By The Numbers

I recently mentioned to my boss that I’m used to metrics being involved in my work. I’m used to decisions being made based on data. I’ve taken it for granted that enterprise organizations like to be able to measure things that may impact profitability. The last few jobs I’ve worked out were pretty rigorous in tracking certain metrics.

However, in my personal life, I’m not into self-quantification. Even at the height of their popularity, I never wanted a FitBit. I feel like I can get the benefits of exercise without counting my steps. Similarly, I feel that I can eat well without counting calories. Probably the best rules for simply eating well come from Michael Pollen:

  1. Eat food.
  2. Not too much.
  3. Mostly plants.

It isn’t hard to follow those rules (or it shouldn’t be, at least). You don’t need an app to do it.

As I write more this year, I appreciate one of the 2018 liberations of blogger Aleen Simms:

Looking at numbers. Twitter followers, podcast download stats, blog post views, the scale, whatever. Life isn’t a video game. Happiness doesn’t have a numerical value attached to it.

I also appreciate what Manton Reece is trying to do with his service Micro.blog. His response to Simms liberation is this:

It mirrors a philosophy we have with Micro.blog to launch without follower counts or public likes. Follower counts are not very useful for a new platform. They add anxiety and unavoidably lead to value judgements when considering whether to follow someone, instead of letting the quality of someone’s writing and photos speak for itself.

In the spirit of Reece’s philosophy, does the fact that my Medium blog, as of now, has a big fat goose egg for the number of followers color people’s responses to it? Does it make visitors ascribe less value to it than they would other, similar blogs on Medium? I know, from my stats, that people have been reading the posts, but not all of them are active on Medium. Even some who have liked the posts haven’t followed the publication.

If you are conducting a MailChimp marketing campaign, metrics on how customers are interacting with your communication make sense. You need to know what strategies are generating interest. Do the same sort of metrics make sense for a personal blog, though? Having hooked up Google Analytics, which offers an array of metrics, to a personal blog, I can say that for me, the answer is no. The most interesting thing I learned through Google Analytics were the geographic locations from where the hits my blog was receiving came. As much as I like external validation (who doesn’t?), I’m not sure I need to offer readers the ability to like my tweets, my Instagram photos and my blog posts.

For the social networks, the ability to like posts make a bit more sense than the ability to like, for instance, a WordPress blog post. Often times, when you post a link to a blog post from a social network, your friends will indicate that they like it on the platform where they saw the link. Which is affirming, but for traffic that comes to your blog from other sources, it looks like no one likes your post. That is not really a big deal, except that a platform like Medium makes kind of a show of their version of likes (claps). They have to do this, because their business model is now based around claps. If you publish stories only to Medium members, as part of their Partners Program, the number of claps you receive determines the amount of compensation you get for the story. It’s a pretty ingenious way of rewarding content that people find valuable. However, it doesn’t really work as well for those of us who are just writing to put thoughts out there, with no dreams or aspirations of ever getting paid for that writing.

When I find myself checking the stats on something I have put out there, I’m reminded that it might be better to liberate myself from the need for validation. Perhaps I can learn to simply put something out there and move on to the next project. It would be nice to have tools that support that goal.

Frosted Echoes @frostedechoes
  © 2017 Frosted Echoes, reverberations from around the internet.