Writing & Goodhart’s Law

Published: Mon Mar 01 2021
Updated: Mon Mar 01 2021

Goodhart’s Law states that once a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure1. Thus, you have to be very cautious about what metrics you choose.

My aim is to just write more. I think writing well leads to clear thinking, good writing can sharpen your focus. I am writing for myself first and foremost, and not for any particular audience.

As a result, I choose to use measures that are important to me. For example, I aim to write one blog post a week. This is not a hard target though, I am fine with meeting the goal 70-80% of the time.

I also have fuzzy list of topics I want to write about. In fact many of these are areas where I don’t have a lot of clarity. I am OK writing down partially formed thoughts as long this helps me reach closer to clarity.

Since I’m writing for myself, I don’t have to play the facade of an expert, and I don’t have to always be right.

In order to achieve this, I need to avoid measuring the wrong things. I choose to not measure metrics that can lead me astray:

  • There are no browser tracking on this blog. There is zero JavaScript on the blog itself.
  • In fact, I don’t even have server logs.

I’m writing with the assumption that no one is going to read it. Removing pageview metrics ensures that I don’t end up optimising for reach.

I know that if I have these metrics, I can’t help but look at them. Easier for my sanity to just avoid collecting the metrics at all.

I’m also not trying to promote my writing—I’m not spreading word and not sharing every update on social media.

I may choose to revisit these choices in the future, but for now my goals are pretty internal.

  1. Well, actually this is the commonly used variant. I didn’t know until today that the original phrasing is: “Any observed statistical regularity will tend to collapse once pressure is placed upon it for control purposes.”