There has been a lot in the news in recent years about the notion of personal privacy in virtual reality - about the use of various tracking mechanisms such as cookies which track a user's web-surfing habits and which may be used for anything from target e-mail marketing to out-and-out spying. Learning that you have been the unwitting subject of such surveillance can be quite unnerving - something akin to learning that you've been walking about with toilet paper attached to your shoe, or a giant hole in the seat of your pants.
I say this to you because you (yes, YOU) are being surveilled at this very moment. But before you get alarmed, please know that I wouldn't do anything to you to that I wouldn't want done to myself. There is an eye in the sky - yes - but it cannot see down into your cubicle, or into your living room, or into your boudouir. Right now, it only sees the equivalent of, say, your voting precinct, so you can relax. And besides, I don't want anything from you. Nothing, that is, except your readership. I'm a writer. I'm harmless. Ask Queen James!
Without building any more suspense, I'll get right to it. Last October, I installed a free webcounter, Site Meter, which you can see if you scroll down to the very bottom of this page. While I only intended to get a general idea of how many visitors were stopping by (over 2000 now in a little over 6 months), it gave me all sorts of extra information about you (yes, YOU) that I had not bargained for.
If you click on the Site Meter icon at the bottom of the page, it takes you to a site summary screen which tells you the average number of visitors per day, within the last hour, and the average visit length. That's helpful, I suppose, but pretty boring.
What is more interesting is if you begin clicking in the left-hand column under the Recent Visitors heading. The first heading, By Details, tells the domain name of a visitor such as aol.com or ga.us or 12.166.247.# or turner.com or mit.edu. In some cases, this isn't very helpful as in AOL or Verizon which have millions of subscribers, but in other cases, if a person is surfing from their job like say, spelman.edu, and I happen to know where they work and that I had a recent conversation with them, I can deduce who the visitor might be.
That's nice, you may say, but you still don't know anything. Where it really gets juicy is the next heading, By Referrals. Here, I can see how a visitor arrived at my doorstep. It's not enough to know that the person visited, but it helps to know whether they walked or drove, whether they just came from, say, a coffeeshop or a Klan meeting. For regular visitors, those who enter via www.mayodeleheath.blogspot.com, the referral information isn't very telling. But for new visitors, it is perhaps a little too telling.
In some cases, the referral is straightforward where visitors have come via other bloggers who have linked to my site such as Collin Kelley, Cherryl Floyd-Miller, Christina Springer, or scoplaw.
But when a person arrives via a yahoo or Ask Jeeves or Google search, the results become quite, shall I say, colorful. Because of the nature of a blogsite such as mine - text-based, ever-increasing, and in which I write on a wide range of topics (poems, reviews of stage plays and movies, love and relationship advice, a Mother's Day excursion, an episode at the Coinstar machine, a search for a slave plantation, South African travels) - because of this, people doing searches on all sorts of unthinkables accidentally wind up here.
Allow me to give you some examples of what people typed into a search engine to end up a this blog site. Click on some of the links for kicks. They contain actual screen captures of the visitors' searches. The first time I did it, I felt like I was peeking into someone's bedroom window. Weird:
how to catch a liar
coon fingering slang
she blew a big bubble
pumpkin carving contest in san francisco with $1000 prize
origin missionary position
Christianity vs monsters
Byrd family history
Juneteenth *T shirts
While it shows the 'how' of the person arriving here, it doesn't give any identifiable information about the 'who' of the person arriving here. Or does it?
Who is the man driving across the golden gate bridge dreaming of jack-o-lanterns? Who is the woman haunted by a missionary each night she lies down with her husband? What young girl's eyes are just a little brighter now that she knows the significance of Juneteenth?
What is even more interesting, perhaps, is what this says about me. What might a shrink deduce about my personality from a random sampling of my blogging habits? Of liars and spics? Of Christians and monsters? Of whom and what I, via my blog, attract?
Now that we are both standing here exposed, I think I'd rather turn back off the lights.