Saturday, September 16, 2006

Cloud-y issues

Reader alert: Today's post contains backstory for the stats geek before covering ZoomCloud issues. Some of it may be hauntingly familiar .....

In previous episodes I have mentioned being a bit of a stats geek. Web sites, web pages, pages, blogs, or handouts, I want to see usage to help judge validity or redundancy. When I first started with the library web page, stats were unavailable from the university and I used a free counter. About a year later it went from free to pay and I convinced the director to fund it for a year. I won't get into the havoc said free counter code reeked on the pages, but suffice to say we no longer use the counter in question.

Currently, the university has a web stats service and it's fabulous. I am able to see how the library site ranks within the entire university site (often second only to sports) and also verify what pages within the library site are most used. This is extremely interesting as I draw closer to having to update the site. Knowing what patrons are actually using, instead of what we think they are using, is valuable. Granted it is only one aspect in the grand scheme of things, we also have LibQual stats as part of the mix, but user stats are important. Libraries are patron service oriented, if they can't use the site, why bother?

A few weeks ago I was deciding when to look at library stats again a stray thought nagged. I began wondering if there was more available than Blogger profile views and the Technorati "blogs link here" (cool thing to know, not applicable for this little blog project) rating for fun/basic stats. Bloggers profile view "thing" is pretty random; the number sticks for weeks and then viola, one day it has thirty additional hits. I don't think so. I liked the author cloud available in LibraryThing and wanted my own cloud. A quick recap on my widget affair, I decided to go with ZoomClouds to add interest to the page and see how they compared to the Tecnorati help tags people who stumbled on this blog were using, if at all. I've gone on about ZoomClouds before and while still very enamored, I have issues with the cloud, or should I say clouds, on this blog.

One afternoon after posting I noticed my Hypothetical Cloud had disappeared, eerily similar to the previously mentioned LibraryThing widget issue. At first I thought it was a ZoomCloud software or website issue, sometimes their servers go down and service is interrupted. I checked back several hours later and while ZoomCloud was up and running, my cloud was still missing. I checked clouds I had placed on other blogs, no problem. I looked at my blog template, no problem. So I reconfigured the cloud, reinserted the code in the blog, published and viewed the blog . . . zilch, nothing, nada.

I let it go for a day.

The next day I decided I would delete the existing cloud and create a new one. Not a reconfigure of the existing, but a brand spanking new cloud. I picked a name, chose all of the particulars, and posted my new cloud. Woo-hoo. At first I resisted deleting the old cloud from my account. Mostly because of the doom and gloom predicted by ZoomClouds for taking this step, but also because I determined that if the old cloud was gone, so were the accompanying statistics and it would not matter. Sometimes I am too technologically simple for my own good.

For the last two weeks I have compared the clicks on both clouds. Even though only one cloud exists, both are racking up clicks on a daily basis. And, here's the good part, the non-existent cloud gets more hits than the current one. Sure, there is a chance that the old cloud is still out in cyberspace somewhere, cached. Maybe in some parallel universe (yes, I watched Stargate Atlantis last week with the parallel universe Rodney) both are still available on the web, it's not all that far fetched. I decided it was time to ignore the predictions and delete the old cloud.

Last evening I pulled up the old cloud, printed off the stats for old times sake, and hit delete. I ignored the caution that it would be gone forever and clicked "yes." Sometime later the cloud was still being deleted. The exact words: "We're removing all tags and excerpts from this cloud. Just a sec...." An hour later the same comment on the page. Today, the old cloud again has additional clicks/stats and I decided to try deleting once more. For the last hour, it has been telling me to be patient. I'm just not that patient.

It can have until laundry is finished tonight. I'll delete from work on Monday, maybe the better internet connection will make a difference.

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