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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Apr 6;101 Suppl 1:5254-60. Epub 2004 Jan 6.

Traffic-based feedback on the web.

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Department of Computer Science, Cornell University, 4130 Upson Hall, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA.


Usage data at a high-traffic web site can expose information about external events and surges in popularity that may not be accessible solely from analyses of content and link structure. We consider sites that are organized around a set of items available for purchase or download, consider, for example, an e-commerce site or collection of online research papers, and we study a simple indicator of collective user interest in an item, the batting average, defined as the fraction of visits to an item's description that result in an acquisition of that item. We develop a stochastic model for identifying points in time at which an item's batting average experiences significant change. In experiments with usage data from the Internet Archive, we find that such changes often occur in an abrupt, discrete fashion, and that these changes can be closely aligned with events such as the highlighting of an item on the site or the appearance of a link from an active external referrer. In this way, analyzing the dynamics of item popularity at an active web site can help characterize the impact of a range of events taking place both on and off the site.

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