regarding DistroWatch tracking downloads
If you'll take a look at the DistroWatch FAQ, down toward the bottom of the list of questions, there is a question about the page hits ranking list you referenced above and nowhere in there does the owner indicate that there is any tracking of distribution downloads. In fact, he admits that the numbers may not always reflect even the popularity of distributions correctly:
Originally Posted by Timmi
For that reason, I still believe you to be incorrect.
Admittedly, the page clicks by themselves may not always reflect the popularity correctly, but they should, over time, provide an indication about what is hot among the readers frequenting these pages.