How did you get here? It’s easy enough for me to find out—I can just browse any one of a number of back-end blogging widgets we have installed to see, for instance, how many unique page views we’re getting each day, how many times individual pieces have been read, where people are being referred to us from, and which countries read us the most (America is top, then the UK, although I’d also like to send a shout out to our 23 intrepid Ukrainian visitors).
Most disturbing, however, is the widget that shows what Google searches have led people here. That “free magazines published in 2007” points to us is not too surprising, but that “dog is sacred” also did is more intriguing, as is the fact that “you didn’t read my book did you Reinert” ended up at our door. I also spotted a theme that suggests we have at least a few Daily Mail readers among our fans, with “will inflation decrease the value of my house?” and “what effect will inflation have on house prices?” And I have no comment whatever to make on “stupid fucking fallible human beings” pointing to one of my posts.
As you can probably tell and may well already know, tinkering away behind a blog is an addictive activity. It’s also a kind of magical thinking—as if by watching live streams of data I am somehow helping the success of the project. The information feels useful, of course, but only when retrospectively arranged into a narrative; I feel in control of a tiny kingdom of information, but almost none of it is in fact dependent on me. This is perhaps why, as a disillusioned video-game designer recently remarked to me, the most addictive games of all are those over which people have no control.