Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Lies, Damn Lies, And Statistics.



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 no one can hear you scream.

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 Google Analytics 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 "

Michelle :)

For all my fabulous if rather freaky, readers I give you one of my all time favourites, Psycho Killer, Talking Heads (1977)

12 comments:

  1. Kay, Great post! I check stats too. And I'd be such a liar if I didn't admit it. And that I love it!!! And for the record, I shall nakedly admit my inner thoughts right about....now- I have always thought, that you are gunna write your own book..or become some kind of business empire. =)...or something along those lines...cause the people love you! =)

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  2. Excellent post. I have no aptitude for numbers or statistics and a great mistrust for google analytics stuff and I don't know why. I am not in the least suprised that this many people stop by your blog. 400 comments on a blog good grief, I like to read the comments as well and am not sure i could be bothered to scroll down that long to add my penniworth to the put.

    Its made me wary though now I hope all those readers only read your blog and not my comments as that would make me self conscious. I am relatively new to blogging and like you say often think I am saying stuff that really I shouldn't share to virtual strangers but hey as they are strangers in reality I will never bump into them in the local shop. I quite like the fact that no one round here knows that I write the drivel I do or do they, on second thoughts maybe I need a stat counter thingy.

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  3. Comments are wonderful, it's absolutely true. I try to respond to all of mine, even though it means usually I end up being up too late and feeling like death next morning. :) I too started my blog just to write. Now I mainly rite silly things. I used to write more normal things once upon a time but now I just use it to vent any old thing. I think sometimes, even though you don't mean it, you tend to cater for people you know are reading. I always vowed I wouldn't, but it happens. I like the interaction from people. I appreciate every comment I get.

    I used to have a little flag counter thing on my blog but when I changed my template and customized it, I lost it and I can't for the life of me remember what I used. I used to love seeing the little flags and going "Turkmenistan? Really?" :)

    I also feel kind of bad because people become "followers" all the time and I don't follow back that they can tell although I actually do. I add them to my Reader feed, it just doesn't show in their followers box. Everyone's secretly hidden in my Reader so I can stalk them. Buwahahaha!

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  4. This was a really great post.

    I recently joined the GA bandwagon too. I already had a sitemeter, but GA is a whole other level. I love seeing where all my readers are from. You're right, it's neat. (Also, if they piss me off I can find them and scare the living daylights out of them.)

    One of the things that disappoints me about blogging is that I can't read everything I want. The simple truth is that I follow so many blogs I get a little burned out trying to catch up. So I might not read everything, but I still come around from time to time (obviously).

    Cheers to you, blogging buddy. Thanks for all your comments too. Now I'm off to stalk you in my stats.

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  5. Very informative blog Michelle, I didn't know there was a place that would keep statistics on your blog, not sure I would want to check mine, I might be disapointed at the numbers and not continue. I too write for the fun and release, but I do enjoy the comments as well, though my average has been 0 or one, though I get fb comments. Very cool numbers Michelle!

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  6. It's great to read your posts, no matter the subject matter that day.
    I'm being encouraged to journal and am in a internal conflict on whether to Journal or Blog.
    While I continue my conflict, I'll continue to your journal, er I mean blog :)

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  7. I read your blog Michelle because you write extremely well, are very funny, and I understand some of what you are going through. I do not have "Bob", but I do live with chronic pain and I understand the feelings that arise when you stop working, when your body doesn't do what you are used to it doing etc. Thank you so much for writing this blog Michelle, it has been of great inspiration and assistance to me!

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  8. HOW HAVE I BEEN MISSING OUT ON ALL THAT GOAT PORN?!?!

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  9. TCD - damn you've uncovered my plans for world domination LOL

    Achelois - I can't take the stats to seriously, that would require to much effort. I am a fan of anonymity too and for the most part there are few who would connect me to Rusty Hoe. I often wonder what people must think with some of my comments especially when I am in a bit of a loony mode.

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  10. Veg - ahhh so you're the cyber stalker they warn us about on all those ads. It all becomes clear now. I like to respond to my comments as well. I figure if someone is going to be bother tapping some keys to leave me a comment the least I can do is tap mine a few times for them.

    OWO - the keeping up with reading is hard. I try but every now and then I have to say screw it I'm never going to catch up and just start fresh that day. And sometimes I can't think of a good comment beyond "great post" as that's about as far as my brain will stretch and then I think that sounds really trite and well the cycle of "you're a loser Michelle" starts and frankly then it's time for tequila.

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  11. Michele - thanks babe. I like my numbers too but I had a reality check the other day on a writers blog which said my numbers wouldn't even get a second glance from a publisher. But hey I don't care I'm still impressed :)

    Grumblebot - it took me ages to decide to blog and now I can't imagine not doing it. I love that I have meet so many great people through it and finding out that I am not alone in my madness (though I will say there are few people out there who out crazy me by a loooooooong way).

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  12. Raven - glad you can get something out of my blog. I think a lot of us go through the same sort of experiences regardless of what your illness is. Blogging is kinda of like one huge group therapy session.

    Buggin - how did I know you'd be the first person to spot the goat porn factoid? Sleep with one eye open little goats LOL.

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All who are lovely enough to comment should be showered with cup cakes, glitter and macarons. I promise to use my spoon bending mind powers to try and get that happening for all who are lovely enough to share their words. Those who go the extra step to share posts should really get a free unicorn. Or at least the gift of finding the shortest and quickest line at the supermarket on a regular basis. xx