In response to a recent post on “Blogging And Learning From One’s Peers” I received a comment from Wendell Dryden who asked:

Is popularity and/or hit counting a measure of good practice? Asked another way: what’s the objective of the blog, and did it reach that objective?

That’s a good question – and one which I’ll be revisiting in the future (I’m running a workshop on blogging in October, and that’s one issue I’ll need to address).

If your blog is intended to have a wide appeal, then measuring popularity would appear to be sensible. And if you are part of a community which aims to have a wide appeal, then aggregation of visitor statistics would appear to be sensible. And we find this currently in the Web 1.0 world in which civil servants have an interest in the answer to the question “How many people visit online museums?” Of course the hidden aspect to this question may be “It’s costly – can we afford it?” or “It’s costly – if we reduce funding, what will the political impact be?” However there is still a need to collate such data – even if it may be flawed.

The same argument may be made with many other metrics – TV viewing figures (the TV may have been on but nobody was watching it) and , indeed, figures on visits to the library or museum (the numbers may have been up, but was that because of the bad weather).

But Wendell is quite right to suggest that we also need to complement such figures with a range of other data – and we shouldn’t just discard quantitative data because of flaws in the data … as this cartoon suggests:

Blogging Librarian cartoon (ideas from content of blog post)

(Note click on the image to get a full-size view).

And I should point out that I got the idea for this cartoon from one of Wendell’s blog postings. This informed me of the Make Beliefs Comix Web service for creating cartoons. So I think this is an example of a softer approach to measuring the impact of blogs – did it result in readers doing something in response to a post. In his case, it did. Thanks Wendell.