June 30, 2020

I Can’t See You

I’ve removed all analytics from the blog

It has been my goal for a while now to swap out Google Analytics for something more privacy-friendly.

Last week, I took the first step and removed the GA tracking code from the site.

Already, the change has sped the blog up a bit and made Safari happy.

But what happens next?

In theory, this was the first step in a process of switching to something else—and I may end up doing that—but for now I’m enjoying the peace of not knowing anything about my traffic.

I decided to do this now because I realized the data is probably less valuable than I thought it was. I enjoyed being able to see live visitor counts and notice big referral sources, but it was fun in the same way that social media is fun”—it’s a chemical, gamified thing, distorting its own significance like a funhouse mirror.

The prevailing notion is that analytics help you understand what your audience is enjoying so you can continue to produce more of that work. And if my job was to sell you ads on articles, that would be a very useful data set indeed.

But…I don’t run ads. I don’t sell you blog posts via membership. This is a personal blog; an outlet for me to share what matters to me with a self-regulating audience of like-minded individuals.

I know my articles about whales won’t perform” as well as my articles about the top task managers, but I think you can probably guess which ones mean more to me. More to the point: did I really need analytics to tell me that?

The most valuable feedback I receive for my work on this blog is when visitors literally send me money as thanks for a piece they found valuable—or just to support ongoing work. But that’s for a very literal definition of value.

The actual most valuable feedback I receive comes in the form of direct emails, tweets, and other points of contact where people reach out to say hi, to say thanks, to point out issues, or to ask questions. It takes a lot to motivate someone to write a personal email these days, so when someone does it, it means the world to me and tells me, in the most delightful way possible, that whatever they’re writing in about has resonated with them.

That’s my feedback system. Those are my analytics.

It’s slow, it’s imprecise, it’s mostly opaque, and it’s laughable to advertisers…but it’s 100% reliable, 100% free, and allows me to avoid invading your privacy.

Fathom and other privacy-first analytics systems like it are a happy middle ground, but at the end of the day all of these services are designed to help me get something from you—whether it’s money or just attention.

But this blog is less about taking and more about giving. I’m interested in sharing things I care about, things I’m learning about, and things I find valuable or enriching.

In exchange, many people have been kind enough to share and spread the pieces they enjoy, or to write me an email, or even to buy me a coffee.

It may not be a good business, but it makes me happy, and I believe in the power of cultivating genuine interaction.

So the next time you drop by for a visit, maybe knock and say hi—because I won’t know you’re here otherwise. ☺️


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