When the tree falls, when the phone rings...


The title sounds like a latter day parody of Sound of Music, but the related question is serious. Aquinas asked: If a tree falls in forest with none to hear, is there a sound? Today that question is a cliche where once it was profound, but if a phone STOPS ringing in the desert because of the Net, is there silence?

Tom Brokaw reported on the NBC Nightly News recently as follows:
Remember earlier this spring, when we introduced you to a telephone booth in the middle of nowhere in California\'s Mojave Desert? Its number had gotten onto the Internet and people called in from around the world. Well, the line now is officially dead. But the legend lives on. Here\'s NBC\'s Roger O\'Neill.

For more see:

Did you know that if you call the number of that phone in the desert, you will get the sound of a phone ringing on your end? That is what happens for any phone you call where the customer has pulled the phone line from the jack. This is what the telcos have ruled for some obscure reason.

I recently took a trial subscription to a service that traces broken links in my HAPLR library rating web site. I was astonished at how many of the links I had put on my site now led to nowhere where once there had been a page. I guess I should not have been surprised considering that the average shelf life of a web page is numbered in days, not months or years. I listed a lot of links to newspaper coverage on HAPLR, and such coverage is especially shorlived, of course. Still, there are a lot of links to repair. Am I my own webmaster or webmonster?


Then I noticed that there was a possibility of two other things having happened. First, ET may not have called home yet, but he could have been at my site :-) Second, the very fact of these broken links may have INCREASED my site traffic.
How did the broken links increase traffic? Well, simple, the service checking for dead links was counted by my hit counter service just as it would any other user.

When I first started checking the statistics, I was excited that on a good week I was getting 10,000 \"hits.\" That was until I realized that the hits being counted included search engine \"spiders\" that prowl the whole site to index it - adding a huge number of false hits. Then I found that images count as well as text. A page with text and one image counts as two hits. Guess how many hits you get when you have just 5 small images to enhance the look of a page?

And the broken links? Well they count too! They may be frustrating to the customer, but if all I wanted to keep the traffic count high, I would leave in the broken links! Eventually I hope to include use of electronic and internet sources in the HAPLR public library rating system. I plan to bear these facts in mind.

So what about ET, the extra terrestrial then? Well because of the misleading nature of \"hits\" I decided to start looking at unique users, another item provided in my weekly statistics. This is a clearer view of actual users, only about a tenth of the number of hits, and therefore more humbling.

The service records hits by country of origin when that is available. Only 54% of the hits are identifiable as from the U.S. This past week there were visitors from 21 countries. I wonder what visitors from the United Arab Emirates of the Russian Federation want with the HAPLR ratings. But it is the 1707 hits from \"unknown\" that makes me wonder about ET, of course. :-) For information on HAPLR statistics for last week see:

Perhaps ET, having made it home, is tried to call again, and, dialing a wrong number, the phone is still ringing in the desert with none to hear! So, having clicked on one too many dead links, he decided to forgo future contact.

Posted simultaneously on the PubLib and PubLibNet listservs and LISNEWS.COM by datcalmguy otherwise known as:

Thomas J. Hennen Jr.

6014 Spring Street
Racine,WI 53406
Voice: 262-886-1625 Fax: 262-886-5424

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