Thinking digital

I love the serendipity of Twitter. This week two unconnected people I follow posted links to articles containing definitions of what it means to be digital, or have a digital mindset. One from the museum sector and one from a renowned web development consultant. They sparked together with some things I’ve been mulling over for a while to form the idea for this post…

Has what it means to be a digitalist changed in the 5 (and a bit) years since I started writing this blog?

Let’s start with the original definition of a digitalist, the one that gave this blog its name, taken from a blog post by Martin Weller:

“Those who are comfortable using a range of digital media and are open to the changes that digitisation brings to society.”

That’s pretty broad. The key thing for me is being open to the changes that digitisation (or the increasing move towards digital) brings to the way we work, and to society and life in general. This is picked up by Gerry McGovern in his article on the difference between digital and physical:

“When we say €˜digital€™ we mean flexible, adaptive and open to continuous change.”

To openness then, we’re adding flexibility and are perhaps moving away from tools (or media) and towards the way a digitalist thinks. It’s not just about what tools you use, but the mindset you have and approaches you take. Which leads me to the other post I read this week. In it, Jasper Visser collates feedback on what it means to have a digital mindset from participants at a workshop he was running for the Danish Museum Association:

“A colleague with a digital mindset shares ideas, uses the right tools for the right challenges, is present on social networks, asks and answers questions, etc. etc. For most participants, a digital mindset had little to do with digital tools and much more with a 21st century way of working: open, collaborative, lean, proactive€¦”

The Thinker by Dano, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  Dano 

This encapsulates my motives behind the social media and digital training programmes I ran while working at the universities of Warwick and Oxford. I wasn’t trying to get my colleagues to begin using a wide variety of digital tools, I was trying to get them to:

  • think in new ways about the way they work
  • evaluate the technologies and tools available
  • be open to changes
  • find solutions to problems
  • collaborate and share

If they found tools to help them do this, then that was a bonus.

I’ve been wondering what the purpose of this blog is. Does it matter that the context has shifted over the years, through the different phases of my career – from libraries, to learning technologies and now websites? While writing this post, it has become clear to me that this is a space for me to share things (mostly digital) that I find interesting, or useful, that I think you will find interesting, or useful, too. Nothing has changed there. That the context is different doesn’t matter much. The digital mindset is relevant in all aspects of our lives.

A blogger’s guide to Google Analytics

Over the past couple of months I’ve spent a lot of time at work with my head in Google Analytics. Learning more about analytics has made me far more active in tracking usage of this blog. In just a few of weeks I’ve seen the benefit – I noticed an unexpected referer driving a significant amount of traffic here, after some investigation I found it was a spam site and have taken action to block it from crawling my blog.

I’m all about sharing, so here’s a run down of how I’m using Google Analytics for this blog.

Basic metrics

With the following metrics I look at month on month comparisons and changes in activity in the few days after I publish a new post. To aid this I’ve started adding annotations to the overview charts every time a post is published.


  • location
  • device


  • traffic source
  • search terms


  • pageviews
  • sessions
  • popular pages

Audience engagement

Here are a few metrics I use to track how my readers are engaging with the content.

Average time on page €” a useful indicator of whether people are actually reading your content.

Pages per visit €” likely to be low for a blog as people generally come to read one post and then leave. I’ve recently added related posts to the bottom of each entry, so I’ll be looking to see if this number rises over the coming months.

New vs returning visitors €” the basic stat is interesting but this is more useful when combined with other metrics. I combine it with average time to see the difference in time spent on my blog between the two groups; returning visitors spend nearly twice as long on the site.


The easiest way to monitor all of this is through a custom dashboard. For my personal dashboard I’ve scheduled a report to be sent to me monthly. If you’d like my dashboard template, just email me.

There are plenty of other dashboard templates out there, including this blogger dashboard from Portent. With this one you’ll need to remove some of their site specific filters.

Special reports

Datahub Activity

Access through Acquisition > Social > Datahub Activity.

This one’s fairly new to me, it allows you to track activity related to your blog on external social networks. For example, I’ve been able to see which of my posts are bookmarked and each time a reader adds a post to read later in services like Pocket or Instapaper.

Search Engine Optimisation

Access through Acquisition > Search Engine Optimisation.

You’ll need to configure Webmaster Tools to open up this report. It adds a few extra metrics on top of the standard keywords report. You can find out how often your site appears in Google results pages and for what terms. For these searches you can also see how often people click through to your blog.

What metrics do you track for your blog?

If there’s anything else you’re tracking for your blog, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Please update your feed

I’m taking a quick blogging break from Library Day in the Life to beg a favour from you.

I have just put the RSS feed for this blog through Feedburner. If you are an exisiting subscriber could you please update your feed to this brand spanking new one. It will take just 1 minute of your time.

Why I didn’t do it when I moved from to I do not know, it would have made life a whole lot easier.