The Joy of Stats

the Joy of Stats

the Joy of Stats

I have a confession to make: I love statistical tables and graphs and charts and maps of information. The fact I “confess” to this is odd; as if in some way I think it is something slightly embarrassing. Well, I suppose if I spent 24 hours a day absorbing tabulated information in glazed delight, it would be slightly absurd. But I worry sometimes I’m not too far off that.

In the good old days of books and paper, it was all nicely controllable. Well, wasn’t everything then? You read it, absorbed it, and that was that. But with the Internet, it’s all changed. The sheer volume of statistical information available now is quite overwhelming. But even worse, it’s constantly updating. One look a day? Forget it. Think more along the lines of maintaining a row of open tabs on the desktop and hammering the refresh button in quick succession.

There was a time when the only meaningful statistic in my daily life was the number on the bathroom scales. An irrationally joyous or despondent start to the day à la Bridget Jones. But how does Bridget cope these days? Once online, I can choose from starting the day with Google Analytics (website stats), Twitter (new follows, mentions), or WordPress (blog stats). I can burrow deeper and deeper into each; the web is a never-ending source of statistical analytic possibilities with corresponding psychological rollercoaster impact. Website visitor numbers up? Great. Shame they stayed for all of 0.00 minutes. To my especial joy, Google Analytics combines information AND maps; I was once thrilled to see how many hits I was getting from France, only to realise they never stayed long enough to read anything. Twittergrader (influence on Twitter) goes up by a grudging percentage point, which means only 1,882,115 tweeps to overtake before I can be king of the castle.

Eventually common sense has to prevail. I have made countless promises to myself to only check these things once a week. Sometimes I actually manage once a day. We shall see. How many minutes will it be before I check the stats for this post?

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4 responses to The Joy of Stats

  1. I fear it may be a common obsession. The ‘help’ posts about the distorting effects of spam hits still ‘counting’ in wordpress stats I’ve been reading were from clearly agonised bloggers, wanting ‘true’ hits only. Tempers were raging. I’m trying (and failing) to relax about it!

  2. gillianholding – Author

    It’s interesting how hard it is to let it go because it’s all pretty meaningless tallywise from hour to hour or even day to day. The longer term emerging patterns are of much more value; assuming a consistent relative level of spam, it can then be ignored. Actually I don’t seem to get much spam; maybe the fact noone read me for the first month helped in some odd way!

  3. margaret nickels

    Oh dear ! You need to remember the saying : there are lies , damned lies and …………. ( you know the end !) I read and enjoy your writings every day and have told many people about you .

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