This blog gets an average of between five and 10 clicks a day. The number goes up occasionally, when someone clicks around the blog a while and looks at different pages or at the archive, or when I post a comment to a different and more popular blog on a broadly appealing topic like science fiction. It goes down during universities’ winter break and during the summer, and then eventually increases again throughout September and into October. Traffic seems to have increased slightly since I started the blog, nearly four and a half years ago.
Those statistics come from TypePad’s basic statistics function, which tells me what pages people viewed, what other page linked to those pages (if any: usually this is Google Reader, a search engine, or a comment thread on a more popular blog), and at what time. It doesn’t tell me the IP addresses of the people who clicked, or how long they continued looking at the page. I could install Google Analytics and get some more information, but I’ve never gotten around to it. I’d have to set up an account with them, I think, and poke around to see how to use the tool, and from what I’ve seen, Google Analytics can slow web page loading.
I also use FeedBurner. A couple of years ago, I switched the link at the side of the blog to allow the RSS feed to go through FeedBurner, instead of using the feed supplied by TypePad directly. FeedBurner has some additional stats, which have also gone up very slightly over time. Right now, it reports between 35 and 40 subscribers using RSS readers, plus between 15 and 25 subscribers using browsers. The split between different applications varies, and it seems unlikely that anyone is switching back and forth between Firefox and Chrome from one day to the next, so it seems reasonable to conclude that the numbers are slightly higher than that. There’s also a smattering of spiders and search engine builders. Anyone who gets at the feed before it goes through FeedBurner isn't collected in those numbers (as far as I know, there's no way to get that kind of data, the people subscribing to and reading a raw RSS feed, much less their identifying data). And it's possible that there are ways of reading the blog that bypass all these statistics-gathering mechanisms entirely, which I'd learn about if I really researched how to build and promote a blog, but which I don't know about, so conceivably a handful more. Sixty people on the entire World Wide Web who are looking at the blog isn’t really a lot, but as an increase from thirty a year ago, on a blog that’s really only a hobby (or at most an experiment), it’s mildly satisfying.
BUT. Experimenting with releasing only excerpts on my RSS feed has had exactly ZERO effect on the numbers above. (I’m currently releasing only excerpts, but I’ve switched this back and forth a few times.) This means either that nobody is actually reading the posts, or that there’s a way to get around the excerpts-only mechanism. As a matter of fact, from fooling around with a family member’s iPod Touch, I seem to remember, Google Reader (which made the blog much more readable than the default browser settings did) displayed the entire post without going into a separate browser app, regardless of the “excerpts” setting. And it occurs to me that everyone one of those subscribers could all be scripts, for all I know. There may be ways to figure out how best to use these features and how to distinguish between different users’ ways of accessing them, but finding those ways turns out to exceed the available Quality Assurance/Systems Engineering budget and personnel schedule.
MOREOVER. For a while the number of subscribers to this blog used to go up dramatically, to judge from FeedBurner’s stats, the day after I put up a new post, though it would drop back down again the next day. This was incredibly gratifying. But at some point, it stopped. In fact, at least three times, the day after I put up a new post, the number of subscribers dropped to zero, only to rise again the next day to exactly the point it had been at before. This is almost certainly a bug in FeedBurner, and not real data. In fact, it’s actually possible that FeedBurner detected a sudden increase, assumed it was “noise” or in some other way fake, and tried to compensate for it—but in compensating for what it assumed wasn’t real data, threw out all the data available. It might even be the case that the data really was fake. I used to see similarly transient, extremely high spikes in usage—up to 100 or more in a single day—from the basic TypePad statistics. In some cases these spikes were easily traceable to some script or other that seemed intended to drive up usage. In other cases they might have been legitimate attempts to randomly select new blog posts and increase their visibility. I don’t see these anymore at all. But the fact that I can no longer see subscriber statistics that might result from a new post is frustrating.
ALSO. I guess everybody knows that Google Reader is going away: Google won't be improving it or fixing bugs, and at some point won't be providing the service on their end anymore. There have been rumors that FeedBurner is going away, too. The FeedBurner API, which I think permitted more detailed stats than what’s available on the basic dashboard page, is now unsupported, and TypePad no longer offers the option I used a couple of years ago to provide the FeedBurner feed in place of the basic RSS feed. Apparently the intermittent “zero statistics” bug is one people have been seeing for a while, and at some point last fall, for some customers, FeedBurner ceased to work entirely. I’ve put the link for the vanilla feed back on the side of the page.
Upshot: For you: if you’re using FeedBurner to get an RSS feed for this blog, you might want to re-subscribe, to the RSS/Atom feed, using the link labeled Subscribe to this blog's feed that’s now on the side of the main site page.
For me: I seem to have a choice of believing there are a few dozen readers of this blog (at least potential readers of any given post), or the half dozen I actually know about. This isn’t a complaint. It’s only a hobby, after all. But it makes me feel ridiculous to be giving advice about getting an RSS feed, if the actual RSS “subscribers” are in fact bots.