I’m a numbers junkie.
Oh, I talk a good line about how it’s the quality of the conversation that matters, and the connections you make… but you won’t see a day go by when I’m not checking on stats. Twitter followers, Klout score, blog traffic: if I can measure it, I’m counting.
And it’s not like those numbers aren’t important… so long as they’re measuring something that ultimately represents some kind of impact I can have on the world, or vice versa.
But that doesn’t explain why it’s such a compulsion for me – and, let’s face it, for an awful lot of people. I’ve subscribed to a number of theories over the years, most of them variants on “It’s all about making up for not being cool in high school.”
That still makes some sense to me. Yet it doesn’t seem to capture something even more primal: the innate attraction of just plain measuring. Especially when it’s measuring, comparing, and passing milestones.
For instance, this cartoon came about because one of the people I follow on Twitter mentioned on Friday that he was a single follower away from 3,000, and wouldn’t that be a nice way to start the weekend? I and a few others retweeted his request; he crossed the threshold; and then someone else tweeted to remind us both that what’s important is content, and not the number of people following you.
She’s completely right. But it’s also true that it’s human nature to watch as the odometer turns over, to commemorate 40th birthdays, or to take quiet notice when we ram-lap. (Ram-lapping? That’s when you finally get a computer that has the same amount of RAM as your first computer’s hard drive size.) And when my Twitter follower count passes its next round number, I fully intend to mark the occasion. (Not with anything royal-wedding in scale, but something more than just a cupcake with blue icing.)
Of course, as part of an online strategy, measurement should lead to actionable insights. But it can be a pleasure to measure. And maybe recognizing that is the under-appreciated first step in keeping metrics in perspective.