The God Metric

Evan Williams of Twitter is not someone I’d read much about before. But he’s been writing a lot more recently, and he’s well worth a read. His recent essay entitled “A Mile Wide, An Inch Deep” is well worth a read.

We literally say one company or service is “bigger” based on a single number — specifically, number of people who have “used” it in the last 30 days. Even without getting into how “use” is defined, this is dumb.

He offers a nuanced view into how companies are evaluated is often flawed. What Williams gets at is that a company’s performance is multi-dimensional.  Jonah Peretti of Buzzfeed calls this the God Metric stating:

I feel like what you see in the industry now is people jumping around and trying to find the God metric for content. It’s all about shares or it’s all about time spent or it’s all about pages or it’s all about uniques. The problem is you can only optimize one thing and you have to pick, otherwise all you’re doing is making a bunch of compromises if you try to optimize for multiple things.

The search for the God Metric goes beyond media. We all want that score that tells us everything we need to know. But it doesn’t exist because each score has tradeoffs.

This is something we’re thinking about in our work.  It was good to see Evan and the others he quotes in his essay dispel the simplicity of these trivial, one-dimensional conversations about metrics that matter.

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