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Groupprops usage patterns update

I had started working on a report on usage pattern analytics for Groupprops, but for various reasons, will not have the time to complete the report in the near future. Also, I would like to subject some of the findings in my preliminary number-crunching to the test of more data — particularly data spanning across more than one year. Nonetheless, it might be worthwhile to note some of the findings on the blog. (What follows below is what I consider the most salient snippets from the current draft of the report).

Nature of variation between daily traffic across days

The variation is broadly of three kinds:

  • Intra-week variation: There is a clear pattern here: weekend traffic is generally about 50-70% per day of weekday traffic. The minimum usually occurs on Saturdays, and the second lowest is on Sundays, with the third lowest on Fridays (extended weekends?). So, it seems like visits to Groupprops are somehow better classified as “work” than “leisure”. This is further corroborated by the fact that in holiday seasons, traffic is low on all days and the difference between weekdays and weekends is less pronounced. (More data in as well as further segmentation of existing data will allow the testing of further hypotheses about intra-week variation).

  • Seasonal variation: There is a reasonably clear pattern here too: seasons that are “off” in colleges and universities see less traffic. Holidays see less traffic in the regions that observe those holidays. For instance, the Thursday of Thanksgiving saw a significant drop in U.S. traffic while U.K. traffic remained at usual weekday levels. Christmas week saw a worldwide traffic drop. Traffic is most in mid-September to mid-December and mid-January to mid-June, and less mid-December to mid-January and mid-June to mid-September. (These trends will be better understood with more multi-year data available, because it is difficult to separate seasonal variation from a general upward trend if traffic. However, these observations are similar to the observations made in the 2005 full evaluation report for MIT OpenCourseWare.

  • Secular increase (here, secular means over time, i.e., a long-run trend): Traffic has been increasing since May 2008, when the wiki was moved to this site, with most of the dips being accounted for by intra-week and seasonal variation. For instance, a comparison of the mid-December to mid-January of 2008-2009 with the mid-December to mid-January of 2009-2010 shows an increase of 260% (which means the new traffic quantity is 3.6 times the old). Interestingly, the same-time-of-year comparisons show that the proportional increase is least in holiday seasons and more during seasons when traffic is higher. This hypothesis needs to be tested further.

Visits and pageviews

For overall magnitude estimates, there was a total of about 20,000 visits and 48,000 pageviews from mid-September to mid-December of 2009, higher than over previous three-month periods.

The ratio of pageviews to visits has remained steadily in the range of 2.4-2.6, and this ratio has not shown much change despite the secular increase in both the number of visits and the number of pageviews. Moreover, the composition of visitors by depth of visit has remained remarkably similar over time. The breakdown is roughly as follows: 60% of visitors had one pageview, 14% has two pageviews, 8.5% had three pageviews, 4.5% had four pageviews, 3% had five pageviews, 2% had six pageviews, 1.5% had seven pageviews, 1% had eight pageviews, and so on. About 1% had eighteen or more pageviews.

Inter-country variation

This is another area with fertile analytical possibilities. Current results suggest the following picture.

  • In absolute numbers, in terms of visits (pageview rankings are almost the same), the top countries are, in decreasing order: United States, United Kingdom, Canada, India, Germany, Australia, Italy, Israel, Turkey and the Phillippines. Note that there is likely to be quite a bias in favor of countries that are English-speaking (such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia) or countries where higher education and research is carried out in English, even though there are other local languages (such as India, Turkey, and perhaps Phillippines and (in the higher mathematical context) Israel). Despite this, Germany and Italy make it near the top of the list. However, the absence of countries such as Japan, Korea, China, and France form the top of the list may be explained by the language factor.

  • The picture looks a little different if we consider the number of visits per capita. Here, the United Kingdom comes out on top (largely due to the contributions of Cambridge and London), and other good performers include New Zealand, United States, Israel, Ireland, Singapore, Canada, and Australia. India falls very far down once we divide out by its huge population, though it still comes higher than China.

  • It is unclear how the per capita usage of Groupprops compares with other indicators, and more research needs to be done on the connection with such factors as wealth, Internet access, number of college students, etc. One clear finding seems to be that with the exception of Israel, the top nine countries in per capita visits are among the top ten in the 2007 Economic Freedom of the World rankings (download report as PDF). The connection with political freedom, as measured by Freedom House, seems more tenuous.

Top cities

The cities that top (in absolute numbers, not on a per capita basis) include Cambridge (UK) (home to the University of Cambridge), London, Chicago (home to The University of Chicago, and also where I currently am), New York, and Cambridge (Massachussetts, USA) (home to MIT and Harvard). Other cities that do well include Oxford (home to Oxford University), Pasadena (home to CalTech), Portland (home to University of Oregon), Singapore, Atlanta, Charlottesville, Philadelphia, Don Mills, Stanford, Los Angeles,
Chennai, Delhi, Ithaca, Sydney, Manchester, Austin, Champaign, Claremont, and Seoul. The fact that both the top cities are in the United Kingdom, and the clear lead enjoyed by Cambridge, UK, are as yet unexplained, though it seems that the high traffic from Cambridge is largely confined to the period from October 2009 onward.

Browser/OS combinations

In the analysis over one time period, the most popular browser/OS combination among Groupprops visitors appears to be Firefox/Windows (35%) followed by IE/Windows (32%). Other popular browser/OS combinations are Safari/Macintosh (8.37%), Firefox/Linux (7.36%), Firefox/Macintosh (6.11%), and Chrome/Windows (5.93%). 0.38% of the visits came from the Safari/iPhone combination. The changes in these proportions over time is potentially a subject of further study.

Network locations: university networks and commercial service providers

Among the top network locations, the universities were University of Cambridge (rank 3), which accounts for about 97% of the traffic coming from Cambridge, the University of Chicago (rank 5), which
accounts for about 60% of the traffic coming from Chicago, Harvard University (rank 11), which accounts for about 70% of the traffic coming from Cambridge, Massachussetts, Oxford University (rank 13)
which accounts for about 90% of the traffic coming from Oxford, and Caltech (rank 15) which accounts for about 80% of the traffic coming from Pasadena. Note that the actual traffic from people affiliated
with the university is probably higher, since many of the students and faculty may be using non-university Internet connections when at home.

Most of the network locations at the top are non-university. The topper is Comcast Cable, an internet provider in the United States.

Connection speeds

The most used connection speed is T1, and it generates more than a third of the traffic. Other connection speeds commonly in use are cable (slightly more than a fifth of the traffic) and DSL (about a sixth of the traffic). A large amount of traffic was generated through unknown connection speeds.

Traffic sources

Most of the traffic (varying between 75% and 90%) is generated by search engines, with about 99% of the search traffic originating from Google. The remaining traffic includes both direct visits and referring sites, and the proportions of these vary with time. Long-term trends in these will be among the things to be studied in a more in-depth investigation.

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  1. […] of somewhat more than doubling every 12 months. A great deal of weekly and seasonal variation (see here) masks the secular trend in the short run, but any comparison between a date and another date 364 […]