Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Applied Mathematics: By The Numbers, A Website's First Year

It's Math!Numbers, charts, and graphs are all around us. What do they mean? What connections can we make from them? Who will help us understand the things they say? Our resident statisticians, that's who! They will attempt to explain the digits that shape your world. This week: We take a look at the data for a website that has recently celebrated its one year anniversary.

"Uneven numbers are the gods' delight." – Virgil

"Back to back,
I did what you won't.
Men lie,
Women lie,
Numbers don't.
Ain't nothin' changed ‘cept the year it is.
I think I have to send you a reminder,
Here it is.
" – Jay-Z

This website's initial readership could casually be divided into two groups:

  1. Those came here not having known the previous work of the site's business and editorial proprietors and, furthermore, the various contributors.
  2. Those who came here already way too familiar with the work of the site's proprietors and contributors.

The former group, however, will have to empathize for a moment with those who arrived here on The First Day, which was exciting, and wonderful, but also foreign and slightly nerve-wracking. Maybe you asked yourself:

  • Is my computer working correctly, or is that the design?

  • Is this "Butterfinger Blast" advertisement some kind of post-Urban Dictionary joke?

It's also possible that none of this was a concern to you at any point. But what's undoubtedly true is that the American media industry was not a hopeful place in April 2009. And it was especially so for a blog whose tagline was "Be less stupid." And a blog that was allegedly driven by smart, funny, original editorial content that we knew would decidedly eschew concentrated social media presences, SEO trickery, inflammatory headlines, a flashy design, meaningless ranking systems, and basically all the other fancy things that other editorial titles with much (self) ballyhooed launches arm themselves with from the onset. The kind of blog whose head you want gently tilt on your shoulder, and put your arm around, and assure that there was very little it could do that would result in your not being there for it when it started to get verklempt over sponsored advertising. The kind of blog whose main advertiser pulls out right before they launch ("Boxing Day; In the balls.") but still proceeds as planned anyway, the kind whose publisher's relationship with its Cat is a thing.

Let's be honest: In April 2009, this kind of blog was very likely fucked. And in April 2010, it likely still is. [Awl Publisher David Cho very vigorously disputes this, for the record. --Ed.]

But here we are, a year later.

And here are the numbers to prove it.

[Counter-Upper's Note: The following numbers were taken on the evening of Monday, April 19, preceding the first birthday, which would be April 20th. If you are a high school student and you are reading this and you're strangely thinking about using this for some kind of report, well, you are plucky! But we are humans and one of us has a kid so sometimes we get all crazy-eyed and maybe end up a number or two off, and we'd feel really bad if your teacher counted the numbers of ours you used in your report -- which you're more than welcome to do, regardless -- and knocked you down a grade for getting some wrong. That said, we'd totally go to bat for you.]


Average Number of Posts Per Day: 22.75.

Bylines, Alex Balk: 2887
Bylines, Choire Sicha: 1865

Here is a pie chart representing those two numbers:

"In fairness to Choire--actually, you know what? Fuck that guy." - Alex Balk


Total Contributors: 114

Post Counts

Balk: 2887
Choire: 1865
Dave Bry: 401
Mary HK Choi: 85
The End of the '00s: 51
Chris Lehmann: 42
Maura Johnston: 41
Tom Scocca: 41
Abe Sauer: 39
Natasha Vargas-Cooper: 30
David Cho: 25
Matthew Gallaway: 21
Emily Gould: 21
Seth Colter Walls: 17
Awl Staff: 17
Miles Klee: 16
Melissa Lafsky: 15
Marisa Meltzer: 14
Simon Dumenco: 12
Doree Shafrir: 12

"This depresses me on so many levels." -- Alex Balk


Number of Theme Songs: Not one, but two!

Number of Books Spawned from Awl Columns: Two (known)
Authors of These Books: Natasha Vargas-Cooper and Chris Lehmann.

Number of Books Spawned from Jay McInerney's Three Week-Old Wine Column or Other Websites With Multiple Theme Songs Written By One of Our Time's Most Veritably Underrated Singer Songwriters: None, bitches.

Hope for a Whiskeytown Reunion Expressed in an Alphanumeric Symbol: ∞


First Time the Awl Newsletter Was Mentioned: June 4, 2009.
Last Time the Awl Newsletter Was Mentioned: Two Weeks Ago.
Last Time the Awl Newsletter Was Sent Out: I DON'T KNOW YOU TELL ME CHOIRE.


Number of blog acquisitions by The Awl: 1
Number of blog acquisitions by Gawker
: 1
Number of days since The Awl's acquisition announcement as of April 20, 2010:
Number of days since Gawker's acquisition announcement as of April 20, 2010:
Number of aforementioned blog acquisitions launched into verticals or integrated
three months after acquisitions as promised: 0.
Number of logos:
Number of logos entered for Design Our Logo Contest: No idea but I still think mine was pretty solid.


[Note: Now we will switch it up and make the numbers bold instead of the titles behind the numbers. We don't entirely know why but think it will look better. Okay. Here we go.]

The 17 Most Commented Posts:

On the matter of Matt Cherette: 265
On the matter of A Small Child Lost in a Balloon: 217
On the matter of The Tiny Pool Of English Words Actually Used: 217
On the matter of The Top 50 States: 208
On the matter of Being Lost: 177
On the matter of Walking Out of Movies: 176
On the matter of A Correspondence Between Tom Scocca and Keith Gessen: 168
On the matter of The Oscars As They Happen, The Second Part: 167
On the matter of The 30 Best Punk Songs on YouTube: 164
On the matter of Cooking Steak: 157
On the matter of Not Liking Avatar: 143
On the matter of Ke$ha: 141
On the matter of A Calendar to Benefit Charity: 139
On the matter of Regarding The Awl's Readership: 132
On the matter of Fat Fetuses and Felonies: 129
On the matter of The Possibility of Inglorious Basterds Winning an Academy Award: 126
On the matter of The State of the Union: 126

Always bet on bear


[Okay. We're going back to the old way of doing things now.]

Posts tagged "Knifecrime Island": 14
Posts tagged "Summer of Death": 10
Date of last Summer of Death post: September 22, 2009
Date of first Knifecrime Island post: November 19, 2009
Gap between "Summer of Death" and "Knifecrime Island": 55 days.


Number of Posts: 5937.

Number of Years Old:

Age at Which One is Bar Mitzvahed: 12 or 13.

Forthcoming Feel-Good Sentences To Leave You With On A Friday: Just one.

Congratulations everyone for being a part of this thing, and here's to much more of it.

We hereby declare this study signed, certified, sworn for, and closed.

-Christopher Conklin and Foster Kamer

God love Christopher Conklin and Foster Kamer, but holy crap was this crazy!

83 Comments / Post A Comment

Rod T (#33)


Rod T (#33)

Oh, and "congratulations" on your long-ass extended birthweek celebration. PS – Extending your birthday over several days is gay, as an adjective.

garge (#736)

Make sure you are properly hydrated for those Dandayamana bibhaktapada paschimottanasanas, Rod!

HiredGoons (#603)

My mom is such a fag then!

Conor (#35)

I'm good with Other.

conklin (#364)

Foster and I are both Others as well. No disrespect meant to anyone but Rod.

But we in it shall be remembered
We few, we happy few, we band of others

jolie (#16)


Conor (#35)

Selling out.

Why are there 2 HK Chois? And why do the colors clash so badly?

Foster Kamer (#554)

Do you have a problem with multiple Mary HK Choi's?

conklin (#364)

Because there are two Mary HK Chois on the contributor page, and we report the facts. And also because maybe there really are two Mary HK Chois? We didn't have enough information to definitively preclude that possibility. And who would want to?

You can never have too many Mary HK Chois.

josh_speed (#97)

Hey, congratulations!

KenWheaton (#401)

And that concludes my math consumption for the weekend. Onward alcohol.

HiredGoons (#603)

*(alone in the office on a friday white wine spritzzzzers!)

jolie (#16)

@HG: Never met a spritzer I didn't love.

HiredGoons (#603)

Some of us went to art school and *tested* out of math.

So I'm just going to say thanks, in all sincerity.

You guys rock.

petejayhawk (#1,249)

November 2009 was a particularly bear-heavy month. That seems to be right about the time I became a frequent commenter. Odd. I should shave.

doubled277 (#2,783)

Oh, math

Jeff Barea (#4,298)

I got a pipe, if you know where the ice cream man is.

BoHan (#29)

FEK you're funny. Who is the other guy? A fan.

conklin (#364)

And Rod was upset about being "other" on the chart!

Jeff Barea (#4,298)

Shh, FEK is a bit sensitive about having only one fan.

Flashman (#418)

I still prefer my math expressed to be in jerseys:
if Lehmann's posting Stackhouse, then Maura's posting Laimbeer

Turboslut (#1,036)

It's like the world's most meta Harper's Index, but in a good way

HelloTitty (#830)

I've read 5937 posts? On this site alone? Dear god I should be fired.

As a person who went many many classes beyond the engineering-required math course load, I should hate this, I think, because it is basically… applied counting, but I don't. I love this! However, I would appreciate an e-mail if you all ever venture forth into rates of change, fluxes, statistical hypotheses, and so forth.

Mindpowered (#948)

"We don't have a specific category to fill," Mr. Sicha explained to The Observer. "We don't have a beat to target.

It appear though they did.


It was actually Chiore's review of Mr. Bay's "Transformers" that got me hooked. Anyone who could make a movie sound like hang job with sand paper wielded by an inchoate chimpanzee was worth hanging with.

I hope my fanatical page viewing has pushed your Alexa rank up, so that you can replenish the change bowl.

AND. ALSO. Let it be said that you've created a space where some of the most original, funny, insightful and creative writers on the INTERTUBES, today have a home.

FINALLY. OTHER COMMENTERS. You are so damn good. The reason I refresh so damn much is to see what new gem has been added, to even the most banal and tragic of posts.


Mindpowered (#948)

"Hand Job"

Though LACK of an edit button leaves something to be desired.

Vulpes (#946)

"Always bet on bear." Indeed.

I'm surprised at how lazy Choire is. (I bet most of those posts are really by Cat, too.) I guess we've learned that depression and alcohol make for more productivity than cigarettes and cranberry sauce.

Seriously, though, Happy Birthday and congratulations to the best little website in cyberspace! Hugs!

dikwad (#2,308)

Posts tagged "Knifecrime Island": 14

That number seems awfully low.

Anyway, congrats. It's been a great first year.

I am hoarding my Awl Newsletters, unopened and wrapped in plastic, so I can sell them for ludicrously high prices on ebay twenty years hence.

Happy Birthday!

ow that hurt (#3,919)

well if you could combine something about Matt Cherette either being attacked by bears, or going out drinking with "Bears", well, there are your
pageviews for the whole next year. Am I wrong?

Matt Cherette (#2,720)

For my own sake, I hope it's not the former (or the latter, really).

Vulpes (#946)

Now, Matt, don't be an ursine-phobe! This is The Awl!

Jeff Barea (#4,298)

Looks over everyone's shoulders…what are we looking for?

jolie (#16)

The Butterfinger product you're thinking of is "Buzz" – "Blast" is a flavor of ice cream produced by the Edy's brand.

jolie (#16)

Hey Foster, when you're done frothing at the mouth because Abe dipped your pigtails in his inkwell can you fix this please?

I'm guessing the "insidery" tag refers not to "those who came here already way too familiar with the work of the site's proprietors and contributors", but to those who've seen a recent Dr. Denton memo, or some such thing? Because I don't get this.

saythatscool (#101)

Thanks Choire and Balk and all you guys for making this site. I love this site and what's happening here.

hugesunglasses (#2,696)

Did I imagine the Be not bored tagline?

hugesunglasses (#2,696)

Ah, thanks Maura. No matter how you filet it, I spend entirely too much time on the www.

missdelite (#625)

So..Balk did the bulk? Interesting..

This post has the exact opposite effect, I assume, it was meant to have. Instead of celebrating the innovative and arduous work the site has accomplished in the past year it's been reduced and regurgitated into something, sniveling, small, and for the mild amusement to 30 people.

It displays the sensibility that I believe runs counter to this site, the cynical, myopic view that the number of hits, comments, controversy drummed up around individual posts is what creates the editorial tone of a website. Additionally, with the listing of and implied popularity v. productivity rating the site's contributers reinforces the corrosive notion that you are only as good as your pageviews.

This isn't numbers in the name of truth. This ridicules truth with it's lame attempt to create a self-serving narrative.

There's an icky subtext to all of this. The kind of unnecessary and ultimately self interested tribute that takes place within media hierarchies. Which I always believed was the exact opposite mission if the site. I hope to see less of this in the future.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Marry me.

Abe Sauer (#148)

I would add that this reduction has been at the hands of the metric sensibility of a Gawker mothership that the site has struggled at times to differentiate itself from. SHOCKER then that this "Applied Mathematics" column (which seems to poke its ugly head conveniently only at the birth and anniversary of the site's long one-year slug to the sole benefit of one particular author's association) reduces everyone who's slaved here to terms of a few meaningless numbers in the pursuit of even a fewer laughs.

You really want to do the readers (and writers) a analytics favor? Do ALL the math, including page-views and uniques etc.

If you just want to make page-view humor, then just joke about Denton's cock in soemon's mouth; who knows, he might sue you (US!) into The Awl's future financial security.

fek (#93)

Shots something? Anyway, I regret to inform you that you're wrong, because this was supposed to be a celebration devoid of negative things, but predictably, I guess, so it goes. For whatever it's worth, we worked hard on this, and anything extrapolated from this post beyond what's there is at the discretion of you, the reader! So sure, if you want to draw forth an implication that this information is supposed to mean what you take it to, well, we all learned something. And if you want to see it as Chris and I did it – which was just a snapshot of what was talked about, and who wrote what – by all means, you're welcome to do that too! Note that the words "pageviews" or "hits" first appeared in this post in your comment. So there's that.

Abe Sauer! You're kind of a grinch and appear whenever I write anything, so this is expected, and obviously nobody's expecting you to make any apologies for hating everything I've ever done. And mind you, I wrote for this site before I wrote for Gawker, continued to during that time, and still do after. And, unless otherwise notified, will continue to – something I won't apologize for, either. I don't think the this post/the numbers are at all meaningless (apparently, neither does Natasha!); on the contrary, I think they're impressive, and worth celebrating, but again, like her, you too are more than welcome to draw out conclusions of your own!

conklin (#364)

I think pie charts are nice to look at.

NinetyNine (#98)

I think it's nominally relevant that the badly calculated stats round up by Foster originated at YM, not Gawker. I know Abe sees Nick Denton under every rock, but sometimes you are kicking against the wrong pricks.

Vulpes (#946)

*sigh* This is why we can't have nice things!

Abe Sauer (#148)

@Fek: "the words "pageviews" or "hits" first appeared in this post in your comment. So there's that."

Yeah, that's kind of the problem for a column that portends to be, even half-assedly, "the data for a website that has recently celebrated its one year anniversary."

Data? Why not run the aforementioned uniques, PVs, hits or anything else? Meaningful numbers? These aren't. NVC is right (as she often is), it reduces the whole site to a level some of the participating writers thought they were escaping, namely Gawker-level metrics and a cancerous insideriness (under which you flourished). Sure it's somewhat tongue in cheek; that doesn't mean some of us are uncomfortable with it. Your particular involvement only exacerbates the slight nausea. And 99, no, I don't see Denton everywhere, but I do see his icy hand's influence. But its not the numbers that really rankle…

Foster, I do appear when you write anything… at The Awl anyway. And I look forward to all the equally quality work you'll add in the next year to build on your already robust, meaningful body of Awl work you never miss an opportunity to take credit for. Please do make it something that somehow references your current paid work elsewhere because those are my personal favorites.

As for the email you sent me privately saying "i don't agree with a lot of what you write about, but because i like the awl, and because i've tried to make it a more pleasant place, and because we've had it out over private correspondence, i've restrained myself from commenting in your posts…" I recommend you stop being a spineless turd; put it in the comments or fuck off. I'm not an insider with NY blog media people who know each other and are comfortable corresponding outside where everyone else does. I met Choire and Balk once and it was maybe the most awkward 1/2 hour of my 2009. If it's about The Awl, it's in here. Your self-promoting self-referentialism is pathetic and poisonous. You did a lot of work on this? Fuck off. You really want to help The Awl? Bring a few of those exclusive Governor-boning hooker Playboy photos over here. If not, then fuck off. The rest of us are doing a lot of fucking hard work to write quality stuff for fucking zero pay and often zero fucking prospects of future pay here or elsewhere ever (not to mention the stuff we do put here actually, sometimes, fucking ENDANGERING getting paying work elsewhere) and the last thing we need is you to conveniently swoop in applying analytics to it for a cheap joke and then playing the victim when a couple of us don't laugh.

You've "tried to make it a more pleasant place?" Go fuck yourself and your self-inflated sense of contribution you insufferable nincompoop.

Jeff Barea (#4,298)

I agree, we need to guage the numbers of people who thought about the site and gauge the number of people who clicked on links that almost brought them to the site.

Jeff Barea (#4,298)

Problematic from a metric standpoint. Number of page views does not include number of unique IP's. Refreshing does not always eliminate auto refreshing agents.

Unique (not page views) visits? Assumes the recording agency is cataloging those unique visits properly. Alta Vista? Google? Who? Kind of like assuming Moody's credit ratings on credit default swaps is accurate. Ignoring how much money they made off those collaborative partners who relied on their ratings, now isn't it?

Advertising representatives spend less time on the metrics of thousands of individual end outlets and more time packaging as many outlets as possible to maximize their percentage of the advertising outlay.

Job security.

Marketing 101: Assumes an ad must be seen 7 times (aka impressions) by the same person (see how "unique views" aren't as important a metric as you assume) before the messaging attaches.

The problem in online metrics is that unless you can track IP addresses, you can't show the number of people who have seen the same ad the optimum (sweet spot) number of times to determine the effectiveness.

In effect I am saying that you know nothing about marketing. Like how I did that nicely at first, then just BAM!

Jeff Barea (#4,298)

Buy a bike and get out in the sun more.

Jeff Barea (#4,298)

pageviews and hits can often be two different things, but hey. I haven't been on the Internet since the 80's so I wouldn't know the difference.

Please educate me.

conklin (#364)

Hi Abe and Natasha. Thank you for the feedback. I apologize sincerely if you were offended by our little exercise, or in some way found it to demean your work. Nothing could be further from our intent. I hope the next thing I/we work on is more to your liking.

NinetyNine (#98)

Someone explain the concept of backchannel to Abe please. And if someone could, please explain to me how a bar chart comparing cat posts to bear posts is anything like what NVC and Abe are thinking they are complaining about.

saythatscool (#101)

In reading this exchange, was I the only one reminded of the shower scene from Top Gun?

roboloki (#1,724)

it reminds me of my 13th birthday. now if mom were to jolt awake from her gin induced "nap" to mumble "happy fucking birthday, you bastard" it would be almost spooky.

hugesunglasses (#2,696)

Either way, this dialogue makes the entire post worthwhile.

*(In this case, either was pronounced ahy-ther to convey seriousness and acuity.)

I make no apologies for the typos.

Abe Sauer (#148)

I make no apologies for typos, hating this bullshit.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Also, go fuck yourselves.

fek (#93)

Oh and I also make no apologies for typos! But I do apologize to Chris for having dragged him into the two a yous' never not present hatred of me of the inexplicable stripe (or otherwise!).

NVC and AS I really value your writing and your contributions here, and FEK as well (however few that has been). But I really just read this post very lightheartedly. No "coffee is for closers" vibe. Btw, I gather the reason Balk is the high man is that his posts are the Speedos to Choire's board shorts when it comes to actual content.

Milo Hansen (#3,342)

The bar mitzvah part is wrong. Bar mitzvahs are only for guys (its a bat mitzvah for a girl) so they only happen at age 13.

It's all wrong. Awl wrong.

fek (#93)

Should've been Bas Mitzvahed to accomidate both sexes. My bad. But I've known 12 year-olds to get bar mitzvahs. They're the kids whose parents had them skip a grade because they think they're geniuses. Or have May birthdays.

ADRIAN (#1,676)

Did you make those charts with Microsoft Excel? They seem too nice to have been made on Excel.

conklin (#364)

Google Docs! They do good work over there, although I fear our groundbreaking bear/cat research may be vulnerable to Chinese hackers. Trade-offs, right?

Jeff Barea (#4,298)

Also, tell iPhone the window of opportunity has closed. My future plans are to stack boxes in a warehouse and enjoy rule 32. Don't need a 700 foot yatcht.

HelloTitty (#830)

I'm pretty sure you mean rule 34.

And a blog that was allegedly driven by smart, funny, original editorial content that we knew would decidedly eschew concentrated social media presences, SEO trickery, inflammatory headlines, a flashy design, meaningless ranking systems, and basically all the other fancy things that other editorial titles blah blah blah.

This does not look like that. Especially the smart, funny part.

I liked this post, and appreciate the dual byline. There's WWF subtext to this, like a tag-team wrestling match. I feel like Foster just gave me a leg drop, in a good way. I hope to see more of this in the future.

Wow. This post has taken a… turn?

My reaction is to post the comment that I originally hesitated to post out of fear that it would be insensitive to all the many wonderful contributors (including "Other"!) that I've enjoyed here over the year: How come, even though Balk's posted the vast majority, my takeaway is always "MORE BALK PLZ"?

Straight guys are always so withholding.

Just like Lucille Bluth.

Look at them, getting off.

Flashman (#418)

Yeah, iIt's like Lucille's intervention, but opposite: what started out as a party has turned into an intervention.

Magister (#1,444)

I'm surprised this blog has only been around a year.
I'm impressed. Good job and congratulations to everyone.

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