15.1 Using the !conflog Command to Check Conference Visits

Have you ever wondered who is reading your conference, and when? A simple host tool called conflog, written by Bryan Higgins, can answer that question. It displays a log of PicoSpan visits to any conference you host. If you were to type

    !conflog mesozoic

using our example, you’d see visits to our fictitious mesozoic conference during the current month, listing the conference, user and time.

      mesozoic: zipidy Mon Nov 3 00:00:38 2005


      mesozoic: puffball Mon Nov 3 00:22:35 2005


      mesozoic: madmoth Mon Nov 3 00:54:16 2005


      mesozoic: hydrant Mon Nov 9 01:03:53 1994


A visit is counted only if the user reads topics or posts in a conference.
Note: The !conflog command does not keep track of visitors using Engaged.

The !conflog command works for Featured, limited-access or private conferences. You must be a host of the conference to run conflog. If you host more than one conference, you may specify multiple conferences on the conflog line if you want, separating them with spaces.

You might want to use !conflog to display a list of the visits since the last time you ran conflog on that conference. The very first time you run it, you will be shown all the visits since the beginning of the month (you may type q to quit out of the pager if you don’t want to read the entire list).

Using !conflog creates and maintains a file called .conflog.conf in your home directory, where .conf is the conference’s real name. In our example, you’d find a file called .conflog.mesozoic in your home directory. This file has no contents, simply a date and time which is updated each time you look at conflog output.

If you like to see the most recent visits to your conference each time you log on, you can put a command in your own .profile (or .login if you are a C-shell user.)

To add the command to your profile, from an OK prompt, in your own home directory, type:

    !echo “conflog mesozoic” >> .profile

The quotes are necessary, and you would use your own conference name (or several conferences you host separated by single spaces) in place of “mesozoic” inside the quotes. You can also edit your .profile with your favorite editor and type in

    conflog mesozoic

directly as text, which does the same thing as using the !echo command to add it. If you get tired of seeing the visits when you log on, you can remove this line at any time by editing your .profile (or .login if your account is in a C-shell) again.

There are also some handy options for your non-automated use of conflog. If you type

    !conflog -a mesozoic

at an OK prompt, you will see all the visits in a month, even if you’ve been checking more frequently. A typical use of this is to dump a larger list of visits to a file to sort and count, on your own machine, or with Unix tools on The WELL.

It’s also possible to look at a certain span of time. If you type

    !conflog -s 2 mesozoic

you will see all the visits since 2 days ago (or any date you choose in the current month), while

    !conflog -s 2 mesozoic | tail -20

will show you the last 20 lines or the last 2 days worth, whichever is shorter. The character between “mesozoic” and “tail” is called a pipe and is simply a vertical line. It shares the backslash key on most standard keyboards. Each of the above commands can also be executed when you log on, by putting the command in your .profile or .login, without that leading !.

Conflog can let you know who is an avid but quiet reader so that when that person posts for the first time, you can encourage them. However, it will not tell you who is reading by using the extract tool or reading through Engaged, so not showing up in conflog is not proof that a user didn’t see a post. You may also want to keep in mind that knowing when someone read your conference is not proof of what they read, since they could have been reading either new responses, or older topics, and may have forgotten some current topics.

Use of this tool is entirely optional and many hosts decide not to spend time looking at who is reading, but to focus instead on who is posting.  

15.2 Census: Comparing Conference Activity

“Census” gives you a list of the number of visits to all open access conferences for the previous month. To access this list,

Type: census

and you’ll see something like this:

Conference Activity for March 1, 2008 through March 31, 2008

                                     Unique     Unique
Rank   Conference          #Posts   Posters   Visitors   Participation
====   ============        ======   =======   ========   =============
  1.   news                  3214       177        365             542
  2.   media                 4862       151        323             474
  3.   tv                    2433       155        282             437
  4.   wellcome               112        31        360             391
  5.   popcult                592        88        240             328

The actual list will, of course, be much longer. It’s good for getting a feel for how your conference is doing, activity-wise, relative to the other conferences on The WELL. Host visits are not counted in their own conferences. If you would like to compare census statistics over time, go to the backstage conference via PicoSpan and type stats

15.3 Using Extract -U for Topic Statistics

Have you ever wondered who’s contributing how much to a given topic? Extract is just the tool to tell you just that. Suppose you’d like to look at statistics for topic 233 in our example Mesozoic Life conference. At any prompt,

Type: extract -U mesozoic 233

You’ll see something like this:

Userid          Responses       Bytes           Topics     New topics

zipidy		17  34% 	7256  65% 	1 100% 	     1 100%
geenada	        17  34% 	2859  25% 	1 100% 	     0   0%
hydrant	         4   8% 	 312   3% 	1 100% 	     0   0%
puffball	 4   8% 	 163   1% 	1 100% 	     0   0%
mirrori	         2   4% 	 202   2% 	1 100% 	     0   0%
rrrev		 2   4% 	 142   1% 	1 100% 	     0   0%
fluffy		 1   2% 	 142   1% 	1 100% 	     0   0%
attitune	 1   2% 	 126   1% 	1 100% 	     0   0%
techie2	         1   2% 	  34   0% 	1 100% 	     0   0%
disturbo	 1   2% 	  33   0% 	1 100% 	     0   0%

The column “Responses” tells you how many responses each user has posted in that particular topic. The % columns tell you what percentage of the total responses, bytes, topics and new topics each user has entered. (When !extract -U is run on a single topic, each user is posting in 1 topic, so each user posts in 100% of the topics sampled, and one user has done 100% of the topic starting. Those fields are much more interesting when you look at a series of topics, or a whole conference.)

To run extract -U on the entire Mesozoic Life conference, you would:

    type: extract -U mesozoic

It will display the same statistics as above for the entire conference. (It may take a while if your conference is large.)

Extract will give you the number of posts per user for a Featured, limited-access or private conference, and allows you to see this count for the whole conference or one topic since (or before) a particular date.

    Type: extract -U -s 5/11 mesozoic

for example, to see the number of posts per user in the whole conference since 5/11 of the current year, or any particular date. Typing  extract by itself will give you a screen full of options to customize your extract searches as you wish.


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