Sun 31 Mar 2013
Last Tuesday this blog published its 400th posting. In its nearly eight years of existence, SparselySageAndTimely has managed to inform, amuse, or irritate visitors each week without fail.
Moreover, the number of visitors it attracts keeps growing. I pay attention to which topics interest people, and like many other bloggers, I depend on Google Analytics to tell me how many readers I have and where they live. But suddenly strange things are happening at Google.
A Google Analytics graph indicates 3,335 people from around the world visited SparselySageAndTimely during March.
Google Analytics, which is supposed to tally how many people visit this blog each day, reported that on Saturday, SparselySageAndTimely drew 256 visitors from around the globe, up from 255 on Friday. For a blog that focuses on small-town life, those are pretty good numbers. [After this posting was already online, Google Analytics reported a whopping 428 people visited SparselySageAndTimely on Sunday.]
Google Analytic’s graph of how many visits this blog received from the Point Reyes Station area during March.
Google, however, seems determined to rain on my parade. SparselySageAndTimely’s highest number of visits (averaging about 10 a day) has traditionally come from Point Reyes Station, where this blog originates. Nonetheless, the Google Analytics’ graph for March suggests that everyone in town suddenly stopped reading SparselySageAndTimely three and a half weeks ago.
If Google were to be believed, this blog has received only one visit from Point Reyes Station since March 5 and no visits whatsoever from any other town in West Marin. I might worry that SparselySageAndTimely had somehow offended all its readers here or bored them to death except for the fact that West Marin residents continue commenting to me about postings they’ve just read.
I’m not enough of a computer techie to figure out at what point — along the Internet — Google Analytics lost track of West Marin. As far as this blogger is concerned, it’s annoying to receive obviously incorrect statistics; however, it’s also reassuring to know conclusively that the days when readership is reportedly high are, in fact, even better. And days when readership is reportedly low aren’t really all that bad.
Janine Warner of DigitalFamily.com designed this website, and offhand she wasn’t sure what the problem might be or how to find out. One possibility, she said, is that residents of the Point Reyes Station area are now being counted in with residents of a neighboring community.
I checked the numbers for all the nearby towns and cities, and none of them appeared to have suddenly increased its readership. But then as I looked at the above list of the 10 communities in California with the most readers, something caught my attention. Sunnyvale.
Has Silicon Valley hijacked West Marin? With 118 visitors a month to this blog, Sunnyvale has now jumped to second place behind San Francisco with its 157 visitors. Until the first week of March, Google was consistently reporting that SparselySageAndTimely.com had more readers in little old Point Reyes Station than in those two cities combined. In less than a month, if Google’s statistics were to be believed, this blog’s hometown has dropped to sixth place in readership and will soon disappear from the Internet.
As Mark Twain wrote, “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
All of this is, of course, just a curiosity of the Worldwide Web. The only real damage it does is to my ability to see what topics are of greatest interest to people in West Marin.
Far worse damage will occur at the end of June when Google eliminates its RSS feeds. RSS stands for Rich Site Summary or alternately Really Simple Syndication. RSS feeds notify readers by email when a new posting goes online, as well as provide a link to the posting.
More than 92 percent of this blog’s readers in Point Reyes Station visit more than once a month, and some of these readers have told me they use a Google RSS feed to alert them to new postings. When Google eliminates its RSS feeds come July 1, this blog might actually lose some West Marin readers.
It’s a dilemma, and at the moment I’m pondering alternative solutions. What a way to celebrate turning 400!