Why I log - nope not going to talk first about keeping an online "blog" such as this (or my primary blog) - but why I have windows open on my desktop monitoring my server logs all day long.
First, it gives me a realtime sense of who is accessing/viewing my website (and since I monitor mail who is/trying to send mail to my firm). This is nice, as in the case of a few days ago I noticed someone from the nytimes.com domain looking at my website, and then a day later the same computer looking at the site again. Sure enough, a few minutes later a reporter called me to ask some questions following up from an article she had been pointed that I had writen over a year ago and shared with another group.
Second, I have configured my web server(s) - all Apache, to generate a "referrer" log. Periodically I will look at the end of this log file to see where people are arriving at my website from. Just today I noticed that late last night someone had searched on "unix consulting" on Google - the "cool" factor being that we had turned up as the 61st hit in that search - not too shabby.
Now in this last case it did not directly lead to a sale - i.e. I did not get a call from this individual to prepare a quote for unix consulting services - but it is a nice proof that our site is in Google and moving into respectible territory for some key keywords. I think it may help that "unix consulting" is also in our keywords meta data for each page of the site.
So it is for moments such as this that I monitor the key logs on my web server. An additional advantage is that I am generating a copy of these logs on a system other than my server - allowing me to see evidence of hacking attempts as they happen (and in a manner that even a very sophisticated "hacker" would find very difficult to avoid). For the most part this means these days that see the occasional "melissa" virus failing as it attacks my Linux server, and increasingly I see the evidence of strange spammer bots attempting to send email. I have seen more cases of mail sent to a random set of names in the past few weeks than I had for years. Must be some new twist to some spam software tool now on the market.
So why do I blog
To have a place to chat about things and thoughts like the above - not quite at the level of a formal article I might write and try to sell somewhere, that type of notes, observations, and thoughts seem very well suited to this medium. (Now I just have to keep each log in synch...)