Tracer: 3 Weeks Later

Tynt Tracer Logo

Earlier this month, I reported on a new beta service by Tynt called Tracer. The service works by having webmasters add a line of JavaScript code to their site that allows Tracer to track when users select, copy and otherwise interact with text and images on the site.

Though not actually a copy protection system, it lets writers know which of their articles are being copied the most and also adds an attribution line to the clipboard of the person doing the copying, so works are correctly attributed once they are pasted (this does not work with images).

Though the service has obvious limitations, such as not being able to work with RSS feeds, it has generated some interest for readers of this site and I have a few updates on the service as well as some p broad statistics on how PT is being copied.

Bug Corrections/Issues

First, the bug issue that I reported on that caused page views to not be counted seems to have been fixed. Page views are reporting though the numbers don’t seem to jive very well with my stats elsewhere. However, this could be caused by a lot of issues and may or may not be a problem with Tracer.

The actual tracking of copies and selections seem to be working well. One does have to remember that the default view sets to seven days, meaning older copies and views scroll off the page the table day to day (this caused some confusion).

All in all, the bug fix seems to work and the tracking is functioning as advertised.

No-Attribution JavaScript

Tynt is also in the early stages of testing a version of the JavaScript that does not cause users to have an attribution line copied along with the text, meaning that Tracer simply tracks the content passively and doesn’t interfere. I’ve added the test script to my site to help with their testing and you can play with it if you wish (though it shouldn’t actually be visible to the user).

It’s been a huge help to me as I often copy from my own site to include in emails and other posts, making that feature somewhat annoying.

Some General Discoveries

With nearly a month of Tracer usage under my belt, I’ve made a few observations about what content is being copied on PT that may be applicable to other sites:

  1. Pages Get Copied the Most: Static pages seem to be getting the lion’s share of the copying. The top three pages on PT are What is a Copyright, Stock Letters (which is intended specifically for copying) and The Limitations of Copyright. Though some posts did well too, pages clearly saw the most copying, though only a fraction of the most traffic.
  2. No Correlation Between Selections, Copies and Page Views: The three statistics almost could not be more unrelated to one another. The How to Find Plagiarism page was the most visited and was third in the number of selections but saw almost no copying. Likewise, an older post about the role of schools in fighting plagiarism saw almost no traffic, but was the most copied post despite very few selections. The end result is that it is impossible to predict the amount of copying based on the amount of traffic.
  3. Most Copies Generate No Traffic: Despite several thousand copies, only 20 page views were generated by Tracer. This isn’t wholly unexpected as many of the copies will not be used in Web pages and many will remove the Tracer link in favor of their own, but it seems to favor the idea of removing the attribution requirement and making Tracer a passive observer.

All in all, these are some interesting, if somewhat unexpected, results from Tracer and they make me want to follow the service’s metrics closer but also having me wishing for additional information, such as referral data and more specific information about what was copied.

Bottom Line

Though Tracer has only a limited usability as a content protection tools, Webmasters who are interested in seeing how their content is being used, especially those that work with static pages, should definitely consider trying it.

It definitely has its limitations, but can provide some great insight nonetheless.

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