Earlier in the month we took Boing Boing's live stats page down (link). As we noted in our post, we wanted to grok what the program was reporting, and make sure that whatever we posted was clear and understandable.
Well, the stats are back up (link), and you may notice that we've not done much to them. There's a good reason for this - we prefer to post our stats pretty much as reported by AWStats, the log file analysis program we use. We considered filtering those numbers in any number of ways, but always ended up at the same place - statistics are subject to interpretation and judgment, whereas data is data. We prefer to give you the data, and let you do with it what you want.
We did learn a few interesting things about how AWstats works, and we did make one minor tweak to the reporting process. First, of the columns you see, only the first one - "Unique Visitors," and the last two "Hits" and "Bandwidth" can be taken at face value. "Unique Visitors" counts unique IP addresses that are hitting the site, so it's a fairly accurate count of actual humans reading Boing Boing. (If anything, its count is a bit low, as it does not account for sites like AOL which may have one IP address for thousands of unique users.) The "Hits" and "Bandwidth" columns count just about anything that moves on the site, so they are fine measurements of how "busy" the site is. But the other two columns - "Pages" and "Number of Visits" - are more difficult to understand. They are AWStats' best guess as to how many total visits a site gets, as well as how many pages are actually viewed by those visitors. These columns have always disregarded image and video files, but because a lot of our traffic comes from RSS readers, they are certainly inflated by some amount.
But how much? It's anyone's guess. We're working with Feedburner (link), among others, to figure that out, but until we know, we prefer not to hazard one of our own. What we do know is that those middle columns had been inflated by php files recently added to the site by advertisements, so we filtered those out.
We hope that posting these stats will be one small step toward the blogosphere working out the moving target of "standards" for measuring traffic to blogs - Mark Fletcher of Bloglines has done some good preliminary work (link) along those lines. As we learn more, we'll keep you posted.