[PR FAQ] Sharing readership data with Forum authors
The EA Forum team is sharing our project proposals publicly on the Forum, as an experiment during August. They’re written as though the product were already finished, but for now, they are only proposals. See here for a description of PR FAQs.
We appreciate hearing comments from everyone, even if they are brief opinions like “I’d be happy to see this” or “I quickly skimmed the post and it doesn’t seem like this is something I would use, but I’m not sure”.
“Post Metrics” Help Forum Users Track Impact
Newly available data lets people see how many views, clicks, and minutes of reading their EA Forum posts have generated
For years, votes and comments were the only way to see whether your Forum posts had found an audience. But from now on, you’ll be able to see data from all your posts through our “Post Metrics” feature.
This will display how many times your post has been viewed, how much time people spent reading it, and how many of them clicked on links within the post. You’ll also be able to see total figures for these metrics across all of your posts.
When you share a post on the Forum, it can be hard to tell whether anyone read it. The average post gets about 15 votes and a few comments, but gets about 500 views.
This means that until now, authors only saw a tiny fraction of their readers. Knowing your work has been read is a powerful motivator, but that knowledge wasn’t available.
“Post metrics” give authors more data on how people have engaged with their posts, motivating them to write more and share their writing in more places. They’ll be able to see how many times their posts have been read or viewed, but also how much time readers spent on the posts — which is a more useful metric for long posts that take a while to read.
You can see the metrics for all your posts already — no need to change anything!
You can see a post’s metrics by hovering over the “data” icon, which appears next to the comment count at the top of the post. You can also see the icon next to the comment count in each post on your profile. Finally, you can hover over the icon at the top of your profile to see the total number of views and clicks your posts have gotten.
If you’d rather not see these, go to your profile editor and uncheck the “View post metrics” box.
“We deeply appreciate the authors who use our forum, and we hope the new metrics will help them see how many people they’ve reached with their writing.”
— Aaron Gertler, Content Specialist, CEA
“I’m looking forward to writing more on the Forum now. It’s nice to learn more about my audience, and see how well I’m holding their attention.”
— Rachel Researcher, aspiring blogger
”I decided to share my first post on Reddit and Hacker News to see how many people would read it. I didn’t get much additional karma, but there were almost 500 new views, and two people made Forum accounts to make their first comments!”
— Avery Newauthor, Good School University
How far back does this data go?
The data is based on engagement going back to March 30, 2020.
(Meta: This is an arbitrary date — the actual date is “sometime in the spring of 2020”.)
How does the viewership data count multiple views from the same person?
We only share unique views; if you see that your post has 100 views, that means it was viewed from 100 different (logged-in Forum accounts + unique IP addresses from readers who weren’t logged in).
How does the viewership data count views from bots?
Does the reading time data include time spent reading and writing comments?
Yes, it does.
We may take steps to exclude this in the future, though it seems plausible that spending 10 minutes engaging with comments is roughly as valuable to a user, on average, as spending 10 minutes reading a post.
Is the reading time a total across all views, or an average per view?
The “reading time” number shows the average time each viewer spent on the post, but you can multiply it by the number of views to get the total.
How often is the data updated?
The data is updated in real time. However, you’ll have to refresh a page to see new data.
Can people see this data for posts they’ve coauthored?
Not right now. This might change later if we make changes to the coauthorship feature.
How valuable do you think views and engagement time are, relative to karma and comments?
We care a lot about engagement time, because it’s a clean way to capture the breadth and depth of someone’s engagement in a way that views alone don’t. Engagement time is our primary metric when we track the Forum’s progress internally.
That said, views are still good! And we like that this metric captures people discovering Forum posts who aren’t already part of our community. Also, we share a lot of posts with wider audiences that aren’t heavy Forum users (e.g. through the EA Newsletter), and we like that authors will be able to see when those audiences encounter their work.
What other metrics have you considered?
If the initial launch goes well, we may add data on how many people clicked on links within a post (possibly even specific to each link).
We’ve also considered adding data on engagement over time — though this would require some kind of dashboard and is a bigger project.
Why do you think this will motivate users to write more?
Several prominent people in EA, asked what might lead them to engage with the Forum more, specifically expressed interest in learning how many people were reading their posts. Additionally, I’ve been asked several times by different organizations for data on how many people have viewed their posts; it’s clear that orgs are interested in tracking this information and place some importance on it.
Why do you think this will motivate users to share more?
Sharing a post takes time and energy, and it isn’t always rewarding — especially if you share it in a community of people who aren’t Forum users, as they won’t be able to upvote it. Having a sense for how many additional readers you’ve gotten should make sharing a post more appealing; there’s a big difference between one additional upvote and 100-200 additional views.
What might people dislike about this feature?
If someone’s post has many views but very few votes or comments, they may feel as though lots of people are reading it and deciding not to engage, which could be demoralizing. This could also be true if the average reading time is very low for the post (indicating that readers are giving up quickly).