Web 2.0 – Leveraging the Network

Web 2.0 – Leveraging the Network (2.74 MB pdf)

In the talk I spoke about how Web 2.0 companies distinguish themselves by leveraging the network of which they are a part. Brittanica, for example, has had a web site for quite some time and were slow to leverage the network in any particular way. Wikipedia,
on the other hand, exists only because they used the available network
to improve their contents communally. And Wikipedia, of course, is a
much, much more popular site.

As in my last talk: Web 2.0 for the Rest of Us
(which includes a podcast), I started down the road toward Web 2.0 from
the standpoint of those Web companies who have excelled: Google, Yahoo,
Amazon, and eBay. They obviously know more about succeeding online than
anybody else, and have become so successful so fast that we often take
them for granted, even though they are barely a decade old. So, I find
it particularly useful to ask: What makes them so special? What have
they done that others haven’t? And I find myself coming back to the
same answer over and over: they know how to leverage the network.
From Google’s pagerank algorithm to the APIs of eBay and Amazon to the
movie ratings on Yahoo, these companies know how to harness the
collective activity and intelligence of people to make their services

For those who want only the quick and dirty (without the pretty pictures), here are the talking points:

  1. The home page is no longer the most important page on your site.
  2. The information architecture that people use to find your content is, increasingly, not yours.
  3. Each feature added to an application is more to think about – for everyone.
  4. Folksonomies are a way for users to map their own, familiar vocabulary to your alien one.
  5. Words are the currency of the Web. Spend the most time on your words.
  6. Seducible moments are those increasingly rare moments when you can talk to your users in an appropriate context.
  7. Recommendation systems are a forced move.
  8. Users want control.
  9. Users appreciate tools that help them make their own well-informed decisions.
  10. The best software models human behavior.
  11. Links model how users value content, and are only the start…
  12. Sometimes it is easier to design for yourself than others.
  13. There is always an opportunity for a better interface to data.
  14. All things being equal, faster interfaces allow for more innovation.
  15. Most people are willing to trade their personal information for good service.
  16. As choices grow, so does the importance of learnability.
  17. Redesigns are dead.
  18. Network effects are rare, and killer.
  19. Network effects work in the opposite way for teams building software.
  20. Personal value precedes network value
  21. People rarely do things for the “good of the network”
  22., though providing very cool tagging features, is mostly about a single person remembering items for later.
  23. “The accretion of tiny marvels can numb us to the arrival of the stupendous”


Meditate now.

Seven Deadly Web Analytics Sins 2

By John Marshall

Deadly Web Analytics Sin #2: Search Term Popularity
Popularity matters if you’re a teenager or a drama queen. But your
search terms shouldn’t be subject to a popularity contest. Why? Because
it’s the quality of the search term that matters, not the quantity of
times it drives traffic to your site.

So let’s define quality. In the world of marketing and web analytics,
quality means the likelihood of a prospect becoming a customer. Whether
it’s a trial download, sale or lead generation, we want to know what
makes customers likely to buy so that we can work to encourage that
behavior and replicate it elsewhere.

Judging Popularity is Straightforward
Popular search terms are no exception to the rule and are easy to spot
when performing site analysis. Note the blue shading in the example
below. It helps distinguish the relative popularity of the same term
across different search engines and directories, which is useful. From
this we can begin to understand the how different search engine users
behave differently.

Seven Deadly Web Analytics Sins

How Do We Determine a Quality Search Term?
Instinctively, the first place we look for quality is the amount of
revenue generated by each keyword. However, this metric is a blunt
instrument with a too-hard line that delineates success from failure.
Two factors reduce it’s usefulness in determining the visitor’s
likelihood to buy: cookie deletion and latent conversions.

Setting a cookie is an absolute must for tracking ROI, but they’re only
useful while they live on the client’s machine. If the user deletes the
cookie, the conversion data become invisible. First-party cookies are
the way to go, as they aren’t usually blocked by anti-virus software.

Latency or latent conversions occur when a user comes into your site
via search, receives a cookie, looks around for a while, leaves and
then returns sometime in the future making a purchase. While the
keyword eventually gets the credit for triggering a sale, you’re flying
blind for 30 or 60 days or more, depending on your sales cycle. In
essence, you’re spending valuable PPC dollars while you wait for ROI.

Time is on Our Side
Yes, it is… (Sorry, I love this next topic enough to sing about it.)

One of my favorite metrics is Average Time on Site (ATOS). This
metric speaks to the fact that web users just don’t waste their time on
a site that doesn’t interest them. There are hundreds–even thousands
of other sites just a click away in the search results if the one they
click on doesn’t meet their needs. The screen shot below shows ATOS by
term and search engine.

Seven Deadly Web Analytics Sins

Therefore one can deduce that the longer the visit length, the greater
the interest in the products or services offered. I should point out
that ATOS is not meaningful in absolute terms or across different
sites. Only use this metric within the same site for different search
terms or segments. Think of it like this: You can almost say that your
visitors are voting with every action they perform, including leaving.
Web analytics simply tallies the votes and exposes preferences.

ATOS helps solve ROI problems because it’s not cookie-dependent, and
there is no latency; you have data within hours of a campaign going
live. ATOS closely correlates to the probability of prospects becoming
customers which is all we need to make smart marketing decisions.

A Final Thought: Short Visits
When you find search terms that
have a Short Average Time on Site compared to others, your first
reaction might be to eliminate that keyword from your PPC campaigns.
But before you go and do something rash, you should also check the page
on your site that visitors see immediately after using that keyword…
does it correlate to the search term they used? Do a quick scan of the
text and determine if you’re meeting the needs of these visitors.

This screen shot shows the correlation of search terms to content on a specific page.

Seven Deadly Web Analytics Sins


The Clueless Manifesto

Here’s to the clueless ones.“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” – Shunryu Suzuki

Cluelessness is underrated. It’s the newbie who does
something he didn’t know was supposed to be impossible. It’s the naive
guy asking the one dumb question any clued-in person would diss. And
it’s that question that leads to the answer no expert would have found.

The clueless accomplish amazing things–not necessarily because
we’re bold, brilliant innovators, but perhaps because we just don’t
know any better. We see the simplicity of the forest while Those Who
Know are overanalyzing the complex subtleties of the trees (and miss
the point). Sometimes NOT knowing about a “problem” weakens (or
eliminates) it.

Perception is a powerful tool. Believing there’s a limitation can sometimes create
that limitation. And for the clueless who don’t know about the
limitation, well, it’s as if it doesn’t exist. Belief matters. Not
everywhere, not in everything, but more than we give credence to.

And it doesn’t take any new-age/self-help foofiness to explain it.
This is not about “the power of positive thinking.” You probably all
know the story of Roger Bannister–prior
to 1954, experts believed that running a mile in less than four minutes
was beyond human capability. People assumed it was an insurmountable
human limitation–not possible. Some believed that even if you could, your heart would explode. But in 1954, Bannister broke the four-minute-impossible-barrier and clicked in at 3:59.4.

That was cool, but the remarkable thing is what happened immediately after that. Just over a month later someone else did it, and then before too long a ton of people were doing the “impossible” sub-four-minute mile. The real barrier was psychological.

In this case, Bannister wasn’t clueless. He believed in his
training. But I think it still demonstrates the point. The people who
broke the record after Bannister were essentially the same as
people who’d always been clueless about the “impossible” limit.
If–prior to Bannister’s run–some of them had missed the memo on the
whole heart-exploding thing, chances are the record would have fallen

Part of the charm of cluelessness is that you approach things with a hopeful perspective, trying to figure out how
to do the I’m-too-clueless-to-know-it-cannot-be-done thing, rather than
accepting the “reality”. Often, by the time you learn you can’t do it, your response might be “Oops! You mean this thing I just did?”

Example: a group of seven middle school girls from Petaluma,
California–12 to 14–year olds, accomplished something that everybody
said was impossible. They fought city hall and won. They
created a business proposal, refused to be derailed, and after several
YEARS of work pushed through a multi-million dollar project that the
best commercial developers in the state hadn’t been able to pull off.
These young girls simply didn’t know that you just can’t DO that…
especially if you aren’t old enough to drive. Their story is one of the most inspirational things I’ve ever heard.

The clueless tend to be a bit more optimistic–after all, we don’t know how bad things really are. But this can be a blessing too–there’s evidence to suggest the optimistic live longer and are less prone to depression. So there’s that.

As a poster child for cluelessness, I have many clueless experiences
I treasure. The Head First book series would most likely never have
happened if we’d had a clue about the tech book publishing world. Our
cluelessness is the only explanation we have for why two unknown
non-authors (who knew zero about publishing) went forward with
something so strange. “If books like that would sell,” the seasoned publishers told us, “Trust us, someone would have done it by now.” (If I had a dime for everytime I heard that
one, I wouldn’t need royalties to pay the rent.) The ultra-experienced,
it seemed, were blinded by their certainty of “the way things work.” In
other words, they knew it wasn’t worth the risk, and had no reason to revisit their assumptions.

Yes, I recognize that it’s ridiculous to equate “cluelessness” with “beginner’s mind”. Or is it? What if “clueless” is simply a label the glass-half-empty folks give the glass-half-full folks. If we’re optimistic,
we must not have a clue. What if we simply see the world through a
different lens? A lens that opens doors and windows the cynical and
pessimistic are too busy dissing to notice?

Mathematician/philosopher Alfred North Whitehead said,
“The ‘silly question’ is the first intimation of some totally new development.”

The clueful need us. We’re the ones who ask the silly questions.

And in the spirit of Apple’s Here’s to the Crazy Ones:

Here’s to the Clueless Ones

The ones who see things differently

They’re not fond of rules (granted, that’s because they don’t actually know about the rules)

They have no respect for the status quo (see previous statement)

You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them,
disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.

Maybe they have to be clueless.

How else can you take on city hall at the age of 12?
Or break the impossible record?
Or build an internet startup without VC bucks?

While some see them as the clueless ones,
we see a fresh perspective.

Because the people who are clueless enough to think
they can change the world, might be the ones who do.

Do not underestimate us.

Posted by Kathy Sierra on February 19, 2006