ellen rhymes
Jun 4 · 2 min read

I think we agree on the following:

  • Any given metric is just one way of looking at something, and no amount of measurement can exhaustively describe and explain reality.
  • Many attempts at measuring our success in abstract areas (such as goodness, happiness, and education) are dehumanizing.
  • ‘Social indicators’ are rarely useful, except to those who exploit them in less-than-desirable ways.

That said…

You seem to overlook an important question: What IS a metric, really?

A metric is a formal articulation of a pre-existing perception.

For example, let’s say I choose to measure your ‘goodness’ as a person by the number of friends you have on Facebook. That’s a crappy measure, for sure. However, I chose to formally articulate the statement “your number of Facebook friends is a measure of your goodness” in part because I already believed it.

Alternatively, I might measure your ‘goodness’ by how much money you donate to charity. That’s not a great measure, either, but maybe it’s a little bit closer to reality. Once again, however, my formal “score-keeping” is simply an extension of an informal score-keeping that I was already doing privately.

The main takeaway is that people keep score of things. We do it without realizing it. We do it automatically. We do it with and without extensive training or managerial approval. We decide which “scores” matter to us, and we track them — each and every one of us. Metrics are nothing but different options of which score to keep.

Accordingly, saying “to hell with all score-keeping” is wishful thinking. What we need to do is seek out the most nuanced, least dehumanizing measures of abstract goals and try to agree on their value.

ellen rhymes

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Writer, editor, writing coach, optimist. My home base is ellenrhymes.com.