Saturday, August 25, 2012

Metrics and Analytics

A few weeks ago, a woman named Molly Templeton began a How-to Tumblr in response to a How-to series in the New York Times. She put out a call to women writers, to write about anything they knew how to do and to share their writings with her. She received (and continues to receive) many, many submissions, on an endless array of topics. I check in daily, partly because I am curious to see what will turn up, and partly because I submitted a how-to, which she posted (this how-to also appeared on my blog). I like to check back to look at my submission because readers can attach "notes," and I am curious to see how many notes people attach to mine (both in and of itself and in comparison to others). I do not understand how one goes about attaching a note on Tumblr (I have tried to figure it out by exploring the site, but no dice), so I am unable to attach notes to mine or anyone else's submission. I'm guessing I'd need to register with Tumblr to leave notes.

Anyway, these notes are not like comments on a blog. People don't actually say things, they just note that they liked the post or that they reblogged it. Being reblogged is kind of nice because that means the post gets spread into other corners of the Internet, and some kind people have done this with my post. You can forget what your mother used to say about "This isn't a popularity contest," because life on the Internet actually is sort of a popularity contest, and there are all sorts of metrics and analytics for determining who/what is most popular.

Everything is ranked and counted. We can easily see on the New York Times website which article is most popular, which is most emailed, and even what is recommended for me (based on metrics and algorithms, a term we hear a lot these days). We can see on people's blogs and Twitter accounts how many followers they have, how many people they follow, how many tweets they've written, how many times they've been re-tweeted, and (on blogs) how many comments one has gotten. Some blogs get 100s of commenters per post. We also have related concepts like wisdom of the crowd and crowd sourcing, and crowd funding, and crowd purchasing--all based on numbers and analysis of those numbers. The higher the numbers of course, the more marketable or valuable in some sense one is seen to be.

So I thought I'd share some of the metrics I've collected from Molly's How-to Tumblr. This is not at all a comprehensive list of all the how-tos she has posted. Just my own arbitrary and subjective selection, but here goes, and let's see what if anything we can make of this.

How to Dodge a Falling Rock—16 notes

How to Survive Your Child's Stay in the NICU—7 notes

How to Write a Poem—80 notes

How to Become a Full-Time Artist (this was the only one presented in graphic/cartoon style; the all-time favorite, so far)—230 notes

How to Travel by Yourself—175 notes

How to Spend Time with a Work of Art—43 notes

How to Move Rattlesnakes Humanely—5 notes (this one was completely fascinating to me, despite the low number of votes)

How to Read a Victorian Novel—24 notes

How to Do a Little Bit of Good for Your World—34 notes (this was mine)

How to Have a Good Attitude about Getting Bedbugs—74 notes

How to Make a Bourbon Old-Fashioned (the Right Way)—47 notes

How to Become a Digital Nomad—45 notes

How to Apply Noir (a style of drawing)—7 notes

How to Make a Found Poem—40 notes

If I wanted to make this easy for you, I would have listed the items in numerical order--largest number of notes to smallest, or vice versa. But complicating the puzzle is part of the interest I think--to notice the high interest in poetry, booze, and bed bugs, or the low interest in applying noir vs. the very high interest in becoming a full-time artist, or the fact that surviving your child's stay in the NICU is close in popularity to moving a rattlesnake.

What else? What else?


Jim Poznak said...

The topics all sound fascinating, but the emphasis on the quantity of notes, quantity of friends, etc, seems to be misplaced. Also, I noticed that How To Travel By Yourself received lots of notes. An indication that many Internet denizens are solitary creatures despite having loads of notes, friends, etc.?

Susan Messer said...

Really good point, about "how to travel by yourself" getting so many notes. I do believe that despite the number of notes and "friends," e.g., on Facebook, many people are somewhat solitary. I know the number of notes shouldn't be the focus, but one can't help noticing them. Right? One wants to know how one ranks. Right? Though how can one honestly and really compare rattlesnake removal and the NICU? One really can't.