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April 01, 2005

A Zeitgeist

Thanks to an example found at Discourse.net, I have added a Zeitgeist to this site. It's a page which tracks how people have found this site through search engines: 1) what they searched for, 2) what page they landed on, and 3) how many times those keywords were used to find the site.

I didn't much care for the zeitgeist plugin or module pre-designed by someone else to integrate with this site, so I wrote my own. Mine is so much simpler than the original that it makes me wonder if I've missed something important. I hope not. I do know that the original had one hell of an awful flaw, though: people often find my site by searching for "<applet>" and/or "<object>" - and the original zeitgeist plugin would fail to strip the "<" and ">" from the keywords. That would result in the browser attempting to load an object or applet - and it was crashing whenever I'd visit a zeitgeist page with those bracketed keywords present. That was just one thing I didn't like about it, and originally I just edited the plugin to fix it. But much more difficult was getting it to validate xhtml 1.1. I had to start over from scratch.

#3 (from the first paragraph in this post, above) is a bit of a bummer, by the way, given that the very same set of keywords may lead to several different pages (particularly if they're used in differing search engines), but the zeitgeist associates the keywords only with the last page which a searcher has landed upon for those keywords. I haven't thought through how to fix that yet. Perhaps it is too minor to worry about (the original zeitgeist makes that mistake as well).

Incidentally, my zeitgeist is a custom job and not a Movable Type plugin, nor is it a perl module. It would not be of use on other websites.

Posted by Jeff at April 1, 2005 04:07 PM

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