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Monday, December 30, 2013

Data in (or out of) the US

The Analytics world will certainly be affected by all of the news around the NSA and other US government moves.  Bloomberg reports:
"Some companies are apparently so concerned about the NSA snooping on their data that they're requiring - in writing - that their technology suppliers store their data outside the U.S."
And for data that does travel through or stay in the US, we also need to be mindful of how it moves in/out of our datacenters.  Consider Microsoft, who according to the Washington Post, are considering taking actions, noting that:
"executives are meeting this week to decide what encryption initiatives to deploy and how quickly"
All of these changes are a big deal for companies like Webtrends and others who take data security and privacy very seriously.  Worldwide data collection, and powerful streaming architecture will become even more paramount to solve the ever-changing high-performance Analytics demands from a diverse and concerned customer base.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Smart Data-Driven Redesign at the NYTimes

Like so many others, I'm constantly impressed with the NYTimes.  They have such an incredibly rich history of award-winning content, and have been pioneers in so many areas of digital media.  Plus they are loaded with super smart, data-driven, talented people.

We're incredibly lucky to have them as a customer of ours at Webtrends.

Mashable has a great article on the redesign of the article layouts the NYTimes is rolling out.  So many of these changes are driven by smart analysis of data.  Note these quotes:

  • Longer articles are no longer paginated because the Times found that readers read further and stay longer when they don't have those obstacles, Ian Adelman, the Times' director of digital design, says.
  • Approximately 46% of the Times's web traffic comes through the home page, and Adelman says desktop visitors frequently click on an article from the home page and click back to the home page to choose another article over and over again.
  • Subscribers who log in to the Times site when the redesigned pages roll out will notice that the navigation menu has been pre-populated with shortcuts to the sections they visit most.
  • Overall, there are less ads, but the Times expects impression numbers will remain steady because the new site will encourage people to read for longer periods of time.
  • There's also an expectation that, with less elements to compete with on a page, advertisers' messages will stand out more — a hypothesis that will be tested in time by click-throughs rates and other engagement metrics.
  • Larson says they are still testing to determine optimal placements for many of these features, particularly the most-emailed stories widget, which is especially popular with readers.
  • To keep you reading, a row of additional stories from the section appear at the end of articles, followed by a second row of stories recommended for you based on your previous reading history.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Micro-Campaigns with Real Cookies

Over at AdRants, Steve Hall notes "The most important issue the real-time marketing trendlet has brought to the forefront -- much the same way Twitter and other social media did -- is that the campaign is dead."

He's referring to the big campaigns that brands and agencies have run for a long time, and probably will still run moving forward, but I agree with him that there will be fewer of them, and that the trend is toward more of a real time marketing approach.

He cites the Oreo Super Bowl ad/tweet (such a clever, quick idea pulled off during the power outage while the game was paused) as an example of why it's critical for brands to be executing ideas much more rapidly.

We see the same trends at Webtrends, and have started to think in terms of micro-campaigns when we're thinking of analytics and optimization solutions.  Micro-campaigns are measured in terms of hours, not days or weeks.  They are frequent, and are generally supported by social media efforts, along with search, ads, and other drivers/sources.  There are all kinds of conversion metrics, and the goals can vary, but the nature of them is consistent: move fast, double-down where things work, and reset where they don't.

Our recent developments around Webtrends Streams and Optimize are focused on helping folks who are constantly testing, constantly learning and constantly running micro-campaigns.  You can't succeed at the art of micro-campaigning if you aren't measuring them as-they-happen.  And no other solution allows you to do this like Streams.  Check it out.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Webtrends Streams Visualizations - Inspired

As I noted previously, with Webtrends Streams you can "see" things you haven't been able to see before.  The fantastic challenge for us as we were starting to put it together was, now how do we show it?  How do you provide a new lens into this new type of data?  We had put together an incredibly powerful API, but that API data isn't really made for traditional data visualizations as the data is much more "alive".  It is constantly moving, and flows as your visitors, and your customers, and your mobile app users interact with your sites and apps.

Let me take a step back, and explain a little more about the data.  Webtrends Streams is an enriched stream of event-level data.  It's not traditional pre-aggregated data that you find in real-time solutions.  You subscribe to a stream of data, filtered and segmented to only see the data you're interested in, and as each event occurs, it's delivered to you.  If you want to see more technical details, to the right is a small snippet of an event (in this case, a visitor arriving on a web page) that I just captured to show what I mean.  Note that this is a very small snippet of all of the data that comes back.  Every possible element that is collected, plus the additional enrichment we're adding in, can be consumed by you through subscribing to streams that are of interest to you.

Our first look at the data was even more rough than what you see above.  It was our "bare bones" UI, and it was developer friendly, but didn't make much sense beyond the engineering floor at Webtrends.  We started to think about how we could present it that might make sense to us, and came up with a few interesting views of the data, but realized that we needed to open it up to a wider team of creative folks.  So we did what any respectful development team would do - and we brought in a bunch of food, and being in the great northwest, there might have been some beer there as well, and had one of our best Developer Day events ever.

The results from that day inspired us.  We realized that these visualizations gave us the lens we were looking for to "show" Streams.  You can see a couple of examples in this video we created (no need to watch me...just skip to 16 seconds in and 40 seconds in).  And the good news is that all of the visualizations were all built in html, css and javascript, so the development time is quick, and deployment is easy.  There are so many powerful javascript libraries now for animating data (see the absolutely amazing work from Mike Bostock at the NYTimes, and others working on d3 as examples), that there's no excuse for building static reports anymore.  Your data is alive.  Your visualizations should reflect that.

At this point we knew we were on to something big.  Not only was the data extremely compelling, but now we had a way to show it.  A new way to express as-it-happens data.  Instead of just explaining to customers that they can use the data to understand what's going on right now, we could show them.  Are you launching a new site, or app, or campaign?  Wouldn't it make sense to:

  1. Be able to validate that everything is setup as expected prior to launch, and troubleshoot any last minute measurement issues
  2. "See" each visitor as they are arriving, knowing how they got there, and what looks to be of interest
  3. Immediately validate whether your ad and search spend is working
  4. Note if your visitors are experiencing any errors, or trouble converting as expected, and fix those issues - while those same visitors are still on the site

These new visualizations gave us visibility into all of this level of understanding - and more.  And the visualizations immediately resonated with our early adopter Streams customers.  So much so that they asked for more, and started building out their own as well.  Tell me, how awesome would it be to collaborate with your customers to create previously unheard of visualizations, and help them show off their data inside their company?  Our customers are already doing this with us.  And their work is truly inspiring.

Although we set out to provide Streams as a new API, we pivoted quickly and instead have created some fantastic visualizations to accompany the rich API data.  Rather than show a bunch of screenshots of those visualizations (which do not do them justice at all), I'm going to create some videos to show it off.  Look for those soon, and feel free to drop me a line (elbpdx @ gmail) if you'd like to chat more about all of this cool work.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Webtrends Streams: Behind the Scenes

Webtrends Streams is amazing.  It's different.  A fresh, revolutionary idea (or, set of ideas really), that will fundamentally change how we think of digital analytics.  You will want to see it, very soon, and it will blow you away.

I'm proud to be part of the team putting this innovation together.  What we originally set out to do was to reinvent real-time analytics.  It was a great time for us to rethink our approach to real-time data for several cool reasons:
  1. Campaigns, and verticals like media, retail and travel, are requiring analysis sooner:  In the summer of 2011 we had just created a powerful new tool to collect and analyze Facebook campaigns.  In doing so we analyzed tens of thousands of Facebook posts and determined that any given post at that time had a shelf-life of 11 hours.  That was a real eye-opener.  Marketers only have a few short hours to determine whether a post (a micro-campaign if you will) is succeeding or not, and whether to double-down on the post (sponsored post, other potential sources), or whether to get the next post ready to rollout.
  2. Real-time innovation through Reinvigorate: We were lucky enough to acquire Reinvigorate, still the best real-time solution available on the market today.  Behind the excellent product is some very smart IP that we immediately poured into a new Heatmaps solution, creating our first real (very) big data infrastructure.  Also behind that was a new approach to real-time data (well done Sean!).  With Reinvigorate, you know, immediately, who is on your site (or using your app).  You can tell how many active visitors are currently viewing any page.  It's very powerful, and got us thinking.
  3. Killer technology shared by other creative companies: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and others, were starting to release and share more mature open source projects that begin to offer incredibly reliable, stable, rapid data movement to support the difficult task of true real-time requirements.
So, we started prototyping new real-time analysis tools...and it didn't quite feel right.  It felt incomplete, and "only" evolutionary.  It was incredibly robust, enriched with additional data, and faster than anything else available, but that didn't feel like enough of a win to make a major investment to complete.  There are definitely places where real-time data is important, and it can fundamentally move the needle for organizations that need it.  But we thought we could do more.

We started experimenting with the idea of expressing the data we collect differently.  What might it look like to enrich the data we're collecting, and then send it out an API as soon as it is collected?  What if we could also offer our customers the ability to subscribe to receive all events, or just a subset of events they are interested in?  And if they only need certain variables (parameters), let's reduce the stream of data to only include those variables on each event.

We ended up building new data viz's as well...
I still remember the time Andrew showed me the data flowing through the Streams API.  I work with a bunch of very smart people, and we were all blown away at what we were seeing.  Now it started getting fun.  We knew were were on to something special.

For the first time, we could "see" all views, events, clicks, plays, pauses, opens, closes, Likes, comments, add-to-carts, purchases, scenario steps, searches - EVERYTHING - as it happens.  Yep, as it happens.

Oh, and are you interested in focusing the data to specifically see product views, add-to-cart, or other scenario events?  Just filter the stream to only send those events.  What about watching referring sources, campaign IDs, and resulting landing page?  No problem.  How about all video starts, or % complete, or errors even?  Easy.  Curious how many people are using your mobile app right now, and which content is being viewed broken down by city and mobile device type?  You got it.

We're really proud of how flexible and powerful Streams is.  And we are just getting started...wait till you see what we have in store next.  Let me know if you want to see it...it's very cool.  I'll post more later, but for now...start here: http://trnd.me/PMdrl5

Monday, April 16, 2012

Congratulations to Chartbeat

Many congrats to the Chartbeat team, closing a new round raising $9.5M.  They've done a great job of pushing the real time story deeply into the analytics world, and are pushing through three major ideas at the moment:

  1. Engagement.  Real-time engagement is a very smart idea, and will be very useful for sites who are looking to really understand what's of interest by their visitors.
  2. Data in context.  Very smart.  It's one thing to see a number, or even a trend, but is it good?  Or bad?  Context matters.
  3. More data.  Mobile devices and social activities are critical to understanding the big picture.
They've updated their look as well, with a data-viz look to their site, and new dashboard views within the product.  All good things.  Well done.

Friday, March 30, 2012

My SAO Ignite Presentation

A couple of weeks ago I gave an Ignite presentation for the SAO Ignite v2 event.  I've been to Ignite events before, but this was my first time up on stage.  I had a great time putting together the presentation, and the event itself was fantastic.  It's quite a challenge to condense a topic into 5 minutes with slides auto-advancing every 15 seconds!

The Story

I wanted to create a presentation that was more of a story than a typical slide show.  I've created many technical presentations in the past, but I really wanted to just tell a story for this.  My topic was around the fun ongoing project I've been working on with Schoolhouse Supplies, a local non-profit dedicated to providing school supplies to kids in need.

The message I wanted to get across was:
  1. Background on this fun project I created (Schoolhouse Supplies Online) to leverage the talents of the non-profit to sell supplies to parents who can afford it, thus providing a revenue stream for the organization, and offering an opportunity to reach out to more potential volunteers and donors.
  2. How it has made a difference to the organization, and to our community.
  3. And hopefully inspire others to get involved.  There are many great opportunities out there for folks to use their tech ninja skills and ideas, and make a difference in our world.

The Slides

I did something I've never done before when preparing the slides.  I wrote my story first.  Just the story.  Text.  No pictures.  No keynote or powerpoint.  Just the story.  I edited it, read it aloud, edited it, etc.  Trying to get everything I wanted to say into 5 minutes.

I then went back through and started timing individual 15 second segments, breaking up the story into a couple of sentences at a time.  When it comes down to it, you really only get a couple of sentences per slide.  It's not a lot!

I then started looking for pictures.  I didn't want bullets.  Just pictures to support the story.  Finding photos to use that are licensed for public use can be a bit of a challenge, but Flickr pulled through nicely.

The Presentation

I've been working on this project for six years now, so I know it well.  The story was easy to tell as I've told it many times over the years.  The challenge was that I've told the story so many different ways over the years that I couldn't stay on track when practicing with the slides that I had submitted.  Every time I went through it, I was using different examples and anecdotes, and I was starting to get worried I wouldn't make it through!

After practicing it through, probably 20 times on the day of the event, I finally got it down.  I'm pretty happy with how it all turned out.

Many thanks to the SAO staff for putting together a great event.


webtrends reinvigorate analytics