Minty fresh

Published: April 19, 2008. Filed under: Meta, Misc.

For a while now I’ve been really disappointed with the state of web stats.

When I moved over to my shiny new server back in September of last year, I ditched Mint because it requires PHP and MySQL, neither of which will ever, under any circumstances, be allowed on my box. So I started fishing around for something else; most other host-it-yourself stats packages were, frankly, crap either in terms of what they tracked or the interface they presented it in, which led me to look for a hosted solution.

I tried Google Analytics for a while, because it’s free and has some impressive visualization tricks. But it’s got three problems that really turned me off after I’d used it a bit:

  1. The data only updates once a day or thereabouts. Since a lot of what I want out of a stats package is “who’s linking to me right now”, that’s no good; I like being able to see when something I’ve written is suddenly popular, and I don’t want to wait a couple days for the number-crunching to tell me about it.
  2. It’s really oriented toward sales and marketing people. I have no doubt that it’s an incredibly useful tool for those folks, but I’m not those folks. I’m just a guy writing a blog, and I don’t need campaigns and conversion goals and all that crap cluttering up my stats views.
  3. The interface is basically useless without Flash. I surf with Flash disabled by default, and only turn it on temporarily when there’s something I really want to see. Google Analytics turned out not to be one of those things.

Plus, there are a lot of paranoid people out there who block the Analytics JavaScript and cookie, so if you’ve got a tech-oriented audience you don’t even get accurate stats.

So then I tried reinvigorate (which I’ve also used on a few other sites). It gave me real-time data, wasn’t marketing-oriented and didn’t require Flash, so it seemed like a win. But in time I got annoyed with it as well. The biggest problem I had with reinvigorate was that all of its data is fleeting: aside from pageviews/visitors over time, it really doesn’t keep anything around, instead showing you things like “top recent referers” and “recent browser usage breakdown”. Sometimes that tends to skew the results a bit; for example, when I write something that John Gruber likes and he links it, I end up with some weird stats.

I’ve shopped around a bit looking at other solutions, and all of them looked like they’d have one problem or another. So this morning, during a break from writing, I took a little bit of time out and went over to my shared-hosting account with Joyent, set up a subdomain and a MySQL database on it, and installed Mint. It’s live and tracking, so if you’re one of those paranoid folks who watches everything your web browser does, you’ll get prompted to take a cookie from stats.b-list.org.

And finally I’m happy. Mint, I’m sorry I ever left you. You’re the best stats package that’s ever happened to me, and I’m never gonna give you up again.