I'm a partner in the advanced analytics group at Bain & Company, the global management consulting firm. My primary focus is on marketing analytics (bio). I've been writing here (views my own) about marketing, technology, e-business, and analytics since 2003 (blog name explained).

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July 16, 2010

Analytic Commons Project

With inspiration and encouragement from @perryhewitt, New Circle Consulting and Force Five Partners have launched the Analytics Commons Project (http://analyticscommons.com).  Here's the pitch:

Web analytics is a relatively new field that is evolving very quickly. Fortunately, it's been our experience that the community of web analysts is welcoming, vibrant, and very willing to share. The Web Analytics forum on Yahoo! is a wonderful example of this.

Analytics Commons is an effort to improve on this sharing by structuring it a bit. With structure, we can make relevant knowledge a little easier to find, and we can also make it easier to vet the expertise and reliability of the source of that knowledge. (The new Web Analytics Association Certification program is another good step in this direction.)

In designing Analytics Commons, we also decided to start by focusing on a specific form of analytics knowledge, rather than trying now to architect some general information architecture about the field that could capture all its (quickly changing) variety. In particular, we noticed:

  • Google Analytics is ubiquitous.
  • We're happy users of it.
  • It recently added the ability to share Advanced Segments and Custom Reports.
  • While GA has an Apps Gallery that features third-party creations, there is currently no public registry of such shared reports that we're aware of.
  • But, there does seem to be pent-up demand for sharing reports.
  • And, we had a specific itch we needed to scratch ("Target Towns", more on that below) that would help us Keep It Real.

We also figured we would start with something that would be within our ability to actually get done. Our ambition for this initiative doesn't stop here, however. So, the service also provides a way for visitors and users to suggest feedback to shape the vision and path for getting there.

So how does it work? If we've done our job well, it's hopefully self-evident. You register on the Analytics Commons site, and tell us a little about yourself, ideally through links to places where you keep your description up to date (e.g., LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.). If you've got a report to contribute, you get the url for it by clicking on the "Share button" in Google Analytics' Custom Reports or Advanced Segments sections from a GA profile in which you have access to them. Then, you add the url to our service and tag and describe what you've shared. If you need a report, you search for it on our service. If you find and try a report, all we ask is that you rate and comment on it to tell us how well it matched what you needed. Hopefully, discussions about each report will happen on our service, but if you want to connect privately with a report contributor, we've made room in our registered user profiles for folks to provide contact information if they wish. If you don't find what you were looking for, we let you store the search on our service, and if something matches in the future, we'll send you an email with the search results. If you want, you can subscribe to a weekly email listing new reports that have been added to our service, or get an RSS feed of the same.

The service is free to its users. Our privacy policy is simple: everything here is public, except your registration email if you choose not to share that. We won't share that with anyone, period. If you share a report, we assume you have the authority to do that. If you comment on a report, please be polite and constructive. We reserve the right to moderate comments, and to ban anyone who posts material we deem to be inappropriate or offensive

We saved some space on our pages for advertising / sponsorship, to help cover the server bills. If you're interested, please contact us.

Questions? Suggestions? contact us if you wish at [email protected].

About "Target Towns"

In our work for a client, we observed the following:

  • They target wealthy customers.
  • Wealth is highly concentrated in the US.
  • Wealthy people are highly concentrated in a few towns.

Therefore, we thought it would be useful to track traffic and behavior from these "Target Towns".

We tried to construct an Advanced Segment for "Target Towns" through the GA UI. It didn't appear to support what we had in mind. So we asked for help. Avinash Kaushik, Nick Mihailovski, Judah Phillips, and Justin Cutroni all helped us with a piece of the puzzle (Thank You all!). In the end, the answer turned out that we needed to use the GA API. But the API also had limits on how much information you could hit it with in a single query. So we figured we needed a service that would pass the towns ("Dimensions") about which you wanted information ("Metrics") past the API sequentially, and then would aggregate and present the results in a usable form.

Then we thought: "This is a report many people are likely to need!" So, the "Target Towns" service seemed like it would be a good candidate to help seed our Analytic Commons initiative.


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