Being cynical about our metrics

Like any other startup or business, Yala has a number of different metrics we’re tracking. Monthly installs is a big one, and so is Monthly posts published. Weekly and monthly user retention numbers are crucial. Support requests, uninstalls, images uploaded. You get the drill.

We’ve been following these numbers for months now. In fact, we’ve even been sending monthly updates to our friends about ’em (the post about these spent a day on Hacker News’ first page! yay!).

Just keeping a close eye on our metrics doesn’t turn Yala into a data-driven business, however. To become data-driven, we need to:

  1. Be aware of our metrics
  2. Analyze them
  3. Derive a suitable path of action
  4. Act
  5. Rinse and repeat

I’d like to talk about step 1 – being aware of our metrics. Awareness doesn’t come easy. I’m not talking about the technical aspect of finding out how many installations we got this month or how many emails landed in our support inbox — these numbers are easy enough to find out. The hard part is the ambiguity of the data.

Some stats are sweet and some stats are sour.

This month, our installations were lower than we hoped they’d be.

Meanwhile, the number of posts published was positive.

It’d be really easy to pat ourselves on the back — sheesh, posts published is one of our most important metrics! This is great!

But that’d be missing the point. Great stats don’t inform action — unimpressive stats do.

Being cynical about our stats — focusing on the glass half-empty — allows us to make informed decisions and be inclined towards action rather than being inclined towards complacency.

It’s best to be cynical about your stats. Ignore the good ones and focus on the bad ones. If one metric is showing strong growth but another is lagging, jump into the fray and fix whatever’s broken.