Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Things You Tell Me ...

And what I do with that information.

If you will notice at the bottom of the right hand sidebar there is a small sitemeter icon. It tells me how many hits this blog gets, a general location and partial IP of where the hit is coming from, when it happened, how long the person was here and how many pages they looked at, if they were referred here from another site, and if they exited via a link. Some blogs leave this information available to everyone who stops in. I have it passworded so only I can see it. If you don’t want to leave these kinds of tracks, you will need to get an anonymizer of some kind. I use the free version of sitemeter which tracks the most recent 100 visitors. After that the information scrolls off the screen. So, generally, I only have a day’s statistics at a time.

Having this information allows me to tailor the content of the blog to what readers seem to want. About a third of my visitors come here via search engines, often having typed in the names of candidates, bills, and so on. This has encouraged me to continue doing candidate interviews, the weekly legislative updates, and other lengthy time consuming projects. People are using them and coming back to them months after they are posted. This makes me very happy. These items seldom generate a lot of comments and without usage statistics I would assume they weren’t attracting any interest and stop.

“Aha,” you may say, “but what else do you do with that information besides sit around and feel smug?” Good question. Let me answer it. These rules are general and I have broken each of them at least once. In my view if you can reach the bar easily it is set too low. So I set the standards a little higher and sometimes make exceptions depending on circumstances.

In general I keep usage information to myself. If I have posted an interview or lengthy posting on a candidate and am on good terms with someone at that campaign I sometimes tell them how many people have been looking at it. If there is a sudden rush of interest in a particular item and I am on good terms with someone at that campaign I might tell them there is a sudden rush of interest. For the most part I keep the specifics private, though there have been exceptions.

You are welcome to leave comments here, either attached to a blogger profile or anonymously. Some people adopt pseudonyms so they are anonymous but tagged as the same person who had stopped in to comment before. This is fine with me and it is actually nice to know some of the same people are stopping back in. I have no problem with people associated with a campaign leaving anonymous comments. Paid campaign staff are welcome to leave occasional comments, even anonymously, especially if they provide clarification or correct a misconception, but I’d rather they didn’t paper the blog with propaganda. Note that I do not use profanity or vulgar language (at least here). I would prefer that people not use that kind of language in comments. I’d like the blog to be available in public libraries and other places that might have filters installed. I would rather not have a lot of mean-spirited ad hominim attacks. If you like or dislike a candidate by all means express yourself but back up your opinions with something substantive. “Candidate X kicks puppies,” just doesn’t cut it. If someone makes a nuisance of themselves I will let them know nicely once, maybe twice, and then review my options. In general I don’t delete comments. Two exceptions have been (1) when people became involved in a series of personal attacks on each other with a lot of cursing and name calling, and (2) when one post had to be altered and the comments no longer made sense.

There is one other privacy policy I should announce. In general I do not share the contents of emails I receive or “bcc” anyone else on what I send out. The primary exception to this is if you tell me you are doing something unethical. If I am on good terms with any of the people affected I may tip them off. You are sorely tempting my virtue and I may not pass the test.

9 comments:

plshark said...

Jane,

As President of this blog, I believe you are covered under Article II of the Blogger Ethics Constitution. Just don't tell anyone I once contributed to a Republican's campaign...

Tom

AboveAvgJane said...

tom,

I've contributed to a few Republicans myself. I won't tell if you won't. ;)

Something came up this week that led to this post. I'm also not sure that people understand what sort of tracks they leave and I wanted to just put that information out there.

Yes, yes, it is geeky to post these things but you may be seeing more of them in the near future.

Gort said...

AAJ,

I use my site meter in the same way. Sometimes I put an offhand comment in a post and discover I'm getting seach hits on that topic. So I write more about it. The most suprising thing I have discovered is that my little blog has regular readers in Congress and the state house. And since we are confessing our sins, I too have been nice to Republicans.

AboveAvgJane said...

Gort,

It's interesting you should say that. I have a few regular hits from congressional and state govt computers as well. When all the blogs you read about are the big national ones I think that readership at our smaller state focused blogs is an indication that local blogging has a place in the blogosphere. We can cover things that won't show up in the Big Guys. The "long tail" of small blogs, as it is called, fill a niche that voters, as well as officials and candidates, find useful. We may not get hundreds of comments but we do serve a purpose.

Gort said...

Good point Jane,

When I started blogging I was just going to do baseball but the political animal in me took over. There are so many good national blogs on both sides that I knew I couldn't compete. I noticed that there was only one blog covering local issues and that one is centered on issues of the city of Wilkes-Barre and he does a great job. To put it business terms, I saw a niche in the market that needed to be filled. As far as I know I'm the only blog devoted to Luzerne County politics (with occasional detours).

BTW, congrats on your Koufax nomination. I was disappointed you didn't make the finals.

PSoTD said...

Jane - I find the local interest is a more long-term traffic area. I have posts from last year on Central PA items that get regular traffic still - primarily because the blog has high profile in Google's results. Not the same case for any national story.

Steve said...

I'd like to tell you and your readers some important information about Montgomery County vote machines and election reform efforts in Montco. Is there another way to reach you?

Steve
ELECTION REFORM NETWORK
sstrahsATaoldotcom

andrew said...

As a new blogger totally obsessed with my sitemeter, I hadn't thought about actually crafting a policy on the use of sitemeter info. Fascinating! Did you model this on a policy you found elsewhere?

AboveAvgJane said...

Andrew, to the best of my knowledge I made it up. Something spurred this post and it seemed a good time to just spell things out. It has helped me to have a flexible set of rules, fewer day to day policy decisions means more time for blog content. If you plan on being around for awhile and working with people who are in the public eye it can help to build up a trust level and stated policies can be a beginning step until you have a history of confidentiality to rely on.