Number crunching

“How many people have visited this Web site?” You may think that in this electronic age that should be an easy one to answer. It’s not.

You’re wandering through the World Wide Web and you come to a page with a counter at the bottom telling you that you are the nth visitor to that page. That counter is lying. What that counter tracks is the number of times that page has been requested. It goes up every time you reload the page, every time you come back, every time an Internet search engine crawls by, and every time the page designer loads the page to make sure that everything works properly.

There is another way. Our Web server keeps a log of every file that it sends through the Web and to what other machine. With this log we can count the machines that request pages. We’re close now, but still not quite there. Most offices use a single machine to pass requests from all the computers in the local network out to the Internet. This means that all the users in that office appear as one to our server.

Where does this leave us? With some simple sorting tools, we can go through that log and make an educated guess. From the log, we remove all the requests that come from the national office and all the requests from search engines. With good filtering tools, all sorts of data becomes available. But, the number of visitors remains elusive.

So how many pages have we delivered? As of June 22 we were up to 98,487 and we expect to cross the 100,000 mark sometime on Friday. We deliver about 600 pages every day with a one day high of 5,292 during General Synod. There is about 20% more traffic on weekdays than on weekends and Sunday is our quietest day. It’s good to know that we’re not keeping people away from church.

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