Measuring Online Engagement: Step One
Published by Eric T. Peterson on March 11, 2008.
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Following up on my post from Monday of this week announcing that Joseph Carrabis of NextStage Evolution will be joining “The Engagement Project” and bringing his mathematical expertise to the table, Mr. Carrabis has summarized what he’ll initially be doing for the chef in all of us.
According to Mr. Carrabis:
“Eric’s already posted that I’ll be working with him to make the formula more applicable to a wider variety of interfaces with greater general use features. I also know that I can always use help and have repeatedly and publicly stated that I don’t know web analytics.
So, first steps? A semantically exact statement of what we’re hoping to measure. I suggest this step because it’s much easier to know if your variables will result in the desired solution if you are exact in what the solution looks like and what you have to put into that solution.
Think of it this way; You want to make some chicken soup and you use your grandmother’s recipe. I want to make some chicken soup and I use my grandmother’s recipe. But your grandmother is Irish and mine is Italian. I’ll bet we’d use different spices, different vegetables, different noodles (if indeed we both did).
But I’d bet we both use chicken stock as a base. And is your chicken stock from the leftovers of a roast chicken? What spices did you use there? Or is your stock from bullion?
So the first step is to decide what we all mean by “chicken soup”. One of my mentors was a genius of an author who use to write “speculative fiction”. I would ask, “What is speculative fiction?” and he’d reply “It’s what I’m pointing at when I say it.” This is a great anecdote and an undefensible statement (except in cultural anthropology). If one person “owns” the definition of “speculative fiction”, “chicken soup” or “engagement” then that definition is only valid so long as there exists a market for that definition.
However, a definition that says something like “Basic Chicken Soup”, that is something I can start with to make “Italian Chicken Soup” and allows my Irish friend to extend it to “Irish Chicken Soup”? Now that’s a good definition.
I snuck the concept of “extendable” into the above. “Extendable” means the definition accommodates special cases (Italian, Irish, etc). Think of a recipe for Italian Chicken Soup that begins “Step 1: Make the Basic Chicken Soup. Step 2: Now add garlic, oregano, …” That “Step 2″ part means that the original definition isn’t limited, that it can be extended to incorporate specific features to make it unique to a given environment (Italian, Irish, …).
The concept of “extensible” has two parts; First, you can substitute one thing for another if they share some basic properties. For example, you can substitute a glass of wine for a glass of water in the recipe because they’re both liquids. You can’t substitute a lamb chop for a glass of water, though. Mathematically, this means that if we want to include “clickthroughs” we can use whatever product A calls clickthroughs, whatever product B calls clickthroughs, etc., so long as they all meet some definition of “clickthroughs” (I’ll let the WAA worry about things like that).
Second, “extensible” means new spices, new vegetables, new types of noodles, etc., can be used to make the chicken soup better. This means that you can add a new spice to your recipe in addition to the existing spices already in it. Extensible (in this sense) means you’re doing what you already do to make your style chicken soup and now you’ve discovered something more you can add to it to make even more “your style”. You’re not watering it down or adding more vegetables to make the soup go further. That’s scalability and the equation should be scalable without needing to define it as such.
The sum of these two concepts of “extensible” translates to “the equation is valid across all interfaces including those we haven’t thought of yet.” Mathematically extendability and extensibility form the axes of a very rich solution space.”
Joseph says “Basic Chicken Soup” and I say “a measure of the depth and degree of visitor engagement online” … clearly he and I both have our work cut out for us. If you’d like to join us in our quest for a better measure of visitor engagement online, please let me know.
About Eric T. Peterson
Eric T. Peterson is the founder of Web Analytics Demystified, Inc. and the author of Web Analytics Demystified, Web Site Measurement Hacks, and The Big Book of Key Performance Indicators. Mr. Peterson frequently presents on web analytics, is often cited in articles about digital measurement, and has been blogging on the subject since 2004.
Want to speak with Eric? Contact Web Analytics Demystified