Why standards are hard

In a good primer on why web analytics is hard, we see this statement:

Every single person inside the Ford corporation has the same IP address.

So, some questions:

  • What about married people? All have the same IP address? If so, are they all the same as each other but different from the single people?
  • Do they have different IP addresses outside of Ford?
  • How can they talk to each other if they all have the same IP address?
  • Do people really have IP addresses? Where do they keep them?

Silly questions? Sure. In this case, if we’re familiar with how the web works at a high-level (and we must if we’re going to do any analysis), we can devine intent from context as well as from our experience. However, human languages are not precision instruments, and thus everything is open to interpretation.

This is why standards, and legal contracts (including laws) try to be so precise. Precise, unambiguous wording is very hard. This is one reason why people invent new terms during any new endeavors – to make sure that the meaning is precise as possible. It’s also what makes standards (and laws) so hard to understand.

This is from experience: many moons ago, I was the technical chair and spec editor for the DMTF DMI 1.0 standard. The fruits of that effort – an 18-month process – are now embedded in many devices, including the BIOS of every x86-based computer.

Back to our topic. The other thing about standards is that they are produced for a specific purpose. Knowing that purpose is the key to how the standard is applied. Often, different groups have different goals, so they need different standards. When the standards overlap, or contradict, for very similar applications, there’s confusion. A common joke is “the good thing about standards is there are so many to choose from.” Until this article, I’d never heard of JICWEBS, and I’ve been doing web analytics for almost ten years now. Part of that is because it’s a UK & Ireland effort. But they exist and have a standard. These standards aren’t the same standards that the Interactive Advertising Bureau has produced, but that’s because the IAB focuses on ads. Yet there is overlap. Which do you choose?

I have high hopes the WAA will be able to help in this regard.

Why standards are hard

PR in 2005

So I was IMing with a friend today. His company is doing some very cool stuff and got some good press recently. I told him he should have a “CEO’s blog” so I can find out about it:

him: i have my own pr team...
me: but if you had a ceo blog, you could link to those news items,
         and they'd show up in my RSS reader.  it would be an easy way
         for me to keep tabs on what the company is up to.
         i can't be bothered to remember to go to your web site.
him: aren't you in the opt in list
him: do you get periodic emails from us?
me: no, i don't want it in my mailbox. email is so 90s

and then he was off to do whatever CEOs do.

Dude, I know you read this and understand “connectors”.

Let people talk to you, and link to you.

PR in 2005

Yahoo! Zen

Various news outlets have pointed out that Yahoo! is 10 years old on March 2, and Y! bloggers like Michael Radwin have mentioned some of the festivities. Tonight (supposedly after everyone went home, ha!) the Yahoo! gift fairies descended and distributed, among other things, an oversized commemorative 10-year book.

Throughout the book are facing “WE WERE” and “WE ARE” pages, showing Y!’s humble beginnings and where it is today. But in the last 10 (get it?) pages, there’s one “WE WERE” page that has two photos – Jerry and David – and nine “WE ARE” pages that have … by my calculations, about 6768 full-face photos, and a few hundred partial-face photos. A quick look says these are probably the face shots that appear on the employee directory. And they are in random order. So naturally, you start looking for yourself, and people you know.

A picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, it’s worth over a thousand faces:

Over the next cube, I heard a co-worker get up to leave, and say to another co-worker, who was hunched over the book:

Goodnight Rakesh. I hope you find yourself.

It was a very Zen moment.

Yahoo! Zen

Blue Martini goes private

Looks like Blue Martini is going private. At a nice premium, too.

Usually when a major transaction occurs, the CEO is quoted as saying why it’s great for the company, how it will make for better products or solutions, etc. In this press release, Monte is reduced to observing that shareholders will get cash.

Every year since 1996, I’ve read that analytics is the next big investment area, after (you name it – bioinformatics, wireless, social networking, whatever). So far, I still don’t see it. Blue Martini survived longer than most companies in this space because they tightly integrated their analytics with the operational systems. For the many vendors that created analytics products that didn’t actually close the loop, the technology eventually died or got sold off.

Blue Martini goes private