Arantor

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Number of 'online users'
« on April 22nd, 2012, 01:57 AM »
You're probably aware of the count at the bottom of the board index/info center as to the number of 'online users' on the site and in particular the peak number online per day.

I'm wondering what people would say about removing that. You're probably thinking it's a big deal, but hear me out before you shout me down in flames, I think removing it would have some merit.

1. The figure is inaccurate. It's counting the 'number of unique visitors at a time'. Except multiple search bots bump that figure up, since Google, Bing and Baidu all send multiple bots at a time visiting the site.

2. If you do care about the statistics, odds are you'll be using Google Analytics or similar anyway, which will give you quite different figures.

3. The number of signed in users at once can always be obtained with relative accuracy but the number of guests, not so much.

4. Making the requirement for sessions on guests go away solves the bulk of the EU Cookie Law problem, as well as all of the PHPSESSID problems for search engines.

5. It would also make things quite a bit leaner on the DB side, with a lot of stuff just not having to be done dealing with sessions etc.


On the other hand, we are talking about a stat that people do rely on for gauging activity, and one that people frequently attempt to lie about on their forums to make them appear busier than they actually are. (Something I will strongly discourage in any event, it's unnecessary and you will be found out in the end)

Nao has suggested using IP addresses to identify users, and while I'm against the idea on several grounds (notably concerning privacy and technical accuracy), the odds are it would give you as meaningful a number as the current number is.

Add to that, that you can tweak the boundaries of 'what's online being based on' (e.g. number of users in the last 10 minutes vs number of users in the last 30, is obviously going to skew things) and people then proceed to lie about that. Seems to me that by cutting all that out and being done with it, you actually gain more than you lose, since really you're just losing a number that means basically squat in the real world.


There is a side concern: those of you who regularly watch Who's Online to see what people are doing, you'd be restricted to signed-in users only. I realise that some of you will have concerns over this, like those who sit and watch Who's Online for those trying to register, only to go look up on SFS or similar... I'm not convinced that's a particularly useful pastime anyway, but that would be cut out.

So, all that considered, you lose the ability to watch guests, watch what they're looking at 'right now' (though of course you can review the server logs if you're that bothered, and of course other stats are still maintained like topic view count), and you'd lose this vague stat, but you'd gain speed, some SEO boosts of sorts and you'd be far closer to compliance with the EU cookie laws that are coming in.

Let me know what you think, and we'll go from there.
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Re: Number of 'online users'
« Reply #1, on April 22nd, 2012, 02:34 AM »
I would like to argue against the fact of not knowing what guests are doing other than checking your server logs.

To you it might mean nothing. But to someone who is building a new website for its viewers, these statistics can be a asset to them.
We all know when a new website forms a lot of people like these numbers to look like people are active so they can get more activity on the site.
For a users point of view, if I logged on to a site and saw no activity, then I wouldn't be that interested.

Even if its says "guest" its still reporting some activity and gives the forum owner indication that there is users on the site. Even though they could be search engines and not actual people. But actual people may not know this, so could be good for them to have.

I like your idea of tracking through IP, so if that's the way to go then, you could add some kind of triggers that logs guest information based on what they are viewing, and also have maybe something that prunes these logs every so often so they don't fill up with trash.

Might not be great on performance maybe, but its just a suggestion.

Just an idea on thought and what I think would be nice ;)

ethankcvds

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Re: Number of 'online users'
« Reply #2, on April 22nd, 2012, 02:35 AM »
I say cut it. Not really sure what else to say, but I do agree with the points that you made.

Arantor

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Re: Number of 'online users'
« Reply #3, on April 22nd, 2012, 02:40 AM »
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I would like to argue against the fact of not knowing what guests are doing other than checking your server logs.
What the who's online log does is tell you what's going on at the time you look at it. Server logs give you a complete record.
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To you it might mean nothing. But to someone who is building a new website for its viewers, these statistics can be a asset to them.
So you build websites based on a single statistic that may as well be a random number, and that a number of people actively *lie* about that statistic to other users.
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We all know when a new website forms a lot of people like these numbers to look like people are active so they can get more activity on the site.
And we all know that lying to users is a sure way to screw things up too.
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For a users point of view, if I logged on to a site and saw no activity, then I wouldn't be that interested.
From a user's point of view, if that information isn't even displayed, you have to rely on other information to build a judgement upon, namely the posts and looking around the forum and its content. I could display a random number there for all the meaning it would provide.
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Even if its says "guest" its still reporting some activity and gives the forum owner indication that there is users on the site. Even though they could be search engines and not actual people. But actual people may not know this, so could be good for them to have.
Thank you for ignoring the key point of my post. I never said anything about hiding the number of active members. Only hiding the number of guests, which might as well be a random number for all the good it will do.
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I like your idea of tracking through IP, so if that's the way to go then, you could add some kind of triggers that logs guest information based on what they are viewing, and also have maybe something that prunes these logs every so often so they don't fill up with trash.
It's not my idea, it's also not an idea I'm a fan of, because I think it's actually irrelevant. And really, doing it by IP address will do nothing other than what you can provide by the access logs.

MultiformeIngegno

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Re: Number of 'online users'
« Reply #4, on April 22nd, 2012, 02:43 AM »
I'm ok with the removal, it "fixes" all the problems with PHPSESSID and all the things you mentioned, and of course if you want accurate stats you don't rely on SMF/Wedge stats..

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Re: Number of 'online users'
« Reply #5, on April 22nd, 2012, 02:53 AM »
You wanna see the size of my access logs and filter out what a guest is doing lol?
You could have something like awstat which takes away the need for analytic's which will place cookies on your machine and the user has to accept them.

But awstats is just a waste of resources really, that's why people use analytic's it looks better and you get more info, without it consuming CPU and memory.

The good thing is, you are not saying.. Lets just remove any statistics of all guests so it reports non. I am sure that wouldn't be very nice.
So the options are that, you remove logging of guests actions meaning you will resort to using some other analytic's to provide the forum owner with the statistics if they so need to view them.

To be honest, there isn't really a down side to it.. I am just stating some points to an equation that can scope the field.
I mean, if possible you could even consider a plugin that is optional for the forum owner to track this kind of stuff within the forum.


Arantor

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Re: Number of 'online users'
« Reply #6, on April 22nd, 2012, 02:59 AM »
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You could have something like awstat which takes away the need for analytic's which will place cookies on your machine and the user has to accept them.
Which even the crappiest shared hosting provides. No cookies, no privacy concerns, and you still get stats that are as meaningful.
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But awstats is just a waste of resources really, that's why people use analytic's it looks better and you get more info, without it consuming CPU and memory.
Please, just stop there, stop before you really make a fool of yourself.

awstats parses the server access log, you know, that one that's maintained automatically by the webserver. That will continue to be produced. But the measures I'm proposing do not change the workload awstats has, nor does it change the information available to awstats. And trust me when I say it will reduce the server workload rather than increase it as you seem to think it will.

awstats only consumes any resources when you run it - the actual logging is done ANYWAY.
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The good thing is, you are not saying.. Lets just remove any statistics of all guests so it reports non. I am sure that wouldn't be very nice.
The good thing is you get better legal compliance, everything gets faster for guests and you get better SEO, all for not tracking this one stat that doesn't mean so much.
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So the options are that, you remove logging of guests actions meaning you will resort to using some other analytic's to provide the forum owner with the statistics if they so need to view them.
Jesus FUCKING CHRIST. Will you please READ WHAT I'M WRITING AND NOT WHAT YOU THINK I'M WRITING?

You can still figure out what is being viewed and what is popular. You still have topic view counts. You still have page views and choice of analytics.

What you would lose under my proposal is the ability to see 'right now' what some group of users 'right now' is seeing. And the mythical number of current users, which is skewed anyway for a bunch of reasons.
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To be honest, there isn't really a down side to it.. I am just stating some points to an equation that can scope the field.
I mean, if possible you could even consider a plugin that is optional for the forum owner to track this kind of stuff within the forum.
So you come to a conclusion that is totally different to the rest of your posts... every paragraph before this one is where you see a downside. Or you've just repeated what I said.

Thank you for your meaningful input, it has just raised my blood pressure and confused everyone else.

lazyt

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Re: Number of 'online users'
« Reply #7, on April 22nd, 2012, 03:19 AM »
Quote: "And the mythical number of current users, which is skewed anyway for a bunch of reasons."

Ok I admit I'm the bottom of the forum coding knowledge heap. Could you please give me some examples of why these are slewed? I have never liked them and never trusted them. This way I could have some ammo when one of the mods is gushing about them.

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Re: Number of 'online users'
« Reply #8, on April 22nd, 2012, 03:34 AM »
You need to chill out and see a doctor lad.
You seriously have some constructive issues.

If you are going to flame every negative point like you know best, then why ask/raise the question in the 1st place.
Even stating in your "thoughts" its a debate raises the concern that you can't even handle a debate.

No point in being inventive when you can't take on board ideas of other people without being a complete dickhead in your replies.
If you wanna sit there and think you are better than me. I will prove to you that you ain't.
I don't appreciate anyone talking down to me and that's something you need to think about when you talk to others!

And trust me when I say that...... If you go around thinking everyone is a muppet then your deluded and the real muppet is the one with the vision that blurs reality.

Also the points you lay out to me I never correct you on the actual mistakes you make.
You contradict yourself a lot on your OWN statements and I will be happy to point them out to you.

Awstats does use resources, END OF. Whether them resources are used only in use.. It uses resources.. The fact its running and installed on your machine uses resources. Even IDLE programs USE resources.. Correction SIR. You ain't right!
Also some people disable logging of a lot of things like images, css, js files to decrease the size of the access logs as they can take GB's of data.

What compelled you to feel the need to flame this statement when what I stated was correct yet you had to add your little extra onto it.

You look for anything to flame and dig at with comments yet the best response to a user is to be polite!

For one you don't even know me. Yet you are fast on the trigger of your perception on thinking you can talk down to me.
If you have something to say.. Then say it with the knowledge, that what you do will come back to you.. Its as simple as that.

I got respect for nao as he doesn't jump so fast on triggers on flaming people because they don't agree with what you say, or have a point to make.

If you think for one second I will allow you to disrespect me.. Come again..

live627

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Re: Number of 'online users'
« Reply #9, on April 22nd, 2012, 06:11 AM »
Star:AWstats is a log analiser and nothing more. The sourceforge page says it in the second sentence! Meaning it does no work when you're not using it. All it does is read from the server. And what better way to track usage than by reading what the server itself provides!
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markham

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Re: Number of 'online users'
« Reply #10, on April 22nd, 2012, 08:54 AM »
Quote from live627 on April 22nd, 2012, 06:11 AM
Star:AWstats is a log analiser and nothing more. The sourceforge page says it in the second sentence! Meaning it does no work when you're not using it. All it does is read from the server. And what better way to track usage than by reading what the server itself provides!
I completely agree and I also agree with Arantor's proposals. In addition to the site I linked elsewhere in a related thread, I also manage a UK-based site on behalf of a "technology-challenged" owner. His brief to me was quite explicit in that he wants to know how many visitors have visited the site during any given period and where they are geographically. Having educated himself a tad on the subject, he's asked me to implement Google Analytics. I'm now in the process of telling him why I don't think that's such a great idea and why it falls foul of the new Cookie Laws (where Cookies aren't accepted). I've also explained to him that we can get a fairly accurate picture simply by using a tool such as Awstats to analyse the server logs and probably produce far more meaningful results.

And if removing guest tracking results in a drop in bandwidth and fewer SQL enquiries, with their attendant processing, then I'm all in favour. I'm pretty sure that anyone who sees a need to track their site visitors will either write a mod plug-in or have one written.


Mark
Re: Number of 'online users'
« Reply #11, on April 22nd, 2012, 09:12 AM »
Quote from oOo--STAR--oOo on April 22nd, 2012, 03:34 AM
Awstats does use resources, END OF. Whether them resources are used only in use.. It uses resources.. The fact its running and installed on your machine uses resources. Even IDLE programs USE resources.. Correction SIR. You ain't right!
I'll let you into a little secret: you are completely wrong! Awstats is a client application stored on the server and it is only only allocated and uses resources when it is specifically run; the OS frees those resources when you close the application. It is not responsible for collecting and storing the data, that's done automatically by the server. If you examine your running processes and note that Awstats is loaded when it shouldn't be, then you should talk to your hosting company as it's likely a configuration issue.


Arantor

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Re: Number of 'online users'
« Reply #12, on April 22nd, 2012, 02:07 PM »
Quote from lazyt on April 22nd, 2012, 03:19 AM
Quote: "And the mythical number of current users, which is skewed anyway for a bunch of reasons."

Ok I admit I'm the bottom of the forum coding knowledge heap. Could you please give me some examples of why these are slewed? I have never liked them and never trusted them. This way I could have some ammo when one of the mods is gushing about them.
First up, search engines often send multiple separate bots to visit the pages at once. Then you have Google Preview which will view pages without the user going there (which is also logged)

Also note that you can't really use IP address to identify users that are using (non-Wifi) mobiles because they're pushed behind proxies at the ISP level in the cell towers, meaning that you're only tracking a more limited number of users at the ISP level, not the user level.
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You need to chill out and see a doctor lad.
You seriously have some constructive issues.
The only reason I'm so pissed off with you is because I'm that fed up of having to wade through your posts where you provide your opinions that I demonstrate are wrong, and you keep dredging up the same misinformation, and you keep disrespecting me by not reading what I've written over and over and over.

Take the discussion over the Cookie Law, most of the points you raised (repeatedly) I'd already raised for discussion with the ICO, as I pointed out to you many times and you still kept trying to make your point. I heard you the first time, I told you why I disagreed with your view and said I'd referred it to the ICO for discussion, yet you kept rambling on.

I have no constructive issues with people that are constructive in themselves, which you are not at this time. Do you see me railing at Nao? Or at live? Or at anyone else who can actually read what's been said and not keep dredging up the same things over and over?
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If you are going to flame every negative point like you know best, then why ask/raise the question in the 1st place.
Even stating in your "thoughts" its a debate raises the concern that you can't even handle a debate.
No, I can handle a debate just fine. What I can't handle is people who think they know what they're talking about, who don't understand the question being asked, as evidenced by their post that is misleading and confusing, and for them to keep going over and over and over the same points without actually understanding what's been said to them. In other words, it's not the debate I can't handle, it's basically your attitude.
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No point in being inventive when you can't take on board ideas of other people without being a complete dickhead in your replies.
If you wanna sit there and think you are better than me. I will prove to you that you ain't.
I don't appreciate anyone talking down to me and that's something you need to think about when you talk to others!
I don't appreciate you posting the same misinformed diatribes, nor do I appreciate you replying to what you think I've said rather than what I've actually said, nor do I appreciate you trying to tell me how to do my job. If you want to prove me wrong, prove me wrong with evidence.
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And trust me when I say that...... If you go around thinking everyone is a muppet then your deluded and the real muppet is the one with the vision that blurs reality.
I go around taking the view that people are muppets and then I get to be pleasantly surprised when they're not, as opposed to thinking the best of people and being proven wrong. I had years of thinking the best in people and years of continual let-downs. These days I don't have continual let-downs, I have the occasional flash of being pleasantly surprised. Not a surprise here though.
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Also the points you lay out to me I never correct you on the actual mistakes you make.
You contradict yourself a lot on your OWN statements and I will be happy to point them out to you.
I'd love to see where that's true.
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Awstats does use resources, END OF. Whether them resources are used only in use.. It uses resources.. The fact its running and installed on your machine uses resources. Even IDLE programs USE resources.. Correction SIR. You ain't right!
Also some people disable logging of a lot of things like images, css, js files to decrease the size of the access logs as they can take GB's of data.
If you noticed, I actually acknowledged that fact. But the resources used in processing the log are still fewer than the resources that will be used in handling the guest log in Wedge.

It also depends on your definition of resources. In the case of awstats, it consumes space on the host that does not come out of your allocation if you're on a shared host, and its processing is not counted towards your use of the server, so on shared hosts it consumes no resources that you have to account for. Of course on a VPS or better it will make a difference but then, it's up to you if you install it and if you don't (like I don't) it's not consuming any resources.

Also note that disabling logging of CSS or JS files actually improves the ability to identify users in the action log, not decreases it, but thanks for pointing out something that for the sake of this argument is irrelevant.
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What compelled you to feel the need to flame this statement when what I stated was correct yet you had to add your little extra onto it.
Except that it wasn't. I'm fed up of wading through your points trying to find the parts where you're actually correct, because for the most part you're at best half correct.
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For one you don't even know me. Yet you are fast on the trigger of your perception on thinking you can talk down to me.
If you have something to say.. Then say it with the knowledge, that what you do will come back to you.. Its as simple as that.
You're right, I don't know you. Odds are I'd probably think slightly better of you if I did. But since I don't know you, I can only rely on the things you post. And given that pretty much every post of the last day or so has been regurgitating what people have said and adding your own misinformed view onto it, without considering what's been said, I can only conclude that you shouldn't really be operating a website and certainly not a discussion forum, because you show me more disrespect than you claim to have gotten back from me.

But on the other hand, you don't even know me. You are also pretty fast on the trigger of calling me out, but consistently you do so without anything correct to back it up. What I do will, and has, come back to me in the past. That's something I'm more than prepared to deal with. I doubt you can say the same.
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If you think for one second I will allow you to disrespect me.. Come again..
I allowed you to keep posting, which is showing you more respect than I think you deserve. When you start showing me respect, I'll start showing you some.


But maybe you are right, that I have some constructive issues. Maybe I'm projecting my faults onto you (doubtful, but it is possible), and for the second time in the last 18 months, I've considered resigning from my position here at Wedge. I've had to give up a considerable amount of things in that 18 months in order to work on Wedge, and in that 18 months I never regretted it, not for one moment, because I believed in what I was doing, but last year I considered resigning because I had enough stuff going on in real life that I couldn't give Wedge what it deserved.

Now, I'm in a similar boat, that I don't feel I can give it what it deserves, but at the same time I'm also for the first time in 18 months regretting every working on Wedge. I've met some awesome and fantastic people, and I'm proud of what has thus far been produced, and what has been achieved, but at the same time if the price I have to pay is dealing with disrespectful, misinformed people (who, frankly, have done nothing to vindicate themselves of the designation of idiot), that's perhaps a price too high for me to pay.

I had hoped that after I had a drink and a sleep that I might feel better about things, but whatever motivation I had is fast disappearing, and I can very quickly and readily go elsewhere and do what I do, for money and in all likelihood almost as much satisfaction - and none of the crap to put up with.

MultiformeIngegno

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Nao

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Re: Number of 'online users'
« Reply #14, on April 22nd, 2012, 03:51 PM »
Okay...

- I would also encourage getting rid of guest counting in the stats -- *except* in the Who's online / Info center areas where you can easily sort between guests and online members, and determine that 90% of the 'guests' are actually bots, etc... This kind of thing is interesting, but recording numbers on the long run is pointless because you can't know whether you got a bot swarm or simply an actual surge in interest.

- I think that even if we don't start a session for guests, we should still record whatever page they're on and store it somewhere for the next 15 minutes (by IP.) I really like being able to know what a guest is doing... Not only that, but some people are adamant on knowing it, for security purposes. I'd suggest maybe only showing this data to admins, and showing it in a way that's different from the Who's online section -- for instance, we could store the query string and $_SERVER and show that in a subsection of the Who's online page, or something... Because bots will often try to reach URLs that you never considered, it's nice to be able to spot the oddities in there.

- So, getting rid of PHPSESSID for guests, I'm good with that. I'm sure it'll be beneficial for everyone. We will of course need to ensure that the login and registration links lead us to a proper cookie being set, *or* or a SID param in the URL.

- @Star: you're wrong about awstats and such. But even if you weren't -- it's no reason to get into a fight with Pete. Here you are, waiting for the release of a free software package that will frankly make all others look bad, and you're pretty much insulting half of its authors.

- @Pete: don't bother, again... You don't owe anyone anything (even me, eh.) If you want to ban people (temp or perm), feel free to do it. I'd rather have a forum where people you ban people who piss you off, than a forum where you aren't at all. :P