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The Internet Entertainment Games

Web Logs Finally Meet Sim City 218

Posted by Hemos
from the building-interactivity dept.
l0rd writes "A good piece on wired says : A few games of Roller Coaster Tycoon don't usually translate into productive work, but for one developer the diversion planted the seed for making website analysis more intuitive. Several years after playing those inspirational games, Robert Savage came up with VisitorVille, a website-traffic analysis package that essentially crosses the DNA of SimCity with that of the traditional chart- and graph-centric tools businesses have long been using. Screenshots included."
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Web Logs Finally Meet Sim City

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  • Picture (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mfh (56) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:08PM (#9378815) Journal
    If a picture says a thousand words, a city of pictures will help inform sysadmins/webmasters rapidly of infinite variables, by adding the 3d location of all data, relative to the position of information on the server. I wonder if this could be used somehow to stop spam, by "jailing" naughty virtual-citizens? Please, nobody quote Jurassic Park about this... oh hell, Lex [imdb.com]: "It's a UNIX system! I know this!"
    • Re:Picture (Score:5, Interesting)

      by daviddennis (10926) * <david@amazing.com> on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:12PM (#9378867) Homepage
      Nice try, but since it's web only it's not going to handle email :-(.

      Looks like it works by putting a tracking image on your web site that resides on their servers and then using that to track remotely. Clever since it means you don't have to install any software on the web site or have control over your web server. On the other hand it would be a bit of a pain to edit all those pages. I'll have to dig deeper to see if it works with web sites that are all dynamic.

      I have to say that I like the idea enough that I may well exhume my Windows machine to give it a go. Pity there's no Mac or Linux version :-(.

      D
      • Yes (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mfh (56)
        How hard would it be to use the same exact system for mail servers? Sim City mail servers or something like it for tracking usage stats, could reduce a lot of time for sysadmins, and aid in the fight against spam. Maybe I'm reaching... but it didn't seem that far away when I wrote the first comment on the subject.
        • Re:Yes (Score:3, Funny)

          by jdray (645332)
          Yeah, a Post Office in the city with a huge truck that makes regular runs to the city dump. :^)
      • Re:Picture (Score:5, Informative)

        by xmas2003 (739875) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:25PM (#9379056) Homepage
        I remember reading about this a little while back in this blog entry [outer-court.com] which happens to belong to the winner of the winner of the Nigritude Ultramarine SEO contest. [komar.org]

        He does a real nice job describing his experience with it in an article titled "A Postcard from VisitorVille" which includes some nifty pictures - highly recommended viewing.

      • If you are building dynamic sites, I'll assume that you have a common header and footer...

        Just put it in one of those.

        Personally I'd rather see an option to be able to license a server side version as I'd rather not use 3rd party tracking.

        And I agree with you about the Windows only junk, but with VirtualPC or Win4Lin it's not a huge problem.
        • The problem is more that the URL doesn't necessarily mean a lot. For instance, in one e-commerce project I'm working on, most of the pages are served by a single program and POST data is what makes it behave differently. So I suppose I would have one huge building and that would be it.

          It's certainly trivial to put it in the page template, but I don't see it as meaning much, unless I wanted to see busses taking off and driving from corder to corder.

          D
          • Re:Picture (Score:3, Insightful)

            by justMichael (606509)

            The problem is more that the URL doesn't necessarily mean a lot. For instance, in one e-commerce project I'm working on, most of the pages are served by a single program and POST data is what makes it behave differently.

            Doesn't that make inbound links difficult? Not to mention search engine coverage.

            If it works anything like all of the other 3rd party tracking tags I have implemented over the years you specify params in the request, so you pass one of the identifying post vars with the page name.

            On anoth

          • It should be pretty simple to adapt their software for such a situation. Specifically, having the user side be able to specify different invisible images to track, so the graph is based on the combination of the URL and the image loaded by the user. In your dynamic content, you can have it dynamically pick which image to use.

            It could be graphically represented as a complex of several buildings, with its own private access roads.
    • I wonder if watching this will be anything like Dark City [imdb.com]... buildings suddenly growing from little townhouses to huge skyscrapers, morphing into different shapes, etc.

      This looks like a great tool for us web admins. If this trend continues, I'll be able to play games all day and my boss will think I'm hard at work! "Ahh, monitoring the web site again, eh? You're such a dedicated employee, always working so hard. I'm putting you in for a promotion."
  • SimDisaster (Score:5, Funny)

    by zenetik (750376) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:10PM (#9378836)
    It's all fun and games until a SimTornado comes and wipes out your city.
    • Slashdot (Score:4, Funny)

      by Venner (59051) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:12PM (#9378866)
      They could do that. Just put a big slashdot logo inside the tornado.
      • Re:Slashdot (Score:3, Funny)

        by lpangelrob2 (721920)
        They could do that. Just put a big slashdot logo inside the tornado.

        And start blinking a "Run Siren" button... the only thing different from the game is, after you click the button, the people slow to a crawl instead of running for shelter.

      • Re:Slashdot (Score:5, Funny)

        by mackman (19286) * on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:38PM (#9379226)
        Actually, in the Wired screenshots you see people arrive from askjeves.com in a bus with the askjeves.comlogo on the top. I would immagine /. would look more like that scene in Troy of the 10,000 boats arriving full of angry soldiers.
      • Re:Slashdot (Score:2, Insightful)

        by digitalgiblet (530309)
        I know you're joking, but to use the actual Sim City metaphor, you should see a building/web page turn into an archology with the /. logo, then it blasts into space and the vacant lot that is left behind has a server message (depending on server and settings) that says the building/page is inaccesible.
      • by Otto (17870) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:54PM (#9379371) Homepage Journal
        A much better metaphor for the /. effect.

        Thousands and thousands of buses with "/." on top pour into the town. They all dump 50-60 passengers each and the streets suddenly become full. It's so packed that there's rioting in the streets and fighting. Everyone pours out of the buildings to join in the looting, and every building in town goes dark as people make for the exits. The streets are so packed that the /. buses are just plowing through the people in town, leaving bloody corpses strewn in their wake. As the looting continues, people start making off with the foundations of the buildings and, one by one, they start simply collapsing and filling the area with rubble and dust.

        After you yank the network cable, the dust slowly clears and all you find is countless corpses, destroyed buildings, and smashed busloads of people from where the buildings fell on them.

        If that isn't the perfect metaphor, what is?
        • Otto... (Score:2, Insightful)

          by FirstNoel (113932)
          I have to agree, that is the best metaphor for the /. affect.

          I laughed, I cried, it became a part of me...

          Sean D.
        • by joggle (594025)
          Thousands and thousands of buses with "/." on top pour into the town.

          Shouldn't those be Canyoneros with /. on top? Not only would they drop off passengers, they'd get involved in nocking down the buildings and running over the corpses and other vehicles as well.

    • Was that SimTornado a result of a SimClimateChange due to SimGlobalWarming?
    • "Run! Run! Slashzilla is attacking!"
  • I like it (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Paulrothrock (685079) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:12PM (#9378862) Homepage Journal
    It's an intuitive design that uses visuals to display what even the best log-analysis tool could never display.
    • It's an intuitive design that uses visuals to display what even the best log-analysis tool could never display.

      But wait! There's more! It's a desert topping AND a floor wax, too!

    • Re:I like it (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Joe U (443617) * on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @02:21PM (#9379734) Homepage Journal
      Very good idea, with a stupid convoluted license.

      Things like this from their pricing page.

      If you want to use VisitorVille for Windows on up to three personal computers -- office, laptop, home -- then the optional Power User plan is for you. Note that this is not a multi-user option, but rather a way for you to exercise your single-user license on more than one personal computer

      Its licenses like this that made me stop upgrading Webtrends as well. (The 'we can audit you at any time' in the webtrends 3.5 license did it for me)
  • by protolith (619345) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:13PM (#9378873)
    Would it appear as a swarm of locust?
  • by Fiz Ocelot (642698) <<baelzharon> <at> <gmail.com>> on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:13PM (#9378880)
    But Can I pick up visitors and toss them in the water just like roller coaster tycoon? That game is awsome, I certainly hope they make another with full 3D environments.
    • by ack154 (591432) *
      But Can I pick up visitors and toss them in the water just like roller coaster tycoon?

      So would that be an IP denial?
    • Completely off topic, but you should check out the website [rollercoastertycoon.com]. There's neat video on it... :)
    • by aerojad (594561) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:18PM (#9378961) Homepage Journal
      Pick them up and toss one by one? You're so inefficent! See what you do is delete the path leading out the park. Wait a while, thousands of people stand by the gates not being able to get out... then you lower the land under the remaining path until it's water. Then delete the path as the people still stand on it :D
      • by Xaroth (67516)
        Bah. Set up the launcher ride (you know the one - it goes straight up and back down) at maximum height and maximum force. It will quickly become the most popular ride at the park, so make sure you have a big queue for it. In fact, it's *so* popular, that people will keep coming back, even after multiple explosions.

        The people will LINE UP FOR HOURS WAITING TO DIE.

        What's more, if you put the ride on land that's high enough, it will clip off the top of the game world and your people will be counted as lea
        • You've never actually played RCT have you? The Woah Belly is wildly unpopular once you push it much beyond the default settings, oh and if a ride crashes you have to stop it and restart it, which empties out the queue.
    • Its _way_ more fun to build 70 mph accelerated roller coaster ramps to send your favorite guests flying to the stars (and of course crashing in a flaming wreck somewhere in your park ;-) At least until people stop going on your ride no matter how much it costs...
  • Price? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by manduwok (610836)
    If this guy's product takes off and the price is right, it may give WebTrends [netiq.com] a run for its money (literally).
  • by GillBates0 (664202) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:15PM (#9378897) Homepage Journal
    A company's entire Web presence is seen as an urban or suburban neighborhood, with each individual Web page presented as a building. The more visitors on a site, the taller the buildings, and the brighter the lights on each floor.

    Visitorville [visitorville.com]'s sure in for some real skyrises and bright lights today...here we come :)

  • by Queuetue (156269) <scott@pantas[ ].com ['tik' in gap]> on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:15PM (#9378899) Homepage
    Is if this is just useless, or if it's expensive, as well.
    • If you read the article, you'll notice that the fee structure is a monthly rate - $30 per month for sites with less than 1k unique visits per day.

      Useless? Keep an open mind - this is a tool that can help smaller web sites and less experienced webmasters analyze their web traffic and make better decisions based off that information. True, these folk may not fit your ideals b/c they can't grep their own logs, but alas, even your underlings deserve consideration.
  • Damn Kids! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Dorf on Perl (738169) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:16PM (#9378921)
    Get those damn kids off of about.html's grass!! Get outta here, you whippersnappers! Why, when I was your age, we more'd through NSCA logs by hand and we liked it!
  • Free Trial (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PktLoss (647983) * on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:17PM (#9378933) Homepage Journal
    A fre trial would have been really great. It looks like a good tool, but I would need to see how usefull I found it before I lay down my cash. Even if you cancel in the first month there is a %10 processing fee
    • I think the number of people from Slashdot requesting free trials would have bankrupted them.

      Their bandwidth isn't doing so great with the Slashdot effect, so I'm not sure if they're even ready for all the customers this is going to bring them. (I'm probably going to give it a try myself).

      D
    • I agree (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Therlin (126989) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @02:09PM (#9379567)
      I was going to check it out. Then I stopped.

      First of all, the lowest package is $30/month, that's very expensive for a personal site. Second, like you said, even if you cancel, they keep 10% of the fee you paid.

      I see it more as a toy than anything else. For any more serious stats, you would use a log analyzer. A $30/month toy is out of my reach.
  • So, would they have say a building going up in flames if your per day hit count dropped a lot.
  • by dfn5 (524972) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:17PM (#9378939) Journal
    VisitorVile is telling me my web site has turned into a getto. Time to install the police station apache mod and upload more parks.
  • by Xaroth (67516) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:17PM (#9378941) Homepage
    Obviously a single page that gets overloaded should be represented by the Riot or Fire events.

    Slashdotting would be, what... the Tornado? Maybe the giant Godzilla! Rawr!
    • Well if we were to go in the context of a program, it would be along the lines of a TransAtlantic Ocean liner crashing into the port and a mass exodus of people rushing off the site so they can hop back on the ocean liner to be one of the first to say something witty or informative.
  • by SeinJunkie (751833) <seinjunkie@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:18PM (#9378963) Homepage
    I like this idea. This could be a great replacement for the feeling you get when a physical customer walks into your store.

    Is it feasible to just run VisitorVille on a PC or a big screen in your virtual store's office/room? I would enjoy watching a visitor walk around my city, go through various buildings all while I'm writing up product descriptions and working on site design. This could really give you a sense of how your business is growing, as well.

    Has anyone actually used this product, yet?
    • I like this idea. This could be a great replacement for the feeling you get when a physical customer walks into your store.
      Hmmm. Except you can't greet them, assist them, or try to sell them anything. Other than that, it's exactly the same.

      I guess I don't see how this is anything but eye candy for people with websites. Maybe that's the point.... I don't always understand the point behind everything. For instance, those segway things....

  • Over the years I've often thought it would be nice to create design or debugging tools that depicted programs as 3D pictures of machines, with widgets stuck on them performing logic functions and data flowing in and out through pipes and valves. But I've never done anything about it. A city is like a big machine, and streams of people flowing through the streets seem like a perfect way to represent web traffic.

    Maybe the next step will be a website designer similar to the x-Tycoon games, that lets you plunk
  • When people ask you what genius is, show them the world before this, then show them this. Tools like this are the future of computer science,IMHO. I hope to be the artist that draws the little people/artwork/etc. for everyone's "software", rather than hand-writing programs forever.
  • by tbase (666607) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:23PM (#9379022)
    All these types of games are highly addictive. People waste insane amounts of time playing them. I can imagine hiring a few of these "addicts", showing them some basic web promotion techniques (and more importantly, how to teach themselves more) and set them loose with it. I'd have no problems paying someone to play this game, especially if they could build a huge city. If it were customiseable, the first thing I would do would be to turn the order confirmation page into a shopping mall. Turn that puppy into the Mall of America :-)
  • Screenshots (Score:5, Informative)

    by Adam9 (93947) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:24PM (#9379042) Journal
    Here's a direct link [visitorville.com] to the screenshots.

    It can even trace traffic flows [visitorville.com]. Neat stuff.
  • by jabella (91754) * on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:26PM (#9379071) Journal
    i wonder if someone scanning for the newest webdav worm of the week shows up as a little bank robber running around the town, checking every door....
  • "That's the 15th 'Slashdot' bus I've seen this morning! Is there a Fat Virgin Convention in town? I have to get my ass to work!"

    "I know, not only have they plugged all the streets, but they're filling every coffee shop. I tried to get a biscotti this morning and I couldn't even get to the counter! They were just pushing and shoving to get to the counter, and then they'd just read the menu and leave. Bastards who did order just got a cup of coffee, then dumped it on the floor. Bastards."

    "Yeah, the Mayor ought to do something, maybe put up signs for Slashdot tourists that send them to TubGirl town, or Goatseville. One sight of those neighborhoods would get their asses out of here..."

    "Who lives there, anyway?"

    "Trust me, you don't want to know..."

  • by psyclone (187154) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:28PM (#9379103)
    Imagine this on your corporate or even home lan. A long freight train rolls thru town and you say "damn it, Jim is using bit torrent again". Or the calm stream starts over-flowing and you exclaim "damn Kathy, stop streaming your radio and turn a real one on!".

    Or on the corporte lan where user Joe has a 'house' and all of a sudden cars and people are jamming around it (he just emailed a link to his beta web project stored on his local PC).

    And the BOFH could stomp through as King Kong and wreak havoc on Jane's mail-merge (since she attached a 5MB file instead of linking to it).

    If not already posted, check this summary here: visual summary [visitorville.com]

    Ok, so who's going to use perl/php with Ming modules to do this? (or something better of course).

    • I've actually always wanted this. A virtual town where each machine is a house, and each type of traffic is represented by a different kind of "flow" -- at the largest zoom point, all traffic is one flow, zoom in and see samba vs tcp/ip vs wireless overhead, zoom in and see in vs out, zoom in and see protocols, zoom in and see ports.
    • Would be cool as a disk space analysis tool, height could be disk space used and light intensity frequency of access, that way you could spot old data taking up lots of room as dark sky-scrapers. In fact that would be damn cool as the interface to a hierarchical storage system!
  • Uninstall? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PktLoss (647983) * on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:29PM (#9379112) Homepage Journal
    Installing the product involves tagging each of your pages with some specific code so you can monitor whats going on, this leaves a couple questions:
    Where is the data being generated stored?
    Is the creator's website storing it all for me?
    How secure is their site?
    Most importantly (for those who care about their code)
    If I choose to uninstall the product, will it rip all of its code off of my pages?
  • by thatguywhoiam (524290) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:29PM (#9379120)
    So have they programmed this thing to show a frothing, bloodthirsty mob with pitchforks and torches, to represent the Slashdot effect?

    I can just see it... there would be a spotlight that comes out of the sky, and then the zombie users would descend, burning everything in their path and reducing the building to rubble. Then little clean-up crews and such afterwards.

  • zerg (Score:5, Funny)

    by Lord Omlette (124579) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:30PM (#9379129) Homepage
    Until they give it a name on par w/ "spinning cube of potential DOOM", it's not gonna cut the mustard.

    Speaking of which, ever since I read that article, it's been pretty much downhill for everyone else's project names too. Hm.
  • What about Google traffic that's just google spider index tool? Does it show spiders crawling around your city?

    How about other robots, such as spam harvesting tools? Do we get to see little cans of spam running around?

    And with all these robots on the site, will a Blade Running scenario emerge?
  • It's cute but is it useful? Has anyone tried it? I suspect that it doesn't really yield any insight, once you've got past the "Wow" factor. But I'd be interested to hear if anyone has found out anything using it.
  • by luxuryluke (754716) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:37PM (#9379215) Homepage
    and the VisitorVille.com analyzer reports:

    "SimCopter 1 reporting heavy traffic!"

  • Excellent Idea! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bobej1977 (580278) * <<rejamison> <at> <yahoo.com>> on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:40PM (#9379243) Homepage Journal
    This is a great idea, and takes one of those annoying corporate menial tasks into something interesting and enjoyable. But, let's hope to god nobody figures out how to write the corporate management RTS game.

    I don't want to be a naysayer, but I'd be a little careful about how an application like this will convince a user of the metaphor so well that they may start to come up with invalid conclusions. That's not altogether bad, it could help a designer think outside the box, but imagine your PHB deciding that your web-site is too crowded.

  • by MyHair (589485) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:46PM (#9379299) Journal
    Very cutesy, but the 3-d data layout could be useful.

    I've been playing with MRTG [ee.ethz.ch] a little lately...I wonder if you could have Apache or other processes provide info via SNMP and use or modify MRTG to provide more 3-d and 4-d (brightness like VisitorVille's lit/unlit buildings or color) 'graphs'?

    It's probably a strech, but maybe....
    • I've been playing with MRTG a little lately...I wonder if you could have Apache or other processes provide info via SNMP and use or modify MRTG to provide more 3-d and 4-d (brightness like VisitorVille's lit/unlit buildings or color) 'graphs'?

      You should look at a free product called Cacti [raxnet.net]. It uses RRDTool (from the maker of MRTG) to generate graphs of anything. Literally, anything you can script in Perl or Bash to return a variable when the script is run can be graphed. It's very powerful, and free too
  • What I'd like to know is, does it have a skin or something more appropriate for my porn site? You know, cabs and cars circling the blocks for hookers, scam artists pick-pocketing my visitors...
  • Lies! (Score:2, Funny)

    Please note: We are currently experiencing an extremely heavy server load due to the Wired article. Some images may not load. Thank you for your patience.
    -From the visitorville website

    Wired article my ass... its because the article got /.'d

    Where's the love?
  • This must be for blog communities. Not the majority of websites. I can't see any admin asking the CIO "can we have some additional funding to buy a statistical analyzer that looks like sim city".

    Must be for bloggers.

    Lets see if in this economy (with these gas prices in particular people will part with that much cash.
  • by lifebouy (115193) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @02:16PM (#9379657) Journal
    I mean, its all good to know whether the visitor is from .com or .edu. But really, what you should be after is whether you need to optimize for IE or Mozilla/Netscape/FireFox.

    Maybe if your site fails to properly load for a browser, the visitor should burst into flames with associated noises. That way website owners would not remain oblivious to broken websites. It would be uncomfortable explaining to the boss why avatars are screaming and dying whenever they enter your site.

    I propose an unwashed heathen for IE users, a cool looking guy for the various incarnations of Netscape/Moz with associated logos on the shirts, a blind person with a cane for lynx users and a mad scientist for Opera. As alternatives, you could use a person in a wheelchair or stait jacket for IE and, hey, an opera singer for Opera. I want Bender for web spiders, its not negotiable:)

    If you include mail servers in there, you could use mail trucks to deliver the mail, with the brown UPS trucks delivering from non-spam sites and the USPS trucks delivering from sites that are known spam havens. I know Im more excited to see the UPS truck than the USPS truck. Nobody sends junkmail through UPS.

  • Until you buldoze your home page :)

    Still, you have to give the guy credit for creating such an interisting hybrid.
  • by stienman (51024) <adavis@BOHRubasics.com minus physicist> on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @02:20PM (#9379715) Homepage Journal
    You should be able to doubleclick on a person and pop up a questionaire or chat box on their screen.

    Should be able to right click and have a context menu with kick-ban, transport to another page on next user action, etc

    Should be able to transport users to a jail cell in the city using OnBeforeUnload...

    Of course, this requires more integration with the website, but the reality is that the website is there to amuse you, not the little ants running around from page to page.

    -Adam
  • Dreamships (Score:3, Interesting)

    by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @02:24PM (#9379772) Homepage
    Reminds me of Melissa Scott's Dreamships [amazon.com], where spaceships are piloted through customizable alternative user interfaces that reflect the personality of the pilot -- e.g. one woman chose hot-air ballooning.
  • by k98sven (324383) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @02:40PM (#9379972) Journal
    Cool idea, but let's hand out some credit:

    The statician Hermann Chernoff was first to developed the idea of using faces [wolfram.com] to display multi-variable data.

    Actually, if someone just wants a simple metaphor, faces probably are the best choice, given that our brains are hard-wired to do face recognition especially well.
  • This would be great for an ant theme. See how much traffic with ant trails. The heavy sources and destinations are where the heavy traffics are. Or it could be an Ant Farm where activities take place.
  • Wow that looks good. I'd really enjoy watching my virtual traffic flow (well, maybe for about a half hour), but I'd rather not pay for this. I guess it tracks using javascript or hidden images or something, sending the data on referals etc. to a central server (like SiteMeter [sitemeter.com]), then I guess that server sends UDP packets to the client to direct vehicles and people in the virtual world. It would actually be quite simple to do this kind of thing on ones own (well, at least to create the server, the client woul
  • by reverendG (602408) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @03:07PM (#9380333) Homepage
    I used to work for Webtrends doing technical support (yecch!) so I feel like I have some good insight into web analysis and it's pitfalls and benefits, as well as the types of people who use it. The biggest problems by far that were encountered was setup-configuration and graph interpretation. I think that both of these problems will be increased in a program like this, and that the cool factor provided by the model will not offset these problems for most serious webmasters.

    I see a couple of problems with setup and configuration, but the biggest without doubt is "can it handle dynamic pages?" Is it able to discern the difference by pages when that difference is controlled by a URI query? What if the dynamic parameters are passed in with a POST? Will this require the tracking on each page to be modified? Many large companies use dynamic websites, so this could be a serious barrier.

    As far as interpretation problems go, I think it's pretty cool that this software is able to give graphic metaphors for traffic on a web site, but it's hard to use abstract metaphors when doing business or web traffic analysis.

    I think that this is going to be a tool, almost exclusively, of small websites that are able to tweak their web pages on a whim (unlike large companies are able to do, in most cases), which makes the price point even more of a problem. Thirty bucks a month?! That's a lot of money for someone who's running a small site, it could be more than their hosting fees.

    It's a cool idea, and I like to see the virtual world evolving, but I don't think that this is going to do well.
  • The pricing scheme is open to rampant abuse.

    All a $29.95/month mom&pop store needs is to get hit with a /. crowd and your daily unique visitor count will get WAY screwed up.

    I wonder what happens when you reach your limit -- does it just stop keeping track or will you be bumped to a higher tier. You maybe go home on a Friday and come-in on monday and see 200,000 unique visitors over the weekend...yuck!

    Too bad there's not a "free" level for non-commercial, personal use.

    -l
  • by thatguywhoiam (524290) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @03:10PM (#9380371)
    You know after thinking about this product for a bit (and reading the near-instantaneous consensus about what a Slashdot effect would look like) I think there should definitely be more work into things like this.

    I could easily see how a few real world metaphors can be used in a sort of 'stretchy' fashion, the way the buildings get bigger and smaller in this thing based on how many people are 'in' it. I wonder how it handles the fact that people change locations pretty much instantly.

    Of course the next step is full on Grand Theft Router with little armed PacketPeople who can actually fight for bandwidth! Yeah! Or maybe capture the flag, but the flag is actually a P2P connection. And moderators would be huge silent golems striding through the city, rearranging things as they see fit, stepping on some but lifting up others, and never telling us why... and of course the Ancient Editor Gods, resplendent in their ivory towers floating above, casting down both wisdom and duplicate stories in equal measure. Ah, what a sight it would be.

  • So some weiner beats you to the punch, exploiting a weakness in the server before it can be patched.

    Next thing you know there's a little guy in a black leather jacket running people down, shooting up the neighborhood, and bitch-slapping the prostitutes.

    It's Grand Theft Auto: Visitorville, coming to a desktop near you.

    In case of Slashdotting, the wailing of the server will be represented by a medley of Morrisey tunes.

  • by jbum (121617) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @03:44PM (#9380763)
    On the screenshots from the site, there's a cute sim-city style interface, overlaid with charts and graphs.

    While the sim-city display is cute, it doesn't look particularly useful nor relevent. Why? The 2d-grid layout of a city does not match the N-d layout of most websites.

    The charts and graphs look useful, but how do they differ from any other traffic analysis package?
  • A heretical notion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @05:36PM (#9381947) Homepage Journal
    I checked out the site pretty thoroughly and it looks like professionals aren't going to jump on this bandwagon.

    As Edward Tufte [edwardtufte.com] points out in The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Envisioning Information, and Visual Explanations, the meaningful display of information is about removing visual clutter, not introducing it.

    Just as a PowerPoint presentation doesn't really increase our ability to grok the quarterly sales figures, the visual fluff of metaphorical buildings and busses doesn't help us understand traffic data. Simple bar graphs do not introduce the distortion of perspective. They're not sexy, but they do not make it more difficult to discern relationships between data elements, the way a 3d urban representation does.

    I'm also reminded of good old Microsoft Bob [pmt.org], and some of the more antiquated websites from the 1990s that forced a metaphor onto something that didn't need one in the first place. Back in those days, Web designers felt that people wanted an "experience" when what they really wanted was an attractive and clean interface to information, organized in a way that would be useful.

    Professional web developers and marketers (I know, they're all stupid, they all want dumbed-down visual information, blah blah blah) need information they can drill down into quickly and easily without a lot of superflous distraction. There are already several good tools, like Summary [summary.net] and FunnelWeb [funnelwebcentral.com], on the market. I don't think this experiment will make it in an already saturated market.

    • ...the meaningful display of information is about removing visual clutter, not introducing it.

      True enough and the service is flawed by that standard but what it is trying to do is a bit more ambitious. As this writer [unm.edu] puts it, the service is trying to map an abstract operation to an intuitive environment.

      The type of displays that Tufte talks about are often trying to do the reverse: map an intuitive environment to an abstract display. An example would be a flight control system which maps a two dimensiona

  • by tootlemonde (579170) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @06:03PM (#9382143)

    Judging by the screen shots, the primary way of representing site activity is skyscrapers in a rectangular city grid.

    The city-grid metaphor fails to capture the essential hierarchical structure of a Web site

    In addition, showing page popularity by the height of buildings favours pages that are designed primarily to route users to other pages. For instance, the home page would typically get the most hits.

    However, the objective of a home page is to route users to pages that provide some information specific to their interest. These pages are inherently less popular but what the site manager needs to know is whether people who go to the home page are ultimately getting to the less popular pages that interest them further down the hierarchy.

    In effect, it's the traffic between pages that's more interesting than the hits on the page. The service does provide [visitorville.com] this information but in a more conventional form of percentages and lists.

    A pinball machine metaphore might be more useful with visitors represented by the pinball. The pinball should get through the maze of bumpers with as few rebounds as possible before exiting the game. If users spend a lot of time bouncing around, the site is failing to get them to the pages that interest them quickly.

The most delightful day after the one on which you buy a cottage in the country is the one on which you resell it. -- J. Brecheux

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