Identifying Your Visitors

Just about anybody who owns a blog has, one time or another, wanted to find out more about a specific visitor to a blog.

Generally, we might need to find out about a person who leaves a specific comment, so we can block or take other action to prevent unwanted comments. With a properly chosen visitor log, this isn't difficult.

With a comment, for instance, we start from the comment.
  • Note the date and time of the comment, and what post it was published against.
  • Examine your visitor log, and find all clicks against the post in question, immediately preceding the comment in question.
  • Find the visitor log entry that contains a reference to the comment viewing and / or the comment posting process.
  • Now, you have the IP address of your malicious commentor, and an assortment of demographic details, possibly including an approximate location.

This is a key process in keeping malicious comments out of our blogs. But note the limitations here.
  • You cannot say, for sure, that two clicks from the same IP address are, in reality, the same person. On a shared computer, say in an airport or a library, one IP address could be shared by any number of readers.
  • You cannot say, for sure, that two clicks from two different IP addresses are, in reality, two different people. One person could have Internet service that provides a dynamic IP address assignment. In a space of 30 minutes, one person could, sequentially, use 3 different IP addresses.
  • In no case can you say, for sure, exactly where a person is located.

And if you examine the visitor log of your choice, you might observe the URL which was viewed by one or more visitors immediately before they viewed yours. This is known as the "referer" URL. Try not to be concerned or offended, if you see indications of visitors from an unsuitable website name - or maybe from a country or geographic region known for inhabitants who engage in hacking and other misbehaving. People in China, India, Russia, the USA, and other countries, have legitimate reasons for reading your blog - just as people in other countries do.

Neither the demographic details, nor the "referer" URL, should by themselves indicate any hacking activity taking place, in an attack against your blog. And there is no law or regulation which restricts the right to link to any website on the Internet. If you have a public blog, and you spend time publicising your blog, then you're going to get visitors.

So use a visitor log - but use it wisely.

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