Own Your Data

A while back I was talking with some people regarding a specific type of database and the true impact it could have on the user to client conversion for businesses. While mapping out the current possibilities, limitations, and ‘the great unknowns’, the realization was made that much of what was required has already been done by the likes of Google. One of my first reactions was simply “Crap. They’ve already done it, are doing it, and have a few years and billions of dollars head start..“. This was shortly followed by “Crap! They’ve already done it, and are doing it!“.

So shift gears for a second here. Sure, there is the Google we all know and love for searching, SEO, email, chat, shared documents, YouTube, etc. etc.. Literally, the list goes on for quite a while.. But how much user data are they actually harvesting from a) the people that use their sites, and b) the sites that gladly log their data with Google in trade for some poor analytics? It’s one thing to gather some data from your own group of sites, but now hook up millions and millions of websites with billions of users logging data into your systems. The best part is that all you have to provide in return is some approximate/estimated metrics that are older than 24h. You don’t need to provide database access, and they’re completely limited to exactly what you give them. Do you honestly believe that because a specific item of user data isn’t available in your GA account that they’re not storing it?

So why then are we using it? Well, for small sites it’s cheap and it’s good. Even for medium sized sites it’s a good solid platform that can provide the necessary data to make good decisions. The challenge here is that  I have a big issue with large corporate sites giving away their data. Ok, but what are the alternatives, right? Well, sadly there isn’t much. There are a bunch of companies that claim to have superior analytics, and one I’ve found that answered a lot of questions about the specific database that started all of this.. Not sure how good their product is, however, it is very interesting to say the least.

Anything available that is Open Source? Well, actually, now that you mention it – sorta. While doing some of this digging I came across PiWik:

Piwik is a downloadable, open source (GPL licensed) web analytics software program. It provides you with detailed real time reports on your website visitors: the search engines and keywords they used, the language they speak, your popular pages… and so much more.

Piwik aims to be an open source alternative to Google Analytics.

Oh really? After installing it on my trusty webserver, and noticing how truly dismal my traffic is (meh, most of the content is ready by RSS anyways which sometimes makes me wonder why bother having anything other than an RSS feed), I began to notice that this crew is onto something. Sure, it’s still got a ways to go before it becomes a serious contender to GA – but wow!

Ok, so now look at it this way: GA is top dog, but barely gives a dog a bone – right? PiWik is out proving that you can own your own data, they have made great strides in gathering data just like GA, and really, if they had some funding/more coders they could be in serious contention in a very short time. The question now begs, if you’re a massive corporation who has the bankroll + developers who could actually make this happen – then why are you giving your data away?

Data is everything, because without it you cannot convert it to information, you cannot gather sufficient information to convert it to knowledge, and without knowledge, you cannot take action.

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We’re back! v5.238

There is a part of me that wants to start a blog that just contains blogs posts about the future of the blog and things that are planned, yet never delivered. Creativity would be high, but long term caring would be tough..

So, in an attempt to not actually re-produce that blog here (yet this very post is in that general theme), we’ll keep this one short and concise.

Are we back? Yes.
Who is “we”? The guy writing this, and his brain – sometimes singular, yet sometimes not…
Why are we back? Figured some things out.
Like what? Well, things like massive blog posts take a lot of time, but Twittering doesn’t. Big blog posts can provide much content/context/etc., but tweets cannot. Blog posts can be any number of characters (*DING!*), but Twitter posts can only be 140 characters…
So what? That means I don’t have to spend hours cranking out a blog post, but I can provide more than a tweet for things that need more. Blog posts from now on will be greater than 140 characters, yet less than my previous novel-like posts. Frequency should increase, and anything that is an ongoing theme/exploration can be split into bite-size posts where they can be re-explored with new things learned since the last post on the subject.
Are you going to change your theme 10 times and blog about it each time? No. Theme stays for a while and it should meet the needs of the new posting concept (new to me anyways).
Do you still have readers? I have no idea.

Ok, that’s it – and yes – I have posts lined up.

Meet the neighbours

Fishing Boats

A while back I discovered a great little tool that allows you to see all the sites hosted on a single server. Tully.ca is hosted on a shared server (in Texas?), which means that I get a chunk of hard drive space in a server along with a whole bunch of other sites, and we all share the same server. Think of it as an apartment building where your main address is the same, but you still have apartment numbers that let people find you specifically. This little tool lets you see who else is living in the building. Pretty neat, eh?

Ok, so who else is sharing on this server, right (I’ll pull some highlights)?

2.www.babyo.com.mx – um, it’s young, it’s music, there’s Britney in there… yeah..
3.www.datastatistik-indonesia.com – “Improving data for decentralized planning” – in Indonesia!
7.covertrationingblog.com – The Covert Rationing Blog: Healthcare Rationing in America
8.911scholars.org – Scholars for 9/11 Truth: Exposing Falsehoods and Revealing Truths (possible crazy people warning!)
13.www.consciouscoffees.com – Conscious Coffees
18.www.taxidesigndemo.com – the Clear Channel Taxi Media site for all your taxi advertising needs!
21.campuganda.org – Camp Uganda, “an educational camp in wildlife conservation for underprivileged seventh grade Ugandan children and their teachers.” Cool!
29.ray-dale.com – A multimedia designer with some great work
32.www.syrtis.com – and I quote: “The hottest guys modeling bikinis, thongs, g-strings and nude” – you can’t always pick your neighbours
37.www.djpollo.com.mx – DJ Pollo who is actually pretty good! hrm…
42.www.canaandogrescue.com – “helping owners, breeders, and shelters pair Canaan Dogs in need of a new home with a forever home.”
44.eaca.org – The Evangelical Anglican Church In America – oh lord…. RRRRUUUUNNNNN!!
55.www.electricbikeworld.co.uk – Electric Bike World!
72.american-rails-forums.com – for the hardcore train lover in America.
73.spanispringsteen.com – a spanish Bruce Springsteen fan site! Crazy!
87.weaim2pleezknives.com – Gateway Knives – for all your knifey needs?
117.www.angelfishkisses.com – The World Angelfish Forum

… and that’s about it. Quite a few more religious sites, a bunch of dead forums, and a few photographer sites. Where this tool gets really interesting is when you start to use it on various company sites where they might be developing something new on a subdomain.

Oh right, the site – http://www.guerrilladns.com/ is where all the fun begins!

Enjoy.

Just take a stand.

firefox_ie_desktop_1152x864

It isn’t every day you get to take a stand against something. Usually you can insist or persuade the viewpoints or actions of others, yet very rarely do you actually get to tell someone – full stop – that, no, this isn’t going to happen. So what the hell am I talking about, right?

Well, to kick off the new blogging challenges here on LE, I decided to update and overhaul the site template. It isn’t nearly as customized as the old one (props to Brian Gardener & Douglas Karr) yet, but with a few tweaks and modifications here and there it’s all rather refreshing. After spending a few hours hacking away (it’s what I do), everything for the most part is looking as it should and nothing is screwing up in most browsers – EXCEPT – Internet Explorer 6… and I don’t even care.

I do believe that enough is enough, and IE6 will not be supported by this blog. Period.

At work we support just about every browser imaginable and that unfortunately includes IE6. Across the sites, IE6 traffic accounts for 15%, and when you’re dealing with sites that have significant traffic, we are talking an insane number of unique visitors that are using this outdated software. Sure, the common argument is that “my company requires that I use IE6”, but when you think about it is just plain sad. You’re telling me that the business you work for is knowingly using outdated software that is buggy and full of security issues that have never been patched? Wow. The typical answer is, “yes, but some of the business stuff we use will only work on IE6” which is even more scarry. This means that even older/outdated software is holding companies hostage and forcing them to use a browser that is a security risk, thus opening them up to just about anything imaginable.

The amount of time spent trying to make sites IE6 compliant for a small percentage of users is incredible, and the fact that this MINORITY is still able to dictate to the web world that sites must be compliant to their outdated needs is truly insane. I looked at the current template here in IE6 once I was essentially finished, and wow, it is not pretty. So should I then spend at least another 2h tweaking and fixing something for a small number of users? Well the nice part of me says that I should try and give everyone the same experience when visiting, whereas the realistic part of me says that I should not support these people, yet provide alternatives.

To just stop supporting something is a bit of a jerk move, so what can be done to helpfully guide those users to the alternatives?

  • provide a notice when someone arrives using IE6 that their software is outdated, and that they should upgrade immediately. Provide the link to the most current version of IE, and also provide links to alternative browsers
  • promote alternative browsers that can be installed on the same system as IE6 which would allow the (business) user to use IE6 for certain business applications, and a real browser for 99.9% of everything else
  • promote the use of RSS feeds for sites. Still want to use IE6 but hate the look of the site? Great, subscribe to the RSS feed so that you can get immediate content without the need to visit the site!

Taking a stand always seems so harsh, yet it is a great way to put an end to something (or start something new), and the people it affects are forced to actually deal with it.

So, for this blog, sorry, we don’t support Internet Explorer 6 or earlier.

If Something Important Happens – You’ll Know.

A few years ago, Colleen and I canceled our cable television service, and gave away our TV. The original intent was to stop wasting our time watching crap and either talk or read more. The theory was sound, but ultimately the practice was a bit.. unrealistic (within months we were downloading our favourite shows and watching on the computer huddled around my 15″ monitor).. Today however, our TV is in the upper 30″ range (a freebie that replaced our 22″ TV), we still don’t have cable, but we watch the shows we want when we want via internet, and we watch movies. One thing we don’t watch is the news, we don’t get the newspaper either, and we’ll randomly do a drive-by on News.Google to see what’s happening.

A while back someone pointed out that the news is filled with sensational stories about bad things that happen. If something major happens that you truly need to be aware of – someone will let you know. Heck, they’ll let you know even if you don’t need to be aware of it.

Am I anti-news? No, not at all – I’m just anti-depressants and the news is one of the biggest ones around. Am I uninformed? Nope. If I need to know something I know where to look it up, I have family and friends who will keep me in the loop, and there is enough chatter throughout the office that will keep me well informed whether I want to be or not. Now, where this gets interesting is how you can know what is going on without actually accessing a news site.

I was rolling through the list of people who I am subscribed to and who are subscribed to my Twitter feed, and I was looking for people I should be subscribed to, who are subscribed to me, yet I am not subscribed to them. On a quick side note – Twitter, your interface could seriously use some work. After a couple pages of subscribers who I am subscribed to mixed in with a bunch of people I’m not (and have no intention of – unless there is a real full name associated with you account, I’m not likely to subscribe to ‘quickcash4u’ or some other crap like that), I came across TweetStats, which lead me to their main page. After doing some stats generating on my own Twitter activities (yeah, pretty strong at the beginning of 2008, and then everything seems to have died), I came across the overall trends section which gives a small snapshot of what’s going on in Twitterville:

tweetstats

Hmmm, I wonder what could possibly be going on in the world today… Christmas is the surprising trend today given that it was finished over a week ago, but I’m guessing that it’s people talking about their christmas vacation as they prepare to return to work (for those of us who had a nice long break and are NOT looking to return to the office tomorrow!). Without going to news.google, I’m pretty sure that the Israeli and Hamas are at it again in Gaza, the Colts and Chargers are playing (or just did play) a game, and Macworld has some news… verification with news.google… Hamas ready for bitter urban battle, Chargers shock Colts in overtime, and finally Apple fans pray for Steve Jobs surprise at final Macworld

We are inundated with news, about everything, from just about everywhere. So what’s my point, right? Do yourself a favour this year, read/watch less news (I’m not saying become more ignorant about the world you live in), instead, keep your eyes open for small updates from many sources to get the overall picture of what is happening (then drill in on specifics), and when something major happens, trust me, you’ll know.