I’ve set up an annoying little traffic counter for this blog. Annoying because if you look at the bottom of the left-hand column, you see a blinking image that signals the counter’s presence. Annoying because the traffic service’s site delivers loads of garbage ads. And annoying because looking at the number of hits my site gets can all too easily become a distraction from more meaningful pursuits.
But the counter does have its interesting side. One thing it does is detect and report the Internet addresses of visitors and from which pages on the Web they’ve arrived. Between 70 and 80 percent of the people who arrive here do so through a search that has delivered one of my pages as a result. The remainder appear to be people — none of them individually identifiable — who come directly to the page through a link or a bookmark or typing the site’s address into their browsers.
If someone arrives on the site through a Google or Yahoo! search, the terms used in the search are also reported. So I can tell, for instance, that there a lot of people have looked at my blog pages looking for information about how Pope John Paul II was embalmed (a subject of interest a year ago) or how to find a gruesome 1985 video clip of a professional football game in which a quarterback had his leg broken.
Occasionally, I’ll see an address that makes me wonder who exactly is perusing the site and why. At least once I’ve had a visitor from the National Security Agency. I figure it was a recreational visit; if anyone there had a professional interest in anything I’ve posted, I’m sure they would have covered their tracks. On numerous occasions, readers have come from armed services domains, usually in search of articles I’ve linked to on U.S. troops killed or wounded in Iraq. A few times, someone has arrived from house.gov, a domain reserved for the U.S. House of Representatives. I’m sure it was a bored staffer looking for information on the Oscars. That happened today, actually, though I don’t have any idea what they read.
Another government visitor today: An unknown someone from tda.gov, the domain of the United States Trade and Development Agency. The TDA’s mission “is to advance economic development and U.S. commercial interests in developing and middle-income countries.” Whoever it was arrived at 4:16 p.m. EST after searching Google for information on drinking games related to the Fox TV show “24,” which airs tonight.
It’s tempting to shift into high dudgeon and scold the anonymous bureaucrat wasting our tax dollars. But actually I’m flattered to get the agency’s attention — and maybe I’m helping advance U.S. commercial interests by giving some bureaucrat in D.C. a chance to unwind.
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