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Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

Nick Finck

May 23, 2005 at 5:05 PM

Ok, I mostly just wanted to use that for a blog entry title, but it is an important issue. A lot of people rely on stats for their web sites (see the posts over at Karl Nelson's site), but more often than not, the stats are a far cry from even a best guess. Tim Bray has an interesting post about RSS stats entitled AdSense For Feeds, Say What?. Interestingly enough I found the same issue when researching [a very popular RSS feed service]. It claims it tracks the number of subscribers to your RSS feed. Well, sort of, but more like unique IPs. This, of course, is really not the same as unique users, even if they call it unique users. As Tim points out, no one really knows and most can't even find the ballpark figure. The root of the problem is how the data is being captured, unless users actually have to "register" (as is the case with Bloglines), there is no real way of telling how many subscribers you have. So, when it comes to web statistics, be very skeptical.

Comments

Milan Negovan

May 24, 2005 at 7:03 AM

Nick, when I read your title, I thought you'd talk about freemasons or Coke cookin' up a Nazi drink Fanta or something. :) I agree, though, with your "far cry from even a best guess" statement.

Nick Finck

May 24, 2005 at 8:59 AM

hehe, sorry to dissapoint you Milan. The title is actually part of a quote from Benjamin Disraeli that was popularized in the U.S. by Mark Twain; "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics."

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