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I was looking at my email subscription analytics this morning to see how the new site without a popup has been doing. The raw statistics don’t look so good:

Microsoft Excel

If you are a purely data-driven company, this is where you hit the panic button. You declare it a failure, agree to “fail fast”, and try to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. So why am I not panicking?

Because there’s an invisible factor at work here:

Wollaston Beach

That’s right – half the audience is on vacation. Literally half – I’ve sent two newsletters this week, one personal and one corporate, and both have had half the open rate as normal. Site traffic is down about 37% week over week. All of the major indicators suggest that it’s not the website that is performing badly, it’s the audience. The logical thing to do before making any changes is see what happens the week of July 9th, when everyone’s out of office messages says they’ll be back. Then and only then will I look at the data and see if things are still in bad shape or not.

The lesson here is straightforward: if you focus only on the data, you are liable to make some bad decisions. You have to inject a certain amount of common sense into your interactions with the machines or they’ll lead you astray, sometimes literally:

3630 Peachtree Rd NE, Atlanta, GA 30326 to Tokyo, Japan - Google Maps
(driving directions in Google Maps from Atlanta, GA, to Tokyo, Japan)

Common sense and an understanding of the people behind all of your analytics will help save you from some disastrous conclusions, not to mention avoiding kayaking across the Pacific Ocean.

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