Archive for April, 2010

Are you coming to Emetrics?

Well folks, it’s that time of year again. The winds are dying down and the flowers have all started to bloom so it must be time to make our annual pilgrimage to San Jose to bask in the glory of Jim Sterne and the Emetrics Marketing Optimization Summit! As usual I will be there and have the honor of sharing a keynote slot with my long-time friend and uber-optimizer Bryan Eisenberg!

  • Emetrics Keynote: Wednesday at 1:00 PM in the Grand Ballroom

Partner John Lovett will also be there, basking in his own glory on the heels of his Web Analytics Association victory … and taking the WAA’s new Certification test. I haven’t really had much time to think about the Certification yet but will be interested to hear what John and others taking the test have to say.

I also have the rare honor of presenting with Brett Crosby, Group Product Manager for Google Analytics and one of the nicest guys in the entire industry, hand’s down. Oddly he and I are presenting IMMEDIATELY AFTER his “What’s new from Google Analytics” pitch on Tuesday … but to compensate we’re gonna try something new and have a very loose “conversation” about web analytics that is more similar to an X Change mini-huddle than a traditional presentation.

  • Talking Analyics: Tuesday at 2:00 PM at The Conversion Conference (co-located w/Emetrics)

Finally I will be sharing the stage at Web Analytics Wednesday with Adam Laughlin from the nonprofit Save the Children. We will be talking about our respective community education efforts — his “Web Analytics Without Borders” WAA initiative and our own Analysis Exchange. I will be making a few exciting announcements about The Analysis Exchange next Wednesday so if you cannot attend Web Analytics Wednesday please watch my blog or follow me on Twitter.

  • Web Analytics Wednesday: Wednesday at 6:00 PM at the Fairmont in San Jose

That schedule again:

  • Tuesday, 2:00 PM at The Conversion Conference with Brett Crosby (Google)
  • Wednesday, 1:00 PM at Emetrics with Bryan Eisenberg (Emetrics Keynote)
  • Wednesday, 6:00 PM at Web Analytics Wednesday (The Fairmont Hotel, Market Street Foyer)

Thanks to Coremetrics and SAS for their generous support of Web Analytics Wednesday at Emetrics, by the way. Great companies like these are what keep WAW events around the world free and open to everyone!

See you in San Jose!

Published on April 29, 2010 under Analysis Exchange, Presentations, Web Analytics Association, Web Analytics People, Web Analytics Wednesday, X Change

My Interview with Adobe Chief Privacy Officer

Those of you paying close attention to issues regarding consumer privacy on the Internet are probably at least a little familiar by now with Flash Local Shared Objects (also called Flash “Cookies” by some.) I wrote a white paper on the subject Flash objects’s use in web analytics on behalf of BPA Worldwide back in February and had to update the blog post I wrote when I noticed  that Adobe had wisely written a letter to the Federal Trade Commission regarding the use of Flash to reset browser cookies.

After writing that update I got in contact with Adobe’s Chief Privacy Officer, MeMe Rasmussen, who politely agreed to answer a few questions that I had about their letter and Adobe’s position on the use of Flash as a back-up strategy for cookies.  Given that Scout Analytics is now reporting that Flash “Cookies” are increasingly being deleted by privacy-concerned Internet users I figured it was a good time to publish my questions and MeMe’s responses.

The following are my questions (in bold) and Mrs. Rasmussen’s responses verbatim.

Flash Local Shared Objects (LSOs) have been around for a long-time and I have been aware of their use as a “backup” for browser cookies for reset and other calculations for a few years.  What made you write your letter to the FTC now?  Was there a specific event or occurrence?

The topic of respawning browser cookies using Flash local storage was publicized after research conducted by UC Berkeley on the subject was published in August 2009.  The topic was also raised at the FTC’s First Privacy Roundtable in December, so when the FTC announced that its Second Roundtable would focus on Technology and Privacy, we felt it was the appropriate opportunity for Adobe to describe the problem and state our position on the practice.

While I believe the position you outlined in your letter to the FTC is the correct one, you have put many of your customers in an uncomfortable position by condemning an act that they have been using for quite some time — essentially issuing negative guidance where none had been previously issued (to my knowledge.)  What has the response to this been if I may ask?

We have not received any comments or concerns from customers about our Comment Letter to the FTC.  Adobe’s position specifically condemns the practice of using Flash local storage to back up browser cookies for the purpose of restoring them after they have been deleted by the user without the user’s knowledge and express consent.  We believe companies should follow responsible privacy practices for their products and services, regardless of the technologies they choose to use.

On page 8 of your response to the FTC you discuss Adobe’s commitment to research the extent of this (mis)use of Flash LSOs.  Given the extent to which LSOs are being used perhaps “not as designed” and the sheer popularity of Flash on the web this seems quite a task.  Can you describe how you have started going about this effort?

We are currently in the process of defining the research project and are working with a well-respected consumer advocacy group and university professor.  At this time, the specific details of the project have not yet been finalized.

Within the web analytics community many have commented that your position on Flash LSOs may impact some of what Mr. Nayaren and Mr. James have said about the integration of Omniture and Adobe products like Flash.  Specifically some of the commentary suggests a tight integration of Omniture’s tracking and Flash.  Does your position on LSOs as a tracking device change the guidance the company has issued to common customers?

No, the position we outlined in the FTC Comment on condemning the misuse of local storage, was specific to the practice of restoring browser cookies without user knowledge and express consent.  We believe that there are opportunities to provide value to our customers by combining Omniture solutions with Flash technology while honoring consumers’ privacy expectations.

One of the suggestions I made in the white paper with BPA Worldwide that you cited was to use Flash LSO as a back-up tracking mechanism but NOT to use it to re-spawn cookies.  From a measurement perspective there are a handful of good reasons to do this … does Adobe have a position on that strategy that you can outline?

The point we made in our FTC Comment was that we considered the practice of using Flash local storage to respawn HTML cookies without user consent or knowledge to be an inappropriate privacy practice.  In your white paper, you identified some uses of Flash local storage whereby browser cookies are rest but the use is given clear notice and an opportunity to consent.  We believe that technology should be used responsibly and in ways that are consistent with user expectations.  The example you presented in your white paper was an example of a Web site that, by giving notice and control to the user, implemented our technology in what appeared to be a responsible manner.

(Thanks again to MeMe and the team at Adobe for getting these responses back to me! As always I welcome your comments and questions.)

Published on April 19, 2010 under Cookies, General Web Analytics, Vendors, White Papers

An Open Letter to Steve Jobs

Update (April 22, 2010): This article at Venturebeat suggests that iPhone application measurement vendors are hearing good news from Apple regarding their ability to measure in-app data.  The article, however, is devoid of any kind of details whatsoever and so the Tweets saying “Apple NOT banning analytics from OS 4.0″ appear to be somewhat optimistic in my opinion.  I’d love to hear from Google, Omniture, Webtrends, Coremetrics, Unica, etc. and see if they are having the same “you have nothing to worry about” conversations with Apple. Obviously is Venturebeat is correct this is great news, but if I were developing an iPhone application I’d want a little more  than rumor to contradict the language in Section 3.3.9.

Wait and see I guess …

Dear Mr. Jobs,

As a very loyal Apple customer and user of your products I want to thank you for all that you’ve done for computing in general. Your attention to detail and your vision have resulted in many of the most useful and usable products I own, too many to list honestly. While I was able to hold off for three days before purchasing the original iPhone (now on my third since I upgrade with every release) I pre-ordered my iPad and absolutely love it.

Thanks for that.

Unfortunately as a long-time member of the digital measurement industry I am in the uncomfortable position of having to ask you to reconsider what will undoubtedly be viewed by many Apple customers, developers, and end-users as an egregious mistake. I am talking about Section 3.3.9 in your updated iPhone Developer Agreement in which you apparently ban all third-party in-app measurement. While I respect Apple’s right to privacy, for those not familiar with Section 3.3.9 I would encourage you to read the following articles:

The summary statement is that your updated Developer Agreement, if my read is accurate, strips all of your Development partners of their ability to measure application usage with an eye towards improving the overall quality of their product.  Just as a reminder these Developer partners include Best Buy, Expedia, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Netflix, and some 150,000+ other companies working to deliver great experiences on your iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad devices.

While I certainly understand the over-arching desire to have quality control in all things Apple, which the mobile family of applications essentially become by proxy, banning the ability to measure application use is likely to be met with some resistance among your larger Development partners.  Many of these companies are known to me as a consultant and have active programs in place to use solutions like Adobe’s Omniture, Webtrends, Coremetrics, Unica, Google Analytics, and Yahoo Web Analytics to determine which application functionality is working and which needs to be addressed in future updates.

Given that Apple is a long-time Adobe/Omniture customer I rather suspect that this third-party tracking is embedded in many of your own applications.  Perhaps that’s not the case, but given the general utility of these applications I would be pretty surprised if your own developers aren’t in violation of the new Developer Agreement somewhere in the pre-installed application stack.

If not, well, shame on your developers for not embedding application tracking in complex applications like Pages and Keynote on the iPad. While I certainly do love the freedom I have to write on the iPad, I suspect if you were using Adobe/Omniture to track Pages you’d see me continually tapping the page in landscape mode trying to get a menu to come up so I can make a bulleted list …

But I digress.

Since many of your best Development partners are companies well-known for their general prowess for digital analytics — companies like Best Buy, Expedia, Cisco, Netflix, Disney, ABC, ESPN, and many, many more — you may want to give a little more thought to Section 3.3.9. If this section remains you are essentially blocking all of these companies (and all mobile developers in your App Store) from gaining valuable insight into how their applications can be more useful, more delightful, and frankly, more like Apple.

Hopefully this was just a huge oversight on someone else’s part within Apple, especially since as far as anyone knows you don’t have technology available to replace the data that would be lost if (or when) Developers comply with this requirement. It may seem a touch geeky but business owners are increasingly relying on this data to justify the expense and commitment it takes to participate in the App Store (and the mobile revolution in general.)

Being such a fan of your work I’d like to offer a solution, just in case your open to the idea.

Apple has an opportunity to do something that, well, nobody else really has or does in terms of digital measurement. Because of how the App Store works, Apple could create a set of terms and conditions for application tracking that would simultaneously provide guidance to your Developer community and create an unprecedented level of transparency for technology end-users everywhere (or at least those using Apple products.)

Imagine a tier of requirements and resulting notifications to the end-user based on the type of data the application wanted to pass.  Just like geo-location requires explicit one-time opt-in today, tracking of individually identifiable (e.g., device-level or personal) data could require the same type of opt-in.  For more basic tracking (e.g., completely anonymous interaction data) you could simply allow that without opt-in to foster the growth and development of the application development community.

The most important thing is you would have an opportunity to craft a set of mobile tracking requirements that could be extended and applied across the entire mobile universe. In the same way Apple has changed our relationship with “pocket computing” forever, your company could essentially resolve a problem that in some ways is an accident waiting to happen, and do so in a way that creates opportunities rather than creating tension with the very group that is making your products so successful today.

If this is in any way interesting to you I’d love to discuss it more. My contact information is on my web site.

Measurement is not as sexy as the iPad or iPhone, but at the end of the day it is just about as important. With every new technology comes the need to understand it’s use and justify related expenses. Your Development partners are intensely drawn to the iPhone opportunity to be sure, and it’s great that you’re making people like Loren Brichter and others rich thanks to their efforts.

But not everyone will be as savvy as Apple or as fortunate as Atebits; most companies work to use the limited data they do have to understand user behavior in an effort to make incremental improvements to their applications. Section 3.3.9 seems to prevent this data from getting into your partner’s hands, preventing the very thing I suspect you’re working to promote: the highest quality applications possible delivered via amazing devices.

Hopefully I and others are simply reading Section 3.3.9 the wrong way. I would be honored if you or someone from Apple would provide guidance on this point and I’m happy to help communicate that guidance in whatever way I am able.


Eric T. Peterson
CEO, Founder, and Senior Partner
Web Analytics Demystified, Inc.

Published on April 13, 2010 under General Web Analytics

iPad, Mobile Analytics, and Web Analytics 3.0

If you follow me on Twitter (@erictpeterson) you are likely already annoyingly aware that I rushed right out last week and bought Apple’s new iPad. I got the device for a few reasons but fundamentally it was because I’m a technology geek–always have been really–and despite knowing the iPad will only get better over time I was happy to shell out $500 to see what the future of computing and all media would look like.

Yeah, I see the iPad as the future of computing and all media. Bold, sure, but hear me out … and I promise I’ll make this relevant to web analytics, eventually.

I believe that all that the “average user” of any technology really wants is a simple solution to whatever problem they may have at the time. At a high level people look towards their operating system to simplify access to the multitude of applications and documents they use; at a lower level we want our applications to simplify whatever process we’re undertaking.

Proof points for my belief are everywhere, ranging from the adoption of speed dial on phones (simplifies calling your friends and family), power seats in cars (simplifies getting comfortable when you switch drivers), and even into web analytics where a substantial growth driver behind Google Analytics has been the profound simplicity with which important tasks such as custom report creation and segmentation are accomplished.

The iPad, and to some extent the iPhone and it’s clones, absolutely crushes simplicity in a way that is simultaneously brilliant and powerful. Want to read a book? Touch the iBooks application, touch the book you want, and start reading. Want to send an email? Touch the Mail app, touch the new icon, and start writing. Want to play a game or send an SMS or Tweet something? It all works exactly the same way … tap, swipe, smile.

Sure, the iPad is a little heavier than is optimal, and yeah it shows fingerprints and costs a lot of money and isn’t open source and … blah, blah, blah, blah. The complainers are gonna complain no matter what–you’re Apple or your not in this world I guess. But the complainers I think fail to grasp the opportunity the iPad creates:

  • The iPad takes mobile computing to an entirely new level. With iPad you have a 1.5 lb device that will let you read, write, watch, and generally stay connected from just about anywhere for up to 10 hours between charging. What computer or phone does that? None that I know of, and so iPad gives us a simple answer to “I need to work but I’m away from the office.”
  • The iPad enforces usability of applications, and this is a very good thing. The complainers complain that Apple asserts too much control over app design via their App Store acceptance processes. Apparently these folks haven’t used enough crappy software in their lifetimes and are hungry for more. Apple’s model and their application design toolkit gives us a simple answer to “I wish this software was easier to use.”
  • The iPad changes media consumption forever. Despite the Flash-issue, one I suspect will become a non-issue very quickly thanks to the adoption of HTML5, the iPad is the most amazing media consumption device ever created. It is a portable, high-definition TV, it is a near-complete movie library, it provides access to hundreds of thousands of books, and it allows you to surf the Internet in a way that can only be described as “delightful”. By definition the iPad gives us a simple answer to “I wish I had a way to keep my books, my movies, my newspapers, my TV shows, … all of my media, in a single place that could be accessed anytime from anywhere.”
  • The iPad changes education forever. I’m making a bet that by the time my first grade daughter hits middle school a significant number of children will carry iPads to school, not expensive, heavy, and immediately out-dated textbooks. Think about this for a second: interactive textbooks that can be updated as easily as a web site, think about young people’s media consumption model today, and think for just a second about why Apple would be motivated to provide “significant educational discounts” for the device. The iPad in schools gives us a simple answer to “How can we provide a common platform for learning that any student or teacher can immediately master and reflects our rapidly changing world?”

Think that last piece isn’t important? Have a look at the image at the right, sent to me by @VABeachKevin (thanks man!) where he has already translated all three of my books into the ePub format and placed them on his iBooks bookshelf! This collection gives any web analyst with the iPad instant access to hundreds of pages of web analytics insight, anywhere, anytime. How cool is that?

(And heck, these aren’t even Jim, Avinash, or Bryan’s books … I bet Kevin’s converting those as we speak!)

I suspect you cannot appreciate this until you have one in your hands but the iPad has or soon will remove the necessity to purchase printed books, newspapers, and magazines. More importantly it gives the holder the ability to work efficiently from nearly any location around the world–all you need is a Wifi connection today and later this month that will be augmented with a 3G option.

Yeah, I’m an Apple fanboy, and yeah, I’m lucky to be able to drop $500 on technology without giving it much thought, but wait and see … I bet the adoption curve on the iPad will very much mirror the iPhone which is essentially ubiquitous these days. And just wait until someone develops a full-featured web analytics data viewer that takes advantage of all the pinching, swiping, dragging, and zoom UI capabilities of the iPad, that will simply be awesome! Imagine:

  • Scrolling along through time by simply swiping left or right
  • Zooming in on data by tapping or dragging across several dates
  • Adding metrics and dimensions by dragging them onto the existing graph or table
  • Changing from graph to table by simply rotating the device

Total “Minority Report” for web analytics … and I bet we see this within nine months time. In fact, if you’re a Apple developer looking for an awesome project … call me! I’d love to help guide a team developing next-generation web analytics interfaces on tablet computers.

Why This Matters to Web Analytics Professionals

I said I would try and make this relevant to web analytics practitioners so here I go. The iPad matters to measurement folks for exactly the reason I outlined back in September, 2007 when I first wrote about mobile’s impact on digital measurement. Web Analytics 3.0, a term I coined at the time and one I still use, is essentially the addition of a completely new dimension for analysis: user location.

In a digitally ubiquitous world–again one I described in 2007 that has more or less come to pass (although the prediction was kind of like predicting gridlock in Washington or rain in Oregon in April)–where a visitor is accessing information from becomes increasingly important and adds potentially significant context to any analysis we conduct. Location coupled with the device they’re using will likely have a profound impact on their likelihood to transact or otherwise use your site.

For example, a visitor accessing your site from home will likely have different needs and goals than one in their car, in an airport, in a coffeeshop, or in one of your competitors stores. In a world where an increasing number of visits are “out of home/out of office” visits conducted using mobile devices our collective approach towards analysis needs to change, perhaps dramatically.

To be fair, this is not something you need to solve and resolve today. While our ability to discern and differentiate mobile visits is getting better all the time, our overall analytical capabilities for mobile including the ability to tie mobile, fixed web, and offline visitors together is still unfortunately complicated. On top of that, while applications are increasingly able to pass over geographic information, most web browsers are not, and so our ability to gather large quantities of this data are still limited …

… at least for the time being.

For now I stand by what I said back in 2007–digital ubiquity and location-awareness changes everything. Back then the devices and platforms were just an idea; now we have the iPhone and it’s clones, the iPad is about to usher in a new era of mobile computing, Google and Apple are both behind mobile advertising, and the full scope of our analytical challenges are just beginning to emerge. If  you’re struggling with how to measure your mobile investment and thinking about how that strategy needs to evolve please consider giving us a call.

What do you think? Do you have an iPad or do you refuse to purchase one? Why or why not? Have you already started to struggle measuring mobile devices or do you have it all worked out? Is this all as exciting to you as it is to me? As always I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Published on April 8, 2010 under General Web Analytics, My Books, Web Analytics 3.0


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Reenergizing Your Web Analytics Program & Implementation
Adam Greco, Senior Partner

Those of you who have read my blog posts (and book) over the years, know that I have lots of opinions when it comes to web analytics, web analytics implementations and especially those using Adobe Analytics. Whenever possible, I try to impart lessons I have learned during my web analytics career so you can improve things at your organization.

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Registration for ACCELERATE 2014 is now open
Eric T. Peterson, Senior Partner

I am excited to announce that registration for ACCELERATE 2014 on September 18th in Atlanta, Georgia is now open. You can learn more about the event and our unique "Ten Tips in Twenty Minutes" format on our ACCELERATE mini-site, and we plan to have registration open for our Advanced Analytics Education pre-ACCELERATE training sessions in the coming weeks.

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Current Order Value
Adam Greco, Senior Partner

I recently had a client pose an interesting question related to their shopping cart. They wanted to know the distribution of money its visitors were bringing with them to each step of the shopping cart funnel.

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A Guide to Segment Sharing in Adobe Analytics
Tim Wilson, Partner

Over the past year, I've run into situations multiple times where I wanted an Adobe Analytics segment to be available in multiple Adobe Analytics platforms. It turns out…that's not as easy as it sounds. I actually went multiple rounds with Client Care once trying to get it figured out. And, I’ve found "the answer" on more than one occasion, only to later realize that that answer was a bit misguided.

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Currencies & Exchange Rates
Adam Greco, Senior Partner

If your web analytics work covers websites or apps that span different countries, there are some important aspects of Adobe SiteCatalyst (Analytics) that you must know. In this post, I will share some of the things I have learned over the years related to currencies and exchange rates in SiteCatalyst.

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Linking Authenticated Visitors Across Devices
Adam Greco, Senior Partner

In the last few years, people have become accustomed to using multiple digital devices simultaneously. While watching the recent winter Olympics, consumers might be on the Olympics website, while also using native mobile or tablet apps. As a result, some of my clients have asked me whether it is possible to link visits and paths across these devices so they can see cross-device paths and other behaviors.

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The 80/20 Rule for Analytics Teams
Eric T. Peterson, Senior Partner

I had the pleasure last week of visiting with one of Web Analytics Demystified’s longest-standing and, at least from a digital analytical perspective, most successful clients. The team has grown tremendously over the years in terms of size and, more importantly, stature within the broader multi-channel business and has become one of the most productive and mature digital analytics groups that I personally am aware of across the industry.

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Ten Things You Should ALWAYS Do (or Not Do) in Excel
Tim Wilson, Partner

Last week I was surprised by the Twitter conversation a fairly innocuous vent-via-Twitter tweet started, with several people noting that they had no idea you could simple turn off the gridlines.

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Omni Man (and Team Demystified) Needs You!
Adam Greco, Senior Partner

As someone in the web analytics field, you probably hear how lucky you are due to the fact that there are always web analytics jobs available. When the rest of the country is looking for work and you get daily calls from recruiters, it isn’t a bad position to be in! At Web Analytics Demystified, we have more than doubled in the past year and still cannot keep up with the demand, so I am reaching out to you ...

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A Useful Framework for Social Media "Engagements"
Tim Wilson, Partner

Whether you have a single toe dipped in the waters of social media analytics or are fully submerged and drowning, you’ve almost certainly grappled with "engagement." This post isn’t going to answer the question "Is engagement ROI?" ...

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It’s not about "Big Data", it’s about the "RIGHT data"
Michele Kiss, Partner

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have heard (and perhaps grown tired) of the buzzword "big data." But in attempts to chase the "next shiny thing", companies may focus too much on "big data" rather than the "right data."

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