Live Data and The Future of Search (from 2009)

Or perhaps a little less. But ask me on Twitter or Friendfeed or below and I’ll tell you more.

This weekend was spent time updating the main web site. (And also some excercise, some warcraft, a trip to the libary, bringing a computer in for a new fan – working it so hard the fan decided to complain, some reading, and some fun). Added significant material on Turf Toe and a touch on the biomechanics of hamstring pulls. Small update on Gait. Look for hallux limitus, sesamoiditis and more on running gait shortly among others. Don’t forget when searching here, you are only searching the blog. Visit the Running Injuries site for the bulk of sports related information and site wide search.

I’ve been using Woopra to take a look at some live statistics. It adds immediacy to the dead data that resides in the log files. Instead of looking sequentially at sets of data files, I can look at a live picture and see the 4 or 12 to 20 or so people online at once. Much of the data has always been there in the log files, but looking at it live I see:

  • Browser
  • Referral source
  • Screen Resolution
  • Search Term if search engine used
  • Landing Page
  • Navigation sequence
  • Current Page and Other pages surfed to
  • IP Address
  • Country (indicated by a flag)

I can watch, for example, someone referred from google Canada go from the running injury main page to the running shoe list, to socks, to pain in athletes and pain scale, to stretching. And as I wrote this the same individual moved on to top ten tips to avoid injuries and tips for a successful marathon. So I sense some optimism there!

I can see trends occurring. When a series of “running in 50 degree weather” hits from South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, I know it is cold down south. When a bunch of people are suddenly landing on my page on iliopsoas injury, I’ll start to wonder and then find that a popular plot summary page on “How I met Your Mother” linked to that page. When I see many landings on the gait page, I can look and see the referrer, and then assess weak points and add to them.

I’ll look to see how do the search terms measure up to what people find on the page they are looking at. When someone was searching on cuneiform stress fractures, I realized I did not have anything specific on that term and added it in. I also added specifics on a series of other stress fractures and angular relationships of speed work to site of injury in metatarsal stress fractures. Clinical observation backed up by vector analysis indicates the stress fractures move more proximally on the metatarsal. A recent article which viewed applied stresses in relation to trabecular orientation was later added. While some of this may sound highly technical, we try to add it in a manner that is understandable, but is also useful for the student and health care practitioner. This type of observation led me to update many pages over the past week and to generate note pages for many more.

While some speak of google as a future “fail”, they are looking through the narrow blinders of social media alone. Social media serves many functions, but alone it can not be serve as a reference site. Tips, connections, and pointers are among the strengths. Forming connections and communicating with others are strengths. Answers can come quickly. But google still serves up reference material. Articles of recent vintage and hopefully those of enduring quality will come up in google. And while searching twitter, friendfeed and Youtube are both informative and fun. They are useful now and will become more useful in the future. But still, when I want the latest information on a medication, on research or a discussion on literature or date facts, I’m off to google. When I want to hear a current band or a long dead band, I’m off to Youtube. To see exercises demonstrated, I have selected people I’ll check initially, and they often have material at Youtube. When I want to watch a series of people chat on a variety of topics it is off to Friendfeed or Twitter. More and more sites will have integrated multi-media now that we are on the high speed data highway. Other search mechanisms will come into play. Google seems to have been adapting well to this.

Evaluating the utility of portions of my site: a tiny bit over 100 follows on Twitter. A small number of people, so small, that I can say all of whom I like and respect following on Friendfeed. A relatively small number, but growing number of visitors to the blog. Over the past year, however, the main site served up well over 1,000,000 pages to over 750,000 visitors. With Woopra, I can watch the visits for short bits of time and learn what people are looking for and what may be lacking. Twitter of course is not a place in which I am trying to stay “on message” or develop  a  “brand”, but a place for general information, social interaction and a tiny bit of fun. Another Twitter Fail, but in a sense for the rest of the site, hopefully it remains a helpful internet resource and success. It remains free with no advertising. And google remains a great place to reach it from. (Along with some very special non-search engine referrers.)

Each site must add what it needs to reach and communicate with their users. In some cases a blog is the most useful portion of the site. The immediacy of a recent entry, and the poignancy of an older one add value. Timeliness is a strength of social media. From that was so yesterday, we are at that was so 20 minutes ago. But in some cases up to date details are what make the site. In some senses Wikidpeda does this, but subjective opinion lingers for too long on far too many areas. Evaluate your site and determine how you can make it better. Employ tools that will help you see what your visitors are coming for, what they are looking for and relate that information to what they find. Determine your own goals, both those who are looking for information and those who are building it. We can all do better. And we can chat about it on Twitter and keep each other updated on Facebook. Oops viruses, and malware, this may be a new Facebook fail potentially on the rise. Many areas of the US Government and private businesses  are eliminating in office Facebook access. But social media disease spread through social web interaction  is another story. In the meantime, I seem to be eliminating the Facebook apps and their annoying notifications.

Have fun on the web and on Web 2.0. Be careful, enjoy, and I hope you find what you are looking for.