Brief Stats Update: Penultimate Word Count Notes

I occasionally dump the blog and run it through some Python script deliciousness to find out how many words I’ve written. This is no measure of worth or quality, more a metric of my mania. As I noted in October, I was going to hit what I thought was my year target much earlier. Well, yes, it came and it went and, sure enough, I plowed through it. At time of writing, on published posts alone, we’re holding at around 1.2 posts/day, 834 words/post and a smidgen over 340,000 words, which puts me (in word count) just after Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead” (311,596) but well behind her opus “Atlas Shrugged” (561,996). In terms of Objectivism? Let’s just say that I won’t be putting any kind of animal into that particular fight at the moment.

Now, of course, I can plug in the numbers and see that this puts my final 2012 word count somewhere in the region of 362,000 words. I must admit, there is a part of me that sees that number and thinks “Well, we could make it an even 365,000 and that’s a neat 1000 words/day” but, of course, that’s dumb for several reasons:

  1. I have not checked in detail exactly how well my extraction software is grabbing the right bits of the text. There are hyperlinks and embellishments that appear to be taken care of, but we are probably only on the order of 95% accuracy here. Yes, I’ve inspected it and I haven’t noticed anything too bad, but there could be things slipping through. After all of this is over, I am going to drag it all together and analyse it properly but, let me be clear, just because I can give you a word count to 6 significant figures, doesn’t mean that it is accurate to 6 significant figures.
  2. Should I even be counting those sections of text that are quoted? I do like to put quotes in, sometimes from my own work, and this now means I’m either counting something that I didn’t write or I’m counting something that I did write twice!
  3. Should I be counting the stats posts themselves as they are, effectively, metacontent? This line item is almost above that again! This way madness lies!
  4. It was never about the numbers in the first place, it was about thinking about my job, my students, my community and learning and teaching. That goal will have been achieved whether I write one word/day from now on or ten thousand!

But, oh, the temptation to aim for that ridiculous and ultimately deceptive number. How silly but, of course, how human to look at the measurable goal rather than the inner achievement or intrinsic reward that I have gained from the thinking process, the writing, the refining of the text, the assembly of knowledge and the discussion.

Sometime after January the 1st, I will go back and set the record straight. I shall dump the blog and analyse it from here to breakfast time. I will release the data to interested (and apparently slightly odd) people if they wish. But, for now, this is not the meter that I should be watching because it is not measuring the progress that I am making, nor is it a good compass that I should follow.

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