Back in March (which feels like it was 6 months ago), I helped organise the IndieWebCamp London and one of the sessions was about analytics and the IndieWeb. At the time I blurted something without much context and I think I need to explain myself.
Analytics on this blog
Every once in a while I reactivate my analytics subscription on Netlify (and right now I am actually doing a trial of Fathom). This usually happens when I am getting unusual social media activity and I get curious/nervous to try to find out where it could be coming from. In a previous blog post, I explained that I don’t have analytics anymore because I found that they were a personal source of anxiety. Maybe not so much now, but they were some years ago and when I stopped using them, I actually felt pretty good about it and carried on.
As the wiki page for analytics in IndieWeb points out in the “criticism” section, not having analytics on a personal website has its upsides around performance and privacy. I personally don’t care what anyone does on their personal website. I don’t have any intentions of imposing my opinion and personal preference about this matter on others.
Whenever I do turn the analytics on, I found them to be super useful to find out where have I messed up: for example, when I converted my blog from Jekyll to Eleventy I deprecated my JSON feed because I couldn’t figure out how to build it (and while I was writing this, I looked up and turns out someone created it) and eventually I had data to back this up: to this date, my analytics show, on the section that tells me what resources were not found, it seems like only one person was actually calling it (i’m so sorry to that person and I will fix this!). It also helps me find out what links I have actually typed incorrectly in my bookmarks section.
I don’t like “likes” as they are
Recently, the social media platform Instagram, has announced that they would be trialing hiding the number of likes in posts. This is a response to a public outcry of how this particular social media is a source of mental health issues among our youth. This is where things get a bit tough. I want to be a “cool woman” and claim that “yeah I don’t care about likes” but that isn’t true. I am a very ordinary human with the same dopamine features as anyone else and I would be raising my hand if someone said “never have I ever deleted a funny tweet because no one liked it”. To me, it is a tiny bit embarrassing to admit this but don’t we all care a tiny little bit? Well I’ve been working on getting used to not having a reaction when I share something. Unfortunately, having this feature impact one’s self worth is more common than what we think.
Regardless of how you personally let “likes” affect you, hear me out: if we, as a society, allow ourselves to feel that “likes” or the exact lack of them, somehow define the worth of what we shared, isn’t that saying that the “like” is a metric? A very reduced way of having some sort of analytics?
And for what it is worth: I love liking people’s stuff. I hit “like” all the time! On Instagram, I always “like” what my close friends post (even if it is a photo of my least favourite dish) because I want to show them that “I see you and I care”. My mum likes every single thing I post on facebook, even if it is in English and she doesn’t understand it.
It is a feature that has layers of emotion.
In the past, I used to have in my twitter bio: “some likes are bookmarks” because I was using Twitter’s “like” feature as a bookmark. Other times I was doing a “like” to support what someone posted or a “like” because something made me laugh.
Also on Twitter, in the past I’ve restrained myself from “liking” things because I didn’t want to lose the respect of people I admire. I would stop myself from “liking” cute cat videos because I was too afraid that my interaction would appear on their feed and people would unfollow me. I know, I’m insecure.
I recently noticed that I was doing something unhelpful to my cause. When I am scrolling on TikTok, I instantly scroll through videos that don’t have a single like or only have a handful of them. My brain instantly thinks: “not a lot of likes, not worth it”. I don’t even give them a chance and that sucks.
The few times I posted on Medium or Dev.to I realised that I was constantly looking at their “claps”/”likes”. And yeah, the numbers didn’t go up so I felt silly posting there. I feel silly for admitting this here.
In a tangent and in all honesty, our tech community looks at the numbers of “likes” (or followers) to deem something or someone as worthy of other’s time. That’s how the algorithms sometimes work anyway. And maybe, just maybe, our brains may have become trained to ignore small numbers.
“Likes” in the IndieWeb
In the analytics and IndieWeb session, I shouldn’t have stirred and connected analytics and “likes” in such a loose way where I didn’t explain properly where I was coming from. My usage and view of “likes” is not the way everyone sees it and that’s okay.
I love how the IndieWeb shows us ways we can have interaction in our personal website and even ways to bring likes from silos to our website. When I learned that, I was so excited! It was one of the things that drew me to the community: an alternative. I care a lot about the IndieWeb and promoting it. I really want people to know that you can have exciting web actions on your personal website.
I also care a lot about how social media is having an impact on mental health and what I, a developer, am doing about it. I know “likes” aren’t going away and I’m not trying to push for that. Personally, I don’t think “likes” are a healthy thing at the moment so I don't think I’m going to have “likes” on my blog. I might change my mind in the future.
And the cool thing about IndieWeb and your personal website is that you’re in control of what you show and what you’re comfortable with.