Hackday4 and Referer URLs

(Originally posted 2007-10-27.)

I’m going to have to stop adding “(sic)” after every use of the word “Referer”. As in “Referer URL”.

The term itself comes from one of the standard HTTP headers. And therefore is somewhat fixed. Despite giving my “wetware spell checker” a pink fit on a frequent basis. 🙂

Anyhow, in this blog entry I talked about how I can – as standard – get a display of the URLs people come from to land on my blog. (And in a comment to the entry I said I’d put up (using a standard Roller macro) the list of such Referer URLs).

Well, yesterday was IBM’s fourth Hackday (known as Hackday4). The idea came from Yahoo – who’ve been doing a similar thing for a long time. IBM has had 4, spread over the last 18 months. I’ve participated in ALL of them. I have – pretty much permanently – tons of hacking ideas swirling around inside my head. THIS was not the first I had for this particular Hackday.

So, I took my firefox extension – unfortunately only likely to be available internally – and taught it a new trick…

When a developerWorks blogger is at their “Referer URLs” page it takes the list of URLs and analyses the ones that came from Google. (I may add Yahoo if I get a significant number of hits). If the hit from Google was a search I take 2 things from the URL:

  • The country (as part of the domain name, with the assumption that “www.google.com” is the USA).
  • The search terms used.

I do some counting and display the country list. Likewise the search terms list. The search terms list is a bit trickier as you can, for example get searches with “zos”, “z/OS”, “z/os” etc. TODAY I don’t take the slash out and assume they’re all the same thing. But I do assume “z/OS” is the same as “z/os”. And I do make some attempt to recognise when there’s an acronym…

If I see “icf” and then later on “ICF” the search term becomes “ICF” and the original (mixed case) version is discarded.

People sometimes put quotes in searches. Today I don’t handle that.

It’s been a fun “time-limited” hack. It would be nice to do more with it. And perhaps to find some other Roller-based blogging site that I could test it with. Then maybe I can ship an EXTERNAL firefox extension to the users of that.

And what does this all buy?

Basically, given that over 90% of my hits are direct (which probably mainly are “spiders”) it’s NOT that statistically significant. But it does tell me something about where in the world my readership is located. And also something about the things people are searching for when they stumble across my blog. So maybe what to write more about.

It’ll be interesting to see if any of the “webby” terms in THIS entry show up in the list.

Published by Martin Packer

I'm a mainframe performance guy and have been for the past 35 years. But I play with lots of other technologies as well.

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