There's an idea about that creatures of the opposite sex secretly are into intimate measuring. They're using the ruler in order to see how many centimetres their external appendix is. I leave it untold how much truth there's in this. But I can tell that in Azeroth this behaviour is somewhat of a rules. "oh oh oh, my new sward has THIS much of spelldamage, that's cool! Bah, you've got a tiny one like that. Haha"
I remember clearly when it first dawned upon me that it was quite a common thing for players that just had got a sought-after thing to go to a well populated place, such as Stormwind, in order to walk around showing up, assured that other players would com and inspect them. I was surprised - and sceptical. This was before I fully realized the width of the measure-body-parts-culture.
It's easy to joke about this behaviour. At the same time you must realize that gear collecting, the work of self improvement of the character is one of the strongest forces in the game. It's just like any kind of sport or hobby. You always want to develop yourself, no matter if it's about moving your golf handicap (that I've understood is some kind of ranking) or to gain a higher belt in a budo sport. Or for that sake if it's about to take your painstakingly bred Ginny pig to an exhibition, get a judgement and a nice trophy telling you've got the champion Ginny pig of the year.
The need to measure yourself, to get a confirmation of what you have achieved, in numbers and ranking, is found within all of us. No matter of the appendixes of the body. There are also other ways of taking measures than to walk around in a major town, hoping someone will think: "ooohhh".
On the web I've found a few tools that actually give some knowledge and individual hints about how to proceed in the game. It's a little like getting a knowledgeable declaration at a dog exhibition I guess. "Rufus has got perfect body shape, but you should consider improving the condition of his fur. Do you really give him the right kind of pet food?"
One of the tools is Be Imba, a service that has taken as a task to give individual advice to lvl 70 characters. Write your name and realm and you'll get an opinion about you soon enough. Do you need to improve a stat? Could your gear be better enchanted or gemmed? They catch it all. You also get recommendations about what instances which are suitable for you. And a number, else it wouldn't be any real measuring, would it? Myself, I've got the grade 166,4 on my gear, whatever that tells me. But I guess that next time I'll get an upgrade it may jump up to 168 and then I'll celebrate... or maybe not. More fun is that they suggest me to run the raid instances in Tempest Keep and SSC. That is clearly out of my reach right now but it's nice to think the thought that I could fit in there in this gear.
Another playground where you can evaluate and ponder upon your gear and how to balance your character is Warcrafter. Here I get another number, 1040, which I of course can compare to me and my friends, if I think that's fun. More important is the sandbox, where I can try out new gear, other specs, gems and such things and see the resault. Often even upgrades have a price. The effect of the shiny new back may be that you get better spellhit rating at the cost of lesser spelldamage. And what will be the outcome of how much damage your spells will cause on an average? People that have a stronger sence for mathematics entertain themselves by making huge spreadheets for those tasks, but here is a conveniant version for players who are lazy, like me.
But the most obvious way to measure your self is the levelling. There is a certain attraction in seeing the xp-bar slowly heading forward, ending up in a triumphant DING. An attraction that when it's time for end game has to be replaced by chasing reputation with numerous fractions. It's just another bar to watch, another number to hold up and consider when you don't have anything else to do.
Sooo, now I'm famous for 8 685 with Aldor, after the last grinding session for Fel Armaments. Just another 12 000 to go before the Aldorans are exalted over this little gnome. Then it's time to blow the horns! Probably there's no one else that will notice or care. But I can stand there myself, a ruler in my little hand, and for a brief moment feel like I'm the best in the world.
Then I sneak away again, hiding it and forgetting about it quickly, going to do something more fun and useful. There are times when you should measure yourself, but it should be done in small doses.
5 hours ago