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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Referrers, Marketing and Attention

Adam Fields posted an interesting proposal yesterday, suggesting that browsers should not send referrer data. He's suggesting that browsers are sharing too much information, specifically with third party sites, who will obviously collect and analyze this data.

I can appreciate the privacy concerns he's noted, especially around the data collected by large companies who own so many properties we use on a regular basis, either directly or indirectly.

Removing referrers completely would be a shame of course. They are very helpful for many marketing metrics in our industry. I think the key is to always be very deliberate with your privacy policy, and very transparent to your visitors as to what data you are collecting, and how you will use it.

And I just can't write about these topics anymore without re-emphasizing how dramatically the efforts of the AttentionTrust folks will change how we frame this discussion. In the near future, Marketers will not be looking at their own traffic exclusively when they analyze their visitors. But rather, they will be "asking" (and/or paying) their visitors for information about their interests and needs.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Yahoo! and Media Technology

A pretty good article in the NYTimes today on Yahoo. It's mostly a status report, noting how Yahoo is focused on media more than technology. This isn't really news to most of us, but there were a few nuggets of info in there:

  • In December, Yahoo had 103M unique visitors. Nice.

  • Yahoo is adding 220 employees per month, and now has over 10k employees

  • Yahoo has over 420M registered users. Very impressive.

Yahoo has made some very smart purchases over the past couple of years. The author of the article makes the following points:
Mr. Semel and his Yahoo colleagues are most eager to encourage their registered users, who represent roughly 40 percent of the one billion people now online globally, to create their own content. Yahoo executives say that social networks, blogs, message boards and sites where users from around the world share material — like the recent Yahoo acquisitions Flickr, a photo-sharing business, and Del.icio.us, where people swap information on favorite Web sites and other things — are the keys to a fast-emerging media market.
Both of the companies mentioned, Flickr and Del.icio.us, came with a huge install base of users, which adds to their reach. It's a fantastic strategy...I hope it continues to work for them.

And of course, I would add Konfabulator to the list of smart acquisitions!

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

IE7 Change: Native XMLHTTPRequest

The IE Blog notes a very important change in IE7: support of a native XMLHTTPRequest object.

This is good news for developers and site owners as it means that AJAX-style applications no longer need to use ActiveX objects for their IE visitors. ActiveX objects are often avoided when developing web applications for a variety of reasons, so this brings good consistency to the industry.

The other good news is that we're going to see many more AJAX apps in the future, creating all sorts of analytics challenges and opportunities.

Oh, and yes, Firefox supports the XMLHTTPRequest object too.

Del.icio.us Issues and Your Site

I've written many times about how much I like del.icio.us. They provide a terrific set of tools, and I'm sure there are many more cool features in the works. I've come to depend on it, and even have (had) a link to their very slick API in my template for this blog.

Unfortunately, they are/were having difficulties this morning, and this blog was unavailable as a result. A good reminder that as we create web 2.0 services that we all leverage creatively on our sites, we need to:
  • Make sure the web site will load with or without the third-party service
  • Build good monitoring to understand when any component of the site is not functioning properly
  • If you provide a service or API, make sure it's always available. Have a good contingency plan that allows for a graceful failover if needed for when your site is unavailable (scheduled and unscheduled).

Sunday, January 22, 2006

A Moving Target for Marketing

The NYTimes has a great article today on how differently the Millennial audience (those born between 1980 and 2000) uses technology from the older (wiser?) generations. Yes, I read it first in the paper...then went online to blog about it. I'm sure the Millennials are laughing at my arcane approach to getting the news!

A couple of quotes I found of interest. First, on measuring social interaction:
"What's hard to measure, and what we're trying to measure," Mr. McKenzie continued, "is the impact of groupthink, of group mentality, and the tendency of what we might call the democratization of social interaction and how that changes this generation's relationship with almost everything they come in contact with."

Web analytics, as we know it, can only help with part of this equation. This is an area where properly applied AttentionTrust ideas might lend a hand.

Second quote - regarding advertising in non-traditional environments:
Marketers, for instance, have signaled a broad desire to bring television-style advertising to cellphones. As early as March, a limited number of Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel customers may begin seeing short video ads on their phones, in a test of consumer tolerance for the idea.
That will be interesting to watch unfold. From an analytics perspective, there's a lot of prep work required to track mobile devices successfully...but of course, it can be done. These are great challenges for this ever changing industry.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Firefox Presence in Europe

The Spread Firefox blog refers to a study done by the folks at Xiti (an analytics firm in France) indicating that in Europe, Firefox has reached 20% market share. It looks to me more like 16.9%, but still impressive, and "ahead" of the U.S. market:

They do note a few important caveats in the study (if I'm reading the translation correctly), including the fact that the research was done on a Sunday, which they contend is a higher Firefox day.

It's not clear to me what types of sites they are collecting data on (ecommerce, media, etc.), and other important factors that might skew the numbers. But if you assumed for the moment that where they suggest the U.S. is at 13%, and we more generally hear it is around 8-10%, then perhaps the 16.9% in Europe might be closer to 11-14% (roughly speaking!).

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Keeping Up On The Buzz

From Micro Persuasion:
Buzzmetrics today announced they have purchased Intelliseek and sold a majority stake in the new company to Nielsen, which is owned by VNU. The new company, called Nielsen Buzzmetrics, will be headquartered here in New York. Dizzy yet?
Definitely dizzy. Intelliseek makes the very cool BlogPulse tool, which offers a different slice of analytics data based on "buzz" on the internet. (A slight tangent - AVC posted a bit of interesting history on Planet Feedback/Intelliseek that's worth a read). Here's the buzz on web analytics over the past 6 months (I bet you know what the mid-November spike was...):

Now, to make it even more dizzy, remember that Nielsen also owns the web analytics tool NetRatings. They can now measure the buzz, mine through the conversations and analyze the traffic all under one umbrella. That adds a terrific new dimension to web analytics, and it will be interesting to watch VNU expand this offering.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

On First Impressions

Nature.com has an article on how quickly web users "judge" a site. They refer to research indicating that visitors will form an impression of the site within 50 milliseconds of viewing a web page.

My takeaways:
  • Make sure pages load quickly
  • Keep the site simple with few graphics
  • First impressions last
  • Analyze single-page visits to pay attention to why visitors are dropping

Monday, January 16, 2006

One Future of Anonymous Browsing

Wired has an article on a new tool developed by the folks at kaos.theory security research. They are trying to simplify the anonymous browsing user experience by creating a bootable CD to (among other things) take advantage of the Tor environment.

Tor is a slick idea. It was started by the US Naval Research Laboratory, and is now run by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Here's a good primer on how it works. Essentially, your computer's internet communications run through a collection of distributed servers that anonymize your location. Here's a diagram:

Tor does not modify the content, so visitors tracked by cookies will still be correctly identified by web analytics packages. However, geography and DNS based reporting will be inaccurate. I can see web analytics vendors needing to think about how to filter out this traffic from geo-based reporting (given that the Tor environment grows and other tools like those being developed at kaos.theory take off...)

Friday, January 13, 2006

IE7 Clearing Analytics Tracks

The IE team notes in their blog the new interface in IE7 for the new "Delete Browsing History" feature. Here's this interface they note:I'm sure users would rather have a little more power over the data. Perhaps they'll add more to this interface to allow users to more easily save cookies from sites that are important to them (thus potentially saving some (likely) first-party cookies).

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Measure Map Feeds - and a new Widget

Measure Map is offering data "feeds" of the analytics data they collect and analyze. This is a terrific concept, stretching the options for how analysts/bloggers can review their stats. They offer several feeds of the analytics data, including:
  • Daily Overview (simple overview stats)
  • Popular Posts (daily review of top posts)
  • New Links (list of new incoming and outgoing links to your site)
The feeds require authentication to view, which is a necessary ingredient. They use basic authorization, which will keep most folks honest, but I'd like to see them offer SSL as well to encrypt the data.

The overview data pulls down the last 5 days worth of stats, so you get a little history. This is a smart approach for a quick glance of the high-level trends. I do wish they'd offer an option to view the data for the current day - the most recent day is yesterday at this time.

Since the feed data is presented in XML, Measure Map loses a little control of how it actually looks to the end user. But the other side of that coin is, since the data is in XML, you might as well create a widget for it!

Now, let's be clear about my artistic "talents" (in case that's already not very clear ;-). The folks at AdaptivePath have come up with a very nice way to visualize analytics data with their great use of flash objects in Measure Map. And so I hate to lower that bar by offering a separate view into the data.

So, with all apologies to Jeffrey Veen and the rest of the team, I've created a second widget for folks using Measure Map (and optionally Feedburner). As with the first widget (information and download information here), this one is very simple, showing overview stats. In the overview feed, Measure Map offers a few data points...I've chosen Visitors and Links In for this widget. I'm always most curious about how many visitors are coming in, and where they are coming from (referrers). Clicking on the stats opens a browser to the Measure Map report (or to the Feedburner site for the Subscribers data). Here's a screenshot:

Here are the steps to get this working:
  1. If you aren't already using Yahoo! widgets, download and install the engine.
  2. Download my WebAnalyticsQuickView-MM widget.
  3. Configure the WebAnalyticsQuickView widget for your Measure Map account and if applicable, your Feedburner data. Right-click on the widget to see the menu.
If someone is interested in seeing other data from Measure Map, let me know and I'll see what I can do. As always, please let me know if you have any feedback or questions at elbpdx at gmail.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Web Analytics Widget

I had a little extra time over the holiday break to finish up a first pass at a web analytics widget based on the Yahoo! Widget Engine. WebTrends (and other vendors) have had low-footprint analytics apps for years now, but Yahoo! widgets are relatively easy for a hack like me to work with, so I just had to give it a try.

This first iteration is very simple and straight-forward. It is geared toward those who have a Feedburner feed and WebTrends (although it can be easily extended to any other web analytics provider who has an XML export or API). The widget pulls data from the Feedburner API to give you your feed circulation, and also pulls from the WebTrends XML export feature to give you Visits and Pageviews for the day. If you aren't using Feedburner, you can still use it to track your WebTrends data.

Here's a sample screenshot:

Here are a few steps to get this working:
  1. If you aren't already using Yahoo! widgets, download and install the engine.
  2. Download my WebAnalyticsQuickView widget.
  3. Configure the WebAnalyticsQuickView widget for your WebTrends and if applicable, your Feedburner data. Right-click on the widget to see the menu. There are a few tricks for accessing your WebTrends data, so contact me (elbpdx at gmail) if you have any questions.

I'll be working on a few other iterations of this widget for those who are interested in it. Some ideas: adding a graphing visualization, adding support for WebTrends software, extracting specific KPI's, etc. If anyone would like to change it to support some other tools other than Feedburner or WebTrends, contact me (elbpdx at gmail) and I'll take a crack at it (or feel free to modify the code yourself!).

Oh, and when Measure Map comes out with their API, I'll add that in. Google Analytics doesn't have an API yet, but that seems inevitable, and should be easy to use in this widget as well as I use both of those tools too.

Any feedback is appreciated on this. Enjoy!

BTW, this widget is not a WebTrends product, and is not supported in any way by WebTrends. It is merely a side-project of mine, giving me a chance to dig into a new technology and new visualization ideas.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Nice Visualization - and Attention too!

I really like what the folks over at juice analytics put together to visualize del.icio.us posts over time. They call the post "My year in attention (and yours)".

I still think the idea of using del.icio.us to track attention is spot on. With del.icio.us, you're not only tracking what you are paying attention to over time, but you're also adding dimension (tags) to your attention that should be worth something to marketers (and not just Yahoo's marketers). Del.icio.us is well positioned to be a very big leader in the attention market.

On a slightly different topic, but still related to analytics, check out what juice analytics did with a flash-based representation of data over time - it's also mocked up using Excel. Clever.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Moving Bloglines

Mark Fletcher (founder of Bloglines and ONElist) has written several articles and presented information on web application operations issues and growing pains over the past year or so. In December, Bloglines moved to a new datacenter (new for them anyway...close to the rest of the Ask team). Mark writes several posts on the experience. Start with Part 1.


webtrends reinvigorate analytics