Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sitemeter and the Globalized Online World

Sitemeter and other methods we use for tracking visits to websites tell webmasters (or bloggers) an odd collection of facts about the people who come to our sites. Some of it is useful, some not. I, for instance, don't really care that much what the screen resolution is for my readers, but for another type of site that might be vital data. Nor do I care that much whether they use Mac or PC, except in the rare cases where this information actually tells me who visited (my parents and one of my friends use the same provider, but my parents have a PC and my friend a Mac, so I always know which is which).
But I'm seldom identifying actual people, as usually that's impossible and for the most part would be somewhat of a breach of privacy. Rather, I'm always intrigued which pages are popular, a thing which generally has little to do with whether they are among my better posts. Sometimes it becomes clear that a given search engine ranks my offering highly; why else would Japanese web-surfers flock to read my brief remarks on Baden-Powell, or those from Korea be the most interested in my discussion of the EAC software?
It's also fun seeing which countries are represented. This does, of course, give one a sense of where people have the most computers and, to a lesser degree, are able to read English or Czech. The European countries are well represented, but Russia and India are pretty much the only continental Asian countries until the very far east, when Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia pop up. (One of my colleagues tells me that when she was in China, the only way she could access this blog was via our university remote access.) Australia shows up regularly, though pretty much only from servers in Sydney and Melbourne (never anything in Canberra or Townsville, and certainly not anything in the heart of the country). The African continent is mainly represented by South Africa, and the Middle East is pretty much absent. South America is not much to be found, though occasionally I get a visitor from Brazil or Argentina. Mexico is a rarity.
Another thing that can be interesting (we'll leave out the sometimes strange phrasing of search terms) is a sort of evidence of panglobalism. I guess the most striking recent example of that was someone on a German internet provider whose computer was set to Chinese, who searched using the American version of Google and typed in a book title in Czech.
I have to say I was very impressed at that.
Will that kind of linguistic and spatial cosmopolitanism be the norm in a couple of generations, or was my visitor "just" a Chinese grad student studying Czech history in Germany?

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