We have a large-screen television on the wall in our offices. It’s become a favorite show-and-tell spot when we give guests a tour of our space.
It’s a boring screen, in one sense — no movies or fancy graphics, but just a dashboard of the current traffic to the website. But once you learn what the numbers mean, you get a sense of the significance. The main purpose of the screen is to remind our team, as we write and edit and craft social media, that tens of thousands of real-live users access the site each day. The dashboard stays on constantly during work hours so that we can monitor at a glance the number of current visitors, what pages are being viewed most, and where the traffic is coming from.
During tours, we pause at the screen and explain how it reminds our team that we’re not simply building and curating webpages and apps, but that human souls are on the other end, coming for nourishment, education, correction, and inspiration. Typically, eyes open wide in manifest surprise that we’re actually able to track, to a precise figure, the number of people currently on the site, the particular pages being viewed, and even who referred them to our site.
How the Web Works
Over time I’ve learned to turn that surprise into a teachable moment.
You’re never alone when you’re online. Not only is God watching — which should be significant enough! — but others are watching too. Every click counts, and is counted. Whenever you retrieve information from some server out there in the world, that server knows it was pinged. And that specific ping can be tracked. Someone can find out what particular page you viewed, how you got there, how long you stayed, where you went next, and even where your cursor hovered on the page.