Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Webcomic Data, A Follow-up

There was a good comment on Monday's post about phenomena that can propel a webcomic's traffic very high, very suddenly. It's worth considering, especially since the post was about my doubts regarding a webcomic claiming a million page views, then two million a month later.
Despite replying to the comment that I gave such possibilities a lot of thought before posting (several weeks, in fact), I'm still thinking about it.
A related explanation I considered was computer error. I didn't put as much effort into it, since I regard computer owners as being responsible for any claims they make based on what their computer says. Still, I brought in someone to have a look, and I learned some things. First a bit of review:
  • We have, as you know, static web pages and dynamic web pages. The latter are generated on demand;
  • Also as you know, search engines have only recently been able to routinely count traffic to dynamic pages. That said:
  • A properly coded dynamic page is designed to inform a search engine crawler if it has been edited, so that the crawler does not have to generate the page frequently to check;
  • The web site I wrote about Monday appears to have improperly coded pages. This means some search engines have to generate the pages to detect changes, which will cause some analytics software to record false visitors. I crunched the numbers, referencing some data I have collected for another project, and found that these problems might, in a worst case scenario, account for something like 27,000 false visits. Nowhere near a million;
  • So unless someone can sort out another explanation, out come the prevaricator graphics again.

Why do I care about this? I care because deceptive and immature conduct cheapen the coin of success. My wife and I work hard on our comics, and so do you. The readers of our comics work hard so they will have time to do what they enjoy, such as reading webcomics.
When a person tries to achieve "success" via gimmicks, hype and unfounded claims, they are devaluing our hard work. I find that worth commenting about. If they go on to succeed in a false way, becoming a comics Paris Hilton, at least there will be a record showing that some of us are critical thinkers, and don't buy such antics. The record we leave of our standards is all that is left to explain how a charlatan came to be: it reveals who detected the truth, and how many, and who was passive and found making an informed assessment too tiring.

It also shows who has the guts to support their claims, and who lays low, hoping things cool off.