A couple of weeks ago I talked with Valentin, who is supporting me while developing the next version of my writing platform. He asked me:
“How do you measure success for Ken?”
An excellent question, and one I’ve been pondering about in the past few weeks. While doing so, a more fundamental question came up.
What’s more valuable to me?
My text goes viral on social media and receives thousands of clicks and likes
My text doesn’t get noticed until two years later, when someone finds it, exchanges ideas with me, and becomes a close friend
I want Ken to be different from current social media platforms. It must not become another battlefield for attention, clicks and likes. To me Ken is a success when users spend meaningful time writing and exchanging ideas. It’s a success when people feel comfortable sharing what they really think, rather than what they believe others want to hear. It’s a success when one day I will hear stories about people who became friends or partners after connecting on Ken over some topic. I want to create a safe space for people to express, not to impress.
I still haven’t answered Valentin’s question though. How can I measure “success” in a reliable way, especially in the early stages? I chose to hold privacy in high regards, so I won’t collect data while users are surfing the site. A few months ago, I ditched cookie-based analytics completely, and it’s liberating not to check Google Analytics anymore.
While I won’t know where users clicked individually, I am interested in some collective metrics. The following aren’t perfect measures for success either, but something I can quantify and work towards:
Experiences shared: I want Ken to become the world’s most authentic library of human experiences. Each book represents a story of a human being, told by themselves from their unique perspective.
Conversations started: On Ken you can engage with the author of a piece by starting a public conversation. I want to see lots of meaningful conversations there.
List subscriptions: You can subscribe to moderated lists about topics of your interests. These are the bookshelves in the library of experiences.
Following and Followers: In addition to lists (moderated) you can follow individuals (unfiltered) too. On social media usually you have a few stars with millions of followers while the rest screams into the void. I’d rather like to see a more balanced distribution. Ideally the average Ken user follows 100 people actively and has 100 genuine followers, who regularly engage in conversations.
Bookmarks shared: Bookmarking an experience signals you found something interesting. It’s not just a tool for you to keep a reading list, but also for visitors of your profile, who’d like to find out what you are interested in despite the topics you are covering in your own writing.
I decided to hide follower and subscriber counts on the platform. Because I want to make my own selections based on quality and curiosity rather than what the platform tells me is popular right now. Since Ken won’t use any algorithms for ranking content, and not show similar/popular content in a sidebar, I’ll have to go browse for the next text actively. It’s just like picking the next book in a library after finishing the previous one. I believe this creates better opportunities to be discovered by the right people.