The Web Analytics Association Board of Directors

Web Analytics AssociationYou may have read there’s a new batch of WAA directors.  Eight of the existing directors have returned.  Deciding not to return were four great analytics professionals:

The April rains washed in four new, wide-eyed, idealistic directors:

To those WAA members who voted for me, thank you.  To the WAA members who didn’t vote for me, I hope I’ll earn your respect.  To the analytics professionals that aren’t WAA members — we should talk!

As an aside – it’s going to be interesting being part of this new group.  All four of us are VPs in good-sized organizations, and probably used to “calling the shots” to some degree.  Working with a non-profit organization of dedicated professionals, all of whom volunteer out of their passion for the industry, is going to be a great learning experience.

Our debut board meeting was in Boston, the day after the WAA Boston Symposium.  The first item on the agenda was an orientation for the new folks (all board members attended, except for Jim Sterne who had a prior commitment).  After sitting like good newbies for all of maybe 15 minutes, one of us (name redacted to protect the innocent) politely but firmly started asking pointed questions like “what are the success targets?  Where are the metrics?  etc.”  We hadn’t even gotten to basics like how the association conducts its business and already people are demanding data.  Smiles all around!  The next few hours continued something of the same – materials had been prepared, but we had questions and went straight to them.  Prior to the meeting I wondered if the board had some kind of hazing ritual for the new folks, but I think the existing board was on the receiving end of a lot of the hazing. 🙂  Suffice to say I do not think the four new directors are going to be passive wallflowers.

As I get deeper into it, I’ll try to provide regular updates here – not on official business, there’s already a web site for that, and a monthly newsletter.  Obviously, I’m only speaking for myself.  Instead I’ll look at whether or not I’m doing anything useful as a director.  If the only time you hear from me is when I want to get elected, that’s too late, eh?

Meanwhile, and as always, I’m interested in your questions, comments and observations about the WAA.


The Web Analytics Association Board of Directors

odds and ends, new and old

So, the Strata conference was good, and my talk was pretty well received.  Work got in the way of me hanging out at the conference for the whole three days, but I did spend about a day and some change meeting lots of smart people (including a lot of ex-Yahooers) and taking in some talks.  It’s a very different vibe from eMetrics – that’s not a judgment, just an observation.  Much more technical and “hands-on” in nature – a lot of it reminded me of eMetrics 2006, with a focus on tools and technologies.  If you missed it, or want to relive it, you can find Strata 2011 Speaker Slides & Videos.

One personal highlight was chatting with Duncan Davidson, who is doing a lot of photography for O’Reilly events (and many others .. check out his site).  The kick was that he and I were in a Palo Alto community photography class with about a dozen other people back in … oh, 2002ish maybe?  And now look at him: a pro photographer, living the dream…

Tonight I did something both humbling and inspiring at the same time.  I read my own blog.  Like, all of it.  There’s not a lot to read, really, until you reach back to 2005.  There’s now lots of missing images and busted links. Such is the web, I guess.  But the experience was inspiring because I found myself on several occasions thinking “wow!  that was well said!  Did I really say that?” and then followed by “Hmm, I don’t think I’m that smart any more.”   Perhaps blogging is like exercising – if you don’t use the muscle, it atrophies?

Speaking of busted links.  Back when the web was black and white with blue links, I had some content on my old site, wherein I poked at a few sound and video devices to reveal their secrets.  Various nooks and crannies of the web still have pointers to that material, and still get the occasional email asking if I have the content around somewhere and can I please put it back up?  So over the weekend, I did.

odds and ends, new and old

Upcoming Speaking Appearances

Hello World! Happy new year. Today I make good on one of my new year’s resolutions — to start blogging again.

I am looking over my calendar and see I have four upcoming speaking engagements:

I agreed to each, because each is worth attending. The Marketing Optimization Summits need no introduction: if you are remotely interested in web analytics and marketing optimization, you already know the name eMetrics. eTail is all about online retail, focusing on multi-channel e-commerce, campaign management, etc. it will be my first time there and I’m excited about it. Strata is a new conference from O’Reilly that promises to showcase a wealth of innovation in Big Data – much broader in scope than any of the other conferences, and probably a lot more technical too.

If you see me at any of these, please say hello!

Upcoming Speaking Appearances

Going to eMetrics?

I’m cruising through LinkedIn. I click on the profile of a well-known analytics person, and this ad appears on the page:

Cool to see Jim’s smile on my web browser. 🙂 I wonder if LinkedIn showed me this because they figured I’d be interested (behavioral targeting) or because the profile mentioned analytics (contextual targeting)?

And it reminds me I should probably update my speaker bio, figure out my travel budget, connect with eBay PR to get on their approved speaker’s list, and all of that…

Going to eMetrics?

Hello eBay!

Thanks for the emails and tweets around my time off, it was short but sweet. While it would have been great to take more time to decompress, I knew what was ahead — and felt like a kid on Christmas Eve. I didn’t want to wait, because …

I’ve joined eBay.

eBay has many fabulous analytical tools already, both commercial and home-grown, for lots of different kinds of analysis. In addition, they are on a road to build out a whole new class of analytic capabilities based on Hadoop. They recently reorganized the data initiatives and groups to form a team that re-focuses the “many standalone tools” mindset to a “platform” for analytics. This holistic vision, and the “central data, distributed analysis” mindset aligns so well with my thinking and interests that I had to make the jump. As much as I love what Yahoo! is doing with analytics, the opportunity at eBay was too compelling to pass up. I mean, come on .. it’s the world’s largest online marketplace!

My discussions with the eBay leadership team told me two important things. First, they are ready to make significant investments in data capabilities to drive the next generation of eBay. Second, the new leadership over the last couple of years is bringing a change to the business, where the company will be much more technology- and innovation-driven than it has been in the past. Many of the leadership hires in the last 18 months are a testament to that. And I like to think I am another proof point.

Having cool technology and a leadership team that understands the value of data is a great start. But the icing on the cake is the level of data and analytics talent within eBay. It is, in a word, staggering. I am truly humbled by the opportunity to work with a group of this caliber.

And now, on a Saturday, I’m off to the ACM Data Mining Camp, hosted at eBay’s north campus…

Hello eBay!

The Last Yodel

When I started my keynote presentation at eMetrics Santa Barbara 2006, I said “there was a time when I was not at Yahoo!, and there will be a time when I’m no longer at Yahoo!.” That day has come .. it’s my last day at Yahoo!.

Lest anyone think this means I’m down on the company — it’s quite the opposite! I’m more positive than ever about Yahoo!, especially the analytics. I am very excited about where the company is going with data. After a short but ill-advised set of changes that de-emphasized a coordinated approach to data and analytics, a new leadership team (read: Carol Bartz) recently reconstituted a central data and analytics group. You may even have heard or read Carol saying we’re looking for acquisition candidates in the analytics space. I’m very glad to see the return of executive leadership that sees the strategic value of data.

I’ve never been one to talk a lot about Yahoo! and I won’t start now, especially the internal goings-on, but there’s new leadership, a new commitment, a new focus, and frankly I’m really glad to see it happening. I am also jazzed about the 2010 and 2011 roadmap for our products, including Yahoo! Web Analytics, our advertising analytics products, and for a lot of internal products you haven’t heard of. Oh, and as I tweeted previously, the YWA team is hiring…

And with that, a chapter closes. Yahoo! has been good to me, and I like to think I’ve been good to Yahoo!. But even the good things don’t always last forever, and after almost five and half years, it’s time for me to say goodbye. I’m going to take a short break, decompress a little, and then gear up for the next thing. But that’s a story for another time.


The Last Yodel

Analytics Haiku

For the past few eMetrics Summits, Jim Sterne has been holding a creative writing contest, with the winner getting a pass to eMetrics. That’s good value for a little creative writing! For the upcoming Washington DC event, Jim decided to limit the entries to haiku.

Last night I had an urge to participate. The timing couldn’t be better — the deadline was September 15! Not to worry, since I’m already attending the Summit, I don’t need a haiku pass. Unbound from the shackles of winning the contest, here are a few haikus for your consideration.

But first. Knowing Jim, I had this suspicion that he’s thrown in haikus as “easter eggs” in his “serious” writing, probably for years. Boy was I right. I found these, buried in some of his old (old!) articles:

They'll buy. And you will
   have done something positive
for the Internet. 

— from The Internet Gift Culture (1996!)

The fact is, if you
   treat people with respect, you
can sell them more stuff.

— from Personalization and Privacy in Perspective (1999)

Variety. Choice.
   Excitement about what's
around the corner.

— from Customer Interface: Easy Doesn’t It (1996)

Smith, this is Sally
   at American Express.
How can I help you?

But what if gumbo
   recipes were exactly
what you had in mind? 

— from Customer Interface: Do You Know Me? (1997)

And then my favorite: Mr. Sterne himself embedded in the haiku — quoted in an article by Wanda Loskot:

Jim Sterne: "The biggest
   mistake is going after
too large a segment." 

— from What Makes People Click? – Targeting! (2000)

Magnificent! Emboldened and inspired by the ancient texts, I thought I’d try my hand at some original verse. While I don’t claim to have reached the pinnacle of haiku, I discovered that a little wine, a healthy disregard for tradition, and a willingness to expose one’s “creative analytical side” results in lyric such as:

Web analytics
   A great and noble journey
The long quest for truth.

(Tip ‘o the hat to Matt Cutler)

We use statistics
   thus we are never certain
of the snowflake's shape.

(er .. ahem)

The Twitter debate
   analytics or measure?
A freakin' hashtag!

(inspiration: Eric T. Peterson here)

Omniture, Webtrends
   Coremetrics and Unica 
Google and Yahoo!

(note if you substitute “Adobe” for “Omniture” it still works! Coincidence?)

And finally, the topical entry.

Gary said it best:
   Adobe buys Omniture
What are they thinking?

(Gary Angel’s blog post)

Analytics Haiku

Is This the Future of Web Analytics?

Long ago I mentioned what I called “vertical analytics” and how blogs may be the next analytics frontier. Fast forward to the present, and blog analytics are “been there, done that.” (The product demo I saw in a hotel room at SES never saw the light of day; the originator went on to other things – and remains active in “general” web analytics.)

bandmetrics-badge.pngI still think vertical analytics is bound to happen. Witness Atlanta-based Indie Music, whose service Band Metrics — “Analytics For The Music Industry™”, scored angel financing back in November. More than one press report about the financing used a variant of the phrase “Google Analytics of the music industry.”

Compared with some of the graybeards of Business Intelligence, the Web Analytics “industry” has not yet left adolescence. But I think many of the lessons learned in the greater web analytics field, combined with more powerful machines and a greater “popular culture” around number crunching, are going to lead to analytics for very specialized fields. At a minimum, it might move us away from generic tools that look at the Web to tools that have specific knowledge of a particular business — kinda like a specific solution for scheduling & billing for dentists vs. bringing in Oracle Applications and Accenture. What can be bad about that?

Could this be a new analytics growth opportunity, or perhaps just a land grab? Here’s a thought experiment: check out (where XXX is whatever interesting business you can think of) and see if it’s already taken. I tried a half-dozen while composing this post and I was surprised how many were already claimed…

(Interestingly, itself is not taken, nor is

Is This the Future of Web Analytics?

New Visualization Sites, Tools and Ideas

If there’s one thing better than having lots of data, it’s probably visualizing it.

I’ve been coming across new sites and new ideas for visualizing data, and thought I’d mention a few.

One of the things I love about the New York Times is their smart visualizations. The interactive graphic A Year of Heavy Losses was a huge hit last fall (even if the data was scary as hell) as the financial meltdown was unfolding. Treemaps can be difficult to understand, but this one nailed it.


Even the Times’ day-to-day infographics can be a pleasure to look at. Did you know that the NYT has a Visualization Lab where you can make your own visualizations? It uses the many eyes technology from IBM.

FlowingData explores many visual aspects of data. If you haven’t seen their visualization of Watching the Growth of Walmart Across America, (which uses the Modest Maps library) I highly recommend it — but the site has a lot more to discover.


Jeff Clark over at Neoformix continues to produce thought-provoking visualizations, many full of beautiful insight, like this contrast of two speeches, and some, like his visualization of Obama’s victory speech, are just plain “hang on the wall” beautiful (politics aside). I spend way too much time at Neoformix. Rather than single out one post, check out his Neoformix Review 2008 and see if you’re not intrigued. Jeff also links to other interesting visualization sites and projects.


Infographics should tell a story. Seeing a map of the US with red and blue states doesn’t really give the full scale of how the election went. Mark Newman, however, does a good job showing how using the geographic area is the wrong way to visualize the data, and coming up with better suggestions.


Tim Showers’ visualization discussions are worth checking out. I particularly liked his post on the challenges of visualizing multi-level data .


The TheStatBot does various dives into data that doesn’t normally get the spotlight, such as what post-processing software gets used on Flickr. Here’s a Twitter Wordle they did of Leo Laporte’s various tweets:


And .. if you like infoclutter (and we all do, sometimes, right?), check out this dashboard!

Finally, if you’ve made it this far: not really a data visualization, but a fascinating time-lapse movie of a four seasons in one 40-second video.


Have you seen other interesting visualization ideas?

New Visualization Sites, Tools and Ideas

Graphing Yahoo! News Elections Traffic

Just a quick graph that shows daily page views to Yahoo! News. The green line shows the week before the US elections, while the week of the elections is in blue.Y! News PVs, US Elections

This comes from our internal numbers; for “competitive reasons” I removed the legend indicating volume — but you can see the site was much busier than the previous week. Uniques, PVs, and PVs per unique all were way up.

TechCrunch showed some data from Hitwise on market share of visits for Nov 4. It’s a little strange that Yahoo! wasn’t listed in the TechCrunch graph, even though Yahoo! placed first overall. Also interesting that the Drudge Report was so high. Here are the top 10 .. for more, see Media Life Magazine .

Hitwise ranking of election sites

Graphing Yahoo! News Elections Traffic