Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More


Half A Million Kids:

The Truth About The Counter

Somewhere At 37,000 Feet Over The United States Of America

May 2, 2011



"I'm a farmer. I don't know how to speak to twenty people at one time, let alone a crowd like this. But I think you people have proven something to the world - not only to the town of Bethel, or Sullivan county, or New York state: you've proven something to the world. This is the largest group of people ever assembled in one place.

We have had no idea that there would be this size group. And because of that, you've had quite a few inconveniences as far as water, food, and so forth. Your producers have done a mammoth job to see that you're taken care of. They'd enjoy a vote of thanks.

But above that, the important thing that you've proven to the world is that a half a million kids (and I call you kids because I have children that are older than you are) ... a half million young people can get together and have three days of fun and music and have nothing but  fun and music, and I God Bless You for it!"

  ... Max Yasgur, host of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, Bethel, New York, USA - Sunday August 17, 1969
This essay, Half A Million Kids: The Truth About The Counter, is the prequel to Thanks A Million!.




Photography by Life Magazine
Half a Million Kids at Woodstock Music and Art Fair, Bethel, New York, USA
August 15 through 17, 1969

Its view counter says Conversations For Transformation have received half a million views. That's as many views as there were kids at Woodstock.

Some friends noticing there's been half a million views say "Half a million people?  That's incredible. That's awesome!  Can you imagine what half a million people would look like gathered in one place?

I tell them I really have no way of knowing  (and there's no software  which has any way of knowing either) if half a million views  equates to half a million people  - a scenario which is actually highly unlikely. A more plausible scenario is many of the people who've visited the Conversations For Transformation website over the past seven and a half years have revisited it on more than one occasion. Not only that, but on each visit, they may have viewed or re-viewed more than one essay - and each time an essay is viewed it increments the view count by one.

Then they'll kind of like take me behind the barn  and tell me "But you don't have to actually say  that, Laurence. You can leave it unsaid. You can leave it as an implication. You can leave the innuendo  of half a million views as if  it's half a million people. Can you imagine a group of people that size engaging in Conversations For Transformation? That's huge!".

Yes that would be huge. But it wouldn't be the truth. It's half a million views not half a million people. And if Conversations For Transformation are about anything at all, they're not about numbers. They're about nothing  ... and telling the truth.

What exactly does half a million views represent? Firstly, it's not an absolutely 100% perfectly accurate count. Secondly, in making mid-flight corrections  from time to time, I've intentionally low balled  it.

The Conversations For Transformation view counter counts page views  rather than website visits aka website hits. A page view in this case is the technical jargon for an essay view  or a view of any of the nearly seven hundred pages of the Conversations For Transformation website. In other words if you read an essay or view a page, it increments the view count by one - and visitors to the Conversations For Transformation website may read more than one essay and view more than one page during each visit. However, the way I first installed the view counter, while well‑intentioned, was flawed. It didn't count page views as I expected it to. It only counted website visits - a much, much lower count. You could visit the Conversations For Transformation website and read, say, ten different essays and view ten different pages. But the view count only incremented by one for the entire visit, not by twenty for all the essays read and pages viewed during the visit.

Once the view counter was corrected to count essays read and pages viewed and not merely website visits, I had a much clearer picture of how many views Conversations For Transformation actually receives. My first mid-flight correction was incrementing the total view count to make up for the view counter installation error, erring on the side of caution by setting it to about ninety percent of my estimatation of the correct view count. Because of this, Conversations For Transformation's view count, while now a truer, closer approximation to its actual number of views, isn't absolutely 100% perfectly accurate.

Over the past seven and a half years since the Conversations For Transformation website has existed, there's been more than one occasion during which the service providing the view counter inexplicably went offline aka went down. If it went down, Conversations For Transformation's views weren't counted at all. Whenever this happened, I made good faith increments to the total view count to adjust for views not counted. These adjustments also account for why the Conversations For Transformation view count isn't absolutely 100% perfectly accurate.

One day the code which drives the view counter inexplicably stopped working altogether. I wrote new view counter code provided by another service, then swapped out the old code for the new throughout the Conversations For Transformation website, making another good faith increment to the total view count in the process to adjust for views not counted during the rewrite - another factor contributing to the Conversations For Transformation view count not being absolutely 100% perfectly accurate.

I've made one other good faith adjustment to the total view count, a decrement  rather than an increment. Here's why: in the beginning I couldn't figure out how to stop the view count incrementing when I loaded the Conversations For Transformation website. I speculated, as a matter of integrity, all visitors should increment the view count ... except me. Then one day in an epiphany  I came up with a stoopid  simple way to stop the view count incrementing for me. After implementing this fix  I decremented the view count by my estimation of the total of my visits before then. This is the only other adjustment I've made to the view count affecting its absolute 100% perfect accuracy.

That's the truth about the counter. Given these mid-flight corrections, the half a million views the Conversations For Transformation view counter says the website has received is really only an estimate of the actual views received. It's a good estimate though. It's a really  good estimate. Even though it isn't absolutely 100% perfectly accurate, even though it's intentionally low, I can live with it.

It doesn't equate to half a million people. It will soon.



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