on minimalism

sep 20 2020 | 4 mins

I've recently been trying to apply the philosophical concept of minimalism into my programming workflow.

To me, minimalism means optimising certain aspects of your life (or life entirely) by reducing redundancy, mainly in the form of 'decluttering'.

It also means being meticulous with how you design your life in the first place, and making deliberate efforts to cull superfluity as it confronts how you do the things you do.

The term 'minimalism' has been popularised by various figures, such as Marie Kondo through her principles of applying minimalism to organise your household belongings.

I don't know her exact stance on digital minimalism, since I haven't watched her Netflix series yet, but today I want to make a connection between minimalism and the work that I have been doing, which is to develop web-based projects and computer programming.

In the case of jinyoung.xyz, I have been debating on whether or not to integrate Google Analytics into my website. By the time you read this entry, it may or may not have maintained its place on my public todo list for the site.

What I can say, right now, is that I've looked into a lot of the technical aspects of the product and understand what it is that I will be using.

That said, though, I haven't seriously looked into the actual implementation of Google Analytics for jinyoung.xyz.

Working with new technologies, it's far too easy to be roped (or rope yourself) into applying the newest, flashiest, most innovative products in the market. Google Analytics is one of those whereby digital marketers would swear by having it for their clients websites, and e-commerce shops would have some religious dependence on it for all the possible ways they can use the tracked data to determine user-traffic information, etc.

I'm not here to undermine the case for Google Analytics for the above contexts, or that no one should use it, just because I make an entry on why I'm thinking twice about using it for my own project.

After all, I'll be the first to admit that, should I go ahead with adding an analytics tool (Google Analytics or the likes) to jinyoung.xyz, it wouldn't actually be the first time for me to use analytics for my own benefit.

Prior to jinyoung.xyz, I had a small-scale Wordpress blog whereby I would make use of its Stats and Insights tab which not only shows the blog-owner some surface-level stats like 'views' and 'visitors' count, but also provides insights on countries where the visitors are accessing from.

I'll also admit that I really enjoyed this built-in functionality with Wordpress, and several times I found a good reason to revisit it.

After my interview with my previous team at the United Nations Development Programme, I would be delighted to find the heighted visitor count from Panama (where I ended up working until March of this year), knowing they had clicked on the hyperlink I had shared with them in my post-interview follow-up email.

Having data like that was a proxy I used for reassurance, that things are going in a good direction. It also showed that certain new friends I made during my travels would actually be interested enough about my story as to appear on this conspicous Stats and Insights visualisation.

Now, why am I having second thoughts on something I already made a good use for?

It all boils down to minimalism.

The purpose of jinyoung.xyz is not to be an e-commerce platform, or a site that requires user-tracked data for its continued existence. jinyoung.xyz will thrive, I hope, without even a single viewer count for now, as I've been more concerned about keeping active on this public journal than to be obsessed over site-traffic.

While it would be nice for me to see how the website is doing, and how it's ahead of the curve for SEO, I am more concerned about our collective lack of understanding of the way our data is used in the digital world.

It could be that I, the site owner, only have to write in some Javascript snippet to the main HTML script to integrate Google Analytics, and that I wouldn't exactly have to go out of my way to learn 'how to figure this technology out'.

It also could be that you, the visitor, may not care much for third-party cookies or your data getting fed into Google's system whereby your web-usage will be analysed to make their products more 'relevant' to your usage (the quotes are intentionally placed).

Either way, jinyoung.xyz is not a platform for commercial usage (and I can assure you it will remain that way), which means that having the analytics function is only redundant for me. It's a 'nice-to-have', but by no means a 'required'.

If I had to choose between having a redundant functionality that comes with well-known compromises on individual data-privacy, and having to leave all the exciting visitor data to my own imagination, I would choose the latter.

In fact, I would do so any day of the week.

So, till next-time, Google Analytics. :)

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