www.fractalus.com/contest99/entries/entry-389.htm (Photo: Fractalus.com)

What a tangled web

Hosts with the most

The world wide web will surely go down as one of the wonders of the modern world. Almost anyone with a few bucks in their pocket can become their own publisher, and hyperlinks interconnect all those words and ideas in the most amazing way. The degrees of separation between any two people or ideas can be reduced to one with a simple mouse click. Even more amazingly, a real-time history of those links is generated in the traffic logs kept by virtually every web server.

Unless logging has been disabled for some reason, a web server makes a record of every request it gets and responds to — every "hit." These files provide a fascinating trail of breadcrumbs to follow, for whatever purpose, benign or sinister.

Sample entry from log of williamsonpsp.com

209.167.50.22 - - [22/Aug/2003:13:28:36 -0500] "GET /chronicles/2003/05/20_camping.html HTTP/1.1" 200 12787 "www.jimschrempp.com/" "LinkWalker"

(all one line - wrapped here for your convenience)

www.chasm.co.yu/image26.htm (Photo: www.chasm.co.yu)

Note that the actual user is identified only by IP address, not by name or email.

Sifting through the logs for williamsonpsp.com has provided a lot of amusement and a few surprises. One of the interesting things is to look at the referrer url, the site whence the user made the link to williamsonpsp.com. In the example above the referrer url is "www.jimschrempp.com." These are often predictable, namely various search engines, such as www.google.com, www.altavista.com, search.yahoo.com, aolsearch.aol.com, and so forth.

But once in a while some other site will pop up high in the list of referrers.

candykids.net In August, the top referring url — with 171 hits — was candykids.net. What! A quick visit to the site left me scratching my head: What could possibly send habitués of a site devoted to dance parties, raves, clubs, and who knows what else to williamsonpsp.com?

To the logfiles! 171 times people in one of the candykids forums (I'd use the actual plural, "fora" but it might seem pretentious) looked at one of the pictures from the Golf Cart Parade in Palm Desert (the one shown right). Not that there's anything wrong with them looking at it! In fact, I'm pleased they found something of interest on my site. But what were they thinking?! Were they planning a float for the homecoming parade?

By the way, the parade is coming up again soon on 2nd November — it's never too soon to make your travel arrangements!

See no evil

freerepublic.com This month, the top referring url so far has been freerepublic.com, "the premier conservative news forum."

Now this discovery gave me enormous pleasure! Surely I'm being raked over the coals for some of my Ashcroft and Bush remarks! This will be entertaining, I thought. I envisioned a compendium of delicious and outrageous quotes.

Alas. When I scoured the logfiles to find out what the devotees of conservative news were looking at, it was only to find that someone had used a link to one of my pictures (shown right) to make a point in a long thread called "Life's complexity diminishes Darwinian potency." (On the page, search for items addressed "To: gore3000" - they're near the bottom.) If you don't mind conversations where they throw around terms like "abiogenesis," go for it!

Based on a suggestion by my friend Jim and the excellent example he provided at cockeyed.com, I have substituted a new image as the destination of the link with a suitably biblical admonition. See the new image

Update. Hard as it may be to believe, I actually felt bad about the little substitution prank I had played with the graphic. You see, it was a very clever and effective use of an image to make a point. So, yesterday (16-Sep) I put the image back to the original. The thread was losing steam anyway — perhaps they tired of discussing abiogenesis. Now the forum's visitors may begin to wonder if they were only imagining the switcheroo. Causing Creationists to question their sanity is a good thing in its own right.

Onesie-twosies. Once you get past the major search engines and the occasional cluster of referrals, most referrer URLs appear just a few times. But even some of these are good to pique the curiousity.

http://www.bhg.com
Better Homes and Gardens — An enduring mystery is how someone got to my site from a recipe for almond shortbread cookies
http://www.hyperspin.com
This could be a consultant to the Bush White House, but it's not
http://www.online-kasino.de
"Warning: main(): stream does not support seeking in /is/htdocs/33441/www.hypergate.de/domains/online-kasino_de/index.php on line 61" I guess the Germans don't want us to play with them.
And my personal favorite—
http://anal-sex.bootyking.com
From bootyking.com to chronicles/2003/03/08_attack2.html — What were they thinking?!?!