The boys from Brazil



I love data*. Whether it’s important Big Data that helps us improve the way we care for the seriously ill or tiny pieces of data that tell me how my diet’s going, I love it all.

Data keeps you engaged during times when engagement can be hard to maintain. On the return school run, I start the car at 08.38, go past The Stanley Arms at 08.49 and turn onto Macclesfield Old Road at 08.54. If there is deviation from this, then I know the day is going just a little better or a little worse than usual. During your eighteenth school run of the week, this sort of minute observation prevents your brain imploding from the mundanity of it all. Call me a geek, if you like…oh no, too late, I’m out and I’m proud.

Industry, of course, has known this for donkeys’ years. What do you think your Tesco Clubcard’s about? Or your Strava app? Even the medical profession (driven, for centuries, almost totally by cult of personality) is waking up to the value of decent data.

I’ve recently discovered what many of you will already know – that running a website produces great seams of the stuff. Suddenly, you’re faced with tantalising partial portraits of who is clicking your site and where they are.

It’s fascinating, if entirely solipsistic. In the three weeks since this website went live, it’s had four hundred and ninety eight hits. That’s less impressive than it sounds. I can rack up fifteen hits in two minutes, just checking my spelling. Three hundred and eighty one of these originated in the UK. There has been a handful from Italy (family) and another from Iceland (friends). There have also been sporadic visits from places scattered all over the world. This morning, I got my first viewing from someone in Macedonia. Yay Macedonia! You have a nice flag.

Occasionally, you glimpse a slightly bigger picture. Someone from Canada found my site using the search term “good herring”. I strongly suspect I was not what he was looking for. Usually, the most you are shown is the country of origin plus the pages viewed.

This is where Brazil starts to loom rather large. I’ve had forty six views from Brazil. Every day, I get at least one hit from Brazil. What’s that about?

I have no way of knowing if it’s always the same person or forty six different people or one person twenty times and another person twenty six…you get my drift. Is there a teenager in Rio with exquisite taste deriving inspiration from my literary meanderings? Is a very shy internet troll trying to amass the courage to abuse me?

Probably neither. I suspect, rather, some sort of automated system scrolling through websites in order to post pictures of scantily-dressed women complete with synthetic, sympathetic comment. So far, I seem to have escaped.

Meanwhile, if you’re a teenager in Rio, I applaud you. Keep on watching.

(*Yes, I know. “Data” is technically plural and “datum” is the correct singular. I don’t care.)


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