Why Is The Web Quantitative?

Metrics, numbers, hits, page views and clicks are what we seek! Especially when we are trying to measure the success of a website. The statistics have become a craze in the blogosphere. I wonder if they really represent success, or achievement, or the ego! I wonder how much is invested in the metric tools that monitor the web! I wonder how much do we invest in making sure that the metrics keep climbing up.

The abstractionist in you will apply this question to all kinds out there, including businesses. However, it paints a different picture in case of Web as it is much more than just technology. Web today is a publishing medium, it serves news, articles, advertisements and last but not the least it encourages participation by being available easily for the common man. It is considered to be an authoritative source of information, to an extent that google is now added in the English dictionary. All these are in the domain of art, of skill and of expression, of data integrity, of journalism and reporting. Isn’t quality more important than quantity in these cases? Can metrics do the justice?

I feel the metrics approach is inherently a flawed approach. With other mechanisms of increasing traffic the metrics can be artificially manufactured, without any indication to quality of the content or skill of the creator.

This flawed approach leads to comparisons between Digg and New York Times. Does it mean that Digg is better than New York Times and we can really live without professional journalism? In the comparison there is no consideration for quality or origination of the content. Don’t get me wrong, I am a supporter of participation and I like sites like Slashdot and Digg. However they cannot do what New York Times does. Whereas the same number game also creates an air of doubt about the basic model of Digg. Digg is one of the best social bookmarking sites not because of the numbers but because it represents a unique idea and provides ease of operation and communication between users. Digg is a culture rather than a site, and hence it is so popular.

The number game has kept us looking for better alternatives but ended up in the same model, now even page views are considered obsolete (via The Blog Herald). The numbers don’t guarantee interaction, they don’t guarantee usage, and they don’t guarantee participation. But they are still considered, because they are the easiest to measure. We try to measure a site by measuring its metrics. The numbers can merely indicate popularity. The three keywords being can, indicate and popularity. No quality!

The problem is not that we are using the numbers, the problem is that we are using only numbers. We should develop and use other mechanisms of analyzing sites which stress on quality, on integrity with the vision and achievement of the purpose for which it was set up. Unless the sole aim of a website is to get thousands of hits the numbers will not do justice. The Oscars, Grammys, Pullitzers don’t look only at numbrs, they primarily look at quality and creativity.

I am not sure if this is the solution, but we definitely need something for qualitative analysis of the Web. The biggest problem in qualitative analysis is that it can be subjective. I have no idea how this can be solved. Whether something like the Oscars would be useful or not is a debate. I believe there are some attempts but they are negligible. We cannot keep depending only on the quantity, we have to start considering quality along with it. We need to make sure that the numbers should happen because of the high quality, not the other way round.

Discussion [Participate or Link]

  1. DesiPundit » Archives » Why Is The Web Quantitative? said:

    […] In what I consider a response to the recent sabse bada blogger kaun controversy, Abhijit asks why the web and specifically the blogosphere uses quantitative standards for judging. Would any qualitative researcher worth his/her salt care to respond or better still, devise methods to judge blogs qualitatively? […]

  2. SportSnob said:

    Nice thought but just to bring to your attention that the Oscars and the Grammy’s are probably the worst set of awards around to be taken as an example. The Oscars are notorious for being very biased to particular genres and movies that are genuinely creative rarely get noticed (there are exceptions ofcourse). While the Oscar awards have somehow retained their credibility, nobody gives a damn about the Grammy awards anymore. They give them out by the dozen every year.

    Anyway, all that is besides the point. Its often hard to judge the best blogs around. Who is going to do it? if you say the public votes it can end up being a bigger farce than Indian Idol and even then bloggers with the largest blogrolls would be at a distinct advantage over the rest. I say you don’t need blogs ranking- if yours is a good blog with great content people will come back to read your blog no matter what.

  3. Abhijit Nadgouda said:

    Hi Sportsnob,

    I completely agree with you on both fronts – that the likes of Oscars are not the ideal platform and that blogs need not be ranked. The need for such analysis is to provide some means of discoverability of “good” content. Currently it is completely based on numbers.

    Like you said, probably the current mechanisms will not help much, we need an innovative way to provide this platform. On a smaller scale there are networks like 9rules and desipundit which gather good content for you. However, it needs to be on a bigger scale to put numbers in the background.

  4. கில்லி - Gilli » Why Is The Web Quantitative - Abhijit Nadgouda said:

    […] இது கில்லியின் 1906 பதிவுங்க என்று எழுதினால் கோச்சுப்பார்   […]

  5. Advertising And Quantity on iface thoughts said:

    […] Steve Rubel brings up the topic of the death of page views, and its impact on the advertising business. Evan Williams had brought on this to the table earlier. Advertising essentially is dependent on such metrics, first to measure quality of the website and then to record advertising statistics. I had expressed my opinion on this topic, I feel sad that for advertising businesses Web is all about quantity and not quality. These metrics can only be indications, not measurement of quality itself. To reiterate, I feel that qualitative analysis is important along with the numbers. And that good numbers should happen because of high quality, not the other way round. Unless we do so, we will keep shifting from one metric to another as time goes on. Darren Rowse has come up with his solution, and Thord Hedengren talks about long term association. […]

  6. In 90 Seconds on iface thoughts said:

    […] Elliotte mentions the four-second rule that is used as a benchmark to measure response time of a web site. Could the 90 second rule be applied for better analysis? Could it be used to build a scale for quality of the web site? I always wonder whether there will be qualitative measures along with the quantitative ones for the Web. […]

  7. Eliminating Middlemen | iface thoughts said:

    […] have long wondered why do we revere the numbers so much on the Web. One thing I learned from various readings was that Web was a way of liberating from the […]

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Abhijit Nadgouda
iface Consulting
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