I’m amazed at how little technical knowledge you actually need to be able to describe something in a form that can be used as Linked Data.
Well, yes. The oft used “Q: How do you eat an elephant? A: one spoonful at a time” aptly describes both the enormity of the task and the simplicity of working out how to actually start describing some ‘thing’.
- This thing is a type of mammal.
- This thing is grey.
- This thing has four legs.
- This thing has a prehensile proboscis
- This thing is called ‘elephant’ in english
Very simple statements that allow us to start describing an elephant. You can apply the same principles as expounded by Roy Walker on Catchphrase, “Say what you see”. This then implies that you should not say what you don’t see. This is the basis of the open world principle: The idea that the things that you don’t know are just things that you haven’t found out yet. Whereas the closed world principle asserts that anything I don’t know must be false.
In the first of our three statements we are simply starting with a general assertion that the thing that we are talking about is a type of mammal. We then go on to describe some other properties of the thing. Each statement is a standalone spoonful; an ascertain that something is true.
You see how easy it is to describe something? The next stage is to codify that description in a standard, machine readable way. This is where it does get more complicated, and we start to talk about using the Resource Description Framework (RDF) as the standard machine-readable form for our statements.
It is not my aim in this post to actually start throwing RDF at you, because this would become rather dry. But I do want this post to show that getting data into a form that is Linked Data can be easily explained and achieved.
Talis offer consultancy to help you make the transition to using Linked Data technologies.
When you read about UX research you find lots of emphasis on the planning and structure of the research sessions. Where will you do research at a person’s home or in a research facility? Will you go through a recruiting agency or recruit from your own network? Are you looking for target users? Can remote methods play a part?
These questions are all important in developing a solid research plan, but they don’t speak much to the actual experience of asking people questions and listening to what they tell you.
You might not hear many people admit that user research can sometimes be boring. Especially when you’re doing something like classic usability research, where you have a tightly defined protocol that you’re going through multiple times, it can be hard to stay really focused and engaged. Spending a day with eight or 10 or 20 different participants going through the same material over and over—it’s not easy. It can be pretty draining.
Years of doing UX research have taught me that the most important part of being a great and happy researcher is learning how to fully pay attention and stay engaged with each research participant. Otherwise, that day of eight hour-long usability sessions is too hard to be enjoyable.
Attention is a learned skill. It’s not an inherent character attribute; it’s as learnable as typing or playing the piano. And learning this skill pays off. Learning how to pay attention makes research easier and helps you handle the long days. And it yields richer insights. When you’re fully present you learn so much more.
Attention and the Rest of Your LifeThink about research sessions as a time to practice being mindfully present in the current moment. Research studies have shown that mindfulness can decrease stress and raise happiness levels. The work that you do to pay attention during research sessions can have healthy consequences, and also make your research better.In Full Catastrophe Living, a book about mindfulness and health, Jon Kabat-Zinn writes, “The richness of the present moment is the richness of life itself. Too often we let our thinking and our beliefs about what we ‘know’ prevent us from seeing things as they really are… To see the richness of the present moment, we need to cultivate what has been called ‘beginner’s mind,’ a mind that is willing to see everything as if for the first time.”Stay with the present moment with your participants through better attention and discover for yourself what you might have been missing.
#ux meets #mindfulness
Confused about Web Analytics?
How about Web Metrics?
Have you been successfully scared?
Rhetorical questions. Don’t answer. 🙂
Let’s do this one step at a time, first let’s demystify web metrics. We’ll do web analytics another time.
The hardest thing you’ll do in your life as a Web Gal / Guy / Marketer / Analyst / Researcher / Jack is identify what constitutes success for you when it comes to measuring Outcomes for your website.
Step two will be to identify the Critical Few metrics to measure those successful company, and hopefully customer, outcomes.
So what makes a great Web Metric? And what are the factors you need to keep in mind to ensure that your valiant efforts to measure business success in this first life will be successful? 🙂
This post is inspired from my segment of the WAA’s well received webinar on the newly defined Web Metrics Standards last month.
The intelligent Ms. Angie Brown and the fabulous Mr. Jason Burby spoke about the tough work that went into creating the new standards. I spoke about Web Metrics Demystified .
In this post you’ll learn how to find diamonds in the rough, how to know that a metric you have identified for your Management Dashboard is actually a good one, and you’ll learn the process you can, and should use, to keep your web analytics metrics relevant.
Four Attributes of Great Metrics:
Metrics are a dime a dozen. Especially on the web. There are books and blogs full of ’em.
How do you know which one is your must have darling?
In my humble experience here are four attributes that all great, nay magnificent, metrics possess…
Great metrics almost always are uncomplex.
Because we did not make much headway with recommended metrics foisted on us, our response has been to create complex metrics. Six things each with its own unique multiplier / variable predicting the position of the sun when visitors click on your site.
Here is the thing to think about: Decisions in companies are not made by one person. If you want action then the democracy needs to understand performance, the democracy need to make decisions.
Not you. Certainly not your consultant. Or best friend.
If you are the only person who understands the metric, the Key Performance Indicator, then you have just guaranteed that your company, big or small, will not take action. Because you know the metric, but not the business.
Don’t sexify, uncomplexify. Solve for the masses making decisions. It is not as easy as you think, try.
Is the metric you have chosen relevant to your business?
Since we have so many metrics we pick our favorites and then stick with them. The problem is that each business is unique, even businesses that seem like they might be in the same business.
In Web Analytics: An hour A Day I use the example of Best Buy and Circuit City. You might think that they should / would / could measure their website with similar Web Metrics. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
The only thing they have in common is the fact that they sell large screen TV’s on their website. Everything else is different. Their business models, their priorities, how each tends to use the web in its multi-channel portfolio.
The metrics you would use for each company to measure success would be different.
It is ok to seek inspiration from your friends and competitors. In the end truly stress test that the metrics you identify are relevant when it comes to measuring the success objectives that are unique to you and your website.
Remember what works for Jason might not work for Shane. And those two are close! 🙂
A few years back I was interviewing at one of the biggest companies on the web. They had just closed their quarter, it had been tremendously profitable. I asked them what the reasons were for that great success. The rest of this is absolutely positively 100% true.
Them: “We have just kicked off the query against our data warehouse, it typically returns the results in three months.”
Me: Stunned silence.
Granted they were a big business. But still.
I learned a very important lesson on that day. Be on time or die.
That big company’s stock price is a fraction of its price at that time. While not all of it is related to their ability to measure, you can imagine how hard it is to be successful in your business (on the web for Pete’s sake!) if it takes you three months to know what worked three months ago.
Great metrics can be provided in a timely fashion so that your business decision makers can….. make timely decisions.
I am not a big fan of real-time (see this post: Is Real-Time Really Relevant? ). But between real time and three months there is a sweet spot. Find out what your sweet spot is and then ensure your data can be collected, analyzed, and metrics provided with insights in that sweet spot.
Even the greatest metric in the world is useless if takes nine days to get (with insights!) when your world changes every three days (key word bids, affiliate bonuses, email promotions, web page updates, whatever).
Sacrifice complexity and perfection for timeliness.
4. “Instantly Useful”
I absolutely love this one. Smooch, smooch, kiss, kiss.
I credit my early experience with ClickTracks for that love. Dr. Stephen Turner and John Marshall had eliminated all the non value added stuff from the application so that no matter where I went, what report I opened, it was instantly useful.
It was a combination of the fact that there were fewer metrics but also the fact that they were presented in a way that made it easy to understand performance and get the first blush of insights.
Instantly useful is when you understand quickly what the metric is, and you can find the first blush of insights as soon as you look at it.
Here is a great example, the What’s Changed report in ClickTracks:
Anyone can tell you what your keywords were this month, or last month. The ClickTracks reports shows you “what you should care about”, keywords that rose in their importance this month and which ones reduced in importance.
All the complexity is “hidden”, there is no crap, just stuff you should care about. In front of you.
Now does that not simply kick butt? [Click on the image above for a higher resolution version.]
It will take some nice analysis and time to understand all the nuances and unlock the mysteries and deep stuff (just like say for example with your wife / girl friend, less so with your husband / boy friend!).
But the first blush is there. As soon as you look at it.
[I think Google Analytics V2 also does this well through use of layout and color and summaries or things like Compare to Site Average, Compare to Past etc etc. But I admit I am greedy. Every time I look at a report, current or new, I ask for more instant usefulness! Phil and the team humors me by making stuff even better.]
In a data democracy metrics have to meet the bar of being instantly useful. And not just that, think of your boss, her boss, his boss. How little they know. If send them a metric and it is not instantly useful then it will be instantly ignored.
You want instantly useful, no explanations required, because that will give you the opening you need to show your “deep stuff”, explain the nuance, highlight your analysis!
Smooch, smooch? 🙂
Example of a “Great Web Metric”:
Let me give you a very simple example that I think will crystallize the methodology above.
I think Bounce Rate is a “great metric”. Here is how it passes the required four attributes test:
Uncomplex? Single Page View Visits. Easy to understand, explain and propagate. Enough said. 🙂
Relevant? It identifies where you are wasting marketing/sales dollars and which pages stink when it comes to delivering on the “scent”. Those two things apply to most web businesses. Bam!
Timely? Bounce rate is now standard in pretty much every web analytics tool, and available in every report. Every day. Nice!
Instantly Useful? You can just look at it and know what needs attention, what needs to stop. You see 25 – 30% for your site and instantly you know things are fine. You look at a page with 50% bounce rate and you know it needs attention. You see a campaign / keyword with 70% bounce rate and you know there is a fire.
Set aside half hour today or tomorrow or at the end of the week and apply the four attributes test to your own important web metrics. What do you see?
Three Important Final Lessons:
Here are three lessons that are directly from the front lines (sourced from painful battle scars!)…..
1. Perfection is…. the enemy of good enough.
Data quality on the web is not perfect, things change too fast, everyone wants a piece of data yesterday, your competitors are strong. Don’t spend time getting things perfect when it comes to your metrics.
If you have 90% confidence in the data (how it is collected, processed, and presented) then make a decision. Don’t wait for perfection.
Too many times we spend too much time being distracted by missing tags and the hoopla around deleted cookies and more. Follow best practices, then move on. Go for precision and not accuracy.
As Mr. Stuart Gold says: An educated mistake is better than no action at all.
2. Critical few baby, critical few!
I owe Steve Bennett the CEO of Intuit all the credit for this important lesson.
Steve is fond of pushing everyone to identify their “critical few”. Priorities. Goals. Metrics.
My interpretation of Critical Few: When the proverbial crap hits the fan what is most important.
That statement has a phenomenal clarifying power.
If your business was on the line how would you know things are going well or badly? Cutting through all the clutter of data, what are the metrics that are your Critical Few?
Almost all of us have too many things we measure, too many things that distract us, take away our precious time / attention.
You probably have at most three Critical Few metrics that define your existence. Do you know what they are?
If you have 12 then you have too many.
3. Metrics life cycle process is your friend!
Metrics no matter how great have to stand the test of time. And business changes. Repeatedly.
I recommend this simple Metrics Lifecycle Process…..
The idea is quite simple really: Use the four attributes test to identify your critical few metrics, go measure them, then analyze the data you collect, take action. Here’s the fork on the road. If you can’t action anything then perhaps it is the wrong metric for your business. Eliminate it. If you can take action figure out how you can improve it further.
Execute the Metrics Life cycle Process in a timely manner, I recommend atleast once a quarter.
Some metrics will stay, those are your best friends, others will outlast their value, give them a warm hug and say bye bye.
There. Web Metrics Demystified!
Not that hard, right? Just a dash of thought, a drop of common sense and a pinch of passion.
Ok now its your turn.
Please share your perspectives, critique, bouquets and brickbats via comments. Thank you.
Towards the end of yesterday, I noticed a new article on the Information Commissioner’s Office’s website entitled ‘Must try harder’ on cookies compliance, says ICO. And I realised yesterday that this change is inevitable, eventually, with time, we’re all going to have to implement this. The consequences have the potential to seriously damage our industry, destroying jobs and I think, possibly, have a significant slow down effect on the UK economy. Let me explain a bit more about that.
Why Analytics & Tracking Is So Important
The majority of digital marketers out there now how important it is to track stuff, it enables you to calculate ROI and determine where marketing budget is being wasted and where it is being well spent. With less tracking capability and highly inaccurate data, we’re going to see businesses (particularly small ones) start to cut back on their advertising online. If you’ve ever lost an SEO client when you know you were bringing in plenty of extra £’s but you haven’t been able to prove it, then you will understand what I mean. Also if you’ve had to reduce cost per clicks on AdWords because you weren’t getting high enough conversion rates despite you knowing that a % of visits will be phoning. So I think this is going to hit the industry quite badly.
Say Goodbye To 90%+ Of EU Analytics Data
People have complained about Google’s recent change that affected around 1-5% of organic searches, which as a proportion of overall traffic on most retail sites is even smaller than 1%. Well just imagine what this cookie directive could do, let’s say on average maybe 10% opt-in to let you use Google Analytics (and that’s optimistic I might add), that means we are all going to lose 90% of analytics data. I don’t know about you, but that scares me a lot – in a lot of cases, there won’t be enough data to do statistically significant analysis – bad decisions will be made on unreliable data.
More Guidance – Still Not Easy To Implement
They’ve released some better guidance, although it’s still not very clear on how to go about it – some technical guidance would have been useful. At the moment I’ve seen one person contact the David Naylor blog with a service that does this all for you, sadly I tried it out and it didn’t work, which was a bit of a shame. So even people creating a dedicated service are having difficulty implementing it.
Adoption – How Is It Going 6 Months In?
So you’d expect the big companies to be on this right now, I started off by checking Amazon in Google Chrome (I’ve cleared my cookies before visiting each website separately)…
Amazon – 4 First Party Cookies, 1 Third Party Cookie
Three of these cookies appear to be session related, however there is one cookie named “ubid-acbuk” – I’m not sure what this does, but if anyone recognises it please let us know in a comment. There was no cookie opt-in displayed to me.
A DoubleClick cookie is a bit of a nono really, I don’t see why they need to set a cookie for this, plus it is an advert, so it is definitely unnecessary.
BBC – 2 First Party Cookies
Again, not sure what these cookies do, I imagine “BBC-UID” is a session id of some sort and “s1″ I’m not sure, but could be related to a server? Still not too bad, it looks as those these are necessary for the operation of the website – I didn’t have a cookie opt-in option.
Directgov – 7 First Party Cookies
As you can see Directgov is blatantly ignoring the rules, they have 4 cookies that are for Google Analytics, analytics packages have been mentioned as something you need explicit permission to use if you want to store cookies on their device. There are 3 other cookies, one is probably a session cookie, I’m not sure about the other two. Again I can’t see any cooke opt-in option anywhere.
Ebay – 2 Third Party Cookies, 7 First Party Cookies
I had a look at all of these, I can’t determine what they do, but they most certainly aren’t just session cookies, also a third party DoubleClick cookie was included like Amazon. Again I had not been provided a cookie opt-in.
The Sun – 102 Third Party Cookies, 11 First Party Cookies
Wow, when I first decided to have a look at the Sun homepage, thinking it might be a little bit worse than the others, I had absolutely no idea I would find something as shocking as this – 102 third party cookies!!! 113 cookies in total! The Sun are seriously taking the piss when it comes to this cookie law – not only was there no cookie opt-in, but there wasn’t even a mention of cookies on the site.
The Dave Naylor Website – 3 3rd Party Cookies, 4 1st Party Cookies
Ok so we’re not perfect, but not bad – at the moment I think we’re waiting to see what happens with the big boys such as Amazon, Ebay and even Directgov. If the Ico can’t get these large organisations to play ball, then why should the smaller organisations bother? But the shocking thing I noticed? The Sun’s cookie is still there! I’m not quite sure why… It seemed to get removed when I deleted it specifically.
Anyways, at the moment this is one of two reasons I want to leave Europe, it IS going to have an impact on our economy, until the browsers get themselves sorted that is.
Also, I asked Avinash Kaushik on Twitter what the Google Analytics team are doing about this to help us out in the EU, sadly I’ve not had a reply yet, but to be fair I only asked him about 12 hours ago!Turns out I’m a bit of a doofus and I actually tweeted his old account, apologies Avinash.
- Make the most of your current job
- gain new experience
- Brush up CV
- what you have achieved
- what you can offer
- what do you want?
- Invest in skills
- Remain positive
- professional and constructive
- Work on your confidence
- Don’t forget #1
- Look around,but don’t advertise it
- Remember your professional profile
- Linkedin etc.
- Have plan B
- for what you want to achieve
- keep focused
From Evening Standard 12 Jan 2012
Good piece about private and public space and London’s river. Cut and pasted from the ES as it doesn’t seem to archive content very well.
Take us to the river
11 Jan 2012
The Thames is the reason London exists. It is the artery that made the city possible in the first place and its primary link to the outside world for most of its history. So it is strange that there isn’t much coherence around what we should do with it. What is the Thames today? A nice view for riverside apartments? A public space? An untapped development site? No one seems to know.
The news last week that Singapore-based funder Venus Group was withdrawing its planning application for a new floating walkway on the river was met with relief from some, disappointment from others. The £60million proposal suggested a series of pontoons on the river that would create a walking route between the Millennium Bridge and the Tower of London. Designed by commercial architect Gensler, it was withdrawn after concerns about safety and design quality were raised by consultees. Whether or not that architect is involved in the future, it seems clear the project will return in some form.
The fact is the Thames is as likely to be defined by private companies such as Venus taking a punt on something to attract the masses as it will be by any joined-up thinking about the role the river might play in London’s future. The identity of the Thames will be defined by the EDF Energy London Eye, the forthcoming Emirates Air Line cable car (that will span the river between the O2 Arena at north Greenwich and the ExCeL exhibition centre at the Royal Docks) and other sponsored attractions.
These businesses are making the most of the footfall the river attracts today. It has never been as accessible, or as popular. Until relatively recently much of the riverside was inaccessible, even invisible in many places, but strategies that encourage river access have improved this situation. The Thames Path walk, a benign, tourism-focused scheme managed by Natural England, maintains a pathway on or near the river’s edge for 184 miles of its length. The Blue Ribbon Network, which is part of the Mayor’s strategic plan for London, encourages local authorities to promote the use of the river for transport and leisure. But the first of these is simply a route, the second a series of recommendations: neither is a comprehensive plan for how the riverside should develop in civic terms, or characterises what kind of public space it should be.
It was probably the Southbank Centre that first defined the riverside as a leisure landscape. The Festival of Britain in 1951 turned the working warehouses and workers’ homes between Waterloo Station and the banks of the Thames into a civic space. The area left over around and beneath the modernist landmarks of the Royal Festival Hall, Hayward Gallery and Queen Elizabeth Hall was colonised by skateboarders in the Seventies, and this stretch of river has since flowered into a diverse and interesting public space, even if it is considerably sanitised since the refurbishment of the Festival Hall in 2008.
There is certainly a more enlightened attitude to riverside pedestrian access from private developers today than there was even 10 years ago. It would be perverse for anyone to propose a riverside development without river access for the public, and those who are planning the few large Thames sites remaining undeveloped in central London (such as the one in Deptford or at Battersea Power Station) have already demonstrated that they consider the river an asset and have every intention of exploiting it for public use. But if developers have recognised the importance of providing river access, our civic institutions can’t help but become more commercial. The 2008 Royal Festival Hall refurbishment, so successful in so many ways, also opened up great glass-fronted units to provide retail and restaurant opportunities along this previously uncommercial – dare I say it – civic space.
Many of us take for granted the walk along central London’s riverside, especially the section between the Southbank Centre in the west and Tower Bridge in the east that gets most tourist traffic. It seems, intuitively, as much a public place as Trafalgar Square or Hyde Park. In fact, great swathes of the riverside pathway are privately owned, and it is only by the good grace of these landowners that the likes of you and I are allowed there at all. The small moments of private ownership are more or less unnoticeable, like the corner immediately west of Southwark Bridge, where the pavement is owned by the offensively bulbous Riverside House, and pedestrians allowed right of way. And there are much bigger areas where the riverside is entirely private property. The most significant of these is the area of the Norman Foster-designed More London development around City Hall. When the pavement turns to grey granite it denotes the area that is owned privately, and the landowner can (and does) employ private security guards to eject skateboarders, BMX bikers or other undesirables.
This issue might seem of academic interest. After all, they wouldn’t really close the area around City Hall to the public, would they? Well, go to St Paul’s Cathedral and see the lengths to which the owners of the adjacent Paternoster Square office development have gone to avoid the Occupy protesters getting near the London Stock Exchange. The so-called public space at the heart of the office campus is nothing of the sort when the proprietors are not sympathetic with the use made of it. Swathes of the riverside, including the seat of London democracy, are exactly the same.
The London River Park, the Eye and all the rest are sanitising agents, retailing a cheerful, one-sided vision of our city, one that resists time and tide, and reduces the river to an attraction among others. What is it about this attitude to the river that irks? It is perhaps that it misunderstands the eternal meanings of the Thames to London, those that run deeper than the need to satisfy parents with baby strollers out for a Sunday afternoon promenade. It is the truth of the river understood by those who get much closer to it than the visitor to a floating steel platform: the mudlarks, those who walk the beaches at low tide, and the eel fishermen who still fish the beach down by Tower Bridge.
The Thames is a place of cycles more profound than the economic ones of tourism and corporate entertaining. It is a place that Dickens understood, in the famous opening pages of Our Mutual Friend, as a repository of all London’s stinking mess, its rejects, its most arcane mysteries.
The Thames, to London, stands outside concepts as banal as regeneration. My evocation of this great, wide, brown, mysterious expanse is not romantic, it is an evocation of the qualities of the river that have made it a place in the past where rich and poor could ply their trade, with which every Londoner identified. It is the likes of Venus Group who are the romantics, idealising the Thames and hoping to reduce it to a place of coffee and contemplation for people with a couple of spare leisure hours.
These are waters into which lucky charms were thrown, where bodies were disposed of. The privatisation of the banks of the river we expect: any great port has commercial buildings lining its waterside. But the water itself should be beyond any business to occupy.
We need tourism, and there will always be attractions aimed at giving people something to spend their leisure hours doing. But there need to be plans for riverside places that are for more than just tourism, that stand for more than mere attraction. Perhaps we should campaign to turn the House of Commons terrace into a public place, to make the terrace of Somerset House more than a nice place to drink cocktails, and to change the status of the ground around City Hall to make it truly democratic and accessible to all.
Meetings Are Toxic
Don’t have meetings
Do you really need a meeting? Meetings usually arise when a concept isn’t clear enough. Instead of resorting to a meeting, try to simplify the concept so you can discuss it quickly via email or im or Campfire. The goal is to avoid meetings. Every minute you avoid spending in a meeting is a minute you can get real work done instead.
There’s nothing more toxic to productivity than a meeting. Here’s a few reasons why:
- They break your work day into small, incoherent pieces that disrupt your natural workflow
- They’re usually about words and abstract concepts, not real things (like a piece of code or some interface design)
- They usually convey an abysmally small amount of information per minute
- They often contain at least one moron that inevitably gets his turn to waste everyone’s time with nonsense
- They drift off-subject easier than a Chicago cab in heavy snow
- They frequently have agendas so vague nobody is really sure what they are about
- They require thorough preparation that people rarely do anyway
For those times when you absolutely must have a meeting (this should be a rare event), stick to these simple rules:
- Set a 30 minute timer. When it rings, meeting’s over. Period.
- Invite as few people as possible.
- Never have a meeting without a clear agenda.
Have fewer meetings
There are too many meetings. Push back on meetings that do not make sense or are unproductive. Only book a meeting when you have an important business issue to discuss and you want or need input, approval, or agreement. Even then, resist the urge to invite everyone and their brother — don’t waste people’s time unnecessarily.
—Lisa Haneberg, author (from Don’t Let Meetings Rule!)
Break it Down
As projects grow, adding people has a diminishing return. One of the most interesting reasons is the increased number of communications channels. Two people can only talk to each other; there’s only a single comm path. Three workers have three communications paths; 4 have 6. In fact, the growth of links is exponential…Pretty soon memos and meetings eat up the entire work day.
The solution is clear: break teams into smaller, autonomous and independent units to reduce these communications links.
Similarly, cut programs into smaller units. Since a large part of the problem stems from dependencies (global variables, data passed between functions, shared hardware, etc.), find a way to partition the program to eliminate — or minimize — the dependencies between units.