Distracted By Blog Statistics
This is another post documenting my blog refocus. After reducing the time spent in Google Reader, I decided I was spending way too much time tracking website statistics.
These stats can definitely be useful. There are any number of metrics one can use to measure the activity on a website – hits, page views, unique visitors, feed subscribers, ad clicks, what pages people look at, how long they stayed, sources of traffic. Plus, there are all sorts of packages that one can install to feed one’s love for data.
But for me, the wealth of information had become yet another pile of information requiring time to parse. I’d estimate I was spending about a half hour each day monitoring them, and based on what information gleaned from them, I think I was spending too much time watching water boil (paint dry, grass grow), and not enough writing quality posts.
So about two weeks ago, I decided to essentially ignore this website data to a large degree.
Some Reasons Why I’m Now Ignoring My Stats
They’ve Become Uninteresting: It was fun to watch traffic go from 50 to 100 visitors a day because I could say “it went up 100%!” but past a few thousand, the numbers become less fun. My traffic has plateaued at a decidedly average number (around 2 – 3K visitors a day, 40 – 45K uniques monthly based on server logs). Even on days I don’t post, this number is essentially constant.
They’re Unreliable: Each stat gives conflicting information, and can be flawed in and of themselves. I’m sure you’ve all read posts on Alexa’s flaws, inflated FeedBurner numbers, and all that spam traffic. With large variances between each data set, I have an unhealthy temptation to believe the highest numbers.
I’m Skeptical Readers Are Interested In Them: The readers who most care about stats are other bloggers who care about theirs. That’s understandable, but their usefulness is debatable to everyone else who just wants to read a well-written article.
It May Be Healthier To Just Not Know: Since I was so aware of my stats, I felt bad for any blogger who had lower numbers and envious of those with higher ones. As Louis Gray notes, talking about stats could be seen like divulging your salary (I recently read an SFGate article about that social taboo). As with money, comparing yourself with others is a bad idea – I should be satisfied and make do with what I have. My solution is to attempt to be blissfully unaware of my own “salary.”
I Have Enough Traffic To Be Satisfied: Since this blog is a hobby, not a business, the amount of traffic I currently get is fine by me – and frankly a bit ridiculous considering how much I write about Battlestar Galactica and cats.
What more do I want to achieve from blogging? Money? Power? Influence? A new career as a professional blogger? Not interested. This blog is self sustaining with ad revenue plus I can buy some extra stuff every once in a while. I have a day job.
What I really want is a return to the basic joy of writing.
Anyhow, I recently took some drastic steps to reduce my stat information overload:
Removed All “Dashboard” Widgets
I own a Mac and had set up some OS X Dashboard widgets that tracked my stats, namely Google Adsense and Google Analytics. I once had a widget that tested if my website was up. I found I was hitting F12 every ten minutes or so just to see if I had earned a dollar that day. I could have earned a dollar doing something else during all the time I was hitting F12. I deleted all of them.
Removed Stat Related Stuff From My Blog Sidebar
I’ve had a long running goal of “decluttering” this blog – and the sidebar is a favorite target of mine. I nuked the Technorati rank, the MyBlogLog widget, and FeedBurner stats. I still have some stuff related to Disqus like recent comments and popular threads, which I’m enamored with as I installed them recently – but they may be next to go.
Removed Google Analytics
The best way to prevent information overload is to not collect it in the first place.
I still have the good old server stats package (AW Stats), which is installed on my server. Any other stats (FeedBurner, Google AdSense) requires a login, which removes much of the temptation to check them incessantly.
Going forward, I’m restricting stat checks to a monthly activity, as all I really care about is whether or not the traffic increased over the month prior. I don’t need an answer to this question on a daily or even weekly basis.
I realize this info-avoidance is rather contrary to what many bloggers currently do, and I’m not disputing their usefulness for those that have fun monitoring them. But in my case, it wasn’t fun anymore. All I can say is during the last two weeks, I have felt a great weight lifted off my shoulders, and I’m slowly returning to what I originally loved about blogging: the writing itself.
(This post is a direct result of my new-found room to breathe.)