[development] Module to Track RSS Subscribers

Nick Lewis nick at smartcampaigns.com
Tue Jan 17 01:09:02 UTC 2006

John Handelaar wrote:

> IP-based *anything* - Just Say No.  It's *spectactularly* inaccurate
> and, frankly, an amateur's mistake.

Firstly, sorry about all my messages to the list regarding this idea, 
I'll keep them to a minimum from hereon.

I disagree with the above assumption (though I acknowledge that it is 
correct -- in *some* ways, and in *some* situations) on the basis of 
personal experience. This may seem like a strange example, but I once 
ended up finding out that a cute girl who I'd assumed was out of my 
league was interested in me thanks to the amateur's mistake of tracking 
visitors by IP in drupal 4.5. Let me explain (I think this is a good 
example of how we should be thinking about our users needs when it comes 
to traffic analysis):

I mentioned to her that I had posted a certain essay called "The 
Renaissance of the Commons" on my blog, and told her to goole my name 
and the title to find it. The search popped up on my referrers log, and 
I marked down the IP associated with that search (I did have a crush on 
her). Later, I checked her IP's history, and found out that she was 
apparently a lot more interested in what I was writing, than I would 
have thought. For the next week, I noticed her return twiceto four 
times  a day -- and it suddenly occurred to me that maybe I should ask 
her out on a date. The end result was me being one satisfied drupal 
user. Note that I was able to do this solely on the basis of IP tracking 
hits by IP. 

Beyond that, I also was able to track a few "high value" visitors like 
my now future boss. True, this wouldn't have worked had they been AOL 
users, or part of a UK academic network. However, as far as I know, IP's 
plus user-agent info is as good as we're going to get from users who 
don't register at a site.

This isn't a bulletproof analysis tool that I'd try to sell to 
high-profile executives at Time Warner's international marketing team, 
or any clients who were impressed by  phrases like "enterprise-level 
solution". Rather, its just a practical analysis of data that is already 
collected, and aimed at a user base of amateurs, or small publications. 
Your earlier suggestion, I think, is more appropriate for RSS than what 
I initially proposed. That said, there is great value in giving users at 
least *something* to track individual users who are not logged in. At 
the moment, we mostly have to fly blind when it comes to tracking 
visitors. Just because it doesn't always offer scientifically valid data 
doesn't mean our users couldn't make use of it. Most users probably do 
have unique IP's.

Instead, I might develop a tool to help people tag certain ip addresses 
with names. For example, when Bob leaves a comment, there is a record in 
the access log containing his IP. I could provide a link titled, "track 
commenter's IP address". Or, when someone searches for "Nick Lewis 
Drupal", I might find it useful to track the IP that was referred by 
that search. They might be a potential customer.

Clicking the "track IP" link would provide a form where I attach a 
meaingful name to that IP address. From that I could probably get a 
sense of Bob's reading habits. That kind of data for multiple users 
would be userful for me as a way to gauge my success as a writer, and a 
sense of whether my stock was rising or falling in the eyes of my core 
readers. Moreover, as a standalone module, we could use other data to 
weedout wrongly flagged IP addresses (typical stuff like, an array of 
screen resolutions, operating systems, browsers, ect...)

Really, what I want -- and I know many others want this as well -- is 
something to help me *see*  individual readers. I think it is really 
what the future of the web is all about: remaking the actual into the 

Nick Lewis

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