Saturday, May 12, 2007

Website Metrics

You get what you measure. And one way to influence behaviour is to provide an easy metric that is aligned to the behaviours you want to encourage.

This is as true in software as anywhere else, and is one of the reasons why software metrication is an important aspect of software quality.

In a post How to Misuse Google Analytics, Seth Godin points out that Google Analytics measures the success of a website from Google's perspective. Google's commercial objectives involve things like maximizing advertising revenue.

But as Seth points out, the quest for traffic can cause a website designer to make bad decisions. While many websites may benefit from advertising revenue, most non-spam websites have other objectives as well - for example, disseminating and championing new ideas. Google Analytics does not provide metrics relevant to these objectives.

Thanks to Google Analytics and related mechanisms, Google provides a positive feedback loop that reinforces its own commercial agenda. Systems thinker Donella Meadows identified the provision of such positive feedback loops as one of the ways of exerting power and influence over a complex system. (Wikipedia summary, original paper), and anyone who wishes to counteract this kind of power and influence should study her paper carefully.

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