Wages of Wins Vol.1

So the quasi-business book of the moment for me is “Wages of Wins”, which is somewhat of  an extension on the themes introduced in “Moneyball”. The premise of WofW explores more of the statistic side than Moneyball ever dug into. Moneyball was a story of how to beat your competition by getting smarter with the data. WofW is breaking down the myths of what we think we know in sports (or really anything), and refuting it with hard data and analysis.

I’ve only read the first 80 pages or so and its fascinating to learn how statistics can make so-called experts look like complete idiots, especially in the sports world. The first few chapters go into ‘competitive balance’ within sports, namely with regards to Major League Baseball. There was a myth a few years back that teams like the Yankees and Red Sox had an unfair advantage in their payrolls and that small market teams can’t compete, etc. WofW does a good job in exploring the real factors that determine the outcomes of success and payroll isn’t one of them.

One of the interesting facets I’m learning so far that I’d like to read more up on, is the way these guys use regression analysis to determine which factors actual correlate win analyzing data. Like wins vs payroll, etc. I think I am actually going to pay attention to the Stats classes I have 3 semesters from now. These types of analytical techniques might come in handy when trying to determine which one of like 3 or 4 variables actually contributed to success when doing web analysis and things of that nature.

More to come on Wages of Wins as I read more of it…


Get your geek on

hola avid Diary readers…sorry for the sparse posts of late. Honestly, after having to be on a computer all day, staring at scripts and data flows…sometimes the last thing I want to do is type a post on one. So that being said…i am now the proud owner of a Lenovo x41 tablet. Now I can write the old fashioned way, no more typing for me! So far I am really impressed with the hand-writing recognition software, eventhough my handwriting looks like a drunk 3rd grader with parkinson’s. Having broken my wrist and hand so many times, its a wonder i can write at all.

Really looking forward to using this puppy to take notes and stuff, as I have about 50 notebooks and post-its with stuff scribbled on it that I never can find. And I love to draw diagrams and problem solving logic, so having the ability to digitize that stuff is going to be much more efficient. and there is also the fact that I like new toys. that can’t be underestimated in all this.

Going to be taking this badboy with me to class when i start on the MBA in the fall at NC State. I can also see myself taking notes on stuff while driving in the car. just kidding, though i swear my best ideas come to me while zoning out on I-40 (and not remembering the drive home)…it would be great to finally write some of these things down and save them. Who knows… the analytics book and the album “The Legend of the Neuse” could be constructed on this new machine. Possibilities are endless. and of course, i’ll end up doing the same mundane crap on my machines that i do now.

One thing I don’t like too much right now is the fingerprint reader. I literally have to do it like 20 times before it can read my fingerprint. But then again maybe I am not doing it right either.

anywho…songs for a Monday ride (the Ipod done me right today):

1) The Cure – Closedown

2) Urge Overkill- Positive Bleeding

3) U2 – With or Without You

4) Ben Harper – Roses from My Friends

5) Radiohead – Airbag

6) Pearl Jam – Porch (MTV Unplugged)

7) Neil Young – Families

8) Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Heavy Metal

9) Sufjan Stevens – The Upper Peninsula

10) Pearl Jam – State of Love and Trust

11) The Pogues – If I Should Fall From Grace with God

I wish I could form a band like the Pogues…they had it right…songs about kicking ass and drinking. and done with a sneer and slurred speech.

Ramble On

Time to start a new week.

Watched the Braves blow another game last nite to the BoSox, and like their 7th in a row. I seriously think Boston had more than half of the tickets for those games, cause when Youkilis hit the 2-run bomb in the 8th, there was a huge applause. I thought there was a glimmer of hope when Franceour hit a laser out for a 3-run homer. But of course the bullpen imploded again. The Braves desperately need some pitching if they have any hope for the wild card. The division title is already out of reach, as they are 14 games out from the Mets. Looking at what the Braves can do, I am not sure there are a ton of options for tradebait. They have some good talent at Double-A and below, but not sure you want to jeopardize the rebuilding effort. In any case, this team is still underachieving greatly. Any team with Giles, Reneteria, Chipper, Andruw, Smoltz, Hudson, and McCann shouldn't be 9 games under .500. Very depressing.

So…in other news, I got a bunch of books via Amazon this weekend. "Blink", "Wisdom of Crowds", and "Wages of Wins". I am also reading a biography on Bob Dylan which is pretty interesting, currently in the mid 70's around the time of the Rolling Thunder Revue. "Wages of Wins" takes the next logic step beyond "Moneyball" where it looks at sports stats as opposed to what people think they see. Really enlightening, and i'll probably post more on it as I get through it.
Songs to start a week….

1 – Radiohead – Where I End You Begin

2 – Jane's Addiction – Classic Girl

3 – Jack Johnson – Breakdown

4 – Pearl Jam – Evenflow

5 – Led Zeppelin – Since I've Been Loving You (BBC Sessions)

6 – Franz Ferdinand – 40'

Good set, especially the Zep song. Jimmy Page goes ballistic on that song. I've always wondered how people can get that good at guitar where it sounds effortless and where the guitar almost has a voice to it.

How to Become a Decent Web Metrics Analyst – Vol.1

After having a few beers with an avid reader of the Diary on Friday, I realize that I haven't posted all the web metrics posts that were in queue….so here you go Mr. Baker, the vaults are opening.

I've been thinking recently about what makes a decent web metrics analyst, and I've scribbled down some keys for a Volume 1 on what skills a person probably needs to do this line of work. Again, there really isn't any how-to manuals on how to do this stuff, as I think we've all come to this from trial and error. So…here is the first edition of some skillz needed to be a relatively competent web metrics analyst…and in no particular order (I'm lazy like that)

1 – Understand Google, MSN, and Yahoo – This should come as no shock, but if you can understand generally how Google, etc. works, you can use it to bring in "better" traffic to your site as you study the results of what your External Search traffic gets you in ROI. This goes into understanding your natural search as well as paid search. For instance, why pay money for keywords where you already show up #1 in the natural search results? Also, if you can understand which handful of keywords drive the best conversions, you can focus your budget on those words instead of boiling the ocean and grabbing 400 keywords of which a majority don't get you jack.

2 – Understand the data collection tag you use – This will help you go a long way with understanding what is possible in collecting in regards to data. Right now I am wrestling with the javascript to see what kinds of commerce information I can bring in that makes the web traffic more insightful, so that I can tie traffic to brands, technologies, campaigns, etc. Its also good to know how your data collection tag intreprets different behaviours, as every tag is different as well as where its placed in pages.

3 – Know your site (navigation, technology, etc) – This seems like it would be obvious, but it isn't. I get a lot of questions on why people do certain things on our site, but its because a lot of times we don't take the time to really dig into our site to see how people would navigate it, or where pain points might exist. Just understanding how the flow is set up will help you analyze the data you collect. In addition, if you understand the underlying technology in your site (such as HTML, Flash, etc) you will have better insight in what the data is telling you.

4 – Throw out all the meaningless metrics – Every web metrics solution has a ton of crazy metrics and reports. Ditch the ones that don't drive your business. Yes, it might be cool to see how many left-handed Eskimos have checked out your site, but ultimately unless you are trying to drive more conversions with left-handed Eskimos, its meaningless and clouds driving the key metrics.

5 – Understand the objective of pages – My big thing is to see if a page is driving the kind of behaviour you want to see. So if this page is designed to get more orders, measure it against that criteria. But first, you need to ask yourself "what is the purpose of this page?" A lot of times, pages just get created without a real objective in mind. The more this happens, the more cluttered your site becomes. One thing an analyst can do is push back on the marketing, production, etc to make sure they have a goal in mind for every page they create. And measure them against this goals.

6 – Conversions, Conversions, Conversions – Again, nothing novel here. But the key thing to look at is not necessarily volume (such as visits, page views, etc) but what the traffic gets you. How do you increase your conversion rates if traffic remains flat? Make changes, measure that and see if you can keep growing the business. Continously improve and create a feedback loop within your management system. 

Monday, JS, Bulls, etc

Spent the whole day learning javascript as I trudge through tagging our sites with a new analytics tag. I actually relish the chance to learn something new and geeky. Bought the O’Reilly Definitive Guide on Javascript to make myself at least somewhat knowledgable and appear more technical than I really am. Trying to get some more dork street cred.

Tonite going to a Durham Bulls baseball game on GSK’s tab. Can’t diss free beer, free food, and baseball. At least I can’t. I am wondering if Delmon Young is back to playing after pegging an ump with a bat in the frist couple of weeks of the season. That guy is good, so it sucks for us fans that he went Spreewell on the ump.

Speaking of the Bulls, BJ Upton is putting up some interesting stats, good part is he has 27 steals, bad part is he has 24 errors. yipes. The big prize of the night is that I am hoping to win the speed pitch for the 4th time…and win a crappy hat. 

Songs to remember a Monday by…

1) Ryan Adams – Blue Sky Blues

2) John Lennon – Hold On

3) Ryan Adams – Starlite Diner

4) South – Paint the Silence

4) Pearl Jam – No Way

5) Bob Dylan – Girl from the North Country (with Johnny Cash)

6) Uncle Tupelo – New Madrid

Its interesting to see the ipod pull 2 Adams songs from the same album (“29”) in a 6 song mix. Out of 4000 songs, it pulls 2 from a 9 song album. What are the odds on that? I think that might have been a GMAT question.

Friday, team ramblings

well, its friday once again. The cap off the Sierra Nevada has been popped (for any of my bosses, its 5:12 pm EST) Its been a quality week as I continue to scramble through a few projects I have going, one is the Web Analytics team building and the other is deploying a new web analytics solution (of which I'll write about at another time).

The team thing will have its ups and downs, but basically it has to happen if you're ever going to take analytics from the "how many hits did i get" culture to asking more sophisticated questions like "how many hits did i get…when i changed my keyword bid management strategy from A to B". Of course you'll still get the mundane hits questions, but hopefully they will be few and far between.

Part of my problem right now is our current solution is so archaeic that we've been used to hearing, "well we can't do this" or that the tool sucks. Therefore the organizations have grown accustomed to not being held accountable. The culture needs to shift. Once you can show actual data, the gut-feelings theoretically can be replaced with educated guesses based on past performances. This won't happen over night, and this is why the team thing is so important to me, to spread the Gospel of web analytics with insights into what is going on.

I might try to post a step by step process for setting up a web analytics team as i get a little farther, so far right now all I've got…

1) Admit there is a problem. Find analysts and stakeholders and get their buy-in to fix the gap in understanding what is happening on the web and acknowledge that continous improvement is the path we need to take.

3) Profit (South Park reference from the Underpants Gnomes episode)

Seriously though, I am going to try to jot them down once I figure out what they are as I know there are other folks out there that struggle with the same situation. 

Speaking of which, I've been doing a lot of reading of other blogs in the web analytics space and its been nice to read about other people's perspectives as its always seemed we've all come to this career kind of by accident. There really isn't a book out there to learn this stuff from, so we've all learned from each other and trial and error. The great thing about forums, blogs, and other online community stuff is that we can broaden the scope of sharing, and that has been a great change in my outlook on how to do this stuff. So to all that contribute, keep it up!

enjoy your weekend. 

Monday Ramblings, the Fall of Pujols, etc

ahh, so the weekend was filled with unpacking boxes and wondering why I didn't throw out half of the crap I've accumulated at my other house.

One bonus from the move was that I vowed I would reward myself at the end with a beer from Rogue (which is the greatest beer on this planet, and probably other planets as well). This particular Rogue brew was the Morimoto Imperial Pilsner, and I first came across it during the epic drive down the West Coast last summer and enjoyed it immensley. To buy it in a store in Raleigh, ran me 12 bucks, which is a lot for 22 oz., but man, this stuff is goodness and a great way to end a move. Speaking of the trip last summer, one of the highlights was taking a stop at the Rogue Brewery in Newport, Oregon. Its like my personal Disneyland. Seriously good beer. Check it out if you are ever out in Oregon.

So interesting times on the baseball diamond.

First, my Braves looked wretched against the Diamondbacks this weekend, getting swept at home. First time since 1995. I am starting to wonder how they are going to fix a lot of their holes. Right now the corner outfield positions are killing the Braves offensively, with an OPS less than .700. Not good. I think the real key is getting Brian McCann back behind the plate, as we was leading the Braves in OPS at around .950. But they gotta get some more production out of Francoeur and Langerhans. For Francoeur it comes with being more disciplined, and not getting himself out by chasing stuff out of the strike zone. 

The biggest thing in baseball this weekend was the injury to Albert Pujols. You know Major League Baseball is pissed about this one, as he was on pace to hit 90 homeruns and drive in 200 runs, thus allowing MLB to get Barry Bonds off the homerun record. Having Rolen batting behind Big Al, I think he would have gotten close to the 73 homers, but I think the 200 rbi would have been pretty interesting too, as Hack Wilson's mark has stood a long time (76 years!). What's weird to me is how athletes of today are in ridiculous shape but end up pulling and tearing muscles all the time on seemingly routine plays.  

Also…if you told me the Detroit Tigers would be the best team in baseball on June 5th, I would thinking you were smoking rock. But shizzam, there they are. Being such a young team though I wonder if they will falter down the stretch, especially since Cleveland hasn't played up to their ability yet, and will at some point in the 2nd half. Plus, the White Sox aren't going to lay down and die either. But man, they got some Nintendo-like pitchers with 3 or 4 guys hitting 100 mph on the gun. Should be a fun team the next few years. Go ahead and get Jim Leyland's plaque ready for Cooperstown.

tunes for Monday

1) Ryan Adams – Avalanche

2) Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth (awesome title)

3) The Beatles – I am the Walrus

4) Bob Marley – Stir it up

5) Jack Johnson – Breakdown