Notes from Measurecamp 7, London

Last weekend I went along to Measurecamp, an unconference for folks interested in digital analytics.

Very good it was too. There were about 250 people there, all unfailingly friendly, polite and interesting. It was my first time there, and I found that even the old hands were up for meeting new people and giving useful pointers.

Everything seemed to go very smoothly indeed, which can only mean that there was a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes. So thanks to the organisers for wrangling everything so well.

Anyway, enough of that. I went to six sessions over the day, with a mix of presentation and discussions. I sat a couple of rounds out, mostly because you can have too much of a good thing – no sense in frazzling the old brain. Here are the notes that I jotted.

Overcoming barriers to the use of analytics – Peter O’Neill

Quite a nice opener this. Relevant to me because most of my clients are really just starting out with digital analytics. The slides are quite text-y, so you can read through them and get the gist quite easily.

Get round to reading Lean Analytics. Key takeaway is to pick one metric at at time and fix that before moving on.

If you’ve got lots of business units to deal with then it’s best to focus on one, make mistakes, get things right, then use them as a case study then expand out. Rather than spreading your efforts too thinly across all units at once.

See the slide about the diagnostic reports. Look at something like this every 3 months. If you can’t find 1 or 2 things to improve you’re not looking hard enough. Identify underperforming areas. Find places to dig deeper. Ask what’s causing issues. Useful for regular strategy reviews.

Use views vs add to basket to find underperforming product pages.

Do set up in phases, not all at once. Especially if giving instructions to devs.

The Data Layer – Simo Ahava

I didn’t take many notes in this one. Mostly, it was an explanation of what a data layer is and does. The slides are pretty self-explanatory though (if you like code snippets and technical stuff like that), and are here:

Bear in mind that the definition of a data layer’s purpose on slide 7 was prefaced with a warning that English isn’t Simo’s native language. Sheesh.

I actually found this one more useful than I expected. I keep running across data layers at the moment, so a higher level explanation of the various facets was handy, even if I was just at the edge of my understanding when going through the code.

Automating reporting from GA to Google Sheets or Excel – Gerry White, Sean Burton, Tony Lu

This is something else I’ve been doing quite a bit lately. Mostly to automate/speed up reporting, or find ways to get data to clients that they’d never access if they had to wade through the Google Analytics interface.

I ended up with a bunch of links to check out:

Measuring PR Barcelona Principles – Michael Blowers

This was an interesting discussion about the Barcelona Declaration of Measurement Principles. It’s an initiative from the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication, aiming to establish some elements of best practice.

I’d not heard of it before and there’s some interesting stuff in there. We had a chat around the ‘measuring outcomes, not outputs’ bit about how tricky attribution can be (in the sense of, knowing how much credit you can take for those outcomes when PR activity isn’t working in isolation).

Analytics for Product Listing Pages – Kelly Mclean, Alec Cochrane

This was interesting too. Especially because a lot of the people I work with have big lists of events or collections, with lots of ways of navigating around them.

It started with a big list of things you could be tracking:

With the caveat that it’s not worth tracking something if you’ve no intention of changing it (words to live by).

The UI limitations of web analytics tools was raised. General advice was to get the info into R (which free), SPSS or SAS to make sense of it.

Ask Us Anything (with Beer!) – Russell McAthy

This was a good session for decompression. A panel of people took questions from the floor, with plenty of discussion around things like ad blockers. No slides from this one. No notes either.

Declining search interest in off-West End theatres

I’m just throwing this here as it came up when I was looking at something else.

Here are the Google Trends results for a handful of off-West End theatres.

Google Trends - Almeida Theatre, Battersea Arts Centre, Royal Court Theatre, Donmar Warehouse, Soho Theatre

I can tell what a couple of the recent spikes are. The recent BAC (red) one will have been the fire. The Donmar (green) one must’ve been Tom Hiddlestone in Coriolanus.

Here are some others.

Google Trends - Hampstead Theatre, Bush Theatre, Lyric Theatre, Orange Tree Theatre, Southwark Playhouse
It’s slightly less pronounced with this lot. Interesting to note that Edward Hall took over at Hampstead in 2011 and seemed to inject new life into the place. That seems to show in the graph.

Put Hampstead’s performance in context with the Young Vic though. Woah!

Google Trends - Young Vic, Hampstead Theatre
So it’s not all bad, but overall the trend is generally downward, and at a rate that seems to match the trend for searches of the word ‘theatre’.

Google Trends - theatre

I’ve no conclusions to end on. Sorry about that. Although if you wanted evidence that traffic to event-focussed websites is going to be massively affected/determined by artistic programming decisions, then this points in that direction. Not that that should be any surprise.

Are there any other observations or conclusions that could be drawn from this?


A fair point here:

The thing about Google Trends is it’s not exactly clear how amazing the data is (especially because I’m using topics, rather than straight search terms) and it’s entirely possible there’s some sort of decay rate, or inconsistency or something so really don’t go betting the house on the data above. Like-for-like comparisons are probably fair enough though. Probably.

My journey to Instapaper Zero

I know the title sounds faintly (ok, a bit more than that) ridiculous, but… it is what it is. If you’ve found this post because you too reached the end of your tether then I hope you’ll understand.

A couple of months ago I had about 1,400 unread items in Instapaper, with things saved over the past 5 or so years. I think the oldest article was from sometime in 2011. I suppose I could’ve declared Instapaper bankruptcy and just deleted everything, but where’s the fun in that?

Now I’m down to a couple of hundred articles, and that number’s ticking down nicely. Here’s how I did it.

Choose your weapon. I found most of the steps below lot easier on iPhone/iPad apps than on the desktop site. Especially sorting – can you even sort on the desktop site?

Know thy enemy. If you haven’t already, put the badge on the app icon so you can see the number of unread articles you’re dealing with.

Get the enemy in your sights. We’re going to be doing a lot of sorting, and you can only sort the articles you’ve downloaded, so go to settings and set the app to download up to 500 articles at a time. If you’ve got more than 500 to work through then you’ll need to keep refreshing as you go along, to bring in more articles.

Stem the flow. Turn off any RSS importing you might have set up. If you’re like me then you probably thought that was a good idea for a day or two, then failed to keep up. Use an RSS reader like Feedly for that sort of thing.

Remove dead wood. Sort your list by ‘Shortest Articles’. Anything that shows ‘Unable to download’ can be deleted straight away. These are likely to be articles that have been deleted. You won’t miss them.

Don’t let things linger. Sort by ‘Read Progress’. Anything that’s been read should be archived or deleted. Use the note feature to save a particularly good paragraph if you like. Maybe save the article somewhere like Pinboard or Evernote, if you do that sort of thing. It shouldn’t be clogging up your Instapaper.

Remove irrelevancies. Sort by ‘Oldest Saved’. Is there anything that looks out of date and no longer worth reading? Get rid of it now.

Remove videos. Youtube and Vimeo have their own ‘save for later’ features. I’d recommend using those instead of Instapaper. I tend to use Instapaper for offline access, which doesn’t work with videos anyway.

Kill off the old and weak. Anything that you’ve already mostly read, or is very short, should be finished off when you’ve got an idle moment. Sorting is your friend.

Multi-task. Use the text to speech feature to listen to articles when you’re doing other things, like walking around, doing the washing up and that sort of thing.

Keep at it. You’ll get there. Really.

A couple of notes:

  • I’m finding that I’m still adding things to Instapaper as normal – I’m no more discerning than before, but I am keen to clear articles sooner.
  • I found that my threshold for ‘worthwhile reading’ went up as I went along. After a quick skim I was much more likely to delete something if I felt it wasn’t worth my time.
  • I’ve not set myself any targets and I’m not tracking my progress. I can see that number on the app icon getting smaller over time, and that’s good enough for me. If you want to go a different route then you should.
  • I saved some good stuff! I’ve found some really good articles from a couple of years ago that have been worth discovering. That wouldn’t have happened if I’d just deleted everything, so hooray for that.

Final thought: it’s a slow grind. It’s taken me a couple of months to get down to where I am now and shifting the last few hundred articles is going to take a while – there are some big ones in there. At least things look a bit friendlier now.

I hope this helps.