Geek Alert: This is a Geeky Post!
The things we can do with internet technology. I had this blog for a few months (before I became obsessed with it), and since I read way more blogs than I write, I started to notice that people — some people, anyway — were blogging about their blogs. Their own blogs. I suppose this is inevitable. This kind of thing is so new, a lot of us are still going “Wow! I can’t believe I just thought up something and now someone in New Fucking Zealand is reading it and talking about it.” Anyway, inevitable , and totally OK with me. Just as enjoyable reading, actually, as stories about their pets or their vacations.
But one category of writing about one’s own blog had my curiosity up more than certain others, and that is writing about who is visiting your site. People were talking about BlogPatrol and Sitemeter and other such tracking services. I had only a vague idea what these were, and I thought “If they’re free, they must be bogus.” I decided not to bother with them, a decision that lasted until about a month ago. First I signed up for BlogPatrol. I was horrified.
I found that I could look up IP addresses of visitors to this blog and correlate the time stamp with comments they had left and figure out who was who and when they visited at other times and didn’t leave a comment. The amount of information available stops just short of physical measurements, and I think I could get those for a small additional charge. Shocked and revolted, I added Sitemeter to my blog.
Even more info. This time charts showing entry and exit pages, and duration of visits. Quick links back to the home pages of visitors’ ISP’s, where I could sometimes figure out approximate geographical location (Do not look out your window. That is not me out there in the rented Malibu.)
After each session with one of these “services,” I felt like I had just been to a cheap whorehouse. I needed a shower. Damn this weasel-like spying! Could I ever be clean again? But I kept going back. I told myself that I was just doing research, trying to determine the best-liked posts, so that, as a public service I could focus more on those types of stories. But in the end I had to admit to myself, as I now must admit to you, that it was just plain nosy prying.
So, ashamed of myself and with eyes averted, here now is My Pledge to you: I will never try to figure out who you are, where you live or when you visit my blog. (The real question, anyway, is why you visit my blog.) I will always respect your privacy and your personal space. No further effort will be made at tracking anybody here. You will not be stalked just for visiting this blog, unless you ask me to stalk you. Then we’ll talk.
Which brings me to Firefox. You may think these topics are unrelated, but stay with me for a moment.
Firefox is a web browser. It’s freely available here. I use it because the number one browser, Microsoft Internet Explorer, has a lot of security holes in it, and it is targeted by hackers, who use it to install Trojans, keyloggers, password stealers and viruses on your computer. For those of you who don’t know, Internet Explorer (IE) has the ability to use what Microsoft calls ActiveX Controls. Just the name sounds scary, doesn’t it? Without going into all the details, this is a harmless technology that can be used either to greatly enhance your internet experience, or to take over your computer.
So several months ago I downloaded a beta version of Firefox, which was called Firebird at that time but I guess they couldn’t keep the name because of Pontiac or something. I installed it and started using it instead of IE, although I kept IE on my system because some web pages are designed in such a way that they only work with Internet Explorer (this is also known as Bad Web Design). Long story short, I was delighted with it. It has a built-in popup blocker and a password manager. It automatically imports all your settings from IE when you install it, so switching is no hassle. It is impervious to ActiveX exploits. And it has tabbed browsing.
Tabbed browsing works like this: You can open multiple web pages, and Firefox creates a row of tabs along the top. Click on a tab to view an already-open web page. Hold the Ctrl key and click on a link on a page you are viewing, and that link opens in a new tab. Switch to the new tab when you’re ready, and switch back to the original page if you’d like. You can even save a group of sites as bookmarks or favorites, and open them all at the same time in separate tabs, and here is how this connects to the first part of this post.
I have a group of blogs (yes, your blogs) saved as bookmarks in one folder, and when I want to read all my favorite blogs, I can open them all with one click. Then I start at one end of the panel of tabs and read all the blogs and write comments, if I think of any. Along the way I answer the phone, drink coffee, pet the cat, write emails and generally live my life. By the time I get half way through this procedure, some of these blogs have been open, sight unseen by me, in their own tabbed windows, for a long damned time. Hours, maybe.
Do you see where this is going? When I open all these blogs at the same time, the BlogPatrol and Sitemeter clocks start running on all of them at the same time. So to the owners of the ones near the end, when they review their site statistics, it must look like someone is obsessed with their blogs and lingering on them for hours. They could be proud and honored, of course, but most likely they will just get the heebie jeebies, thinking some creep is paying way too much attention to their semi-private musings.
So here are the morals: 1.) Get Firefox. Your computer will be less likely to pick up a nasty virus and transmit it to me, and 2.) if, at bedtime you notice that Jones has been on your site since 8:30 in the morning, don’t worry — I just haven’t gotten to your tab yet.