Thursday, November 6, 2008

Time for Comics to Come Clean

People who have been sloppy about honestly reporting their site traffic counts are in for headaches. The same exaggeration problem that infects comics hit blogs, and there are now sites that specialize in outing false reporters.

Truth detection gizmos are popping up everywhere. You can now put a device on a Firefox Toolbar to reveal whether a visited site is lying about its page rank. ComicRank, a sincere and honest effort to help comics count actual readership, has to resolve its Google discrepancy before it blooms, but those afraid to participate in emerging accuracy check technology will look kind of odd clustered in the corner, staring at the floor and drawing shapes on the carpet with their toes.

Comics writer T. Campbell (Penny and Aggie and many more) has made access to his Google Analytics public in a gesture that some will be pressed to emulate. I didn't get a chance to ask T. what method he's using, but I believe you can add viewers to your account so they can see in but can't tinker. It's intended for businesses to grant employee access without sabotage.

I'd like to see Google offer a "make public" tool that eliminates all logging in and password tracking, and one of their six trillion pieces of mail this year is from me, the 4,000th one to suggest it.

Money and careers are at stake, and when people distort their results, or mis-report from ignorance, it makes it more difficult for others to plan accurately. Comics need numbers that make analysis a science, not an ego trip. The only shame in numbers is falsifying.

Pug and I have been sharing the numbers for our sites from time to time, and anyone who missed out should feel free to inquire. Until I get a moment to review the methodology with T., we'll not be following his step, but I will report back. I can say that it's been liberating to be open from the beginning, making our successes and shortcomings public and shared, bringing support and thoughtful comments.

As for the new fact-checkers, all I can say is it's about time. Some of the exaggerating is an open secret, and not being one to humiliate people for such a lightweight sin, I'd rather let the truth emerge naturally.