Monthly Archives: May 2009

Top Ten Myths About Google Analytics

I recently came across The Google Analytics Blog via the Twitter feed of my favorite Googler and found it pretty useful for understanding some of the program’s more ambiguous features. I’ve worked in analytics quite a bit in my days, and it can be a powerful tool if you know how to use it to it’s potential. Moreover, if you’re obsessed with online network dynamics like me, it’s a form of entertainment. I used to explore the ScienceBlogs analytics data for hours in the evenings after work marveling at quirky things, like how the traffic from one person’s personal blog that hasn’t been updated in months could contribute more incoming traffic to the site than a highly funded campaign. I do like me some irony.

Particularly interesting on the Analytics blog was this post titled 10 Myths About Google Analytics. While some of the “myths” are clearly an excuse to trumpet their selling points, there are some tidbits of useful advice in there.

One good and crucial thing about this blog is that it links to the Google Analytics support forum, in which reside employees who know the intricacies of that system and get paid to respond to your queries.

Regarding MYTH 2: Google Analytics is basic and doesn’t have any “advanced” features or metrics, if this is a real complaint, whoever said that clearly did not actually log in, let alone attempt to drilldown to specific areas of content and explore different metrics (Hey, did you know you can click things on the Internet??).

As there have been several occasions where Google Analytics has displayed numbers that differed from other analytics sites by orders of magnitude, I will take contention with MYTH 4: Google Analytics is not really accurate. This isn’t because Analytics is dysfunctional in some way that the developers are neglecting to note; they openly admit that using JavaScript tags to college data results in problems such as “JavaScript errors, redirects, untagged pages and slow client-side load times.” However, they don’t mention anything about human error contributing to the inaccuracy, which I would venture is the primary cause of discrepancies. Someone accidentally deletes some code when copying HTML or, if you’re working with a major network, forgetting to add code back in while restructuring or just labeling it something different can cause numbers to change. If it’s because of human error, I recognize that that doesn’t make Google Analytics inaccurate, but I do see it as a problem if the user interface and methods of implementation are such that it is easy for these errors to occur. I’m no fan of “dumbing-it-down,” but it seems as though Google could be thinking more about how to package this product so it can be used more effectively by users of varying technological capabilities.

Another good thing I have to report about this post is the reminder via MYTH 8: Google Analytics does not support A/B or multivariate testing and isn’t well-integrated with other tools, that you can use Google Website Optimizer to test different features that you’re thinking about implementing on your site. A lot of web development decisions are made according to flimsy reasons, like that something “looks good” and are based on the personal preference of a few people. But I like to approach development like a science by starting out with a hypothesis (about a design aspect or wording on a heading) then running tests with both scenarios to let the numbers show which is better received by the masses. Of course, if they were MY personal preferences, they would almost certainly always agree with the science. But not everyone has the instincts of the Queen of the Internets when it comes to navigating sites, so quantifiable data is always nice.

Though top ten lists are all the rage, it sounds like most of the “myths” about Google Analytics come from people who are intimidated by the system and don’t do the proper research to find what they’re looking for before they call tech support to complain. But this isn’t a bad thing —  it just means there’s more jobs for nerds like me!

Are you good at math? [Ask the IG staff!]

At the Internet Garage today I was showing my old manager a very interesting science-related online journal. He’s in a punk band, science isn’t really his thing, but he has always enjoyed musing about my intellectual prowess, so he started guessing what was next in line for me in my career path. ScienceBlogs to MathBlogs (?) perhaps.

B: Do you do math good?

Me: I do it well.

B: Really? Cross your arms.

Me: <<tentatively crosses arms and makes tough face>>

B: Yeah, see, you’re a left-side brain. Your left arm is in front. That means you’re good at math. See look at me. <<Crosses arms with right arm in front>> I suck at it.

Scientists, (Yeah you, Dan MacArthur) forget genetics. The arm-crossing test is clearly the way to predict the career paths of children.

Homer Simpson demonstrates the proof of this methodology.

Homer Simpson demonstrates the proof of this methodology.

Anyone? Anyone??

My good friend and author of Aggrandized Aggregating sent me a link to this real estate website today. My first thought: “Listen, Andrew. I’m not really in the position to be buying a $2.3 million house right now. Maybe next quarter if it’s still on the market.” But upon inspection of the house’s photographs, I placed the property as being the set of one of the greatest movies of all time. Can you guess it?

buellerhouseAnyone? Anyone???

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To give a fuck or not give a fuck?

That is the question I have found myself pondering lately in light of this conversation I had with some of my posse at the Internet Garage yesterday:

Me: What have you been doing with yourself lately?

J: I quit my job at that shitty cafe. I was working way too hard for too little back and just decided, no more. Since then, I’ve been coasting.

Me: What? Coasting? But… how do you pay for things?

J: You don’t worry about it. That’s what coasting is all about. You should try it.

Me: Uhh… I think you’re going to have to give me some lessons or something because I only know how to do two things — work or freak out.

M: Usually the later.

J: Yo, you’ve just gotta coast, man. Cali style.

Upon further research, I discovered a few definitions for “coasting“:

  1. Being in a point of total relaxation, when everything seems to be going your way. (Eg: The multi-millionaire record executive was coasting.)
  2. When you don’t gas the engine of your car while driving. Also one of the best ways to stretch your gas usage. (Eg: Coasting is my favorite illegal activity that I do regularly.)

Well, if I was going to attempt to “coast” my scenario would be more like the second, because how can people possibly relax when they might not be able to pay rent or will ruin their credit rating or not be able to afford food!? At least in the second scenario, the person driving is probably allowed to freak out while the coasting is occurring, although this may not mesh with Cali standards…

Then I came across this video today while I was searching for Keyboard Cat (Play him off, Keyboard Cat!!!) and started to think that maybe J was onto something with this whole coasting idea.

I mean, just LOOK at that correlation. It is damn near ONE, and according to this video, “scientists have PROVEN that the average human being gives 60% too much of a fuck about most daily activities.” Sounds about accurate to me. We all know statistics never lie. Now, my NGAF checklist would be a great deal different from this joker’s, and would include things like spending 4 hours at the hardware store where my favorite African Gray parrot lives (I only spent 30 minutes there today and pretended like I was looking at phone cords — CLEARLY giving a fuck), going on FAILblog instead of polishing my resume, and eating Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for every meal of the day. I mean, if I wanted to not give a fuck, I am certainly in the right place for it. See that transformation that happens at 1:06? That pretty much resembles every guy in Williamsburg. If I wanted to not give a fuck I would fit right in!

But as appealing as that sounds, I can’t not give a fuck. Not when there is science to marvel at and an Internet empire to be built. And hey, there’s always the weekends.

Weighing the options

toothbrushesToday I spent a full 10 minutes deciding what toothbrush to get from Duane Read. In this time I probably handled 20 different brushes. The medium-bristled ones were all behind the soft ones, and if there’s anything i dislike, it’s a soft toothbrush. Had to move all those out of the way. I couldn’t remember what color my roommate’s toothbrush was, but I wanted to avoid that color. I felt a wild urge to branch out from my usual bristle pattern, but needed to be economical. Seven minutes in, I thought I had found the perfect one, but the back-side perforation had been separated. Eventually, I became self-conscious of how long this process was taking, and of the pile of soft-bristled toothbrushes shoved perpendicularly to the rest in an empty slot. So I made a snap decision, settled and checked out.

Just now, I realized that the toothbrush I chose after all that deliberation is exactly the same as the toothbrush I have been using for the past few months. Except it is a different color — the color of my roommate’s toothbrush.