LPOD June 27, 2008

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image from The Moon Wiki usage statistics page

Where have all the visitors gone? In mid-January LPOD moved from its failing blog site to the current Moon-Wiki location. The number of unique visitors immediately plummeted from 3,000-4,000 each day to a few hundred. Over the next few months apparently the old LPOD visitors got back in the habit of checking LPOD every day and the number climbed back up to about 3,500/day. But then the number of visitors abruptly dropped and has continued with a predicted value of zero in early September. What is going on? The LPOD high point near April 16 featured a statute of Christ - perhaps some visitors' religious sensibilities were offended, and they didn't come back. Or perhaps there are other reasons that are less obvious, at least to me. Two faithful viewers have written that this wiki format is not as attractive as the previous blog, but is that a reason to have lost 2000 visitors/day? Since you who read this haven't departed you may not know what caused the loss either, but I'd appreciate your thoughts on the reasons for this race to extinction.

Chuck Wood

Technical Details
Note: This usage graph is for all of the Moon Wiki, including LPOD. In 2007, before LPOD moved to these pages, the average number of unique visitors was about 250/day. It is reasonable to assume the great growth from Jan to April was due to LPOD visitors, and presumably the great decline is too.

To post comments regarding this LPOD you need to first register for the wiki by clicking the "Join this space" link under the Full Moon icon in the upper left corner of the screen, and wait for your membership to be approved. Once registered, you may still need to "Sign In" (link at top right of screen) to remove the "Protected" icon from the top of the LPOD page. Once you don't see a "Protected" icon, please click here and enter your comment in the space below. Please do not edit the LPOD itself!

1. Chuck--The old LPOD site was easier to use. One click on a bookmarked site took you to the LPOD. Moon Wiki, however, requires more clicks and has more options--which some people may find confusing and not user-friendly. I think there are about 22 different options on the Moon Wiki site that can be clicked. You have to make an effort to find the right place to click. Then I believe you also have to join the Wiki and get a user name and password--requiring more work and more effort, etc.

Another factor is the impression that the Moon Wiki site is a place for professionals. The casual amateur Moon enthusiast might feel intimidated by the professional atmoshpere on the site and feel out of place.

I think basically a visitor has to work at feeling comfortable on the Moon Wiki site, learning the navigation routine, etc. A lot of people simply may not be willing to make the effort.

Hope this helps. I hope the LPOD will not come to an end. I enjoy it--even though as an amateur I feel out of my league.


2. Chuck: I read somewhere that the average amount of time a visitor stays at a website is approx. 5 - 7 secs. If in that time one hasn't caught the attention of the visitor (through short lengths of text or pictures) on the topic that they originally sought, they simply go on to their next destination of interest. With LPOD, I think the interactive element is confusing. The main feature is, of course, the wonderful pictures one views, however, to interact with it -- make a comment, add a picture...etc., -- one has to go through other links, read a lot of text on how-to, and at the end of it one isn't quite sure if it will work. I agree with Bill, therefore, on his too-many-options suggestion, as all your average, interested, interactive reader just wants to do is click and load, and that's it.

This, however, doesn't answer changes to your low-visit count, so I'm wondering is the time of year a factor (people going on holidays, people doing exams...etc.,) or is the increasing financial strain (people spending less money on technology access) a contributer? I wonder, would knowing how
long each visitor spent on views to the site be of use -- short instances might imply visitors just having a look at the picture, while longer instances might be attributed to the more interested (this time-period might also suggest the confusion factor above mentionied). Or would knowing the location in the world of most visitors who clicked to LPOD be of help -- e.g. US visitors in states close to NASA facilites might have a greater interest in lunar/space exlporation than those further away (similarly applicable to European, Russian, Asian...etc., who again live close to space activitiy facilites).

But, of course, there's the old chestnut, as you may have experienced, that people just aren't a whole lot interested in the Moon. More people now spend their time reading, commenting and reporting on astronomical topics that are far, far away from them (and really only accessible to the professionals using huge pieces of machinery); while ignoring that wonderful, globe-like object which, literally, is close in their own backyard -- THE MOON.

John -- www.moonposter.ie

3. Bill - Use http://the-moon.us/wiki/LPOD to bookmark LPOD and it will take you directly to the current one with no navigation through the menu. It is interesting to see the Moon Wiki through your eyes as a professional site. There are a few professional lunar scientists who view LPOD but 95% of the visitors, contributors and users are amateurs - your comment is a testament to their professionalism!
John - I think that most of the 3000-4000 people who used to visit LPOD came back every day, so the loss is of frequent visitors not casual ones. In past years LPOD maintained a high viewership throughout the seasons with only minor dips for holidays - the current change seems to overwhelm such small seasonal fluctuations. At the bottom of the old LPOD ( http://www.lpod.org/ ) there is a map that shows where viewers come from - its pretty impressively international. Thanks for your suggestions - I think that the wik format does have something to do with the exodus. - tychocrater Jun 27, 2008

4. I think the previous site was more user friendly as others have suggested. It's was easier to see the previous LPOD with just a click. I don't think that Enrique's excellent photo could offend anyone!

Paco Bellido El beso en la Luna

5. I agree the old site was easier to use. More than that, it still had a "picture of the day" feel. This sitie is really a blog more than a POD site where a visitor is hit with a great pic and a brief write up (where they can click a link if they choose to read more). I might suggest the POD be linked away from the beef. If posting comments below a pic is something really wanted than its got to have a very quick sign up and posting for the traffic POD's attract. Cheers Michael

6. Chuck--Adding to my comments above, I think there may be another factor at work. If doing something requires any kind of effort or personal commitment, there seem to be a lot people today who simply won't bother. I've noticed, for example, in at least three organizations that I'm involved with that it is often difficult to find people willing to do work, or to serve in leadership positions.

Our astronomy club, for example, is 51 years old and has links to the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland and to two local planetariums. We have our own observatory and a long history, and yet we have trouble finding people willing to serve as officers so the club can continue in existence.

I've noticed the same thing in our homeowner's association and in a fraternal organization that I've been active in for years. There seems to have been a change in how many people look at things--everything is supposed to come without effort, etc.


7.0 Hi Chuck;
Your losing visitors, comments and new images because it's so bloody cumbersome to do anything compared to the old LPOD. I can't just send a quick e-mail with an attachment image. I can't just make a comment about an image, I have to become a Wikki member, become a Luna Wikki memeber, wait for approval and then edit the actual page. The old way had simple editor boxes to type into, the new way is completely non-intuitive. Also there are now legal and copyright issues to, which seems to indicate that if I post anything here it is now "Public Domain" - which means I lose the copyright rights of the image. Basically if you put too many hoops in a row for people to jump through, they stop jumping. Milton Aupperle

8. Hey all!
I’m new to the LPOD, having arrived sometime in March, so I don’t have any knowledge of the older site. I enjoyed the site so much that I did go back and look at just about all the archived images. I try to get to the LPOD site everyday and have bookmarked the site so I go directly to the new photo. Any time I miss any photos, I go to the LPOD index and catch up. I don’t really know why so many have stopped coming but this site has really renewed my interest and understanding of the moon and I will continue to come back. I appreciate all the work that Mr. Wood, and the other participants, put into this web site. I for one say, “Thank You” – Don Loftus, Gainesville, Florida

9. Mr. Wood if it is any help, at my work we too have seen a negative trend in unique visits to our website after a spike in growth. It may be part of larger trend dealing with the internet and it may have something to do with global economics.

Also I wonder what is meant by unique visits? For instance, if I open the LPOD on my browser a couple of times a day does that mean your unique visits will go up? Or does it just count me once for the that day? I wonder about that because some LPODs (like this one) are comment intensive and for me at least prove to be something I will want to check in on more often. But LPODs with a dirth of comments, I tend to go to it once in the day.

Andrew Martin SFO

Nota Bene-- This is from the stats link,
"Visitors are counted as unique IP addresses in a given day, including search engines and other crawlers. Note that for private spaces, we count views and visits to the access denied page ("You've Reached a Private Space") by search engines and other guests, so these numbers may be slightly higher than you expect."

This reads to me that one visit is counted once no matter how many times you open it up by your browser (I could be wrong about this as well). Maybe the problem is search engines are not looking at the site as much as they were....but your average views have steadily grown over the last six months. So although you may not be seeing a lot of unique visitors the quality of the visits has steadily grown. Not to mention the number of editors has grown as well. It sounds to me that people are really using the wiki over all. The LPOD is just a part of that equation and not the only thing. -- Andrew

10. Hi Chuck,
If you ask me something doesn't look right with this graph. When you compare it to the rising trend in the 'Views' plot http://the-moon.us/wiki/space/stats/overview/2008 , they surely should show a similar trend but they differ so I suspect this graph might be painting a deceptively gloomy picture. If you set the dates to May and June and look at the Unique Visitors graphs you can see theres a change from around 28th May, from there on the picture for June is stable, it dropped down to this level after 28th but its not dropping over this period. So what would cause a drop like this? It looks to me like the way the hits are calculated, or what is recorded, may have been changed. I found there is a section for site changes http://www.wikispaces.com/Changes and sure enough there was what looks like a fairly major site update on 27th, although there is no mention of how the site stats are calculated I wouldn't be surprised if a change has sneaked in among all the other changes. Hope that's the reason, perhaps the site admin will be able to confirm or deny.

I think the spike in the graph may be for the Alpine Valley image on the 15th. As you know, of all the features on the Moon it is consistently one of the most popular and these always get the most visits. You can see from the buzz of excitement and the number of comments that its this LPOD that is most likely to have caused the spike in the graph, not the following day. Besides, I'm sure the image for the 16th wouldn't offend anyone and if it did you would have heard about it either via email or in the comments, of which there is only 1 compared to 9 for the 15th, which must be close to a record itself (no doubt to be beaten today!).

I would agree that the previous site was perhaps more attractive and in some ways easier to navigate, but once the bookmark is set there's no difficulty in reaching the daily LPOD.
- Stefan Lammel

11. Chuck, The drop in LPOD viewers seems obviously coincident with the move to the Wiki format and I would say, assuming it's not too late, simplify, simplify, simplify. Your hard-core viewers will take the time to deal with the complexities of the new site but I felt early on, seeing the daily numbers drop that the relatively small effort needed was a problem. I want to see LPOD continue and flourish and I believe many users would still check in with an atmosphere of simplicity presented. I wish it were not so but it's like a business: location, convenience and service that means easy access to the product - in and out. -- Mel Richardson

12. A much more attractive introduction-page (a "dynamic" introduction page, full of "perspective" and "depth") would act like a magnet. The current introduction-page (of The Moon Wiki) is too "flat" with much too small photographs of the moon (and the lower one of these is a mirror image!). Perhaps my view is a harsh one to read, but... I know I am right.
--Danny C.

13. I agree with Danny. The front main page of the wiki should have something about the LPOD.. something from the current day's LPOD. Maybe a different page could be developed which is the starting page of the wiki itself. When you first come to the wiki you should get a snap shot of what the whole wiki is about including the LPOD. The introduction can stay as a page, just not as the front main page. -- Andrew Martin SFO

14. Perhaps some sort of "2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY" experience? (I mean: a "Stanley Kubrick'esque" experience). Call me a weirdo, but it (The Moon Wiki and LPOD) need something "rebel-ish" or "bad" (read: salty), instead of this "school'ish" mild-sweet rectangular approach. And... (important)... everything which smells "schoolish" or "schoolteacher-ish" will be neglected. Nobody wants to go to school when he (or she) is on the internet!
I know, it sounds strange, but...
--Danny C.

15. The movement that I see in the graph is the arrival of the summer observing season and people leaving their computer screens for their eyepieces. Will a usage statistic comparison with the two running years at the old WordPress site reveal a similar seasonal pattern? A decline of 2000 hits per day in April and May as compared to 1000 hits per day seems in line with seasonal usage changes that I see on amateur astronomy newsgroups.

Search engine linking and the relatively more difficult url may be a minor factor. The old url was easy to remember www.lpod.org vs. the-moon.wikispaces.com. The Yahoo and Google search engines return both links to the old Wordpress site and this site. New potential viewers may be confused by being directed to the old site - which no longer defaults to a back link to the wikispaces site. These potential readers are concluding the site no longer exists. When making a referral at star parties, I usually just tell people to "google lpod" or "google lunar picture of the day" rather than "go to the-moon.wikispaces.com"

A possible solution presents some computer challenges. You want to preserve the two years of data in the old www.lpod.org Wordpress site, but ideally, any browser call to the old Wordpress site should be automatically forwarded to the new wikispace's site. I'm not sure how to approach that. Perhaps other more net-savy group members here will know how.

Another potential bleed point for new reader hits is Mark Crossley's Lunar-Picture-of-Day Yahoo Widget. http://widgets.yahoo.com/widgets/lunar-picture-of-the-day/csort/new/cpage/1 The widget shows a last update of 3-3-2007 - before the move to wikispaces. I have not installed the widget, but new potential users may be downloading Mark's widget and then get frustrated by the widget pointing them to the outdated Wordpress website.

With respect to positng a comment, the Wikispace interface is more complicated than the old WordPress interface. But the number of the comments posted on the old Wordpress site was very small.

- Kurt F.

16. I don't know if this is mentioned in the comments above (I have to read all of them), but... could there be a link with spring's high First Quarter moon as seen from Earth's northern hemisphere? (the graph's peak at mid-april could be connected to the most frequently observed moon: a very high First Quarter moon, and... a "boom" of occasional web-explorers searching info about the moon).
-- Danny C.

17. Chuck, Who is responsible for a death ? Those who do not attend, or those who are actively involved ? I have always considered the latter group responsible. And I have never bothered as how many or few visit my own website, as long as just a few are interested. That's my humble meaning.

I am sorry I haven't contributed /observed/imaged lately; and maybe therefore contributed a little to your growing disappointment. And I haven't commented the daily lunar news, as I only a few days ago learned how to comment an LPOD on the Wiki site. However, I start each day with APOD and LPOD and they - especially LPOD with its more in depth analyses - add great value to my day. I really hope, that you will continue to find it inspiring to make the LPOD's!

Henrik Bondo

18. Yes, the Wiki is clunky to use. But judging from the number of responses posted here, I'd say LPOD is far from being dead. My simple request would be No, No! Please don't go!
-- Kay M.

19. I am the author of that photography. I am Christian, I am believer and I don´t believe that photography could be offensive to Christians. The problem is the design of the web, please, don´t try to blame me of your problems.

Enrique Luque Cervigón.

20. Enrique - I am sorry if it seemed like I blamed your image - that was not my intent. I should have clearly stated that I really don't think that was a likely reason. The images - including your beautiful one - are not reasons for the decline, they are the reasons for the success! In fact, I could have said that after your image everything else was a disappointment!
- tychocrater Jun 28, 2008

21. Hi - I also wonder if the hunt for ever-more-elusive humps, dips and wrinkles might put off the average LPOD punter. A barely perceptible rille won't capture most people's imagination whether it has been photographed before, or not. I recall you saying you never wanted to see another picture of Copernicus (sorry, gross exaggeration) but perhaps it's more dramatic, less scientifically significant shots that the casual visitors enjoy. There must be a trade-off between "science" and high visitor numbers, and who knows, one of the few thousand visitors may be seeing that imposing crater for the first time and be hooked on the moon (and LPOD) for life. If visitor numbers matter, perhaps it needs attention-grabbing "eye-candy" for the first page with more use of links to access the more specialist content. More work, I realise and please don't think I don't appreciate the amount of effort you already put in. Just my thoughts.

Cheers, Paddy
I've just managed to jump through all the hoops to become a member to post a comment. I look at every day's page, not always on the day in question. The old site was, indeed, a lot easier to use, but I know nothing of the mechanics of such things. I don't think an attention grabbing front page will make much difference, it will only grab one time users.
The most important thing for me is that this site gives interesting, informative well explained details on many aspects of the moon. Please don't stop.


22. Hi all... Well I'm as surprised as most by the graph and can't really see any reason why there is a drop-off. This site, I feel, is better than the older incarnation for many reasons. The science presented can't be faulted (but perhaps there is something in the musings that maybe a few more 'aesthetic' images could improve the balance a bit...???). Personally I find that my limited time on the web is now smeared around many sites, especially now that Phoenix is throwing so much data back our way (as too with all the current missions) but I still try and find the time to check in; if not everyday then certainly every 3 days or so to 'catch-up'.

Perhaps this is just one of those statistical abberrations that will smooth itself over in a couple of months. As a practicing amateur-astronomer I find more time in the bright summer evenings to surf the web so it's baffling as to why the stats show this dearth of visitors. I'm sure things will pick up again soon and I don't think the format can be blamed.

Keep up the good work... Mark Z.

23. I love this site and enjoy it very much. However, it's difficult for me to recommend LPOD to others because the web address is not as simple as before. Telling people to go to LPOD.org was simple and they could remember it. This might have something to do with the drop in viewers--a lack of new viewers. License plates are usually limited to six figures because that's all most people can remember easily. I tried recommending that people google LPOD, but there are so many entries this is also confusing. Maybe an automatic redirect from lpod.org would work.

Steve Boint