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Fathom: Less Creepy Analytics

Privacy is more important than engagement.

Last May, I deactivated my Facebook account with no fanfare (friendfare?). A few weeks ago, I logged back in for the first time since and started the Delete Account process, and in a few days, my profile will be gone for good.[1]

On top of the ever-growing list of reasons why Facebook is a house of horrors, I didn't feel like I had a healthy relationship with the site. I spent too much time on it, and I rarely felt good after I used the site, I usually felt angry or hopeless. When I did feel good, it was because of the dopamine rush from Likes or comments. I spent less actual time with friends because I felt like I was already spending time with them all day on Facebook.

At the bottom of it all, I was giving my time, and my information, to a shit-show of an advertising platform.

A clip of a child in a lamb onsie, pushing off and then reclining on a toy fourwheeler as it rolls down a hill, with the text 'LATER SHITLORDS' superimposed.

In the months that followed, I began basically recommitting myself to protecting my privacy, and finding ways to do that for others.

While implementing Content Security Policy (CSP) on this here Web Site™, I decided to just get rid of Google Analytics all together. I didn't care about the stats, since I barely invested any time into this site. Moreover, much like Dave, Google's data collection practices creeped me out.

But now that I am putting time and energy back into this site, my need to know if anyone is out there has come back, but thankfully it's found a new tool: Fathom Analytics.

Here's what makes me happy about Fathom:

  1. It was really easy to set up. As I'm already a DigitalOcean customer, having Fathom available as 1-click-install option for a new droplet made this a breeze to set up. I did try to install it on an existing droplet, and I decided that the one 502 Bad Gateway hiccup I ran into made it worth looking at spinning up an extra droplet for $5/month. I still don't know why I was getting that 502 error, but there was a bonus to going the "new droplet" route: it motivated me to remove some old droplets I didn't need anymore, which means I'm now saving money. But, of course, YMMV on that.
  2. It plays well with my Content Security Policy. If a third-party resource even hints at requiring a significant change to my CSP, it's immediately on the chopping block. I'm proud of my Mozilla Observatory score and what that score means for anyone who visits this site, and I assure you there aren't many things, if any, that would make me scale that back.
  3. It is essentials-only. Page views, unique visitors, bounce rate, time on site. I'd be a liar if I said I wasn't curious about visitors' technology stats, like browser and maybe OS, but I don't need that information.

So, if you're reading this, know that I know that someone read it, and that's about all I know.

And all I want to know.

Footnotes

  1. As much as I despise Facebook, this is still a little weird to me. I was an OG Facebook user by most standards—I was the 9th person at my university to sign up, back when you had to be in a college or university that was in Facebook's "approved" list of schools. And I figured out that I was the 9th person based on my user ID (legit hacker skills! 😉).