On Metrics

I’ve been thinking about metrics lately. I mean, forever. But especially lately. A couple of items.

1. Nose smudges not numbers.

Airport museum curators face different pitfalls—and different possibilities—from those at conventional museums. Garfield does play to a built-in audience (93,000 people move through the airport on an average day), but he seldom knows how much that audience cares. “One way to tell is by talking with the custodians,” he says. “They tell me how many smudges they have to clean off the glass.”

2. Rethinking metrics in solving the diversity and inclusion problems in tech.

There exists a prevailing attitude that being explicit about the type of person a company wants to hire will lead companies to select people who are underqualified in order to satisfy a metric or tick a checkbox. But, like any other product or problem you’re trying to hack, there should be some cursory idea of what success looks like, and a product oriented, metrics-driven approach dictates the necessary process.

3. Caitlin Petre’s excellent overview research on the impact of metrics on newsrooms. Metrics and culture matter.

Most journalists are too busy with their daily assignments to think extensively or abstractly about the role of metrics in their organization, or which metrics best complement their journalistic goals. As a result, they tend to consult, interpret, and use metrics in an ad hoc way. But this data is simply too powerful to implement on the fly. Newsrooms should create opportunities—whether internally or by partnering with outside researchers—for reflective, deliberate thinking removed from daily production pressures about how best to use analytics.


“Everyone would love to have YouTube-style metrics. But the measurement of podcasting is really not that much worse than any other medium; we just don’t have a single source that everyone endows with some sort of holy status.” — Erik Diehn, Midroll

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