Well this blog is a few days old and I have a quick observation to offer. It is amazing how quickly I have become obsessed with checking my statistics. For those of you unfamiliar with WordPress blogs, WordPress keeps tracks of the numbers of views your blog receives. It also tracks the links that people clicked on your blog and which posts are most popular. This feature is incredibly addictive and I’m sure most bloggers use it to guage how successful their blog is doing. I think a better guage of success would be the kinds of discussion that a blogger has provoked or is provoking. In the absence of this kind of direct feedback; however, statistics play a vital role.
The statistics though can be a bit misleading: On WordPress, potentially one individual could be checking back for content regularly and be responsible for numerous views, but there is no way to track this. It is also impossible to know if a post is popular because of its content or do to some other factor. For example, on my blog, the “About the Many Faces of Wayne” post has so far received the most attention. Maybe this is because of its placement at the top of the page?or perhaps, it is because it explains the premise behind my blog. This information is unknowable, and for my purposes, largely irrelevant. Yet, I find myself trying to make sense of these numbers (in spite of their ambiguity) in an attempt to distill their meaning and improve my blog.
This happens in many areas of our society. Statistics, polls, surveys are all an attempt to obtain this. It has created a whole industry for marketers, public institutions, political activists to judge and measure their success. Our elected rulers use principle even to govern the nation.
I think this a very natural thing for social creatures to do. We need feedback from the tribe to understand our place within it; however, in many cases the analysis we are making based on the collection of statistics may lead us to inaccurate conclusions. This process can be similar to predicting the future from the scattering of tea leaves at the bottom of a tea cup.
I would argue that direct feedback is always a superior.