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The Net Takeaway: Page 17


Danny Flamberg's Blog
Danny has been marketing for a while, and his articles and work reflect great understanding of data driven marketing.

Eric Peterson the Demystifier
Eric gets metrics, analytics, interactive, and the real world. His advice is worth taking...

Geeking with Greg
Greg Linden created Amazon's recommendation system, so imagine what can write about...

Ned Batchelder's Blog
Ned just finds and writes interesting things. I don't know how he does it.

R at LoyaltyMatrix
Jim Porzak tells of his real-life use of R for marketing analysis.






Note to world... is 60% really that big? · 07/19/2006 03:51 AM, Marketing

When reading about huge increases in rates such as this article about using eyetracking to optimize email design, it is wise to remember that age increases are valid only when one knows the base.

For example, the article mentions this quote:

Since Olgivy turned IBM onto the the technology, their click-through rates have increased by 60 percent!

However, they don’t state the original click rate. If it was just 1%, the 60% increase merely raises it to 1.6%.

While this may be great on a large volume mail, if I’m still getting such a low rate, 60% doesn’t mean too much anymore. Was the cost of the eyetrack study worth it? Well, from what the original WSJ article said, the recommendations the study revealed were ones that e-Dialog’s designers had been doing for years.

There are probably some really cool things that the study revealed that Jeanniey Mullen and her gang at Ogilvy didn’t want to reveal, so its worth considering a study like this at some point. Most usability labs in large cities have access to laser eye trackers. Also, consider using even tried and true usability methods to see if your links are too small or hard to find, or if you are using a font too small for older adults or high-res readers to read comfortable, etc. etc.

Read more about Eyetools, one of the better groups out there and the one used by Ogilvy.

And don’t trust large %age increases without the full story of the base rate and how it was calculated. If you don’t see the base, then assume that its too small to be proud of.

(Yes, avid readers, this is again an application of the law of diminishing returns and not the law of large numbers. I also talk about this in one of my rants on stupid stats If you can’t do it right, add more sample! ·


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HopStop on top... · 07/11/2006 03:51 PM, Reference

In this “ajaxified”, “tagged”, “social-linked” “user created media” world, sometimes you just want to get from here to there. All these new mapping tools, as cool as they are, suffer from many of the same problems. A new site solves one of the biggest.

So what’s wrong with the scrolling maps which brought us Ajax and Web 2.0, a registered trademark of O’Reilly Media, Inc.?

But even Mapquest still sucks for public transportation listings. Who’s the winner here?

This site focuses on mapping subway and walking directions for major cities like New York, Boston, Washington, and San Francisco. It tells walking distance to the nearest stop, what line to take, what stations to skip, where to transfer, alternative lines to take (since some trains share tracks for some stops, you can take the B or the Q, for example), and how to walk to your final destination.

Even better: They have a mobile version… doesn’t help in the tunnels, but when you have to get uptown pretty fast from downtown and the streets are jammed, a few phone taps and you have the perfect route.

Now, some of you folks are saying “how hard is it to memorize the subway map?” Yes, if you grew up in NY, you have it memorized… but if you are new, visiting, or going to a part of town you are not familiar with, this is a lifesaver… and its an area completely untouched by the other mapping sites.

I encourage you to check out No ajax, no fancy stuff, just fulfilling a need cleanly and quickly.


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X1 now free... Sort of. · 06/19/2006 06:44 PM, Search

You may recall that when I reviewed desktop search in Dec 2004, I said X1 Desktop for $75 was the best but for its high cost and phoning home. Copernic wound up the winner then. Both searched network drives, which none of the other tools I examined did. And for free, Copernic was hands down ahead of every other tool… and still is; I use it every day.

In a few other posts I kept coming back to the same conclusion.

Well, things have somewhat changed. X1 is now free on the desktop and according to their support line, it no longer phones home. But its not the same one you would have paid $75 for. They have completely removed network drive searching making it basically the same version Yahoo was shipping as “Yahoo Desktop Search”.

ITWorld writes about it, and the bottom left of the X1 home page gives the link. If you’ve wasted your time with any other search besides Copernic, uninstall immediately and give X1 a try; it really is far superior to any other free search product… as long as you don’t need to search a network drive. If you use Copernic and dont need network drive indexing, its a tough call… but X1 lets you act on results as a group (for moving or deleting) (Copernic only lets you act on one item in a search set at a time) and also searches Outlook Calendar, which Copernic doesn’t yet. Note that this free version still doesn’t search network drives, which is a real shame. Can you tell how annoyed I am about this little “feature”?

Running both is a waste of resources, so pick your favorite. Its a hard decision, but worth testing… unless you need to index network drives, in which case, Copernic is the only choice.

And X1 has managed to disappoint me yet again.

PS: Rumour has it that Google Desktop Search will search network drives in its latest incarnation, see


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How big is Yahoo!? · 06/15/2006 01:45 AM, Analysis

No one will ever know… but some folks tried to display multiple dimensions of data around the network which is Yahoo!, and presented it at the 2006 IASummit. The data is from late 2004, but most of it is still relevant.

Top link. Save the final poster to your desktop then open it, much faster than the stream-and-open approach.

Below, borrowed from the NixonNow blog, is a reduced size picture of the 3.5 foot by 12 foot full size poster.

Yahoo! Network Diagram (Late 2004)

Yahoo! Network Diagram (Late 2004). Originally uploaded by NIXON*NOW.

From the poster:”This network diagram is a high-level representation of Yahoo! from a brand perspective. The purpose of the diagram is to illustrate brand integration points and reveal areas of functionality that may influence decisions about how the brand is used. Each group of “chips,” when collected on a ”floor,” characterizes a property, universal tool, or other unit of Yahoo!.”

Not only impressive in scope and scale, but a great example of IA and visualization.


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Garmin StreetPilot i3, show me the way... · 06/14/2006 01:07 AM, Tech

As an early Father’s Day present, my wife got me a Garmin StreetPilot i3. I brought it with me to California and tried it out.

I am very, very pleased with it. The current crop of GPS devices averages $400 dollars, with some going up to $800. TomTom continues to be the best interface and experience… and you pay for it. But the other guys are borrowing the best features and including them… but $400 is still a ton to spend.

The i3 is the first affordable color portable I’ve seen, around $275 or so. Its about the size of a tennis ball or baseball, and comes with a car adapter. Its part of a family: the i2 is the same as the i3 with a greyscale screen. The i3 has a color screen, but like the i2, uses a TransFlash MicroSD data card to store data. The i5 can also use the TransFlash (for special “points of interest”), but doesn’t really need it; it has the entire US road system pre-loaded (for an extra $100!).

I went with the i3, with the biggest fear being that its useless if I can’t get the city data onto it, and that 128mb (the included card) couldn’t hold what I needed. As it turns out, the software install was relatively painless (DVD required!), and the 128mb card holds Northern California, Mass, NJ and NY with some room to spare (25% or so free). Loading the maps took a few minutes…. as does finding the satellites the first time. It takes 2 AA batteries to allow it to run without the adapter, but those got eaten up pretty quickly.

Unlike the big guys, this one has a relatively smaller screen and a reduced voice capability (no voice recognition, and only “turn left ahead” instead of “turn left on Smith Drive”). It has only a power button, a “left arrow”, and a depressible roller.

The basic process is to either “view map” where it shows you where you are and a compass heading, or “Where to?” which gives a variety of ways of finding things. Flaw number 1: the map is not scrollable. I’m spoiled by Google/Yahoo/MSN Live maps where I can zoom and scroll to see where things are. You can zoom on the i3, but it doesn’t really help, and you can’t scroll or pan at all. This feature is really missed when you are trying to figure out what general route to take.

As for “Where to?”, there are a variety of ways to enter a destination. When you load the maps, it also loads a variety of hotels, stores, restaurants, movie theaters, etc. which are searchable (sort of, you have to know how to spell it.) You can also enter an address, or go to an intersection.

A few minutes practice made typing in letters via the roller pretty easy (like a labelmaker), but you don’t want to do it while you are driving. In fact, each step taks enough time and attention that you really need to enter your data in before driving.

Another really, really annoying thing is that you can’t really influence the route selection. You can try to avoid toll roads or u-turns, but if there are 2 good ways to go, you can’t choose your poison. For example, from Sunnyvale to SF, one can take the famous and traffic-ridden 101, or the scenic and slightly longer 280, which parallels 101 for most of the trip. The Navteq routing engine, like on Yahoo and Google and MSN/Live, chooses the shortest or quickest route and picks 101. Even discovering this was painful: you can view a “turn by turn” of your route, but it takes forever.

So, I drove towards 280, and the poor i3 tried every trick to get me back on 101. I couldn’t find a way to say “I’m on a large highway, reroute from here using this big road in front of you!”. You can try to put a “waypoint” but this has to be a location. So, I picked a BK off 280… and when I passed it, the i3 tried to get me to exit back to it! Yep, no way to say “Ok, I passed it, its ok”. Only 3/4 of the way to SF did it finally reroute and accept that 280 was it… because we had passed every easy connector back to 101.

I find this “route using selected roads” a huge impediment to both GPS tools and online mapping. You can trick Yahoo Maps (beta) sometimes by right clicking on a road you want to take, and using that as your starting point instead of your actual location… but sometimes even that doesn’t work.

Other than this annoying aspect, if you put your faith that whatever route it picks is basically good, the i3 is a really great deal. The “consumer” GPS tools are less precise than the mil-spec ones, so sometimes the i3 doesn’t know quite where you are. Also, of course, roads change so you will need to pay a small amount to keep the maps up to date.

But for us, moving to a new world of NJ and NY, and part time driving around SF and Silly Valley, its a great purchase. I expect it to be a big hit for Garmin. Recommended!

(BTW, did you know that California doesn’t allow you to suction cup things to the windshield? I do now.)

Comments? [1]

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Wiki Crumbs · 06/06/2006 10:49 PM, MetaBlog

Bambi Francisco is much smarter than her name will lead you to believe. While she’s made some truly silly predictions, her examination of the role of wikis in more traditional shopping guides is a good one.

She mentions a great quote which rings very true:

Ross Mayfield, founder of SocialText, and a provocative thinker about all things wiki, said it pretty well: “People are leaving breadcrumbs of where they spent attention.”

Read more at Marketwatch.

Comments? [2]

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New SPSS Blog · 06/01/2006 12:07 PM, Analysis

Looks like an interesting start. Its a mix of tutorial and news, not very deep (yet), but some good efforts. Includes links to a wiki and other sites around SPSS. Give it a whirl…

Comments? [2]

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25 Worst Tech of all time at PCWorld · 05/26/2006 06:17 PM, Tech Trivial

This is a good read… I remember laughing at most of these when they came out.

The problem, of course, is that I also laughed at paid search. Ah well.

The 25 Worst Tech Products of All Time


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Who listens to Podcasts? · 05/26/2006 12:38 PM, MetaBlog

Some folks I respect greatly are thinking of putting on some podcasts about topics I love. Yet I will probably never listen to them.

I ask you, the reader, to think for a moment, and let me know your thoughts on just a few of the below:

Look, I may be missing something great, but I’ve tried multiple tools, I’ve tried them on cross country planes and subways and workplaces, I’ve tried music casts and business casts, pros and amateurs, and consistently, they feel like a waste of time.

What podcast is so good that it redeems the entire field? Or is it more likely that this will fall into the same bucket as Mahir?

Tell me, I want to be proven wrong.


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ExactTarget still observing... · 04/26/2006 02:17 PM, Analysis

Chris Baggott, of ExactTarget, responded to my post pointing out the myriad issues in his company’s recent study. (I don’t think I can cram any more useful links in that sentence).

I appreciate that he encourages folks to read my post, but at the same time, he doesn’t fully communicate an understanding of the issues I raised. He runs the company, so its no surprise he chooses to defend the work instead of acknowledging its potential issues. But as you will see after finishing this post, if I were him, my response would have resembled the following: “We recognize that the industry is moving past the need for observational studies, so we release this as a first and last baseline. We intend to invest heavily is a rigorous round of testing with our clients, and we invite the industry to do the same. Its time to start learning instead of just observing”.

Instead, he says “This guy makes some decent points about some of our industry studies, but he is dismissing the value of any learning that comes from macro level studies. There is tremendous value in looking at macro-level information, there is also value in conducting controlled experiments.”

Ok, if you haven’t yet read my post If you can’t do it right, add more sample!, now is a good time.

So, do I dismiss the value of observational studies? It really all depends on what question you are trying to answer. If your question is, “Are there differences in behavior across mailers such as when they mail and their average performance of their mails?”, well then yes, an observational study gets you that answer.

But you know, I think we’ve milked that one dry. That is, I think we know that different mailers do things differently and get diferent results. So, while the general public will continue to buy any magazine with Britney on the cover, even if it has the same news over and over again… I expect the email industry to be better, and to not accept “yet another observational study”. To me, this study is more SSDD.

I think the industry is at the point of wanting to know why the differences occur. Certainly the collection of clients working with e-Dialog do. They ask questions around causation: What did different mailers do differently? What was it about those differences which most impacted performance? What specific things cause, either on their own or in interaction combos, a change in performance? If these are the research questions of the time, why do we waste our time with “yet another observational study”?

Baggott says “We always advocate testing.” If so, why do an entire observational-only study? Why does the advocation occur in exactly 1 line of the 10 page PDF, “Individual organizations still must conduct their own testing to determine which day of the week works best for them, but any test should consider Friday and Sunday as viable challengers.” on page 6… and nowhere else?

I have higher expectations for the remaining independents. I expect companies like e-Dialog, ExactTarget, and Responsys to be more nimble, more smart, more ahead than the big ol’ database companies. They are full of smart folks thinking about the issues, and they need to educate the industry about how to use email effectively. I don’t think more observational studies are the way to do this.

Ok, lots of whining, big mouth… but if this “observational” study is not as helpful as I want, what other kind of studies are there? For those who aren’t familiar with basic experimental design (probably most of you with a life, unlike me), I will summarize.

Usually, we perform research to answer a question. We phrase the question often in an expected answer, a prediction of the outcomes (yes, it does sound like an inverted Jeopardy). This is known as a Hypothesis. The study is an attempt to support or disprove (if possible) your hypothesis. The hypothesis is usually stated in a way to reflect that one thing impacts another, i.e., “a more forceful call to action will result in an increase in conversion” or even ”...a 10% increase in conversion”. (By the way, sometimes we hypothesize that nothing will happen with the hope that we’ll be wrong, so its really all in how you phrase the question.) So, the whole point of the research is to test that assumption of causation (or, if we can’t, we fall back to “relationships”).

There are two main types of studies out there: Observational (which Mr. Baggot calls “macro-level”, a mis-use of the economic term referring to “between groups or organizations”) where one observes behavior and groups it by descriptions of the behavior and individuals performing it (say, by gender or age, or by “heavy spend” or “light spend”), and Experimental, where most conditions are controlled or randomly distributed, and specific aspects of interest (such as offer, promo level, etc.) are manipulated. If our hypothesis is around causation, then the experiment is really the only way to provide strong support (and to be honest, multiple experiments are often required). Its the only process which controls for as many other factors (factors that aren’t of interest to the question) as possible to make sure that if a cause is present, we can see its effect. While we can lend some support or remove some support for our hypothesis with an observational study, we can never be really confident that what we think caused the changes really did, b/c we didn’t take the necessary steps to isolate the effects.

Now, there are certainly many, many situations where we can’t really run an experiment. We can’t manipulate if someone is male or female, or black or white, or rich or poor. But those aren’t really the issues in most email marketing. Instead, most marketers really do have some levers under their control, and they want to understand how they impact performance. This imples that a useful thing to run would be an Experimental study.

So, certainly, both types of studies have value in the world, depending on your question and the research possiblities to answer it. And yes, most good research programs include a mix of observation and experimentation. But given what I said earlier, about us wanting to answer the why question and moving past the “differences exist” re-runs, it would appear that observational studies are answering questions that, as a lawyer might say, are “asked and answered, let’s move on”.

Yes, the observational studies are easier. You just look at all the data you’ve collected already on behalf of clients, and just aggregate it. That’s why there are so many of them. Anyone with enough volume can pop one of these out.

Look, as an industry, feel free to do all the observational studies you want. But are they really answering the questions people are asking? And are you helping people to ask the right questions?

Its time to grow up. Email is now an accepted part of almost every major marketer worldwide. You do yourselves and the industry a disservice if you continue to put out purely observational work. Its not wrong, its not illegal… but I just expect better. Soon, the rest of the industry will as well. My suggestion: be on the right side of that expectation or risk looking like you “don’t get it”.

Again, this should not be seen as an attack on ExactTarget or Chris B or any of the other companies I’ve pointed out over the years. Its a request to say, “Ok, we get it. People do things differently. Which differences have impact, and which don’t? Let’s start to find out.”

P.S. Some comments to me have said things like “Observational studies are useful for laying out what conditions to include in a manipulation: for example, if free shipping appears to be the most popular offer, we now know to make sure we include it in the test, right?” Sort of. If free shipping fits your business model and allows you to make a profit, then test it. If not, whether or not others are doing it, maybe you shouldn’t. But yes, the observational study does show some ideas of what others have tried, no argument there. Didn’t want those folks to think I was ignoring them.


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On a previous episode...

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