Regular readers—or, at least, people who have looked at this site before the last month or two—might remember that it used to have a discreet cookie consent banner at the top of the page, asking if you consented to me planting a tracking cookie that I promised not to send to anyone else. It would pop up again about once a year, just to make sure you hadn’t changed your mind. If you clicked yes, you appeared on my Google Analytics dashboard. If you clicked no, you didn’t.
What you probably haven’t noticed is that it isn’t there any more. A few weeks ago now, I quietly stripped it out. This site now puts no cookies of any sort on your machine, necessary or otherwise, so there’s no need for me to ask to do it.
When I first started this site’s predecessor, twenty-something years ago, I found it quite fascinating looking at the statistics, and in particular, looking at what search terms had brought people to the site. If you look back in the archives, it used to be a common topic for posts: “look what someone was searching for and it led them to me!” What to do when you find a dead bat was one common one; and the lyrics to the childrens’ hymn “Autumn Days When The Grass Is Jewelled”. It was, I thought—and I might not have been right about this—an interesting topic to read about, and it was certainly a useful piece of filler back in the days of 2005 when I was aiming to publish a post on this site every day, rather than every month. If you go back to the archives for 2005, there’s a lot of filler.
Now, though? Hopefully there’s not as much filler on the site as there was back then. But the logs have changed. Barely anything reaches this site through “organic search” any more—”organic search” is the industry term for “people entering a search phrase in their browser and hitting a link”. Whether this means Google has got better or worse at giving people search results I don’t know—personally, for the searches I make, Google has got a lot worse for the sort of searches where I didn’t know what site I wanted to go to beforehand, but for the sort of lazy searches where I already know where I want to go, it’s got better. I suspect the first sort were generally the sort that brought people here. Anyway, all the traffic to this site comes from people who follow me on social media so follow the link when I tell them there’s a new blog post up.
Given that the analytics aren’t very interesting, I hadn’t looked at them for months. And, frankly, do I write this site in order to generate traffic to it? No, I dont. I write this site to scratch an itch, to get things off my chest, because there’s something I want to say. I write this site in order to write this site, not to drive my income or to self-promote. I don’t really need a hit counter in order to do that. Morover, I realised that in all honesty I couldn’t justify the cutesy “I’m only setting a cookie to satisfy my own innate curiosity” message I’d put in the consent banner, because although I was just doing that, I had no idea what Google were doing with the information that you’d been here. The less information they can gather on us, the better. It’s an uphill struggle, but it’s a small piece in the jigsaw.
So, no more cookies, no more consent banner and no more analytics, until I come up with the itch to write my own on-prem cookie-based analytics engine that I can promise does just give me the sort of stats that satisfy my own nosiness—which I’m not likely to do, because I have more than enough things ongoing to last me a lifetime already. This site is that little bit more indie, that little bit more Indieweb, because I can promise I’m not doing anything at all to harvest your data and not sending any of it to any third parties. The next bit to protect you will be setting up an SSL certificate, which has been on the to-do list for some months now; for this site, given that you can’t send me any data, all SSL will really do is guarantee that I’m still me and haven’t been replaced, which isn’t likely to be anything you’re particularly worried about. It will come, though, probably more as a side-piece to some other aspect of improving the site’s infrastructure than anything else. This site is, always has been, proudly independent, and I hope it always will be.