One might fairly say of me that I am a creature of habit. At the age of sixty-one, I have owned six cars, the newest of which is now fifteen years old. Much of my household stuff was acquired in the 1980s; I used to have a reference in my Twitter profile to the effect that "I have towels older than you," and unless you were well into your thirties, it was true. (Still, the person who found it most interesting voice actor Tabitha St. Germain left thirty behind a long time ago.) I had a bank account in 1975 that I finally closed in 2010. In general, something fairly terrible has to happen to get me off the dime and change things around.

Which brings us to SiteMeter, a handy little counting and analytical site for which I signed up in 1999 when I bought the domain. They offered a fair amount of back-end data for a smallish price, and they continued where my old counter service had left off. (In 35 months of so-so business with my original site, I had picked up a mere 6,444 visitors. There have been two days in the history of this site that I got more than that.)

After a decade or so, things began to unravel: customer support, always inscrutable, began to slow. Entire months vanished from the database:

Today's "Summary" will show 2,297,230 all day, though the actual meter at this writing indicates 2,328,640. This is a difference of 31,410, which has varied very little in the last four days. I continue to believe that the higher figure is correct, and that the lower ones resulted from failure to post changes during a period of site "upgrades." The weekly report emailed me on Saturday had the correct Saturday total. Of course, I can't prove it, and usually the only way to get through to tech support is to have your payment go troppo.

Nor was I the only one to report this sort of thing. Things settled down a bit after that, though the numbers were never actually corrected. Then the bottom fell out:

[L]ately I've been noticing that some of my sites are loading slowly, that after they've loaded they tend to start "churning" again seemingly at random, with strange "connecting to" statuses regarding sites I've never heard of. In particular, slash yadayadayada. And sometimes I'll get a blank page with a "couldn't load" message and a URL before the page fully loads.

I was starting to worry that I had some new kind of ChromeOS malware or something going, or that it had to do with the ad broker I use to monetize some of my sites, but after a bit on the search engines, I came across this blog post by Jim McBee. And I immediately realized and quickly verified that yep, this stuff seems to be happening to me on my sites (and other people's sites) that run Sitemeter, and to not be happening on sites that don't have visible Sitemeter installations in their sidebars or footers.

Two sins, in other words: they implemented the forced redirect, and then they did it badly.

I spent the better part of two weekends expunging SiteMeter code from this site, which appeared in a mere 24,000 locations. Actually, getting it off the WordPress blog section was easy: just pull the code from the sidebar. But that left all the Vents, all the pre-WordPress stuff (1996-2006), and various and sundry other pages to be changed manually. (If you must do this sort of thing, consider this a recommendation for Notepad++, which offers search and replace over multiple documents.)

In place of SiteMeter, I have installed something called StatCounter, created in 1999 by Aodhan Cullen. StatCounter is now the fifth-largest tracking utility, representing 1.8 percent of all Web sites. (Not unexpectedly, Google Analytics is by far the largest; SiteMeter has now dropped out of the top twenty.) I have reset the counter to reflect what I think SiteMeter's final figure should have been, and the count continues. Because, you know, continuity.

The Vent

  1 June 2015

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