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Thursday, 30 November 2006

WASP - Web Analytics Solution Profiler

Update: WASP v0.2 has been released on February 3rd
WASP v0.2 has been released on February 3rd.
WASP is the Web Analytics Solution Profiler, a Firefox extension aimed at web analytics implementation specialists, web analysts and savvy web surfers who wants to understand how their behavior is being analyzed.

Installation

Couple of easy steps to get running:
  1. Download & install Firefox if you don't already have it
  2. Install the extension.Get Firefox
  3. Restart Firefox.
  4. In Firefox, use View/Sidebar/WASP to display it.

Note

This version of WASP is as an early beta release aimed at web analytics implementation specialists for evaluation and feedback. Although some features and aesthetic elements are missing, no major bugs were identified (i.e. your browser shouldn't be slowed down or crash...). Your feedback is highly valuable and appreciated!

Current features

  • Easy to install Firefox extension
  • Detects 14 web analytics solutions


    Solution
    Detect
    Presence
    Analyze
    QueryString
    Cookie
    Google Analytics



    Omniture SiteCatalyst



    WebSideStory HBX



    Coremetrics



    Web Trends



    CrazyEgg



    Google Ad



    ClickTracks



    Fireclick



    IBM Surf Aid



    Visual Sciences



    AuriQ



    StatCounter



    Nedstat




Upcoming features

  • Extend the list of supported tools and provide more extensive Query String analysis
  • Allow switching between URL Encode/Decode views
  • Display information about 1st and 3rd party cookie status
  • Display HTTP headers
  • Display P3P status
  • Put supported tools in a configuration file editable trough preferences
  • Allow sorting of value-pairs, copy (or export) of values
  • Add knowledge base links allowing to get additional information on any piece of data being sent
  • Document the detection mechanism for easier contributions by the web analytics community
  • Handle frames and iframes
  • Add a tab to show Alexa and Google PageRank information about the page currently being displayed
Please post a comment for new feature requests.

Known bugs

Things happen!
  • Use a different accelerator than Ctrl-W to toggle the sidebar display... Ctrl-W is used for closing Windows!
  • Actually process even when the WASP tab is not shown
  • Some values displayed as "undefined" when null
  • Should process when switching tabs or on initial open
  • If page is loading slowly WASP seems to hang until "onload" completion
  • If replacing WASP sidebar by another one, then show it again, WASP doesn't work anymore
  • Need some XUL display adjustments (scroll/resize/focus)
Please post a comment if you discover new bugs.

Tip of the hat

Some credits goes to the following people for their inspiration or simply helping me out with some bugs!
  • WAVcheck, from Webbanalys, extends on the same idea with an executable version which can detect up to 27 different vendors.
  • Rahul Revo posted on his blog a request for a Greasemonkey extension that would detect Google Analytics. Mohnsish Rao proposed a simple solution.
  • Mike Keyes, on his blog "On the trail", created a simple bookmarklet (a one-liner JavaScript you can put in your favorites) that will detect a bunch of different vendors. Cool, simple and works in both Firefox and Internet Explorer.
  • Vendors sometimes provides their own debugging aids, usually in the form of a bookmarklet that will display the parameters being passed to their data warehouse.
  • Some have proposed developing Unix-based scripts with grep and wget or perl but it looks to me like a pretty complex endeavors that have its own limitations.
  • Or you could get help from your vendor or ask for a independent consultants to help you out. Maxamine is one of them.
  • Other "complementary" solutions that might help: Watchfire WebQA is particularly good at crawling a site and looking for specific code.
  • Fiddler or ieWatch are two useful tools for Internet Explorer.
  • Charles is a proxy that records every communication between your browser and the Internet and will work with both MSIE and Firefox.
  • I use a bunch of Firefox extensions to help me in my day to day Web development activities. Look for FireBug, Live HTTP Headers, View Dependencies and Web Developer and View Cookies.
  • AlertSite recently posted a Firefox extension named DejaClick. Not only is this extension wonderful as a very powerful macro recorder, but it is also one of the best packaged extension I have seen so far.
  • I found out the spirit of the early days of the Web is still alive in the specialized groups I relied upon to help me out with some development issues. Thanks to Neil & Nickolay from mozzila.dev.extensions

Revision history

  • 2006/11/30 - 0.1 - Early beta release to the WA community

Sunday, 26 November 2006

From shamel.blogspot.com to immeria.net

Welcome "immeria.net"


I decided to switch from Blogger's free hosting at shamel.blogspot.com to my own domain at immeria.net. A few years ago I owned immeria.com but didn't renew it... this was a mistake since getting it back now would be much more difficult.


Once again, the excellent blogging tips on Avinash Kaushik web site was an inspiration. I've been generally satisfied with Blogger since I started blogging in the autumn of 2002. The new Blogger version also looks very promising and while changing my configurations, I decided to switch to it immediately. In the meantime, immeria.net will simply redirect to shamel.blogspot.com, hopefully Blogger will release its new software version soon!


What's in a name?


The word immeria refers to the notion of immersion or flow: an experience that is at once demanding and rewarding. (Flow: The psychology of optimal experience). It is also inspired by the german word "immer", which mean "always", "forever". Combined together, this would mean being "constantly immersed in a rewarding experience", in this case, web analytics, which is the main subject of this blog and a key element in understanding the user experience on the web.


Ongoing projects


Being able to administer my own domain is also important for my ongoing and upcoming activities:


  • I'm still pursuing my eBusiness MBA (in French) and was recently honored for achieving superior grades. I'm using my own hosting to provide Wiki and other group collaboration features to the remote team's I'm working with. For example, I worked with 5 other persons from around the world on a semester project. Although we never actually met face to face, we used Skype, MediaWiki and activeCollab and were able to achieve outstanding results.
  • My involvement in the Web Analytics community can also benefit from the control of my own domain. Features such as the Web Analytics Google Co-Op Search, Google Calendar, Web Metric Quebec, Web Analytics Conversations, and such will be revamped to take advantage of immeria.net
  • WASP, the Web Analytics Solution Profiler, is getting closer to a first public beta and some features will be relayed trough immeria.net

If you notice some problems with the site, let me know, and stay tuned for the upcoming design refresh, new features, and new posts!

Thursday, 16 November 2006

Beginning in Web Analytics

Recently, on the Yahoo! Web Analytics Group, we've seen a couple of people asking how to get started in web analytics. Today, someone asked the same question on the Web Metrics Quebec forum. There is no "Web Analytics for Dummies" yet... but one should be published in the spring of 2007. So here are a few selected sources to get you started:

Friday, 10 November 2006

New discussion group: Web Metrics Quebec

Following the latest Web Analytics Wednesday, we decided to create a discussion group dedicated to Web Analytics in our local market. There are a couple of reasons to do so:
  • The Quebec/Canadian market are very different in terms of business size
  • The Canadian laws related to privacy are slightly different than those in the US and other countries
  • There are some cultural differences, notably language in Quebec (french)
  • A local discussion group will foster exchanges between practitioners, consultants and providers
So if you want to better understand your web site visitors and answer their needs based on actionable data, this group is for you!

Google Groups Beta
Web Metrics Quebec
Visit this group

Although the discussions are likely to address local concerns and often be in french, everyone is welcome to participate.

P.S. You might be tempted to ask "Why is this group named Web Metrics Quebec rather than Web Analytics Quebec?". Simply because Google, in his great wisdom, made sure we couldn't insert bad words in our Google Group name, such as the first four letters of the word "analytics"!

Thursday, 9 November 2006

November Montreal's WaW

Yesterday's WaW in Montreal went well, about a dozen people attended. Again, great discussions around the products themselves, mostly WebTrends, Omniture, HBX, Coremetrics and the inevitable Google Analytics.



We also talked about the pricing structure for our Canadian/Québec market, difficulty of getting management buy in (quick win approach seemed the most frequent) and lack of professional resources. Those seems to be recurring topics everywhere!



We talked about organizing a thematic day on web analytics where we would present local case studies and try to get some vendors to present. Our local market is so small that we would have to piggy back on another event and include usability, design, web development in general, etc. Kind of a mini eMetrics summit... that would require much more organization than the WaW!



Next WaW: January 10th (we take break during december...)

Tuesday, 7 November 2006

Protect Your Customers’ Privacy Ethically, Not Legally

Following the recent posts about privacy and web analytics, it appears that ChangeThis was at it too with a new Manifesto entitled "The Seven Principles of Privacy: Protect Your Customers’ Privacy Ethically, Not Legally", authored by David Holtzman. I guess this will be covered in depth in his book "Privacy Lost: How Technology is Endangering Your Privacy". The manifesto highlights 7 ethical principles which might be worth looking at:
  1. Don't spy on me because you can
  2. Thou shall erase my data: Don’t keep data any longer than you have to; you can’t give up what you don’t have.
  3. Keep my information to thyself: Require customers to opt-in for each additional use of their information.
  4. Don't judge me: Never create a profiling system that labels your customers in a way that you’d have trouble justifying if they ever saw their file, because some day they probably will.
  5. Protect my data like it were thine own: Provide the best computer security that you can afford.
  6. I am who I say I am: Let your customers pick their own demographics.
  7. Don't humiliate me: Avoid embarrassing your customers by mishandling their data.
Some of those points really focus on corporate employees, while others could be applied to anonymous data, and some are really closely tied to personal information management.

I really like the conclusion of the manifesto:
Laws make poor privacy guidelines. Business people need better directions when navigating their customer relationships than simply to be told to steer around legal roadblocks. Boardroom discussions should be less about what is permissible and prohibited and more about what is positive and proactive—in short, what is ethical. The question should not be “Can we do this?” but “Should we do this?” “What’s the right thing to do?” If your company handles the electronic representation of the customer the way that they’d deal with them if they were standing face-to-face, you’ll do fine.
It is more a general view on privacy and anonymity not specific to web analytics, however, there are some good tidbits in the complete article (plus, the ChangeThis format is fantastic, check it out if you never had the chance before!).

Monday, 6 November 2006

Web 2.0 Measurement Working Group

This week-end I really experienced for the first time the power of social networking. I submitted my point of view entitled "Google growing larger than Microsoft?" to Digg and within hours, my site traffic skyrocketed to about 40 times its usual traffic. The post made the top 10 ranks of the Tech Industry News for November 6th.

From an analytical standpoint, this is interesting for many reasons:
  • I got a huge increase in traffic, but it turned out to be narrowed to that single post. There was a 84% bounce rate on that post, clearly reflecting the way people use services such as Digg: get an interesting newsbit, scan it (and sometimes read it!), and get out. At least, that's the way I'm using Digg, Technorati, Reddit and even Google Reader.
  • My page view/visit ratio went down from over 4 to barely over 1. If I had a visit/conversion KPIs, they would be totally out of control.
  • The average attention span on that post was slightly over 2 minutes, which is barely enough to scan this long article and focus on the most interesting paragraphs.
With the number of people blogging and competing to get their share of attention, simply measuring blog traffic with Google Analytics is certainly not enough, and making the long run to get the stats out of every tools is tedious, if even possible. Casual bloggers faces the same data convergence challenge company do: how to retrieve value out of disseminated interaction points stocked in heterogeneous systems, in different formats, and different units of measure?

This boils down to the fact that measuring page views is not enough. We need to start thinking in terms of "significant user event", be it an RSS read, social network posts and their ratings, a specific user action within a page or more conventionally allowing some of our attention for reading a page or looking at a product. And thats where the "Web 2.0 Measurement Working Group" can contribute: what should be measured, and how?

In this respect, measuring "Attention", as defined by Beck & Davenport, might be a good path to investigate.

Saturday, 4 November 2006

Web Analytics and Privacy

The heat is on again: an activist group is asking the US Federal Trade Commission to investigate the use of personal information, which, in my view, is already well governed by existing laws not only in the US, but in most countries, including Canada. The problem is this group mixes personally identified data collection and includes web analytics and anonymous data collection in the same bag.

The Web Analytics blogosphere is likely to have passionate views in regard to this opinion. So far, one of the most interesting post comes from the Web Analytics Yahoo group. The argument is simple, evident, and clearly expressed: there is already a user consent for anonymous data collection covered by privacy policies posted on any serious web site.

My contribution to this discussion is in regard to PIPEDA, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Document Act, the Canadian law that governs the collection of private information. In a nutshell, that means the information must be:
  • gathered with the user's consent
  • collected for a reasonable purpose
  • used only for the limited purposes for which it was gathered
  • accurate
  • open for your inspection and correction
  • stored securely
This is expressed in 10 principles:
  1. Accountability
  2. Identifying purposes
  3. Consent
  4. Limiting collection
  5. Limiting use, disclosure, and retention
  6. Accuracy
  7. Safeguards
  8. Openness
  9. Individual access
  10. Challenging compliance
It is worth to note these principles not only covers the collection of personal information, but also applies to anonymous information as well. We have to admit, however, the law is not strongly enforced. Still, those who try to comply have found it reasonable and it doesn't impact the ability to use web analytics tools to better understand their user audience and preferences.

The W3C also offers some guidelines in the form of "P3P: The Platform for Privacy Preference". Although not widely used so far, I think sites offering the information about their P3P policy have an advantage:
The Platform for Privacy Preferences Project (P3P) enables Websites to express their privacy practices in a standard format that can be retrieved automatically and interpreted easily by user agents. P3P user agents will allow users to be informed of site practices (in both machine- and human-readable formats) and to automate decision-making based on these practices when appropriate. Thus users need not read the privacy policies at every site they visit.
P.S. Note the province of Quebec is governed by a similar act named "An Act respecting the protection of personal information in the private sector"