October 17, 2006


Quantifying the interest in IW&A issues

I often wonder to what extent IW&A issues register beyond the small circle of ancient-studies scholars and cultural-heritage professionals. Also, how could you quantify this, esp. through time? It's not easy. I've experimented time and again. I include an attempt here, using the online Trend tool of the BlogPulse (Nielsen BuzzMetrics) web site which tracks what blogs talk about.

The graph shows basically the attention the combination of the terms "Iraq" on the one hand and "archa(e)ological," "archa(e)ologist," "archa(e)ology" or "antiquities" on the other hand has received in the so-called blogosphere from March 20, 2006, till today. The maximum number of blog posts per day (32) was reached on June 2. However, upon close inspection of these results I found that they could be grouped as follows:

• relevant posts: 1
• irrelevant posts: 5
• spam-blog posts: 26

In other words, BlogPulse does a lousy job of filtering out spam blogs, i.e., blogs with no real content, just meaningless, random series of phrases and words, which are used only for promoting affiliated websites. "The purpose is to increase the PageRank of the affiliated sites, get ad impressions from visitors, and/or use the blog as a link outlet to get new sites indexed." So we can forget about this approach... even if some of the peaks in the graph actually do correspond to real increased attention due to certain events, e.g., Dr. Donny George's exile from Iraq (August 26).

I don't know right now of another public source to provide news data that can be easily tabulated concerning volume and date. Any suggestions? My IW&A web site could maybe substitute for the larger media environment. One could venture that traffic to IW&A waxed and waned in parallel with the general media interest in the subject matter.

This graph is based on daily numbers, first from the umkc.edu and then the univie.ac.at server. The archaeos.org mirror traffic data are left out. (Google was searched using this string: "iraq war and archaeology" OR "iraq war & archaeology" OR "fdeblauwe/iraq" OR "iwa.univie.ac.at" OR "www.archaeos.org/iwa.") The moving-7-day averages are used to smooth out the trends and also to take care of the occasional missing data points, esp. in the case of the Google hits. A few events jump out that aren't relevant to our goal here: on April 15, 2005, the web site was pulled down by the University of Missouri only to restart on a University of Vienna server on April 26. This is expressed in a total loss of traffic followed by a higher-than-before level of interest in the site. For obvious reasons, there was an all-time peak of interest in the plight of IW&A issues in April 2003. I had to leave this off the graph in order to be able to show the evolution of the more pedestrian trends later. Some of those numbers:

• 04/18/03 2538
• 04/19/03 2580
• 04/20/03 2541
• 04/21/03 2410
• 04/22/03 2083

Some of the more abrupt changes in the Google hits trend may be due to changes in their search algorithm.

One more way to look at this: the size of the IW&A bimonthly archives of reviewed articles. One can easily spot the intense media attention in early 2003. Nice but I can't say this really helps much either. Oh well...


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