Monday, August 21, 2006

I Always Feel Like Somebody's Watching Me

In addition to large cutting weapons, empty scotch bottles, stuffed anteaters, and espresso spoons that I have stolen from various foreign locations, I am also an avid collector of information. And not just academic information, like the life-cycle of the Peruvian Red-Bellied Humming Turtle, but honest to goodness, completely pointless and trivial bits of esoterica. For instance, did you know that in America, 12 people a day die while sitting on the toilet? It’s true. Also, were you aware that the Christian holiday “Easter” is actually based on Eostre, an Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring whose feastday just so happens to correspond with the Vernal Equinox? Again, true! Additionally, Jackie Robinson was NOT the first black major league baseball player; that honor goes to Moses Fleetwood Walker, who played center field for the Toledo Blue Stockings in 1884. Robinson was the first black player of the modern age to sign a formal contract. Coincidentally, Jackie Robinson’s uniform number, 42, is the exact number of games that Moses Walker played in his career. Coincidence? Douglas Adams would think so.

In any case, besides useless facts, I am also fascinated by human motivation, specifically the question, “What is it about people that makes them do the things they do?” It’s a pretty complex query, and not one that I can answer here and still have time for my aforementioned hobbies, but the magic of the internet helps me satisfy some of my curiosity.

Scroll all the way down to the bottom of this page and you’ll see, assuming you squint, a single, center-justified white pixel. That little blot is the physical manifestation of my web tracking software, which provides me with a wealth of information about the people who visit my site. For example, with said tool I can derive simple information about site visitors such as time, date and location, as well as which of my posts have been read. But, lurking deep within the code is a far more nefarious utility, allowing me to see your IP number, your internet service provider, and the path which you took in order to get to my site. This last function is actually recording something known as “referrals”, and in addition to letting me know whether or not you clicked on a link in order to visit little ol’ me, it also tells me from where you were linked. It’s kind of like playing an Internet version of “Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon.” Just even more dorky.

Alright, so web trackers aren’t all that mysterious; 80% of the bloggers that I know have them on their site. But what really amuses me is the “Search Engine Keyword Referral Tool,” which does exactly what it sounds like it does – it lets me know what search string was typed into Google or Yahoo that leads users to this page.

I’ll give you an example: Click this. As you can see, typing in the words “Pantheon Outcast” brings up a list of pages that contain that set of words, or “string.” According to Google, there are 75,600 pages on the Internet which contain the string “Pantheon” and “Outcast”, and my site, based on usage and my shameless promotion, is the first one listed.

However, people stumble across my site accidentally all the time, usually while looking for other innocuous topics, and my web tracking software lets me know just what sort of people are skulking around cyberspace at three in the morning. Below are some of my favorite search strings from the past two months that have led people from Google, Yahoo and other search engines into my decadent realm of whining about prescription medicine and immigration reform:

“Skateboarding in Gretna Louisiana” Yes, my absolute favorite half-hour show on ESPN2.

“New York Amusement Park Haunting” Apparently Art Bell’s site was down that day.

“Allium Collective” I'm not sure, but I think it’s a Chicago-based emo band that sings about garlic.

“$1000 to $10000 sneakers” If he’s really interested, I’ll be happy to sell this person my “collectible” Converse All-Stars for a mere five grand. Seriously, if I ever meet anyone who pays $10000 for a pair of shoes, I will not hesitate in removing him from the gene pool.

“Mswati interview quest” All hail the non sequitur! Or it could be Tucker Carlson's new show.

“seven year old needs hyphen” I really, really hope this wasn’t a dire emergency and in their haste, grossly misspelled “kidney”. I’m not going to have a child’s death on my conscience because someone either made a typographical error or severely misunderstood their pediatrician.

“hal morris is homosexual” I'll admit, it's a far more interesting statistic than his on base percentage with the 1995 Cincinnati Reds.

“jim bob earn a living” I’ve been saying that for years, Dag Nabbit!

“swazi king choose a wife” More commands and finger pointing. It's amazing how many people feel as if they can exert some sort of control over both the mating habits of indigenous African royalty AND the dismal unemployment situation surrounding southern American farmers.

"large numbers of stupid people" That about sums it up.

"thabit abdullah sabian" I'm pretty sure he was the guest host for the Mswati interview quest.

"espn2 puerto rican dominoes" Oooh, you missed it, the playoffs were on last night right after "Skateboarding in Gretna Louisiana." I think "Jose" won. Capicú, vato!

"rye gum" Allium Collective's debut album.

"the legend of sockman" I may as well make it worth this guy's while, considering the same person used this search string three times to get to my site: A special prize to the first person who can submit either an epic poem or folksong in D minor chronicling the Legend of Sockman.

“beethoven's mother a prostitute” I can’t tell if this person intended his search to be incredulous: (Beethoven’s mother? A prostitute?) or demonstrative: (Beethoven’s mother: A prostitute!). See how important punctuation is, kiddies?

I swear I’m not making this next one up:

“Moni Valannin” A pre-emptive "Ha Ha" to anyone who says "Sitting in a tree..."

“facts about emperor vespasiano” Selected by the New York Yankees in the 8th round of the 1986 amateur draft A lifetime .304 hitter, and currently holds the 5th highest rookie batting average (.340) in baseball history. Oh wait, that’s Hal Morris. Well, they’re both gay.

And my Personal Favorite:

“I’m going to eat Maddox”

You know, it pleases me greatly to know that in a month or so, I'll be the first site that pops up whenever anyone Googles "the Peruvian Red-Bellied Humming Turtle."

And I'll know where they live...

5 Comments:

Blogger Scott said...

I thought about posting all the google searches that have led people to my site. It really is amazing. Sitemeter is an addictive tool, which is what I use. I'll be checking yours out right after this.

Cool bits of trivia by the way.

Monday, August 21, 2006 2:16:00 PM  
Blogger Writing Blind said...

How do you guys do this? I have no idea who comes to my site, other than people who comment. And why are you going to eat Maddox?

Monday, August 21, 2006 4:41:00 PM  
Blogger Valannin said...

Go to Tracksy.com and sign up for a free webtracker. They'll give you some code to drop into your blogger template, and bam, you're done. Then you can gather user data for your own twisted purposes!

And I assure you, that if I ever did turn to cannibalism, the last person I would eat is Maddox. He kind of seems like someone who hasn't washed in some time. I'm really only interested in eating people with good hygiene.

Monday, August 21, 2006 4:55:00 PM  
Blogger Moni said...

You kick everybody's ass at Trivial Pursuit don't you? You are the one feeling like someone's watching you? I think you've turned the proverbial tables on would-be watchers. :)

Oh, twas not I that googled Moni Valannin, I have your blog bookmarked....K-I-S-S-I-N-G. Ha!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006 9:10:00 AM  
Blogger Valannin said...

Currently undefeated in the unconventional variant, "Strip Trivial Pursuit."

Tuesday, August 22, 2006 12:13:00 PM  

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