Hit Count? Read Count!

At the end of one of my recent posts, I had requested the readers to necessarily rate the post, as a means to know how many people actually read the post till the end. I considered this statistic to be as significant as the number of hits. Actually, I needed that number for this calculation I had in mind, that can potentially give us a much more powerful criterion to rank posts.. something that I am tempted to call “Read Count”.

So, the outline of this calculation is rather simple:

For a given post, the number of hits is essentially the number of people who read at least the post title; and the number of of ratings is the number of people who lasted through the whole thing. Now, the number of people who lasted, say, only up to halfway through the post, will almost always be some value between these two extremes. So in fact, one can try to fit a nice curve between the start of the post and the end, which shows how many people reached up to that point. Since we know the values of the curve at both ends, it only remains to determine how the curve will typically be shaped.. linear, concave or convex?

Now, since the curve also reflects the average readers’ interest that lasted up to that point, I searched for online sources that try to gauge the typical audience attention over a single activity as a function of time, and found that the curve is concave-up (note that this source is indicating the attention span length and not intensity, but it is easy to translate one into the other).

And finally, equipped with this killer graph, we determine its area-under-the-curve(codename for Integral), which is essentially proportional to the amount of time for which people have been actually reading your post. And this is what I define as the Read Count of the post.

Of course, there are much more direct ways to measure how much time people spend reading your posts: Simply hide a simple Javascript timer in the sidebar, that keeps ticking as long as the page is open, and also sends the elapsed time periodically via HTTPXML, to a PHP script located on some server, which keeps a track of these requests (or rather, when they stop coming in), to estimate the amount of time the page was open for.

That is a hardly “direct” way, but it is probably less indirect, to say the least. But that apart, what makes Read Count so powerful? Well, it is the simple notion of dividing this by the number of hits that the post got, to find out the mean attention span length of the reader base.. which in turn, can let you determine the very precise part of your post, around/after which people on an average, lost interest in the post! The ultimate debugging tool for any blogger, I’d say.

The possibilities of using the fresh curve are endless..

PS: Hence, Rate this post if you are reading this!

7 responses to “Hit Count? Read Count!

  1. Bleargh, I have to leave my rss feed reader and actually open up the posts on your blog page everytime I want to rate anything … so I didn’t rate many posts for the longest time (even though I read them completely). I finally went through and rated all of them a while ago. 😛
    But I might be lazy and stop doing so again … so just letting you know! 😀

  2. nice post!!
    But I just had this doubt
    Whenever I see a blog I see how long it is. I think that only after seeing the length, the people decide upon the speed/depth of reading.
    So when just scanning for the length we obviosly look at the last note right. So I dont think that it may give us the right measure as to who read the blog completely.

    • Yes, that is a valid point. So, I should request readers to rate a post only if they have reached the end after actually reading the whole thing.

      • Usually, any post will have a really low read count, because people generally avoid providing any kind of feedback – rating or comments or otherwise. I can’t be sure, but I’m led to believe that the number of ratings is a gross underestimation.

        Also, what you say about using the JS timer – I open a post in a tab, and might keep it open for a whole day before finally reading it (bad habit of postponing reading an article). So, if all people are lazy like me, this time might be an overestimation.

        As Mr. Anonymous pointed out, length is a factor. Also, general relevance of the post to people’s lives is a factor. Post something funny about IIT, and you get hits (and also reads) in bulk, and post something serious and important about evolutionary biology, and your read base is restricted. So now, I am also going to specifically ask people this: Rate this post iff you read till the end 🙂

        • Of course.. I was making a fundamental assumption that when I request people to rate a post at the end of it, they aren’t too lazy to drag the heavy mouse across to the stars and exert some more energy in clicking.
          @JS timer.. I can easily take care of that because JS can also detect whether the current tab has focus or not.
          @length, general relevance etc: note that the Read Count divided by Hit count, is a scalable index that is independent of both the size of the reader base, as well as the post length.

          • Actually I interpreted the read count incorrectly, so yes, the read count divided by the hits does look like a very powerful statistic.

  3. Pingback: Exams and a lot of other things « Nishant's Blog

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