Thinking About User Tracking on WriteToReply

Looking over the range of commentable docs that we’ve hosted on WriteToReply, I started to wonder whether or not we’re getting different sorts of visitors to the documents depending on the document type. So for example, might we expect to get visitors from UK HEIs looking at the JISC and REF documents, or folk from local councils and government departments looking at the Government URI schemes or Open Source for Government guidelines?

One way of tracking this information is to look at the IP address of each visitor, and then try to reconcile it back to a different domain. In Google Analytics, the Network Location field contains a lookup of the owner of a referring IP address, which can be used as an informal “affinity string” to provide anecdotal evidence about where a website’s visitors are actually located.

The easiest way I’ve found of reporting the Network Location is to use an “Advanced Segment” to provide a view over a Google Analytics report limited to traffic coming from a particular sort of network location. So for example, when looking at the higher education related reports, it makes sense to try and get a feel for how much traffic is coming from university networks. Here’s the rather simple Advanced Segment I use:

Traffic from universities - GA advanced segment

If we select this segment alongside the “All visits” segment:

Advanced segments in GA

we can get a feel for how much of the traffic into the REF commentable document was coming from HE campuses:

Visits to REF consultation from 'university' networks

If I deselect “All visitors”, and just focus on traffic within my advanced segment, we can look at which “university” related domains were sending traffic to the site:

Uuniversity visits to REF

Another trivial Advanced Segment I use looks for traffic from council related websites:

Council advanced segment

So how are the URIsets doing for council network visitors?

Council visits to govurisets


Also note that the Network Location parameter is not necessarily that reliable. Much of the time, the location corresponds to one ISP or another. But as an indicator, it may be useful…