Monthly Archives: January 2011

Do you rely solely upon Google Analytics? You are probably missing out.

Every SEO I have ever spoken to thinks that Google Analytics is the bee’s knees. Most of the time stuff from Google is. I love gmail and Google Apps. Google Docs has kept me from the nasty presence of MS Office rotting on my desktop. Google itself is an amazing search engine. I can’t remember how I ever used the Interweb without it. I mean I’m no Al Gore. I didn’t invent the thing. Then there is Google Maps. Google Earth. Google Talk. All of their cool code libraries and APIs. I can’t wait for the upcoming release of Google Farts, their venture into what we used to call “Smell-a-vision.” That’s going to be big. They are the most fascinating company in the world. For the most part, everything Google does is great, just not their Analytics product.

Before I get going too much here, I must admit, I am a dumb user of Analytics at best. With that said I have yet to meet a smart one. Perhaps I am jaded by the so-called experts who have tried to sell me on it in the past.  The funny thing is when you ask these experts to explain what all the numbers mean, and how it is affecting you, they start spinning in circles of confusion. Is it because they have no idea what they are doing? Perhaps for some, but I think the real problem is in the tool. It really lacks clarity in some areas. The absence of  instant feedback disconnects you from experiments you are running and the traffic that results from them. If you are happy with your data being a day late and a dollar short, feel free to continue using this tool and stop reading here.

Ok, I’m being a little harsh. To be fair Google does give analytics away for “free.” Additionally I think there is some integration into “Adwords” for when you are spending big money with them.

When I started this blog, I had a desire to see my traffic in real time. I wanted to know if I was wasting my time with things I was trying, or if my efforts were bearing fruit. I was never able to really gauge this using Google Analytics for the reasons I stated above. Because this blog is built on WordPress, you can all to easily hop over to the plugins section and search for anything you want. I found Hit Sniffer when I was searching for stats. It’s very simple to install and I’m very happy with it. It gives you information in a more understandable and useful fashion that Google Analytics, and more importantly it’s real time. Sure it’s requires a large investment of $4.99 per month, but I really feel like it’s worth it. I have to be honest, I’m not an expert in the field of website analytics and stat tracking. I’m sure there are better tools out there. This post isn’t about that though. This is about me not finding Google Analytics helpful. Most people like it because it is free. Isn’t there a saying that you can’t argue free? Most think free is good, but generally there is a trade-off. In this case I wasn’t willing to settle for the inferior product, just because I didn’t have to pay for it.

As a matter of fact I would say costs me money to use Google Analytics. Why? Not knowing the immediate effects of time spent posting links, comments, tweets, and status updates makes it feel different when you look at the numbers the next day. If you post something on Twitter, using a certain wording or hashtag and it was very successful, you know it immediately. With Analytics, you have a harder time feeling this. You lose the affirmation of success or failure. You miss out on learning something. Being that marketing experts have always told me that what they do is an experiment, I would think that learning is the most important thing you can take away from your efforts. If I’m wasting time, I’m wasting money. Will Hit Sniffer keep me from wasting time? No it won’t. I just think it will keep me from wasting as much time as I did when I just used Google Analytics.

To give you a great example of what Hit Sniffer can do, I can see that right now there is a visitor on my site. They are from Norway and found the site from a link on the Basecamp website. It’s their first visit to the site, they use a Mac, Chrome 8 is their browser, and they have Flash 10 installed. They have been on my site for 5 minutes. Within the next month I will be able to know how many kids they have, their SSN (only if they are a US resident) and what their blood type is. Ok I’m just kidding about the blood type part. But you get the point, the tool is very effective if you want real time feedback. You can see the current online summary below:

Screen shot of HitSniffer

By the way, I was kidding about the number of kids and SSN part for those of you stalkers out there who were getting excited. Settle down now.

2011 Book a week reading list

One day while on twitter I saw a link for Julien Smith’s website, and found this article about how to read a book a week in 2011. While studying for my MCSE about 10 years ago, I really burnt myself out when it came to reading books from cover to cover. So over the past decade, I would read a little here, a little there, but rarely would I finish books. It was like Donovan McNabb trying to win a Superbowl. I would get close but never finish. Over the past two years I got a little better, and actually finished a few, but never on a consistent basis. This article gave me a practical approach on breaking this cycle, and I have been on a book reading spree ever since. Below you will find a list of each book I read this year. Here’s to the race to 52.

  1. Rails for .NET Developers
  2. Gazelles, Baby Steps and 37 Other Things Dave Ramsey Taught Me about Debt by Jon Acuff
  3. Purple Cow, New Edition: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable–Includes new bonus chapter
    by Seth Godin

*Note: Once I get some time I am going to do a short write-up on each of these books to let you know some of the highlights and my recommendation.

Currently Reading
1. Agile Web Development with Rails 4th Edition

Books I intend to read

  1. Crossing the Chasm by Geoff Moore
  2. Crafting Rails Applications by Jose Valim
  3. Continuous Testing with Ruby by Ben Rady and Rod Coffin
  4. Rails Test Prescriptions by Noel Rappin
  5. The Dip by Seth Godin
  6. Small is the New Big by Seth Godin
  7. Linchpin by Seth Godin
  8. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
  9. The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less by Barry Schwartz
  10. The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations by Rod A. Beckstrom
  11. The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything by Guy Kawasaki
  12. The Design of Design: Essays from a Computer Scientist by Frederick Brooks
  13. Don’t Make me Think by Steve Krug
  14. Bringing Up Girls by Dr. James Dobson
  15. Smarter, Faster, Cheaper by David Garland
  16. Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
  17. When Pleasing Others is Hurting You by Dr. David Hawkins
  18. The Well-Behaved Child: Discipline that Really Works!
  19. The Business of Software : Eric Sink

Take the road less travelled and admit you’re wrong

I’m not one for New Years Resolutions, because I don’t think the clock striking midnight, marking the passing of one year into the next is a good reason to do anything. You will most likely fail on your endeavor whatever it might be. While choosing to do something because a specific day has passed on the calendar could be considered a reason, it isn’t the right one. One of the key aspects in setting and achieving goals is that they have to be for you. This is the right reason. You will have the proper motivation required to accomplish your mission. So what does this have to do with admitting you’re wrong?

One good thing about the end of the year is that it’s good for reflection. The proverbial clean slate that you have on January 1st, prepares your mind to sit back and look at the year in review. A year is a measurable unit, so it allows us to contain that reflection into something that is quantifiable. We can look back on the year and see where we started, and how we’re ending. We can take a good look at our progression and if we are closer towards fulfilling whatever it is that we consider our mission in life to be.

One of the realizations that came out of this end of year period for me, was that I need to be better at admitting I’m wrong. I have a real bad tendency of becoming an ostrich when things don’t go the way I intended. Gladly I can say that I’m not big on carrying out malicious acts, but I do make mistakes. Sadly I’m not always ready to admit it.

So here are a few ways I plan to address it:

  1. Respond Quickly – If something bad has happened, you need to own it quickly. By letting things linger only allows for the ostrich tendency to grow stronger. The sooner you address something, the faster it can be resolved. It also doesn’t have the chance to become a mountain, when initially it’s only a molehill. When you avoid things, they usually seem to get worse. Let’s take a backyard as an example. If you don’t mow for a while, the issue becomes more then just cutting the grass. Now not only do you have to mow, you also need to rid it of the pests, weeds and whatever else has made itself a new home. The scary thing is when the same thing happens with relationships.
  2. Understand where you are going wrong consistently – We all have our weaknesses. Mine tends to be making promises I can’t keep. I have a really bad habit of over extending myself. My biggest issue with this is on project due dates. In the web consulting business, your clients typically want the work done as soon as inhumanly possible. For some reason I always agree that the unattainable target can be hit. Just before I agree to it, I get that uneasy feeling in my stomach. But for some reason I think I can just put on a cape and play super hero, simply because I have done it before. Guess what? That leads to burnout. You begin to resent whatever it is you promised rather than carrying out your work joyfully. Everything we do in life should be done with joy in our hearts, even if it is the hard stuff. The hard stuff makes us grow. With that said, you shouldn’t put yourself in a hard situation when you know better. That’s not called growth. That’s called stupid. Whenever I write a check for a promise I can’t keep, I start to get real sketchy as I realize I won’t be able to cash it out. This goes along with number 1. The sooner you admit to something, the sooner you can correct it. If you can prevent it however, that’s better than any cure. Figure out what it is that you should be apologizing for, and then stop doing it.
  3. Consider the worst case scenario – So you aren’t going to be done with a project on time. Part of what would keep me from admitting this to a client is the fear of how they might respond. That’s because I’m not considering the worst case scenario. Are they going to take my family from me? No. Are they going to cut my head off? No. Are they going to take everything I own? No. Are the going to fire me? Most likely no, especially if I admit that I’m wrong as soon as I realize it. People understand that other people will make mistakes. If they don’t they are jerks and you’re better off not to deal with them anymore. What people don’t understand is when people make mistakes and then fail to admit their wrong doing. That makes the scenario go from how do we fix it to you’re fired. The point here is, there can be some pretty bad outcomes this is true. However when the worst case scenario is taken into consideration, these outcomes are rarely as bad as we think they are. They also tend to be a little less bad when you address them sooner. Remember problems cannot be given time to grow if you can help it. Sorry to beat a dead horse here.
  4. Be candid - No play on words intended here, but I do feel like a hypocrite. When the name Candid was chosen for my company I wanted it to be because we shot straight and never sugar coated things. When you have to admit you’re wrong, give the whole truth and nothing, but the truth. Admitting you are wrong, but leaving out details is lying. You are immediately causing another problem when you are working on fixing another. When you are wrong, just admit what has transpired, don’t try to cover it, and take it from there. In the past instead of saying I’m going to be late with something, I have chosen to beat around the bush. If you need more time, ask for it. If lost data, admit to it, then outline what you have done to make sure it won’t happen again.

So this is great. I’m resolving to make a change. I came up with some ways to address my problem so I can be successful with it.  So how can I make sure that this change actually takes place? Well besides knowing what the status quo is like from being myself for the past 30 years, I also ask my clients. I recently sent out a survey asking how we did in 2010. I will go more into detail about how to do this in another post, but briefly all I did was ask them to rate our performance as Great, OK, or Not Good. The next thing I asked was for them to explain their rating in whatever level of detail they wanted, including not at all. Gladly most results were Great, but a few were OK. All of the OKs had a lot to do with what I outlined above. This did not come as a surprise whatsoever because I’m well aware of this problem. So to answer the question, I plan to turn all the OKs to Greats. I also don’t want to see this come up as an issue in the 2011 survey. This will be hit or miss. I will have succeeded if it is absent, otherwise I will still need to work on it. To make sure that I learn about my progress throughout the year, I plan to send the survey out at the conclusion of each project, no matter how big or small. A year is too long to wait to see if you are doing the right thing. You need to stop along the way and make sure you are still headed down the right path.

At the end of the day, when we have done something wrong, we will feel guilty as a result. The only way to release that guilt and get things back to where we need to be is to admit what we have done wrong.