Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Cost Of Airshows, What I Know About You, And Unobtrusive Measures

As the title suggests, I'm trying to kill three birds with one post.  But everything is connected and so I'm showing just three of the interconnected issues here.

Let's start with the cost of airshows.

I wrote a post in 2012 called Air Shows And The Cost Of Military Fuel.  I gathered what information I could and made some very general calculations.  I wasn't terribly happy with it because there were so many unknowns.  But there wasn't all that much out there and apparently still isn't since that post still regularly gets a fair number of hits from all over the world.

But as I checked StatCounter* this morning, I noticed a hit from Lockheed Corporation.  And then one from Boeing.  And another one last night from the US Senate.

click image to enlarge and focus
What I Know About You

That image above is a Photoshopped grouping of three different records from StatCounter.

StatCounter is one of many tools websites, including blogs, can use to track visitors to their sites.  I moved to StatCounter from Sitemeter after Sitemeter gave me all sorts of problems.  I suspect my regular readers got tired of my complaining and were happy when I switched and they stopped hearing about it.

Everyone who surfs the web should know about the information that is collected from them by each website they visit.  Sitemeter packaged that data about each individual visitor in a whole page that included more that StatCounter individual reports.  But StatCounter packages the info in a way that makes it faster to view and breaks out a lot more information in different reports.

But all these programs simply use the information that your computer collects on visitors and packages it in different formats.

If you click on the image, it will enlarge and focus so you can read it.  I don't get all this information from everyone.  First, I suspect there are a lot of visitors StatCounter doesn't even report.  I say this because Google Analytics says I have a lot more visitors than StatCounter reports, but it doesn't give me such detailed info on each visitor.
Also, some visitors have scrubbed their info - whether their internet provider does that, or they have done it themselves.  Another way is to use a proxy server which hides all the info.

I'd also note that if you use the private browsing feature of your browser, that only hides info about what sites you visit on your own computer.  You still leave tracks at the websites you visit.

I have put this sort of info up now and then because I think most folks really have no idea of how much info they leave around while surfing the web.  And I'm often surprised at how organizations leave their names up so people can see that they have visited.  And part of me doesn't want to post things like this which may alert them and cause them to disguise their identity.  I like knowing that these visitors visit.

I'd also note that all this information - plus more - is how browsers and others make lots of money selling it to advertisers.   These are, unobtrusive measures, because most people leave these tracks without knowing.  The main way people have any clue about any of this comes from the pop-up ads we get after visiting a particular site.  If you delete the cookies, some of them will end.

Unobtrusive Measures

"Unobtrusive measures are measures that don't require the researcher to intrude in the research context. Direct and participant observation require that the researcher be physically present. This can lead the respondents to alter their behavior in order to look good in the eyes of the researcher. A questionnaire is an interruption in the natural stream of behavior. Respondents can get tired of filling out a survey or resentful of the questions asked.
Unobtrusive measurement presumably reduces the biases that result from the intrusion of the researcher or measurement instrument. However, unobtrusive measures reduce the degree the researcher has control over the type of data collected. For some constructs there may simply not be any available unobtrusive measures."
The site goes on to identify three different types of unobtrusive measures.

I mention this because these tracks that people leave on websites are a form of unobtrusive measure.  My use of it is very informal and unorganized.  Every now and then I'll suddenly get a bunch of hits for an old post and it will alert me that something is happening related to something in the post.  Once I got a bunch of hits for a post about the director of the Alaska DMV, mostly from Texas.  So I started checking and found out she'd taken a job as the head of the Texas DMV.  The counter alerted me to that.

Another time a post suddenly got a bunch of hits and it turned out a British newspaper had a puzzle and my post had one of the answers. Here's a 2009 post that chronicles that event and several others where I was alerted to something by the hits on a particular post.

So, for what it is worth, today I got three hits on this post about the cost of fuel for airshows.  Three isn't a lot of hits, but when they are from Boeing, Lockheed, and the US Senate, it suggests that perhaps someone is looking into that issue.

Now, I don't know if the visitor from, say Boeing or the US Senate, was doing this officially or it was just someone privately surfing while at work.  But given the three hits from these three I suspect there's an interesting reason.  Is a budget committee examining the costs of air shows?  Or is it something else buried in the post?  For most google searches I no longer get the actual search terms - that's something they've done to improve user security - so I don't know for sure what they were looking for.  I just know where they landed.


  1. I was thinking of case law on public libraries in the US and how one had Bill of Rights shield against one's book loans being disclosed to a third party.

    How much lost for the gains we have today. Generationally speaking, younger folk I talk with don't even know such a time. Perhaps we are moving toward a world of cyber-neural connectivity, after all.

    We shall see.

    1. While we think that we have progressed in terms of freedoms - civil rights, women's rights, gay rights, etc. - it may well turn out that the personal rights of everybody are in decline as corporations and the very wealthy who own them know more about us and are able to use that knowledge to shape how we think.
      We already know that many fear that for the first time our younger generations will have a lower physical standard of living. That's easy to see and understand. But you're raising the specter that they'll also have a lower standard of freedom, which is much less visible. We need to be writing about what our world's were like - even those whose worlds were curtailed by discrimination.


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