Although we may not always recognise our bondage, we live, in modern times, under a tyranny of numbers –
(paraphrasing) Nicholas Eberstadt
Numbers are appealing. They equate to fact and accuracy; they help us to interpret the world and its workings. We can dispute the significance of numbers but we can’t dispute they exist, nor that they possess meaning.
There was some discussion last week regarding the contentiousness of ‘the number of blogs in the world’ estimate. The figure I quoted (borrowed from Nigel Featherstone) was 112 million. So what, asked Nicko the commenter, I’d rather know how many are actually still active. (Paraphrasing again.) John Weldon offered suggestions as to where to begin tracking down these numbers, so off I went, like a diligent researcher.
I rapidly learned, however, that measuring the web – for content and users – is considered somewhat controversial and inexact due to the dynamic nature of the medium. One of the central points of contention appears to be terminology. Countless businesses and organisations are collecting data on the internet, its uses and its users but everyone is running with different working definitions. When we talk about websites, are we taking about the numbers of registered domain users (easier) or actual web pages and links (more difficult)?