Measure Everything, Conclude Nothing

Measure Everything, Conclude Nothing

The best approach to improvement is to measure and question everything.

I checked my blog statistics last week. In December my blog had 12,179 unique visitors, while it had only 10,365 readers in November. That’s a 17% increase in one month.

Woohooo!

PARTY!!!

For more than a year, slowly but steadily, the readership on my blog had been going down. How can it be that I suddenly have 17% more viewers on my blog? Is it because of the brand new design? Is it because of the new 15 Minutes on Air videos? Is it because of the new theme of creative networking? Has my writing become better, sharper, funnier? Is it my lovely new scarf?

Maybe. Maybe not.

In November I published 12 blog posts.

In December I published 14 blog posts.

That’s 17% more posts.

17% more writing… 17% more readers.

Hmm…

Measure Everything

It’s easy to get lost in statistics and it’s tempting to jump to conclusions with numbers. Like any other creative project a blog is a complex thing. There are so many things happening at the same time, it is often impossible to correlate activities with outcomes.

How about the Christmas holidays, which always lead to significantly lower traffic on blogs? How about all my SlideShare presentations, where I improved the hyperlinks to my blog and websites? How about the lack of new Top 100 book lists, which usually have the most traffic on my blog? How about the increased frequency of news items I have posted on my Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ streams?

With all these changes, both positive and negative, should readership go up or down?

I’ve no idea. I’m as clueless as Miss Marple in an open office space.

Conclude Nothing

Correlating a specific activity with the readership on a busy blog is like measuring the effect of one new traffic light on the traffic jams in a whole city. If you don’t have a team of researchers with deep knowledge of statistical analysis, any conclusion will probably be naïve and shortsighted.

Am I against measuring? Absolutely not!

Am I against conclusions? Definitely yes!

As a creative networker the best approach to improvement is to measure and question everything. Measure your blog, your followers, your mailings, your writing, your design, anything you can… I started measuring my steps, food and sleep with a Fitbit activity tracker. But I’m not drawing conclusions.

What are you measuring?

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  • Flavius Stef

    What’s the purpose of measuring then? Sure, it will give you a summary view of the system’s (ie. blogging) output, but how will it inform your concrete actions? Will you pay more attention to the slides on slideshare, blog more or be more active on social media?

    If the answer is: “all of them”, how efficient are you? Then again, you might value only effectiveness.

    As for me, I decided to spend some time this year brushing up on my statistics. I feel the need to balance the complexity-systems-thinking-holistic-synthetic view with some good old analytical skills.

    • jurgenappelo

      Why does the Dutch government measure speed and throughput of cars on all highways, by default, every time of the day? It’s so they can discuss new questions tomorrow, and make hypothesis about potential answers. Run experiments and compare with expectations. You can’t question anything without observations.

      • Flavius Stef

        I’m not sure your government isn’t concluding anything. They most likely are taking the measures (speed, throughput) into account when creating new laws.

        • Eddy Bruin

          My interpretation of the article is that measuring is about observing symptoms. To me that means that we should not conclude upon symptoms. We should know why the symptoms are there and question that symptoms in order to find actual causes and patterns to understand and (potentially) solve problems.

  • Pedro Gutiérrez

    Hi

    In my case, I have an explanation to this increase in the number of viewers.

    I’m subscribed by email to your posts, but now, rather than receiving the full post in my email I just receive a couple of sentences and a url to the blog.

    Consecuences for me?

    * I enter more frecuently in your blog

    * I read less posts

    * My overall experience is worse: I’d prefer to receive the full post in my email

    • jurgenappelo

      I’m very sorry about that. Yes, this is an unexpected side-effect of switching from TypePad to WordPress. I hope to fix this problem soon.

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