Are analytics good?

I get analytics from my youtube channel.

Edinburgh fringe

The bucket

I’ve taken two shows to the Edinburgh fringe. They were free shows. We asked people to pay at the end. We just stood there with a bucket at the door.

The amount of money we made was strongly linked with how good that specific performance was. On a good night, we got more than 100 quid. On a bad night, we got less than 10.

Audience sizes ranged from 5 to 50. But the biggest factor behind the money-raised was not the audience size. In fact, sometimes… people felt more compelled to pay when in a smaller crowd. It was partly pity, partly that it was harder to hide in the crowd, and partly that those shows felt more special in some way. Like hidden gems.

Faces, laughter, applause

We didn’t have to wait until the end of the show. We knew how well the performance was going because of the immediate feedback we got from the audience.

We could see their faces, hear their laughter and applause.

It felt great. And you get valuable feedback about what they like. You can give them more of what they like, and less of what they don’t.

We were there because we wanted to move people, after all. We wanted to connect with them. We wanted to reach them. So of course we’d make use of the feedback we got from them.

The walkout

The biggest indicator of how you’re doing is the walkout.

When someone didn’t like our show, they just walked out. This is a very common and socially-accepted thing to do at Ed fringe.

There are thousands of free shows. When you’re sitting and watching one, you’re not paying with your money. You’re paying with your time.

There are SO MANY shows in Edinburgh, so if you’re sitting in one that you don’t like, just walk out. Seriously, do it. We did it loads too.

It’s cutting. If you have a section they don’t like, they just leave. Something takes too long? They leave. Joke doesn’t land? They leave.

I developed a thick skin. A huge part of my confidence on ‘stage’ comes from these walkouts.

If I can handle drunken Scots at the fringe, I can handle programming nerds at a conference.

It’s also useful. People’s honesty is extremely valuable. I always felt thankful when we got that kind of feedback (once I had dealt with the embarrassment).


The bucket

My youtube videos are free to watch. But I ask people to pay at the end. I hold up a bucket.

I get a burst of new supporters when I make a new video. I also get a burst whenever one of my things goes viral, like dreamberd.

The rest of the time, there’s a gentle trickle of people cancelling their subscriptions. The trickle is stronger when I haven’t released a video in a while.

Faces, laughter, applause

Unfortunately, I can’t see or hear you when you watch a video.

But I can see your likes and comments.

I can also see how many of you there are. I can see when you watch (day and time). I can see where you’re from, your age, your gender, whether you subscribe or not.

I can see how much time you’ve spent watching a video. I can see what you typed into the search bar to find it. I can see what website you came from. I can see how much you click on my thumbnail.

I can see what other videos you watch.

I can see what you type into the search bar - even when it’s not for my video.

I can see a lot more.

The walkout

The most fine-grained thing I see is Audience retention, which is a fancy way of saying “when did the audience walkout?”

It shows me detailed statistics about when you stop watching, or skip ahead. Like in Edinburgh, it’s brutally honest.

But it’s not enough, and youtube gives me a big red warning if it detects a big ‘walkout’. The biggest was in spellular automata when the fake ending happens.


Are analytics good?

In Edinburgh and on youtube, I use analytics to try to improve my stuff. I learn from comments, laughter, and walkouts. I want to reach people with my work, and that means learning from previous shows & videos.

I don’t like all the extra information I get from youtube. It feels creepy.

I don’t like how youtube tries to nudge me into changing my approach. No walkouts allowed! Maximum viewing time encouraged! Have you considered making a youtube short?

I’d much prefer youtube to nag me to improve the demographic of my audience.

While youtube runs an algorithm on you, it runs a different one on me. What kind of content are they encouraging?

Are no analytics good?

Getting feedback is really important to me. I like the honesty of a walkout, whether that’s in Edinburgh or on youtube.

I like to know what resonates with people. It has often been surprising to learn what does and doesn’t work.

Analytics have allowed me to double-down on artistic weirdness. They also pull me towards getting you addicted to the screen.

What do I do?

There is a drive towards “no analytics”. For example, this wikiblog has no analytics.

I have no idea how many people are reading. I do get some comments and emails about it, and that helps.

Should I just deal with it? I’d like to know what resonates. Is there some middle ground I can discover?

As a side note, can anyone give me some advice on moving my channel to peertube?

Back to the no analytics garden.