Sunday, January 29, 2006

What's in the access logs

My web provided phpwebhosting, provides out of the box usage for webalizer, a simple statistics package. They also provide some simple analog statistics, including the most recent access logs. Sometimes I check the logs, just to see what's up, or to see if there are any site problems.

Earlier this month, I put out my annual newsletter to friends and family. I took a chance on it, using larger images in a slide show format, with no preloads -- as preloads would delay the entire page coming up. The access logs showed two things -- 1) the experiment didn't work quite as planned, as it indicated clearly that the amount of show for each slide wasn't always long enough for it to display, and 2) that people like looking at Bruce Springsteen, even if it's only in a picture with me. The Springsteen picture got substantially more traffic than any other. In a normal day I might get 30mb of traffic; in the first day after I sent out the newsletter, it was over 400mb.

The webalizer stats show search strings that led to my site. Most of the searches that end up on my site are for the Springsteen discography, but in the margins there are always a few that seem strange. For example: A search for "toilet" apparently can get one to the site. Once upon a time, I took a picture of Aaron near a toilet, and labelled it. That must have done it; every month there are a couple of toilet searches that end up at

The logs can show who has borrowed my site for various purposes. There's a French site, for example, that has wholesale copied over some of my gallery pages into one of its own pages; every time someone hits that site I get a bunch of hits.

That was more or less expected. Something a bit less expected was the impact of avatars. Avatars, little images of a couple hundred pixels square or less, are fairly common in various discussion boards as identifiers. Typically, someone just uploads a little image from their hard drive to use, but a web reference may be made as well. The images that I put up in the gallery are mostly -- perfect for an avatar.

One of the stats given by webalizer is the number of sites from which access is made to On a typical day, this number is typically between 300 and 500. Until Thursday of this week, when there were 914 different sites making access to! What's that all about? On Friday, it was even higher -- 1105. What happened?

I checked the access logs. Seems I was getting a lot of hits from a discussion board at A new member joined on Tuesday, and decided to use an image of the Born in the U.S.A. single as his avatar. And he's been very active. Every time he posts, I get a hit. Every time someone looks at one of his posts, I get a hit. It's funny, in a way. It's a lousy scan -- one of several I need to re-do. There is a certain temptation to send him a message when I re-scan it... something like, "Hi Phil, how do you like this one?" The list of discussion boards and blogs using an image from as an avatar is interesting -- everything from Bruce boards to baseball. Someday it may be worth a list...

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