CLUSTRMAPS: HalfEatenMind’s mini map widget

By Vijay Shah

Until last week, the Half-Eaten Mind had maintained a widget from the visitor tracking website Feedjit on its sidebar on the right of every page here. Feedjit offers a HTML code which can be added as a text widget to the WordPress dashboard, provided your blog theme supports it. There are two options, free-of-charge and a paid option. The free option displayed a widget which showed the city, state and country of every visitor to your blog – and even their browser and operating system types – accessible to the widget’s owner only. I duly installed the code and soon got real-time details on visits from all over the world.

Feedjit (Photo credit: liako)

A screenshotted example of a Feedjit feed, formerly a stalwart feature of the Half-Eaten Mind.

Unfortunately the novelty eventually wore off, especially as I recently signed up for another service, StatCounter, which gave me more detailed statistics on visitors. Also I honestly felt that StatCounter was also more suited to my needs because all the details are only viewable by me, and I suspected some people might be put off seeing their location flashed up in a little white box. Nevertheless, partly out of laziness and partly because I did not want to ‘mess around’ with my blog too much, I let the Feedjit feed with its miniscule flags remain for the time being.

StatCounter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But last week I stumbled across another hit collection service called ClustrMaps. This web stats service offers in their words, “geographic information visualization maps of all hits on your site”. Translated from geek, that means by simply signing up for the service, you receive a piece of HTML code which you can copy and paste into the relevant part of your blog or website. After about 1-2 days’ wait, you are the proud owner of a cute unobtrusive world map diagram which shows the total number of visitors reading your pages since you signed up. Visitors from new locations show up as yellow dots. Parts of the world with red dots mean a higher frequency of visitors, the bigger the dot, the more people are reaching your site from that particular location. According to the ClustrMaps website, they have served up around 13 billion maps. Obviously a very popular offering on the Netz!.

It soon became apparent one evening after work that I badly needed to declutter my blog’s sidebar. I had got a little too widget crazy. Only a few weeks before I had ditched my Facebook feed box for a Twitter feed again for privacy reasons, but also becuase the Facebook feed was ugly and cumbersome, visually speaking. Tagged to my personal tweet feed, the new Twitter reel meant my blog was becoming more streamlined and minimalist….which is how I ideally preferred it. So with that in mind, I decided to take the plunge with ClustrMaps. The Feedjit feed was hurriedly carted off to the great widget graveyard somewhere out there in deepest cyberspace and I added the ClustrMaps code – necessary for the website to collect hits. Within about two days the map appeared on the Half-Eaten Mind and all systems were go.

ClustrMap from 1 June 2006
ClustrMap from 1 June 2006 (Photo credit: Wesley Fryer)

A specimen ClustrMap from 2006 – drawn up for another site.

So far so good. The only complaint is the thumbnail map rendered on the Half-Eaten Mind seems a bit static. I believe there is a Flash version of the map, but unfortunately expressly forbids the use of widgets and add-ons containing JavaScript as they could present a security hazard that serves as an exploitable back door for malicious hackers or bored computer science students. So no revolving globes, moving graphics, bells or whistles. I am not complaining though, the thumbnail is tidy and brings a little jolt of colour to the blog. ClustrMaps maps look professional, clean and inviting for those Brainiacs who are looking to interact further with the Mind.

(c) ClustrMaps

When I click on the thumbnail (as depicted above), a new tab on the browser opens and displays a full-size physical map showing the cumulative locations of all visitors, with the biggest dots showing locations where more than a thousand people have paid a visit to the blog. My sole large dot (and that is only for between 10-99 visitors) is hovering over California, United States of America, and there is a fair sprinkling of smaller points over the US. Also I have noticed a deep concentration of dots over the British Isles. There are other more thinly spread arrays of red dots over east Europe and running across the western flank of the Indian subcontinent and further out over the far East. Africa by contrast is almost bare, save for a couple emanating from South Africa.

You also get a breakdown of recent visitors with time and location i.e.

09 February @ 17:57 : Bradford, GB
09 February @ 17:03 : Curepipe, MU
..and a table entitled ‘Current Country Totals‘ which shows the cities/towns/villages and nations of every visitor since I added ClustrMaps to my site. No personally identifiable information, such as IP addresses, is viewable, so this is very suitable for those who wish to safeguard their privacy. What with all the hacking, phishing scams and identity fraud flying around, keeping things – and maybe widgets – privately viewable is not an unwise decision for anyone who runs an outpost on the World Wide Web.
For some places, like the US, Canada, and India, you get visitor figures broken down state-by-state, which is really good if you are targetting your site toward particular geographical demographics or if you are just a very curious soul who wants to know which far-flung places or who of your friends in nearby localities are arriving at your blog or site.
There are other visitor-mapping services out there waiting to be discovered, and ClustrMaps may not be everyone’s cup of coffee. I am quite satisfied though, at least because I can show off to my friends that I am getting so many visitors from all four corners of the globe. My inner show-off must be strutting around like a peacock now.
The ClustrMaps widget was activated on the 5th February 2013.
ClustrMaps LINK

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