U3A Oversights

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New site administrator options

Site administrators will find an extra option in the Utilities section: an alternative display showing the number of "visitors" to every page on the site. Totals are now being accumulated by months to provide administrators with an easier way to keep track of their site's usage. Once the new counting functions have been in use for a few months, the original single-total display will be discontinued.

The counts register every time a page is loaded, even those where the same visitor returns to it several times during a session, or where the "visitor" is a search engine crawler coming to index the site. Viewing pages while using the Site Builder editor does not increase the count, but the figures are almost certainly an overestimate of the number of humans reading your pages. Inspection of detailed logs reveals that several search engines each access a large number of pages each night, so it is likely that every live page is accessed by a crawler every few days. Top-level pages (Welcome, Groups, Events etc.) seem to be visited most often, presumably because they are a route to those lower down the hierarchy.

In the first response to the new option, the St Albans editor made some observations which raised further points of general interest about how page counting operates which are worth keeping in mind when viewing the figures:

What these finding illustrate is that all our software does is to log page requests. We don't know whether any particular request comes from a human being, or a web crawler indexing the site or — less welcome — a spambot "harvesting" email addresses. Traditionally crawlers find pages by following visible links, but it is increasingly obvious that many also generate requests algorithmically, following standard patterns for the URLs used on many sites. Our host receives many requests for pages which do not exist and never have existed. For the most part we avoid counting them, but since most sites here do have visible Links and Gallery pages they will show up in the records. Obviously they can be ignored, but they provide a useful reminder that counting page visits is not an exact science.

You can register any new comments about the new administrator option via the "pigeon post" link above. It is the first of several others to come, including a record of recent changes to page content, and a "health-check" to help editors identify areas for improvement in their sites. So watch this space!