Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Google Analytics in practice

.. reaping the benefits

Now Google Analytics is again completely open for new signs ups I think it is a good moment to start blogging about the benefits from this free service.

As an early adopter I have been tracking the visitors of my website and my blog since half November. Although at present the numbers are not spectacular or particular impressive I can start interpreting the data that Google Analytics is giving me in nicely formatted graphs and tables.

On my website I have been analyzing log files for a few years using the great Analog tool. A quick and relative easily configurable application. Using an automated batch file to ftp the log files to my local PC and then set Analog loose on them has given me daily views of how many pages were viewed, by which browsers and OS and referrers and lots more. So I am already familiar with most of the web statistic lingo.

First impressions

Google Analytics is a different ball game. It uses a completely different approach as opposed to log file analysis. Google Analytics works through the use of cookies and JavaScript. As such it will only register (html-)pages and not css files or images.

Log files analysis can show the requests for these files as well. That is a huge benefit as not found errors will show up in the log, but never in Google Analytics. So, yes, I still use Analog, albeit not on a daily basis.

So, next some of the characteristics I track using Google Analytics and what I do with the outcome.

Referring source

the referring source report is something that I use to see in how far my link building activities pay out.

Referring Source

As seen in the above graph I have gathered a few incoming links on sites that have high esteem. This should be beneficial to my page rank!

In the last months I have been carefully commenting on various sites with links back to my own. These have been quite successful as traffic continues to come from those sites to my own (as well as my blog). This is a cheap way to gather links. But it has to be said that these links will not carry enormous PR weight, but then again any extra PR is good.

Campaign conversion

Taking things one abstraction layer higher you can look at the Campaign conversion report. This shows you from which general channels your traffic comes from.

Campaign conversion report

The 'Direct' part of the chart are people opening the page from bookmarks or by typing in the URL directly. The 'Organic' part comes from search engines and these are indication that the site at least can be found.

Top Exit Points

You want to keep your visitors on your site as long as possible. For that you need an appealing site with valuable content. When people leave your site something they have a reason which probably lies in the lack of these two characteristics.

Top Exit Points report

the Top Exit Points report give insight on which pages the visitors leave your site. On mine I found that a lot of visitors exit on the home page and on a page where intended to show off some of the graphics I created.

The fact that these two pages are on top is not what I had hoped. The home page being high on the list is something any site will probably see since that is the most visited page as well.

Since I found this problem I have decided to tackle the graphics page first. I have changed the layout and added a gallery element to make it easier to view some of the graphics. On top of that I have also introduced a page with wallpapers that I created for all to use on their desktop.

look Ma! no tables

Now, it's up to me to see whether this works and also the huge task to create a better home page.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A business plan [2]

.. and again totally for free!

I promised to give away some business ideas. Here's the next installment.

Idea #2
Observing the landscape

During my working life in several companies I have seen many projects come by. Some of them were huge successes others failed brilliantly.

Finding the opportunity

Successful projects are easy, there is nothing to them. So where is the opportunity?

Well, project that fail offer huge opportunities. At the end of such a project there will always be a evaluation and then someone has to be blamed for the failure. Blaming your own employees is not a very easy thing. You will be destroying careers, but also possibly throwing away experienced and motivated employees. Some of these might even have become friends.

You need some outsider to take the fall: the scapegoat.

Idea #2: blame-the-temp.com
Resources needed

You need a website (yes) and a base of professional scapegoats. These can be hired for selected periods and will be very present during the span of an entire project. The scapegoat will send memos to management with the summed up opinion of a project team. Carefully omitting any team member's name. He will be posing all sorts of questions during meetings. By request he can even ignore any questions or tasks. He can also send totally unrelated and irrelevant advise to management. He will also be very sociable, with good jokes and snappy conversation. His ties will be just too much.

In this way everyone within the organization will know the weird temporary project manager with his strange behavior.

So, when failure for the project is approaching the scapegoat will be very easy to blame. And no employees will have to be blamed, keeping everyone perfectly happy.

And if ever a project should succeed (how improbable it seems) there is a good change that it is late or incomplete so blame the scapegoat. And if ever you should have a perfect project on time within costs and with all deliverables, then we sincerely apologize for the bad performance of the scapegoat.

So, for any type of project or business reorganization with high or low risk: hire a scapegoat.

Good luck

And when you do get filthy rich: please remember where you got the idea from!

A business plan [1]

.. and totally for free!

As I have no time recently to start a business and get rich I have decided to not let these brilliant ideas gather dust. I have decided that in this age of Open Source to go Open Source with it.

I will release two of the brightest plans under a new type of license. This license boils down to the following (after removing all the lawyer language):

  • You can use the idea free of charge
  • You are allowed to own the business set up.
  • Whenever you become filthy rich you are encouraged to share a little bit with me.
  • If you do get rich and are not thankful in a financial way then be prepared to feel guilty for the rest of your life or just don't care.
Idea #1
Observing the landscape

In recent years many prize fighters have emerged in the airline business: EasyJet, Ryan Air and also the Dutch Transavia.Com.

Finding the opportunity

This market is slowly filling up. So where is the opportunity? Is there a way to find something new in this market?

Well, what is needed is another low investment business. And if you stay up with current events then this easily found

Idea #1: FlyCIA.com
Resources needed

You need a website (yes) on which customers can leave some form of US political incorrect comments on George W. Bush or the United States in general. It is advised to use the words: terrorists, Islam and Al Qaida for swift service.

The customer will then at a not announced moment be taken to a not disclosed airport into an unmarked plane and taken to an unknown destination.

So, it is adventure at its best. I don't think there will be many complaints from customers.

Good luck

And when you do get filthy rich: please remember where you got the idea from!


Silly me, I should have checked the domain name. FlyCIA.com is already taken. I guess the guys at the Company have already thought of this. And checking a bit further shows that the guys 'n dolls from the other organisation have already taken up FlyFBI.com.

So, you have to think up a new domain name. But hey, you get a potential multi-million dollar business plan for free!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


.. make a Roho2003

Found at Go-Quiz.com.

How to make a roho2003
5 parts intelligence
5 parts crazyiness
1 part ego
Add to a cocktail shaker and mix vigorously. Serve with a slice of caring and a pinch of salt. Yum!

Sounds yummy indeed!


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

What's in a name [2]

.. well, a lot.

Funny, I came across a site that uses "roho" in a posting and gives it a very nice meaning.

While this is "roho (good news),"

I do like these occasional discoveries.

Firefox is gaining slowly

.. a substantial piece of the action

XiTiMonitor has reported on the spread of Firefox. As a fanatic Firefox user I have repeatedly blogged about Firefox. As there are so many reasons to at least give it a try. Take some time to check some of the extensions: these do add value.


Back to XiTiMonitor. They have produced some nice graphs about the spread of Firefox. The first one (below) shows the spread throughout Europe.

Firefox in Europe

As a Dutch citizen it hurts a bit that apparently we are slow to move. So are the Danish. As I recall correctly we were also clinging onto Novell Netware and Wordperfect as the world was moving to Windows NT and Word. You could say that was pure genius back then, but seeing the trend now it is more some conservative carefulness. We know what we have let's cling on to it. Only Ukraine is worse at adopting Firefox.

The world

When looking at the World map I feel proud to be European. Europe is the forerunner with Firefox. Down Under people seem to be picking it also in a good way.

Firefox in the world
Not ready yet

But we are not there yet! Not in The Netherlands and not in the rest of the World. Get Firefox!

Get Firefox!

Don't be shy or scared, it's easy, it's painless. It is liberating.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Meetings, please no more meetings

.. they are not healthy

Something we knew all along. But now some scientist have done a study regarding meetings and their unhealthy effects.

Alexandra Luong and Steven G Rogelberg
Do you believe, as someone somewhere perhaps does, that meetings, meetings, meetings, followed by more meetings are altogether a good thing?

Everybody knows that having loads of meetings is bad for the amount of work you can do. But Luong and Rogelberg also state that it is very tiresome.

"It is impressive," Luong and Rogelberg write in their summary, "that a general relationship between meeting load and the employee's level of fatigue and subjective workload was found". Their central insight, they say, is the concept of "the meeting as one more type of hassle or interruption that can occur for individuals".

Not world shocking, but it makes it easier to understand why managers produce less and still feel that they have done a lot, because they are tired after a day of meetings.

However so far the study does not give insight in the detrimental effects on the mental abilities of managers. This is food for another study.

It could give a good explanation for the erratic behavior of previous and present managers of mine. ;-)

On days like today

.. and some others as well

I get the feeling of doing something like this.

Do not try this at home!

Try it in the cubicle next to you.


Six months of hard work

.. down the drain

Today is just another one of those days. One of those days that make me more and more determined to go it alone.

When you work for a company and are just an obedient employee and your boss says: "jump" well then you prepare to do so. Even though sometimes you do so while you know it is better to take a step sideways and then forward and back sideways again to get to the next position. Your boss decides the way to go. He is in charge and he is responsible. You can advise. And hope for the best.

Usually this is good. It means you do not have to take the bigger decisions and you can focus on your work. The little people's decisions are yours. These are your domain and yours alone. You are (or should be) free to do your work in the way you think is best. There are constraints like requirements, performance and quality. But within these limits you are free to paint the colors as long as you stay within the lines.

But ..

Sometimes however decisions are taken over your head that have huge impact on your work that you feel are not the correct decisions. Decisions taken at the wrong moment and with not sufficient insight in the situation. Decisions that destroy all the hard work you have put in over a long period. Decisions that completely drain your good spirit and motivation to carry on working hard for your boss.

You just want to shout out loud that you think they are utter, utter idiots, but no, they give you your paycheck at the end of the month. And there are mortgage reasons to not miss these.

You just sit there numb, completely numb, not comfortably numb. You speak out your doubts in a friendly way (at least you try to control your tone of voice) and keep breathing and try to stay calm.

So what happened?

AS I have mentioned before I work for an insurance company. And in The Netherlands the big thing in insurance world is the basic health insurance that was introduced this year. So, this year it is big business as everyone in The Netherlands over 18 years old has to have a basic health insurance. They have until 1st March to decide with which insurance company to do business.

I have been building a new wizard for the website to enable people to obtain such an insurance online. This as a part of a new version of our website which will be built in ASP.NET with C# and a lot of OO. As safety net some other developers build a version for our existing website. There were some doubts if we could get all elements of the website up and running in a sufficiently satisfying fashion in time before the health insurance boom would occur. These doubts were reasonable doubts as we have struggled a lot with the performance of the third party CMS we had chosen.

The safety net was then promoted to production version and it went live with considerable success in November 2005. The new website was postponed and so was the new wizard for the basic health insurance. Meaning that I all of a sudden had months in stead of days to finish it. I did not have to cut corners and could do a great job. The decision not go for the new website was not induced by the status of my wizard but rather by the problems we had with the third party CMS.

And two weeks ago someone had a bright idea. When all people over 18 years old in The Netherlands have basic health insurance on 1st March 2006 not many people will be going to our website to get basic health insurance. Only people who turn 18 and people who come to live here will do so. Only very few of them will go to our website and get basic health insurance. People can only change to another insurance next January.

What an insight! This must be a genius at work.

All of a sudden the need for the wizard was gone. Why bother building something that hardly anyone will use?

Thus with just a few days of work left the project was cancelled. Even though the new wizard fits better in the new website and the fact that we need a wizard at the end of the year for people who want to change. The current (old technology, ASP) will be inserted into an <iframe> and used.

If someone had used his or her brain a little bit earlier at least the time I spent on the wizard since the decision to go for the safety net option would not have been wasted.

At least it is another great way to destroy any motivation.

Now what?

Now, I sit here with at least two months of time wasted on a project that will never go live. I also have the feeling that I have been working hard the last six months for .. nothing.

I have been reassigned to yet another wizard, for car insurance. Together with a colleague who has no real experience with the new website, ASP.NET and OO. My experience is only slightly bigger than his.

We will see what the future holds in this next project, but I fear the most.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Google Analytics is opening up

.. slowly but surely

Heard from a couple of colleagues that Google has started to send out invitations for Google Analytics. So apparently, they have moved in some new hardware to cope with the enormous enthusiasm of webmasters.

Anyone needing info on how to use it and analyze the results I will be happy to help.

Check out my profile for my contact info or just send me an email.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Doing something right with SEO

.. always good to know

There are many things one can do about optimizing one's site for search engines. A pseudo science has come up about this. An industry with many good and many bad companies has arisen around it. You can spend enormous amounts of money and time on it. Results are not always easy to measure.

Now, there is yet another site that offers a tool to create a report about some SEO specifics. Sitening.com offers a tool, the seo-analyzer that gives an extensive report on a number of aspects. It also gives an overall score.

Pleased to say the least that I can now announce that my own website has gotten a perfect 100 out of 100 score. Check out the report yourself.

I am walking on sunshine.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Happy New Year

.. and may it be long

Yes, back from skiing in the French Alps.

All the best wishes and I will try to keep the entries flowing.

Any new Year's resolutions?

Don't worry: they will fade away in the next couple of days.