Afterthought — Phantom Page Hits? (Nov. 25, 2003): Here are excerpts from an e-mail sent by the Editor to several eminent webloggers on Nov. 24, 2003:
You may recall that I wondered aloud back in October whether the blogosphere existed, or at least whether its extent is quite as large as some proponents and experts claim. There have been further reasons for my skepticism, related to the phenomenon of Phantom Page Hits. Let me explain:
Although I hate to reveal such paltry numbers, ethicalEsq? is the only weblog for which I have any figures, so here they are, rounded for convenience (figures taken from the Harvard Weblog Topsites Page) :
- for the five weeks from 8/24 through 10/1/2003: 21,000 page hits (probably my best weeks ever)
- for the five weeks from 10/19 through 11/23/2003: 18,000 page hits (more than a week after my Final Post, after the Sympathy-Eulogy hits slowed down, and with no headlines on Detod, plus removal from DailyWhirl).
Only a 14% drop after closing down the shop. What does this mean? How are my Dormancy Period page hits being generated? My Mom’s been without a computer since October 1st, so it can’t be her, and my twin never has time to check up on me. Are these just robots and spiders, and echoes of pings? Are Howard’s 3 million hits a bit overinflated, too?
Naturally, I’m being a little bit frivolous, but I would love to hear any explanations or theories. Are we all just talking to eachother, with very few actual, human “visitors” who are not also webloggers (webjournalistes)? Is this why there are so few Comments from people we don’t already know?
Just wonderin’, with too much time on my idled hands and addled mind. [See Scheherazade Fowler's thoughtful response with comments at Stay of Execution.]
One week ago, Dave Sifry announced that Technorati is monitoring one million weblogs. I hate to sound skeptical, but I’ve been wondering for some time now if the blogosphere really exists — and, if so, whether its population of actual human beings is greater than the dozen persons who I’ve been able to verify as writing, editing, operating or otherwise keeping a journal-style web site. Are all those stats and links and page hits just a big hoax?
Frankly, obtaining a satisfactory answer to these questions is more than a little difficult for a non-techie, baby-boomer living in Upstate New York. However, I had hoped to attend BloggerCon2003 this weekend to see for myself if anyone showed up besides Dave Winer and Jim Moore (both of whom I’m almost certain exist, as does the famous Ernest the Internist, and Denise of the Baggy Wardrobe, and unFoolish George). Circumstances beyond my control have upset those plans, leaving me here at home with the same nagging doubts. [I mean they did call it BloggerCon.]
Well, my concerns increased considerably just a few minutes ago. I went to the purported Sites We’re Hosting page for Weblogs at Harvard Law, and noticed that a new-to-me weblog called vespertine was in the top ten sites for page hits today. I clicked on the link to see just what had attracted over 300 page hits before 6 P.M.
What I found is profoundly worrisome, as this is the entire content of the weblog called vespertine: