Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Looking for success metrics

To me the web is a HUGE part of my life, and one of the things I naturally do is try to figure out what "success" on it looks like, where I've been surprised at how difficult that has been for years. What does it mean to be "successful" on the web?

Put that in quotes as I suspect you can find vast differences between people with a lot of interest in the subject as they spend a lot of time on the web as well. After all, it could be an area of endless hobbies, or it could be a place where someone has invested a career.

In the rest of the world off the web--which it turns out is most of the world still though it is rapidly encapsulating our world--there are established metrics. And "metric" just means measure, so is another way of saying that, so I'm pondering success measures. Why not use that word? Well saying metric in this context sounds fancier, and is more concise! The word "metric" is literally shorter than "measure".

And money is one established metric of success for the world off the web, but there are plenty of others too. For instance a person can have a great community reputation, built over time. Or a person might be a critical success, say a writer who never got big commercially but is well-regarded. It's easy to keep going. And it can be fun to ponder such things as each person out there probably has plenty of ideas about "success" in our modern world.

But on the web? It's harder I think, as I ran into weird things to me. And I concluded that making money on the current web--maybe surprisingly--usually involves being in some way entertaining, and I'm not here to be an entertainer. My own rough guess is that in the US maybe 1 person in 75 might be equipped to make money from the entertainment web, guessing at the size of the entertainment field relative to the entire US economy.

Which is me speculating I should emphasize. Am highly motivated to figure these things out, which means I have a lot of reasons to want to be right, which don't make me right. But am very interested in getting answers in this area. Still that does not guarantee I will.

You can look around at the most successful people on the web by a metric like follower counts and yup, they are actual top entertainers. Meaningfully competing with them? Out of the question for most people. They're just too good. Literally world-class.

Using very public metrics like follower counts is natural. It's actually hard to find other public metrics right now. I think that will change though it's hard to imagine how.

And, I also think the web will be much bigger than entertainment or being entertaining as at its heart it is a way people connect more easily with each other, both locally and globally.

For instance, in the past you could talk to someone overseas, say by phone. Even before the telephone, you could write. While today, it can be routine to communicate with any number of people overseas. Often without even trying to be international. For instance I'm just talking here and welcome readers from around the globe. And DO try to make it easier for people around the world by using Google Translate. So not like I'm not doing anything at all, but there's not nearly as much effort as would have been required in the past.

And writing stopped for me, as I went to check blog stats, and come back, so writing starts up again. And did a screenshot, clipping out extra this time, and focusing on certain things, as worth it for this post to show things I puzzle over:

My guess is eventually I will not be able to do these things as it gives away too much information, even with me highlighting a specific section, but here I will. And that is the most important part of what I can check, showing visits from six countries: US, Ukraine, China, Canada, France, and Greece, where not a lot of visits. Just to me a fascinating list of countries! And that's from 2 pm yesterday until today--as I actually pay more attention to what it says.

But that's not necessarily all visitors as these kind of stats just kind of give you a vague idea, as for instance, my understanding is that people only get counted if they allow cookies, and these days a lot of people do not.

But at least it reinforces my point about easily being international. Why those countries? Not really sure besides my own, of course, and again not necessarily all the countries either! As visitors from other countries may not be showing up by the particular metrics used by Blogger to show me that screen.

My own view is that more info will necessarily be given over time, as you need it to guide what you're doing online regardless of how you're measuring success.

Even if you have no interest in making money, do not want millions of people paying attention, and are on the web as a hobby, it can matter to you if people are reading what you write for lots of reasons. And matter even more if they're reading in countries other than your own, yup, also for lots of reasons.

But how do you know?

You need a metric.

Reading over what I wrote yesterday--I edit indefinitely--feel I should emphasize my view that the web will eventually look like the rest of the world. And I think it great that entertainment is driving current web development, but I think it's like a booster rocket which will fall away over time to what you see elsewhere.

That is, if you want to get an idea of what the web will look like in the future, step away from it now, and look at how the rest of the world works! Most people are not entertainers, so most successful on the web will not be either.

James Harris
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