Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Luann Tracker

I've mentioned before that I like a lot of different comics. The ones I read on GoComics include Hubris, Endtown, Lay Lines, Non Sequitur and Wide Open. I'd been reading Luann off and on over the years, and started following it more actively about 6 months ago. Back in March, GoComics interviewed the artist, Greg Evans, as part of the events marking Luann's 30th anniversary. In the interview, Greg mentioned checking the comments each day in order to gauge reader responses on the strips (he only glances at the first few comments because he finds some of them "disturbing").

Anyway, one of the things I've done in the past is write short programming scripts (using Visual Basic Scripting) for obtaining the HTML source code for a given GoComics page, then parsing it to either get the URL for that day's comic, or saving the comments on the strip to a searchable text file. (I've used most of this code for helping out Aaron Neathery and his Endtown webcomic). And, as part of my "science"-related blog on Wordpress, I've written scripts that interact with Excel for creating and saving charts to a file. So, it was a simple matter of taking my existing code and massaging it to automate the process of collecting the number of comments and unique commenters for the last 30 years' worth of strips, and picking the top 3 most (and least) popular strips for each year, and for the last 4 months.

(April tracking.)

The most time-consuming part was creating the new blog site on Wordpress to host the graphs, and deciding how to format the statistics to make them readable. I then posted a test comment on GoComics for the Monday strip. Within 24 hours, I got 70 visitors to the blog (most from the U.S., but one or two from Germany, Canada, Ireland and Singapore) PLUS, I got mentioned on the GoComics Facebook page. That part kind of surprised me, because I wasn't sure how they'd react to my cross-posting the top Luann strips on my blog. No reaction from Greg yet, but that's ok. I'm doing this just because I can, and it amuses me. The entire tracking process is almost 100% automatic - I just have to run one batch file, and a few seconds later upload the generated graph and blog text to Wordpress. So, running the tracker weekly, or even daily, is pretty painless. And it is interesting to see what the top Luann strips are for a given time period.

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