Statistics: give them raw or fully processed

emperor penguin regurgitating fish for chick

My sister sent me her email newsletter for comments -- always a dangerous move!

It included two paragraphs of semi-digested statistics. Here's one.

* What's important to members. The most frequently used areas of the site (in descending order): members, groups, forums, events. Whangarei is the most viewed group, followed by Gaia University, followed by the Skype User Group, and then by Foodgrowing. Deirdre Kent and Genevieve are the most frequently consulted profiles. Berkshares at CBS is the most popular video. Of the 122 forum topics, Business Opportunities remains the most often read.

I wrote back:

I find it jolly hard to read stats as prose. So I don't. I'm sure many people are the same. Stats are born to be printed as lists (easy in an email) or tables (don't even think about it for an email newsletter).

I would read them if displayed as stats. In other words, don't half-digest the stats, just show them, maybe like this:

Most frequently used areas of the site:
1. members
2. groups
3. forums
4. events. 

Most viewed groups:
1. Whangarei
2. Gaia University
3. Skype User Group
4. Foodgrowing. 

Of course, a thoughtful interpretation of those stats would be of interest. What do they mean? What do they imply for members? But half-digesting stats and then spoon-feeding them as prose is worse than pointless. I am sure I have been guilty of this myself at times, so I'm glad to have figured this one out.

Rachel McAlpine
Rachel McAlpine


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