Those of you read my site and emails regularly will probably have heard of Pro Blog Stats, a WordPress plugin created by myself and Andrew Rondeau that pulls in stats from multiple sources and reports them into your WordPress dashboard. It’s a massive time saver and allows you to easily and quickly see actionable data about your site performance without all the associated hassle.
Pro Blog Stats gives you over 50 different statistics about your blog or WordPress website – all on one page, within your WordPress dashboard. With Pro Blog Stats, you no longer have to log in to all your different accounts (like Google Analytics, Twitter, Facebook) to see your statistics. Enough of the sales pitch though, this is the story of how this came to be….
The Genesis of an idea
I used to work in the corporate world, for a couple of very large companies, which employed thousands (and even hundreds of thousands) of people. A lot of my job involved numbers and statistics. George Bernard Shaw once said:
It is the mark of a truly intelligent person to be moved by statistics.
Who am I to argue with him? I spent a lot of time analyzing those statistics and creating recommendations from them and implementing them. However I spent 10x that amount of time gathering the data.
Organizations large and small often have huge volumes of data. In one case I dealt with it came in on reams of dot matrix printer paper. This isn’t 30 years ago, less than 10.
Volume of data is not so much an issue with powerful computers and database tools, however what the biggest issue was, and still is, is the large number of different locations this data is held. In the blogging world you can have your traffic stats in Google Analytics, real-time stats in Clicky, RSS subscribers in Feedburner, Facebook and Twitter followers on their sites, StumbleUpon shares in your SU account, AWeber subscribers in your AWeber account, and so on for seemingly forever.
One day in my job, my boss asked me for a report. Several hours later he came over to ask whether the report was ready, and I replied that I was still working on it. His response? “Stop messing around and get me the report!”.
However I haven’t been messing around (in fact he didn’t say messing, it began with an F…), I had been trying to put together a report from 12 different sources with about 30 different pieces of data. It was actually 27 pieces of data. I remember because later on I had to do it two or three times a week.
The idea of a dashboard to report sales or display statistics is nothing new, however achieving this goal can be extremely difficult. We worked for weeks to produce a report that saved a large amount of time and hassle, not only for me, but my boss could not request report and have it in a few minutes instead of a few hours.
Pro Blog Stats was born of a similar frustration with the amount of effort and time it was taking me and my clients to monitor performance and progress of our WordPress websites and blogs.
The initial idea for the plugin came over three years ago now, and in the next part I’ll go through the process we’ve experienced with it.