My story

The Metrics of Helpfulness – The One Person Test

IMG_6127In a recent episode of The Good Life Project, Leo Babauta (of Zen Habits) tells Jonathan Fields that the most important thing a blogger or business can have is trust – and the only way to earn it is to actually be trustworthy, honest, sincere and be there to genuinely help others.

It sounds blindingly obvious, right?  But I’ve definitely seen a few people online who don’t seem to follow that advice!

The One Person Test

He goes on to say that rather than worrying about web stats and the usual social media metrics, he focuses on whether what he publishes online has helped someone – even if it’s only one person.

“I don’t know how to measure trust, but my metric is a binary metric – instead of trying to get 100,000 hits or whatever – my metric is ‘have I helped somebody’. And it’s either yes or no.

And if the answer is yes, then I’ve done something good. If I write a post and it helps one person – if it helps more than one, great –  but if it helps one, then to me I’ve succeeded. And if all I’m doing is trying to help myself, then the answer is no.”

You can watch the episode below – it’s worth it just to see the crazy green tea these guys are drinking.

[tentblogger-youtube yMyN9w_PR3c]

Now that type of metric is perhaps a luxury that Leo (yes I like to pretend we’re on first name terms) can afford as author of one of the world’s most popular blogs. But it’s something I kept in mind as I headed out to a number of events over the last couple of weeks and it has held me in good stead. It can feel pretty vulnerable putting yourself out there and sharing your ideas, after all, especially if feedback isn’t immediately forthcoming.

social media surgery jan 2013
Photo by Ally Tibbitt from Greener Leith

Putting It To The Test Part One – Social Media Surgeries

Firstly I attended the Edinburgh Social Media Surgery as a volunteer, also known as a ‘surgeon’. The event was organised by web manager and blogger James Coltham (aka @prettysimple) and sponsored by Greener Leith. With more than 40 people turning up, and those split about half and half between volunteers and locals wanting advice, it was a really busy evening.

I was able to help a local jazz musician with her WordPress blog, and teamed up with fellow ‘surgeon’ Lilly Hunter to give her advice on using Twitter. Therefore, I met the ‘help one person’ test (phew). Of course, helping someone also made me feel good, so everyone’s a winner!

The next Edinburgh Social Media Surgery takes place on Monday 18th February. Maybe I’ll see you there?


Putting It To The Test Part Two – The Pimp Your Online Presence Workshops

As I mentioned in a recent newsletter, I was also hired to present/facilitate two workshops, the first, at the Digitally Agile Community Learning and Development conference (DACLD)*, was loosely based on my Pimp Your Online Presence ebook, and the second, at the No Knives, Better Lives National Youth Summit, was also on a similar theme though the title was slightly different.

Below are the slides from the first event:


I haven’t spoken in front of a group for a while (there were about 20 people at each workshop) and I was pretty nervous, perhaps more so because I was sharing my own ideas that originated on this blog!

The workshops were enjoyable, but I’d be lying if I said everything went smoothly – at the first one I had to improvise after technical problems meant I couldn’t show the presentation.  Thankfully there was a lot of discussion and input from the people who were there.

I’m relieved to say that on both occasions I also passed the ‘help one person test’. I received the below tweet after the first workshop, and one of the participants at the second one came up to me afterwards with lots of questions and said they really enjoyed it.

Now I’ve just got to work out how to win over a few more people at future events!

How do you measure the success of your creative, or social media efforts? Could Leo’s ‘One Person Test’ be a more useful goal than the usual popularity contest of Facebook likes and Twitter retweets etc? Let me know in the comments!

*You can download the programme for the DACLD event here. There were some excellent talks by the keynote speakers:

Lauren Currie from We are Snook spoke about their amazing work in teaching design thinking, Ross McCulloch from Third Sector Lab shared great examples of how organisations are using social media and Jenni Robertson from Edinburgh City Council Digital Learning Team spoke about how access to iPads and other technologies in and out of school had a positive impact on children’s learning and development. 

Mike Russell, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning also spoke, saying that the future lies in the digital sphere (and using an iPad to prove it!). 

13 replies on “The Metrics of Helpfulness – The One Person Test”

Milo, definitely, I like the one person test that Leo recommends. And sounds like you’re doing a lot of that (but really helping 20 people) with your workshops. No other person that I personally would have loved to have learned about blogging and marketing than from you. The workshop sounds like a blast! And I’m sure super high value. I wonder if you can just start offering these workshops on your own and regularly for new bloggers?


Thanks Vishnu, for the lovely comment – maybe I will start offering them in the future but as you know I’m very shy!

p.s. I need to learn blogging from you, what with your fancy new guest post over at Brazen Careerist – you’re on fire my friend!


Hi Milo. Congratulations on the positive impact you had at these events – it can only be good for confidence!

My immediate reaction is that feedback is the important point. I’m generating more traffic to the blog (mainly through tweets and retweets), but if anybody is finding what I’m posting helpful then they are not saying so!

Of course, I only adopted my current approach to writing and blogging in the last couple of months, so expecting instant results is foolish. However, as you kindly commented on one post, I’m aiming for more ‘relateable’ topics and part of me hopes to see some evidence that it’s working!

Those retweets have been very welcome though, and are a type of feedback themselves. In trying to engage in the wider conversation, particularly pleasing is when someone favourites a tweet I’ve written. Everyone has different reasons for ‘favouriting’ things, but it is some validation that I’m making the progress I want in my creative life. After the frustrations of the last few years, simply being part of the conversation is the most important thing 🙂


Hi Paul – glad you’re seeing some positive results – favourites and retweets are a great sign!

It’s great to see you persevering and trying different approaches on your blog and I’m sure it will pay off if you keep experimenting!


YES to the one person thing – as an experience, that one-to-one kind of interaction is just LUXE. Also, it is fabulous when the interaction goes both ways – gawd – I’ve sat through enough training/presentations where the dry as dust going through the motions content was helpfully read out to me from a crappy Powerpoint presentation. I’ll take engaging any time. I’ll take any amount of think on your feet because of exploding/non-compliant technology content, over slick but boring bells and whistles. I LOVE it when someone up at the front is honest enough to say “I don’t know but I’ll find out and email/phone you when I do” to a question from the back.


Heee …. just wanted to add – we (a bunch of creatives) get to have two days in-house software training (they don’t let us out any more) every Preston Guild (ask Mr Google) – and we love it so much.

We prolly don’t get all the way through the training agenda because we are all voluble show-offs who like to share 🙂 I think we have managed to scare some trainers with a huge blast of enthusiasm and blather – but that’s better than dropping words down a long mineshaft of indifference, yes? The cat-herding skills required to keep the excitable on-track are highly under-estimated 🙂

Also – sometimes we get free pens and notepads woooo!! and a certificate woooo!!!! (no-one has thought of gold stars or the human equivalent of dog treats yet).
Seriously – I love that stuff (I am 5 years old and impressed by sparkly things) 🙂

I’m guessing the only way you can improve your presentation skills is to do more presentations. It’s part of my job presenting to clients – the skin thickens pretty quickly lol


This seems useful, particularly in the case of thinking – if this will help no one then it’s a good reason not to publish/tweet/FB share etc. In general I think these kinds of rules of thumb are a great way of making decision making easier and keeping what’s important in mind.


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