Friday, August 21, 2015

My career as a Putinologist nipped in the bud

What kind of alien creatures are infesting my blog?

How many Russians read this blog? From the data I have from Google Analytics, I thought they were many; by far the largest fraction of readers from non-English speaking countries. So many that I published the data and asked for comments from my Russian readers.

The comments I received from Russia were very few. I reasoned that maybe most Russians following the blog could read English, but had trouble in expressing themselves in English; and that sounded plausible. Then, I noticed something strange: my blog in Italian (Effetto Risorse) also had a large readership from Russia; again, according to Google Analytics. Now, I know that many Russians speak good English, but Italian? Something just didn't click together the way it should have.

I was scratching my head while thinking about this story when I got a message from Allan Stromfeld Christensen (of "From Filmers to Farmers") who asked me, "are you sure that all those visits are from real people?" And he went on to tell me that he had noticed a lot of visits from China to his blog, but that these visits had turned out to be just web bots.

So, I went to check my site with a different analytical tool, "Statcounter" that I had installed but wasn't using so much. Statcounter claims to detect "actual human activity" and, indeed, the data it reports put the number of visits from Russia way down in the list; no more than about 1% or less of the total. My site is infested with Russian bots, and that's it. (or, at least, it looks like the most reasonable interpretation of the data)

You can imagine that it was a very disappointing discovery for a Russophile, as I am. But so is life, and you live to learn. After all, 1% of visits from Russia is still better than 0% visits from Russia. But my career as a Putinologist is ruined!

But the whole story is worrisome. Russian bots, all right, but what else? What are all those bots infesting the Internet? Where do they come from? Even more worrisome, who are you, out there? Are you all bots? Or droids? Or holograms? Or bug eyed monsters? Or little green men? Or what? Is there anyone human reading my blog? Who knows? Mysteries of the Internet.......


Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)