Thursday, April 03, 2008

Strange. I always found GCSE Extra Statistics really dull...

Yes, yes, it's the great statistics debate again. Personally, I am happy to host this little debate and, let's face it, your humble Devil's comment threads have never been so lively. Following on from this March statpr0n post (wherein the liveliness has been occuring), young Master Guido has emailed a screenshot from his Statcounter.

As I pointed out in the thread, Statcounter uses the nomenclature of Absolute Uniques. Perhaps we are getting bogged down in semantics and a little technical ignorance here?

After all, it wasn't until eight months after I started blogging that your humble Devil realised that there were any Statcounters (I was getting 250 Page Views a week back then), and I have certainly used the Absolute Uniques because Statcounter told me that they were.

However, I was also aware that they were possibly slightly inflated (bots and the suchlike) so I have always taken them with a slight pinch of salt. For the record, I am proud and grateful that people read these ramblings: certainly I never expected to get the traffic that I do. I would carry on even if I were not being read (catharsis, you see) but it is immensely encouraging to know that people are reading nevertheless.

For my part, I know of several people (in fact I met a good number at the Reform bash on Monday) who only read Iain and Guido (or even just one of them) and never click through to other sites: I don't think that that is the fault of either of the bloggers, more the lack of curiosity of some readers.

UPDATE: whilst I was writing this post, Iain has sent me his "Unique Visitors" stats from Extreme Tracking (and as named by Extreme Tracking).

Part of the reason that I am happy to host this debate is that I happen to share Toque's sentiments about all of this.
To be frank you're—all four—too talented and opinionated to be wasting your time with this sort of thing when political life in the UK is at such a low ebb.

It seems to me that bloggers should not be at each others throats: I feel a greater kindred with my fellow bloggers, even those I have never met (and I know both Iain and Paul reasonably well, and Tim and I have spoken on a couple of occasions), than I do for all of the politicians and other assorted idiots that we attack.

I have, in you like, always viewed it as "we bloggers versus the world." Or versus the politicos, at any rate. Mind you, I'm confrontational like that. I mean, I would add in "me versus the socialists" too, but then I have a lot of respect for many of the left-wing bloggers too (Justin (a fine writer who was also the first blogger to link to me), Unity (whose exhaustive research abilities have been a great deal of help), etc.).

Whatever you think of the various methods, we have made notable advances. Iain and Guido have, unquestionably, advanced a greater public knowledge of blogging (whether you think it's the "right kind of blogging" is, at this point, moot).

Tim, of course, has made himself such a fucking nuisance to the government that they are (hopefully) about to repeal the Act against demonstrating near Parliament. Which is, frankly, a fine achievement on any level.

I would say that this is good work all round and that we shouldn't be having these destructive kinds of wars, fun though they occasionally are. I mean, obviously, I'll carry on calling people "cunts" and will, as such, never be given my own exciting newspaper column, but you big boys should carry on packing those punches.


Guido Fawkes said...

Like I said on the last thread, we report our figures accurately and according to industry norms used widely.

Now both Iain and myself have made a full and comprehensive disclosure of all three metrics.

So as stated in my original Stat Porn post on my blog yesterday, (which incidentally Tim quoted the Stat Counter number, not the Google Analytics number as you claimed) here it is in full colour pixels.

Tim in your mind you might be right, but everywhere else according to the tracking software companies we are right.

You still haven't posted your numbers have you?

Let us be clear, by all metrics, Guido Fawkes and Iain Dale leave you and your dull tedious blog way behind. Learn to deal with it. Matter closed.

Unity said...

Question for you Guido.

How have you got Statcounter configured to track 'unique' visitors?

Unlike Google Analytics, counts absolute uniques according to the time period specified for its report - so in Iain's case this gives the number of unique individuals accessing the site over the course of the full month such that:

One user making one visit in a month = one absolute unique.

One user making 10 visits in a month - one absolute unique.

Statcounter can be configured to assess uniques on anything from a 30 minute to a 24 hour basis so, in Guido's stats:

One IP making one visit in a month = one unique, but

One IP making 20 visits on different days in a month = 20 uniques.

Using statcounter, Guido coulf easily take his numbers over a million simply by altering how statcounter is configured to treat visits made 30 minutes apart as unique rather than using a 24 hour limit.

Guido Fawkes said...

It is on a day to month cycle and I don't even know if it is alterable. I have given the data in all three forms using day and month cycles using the two services I use. There isn't anything more to really add.

Every metric used, puts Iain and I at the top. Even when some tried counting RSS subscriptions it put me ahead.

Tim can quibble all he likes, but that is the fact and he can't knock it down. He can quibble all he likes.

Now if you don't mind, I am truly bored with the subject. So until next month.

The reason I entered this argument here is because I don't to bore my readers, Tim might have more traffic if he focused on politics rather than political blogging rivals.

Iain Dale said...

Unity, I hope you accept that there has been absolutely no deception here, except in Tim's mind, which is clouded by his vindictive and malicious war against Paul and me. We have both been far more transparent than Tim, who refuses to back up his own claims in his original post on this three days ago.

Now, like Paul, I too have a life.

Aaron Murin-Heath said...

Speaking of StatP0rn, DK.

Hosting this little bitchfest must be doing your numbers a world of good.

Next week, over at tygerland, I'm hosting a get together where we can all have a pissing contest.

Guido, make sure you don't get your inches and centimetres mixed up, eh?

Iain Dale said...

That's funny! I use yards, meself.

Devil's Kitchen said...


Lots of referrals from Tim, yup.

Not that I actually did this for the figures: as MatGB and Toque said, it's quality that matters.

Many of those coming to watch this spat won't be back afterwards...


Old BE said...

I measure quality by the debates that start up in the comments. Iain, Guido and yourself Mr DK are streets ahead of any of the other blogs I visit.

My blog stats peaked when Mr Dale and Mr Kitchen linked to me simultaneously and are very down since then.

Devil's Kitchen said...

You've been writing some excellent posts recently though. I have you on RSS Feed and tend to read solely through that.

But I shall link again...!


Old BE said...

For career reasons I'm afraid my blog is past its peak. I have to watch what I say a bit now...

Unity said...

Deception, Iain?

If you mean do I think you've talked yourself up a bit too much in the past on the back of numbers that are a trifle meaningless, then the honest answer would be yes.

If you mean 'done with deliberate intent to mislead your readers' then I'm more inclined to say no as I think you're still only just getting to grips with the whole business of blog stats and what they do and don't mean.

If its a choice between cock-up and conspiracy then I'll take cock-up unless there's good evidence to suggest otherwise and, in any case, it doesn't really matter as there's no real money riding on your numbers.

Messagespace is a slightly different issue because they charge for placing ads, so it matters to their clients whether their numbers stack up. That said, the whole business of on-line advertising is far from an exact science, so while there are aspects of their claimed numbers which look a little iffy, its not at all clear to me whether they are any better or worse in that respect than anyone else in the industry.

There's currently no online equivalent of the ABC measure for circulation and until there is there will always be some contention on this issue.

That said, Iain, you do sometimes bring this on yourself a little by making the odd daft comparison to the big boys in the MSM. For the record, from what I can see you can reasonably draw parallels between your numbers and those of the online presences of niche titles like the Spectator and New Statesman, but its still a big reach to compare yourself to their print operations, which is a very different matter.

Of much more interest to me, at the moment, is how your numbers compare with your party's efforts to colonise cyberspace, which I've just covered here which you may find interesting, even if some of what I've dug up will be make for painful reading at CCHQ.

It seems to that you can take this on, yourself, in two ways. You can keep arguing the toss with Tim or you can take the view that regardless on any animosity, his evaluation of your stats is actually on the mark so far as what the various elements actually mean and what can be legitimately inferred from them, and adjust accordingly.

In terms of what your numbers say about your blog in relation to the rest of the political blogosphere, it makes no great difference. In terms of how your blog relates to the MSM and its online presence, yes it does make your occasional bout of past over-enthusiasm look a little daft in hindsight, but then I think you're already realising that more and more on account of what you'll have come to learn from writing the business plan for your new magazine.

MatGB said...

Overall on this I do concur with Unity (who said it better than I would have but with many many more words than I can normally be bothered with).

But there is a final point to wrap up. Guido, never got around to meeting you while in London (same applies to Iain, nearly came to Doughty St with DK once, I'd say it was "the time he was already pissed on arrival" but you'd have to respond "which one", naturally), bu t I have met Tim, DK and a bunch of others.

When you say "Tim might have more traffic if he focused on politics rather than political blogging rivals." and also say things like "all bloggers care about their numbers", it's palpably not actually true, in either case. Tim doesn't want your audience, nor does he want your sort of blog. He genuinely believes in the power of the internet as a leveller in politics and wants to use it to improve democracy.

He believes your willy waving damages the reputation of all blogs, including stopping some politicians from setting their own up. He's not jealous of your numbers, if he wanted to run a gossip blog, he could, instead he runs a meta-blogging blog that also includes a fair amount of politics. It's genuinely not a comparison to run your site down or make him look nearly as big as him. It's pointing out that, at times, the numbers you quote are inflated or use inexact terminology.

Given that you take money from people based on your stats, inexactitudes such as this, even if inadvertent, make a difference. And if an advertiser decides they've been ripped off, then that's one less potential advertiser not just for you, but for any blogger wanting to run ads.

If you (and Iain) always approach Tim's stuff, which does at times come across as obsessive, as if he's jealous, you'll misread his intent completely, as he's really not. Yes, he uses OTT hyperbole but, um, so do you.

Anyway, I have a report to write, I'll keep reading the comments coming into my inbox though.

Guido Fawkes said...

A little bit of information before people get confused and this idea takes on a life.

Online advertisers don't rent spots for a month or a day like you buy a page in a newspaper. They buy them on a cost per thousand basis to be delivered over a specified period. No ad delivered, no count. So if a browser has an ad-blocker, no ad is delivered, no count is made.

Advertisers don't trust ad agencies to count it for them either, they put their own tracking code in their ads. Advertisers count it themselves, which is not something you can do with newspaper circulation.

MessageSpace puts ads on quality blogs which meet their minimum traffic levels. Tim chose not to sign up for his own idiosyncratic reasons, but he could have and so can you.

[They pay a lot better than Google adverts as well.]

Tim said...

Bless you for speaking out in favour of MessageSpace. And out of the goodness of your heart, too. You really are a beautiful human being.

Mind you, the question I have for MessageSpace is in this thread.

Anonymous said...

Personally I prefer to read blogs that are witty and interesting, rather than popular. That said I find Guido and DK to be both of those things, as well as highlighting the sort of stories I am interested in.

Since I tend to 'pop' in to both sites (and others) several times a day, do I count as 1 person in the month or a whole host?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
QT said...

"If you (and Iain) always approach Tim's stuff, which does at times come across as obsessive, as if he's jealous, you'll misread his intent completely, as he's really not. Yes, he uses OTT hyperbole but, um, so do you."

"Obsessive" might be a bit strong, but Tim does seem to me to be a little preoccupied with Guido and Dale and their blogs. I don't know if anyone's ever counted what proportion Bloggerheads posts are about either Guido or Dale, but I reckon its a pretty high percentage.

JuliaM said...

"...if he wanted to run a gossip blog, he could, instead he runs a meta-blogging blog that also includes a fair amount of politics..."

But sadly for him, few if any readers..

MatGB said...

Ian: "what proportion Bloggerheads posts are about either Guido or Dale, but I reckon its a pretty high percentage."

Undoubtedly. But a huge chunk of Tim's content has always been meta-blogging (ie blogging about blogging).

It's fairly natural if you're writing a meta-blog to write more about the "top" brands within the sphere. A huge proportion of Slashdot stories are about Google and Microsoft, they're the market leaders within their spheres, I expect a lot of content about them from a blog about tech stuff.

If writing a blog about political blogging, it would be remiss to not cover the "top" blogs, especially given both also seek media attention and similar.

Having said that, he doesn't cover several of the other 'top' blogs half as much, and I know that the comments policy at PoliticalBetting causes problems and is full of misinformation, for example. Huge number of sock puppets and astroturfers in there, and the threads are frequently unreadable, which is a shame.

I guess if you promote yourself as "the top blogger" you have to expect a lot of stuff written about you, whereas if you just get on with being the top blogger(s) (like or even Liberal Conspiracy and DK) then you get less flack?

No idea. I write a lot of meta posts about my corner of blogdom, this is of interest to most but not all of my readers, but there have been times I've been accused of being obsessive. Meh, really not my fight, I've tended to mostly watch from the sidelines in amusement, while telling potential clients to pay attention to those who're using blogging to aid their real career effectively instead.

Anonymous said...

Hey Tim,

I've added a couple of comments that might answer a few questions that relate to MessageSpace on the StatPr0n post

rwendland said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Devil's Kitchen said...

The default is 30 seconds and the recommended is 1 hour. However, it can go up to 24 hours.

However, as Iain points out, his Google Analytics are in much the same ballpark: what's the default for Google?


rwendland said...

[corrected post (muddled Iain/Guido details) - DK has already answered above]

This info page suggests that the default visitor session length is just 1 hour. If that is the case, one active blog watcher could easily create several StatCounter "unique visitors" per day by checking the blog a few times per day.

Anyone have an authoritative ref for what the StatCounter default visitor session length is? This could help in explaining why Guido's StatCounter Unique Visitors numbers are so much higher his Google Analytics 78,851 Absolute Unique Visitors number.

rwendland said...

This claims 30 mins of inactivity creates a new Visit in Google Analytics. So both Google Analytics and StatCounter would by default count several visits (or StatCounter "Unique Visitors") per day for fairly active blog-watchers.

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