For the past week we’ve been running Mint on our server. Compared to the old-skool, freeware statistics we were previously using, Mint gives lots more information, lots better information, and it’s kinda pretty too. It’s a great deal for 30 bucks.

When you first get it up and running, you don’t get a whole lot of fun stuff. You get four or five modules, called Pepper, like Referrers, Visits, Pages, and Searches. While these are great – Searches, in particular, really helps you learn how people are actually finding your site – it really comes to life when you install some of the third-party Pepper that others have created.

Obviously, Shaun Inman went to great pains to make this possible. The interface to program these extras is straightforward and easy, as evinced by the large number of Peppers written in the past month or two. It’s as if he supplied the pot, the boiling water, and some stones. Well once that’s all in place, it’s not so hard to throw in a morsel or two of your own. A developer who would find writing the application daunting might not be so intimidated by the prospect of writing a little add-on. And the community at large benefits from each and every addition. Before you know it, you have a dozen great modules installed, with tons of ways to find out how people actually make use of your website.

Here’s a good example. We build lots of Flash websites. And I’m kind of curious what version of Flash our visitors have on their computer – something we could never learn from our web stats before. But with Mint and a nice Pepper extra, we now get a bunch of nice graph.

The lesson? Make it easy for others to build on your products and services. Go out of your way to help them. The more you can give, the more will come back to you.

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