Something I’ve been thinking a lot about as a matter of strange coincidence is

web analytics. While I’ve been pretending to run a website for almost a decade

now with several smaller attempts of other peoples’ sites in between,

something I’ve never given enough thought to was analytics. Who’s looking my

site? Where’d they come from? What keeps them there, or sends them away, or

brings them back? It has always been something I took for granted – chugging

through my Apache logs and reporting how “popular” I felt this week based on

number of hits.

For me, AWstats has been the de facto

standard, always available at whatever my site was slash awstats. I’d look,

but I didn’t really care. It was just there. But it seems now that the old

skool method of analyzing a log file is not only no longer vogue, but probably

the worst way of doing it. Google’s Analytics

is the latest “beta lab” app, and from what I’ve seen, it does a fairly good

job of keeping track of who’s who on your site. Piwik is

also going down that road, aiming to be the open source equivalent. Rather pay

for your analytics? Great! Have a mint!. Truth be

told, I’m not sure what they give you that Google or Piwik doesn’t for that

$30, but at least you have the satisfaction that comes with legitimately

licensing a product.

All three of those hot, fresh, new analytics sites appear to have one thing in

common – no log files necessary. JavaScript calls are placed “somewhere” in

your HTML (before the close body tag suggested, but as I’ve seen, not

necessary) and a big magic database in the sky keeps track of your visitors.

But that’s not even the cool part. These Web2.0 friendly reporting tools all

focus on user experience as only a Web2.0 site can. That’s not to say that

they shouldn’t, and an easy to read and understand chart goes a long way. Just

so long as the focus is balanced between form and function, then all is good

in the world.

So, why the mention of AWstats? Because I fear they are on the border of being

incredibly irrelevant really, really fast. Yesterday, while working on an

intranet project at Big Red, we found that AWstats was having problem with our

log file. That led in to the question of whether or not to upgrade, and we

quickly learned that in two years, AWstats has only moved from 6.6 ro 6.8, and

the latest hadn’t been released into the SuSE online repository. This was just

enough of a catalyst for us to start exploring the idea of other tools. It’s

sad, though, because I do feel that my old stats package had it right early,

but just couldn’t keep up. C’est la vie, I suppose. Progress waits for no

person.