We tend to put a lot of stock into numbers, even those of us who don’t like them very much. Numbers make life seem graspable, comparable, measurable and observable.
Amongst the numbers that matter most are those preceded by currency signs, especially in this digital world where each view and click can add a few cents more. So when a writer puts words to a page, whether ad-supported or not, the view counter comes sharply into focus.
Occasionally, something rather unexpected happens:
I think I may have already written my single most popular thing ever. It's all downhill from here.
— Travis Holland (@travisaholland) February 6, 2015
For context, here are my blog posts from Medium encapsulated in a graph (views in blue, reads in red):
It was the one post to eclipse all others! But what made that one so popular? Well, for a start it landed a retweet and Facebook share by the hugely popular Westeros.org. This points to the role of boosters on the net. Secondly, it’s about a hugely popular topic, unlike some of the more obscure topics I addressed elsewhere. This post doesn’t, however, relate to a particularly timely event, unlike my first post on Medium.
Medium‘s Ev says:
The ratio of people who view it who read it and who read it and recommend it are important factors, not just the number.
So here are the read ratios:
They’re a little more balanced! There’s one post that sticks out on both, though. It’s had no views, no reads, no ratio.
‘How we’ll react to life beyond Earth’ was a fun little post to write. It was a satirical “speculation on the near future”. This fun little post is now a lonely little post, languishing in the world of lost posts with no numbers to give them meaning or value. It gave me some interesting thoughts and strecthed my writing to places I’ve rarely taken it, so there’s that.
My colleague Dr Chris Moore had these words of advice:
@travisaholland nah it's just meaningless fun, it's your high score to beat
— Christopher Moore (@CL_Moore) February 6, 2015
In that case, hand me the chainsaw, I have a few more trees to cut down and maybe there’ll be someone around to hear them this time.