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!

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