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Sunday, August 28, 2005

Hark, Who Goes There: Determining Who's Visiting Your Website

Correct me if I'm wrong, but my hypothesis is that bloggers are generally sociable people. So they probably want to know who is visiting their blogsite. There are a number of free tracking sites, including gVisit, which hacks Google Maps by plotting the (approximate) city that your visitors are coming from. gVisit displays one icon per unique visitor at approximately the city they are from. (I say approximately because a St. Louis, Missouri icon was displayed over Washington, DC for one of my blogsites.) If you click on an icon, a dialog pops up which shows the city name and the visit date and time. [I apologize to whomever wrote the gVisit blog entry that I originally read. I'll be a bit more diligent with my references in the future.]

As cool as gVisit is, there is no information about multiple visits on the same day. Although they do say that if you give them a donation, they'll increase the features for the site(s) you're tracking. Still, what I would love to see is a combination of what gVisit is doing, and historical visit information. So when you click on a visit icon, you'll get a dialog that pops up a ton of information about that visitor in terms of visit history, pages visited, and possibly even graphs plotting each visitor's repeat visit data.

For software to convert IP addresses (stored in your web server "access" log) to country codes, you could use a new product ($$) called CountryHawk, or get pretty much the same information free from Maxmind's GeoIP country files and webscripts. I'm using the latter for personal use, but will be combining a Google Map hack with historical metrics information for each visitor. The only drawback is that GeoIP provides a conversion from IP addresses to a country code. If you want to convert each IP address into a city (95-98% accuracy), that costs extra, and the data cannot be redistributed.

That's not to say there isn't a way to produce the same IP-to-city list for free. I have an idea buzzing around in my mind and will be trying it out the next few weeks. Whatever I end up with, I'll package it all, convert my Perl scripts into PHP and MySQL, and post the software on my web server for free (donations welcome). So keep an eye out on these pages for my own country-based visitor analysis tools. If I can manage it, I may be able to set this all up as an admin plugin for Blog CMS packages such as WordPress or TextPatterns.

(c) Copyright 2005, Raj Kumar Dash, http://blogspinner.blogspot.com

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BlogSpinner-X serves two primary purposes. Firstly, it houses the original version of my Blogspinner blog, and contains the full-text of my older entries. Secondly, the more recent entries are excerpts of the full-text entries posted over on Blogspinner V2.0. In other words, the "X" stands for "eXcerpt".

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I'm a geek/ philosopher/ composer/ artist/ cook/ web programmer/ consultant/ photographer/ blah-blah-blah who is also a published writer and author. This is one of several blogs that I write.

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