ERIC T. PETERSON
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Archive for 'Web Analytics 3.0'
Back in 2007, on the subject of the evolution of the web analytics industry, I proffered that “If Web Analytics 1.0 was all about measuring page views to generate reports and define key performance indicators, and if Web Analytics 2.0 is about measuring events and integrating qualitative and quantitative data, then Web Analytics 3.0 is about measuring real people and optimizing the flow of information to individuals as they interact with the world around them.”
At the time I was thinking about the onset of digital ubiquity — an “always on” Internet that followed us everywhere we went and more or less knew where we were. Given the explosion of mobile devices and our near universal dependence on smartphones, location-based services, and digital personal assistants, the following comment seems almost quaint:
“Just think for a minute about how your browsing experience might change if the web sites you visited remembered you and delivered a tailored experience based on your demographic profile (theoretically available via your phone number), your browsing history (accurate because you’re not deleting your phone number) and your specific geographic location when you make the request?”
Essentially I envisioned a future where anonymous log files gave way to massive data stores that, given much of the data would be flowing from mobile devices that we kept on us at all times, would form a far more complete picture of each of us individually than Web Analytics 1.0 or 2.0 could ever hope to support. What’s more, when subject to enough processing power and computational wizardry, this data would support previously unimaginable levels of micro-targeting and content personalization, possibly knowing more about us than our own loved ones.
At the time I recall having conversations with one particularly smart individual who argued that this would never happen — that phone manufacturers and phone and Internet service providers would never allow this type of information to be used, much less in a commercial context. His argument was that this would be such an egregious violation of consumer privacy that, were this to happen, the government would inevitably step in and, fearing ham-fisted meddling by “luddite politicians” (his words, not mine), industry leaders would come together and attempt to offer at least some level of consumer protection, even if it would negatively impact their business models.
Turns out we were both right.
What I referred to as “Web Analytics 3.0″ is clearly the collection, analysis, and use of what is more commonly referred to as “Big Data” — an incredibly powerful source of information about consumers that can be used in an almost endless number of ways to power our new data economy. And, thanks to some spectacular mis-steps on the part of organizations, groups, and companies who should know better, “Big Data” is increasingly subject to regulation.
In the past few days, the California Attorney General has announced that she has the agreement of six of the largest mobile platform providers — Google, Apple, Amazon, HP, RIM, and Microsoft — to begin enforcing a law that calls attention to the use of consumer data in mobile applications. And, even more amazingly, the Obama administration has delivered a “Digital Consumer’s Bill of Rights” that has the major browser manufactures agreeing to quickly begin to support “Do Not Track” functionality designed to limit the flow and use of even anonymous web usage data in some instances.
Clearly, both of these announcements are good for consumers, who will hopefully be better protected from bonehead moves like sending entire address books insecurely up to cloud-based servers. And clearly both of these announcements are good for legislators, who during an election year will have something positive to talk about, at least with the majority of their constituents.
But where does this leave you, the digital measurement, analysis, and optimization worker?
More or less in the same place we were back in December 2010 when this all first came up, on the brink of a sea-change in web analytics, but one that I’m confident that most of us can handle. While I still believe that web analytics is hard — perhaps more so than ever — I’m also confident that individuals who are truly invested in making informed decisions based on the available data will be just fine.
Still there are unknowns and subsequently risk coming down the pipe through the President’s “Bill of Rights.” Some things that I am particularly interested in knowing include:
- Who decides which technologies will be subjected to browser-based “Do Not Track” directives?
- Will “blocked” technologies be universally blocked? Or, like in P3P, is their a continuum of requirements?
- Will “blocked” technologies be blocked across all participating browsers? Or will browser vendors decide individually?
- Will “blocked” sessions be identified as such? And if so, will some minimal data still be available?
- How will the Bill of Rights “guarantee” data security, transparency, respect for context, etc. as outlined by the President?
I suspect the answers to most of these questions are still being discussed. Still, the ramifications are important and there is an awful lot of conflict of interest inherent in the browser vendor’s participation. For example, if you’re Google and have made a pretty significant investment into Google Analytics, what is your motivation to block analytics tracking in your Chrome browser? Or perhaps you’re Microsoft and you have multiple initiatives to improve the quality of search and display advertising — all of which depend on some level of data collected via the browser — are you willing to prevent all of that in Internet Explorer?
It will be interesting to watch this play out.
For what it’s worth, at Web Analytics Demystified we have been thinking about the explosion in digital data collection and consumer privacy for a pretty long time. Going all the way back to that 2007 post on Web 3.0, and rolling forward to our work on the Web Analyst’s Code of Ethics and more recently our GUARDS Audit (with BPA Worldwide), Web Analytics Demystified strongly believes that consumer data is a valuable asset, one that needs to be treated with the upmost respect.
To that end, if your legal team or senior leadership are asking you about the data you collect and how you might be exposed based on how that data is being secured and used, you might be interested in Web Analytics Demystified GUARDS. In a nutshell, GUARDS is a comprehensive audit of your digital data collection landscape performed by auditors from BPA Worldwide designed to help leadership understand what data is collected, where, why, and how that data is being secured and ultimately used.
Either way, my partners and I at Web Analytics Demystified will be keeping a careful eye on this Bill of Rights, changes in the mobile data collection landscape, and the application of Do Not Track across modern browsers. I welcome your comments and feedback.
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.
Blogger Avinash Kaushik kicked off a little debate in the blogosphere a few weeks when he declared:
“Engagement is not a metric that anyone understands and even when used it rarely drives the action / improvement on the website.
Because it is not really a metric, it is an excuse.”
Suffice to say, some pretty bright folks disagreed with Avinash, openly and vocally. Anil Jasra has a good summary of a panel from WebTrends Engage where Gary Angel, Andy Beal, Manoj Jasra, Jim Novo and Jim Sterne all apparently voiced their opinion that engagement is a metric, not an excuse.
Perhaps ironically, in an interview with Eric Enge from February of this year, Enge asked Kaushilk about my long series of posts on measuring engagement (emphasis mine)
Eric Enge: Another thing I read about recently was Eric Peterson’s notion of an engagement metric. Can you comment on that?
Avinash Kaushik: Sure. You know that Eric is obviously a leader in the industry. We are all following the trail that Eric has blazed. He is just an awesome guy and a really great thinker. And, in terms of the specific post that you are referring for engagement, I think Eric’s initial proposal for the methodology is a very good one, and it does extend the conversation in terms of what it is possible for us to measure, because Eric obviously has access to some pretty good tools that allow for deeper analysis. But my preference is to ask a random sampling of people, or every single person who comes to website, are you engaged, here is my definition of engagement, do you like this site or product, are you going to recommend it, or whatever is the case.
Now, to be fair, I agree with part of Avinash’s argument — qualitative data is a valuable input into measuring visitor engagement — I just don’t think qualitative data is the only input. Nor do I think that it is “nearly impossible to define engagement”. For over a year I have been calculating visitor engagement on my site using the following equation:
Looks complicated, huh? It is. But if you’re running a site like mine where the major outcome you’re trying to create is simply not measurable online, wouldn’t you like to have some reasonable proxy that would help you identify where your best leads are coming from, what those leads are looking at, and who your highest quality leads actually are?!
I know I do.
Obviously the equation above doesn’t tell you very much. If you want to hear the rest of the story, you have two options:
- Come to my Web Analytics 2.0 presentation next Wednesday at 1:30 PM in the Blue Ballroom at Emetrics
- Wait until next Thursday and download my updated Web Analytics 2.0 presentation from my web site
Ironically this little debate prompted me to stick the long-awaited explanation of how to measure and use visitor engagement into my Web Analytics 2.0 presentation. Thanks to Avinash for kicking off a nice (if a bit lopsided) debate!
See you in Washington!
Stephane at immeria has a blurb about Avinash Kaushik’s video on Web Analytics 2.0 and my post this week on Web Analytics 3.0 that I started responding to in a comment. But as typical of me the comment got really long so I will just publish it here and link it to Hamel’s blog.
Stephane, good point that I didn’t explicitly define Web Analytics 3.0 … something for a follow-up post to be sure.
To your point:
“The Web and Internet ecosystem encompass quantitative and qualitative elements, physical and virtual organisms, online and offline interactions that are functioning together within legal, ethical and technological constraints. From that angle, things like a website, competition or location can’t, by themselves, explain the complexity of what’s going on. They can merely improve the science of analysis that will eventually lead to better insight.”
While it is difficult to disagree with you, I think you’re making the same argument that Charlene Li of Forrester made regarding her definition of engagement — she commented that engagement can be indicated at a minute level, such as when a flashy print ad catches your eye. Sure, but how the hell do you MEASURE someone noticing Charlene’s flashy print ad? And how do you MEASURE your legal, ethical, and technological constraints?
Kaushik and I are in near complete agreement about Web Analytics 2.0, and I thought he did a pretty good job explaining it. A lot of people have been saying the same thing as Avinash and I for over a year (Larry Freed pops to mind). An important distinction is that both the Web Analytics 2.0 and Web Analytics 3.0 paradigms are focused on tangible, measurable aspects of our (online) lives. And, in my humble opinion, the measures we take should be practical to make.
So I agree with you, it’s not about “e” business but rather about simply doing business, you’re spot on there. But here is the problem:
Web Analytics 2.0 is also an after-thought, at least for the most part. I mean, we’ve had the qualitative data in systems like ForeSee Results and Tealeaf for years, so why is it only now that we’re actively talking about combining these data into a more holistic view of the visitor? We’ve had multivariate testing systems like Offermatica and SiteSpect for years, so why is it only now that we’re actively talking about using the combination of qualitative and quantitative data to drive action? (FYI, you can download my Web Analytics 2.0 presentation from my web site if you’re interested in more of my views on the subject …)
So I guess what I’m getting at by talking about Web Analytics 3.0 at this early stage is this:
Wouldn’t it be nice if the global solution to measuring the inevitable state of “digital ubiquity” wasn’t another after-thought?
Wouldn’t it be sweet if the platform providers and device manufacturers, the standards bodies and the compliance police, all came together now instead of 10 years from now and asked “How in the world will we measure all of this?” Personally, I think so, that’s why I’m starting the conversation more-or-less five years ahead of time, so that this time we’re not all standing around trying to figure out how to answer good business questions using incomplete and inaccurate data.
Call me crazy …
Thanks very much Stephane for offering up an opinion other than “Eric and Avinash are both brilliant!” The ego stroking is great but this kind of stuff needs to be debated, openly and honestly in my humble opinion. Beers are on me in D.C.
If you’re reading the web analytics blogs, you’ve probably already heard about the recent presentations I’ve given on the subject of “Web Analytics 2.0″. The future of web analytics and the relationship between Web 2.0 technology and measurement is something I’ve been talking about for over six months — I actually have a Web Analytics 2.0 workshop that I regularly give that you can read about under Analytics Consulting on my site — but given that it is “conference season” it is no wonder that this subject is getting attention from other folks in the industry. I have given my presentation at Web Analytics Day in Brussels, SEMphonic X Change in Napa, and will be giving a variation on same at Jim Sterne’s Marketing Optimization Summit in October.
Due to demand, you can download a PDF of the presentation from the white papers section of my site. If you’re interested in learning more about Web Analytics 2.0, please give me a call and I’d be happy to discuss it with you.
Strangely enough, the slides that are generating the most interest and commentary are not those about the Web Site Optimization Ecosystem, the integration of quantitative and qualitative data, or the Web Analytics Demystified RAMP, but rather the few slides I included outlining my thoughts about Web 3.0 and what I am calling Web Analytics 3.0.
What the heck is Web Analytics 3.0?!
Before I can tell you what Web Analytics 3.0 is, I need to tell you what I think Web 3.0 is going to be. The good old Wikipedia basically dodges this by saying:
Web 3.0 is a term that has been coined with different meanings to describe the evolution of Web usage and interaction along several separate paths. These include transforming the Web into a database, a move towards making content accessible by multiple non-browser applications, the leveraging of artificial intelligence technologies, the Semantic web, the Geospatial Web, or the 3D web.
While I know that Judah is all hopped up on the notion of the semantic web, after having traveled to Tokyo and Europe in the past month, I find myself absolutely convinced that the next technology era will be characterized by our collective ability to access the Internet anyplace, anytime, using so many devices we begin to look back on computers much the same way young people do television today — as something nice to use when YouTube is unavailable. Rolf Skyberg, a disruptive innovator from eBay who I met in Rotterdam a few weeks back, called it “digital ubiquity” — the point where we forget that the Internet actually exists and take our ability to access information completely for granted.
Given so many sexy alternatives — 3D web, transforming the Internet into a database, artificial intelligence, and the such — why am I so convinced that in the next three years we’ll be talking about Web 3.0 when we talk about mobile phones and non-traditional browsers?
Easy. The financial opportunity available via the mobile Internet makes the billions transacted today look like pocket change.
Think about it:
Just think for a minute about how your browsing experience might change if the web sites you visited remembered you and delivered a tailored experience based on your demographic profile (theoretically available via your phone number), your browsing history (accurate because you’re not deleting your phone number) and your specific geographic location when you make the request?
Now think about how the advertising buying experience would change if the same were true, not to mention behavioral targeting. I mean, given GPS and demographic data, the behavior being tracked could be “works downtown during the day, checks Facebook on his phone often, lives in the suburbs, surfs sports scores from his neighborhood bar.” The Starbucks web site could have a link at the top with a coupon to save $1 on my double-tall non-fat latte in stores 1 block, 2 blocks, and 5 blocks from my current location; the Best Buy web site could have an in-store promotion for the store I am standing in, targeted to my age and gender; and my search engine could disambiguate my searches based on my demographic profile, my geographic location, and my recent search history to serve me paid search ads designed to influence my geo-spatial movement, not just my likelihood to click.
Sure there are privacy issues, but given the intensely personal relationship most people have with their cell phones, and the fact that far more people in the world have mobile phones than computers (Gartner estimates 271 million units sold to end-users by Q2 2007) it is easy to make a convincing case for mobile computing and digital ubiquity defining the next technology era, much like social networking, AJAX, XML, and mashed-up business models define the current Web 2.0 era we’re living in today.
Okay, mobile is the future. So what the heck is Web Analytics 3.0?
If Web Analytics 1.0 was all about measuring page views to generate reports and define key performance indicators, and if Web Analytics 2.0 is about measuring events and integrating qualitative and quantitative data, then Web Analytics 3.0 is about measuring real people and optimizing the flow of information to individuals as they interact with the world around them.
Your log file analyzer can do that, right?
In theory, the mobile Internet has many of the same measurements as the hard-wired Internet. But as the information the platform and device providers make available changes, something I very much believe will happen, the quality and volume of information at our disposal will increase and improve. The W3C document on “Mobile Best Practices 1.0″ already exists but surprisingly enough don’t have a section about logging requests or measuring user interaction. M:Metrics is out there providing analyst reports, but the service is more similar to comScore and Nielsen than WebTrends and ClickTracks.
This post is already extremely long but I wanted to start the conversation. In future posts, as time allows, I’ll expand on some of what I believe is possible and how. In the interim, let me know what you think! Am I wrong? Is Web 3.0 bigger than mobile? Or do you already have a handle on measuring your mobile content, even without GPS and phone numbers as unique IDs? Do you personally have experience doing analysis on mobile content? If so, I’d love to hear about your experience.
As usual, I very much welcome your comments but am happy to receive your comments directly via email. Also, if you’re a mobile service provider or device manufacturer concerned with how advertisers and marketers will measure their success through your platform, application, or device, I would love to talk to you about the Web Analytics Demystified vision for Web Analytics 3.0.