Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics
By Rusty Hoe on June 08, 2010
To stat or not to stat. That is the question. When I started blogging in July last year I never for a second believed that anyone would read my ramblings, especially not by choice. I thought there would be at least a couple of pity reads from friends and family, but after week one they'd probably drop off and I'd be posting into the vacuum of space, and nobody can hear you sceam.
Blogging is kinda like standing naked in the middle of a crowded room. You bare a part of you that you normally keep hidden. That special internal dialogue is completely normal to you, but you realise that if it were to be exposed, the wider public may be inclined to call in the men with white suits and oversized butterfly nets to take me away. There are really only 3 possible reactions to your decision to go all Lady Godiva, and get naked in the blogosphere.
One: people will admire your stunning naked body and lust after you.
Two: people will laugh at your marshmallow thighs and pancake boobs that slap your knees.
Three: people will shake their heads and turn away from the naked freak in the middle of the room.
Personally I always thought three and I would be having our own private lovefest. Now nearly a year on I have found that people not related to me by blood and therefore not obligated to pity read, are in fact reading my blog and even more bizarrely coming back for more. As the little icons have grown on the side of the page I have come to the realisation that I should take this writing business a little bit more seriously. Not too seriously mind, that would require work, and I am inherently adverse to any form of effort. More a kind of token level of seriousness.
One way of pretending to take my blogging more seriously was to enter the world of Google Analytics (GA). GA is totally addictive, rather like a mathematical equivalent of meth, for amateur statisticians. Going down the blog stats road was a bit of a toss up for me. I've always primarily written for my own pleasure. Basically, blogging is a means of purging the crap swirling around in my noggin. I've found that tapping away on a keyboard and pushing that post button is quite cathartic. Once it's out there I can let it go, and move on to contemplating the big issues in life like, "is Miss Jay more feminine than Tyra" and "do people put plastic wrap down before letting Lindsay Lohan sit on their furniture"? Deciding to add a stats program therefore seemed like I actually believed that my blog was somewhat professional, and that's really a bit of a stretch. But I did. I added GA and now I find myself constantly chasing the homoscedasticitical dragon.
Adding GA raised all sorts of questions. What to focus on? There are multiple options relating to goal setting, trends and the like. To much work if you ask me. My goals tend to involve things like, finding a local café that does great coffee and cake, or finding a shop that delivers Green & Blacks to your door. So whilst I have the stats program on there I don't think I'm using it in the way the designers intended. So for anyone thinking about going the stats route I thought I'd give you an insight into how I use my Analytics. Here are the 3 sections I concentrate on.
- Mass psychosis: I don't get a bazillion comments. Most times probably between 5-10 comments, but not always. I look at someone like The Bloggess and think OMG!, 400+ comments on a post. Now that's impressive and way way way out of my league. I'll admit I love comments, and frankly anyone who says they don't is lying. For me it's one of the highlights of writing in this medium. The ability to interact with your readers, to form relationships is something I love. The immediacy of the feedback is not something you could get in traditional print mediums. Often the quality of the comments far outweigh the quality of my writing. There are some damn funny and gorgeous people out there. Whilst I get comments now, for months I was lucky to get 1 or 2 comments and often had a big fat zero, post after disheartening post. That can make the whole experience feel rather lonely. The reality is that not many people comment, but with a stats program you can see how many people read your ramblings, and how long they spend on your site. I was shocked how many people actually read my blog (there are obviously some seriously messed up people out there, but I love every last one of you). Even excluding the people who pop in for 2 secs look at your blog and think you're a loser and leave (bite me, you are the loser dude) I get almost 2,000 substantial views a month. Whoa. That does good things for this weird little Aussie bloggers heart.
- Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?: I love looking at where my readers come from. Why would someone from Columbia or Poland want to read my blog? Even more puzzling is why would they come back for more? I love it. The internet and social media get slammed for all their evil ways, but there is also a lot of good out there. It makes the world a much smaller place and connects people who would never have met otherwise. It is also a great geography lesson and I have even had to look up some of the countries (sad to admit I know, but I blame countries that keep changing their names quicker than I can keep up). Why some guy in a little provence in Russia, would find something in my blog he can connect to, I'll never know, but it's that kind of thing that gives me a toasty warm feeling inside. Big cyber hugs to all my international readers.
- One + One = Purple Monkey Dishwasher: perhaps my favourite statistic is the list of keyword searches that have led people to my blog. I can waste a lot of hours going through this list, often peeing myself laughing. I don't know if it's the fact that a search for "Arab ladies big boobs" lead someone to my blog, or the fact that someone thought that was a great search topic, that makes me laugh more. There are a lot of freaks out there people, but they are all very very dear to my heart. In the last month there have people searching for "blogspot arse hairy", "don johnson sniffing cat urine", and "plague trolls public quest where is tainted food crates" who all ended up on my blog. What are you smoking people? And more importantly, can I get some?
Now I imagine that this is not what GA had in mind when they created their stats program, but for me this is how I use it. I like the stats that make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, or give you a good laugh. Life's too short to care if your stats have increased by a certain percentage or to identify popular topics to drone on about again and again and...... If you decide to go with a stats program find what works for you. If you see blogging as a business more power to you. Go out and use your stats program with mature abandon. But, if like me you find maturity over-rated, and your fun, fuzzy and outright freaky stats to be the most worthwhile , then grab a glass of mummies little helper, and rejoice in the fact that there are people in the world who spend their days looking up information about "hairy gnome balls".
In the words of the fabulous Talking Heads all I can say is:
"Qu'est-ce que c'est?
fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa better
Run run run run run run run away
OH OH OH "
For all my fabulous if rather freaky, readers I give you one of my all time favourites, Psycho Killer, Talking Heads (1977)
Michelle Roger writes for Living With Bob (Dysautonomia)