Research and discussion
Page updated May 2012
Analytics cookies used on this site
European Union legislation, as implemented in the UK, requires that we tell you there are Analytics cookies on this site, and explain how you can manage or delete them. You may by now have read cookie information on other websites. This page assumes that you have not.
For those in a hurry I'll begin with a brief statement based on a text suggested by the International Chamber of Commerce:
The analytics cookies used on this website only collect information about site usage for the benefit of the website operator. The information is not shared with third parties or used in connection with advertising.
The cookies collect information about how visitors use the website, for instance which pages visitors go to most often, and if they get error messages from web pages. These cookies do not collect information that identifies a visitor. All information these cookies collect is aggregated and therefore anonymous. It is only used to improve how the website works.
By using our website, you agree that we can place these types of cookies on your device.
Next, here is some information adapted from the Cookies page of the website of the British Government's Department for Business Innovation and Skills:
Cookies for measuring website usage
We use Google Analytics to collect information about how people use this site. We do this to make sure it is meeting its users' needs and to understand how we could make the site better.
Google Analytics stores information about what pages you visit, how long you are on the site, how you got here and what you click on. We do not collect or store your personal information (e.g. your name or address) so this information cannot be used to identify who you are. We do not allow Google to use or share our analytics data.
Google Analytics cookies: _utma, _utmb, _utmc, _utmz
- Purpose: To record how many people are using the
website and how they move around the site once they've arrived:
- _utma tracks how many times (if any) you have visited the website before.
- _utmb and _utmc are connected, and track how long you stay on the site.
- _utmz identifies where you've come from, e.g., from a search engine or from another website.
- Data stored by cookies: No personal information about you, just information about your computer and your browser.
- Duration of cookies:
- _utma: Expires 2 years after your last visit to this site.
- _utmb: Expires 30 minutes after your visit, or after 30 minutes of inactivity.
- _utmc: Expires when you close your browser.
- _utmz: Expires 6 months after it was last set.
How to control and delete cookies
However, if you wish to restrict or block the cookies which are set by our website, or indeed any other website, you can do this through your browser settings. The 'Help' function within your browser should tell you how.
Alternatively, you may wish to visit the About Cookies website, which contains comprehensive information on how to do this for a variety of browsers. You will also find details about how to delete cookies from your machine as well as more general information about cookies.
Restricting cookies will not affect your experience visiting this website, but may have an impact upon the functionality of other sites.
If you wish to view your cookie code, just click on a cookie to open it. You'll see a short string of text and numbers. The numbers are your identification card, which can only be seen by the server that gave you the cookie.
For information on how to do this on the browser of your mobile phone please refer to your handset manual.
Finally, some of my own thoughts about cookies
I'll start with an FAQ: who on earth dreamed up the name "cookies" to describe a piece of Internet technology?
According to Yahoo! Answers: 'in the early 1970s a group of programmers working at Xerox came up with an idea for storing a bit of information on another computer. They appear to have called this little chunk of information a cookie after a character from the popular (at that time) Andy Williams Show. This "Cookie Bear" character would follow Andy around asking for a cookie. Programmers can be very strange people at times. The action of tracing these little files back to their original source is also referred to as following a trail of cookie crumbs.'
So much for that. It's a pity, though, that they chose a name that might encourage some people to fear that cookies are a dastardly device for grabbing tasty chunks of private information!
Good cookies and bad cookies
Ethically, the underlying technology is neither good nor bad. It just allows a website to store a short string of letters or numbers on your computer, and to determine how long this will stay there if you don't delete it.
Other cookies are less attractive, notably "tracking cookies" that, in effect, report on the websites you visit. Tracking cookies can be used to build a profile of your interests - information that's valuable to advertisers. The more advertisers know about you, the easier it is to target you with adverts for products you might buy.
That sounds great for advertisers, and web users might be happy to avoid inappropriate advertising. But profiling based on web-use is an invasion of your privacy. Not everyone wishes to be monitored in that way. The EU now requires websites that set invasive cookies to get your consent.
There's a simple way to dispose of tracking cookies: set your browser options to clear all cookies each time you close the browser - and remember to close it whenever you aren't using it. A disadvantage is that the next time you go online, a website that doesn't require log-in can't 'remember' you. You may also notice less-targeted advertising. To many people, those inconveniences will seem a small price to pay.
Analytics cookies fall into a different class. Their purpose isn't to identify you (the information they gather is anonymous). They don't follow you to other sites. Their purpose is to help me, the website builder, understand how you and others are using this site. They show, for example, which pages are popular (maybe we should offer more pages like that?), which pages receive hardly any visits (are they adequately signposted?), and so on. With analytics I can experiment - for example by changing the site navigation - and watch to see if the result is an improvement. I can also see where things are going wrong - which might, for example, result from a broken link.
At one time, analytics cookies were a fairly reliable guide to repeat visits. If the site set a cookie on your first visit, and you didn't remove it, you were thereafter counted as a returning visitor not a new one. However, as more and more people started clearing cookies from their browsers at short intervals, the distinction between new visitors and repeat visitors became meaningless. Some people (not us!) tried to get around that by setting a different type of cookie, created by Adobe Flash. It was a while before browser developers caught up, but now Flash cookies get wiped too.
Some information contained in Analytics reports is also available from server logs. For example, the reports show what part of the world some (not all) site-visitors come from. That can be quite interesting, to visitors as well as ourselves. Until recently we had a public cookie-based 'Flag-counter' on the site. In a little over a year it detected visits from people in 183 countries. Then, it became obvious that visitors' routine cookie-cleaning was making nonsense of the 'new visitor' numbers, so we took it down.
This so-called "geolocation" occasionally alerts us to something like a Lawrence-related TV broadcast in a particular country. Typically, such events produce a 24-hour spike in local visitor numbers.
Large websites are costly to build and maintain. For that reason almost all of them use some form of analytics. To me, this is plainly beneficial. I'd far rather visit a website that works well than a site that is ill-designed, where I can't easily find what I'm looking for.
I have been following the cookie debate with some interest. The EU law, as drafted, seems unduly heavy-handed in relation to analytics cookies. According to media reports, both the British and French Governments are adopting a softer approach to analytics (which of course they use on their own websites). Maybe in due course the law-makers will catch up.
T. E. Lawrence chronology
1888 16 August: born at Tremadoc, Wales
1896-1907: City of Oxford High School for Boys
1907-9: Jesus College, Oxford, B.A., 1st Class Hons, 1909
1910-14: Magdalen College, Oxford (Senior Demy), while working at the British Museum's excavations at Carchemish
1915-16: Military Intelligence Dept, Cairo
1916-18: Liaison Officer with the Arab Revolt
1919: Attended the Paris Peace Conference
1919-22: wrote Seven Pillars of Wisdom
1921-2: Adviser on Arab Affairs to Winston Churchill at the Colonial Office
1922 August: Enlisted in the Ranks of the RAF
1923 January: discharged from the RAF
1923 March: enlisted in the Tank Corps
1923: translated a French novel, The Forest Giant
1924-6: prepared the subscribers' abridgement of Seven Pillars of Wisdom
1927-8: stationed at Karachi, then Miranshah
1927 March: Revolt in the Desert, an abridgement of Seven Pillars, published
1928: completed The Mint, began translating Homer's Odyssey
1929-33: stationed at Plymouth
1931: started working on RAF boats
1932: his translation of the Odyssey published
1933-5: attached to MAEE, Felixstowe
1935 February: retired from the RAF
1935 19 May: died from injuries received in a motor-cycle crash on 13 May
1935 21 May: buried at Moreton, Dorset