Site info: visitor stats, construction, etc.

Author and Page information

  • by Anup Shah
  • This Page Last Updated Tuesday, August 19, 2008

How many visitors does the site get?

The site is currently getting around 40–50,000 page views, per day.

At different times of the year this changes (e.g. it goes down during school vacation periods, and times of public holidays, such as the Christmas/New Year period. Even during the week, Friday, and the weekends are quiet, while Mondays to Thursdays seems the majority of the site’s visits.)

Each year has seen the site grow.

For example, between December 2004 and end of November 2005 (as of writing, early December 2005) the site has seen a total of 7.6 million page views. November 2005 saw the highest number of page views in the site’s history, and, for the first time, surpassed a million page views in a month.

As a spare time effort, I am very happy with these numbers, and hope the site continues to grow.

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How is the site constructed?

A few people have asked how the site is constructed, whether I purchased a content management system, or what. I will attempt to answer in such a way that I minimize the technical jargon (though I don’t think it can be entirely avoided):

  • I write the software for the site entirely by myself (“hand-coded”)
  • I mainly use technologies known as XML and XSLT.
    • XML allow the storage of structured data, so almost all pages are stored in this format (quite similar to HTML, the language of web pages, but XML gives me some more flexibility and power in terms of how I define the way data is stored.)
    • XSLT is simply a series of rules designed to work with XML so that an XML documents can be converted to another document, in this case, into HTML, so that web browsers can show you the web page.
    • This helps ensure consistency between page to page, and also to implement things like the navigation. Otherwise every time I want to make a certain type of change to the entire site, I would have to modify each and every single file on the web server! Instead, through its rules, XSLT is like a template for all the pages.
  • I used technology that runs on the web server known as ASP to load XML documents and XSLT rules, run those rules against the XML documents, and show you the resulting web page.
  • In August 2006, I switched from Microsoft’s proprietary technology to an open-source alternative known as PHP, which runs on Linux servers. [Using open standards such as XSLT made that very simple to do, too.]

Some have asked why I used Microsoft’s proprietary ASP technology rather than an open-source alternative for so long.

It may not be an acceptable answer to many who ask, but when I originally started the web site (as a means to learn about, and practice web development for my day time job as a software engineer), our company used this ASP technology. Since then, that is what I have always used, and so the experience from full time work complimented my site, and importantly, it worked the other way.

For a long time, I have been interested in ensuring the site uses more open standards and technologies and have started to make such a move. For example,

  • At the end of 2003, I redesigned the site completely to take advantage of “Web Standards” to help improve the site’s accessibility and maintainability. (See this site’s section about the site redesign for more details on that.)
  • With the site being run off open XML and XSLT technology I was able to swap ASP technology for PHP to serve as the “glue” for the XML/XSLT.

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Why doesn’t the site have forums or blog comments?

Even before web logs, or “blogs”, became popular, I considered whether or not to have some sort of discussion forum on my site. Others have also asked that too, as that would be a huge step in terms of democracy being demonstrated on this site itself.

The short-term answer is that at this point I just don’t have the time to either write software to support this or look into third party solutions. (Many blog web sites use standard blog software that is installed on their web server. This site started in mid-1998 when blogs were unheard of and so the site was never really geared towards that. I now have over 550 pages on this site, and converting those into some blog-based templated system would take a very long time.)

I work on this site spare time, on my own, and out of pocket, so am quite limited. If I were to be able to get something going, I am not sure how much time I can devote to it, or participate myself. Because the site is about political issues, which will no doubt arise strong feelings in people (judging by other sites, that is a very mild way of putting it, too!), I don’t want a forum to become a forum for abuse and hatred, though at the same time, in the interest of free speech, I would rather not want to police the site either. In short then, I hope one day I can have a forum on this site, but I will need time to think about this properly.

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Given the number of years you have been running this site, there aren’t that many articles. Why?

These days, some people are thinking of this site as a blog: a site which will post many new entries (often short posts/commentaries) and allow others to post their own comments and feedback at the bottom of the blog post itself.

As mentioned above, this site started long before “blog” was even a recognized word! I had never organized the site as a blog. Instead the intention was, and still is, to attempt to keep articles fresh. Of course as there are some 550 articles, it is hard to keep them all up to date, and some are quite old now, unfortunately, waiting for me to get round to updating them. But it is my hope that these articles are more useful when grown organically. Of course, when some articles get too long, I may split them into multiple pages, but the idea is the same.

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Some articles need updating!

This goes in hand with the previous bit so please read those comments in the section immediately above this one.

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Why is the site not updated more often?

For about the first three or so years of this site, I was updating very frequently, more than once a week, though sending email updates to subscribers each weekend without fail.

As time has gone on, and as my personal commitments have changed over time, I find I have unfortunately had less spare time. So, email updates became less frequent, to just twice a month, and now, from around 2003 or so, to just once a month. (I update the site any time I can, but I just send email notifications once a month now, though the frequency of updates has also reduced. An RSS Feed is available if you wish to be notified as soon as there is a new or updated page.)

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What’s with all the broken links to other web sites?

To help illustrate issues, my aim is to link to sourced articles, and I also hope people can follow those other web sites. However, I cannot control what other web sites do to their pages, and I do frustratingly find that sometimes a site may redesign and in doing so, they change all their web addresses (URLs) and so any links to them from other web sites just end up breaking. I can’t usually do much about it, other than hope that the original page still exists but in a new location that I can find!

If you find broken links, please let me know.

If you work on a site that I have linked to and plan to redesign, please do try to avoid this “link rot”, as it affects me, other web sites, and yourself!

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What’s with all the spelling and grammar mistakes?

This is an interesting one. Given my background is in computer science (which actively avoids writing too much!) this hasn’t helped develop my writing skills. But there are a number of additional points and answers:

  • American vs. International/British/Commonwealth English
  • Writing style for the web
  • Genuine mistakes

With regards to the type of English: I initially started the site in British English (some call it international or Commonwealth English), as by birth I am British. However very quickly in 1998 and 1999 as the site started to grow, visitors (over 90% which were American) started to notice spelling and punctuation mistakes, not realizing that British English had different spellings for some words, as well as slightly different punctuation.

A writer who contacted me, after hearing my explanation, himself an American, suggested that most Americans will not be aware that this difference exists and given that most of my audience is from the US, I should consider using American English instead.

And so I started to switch. However, where I have quoted sources that themselves use British English, I have tended not to edit those to be Americanized English (only recently realizing that it is okay to do so!). As a result, many pages appear to have a mix of English types.

Regarding style: on the web, sites can often be less formal, and so I often write in a slightly less formal style. Slightly conversational, perhaps. So what may seem poor choice grammar for written text may be okay for spoken English.

On the final point, genuine mistakes: as I work on this on my own, without a proof reader, many mistakes definitely slip by me. There are pages many years old untouched with errors! I am hoping that over time my writing skills have improved, though only you the reader can be the judge of that. Furthermore, web writing is a bit less formal, so some conventions or sentences may also less grammatically accurate and it may still be acceptable to the general audience.

However, I am extremely keen to receive feedback on any glaring or minor mistakes you see in the writing. Please, please, please, do contact me and let me know!

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Do you have any logos/banners for your site?

A number of people have requested a logo or banner they can copy on their site.

To do so,

  1. Please copy the logo of choice to your server
  2. Copy and paste the sample code below to your page(s) on your site
  3. Use the sample banner HTML code below but replace “{path to your images directory}” to the location your web site.
  1. Banner: Global Issues
    Global Issues: Social, Political, Economic and Environmental Issues That Affect Us All
    Sample HTML
    <p>
       <a href="http://www.globalissues.org">
         <img
          src="{path to your images directory}/globalissues.png"
          alt="Global Issues: Social, Political, Economic and Environmental Issues That Affect Us All"
          height="140"
          width="450" />
       </a>
    </p>
  2. Screenshot: Global Issues Home Page Thumbnail
    Global Issues Home Page Thumbnail Screenshot
    Sample HTML
    <p>
      <a href="http://www.globalissues.org">
        <img
          src="{path to your images directory}/site.png"
          alt="Global Issues Home Page Thumbnail Screenshot"
          height="110"
          width="144" />
      </a>
    </p>
    

The reason to copy the image to your server is two-fold:

  1. If my web site is momentarily down, the image still appears on your page because it comes from your server
  2. You do not inadvertendly use up my bandwidth (your users would otherwise end up requesting that particular image from my site)

If you do use one of the above logos on your site/publication, do refer back here time to time in case there are new ones available that might be more suitable.

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Read more about this site:

Author and Page Information

  • by Anup Shah
  • Created: Wednesday, December 07, 2005
  • Last Updated: Tuesday, August 19, 2008

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Document Revision History

DateReason
August 19, 2008Updated sample HTML to reflect the redesigned site
December 10, 2006Updated section on how this site is constructed, and added some sample HTML to go with the logos