One great scene from Arrested Development (my favorite TV comedy) shows the dad trying to course-correct his son, who is so terrified of making mistakes that he actually has a poster in his room with this foreboding caption: "Fun and Failure both start out the same way."
Fear rules George Michael Bluth's life, illustrated by this poster on his closet door.
I realized over the holiday break that I've unwittingly raised kids that are similarly frightened of failure.
Inspired by Tina Fey's love letters to Amy Pohler, I am posting my own first love letter dedicated to my favorite Chrome Plugin: DTM Switch. This is a simple technology that lets you take your unpublished changes within your TMS (Tag Management System) for a local test drive on your live sites.
Adobe Analytics clients are genuinely surprised to learn how far off the mark their own reports have strayed. SAINT Classification technology isn't rocket science—anyone who has used a Pivot table or a Lookup function in Excel is capable of getting their head fully around the deep magic involved. I could tell people a thousand times that their reports might not bear scrutiny, but instead let me make the case with four pictures that will do the job better.
I was preparing a Tracking First introduction for a client in early January who asked that I use some of his own data for the demo. He sent me a SAINT classification file, and it served really well for the presentation; Tracking First easily detected their preferred style for creating and classifying their codes. Glancing at the spreadsheet itself, however, I saw that it contained many codes that should have been classified but clearly weren't, and so I decided to dig a little deeper and analyze how well this specific SAINT table was being maintained.
SAINT Classifications are extremely familiar—many would say all too familiar—among Adobe Analytics/Omniture experts. Although this technology has existed in its present form for over a decade, it remains the most highly-frequented technology within Adobe Analytics reporting system. This insight was provided by Adobe Senior Product Manager John Bates, who at the 2014 Adobe Analytics conference in Utah acknowledged SAINT Classifications as the "most-used feature within Adobe Analytics".
Surprisingly, however, there are many misconceptions about this technology, and a dearth of best practices concerning its application. This article is the first in a series of educational posts I'll be publishing over the next few months aimed at remedying that situation.
Omniture Page Calls in AJAX, like the Bluth company stair car, are susceptible to hop-ons
Since my tenure there over a decade ago, Omniture has gone through a series of evolutions in its code and business. Nowadays I'm usually pretty good at saying 'Adobe Analytics' instead of 'Omniture', but as the caching issues that plague AJAX page-tracking trace all the way back to those early days, for this one article I'm going old school and using the Omniture name almost exclusively.
This is a long article that will eventually boil down to one conclusion: you have to manually clear your "s" object's cached values between each Omniture tracking call you make if you're using AJAX. If you're staying up to date and using the AppMeasurement library instead of Omniture's legacy "H-codes", and particularly if you're running it all through Adobe's TMS (DTM), this chore just got harder, so this article also provides a couple of workarounds for those situations.
If you're here to learn how to implement Direct Call Rules in Adobe's Dynamic Tag Manager (DTM), you should jump to the end. There's almost no documentation anywhere else online showing you how to set up Direct Calls, and even less information about why you would even want to. But based on the experience of my last week, I'm unlikely to ever use anything else. So before I explain how, I want to focus on the why. This post is the story of my conversion, and the light-bulb moment (or rather, lightning-bolt) which convinced me to switch from Event-Driven Rules to Direct Call Rules.
My first real exposure to DTM came this past March at the Adobe Analytics conference in Salt Lake City. In a roomful of non-developers, the presenters’ message resonated powerfully: DTM would set us free. Perhaps nothing that dramatic was actually said, but I do remember after each example that they wrapped up with the same phrase: “and see how I did it without writing a single line of code.” The clear message that I took away was that I’ve been beholden to the code-writers for too long, and DTM offered me the mechanism to take control of the analytics capture across my site.
I played Jesus in a local production of Godspell twenty years ago. I’ve been humming those tunes for the past week because I met someone who actually recognized me from that show all these years later. She liked it so much she went to see it twice. I’m surprised that I didn’t recognize her, because despite a glowing review in the local newspaper, that show produced historically low turnout; most of the seats were empty each night.
I remember a few weeks before opening night when the house manager came to tell us that ticket sales were struggling, and asked us to spread the word. Though I didn’t voice my flat-out refusal, it was certainly in my heart. I’m the actor, I thought. Why should I have to sell anything?
Only the actual experience of singing my heart out to empty chairs turned me around on that—a little too late to do any good.
I’ve never done this before, but today I want to gush about an analytics service I recently signed up for: Lead Forensics, based on a true story that happened last week. But let me set this up the right way.
I think of Analytics as a "long con"…in the most empathic sense of the term, since I don’t just drink the kool-aid, I prepare it! In fact, people like me spend their careers trying to convince our coworkers that problems can be avoided and opportunities seized by monitoring website behavior.
This morning on the Yahoo Web Analytics forum a question was posted about best practices for campaign tracking when companies are using both Google Analytics and Omniture. This particular company was apparently switching from GA to Adobe Analytics, but I should note that many companies don't only experience this challenge during a transition; many companies place both Omniture and Google Analytics code on their sites and keep them there for the long term.
I spent a good portion of the day devising a plan: how I would do it if I were in that situation. I should say that I'm a big fan of campaign tracking (obviously, seeing as I've built a company around tracking code preparation), and I love to push the limits of technology and squeeze as much juice out of its engine as possible. But, in the case of campaigns, I generally lean towards simplicity and automation, because anything you choose to do today, you have to keep doing tomorrow and the day after (if you want your campaign reports to mean anything).
My recommendation, at least during the transition phase, would be to mimic precisely the Google Analytics campaign reports within SiteCatalyst using Classifications, and the best news is that you can set it up to be entirely automatic!
Today is the last day I’m 42. It has put me in a reflective mood, because on my last birthday, I remembered that the number 42 was the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything, according to the Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which I read in my youth. The existential zinger of that book was not only that the answer was laid out without any explanation, but also that it was based on bad math (six by nine equals...).
But that did not prevent me from setting some high (yet similarly undefined) expectations for myself over the past year. In some ways, I’ve responded. You’re reading this blog post on my website, which a year ago did not exist. Today it houses a solution that I’ve actually been imagining and crafting for nearly ten years, ever since I entered the field of web analytics. So even though it may not seem like much, it has been no small endeavor for me to see it through. In addition, this year I made my first-ever presentation at Adobe’s annual conference (formerly known as the Omniture summit), which according to two separate sources at Adobe received top marks from the audience feedback surveys—although I’m still waiting for my invitation to the awards show.
My Career Path in Web Analytics
With that intro, I want to reflect on my career so far in web analytics, and offer what I consider to be the core skills I’ve developed to help me succeed.