Friday, February 16, 2007

Web Analytics In One Hour? I Don't Think So.

I’m still reflecting on speed-trap's promise to provide “all the data you need” in “under an hour”. It’s not so much that I’m skeptical about the time required—maybe it’s really possible in a simple situation, and people don’t take such claims too seriously anyway. Nor does it bother me that speed-trap turns out to rely on cookies for visitor identification: although that's definitely an imperfect solution, it's still the best one available.

What really concerns me is the notion that speed-trap can create a meaningful analytical data set without human involvement. Speed-trap doesn’t quite say this, but it’s implied in the claim that the system can be ready in an hour. Yet a closer look at speed-trap’s own document shows it isn’t at all the case. As with any solution, the raw interaction data must be processed to become useful. Speed-trap does this by having users write “nano-programs” that search for patterns, classify sessions, apply labels, group related items, and aggregate results across time periods. Users must also define customer segments, set privacy rules, and set up connections to reference databases. It's a safe bet no one does all this within sixty minutes.

There's nothing wrong with that. This sort of work actually adds value by forcing users to seriously examine their data and analysis methods. Speed-trap should make these points more openly to avoid setting unrealistic expectations about its own system and about analytic technology in general.

No comments: