddenly popular in China. Perhaps this article from the BBC gives some clue.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

[xpost] No longer a reluctant blogger after 7 years

I recently got a note about the plans to finally shut down the old BlogCentral blogging site. This was the first internal Blogging platform deployed in IBM and although it is technically still active, in recent years employees have been encouraged to use the blogging service that is bundled in IBM Connections instead.

The old service currently gets very little traffic and so it is no surprise that the service will be turned off - however, since blogs can be a useful historical record there is a plan to migrate content from the old service to the new one. In order to reduce the load on the migration tool, the administrators asked all blog owners to review their blogs and to delete anything that they didn't think should be migrated.

This is the first social networking site that I ever used, so I was a little bit nervous to see what embarrassing rubbish I had been writing back then. I saw that my old blog was called "Brian's Braindump" to reflect that I wasn't sure what I wanted to blog about (not much has changed there), but I was surprised to see that my first blog post was entitled "A Reluctant Blogger", and it was published almost exactly 7 years ago. In this initial post I explained that I didn't really see the point in all of these social networking tools and that I was only establishing the blog due to peer pressure of colleagues telling me that this would be the next big thing and that I ought to try it out.

I suppose a lot has changed over the last seven years. While I might still struggle to explain my own motivation for using social networking tools, I definitely could no longer be described as a reluctant blogger. In fact I suppose that I have taken to the concept with the zeal of a convert. I wonder what I will be writing about in 2020 and what tools will I be using to write it?

Thursday, February 7, 2013 really works!

I am a big fan of the idea of applications that allow citizens to directly communicate with their local council. As a result I installed the FixMyStreet Ireland app on my phone which is a convenient interface to the web site which can be used to report issues to your local council. In common with similar services in other countries this is a deceptively simple application that automatically directs your problem reports to the appropriate council. Whenever, citizens spot a problem the most common reason given for not reporting it is that the person doesn't know whom to report it to. The beautiy of FixMyStreet is that it knows where to forward your report based upon what type of problem it is and where you are (it can use the location from your GPS to figure out which council is responsible for solving the issue).

My inner geek was keen to try out the app. However, I was reluctant to divert valuable council resources into fixing minor issues just so I could see whether or not the app works properly. For the last few months I have been searching for a real problem that I could report (there is never a pothole available when you need one).

There is a bridge that I needs to cycle across on my route to work each morning.  A few weeks ago I noticed a minor blemish in the road where somebody had dug up the road to lay a cable and had not repaired the road properly. Initially the problem was very minor, but the recent cold weather seemed to cause the material used to repair the road to crack and come loose. Gradually the problem became worse until there was a sizable hole in the road which made one entire lane impassable on a bike.

For a few days I got off my bike and carried it past the hole, until I suddenly remembered that this was an ideal opportunity to try out the app. Yesterday morning, I filed my first problem report describing the issue. Unfortunately I didn't properly save the picture. I suspected that the council officials would think I was exaggerating about the size of the hole so I decided to stop again this morning and update my problem report with a picture.  To my amazement I saw that the problem was already fixed.

I must publicly applaud Fingal County Council - even in this tough economic climate they are doing a great job of responding to complaints,