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According to the accepted answer to this question, moderators are not allowed to disclose any visitor stats related to Stack Exchange sites or affiliated blogs:

Don't show the actual numbers, but feel free to discuss the trends with your users.

"We had a big spike on April 10th from such-and-such post" <--- Good

"On April 10th we had 12,234 page views which is a huge increase our average of 3,147." <--- Bad

"On April 10th we saw about a four-fold increase on our average traffic from such-and-such post" <--- Good

I'd like to understand the rationale behind this policy, as I feel it goes against the "these sites are run by you" principle.

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I imagine it has a lot to do with how people speculate when given hard numbers, and the desire to avoid the associated drama. –  Tim Stone Sep 15 '11 at 17:35
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@Tim I don't see how that would apply - we have tons of hard numbers already (questions per day and all that), and as far as I can see, all they do is inspire meaningful discussion that increases in quality because it's backed up by numbers. –  Pëkka Sep 15 '11 at 17:41
    
@pekka - wouldn't knowing the "usual" traffic make something like a DDoS attack easier? If you know what is "usual" and what is "high" you know about how hard to hit to create problems. –  JNK Sep 15 '11 at 17:42
    
Eh, I think people have been pretty prone to drawing conclusions based on Area 51 statistics that weren't necessarily true. But, you're right, there is a lot of similar information that is available, so perhaps that isn't the reason. –  Tim Stone Sep 15 '11 at 17:43
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@JNK hmm, sounds a bit far-fetched to me. They're publishing rough traffic information on places like Quantcast anyway, so making some estimates for a DOS shouldn't be hard for an expert already. –  Pëkka Sep 15 '11 at 17:44
    
@pekka - OK, just a thought. –  JNK Sep 15 '11 at 17:47
    
Here's what it looks like. Not the actual analytics, but it might as well be. What does this mean? I dunno. Dunno what I'm supposed to learn from the analytics either. –  Won't Sep 15 '11 at 18:34
    
What's funny is the exact figures can be found by anyone, moderator, user, or even un-registered on the data explorer –  Steve Robbins Sep 15 '11 at 19:09
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@stevether you can not see any visit stats on the data explorer. –  Pëkka Sep 15 '11 at 19:22
    
At some point in time, we were even asked what Stack Exchange Community Statistics we'd like to see. And I'd love details for specific questions, like questions that get over 243,000 views in 3 days. –  Arjan Sep 26 '11 at 20:59
    
why would I mark a discussion asking 'why' declined? You got your answer. Is there a [feature-request] here? I think not. –  Jeff Atwood Jul 2 '12 at 9:14

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted
+500

Pretty much what cwallenpoole said in his answer; in my mind, this is like arguing for full disclosure of people's salaries.

And anyway, what's the problem?

  • Those who need to know, can get the information.

  • Those who wish to know, can ask those that have it for a summary.

Just because you can get the information doesn't mean you need it. Information porn can be harmful. And having it can cause a distraction from the stuff that matters, just like real porn...

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"arguing for full disclosure of people's salaries. " Works ok for public institutions - how is it like this, and how is this bad? "Information porn can be harmful" Some information porn can sometimes be harmful. I remain unconvinced that this information will be harmful to the community. If Stack Exchange isn't releasing it for business purposes, why not just own up to it? If there are ways it will harm the community, why not explain your reasoning in a more complete manner? This answer dodges the issue in a rather oily way. –  Adam Davis Sep 26 '11 at 20:22
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@adam shrug, I hardly ever look at analytics data anyway; to me it's all porn. Either the site is working because you go there and it's awesome, or it isn't. I operate on the truthiness of my gut, man! –  Jeff Atwood Sep 26 '11 at 21:57

If I might hazard some guesses:

  1. This might have to do with the same reason that SE sites are "not about the rep". If exact numbers are used, that could lead to someone gaming the system, realizing that x and y conditions lead to condition z. In the context of a blog, this can lead to especially perverse aberrations.

  2. It also could have to do with principles similar to those outlined in Tufte's Visual Explanations. The quantifiable, without appropriate contextualization can lead to grossly inaccurate conclusions. (you can see his discussion on pg. 36, if you care. A better example from a different book is the stock-market to sun-spot ratio chart at the beginning of Visual Display of Quantitative Information).

  3. One rule to rule them all means both that you don't have to micro-manage what is and is not appropriate and you don't have the complaint, "But <pronoun> gets to do it <possesive-pronoun> way..."

Of course, these are more guesses as to/justification of the reasoning than they are the rationale themselves.

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In businesses that depend largely on advertising, visitor statistics are considered a closely held trade secret. Some of this information can be gleaned from other sources (quantcast, press releases, etc) but rarely in a complete form.

These businesses depend on traffic, SEO, and advertising. They often share some of this information with their advertisers in order to sell advertising, so if you are interested in the stats you can request advertising info and get a round number of some of these stats.

While Stack Exchange is you, it is not open. Participants can direct the site to some small degree, and contribute content, but the engine that runs the show and much of the information that drives the business are not open and available.

It may not be necessary to keep this information secret, however since that's "how it's done" in the industry, then unless there's a compelling reason to do otherwise, they generally follow the pack.

Also, there are good reasons to restrict this info for companies seeking funding and investment. It can be considered "insider trading" to provide this information in a non-controlled manner.

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