I admit it; right now, I'm an audience metrics freak in regards to my blog. I have a Google Analytics, and StatCounter tracker, and I watch my feedburner counts. In a sense, it's silly. There is some value there, but I know I'm blowing it way out of proportion. But I can't stop..
I wasn't always this way. When I started this blog, I just wanted to experiment with blogging, and was following the idea that writing would be an effective tool to extend my own thought patterns as well. If a person or two discovered it and liked it, all the better.
Overall, that went well. I think blogging has been great for extending myself, and it's been a nice outlet for many thoughts fit for public consumption. But after your write something, no matter what your original intentions were you start to feel the need to share it. That is as long as you don't think it sucked, in which case you're more likely to want to delete or revise it.
And so that led me to wonder, is anyone reading this stuff? What I found out was: no, no one was reading anything I wrote. And because I liked a few things I wrote, it was a bit annoying to see that not a single soul had read it. In a sense, that's worse than one person reading it and telling you it sucked, at least for me. At least a little criticism would push me back towards the delete side of the spectrum.
I had built it, and they weren't coming. And I could clearly see from the logs that it wasn't as if a few people dropped by and rejected me, quite simply, no one was showing up. I've probably been impatient about the whole thing, because this was only 3 months in, but I started trying to spread the word in other ways. And for this stage, metrics were really valuable. They gave me a good idea of what methods were working, and which were just pissing people off. I stopped doing some things, found some different avenues, and finally got some readers. It's not that many, but at least it's enough that I feel like if I did something really right someone would take notice, and then maybe they'd come.
But in the process, I developed the metrics habit. Hopefully I'll eventually kick the habit, but it's not that easy just yet. For one, I'm still afraid that small group will go poof and I'll be back where I started. I almost stopped doing the whole post categorization thing after I realized that it was repushing all my old stories. I was quite afraid that would drive all he RSS/ATOM readers away. I still don't know the result, but I thought, better now than later, so I pushed on and finished it up.
I have noticed a few things that help me ignore metrics. One is comments. Comments are far more valuable to me than any metrics, and so when I actually get them, especially if they are good ones, I hardly care about metrics. Another is volume. It's funny, but if I have an especially good day, like a record breaker, I'm more likely to ignore the metrics. I'm hoping this means that if I continue I'll eventually get to the point where I'm confident enough to simply ignore not just the metrics but also the whole idea of spreading the word in general.
But for now, I'm still guilty. At the very least, I can say I don't tailor my writing to raising metrics, or base it at all upon them. I wanted to say, that I don't tailor my writing to any audience, but in reflection, that's not entirely true. I do drop some controversial topics out of some posts when I don't want to detract from the main point. But that's not about metrics or readers, that's about not getting derailed into one of the perennial debates. These debates are not something you can resolve in a single post, or even a back and forth comment session. And because they almost always start by rehashing the same points over and over, I don’t care to waste my words upon them until I’m ready to dig into them deeply enough to hit something other than churned mud.