Of Mice and Users

by P.R.Banks

It is interesting to study the patterns in the traffic that, or really people, visits these pages. General trends are begining to show up from the last few months summaries. Small scale trends are noticable too, like traffic drops off sharply during the weekend as people seem to be either pre-occupied with other things during the weekend or are using their site of work as their method of accessing the Internet.

There are other trends too. Like that the majority of my web traffic comes in from outside New Zealand. Given the relative distribution of the Internets population around the world this is no great surprise. And there has been a gradual increase in the volume of users. Here are some relevant figures.

No doubt now that I put those figures up, the general trend will suddenly decide to reverse itself and go back down again.

So, assuming for a moment the general trend holds, I have quietly increasing traffic - with the odd month leaping ahead of itself and going into over drive traffic. My question is, why do I get so few reponses? In the, almost, full year these pages have been up I have garnered around twelve emails about the pages.

We have, in the web, a potentially revolutionary medium capable of changes as wide sweeping as those the printing press gave rise to. Like the printing press it is a method of cheaply, even more cheaply than printing a run of books, providing information to a wide audience. This by itself is not that earth shattering but what is new is the ability for feedback about thes information to be so easily relayed.

Ever tried to track down and talk to the author of a book? For those not involved in the publishing business this can be quite a tricky task. Yet the writer of a webpage is often easily accesible, simply due to the nature of the medium. Indeed for the early months while the web was building up momentum, and sites were rare, feedback is reported to have been quite high.

But as the number of sites has grown it seems that the percentage level of feedback has dropped at a proportional rate. Either that or it has stayed at an absolute constant and is merely spread over an ever increasing number of sites.

At any rate the perception, at the very least, is that the amount of feedback is dropping. Instead we are starting to see more and more sites that are the WWW equivalent of Television. All passive pap and little of thought a provoking nature in it. Some of these sites I myself do enjoy but as the commercial content providers continue their entry and ingress to the Web the number of these sites increases.

Take the 'Spike Webb' site as an example. A lot of work and effort has gone into this, yet what does it end up getting you to think about? Anything? Or is it merely a good story you follow? I know which it is for me. How about 'The Spot'? Or alot of the commercially produced musician's sites? At best they are useful, but almost never anything more than that.

We have something precious with the web. Something that, without due care and diligence by the readers will be lost. Conversely it is also true that without the help of commerce related activities the Internet doesn't have much of a future. This doesn't mean we should be held in slavish thrall to the needs of commerce either.

Rather, to me, it means trying to encourage the more obscure and more delightful sites that are out there. Next time you read something on the web, and it makes you think, let the person who put that page up know. They will probably be extremely pleased to know that someone else simply appreciated and used the information they made available.

Philip R. Banks
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