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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.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Heatmaps and Big Data

At Webtrends, we've been having a blast getting our latest big data environment configured, tested and rolled out over the last several months.  This newest installment, supporting our killer new Heatmaps functionality, is based on Hadoop (and HBase and Hive).

We've been leveraging massive SQL and NoSQL big data infrastructures for years, but it's particularly fun to add the distributed mapreduce functionality of Hadoop into the mix to give us new slices of the data.  This new platform is similar to how our Reinvigorate environment is configured, but built for many times the volume of traffic.

And I'm really happy with our approach rolling it out.  We've created an infrastructure to support our incredible volume of data, and we've chosen to start with a controlled use case, and incrementally add data and functionality, so as to prove the scale.  As the industry is learning, it's relatively easy to build an analytics solution based on Hadoop, but it's extremely difficult to do it at scale, securely, with solid operational processes behind it.

One of the ways we're helping to ensure the success of this rollout is by thoughtfully thinking of the incoming data.  The data required to support Heatmaps is well defined and contained to click events captured through our new v10.2 async javascript tag.  This provides us with a use case that is contained, relatively straight-forward to test, and yet provides really high value for Marketing folks and web developers to make quality decisions when optimizing their websites (or Facebook Apps, etc.).

Our amazing UX team had some fun with the Heatmaps data, and even added in a couple of surprises that were very smart, and relatively easy to implement.  My favorite is the date compare transition, where the Heatmap overlay smoothly transitions from one time range to another.  So cleverly done!

The best part of all of this?  This is only the beginning of what we believe to be a huge opportunity to create very compelling solutions around the volumes of data we collect and analyze for our customers.  I think they are going to like what they see in the coming months/years from Webtrends.

So long Konfabulator

Almost missed this.  Yahoo is discontinuing development and support of the "yahoo widgets" (Konfabulator) platform.  From their EOL statement:
  • Yahoo will be discontinuing development and support of Desktop Widgets as a product
  • After April 10, 2012, the Desktop Widget Gallery website for downloading new and updated desktop widgets located at widgets.yahoo.com will not be operational.
  • The existing Desktop Widget Engine, Yahoo! and 3rd party desktop widgets in distribution on desktop PCs and Macs, may continue to operate under arevised terms of use.
I give the Konfabulator team a lot of credit for creating the first real cross-platform App platform.  It was easy to develop fairly powerful apps (widgets), and make them easy to use.  Well done.

Of course, they missed a few opportunities along the way, including the now obvious iOS and Android revolution.  Bummer for Yahoo.

What's strange in all of this is that there's definitely still an appetite for desktop widgets.  It's not like the demand has gone away.  The Chrome approach doesn't seem quite right, and even Apple hasn't totally nailed this particular need.  Is something else out there?


webtrends reinvigorate analytics