A Lizard and a Hinge

Not sure what inspired me to take a shot of a rusty hinge and a Western Fence Lizard, or why I was reminded of some professional quality calendar photography from years past.

Charles, you don’t read here, but your eye for balance and colour is amazing. Please post more of your artistry. Better yet, post a video of your musical compositions with images. What have you got to lose?

Judging by your Alexa stats, not much. BTW, you don’t have James Brown hair, so at least you’ve got that going for you.

And O’Reilly‘s not gonna apologize to you either, Charles. Rock on.

Signs of the LGF Decline: Unique Commenters

In the past, the talented Engineers here in the Boiler Room have used the LGF archive files to compile statistics for the site’s nose-diving commenting and registration rates, and just recently the steadily decreasing amount of front page content. Today, we’re going to track another compelling sign of the LGF decline: The reduction in unique commenters.

Now, by “unique commenters” we’re referring to the number of individual user accounts that are leaving at least one comment over a certain time period. This is probably the most efficient way to determine the overall size of the site’s active community. When we have Engineer No. 5 track these statistics through the last few years, we’ll have to say that what we see isn’t exactly surprising, but nevertheless a bit shocking:

The graph basically begins around the time of the election of Barack Obama, and from there the rate descends rapidly until around the time that Johnson officially declared his “parting ways” (Nov. 30, ’09). This was the period of what most ex-LGFers refer to as the “Great  Purge”, as evidenced by the high rate of public bannings and (presumably) departures of many of the long-time Lizards.

Again, this isn’t that surprising, as our previous work supports this, but what’s really worth noting is the portion of the graph that begins after Johnson’s Great Switcheroo to the left was complete. We presume that Charles was hoping that the exodus of the “righty” lizards would be followed by an influx of “lefty” newcomers, and eventually bring the size of the community back (or at least closer) to where it once was. But what we see here is quite the opposite; the active community steadily continues to shrink.

We had Engineer No. 5 take a closer look and give us a breakdown, using a month when LGF was closer to it’s “peak” (Feb. ’09), compared to last month (May, ’12):

Now that puts the shrinkage into some serious perspective. As you can see on the Feb ’09 side, you have to scroll down to #9 to find a top contributor that hasn’t been banned, and at a glance, only Gus has stepped up his contributions from those days. And although the average posts per active commenter has increased a bit, the size of the active community is a mere ~12% of what it was just a few years ago, and the total comment count shrunk to ~19%.

Airing Out The Boiler Room

[Illustration courtesy of the Hon. Internet Septic Tank Engineer who, in quick response to recent requests for an image of Charles Johnson’s head on a pike, provided that graphic for all the honest and truthful bloggers of the world to enjoy, on his own dime and without request for recompensation.]

Anyone who’s been following The Diary of Daedelus knows that The Boiler Room Crew has been very busy these past few months, and now it’s time to give them a reprieve.  To be sure, they’ve passed a few messages up the seekrit shaft, yet they’ve never requested a break. They’re long overdue for shore leave.

Two home runs in the span of a pancake is above and beyond the call of duty in this reporter’s opinion. They’ve secured, hidden and camouflaged The World’s Greatest Blog Search Engine™, opened the blacked out windows and are airing the place out so it’ll be nice and fresh when they come back to tackle the next assignment in the hopper.

Congrats and Kudos, Dudos. You’ve caused jaws to drop in stunned amazement all over the internest.

Fact Check: LGF PageViews – Broken, or Rigged

We’ve heard more than a few inquiries from DoD readers who’ve wondered about how LGF calculates the “views” stat that appears on each LGF thread and page.  For myself, I’ve certainly visited a lot of LGF pages (especially old ones), and I’ll admit that something always seemed a little fishy.  And we know that Charles dumped sitemeter a while ago, along with Quantcast more recently, which makes it a little tougher to verify anything from 3rd party sources.  Instead, Johnson opted to go with his own custom-built page view counter last September to display the stats publicly at the top of each thread.  But how accurate is his “views” thingy, anyway? 

We had left the subject alone for a long time, but thanks to CJ’s recent trash tweets, he has provided the perfect excuse for us to try to sort this out (and we apologise if this gets a little wonky):

Never mind the fact that “views” doesn’t translate directly into “people” for any website (because of refreshes/revisits), or that not all those people (or any?) were neccessarily laughing, I think we should dive into this a little further, and see if the even the 21,600 views part is accurate.

First, let’s start with what Johnson himself has said about how views are calculated (this was a regarding a change that was made a little over a month after the feature was installed):

If I’m reading that right, it means that any visitor to LGF’s front page is actually registering 10 page views (one into each thread counter; whether they were actually read or not, as 9 of them aren’t likely to be on the screen without a scroll).  Additionally, we’re to assume that if said visitor actually clicks on any of the threads, that would count as another “view”, and up the counter yet again  (and if this person goes back to the front page after reading, it would register – you guessed it – another 10 views?).  It’s a slick way to pad stats, IMO, but unusable for comparison to other sites (DoD, for example, has a separate view counter for the front page in our dashboard, and front page views don’t effect thread views).

So, 21,600?  Not really.  Of course we’d need to know what % of LGFs incoming traffic is front page vs. direct thread links to get an idea on how short the real number might fall (of where a normal blog would record it), but it is going to be unquestionably less.  But if CJ wants to count the thread that is 10 spots down on the front page as “viewed”, well….whatever.

But wait, it gets better (or worse, depending on how you look at it)…

While spelunking through the depths of the LGF archives, I would notice that a lot of these old threads showed the counter increase in my browser as it was loading, and in many cases I could have sworn that it was by more than one.  While a jump like this would make sense for an article on the front page (because of all the traffic), it seems weird that it would happen on a thread from, say, 2008.  So, we had The Boiler Room put in a little overtime, and see if they can take this front page/”scroll assume” cheater effect out of the equation using old threads that aren’t on the front page and unlikely to have any interfering traffic.  What we found was pretty interesting:

Boiler Room engineer No. 2 explains the methodology:

I picked twenty old (2008) threads at random, and (using a Selenium code) hit ten of them 20 times each over about 20 minutes.  The other ten threads I hit just twice – once at the beginning and once at the end of the twenty minute period.  Idea here is to eliminate the influence (or at least quantify it if it’s there) of other people coincidentally hitting on the same old threads.

After about 200 hits over twenty minutes the ten test threads showed over 400 hits view counts increase.  The ten control threads – hit ten times over 20 minutes, showed only about 20 hits increase in LGF view counts.  This is about the same 2×1 ratio – expected – but proves (to me anyway) that the ‘extra’ 200 hits on the ten test threads were from me and not from some highly coincidental other traffic on those same threads (since this hypothetical other traffic didn’t show up at all on the control group threads).

Then I switched control threads for test threads, repeated the experiment, same result (ie new test threads got about 400 bumps in view counts for 200 hits, etc).

I checked against a different, non-LGF site – and 20 hits by the script produced exactly 20 bumps in the page views. So that tells me there’s nothing funky in the internals of the Selenium code that hits a page twice for whatever reason in the process of loading the page into the browser.

No. 2 went on to explain that while checking some of the threads “manually”, he would sometimes notice view jumps of 3 (and even 4).   That IS fishy. 

But wait…it gets even better (or worse, depending on how you look at it)

Since I prefer to double-check our engineers, I thought I’d try some of this stuff out for myself, using a handful of old LGF threads from 2003.  Sure enough, well…just watch:

Conclusion?  The aforementioned “LGF Javascript app” appears to be, um, broken.  Now whether this is intentional or not is naturally going to be speculation on our part.  But consider that we found that a simple page refresh tends to work properly, and only adds 1 to the view count, while a new or incoming view is registering 2 or 3, and a comments refresh is registering 8 or 9.  Therefore, my opinion is that it looks rigged, with some randomness thrown in to avoid detection (consistency is usually easier to spot).

In any case, if you add in the front page tomfoolery, you’ve got a view counter that is set up to display substantially inflated numbers.

Ya don’t say?

Fact checked!  21,600?  Busted…bigtime.

(Hat tip: The Boiler Room)

Update: Patterico links

Also, in the day since we’ve posted this, we’ve naturally had a lot of folks try to duplicate what happened there in the video (Patterico said he couldn’t).  With the other feedback that we’re getting, it appears that the refresh issue I’m demonstrating is specific to IE users, and that you must allow the page to load completely for it to jump by 9 like that. 

So, I whipped up another quick video, this time just refreshing the page with comments, and making sure to wait for the page to load completely.  I’m using IE8 on my VAIO, and was able to get it to jump by 9 with each refresh:

Go Speed Racer! Go!

Wow. After all these years, seems like LGF should be close in rank to Geller, Spencer, Malkin, Hot Air or even Breitbart. What went wrong?

As a longtime stealth-lizard in good standing, I admire you for sticking to your gums. Aside from that, nice trend, Chuck. Chin up, laddie, it can only get worse.


Quantcast screenshot from here. Hat tip to My Little Ponytail, and thanks to Bunk X for the pasty. Related post here.