There is no controversy regarding the Daily Kos visit count. Patrick Ruffini is misunderstanding the difference between what SiteMeter shows you on a summary page, and what is counted as a visit or a hit. SiteMeter is not inflating DKos’ site stats. In all probability, SiteMeter is undercounting DKos traffic, as it does with everyone. Let’s take Ruffini’s primary “gotcha” moment:
Then it hit me: SiteMeter only accounts for the last 100 visitors individually. On a site like Daily Kos, the 100th most recent visitor could have been 15 seconds ago. If you are the 101st most recent visitor and you click on a new page, you are counted as a new unique visitor in SiteMeterâ€™s all important count. On a normal site, this wouldnâ€™t matter, since itâ€™s highly unlikely youâ€™ll stick around long enough to have 100 others show up after you. On a site with hundreds of thousands of page views a day, itâ€™s extremely likely you will.
Um, no. That’s not how it works.:
When you are browsing a site, every time you follow a link, it is treated as a single “page view”. Site Meter defines a “visit” as a series of page views by one person with no more than 30 minutes in between page views.
You are counted by IP address, not by virtue of being on the SiteMeter “last 100 visits” page. If I go to DKos and read a post, click on the message thread, spend the next 40 minutes reading the messages, and then click on the main page again, that counts as a single visit. Ruffini wrongly thinks that a second click is counted as another unique visit. It is not. SiteMeter counts a second click as another page view, but page views are entirely different statistics from visits.
Another error in his thinking is that SiteMeter “only” counts the last 100 visitors. No, it counts them all. (Well, except for the ones it misses, which is another complaint about SiteMeter.) It only shows the last 100 visitors, and only in the default free view. When you become visitor 101, you are still tracked as if you were visitor number 15 on that block of visitors that Patrick saw on his screen. But you are no longer seen on the “Last 100 Visitors” screen. And you are just as active on SiteMeter’s radar as you were when you could see your IP address in the Visitor 15 Slot.
On Patrick’s second point, that the clickthrough rate isn’t as high as Andrew Sullivan’s, well, that’s due to a number of factors, and it’s a common problem even with high-traffic sites. I know that I have a high clickthrough rate, even though my blog isn’t a very high traffic blog, because my readers tend to be longstanding readers with similar tastes in reading materials. They also trust my opinions. Linkfests used to be a staple of this blog, and still are, in respect to Haveil Havalim.
People don’t go to DKos for linkage. They go to DKos to read what’s there. Glenn Reynolds entire site is about clickthrough. People read Instapundit because they want to find other bloggers or information that Glenn provides. High traffic doesn’t guarantee high clickthrough rates. I’m not surprised that most people did not click through to Patrick’s blog. The DKos readers do not like conservatives. They do not like Republicans. Of course they’re not going to click through.
The content of the link also makes a difference. My highest-traffic links from Glenn all had to do with sex. The Comic Book Superhero Dating Ratings? Through the roof. I think I got nearly 10k hits from Glenn, whereas an ordinary Instalink generated about half that number. If Patrick wants to see DKos clickthroughs in high numbers, he needs to post that he’s given up being a conservative Republican and has joined the ObamaWagon, or some such thing. Or maybe something to do with sex and Democrats.
Lastly, Patrick tries to extrapolate DKos traffic via some arcane formula he invents regarding page views and stats of similar blogs. Ah, no. Bad move. That’s like trying to calculate the traffic on the NJ Turnpike based on the traffic on I-95 in northern VA and the Long Island Expressway. Now he’s just reaching, and looking really silly while he does it.
In short, there are many reasons to criticize Daily Kos. But blaming SiteMeter for inflating DKos visits and pageviews? No. That’s just a case of Patrick not really understanding SiteMeter and server logs. I don’t have the best grasp of them either—it’s been a long time since I read the raw server logs and decoded them for my boss at Lucent—but I do know enough to know that Patrick is way off base on this one.