Glance Jousting

Jousting Sir Quint of Knights of Avalon on Nob...
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I mostly grew up in big cities.  Big cities have a reputation for being rude.  I think the impression of rudeness has to do with how strangers treat each other.

In a big city, when two strangers walk past each other in the street they don’t acknowledge each other at all, whereas in a small town they’re more likely to give eye contact, smile and say hi.  I prefer the big city way of doing things, at least partially because it lets me avoid something I call “glance jousting”.

Glance jousting is a game involuntarily played by all strangers who walk past each other.  Like a lot of things in life, it’s very easy to lose and very difficult to win.

Basically here’s how glance jousting works – you’re walking down the street and a stranger is walking towards you.  You both pretend the other person doesn’t exist until the very last second, and then you both do something.  If you both do the same thing then you both win, otherwise you both lose.  On the up side, both the prize for winning and the penalty for losing are extremely transitory – either you get a brief flash of feeling good or feeling bad.

Here are some losing scenarios:

  • The other person tries to make eye contact and you don’t, or you try to make eye contact and the other person doesn’t
  • The other person smiles and you don’t, or you smile and the other person doesn’t
  • The other person nods and you don’t, or you nod and the other person doesn’t
  • The other person greets you and you don’t respond, or you greet the other person and they don’t respond

Here are some winning scenarios:

  • You ignore each other
  • You both make eye contact
  • You both smile
  • You both nod
  • One of you greets the other, who responds in kind

The verbal greeting is the only one that you don’t need to do simultaneously, because if you both spoke at the same time that would be another losing scenario.  However as you only have a split second to respond, you need to be ready to speak in case the other person does.  Note that verbal greetings are only appropriate in some cultures, so I never initiate in case of an unexpected losing scenario.

It’s possible that you’ve been playing this game your whole life without realizing it because you’re not aware of a good feeling prize/bad feeling penalty.  If so, it’s possible you’re a sociopath – seek help immediately.

There are subtleties for the advanced player – if you both smile but one of you smiles more or less than the other person, that could be a losing scenario.  To a certain extent these subtleties are culturally defined, and in some cultures anything short of a successful full greeting is considered a losing scenario.  If you live in one of these cultures my advice to you is to move to a big city.

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I’ve been using the private beta of Woopra for about a week.

Woopra is a web analytics service like Google Analytics, but its unique feature is that you can see the traffic live instead of just a report at the end of the day.

The other thing that’s different about Woopra is that instead of being completely web based (like Google Analytics), you need to install a Java-based client application.

At first glance it seems like a step backwards to need a client application – all the heavy lifting happens on the server anyway, and a web app is accessible anywhere whereas client apps need to be installed.

However the upside of having a client application is that you can set up Event Notifications so that you get a systray notification when a visitor that matches some criteria (that you define) arrives – that would be difficult to do in a web app.

I really like  Event Notifications because my website only gets about one hit per hour, so in order to see the visits live I would need to have the client application open all the time just in case.  With Event Notifications I can have the client hidden until I get a visit.

The client consists of a Dashboard, a Live display, Search, Analytics and a Management screen for Event Notifications.  No matter what screen you’re on you can always see a header with some quick visit numbers and a line graph of today’s visits and hits by hour, and a footer with a ticker of today’s visit information as compared to yesterday’s.

The Dashboard has tables with an overview of visits and hits, what content has had hits today, referring sites and search keywords used.  It’s a good overview of the day’s traffic but doesn’t make it very easy to see live traffic so I don’t spend much time there.

The Live display is much more interesting, assuming you have enough traffic to see some of it happening live.  This screen has a map of the world that shows visits as dots on it when they happen – it’s very exciting to watch 🙂  You can change the map to only show a specific country, if you have enough traffic to be worth it.  There’s also a table that shows your current visitors and a bigger table that shows the details of the currently selected visitor – for example location, operating system, browser, where they came from and which of your pages they’ve visited this session – it’s fascinating.

For me, the best thing about the Live display is that there is a button you can press to maximize the map to take up the whole monitor.  If you have a second monitor attached to your computer or a spare computer with its own monitor you could have map showing all the time, with your visitors appearing on it live!

The Search screen lets you mine the data that Woopra collects about your visitor’s browsing sessions.  It’s useful because the live data disappears off of the Live display when the visitor leaves.

The Analytics screen gives you more of a bird’s eye view of the data.  This is more conventional web analytics – graphs of visits per day, pie charts of the operating systems your visitors use etc.

One thing people worry about with web analytics is whether their web pages will be slowed down.  The Woopra tracking script goes into the footer of your website, so it is run last and doesn’t slow the page load down at all.  They also have plugins for various blogging platforms (like WordPress) so the tracking script is added for you automatically.

When it is released, Woopra will apparently have free and paid versions, but at the moment it’s still in (free) closed beta.  You can sign up for the beta and they’ll approve you when they want to open it up to more users.  During the beta testing phase it is restricted to sites with less than 10,000 pageviews per day.

With the economy the way it is I can’t say I would definitely pay money for Woopra, especially with free alternatives like Google Analytics out there but I suppose that depends on the capabilities of their free version and how much the paid version will cost.

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