Category Archives: Feedback Loop

Twitter’s new analytics tool for tracking click-throughs

As noted from a post on MarketingLand

You can see all the tweets that link to your website, whether or not they include your @username. You can see tweets that link to any specific page on your website. You can see how often Twitter users click on links to your website, or to any specific page.

To do this, go to the new Websites link under Analytics and claim your web site by putting a meta tag in the “head” section of your site. (Typepad users will find this under Design > Head). Once you’ve claimed your site, you can then see analytics performance on a per-hour or per-day level.

This weblog gets enough hits from Twitter that I’m curious where they come from; the new Twitter tools help that curiosity. If you were managing a brand and wanted to see how effective your twittering was, this is one more measurement tool for you.
Screen shot 2013-09-27 at 3.21.10 PM

Related articles

Twitter analytics via Twitter Ads account
Twitter Quietly Adds Website Analytics (& You’ll Love It)
Revealing the World of Twitter Analytics
How to verify your website and setup Twitter Analytics

No comments, thanks

For the most part, I don't comment on newspaper web sites any more; it's generally more effective to engage by writing the same message directly to the reporter or to the editor.

In some cases, good results can also be had by sending messages directly to the parties involved in the story, and cc'ing (or bcc'ing) the reporter in question.


Addicted to feedback

If I read Facebook for too long, I want to post short quips, "like" things, and generally let people know that I exist.

If I read Twitter for too long, I want to post short quips, "favorite" things, and generally let people know that they exist.

When I sit in front of Typepad ready to type, it's not always for the short post, and often it's not even for an audience. My working assumption is that unless I'm writing about something that the world cares about, only a handful of people will see it. The other working assumption is that I really don't know before I write it how it will be received, so it better be good enough for me to want to refer to again just for myself.

I've referred to Vacuum as an unpolished open notebook. It's also a place to capture "interior stories", internal monologue that makes sense about how you do things.

(Christina) Baldwin says that if people aren’t attached to their interior stories, they get addicted to feedback. Although I would have considered myself attached to my interior story, I also recognize a social-media feedback addiction in myself. I’m always curious about what kinds of comments that my, for example, Facebook status updates, have generated. (from A Storied Career,  a blog by Kathy Hansen).

Sometimes you write to inform yourself, and the goal isn't to create or please your followers, or to get new ones, or to up your page view count or close a new lead. It's just to write, and to capture what's going by in your head to the level that you can recreate it later.

Writing in a blog has always been for me an exercise in locating other people's words to help illustrate my point. That gives it some measure of similarity to a commonplace book, a traditional way to copy out bits of prose that you wish to make your own into a kind of clippings book or scrapbook of words.

I'm content, really, to be "addicted to feedback", but I reserve the right to look for the right kind of feedback to tune into. The feedback of blogging is the long, low rumble of old notebooks that have just the right relevant bits to tune into, and not just the shrill, high ping of social media contacts.


spectral overseers as guides to good online behavior

James Poulos in a comment on Ricochet on the role of editors:

Writers now have competing pressures — to be witty, quick, ironic, noticeable, flip, to dispatch every clay pigeon tossed up by a culture pandemic with pigeons; but also to self-edit, to self-moderate, to be reticent at the right time, to pussyfoot expertly, to pick battles, to avoid perils, to besmirch rarely, to duck blame, to satisfy spectral overseers. This is a serious pickle, is it not? And yet it now appears to be the cost of doing business. Possibly, this is the internet imitating life.

I loved the "satisfy spectral overseers" bit. Where did that come from? Who gets that description?

Knute Rockne, in a H.W. Wilson Company 1942 biography:

No one will ever tackle the job of football coach at the University of Notre Dame without a sense of solemn obligation, for the spirit of Knute Rockne still hovers above the campus like a spectral overseer.

Walt Disney, as referenced in two 1990s management texts:

Eisner came aboard and cleared the deck, bringing in new managers, most of whom had never met Disney. The new crew, freed of the spectral overseer, began to create a culture that was more sophisticated than stodgy, more adventurous than cautious, more ambitious than content.

John Edward McCullough, from the National Theatre:

The shade of Actor John Edward McCullough, a popular American thespian of the 1800's, is said to roam the premises of the theatre in the dark of night. No longer thirsting for an audience's applause, the once famed star performer has taken on the lonely role of ghostly custodian and spectral overseer, checking to be sure that all is in readiness for the next performance.

I for one welcome the editorial guidance of our spectral overseers. But whose guidance should we channel for this task?  That's some other post about people (not necessarily "writers") who have mastered the online form.

How do you measure and value attention?

We measure things that are easy to measure about media, like

  • time on page, time on site
  • click through rate
  • conversion rate to some desired action
  • frequency of interaction
  • responsiveness of interaction
  • hot spots that are getting lots of attention
  • "lag", whatever that is, but everyone knows what it is

In general, media that have small amounts of lag are good for gaming, because you can play many small bets and iteratively define a better result. As the amount of lag increases, the attention games change, and you start to get out of the realm of reality-based feedback and into the realm of ROI fictions, and systems that have enormous expensive command and
control infrastructures. 

It’s one thing to hack people’s attention about tomorrow if you start working on it today, and something very different to plan a campaign that results in their attention (or the fulfillment of their desire) 6 or 12 or 18 or 120 months hence. 

Originally written for Kevin Doyle Jones, and published obscurely in 2007; rescued and republished with only minor edits 3 years hence.

working on metadata – stopped in your tracks and watched until you get it right

Michael Sippey writes about Ben Hammersley writing about metadata.

The quote he pulls is

So why do everything you can to keep metadata intact? Because it’s from this information that new products can be automatically created, at a scale and rapidity that would be impossible otherwise. With every piece of metadata that you don’t throw away, you gain a factor more potential ways of slicing through your content and delivering it as a separate product, simply as a result of a database lookup.

Let me give a worked-out example of this, for starters. uses Movable Type as a publishing platform; as a part of that, we have tags for each story.  A staff of journalists tagging their stories creates a lot of tags (because you are writing about a lot of things) and a few tags with a lot of stories (because you are writing a lot of stories about those things).

Keeping a collaboratively maintained set of tags sane is work (in the same way that moderating comments is work; but that's another post).  When you are writing on a deadline, you don't have the luxury to work out every last possible reuse of your work, and so you don't tag aggressively.  When you are copy editing, you might well have a reason to use or prefer a specific tag, in part because it lets you direct readers to previous coverage on the topic in a way that's much simpler than specifically deep linking to each page.

What helps me keep some part of some of the metadata I care about within the world sane is to build links to the stories that I want to refer to from an outside source – in this case Arborwiki - and as I'm doing updates to that site use it as a sanity spot-check for coverage.  Some wiki templates help speed the process of explicit linking, and an internal category helps me figure out what fragment of the tag space I've covered.  When I see a story that isn't easy to link to from a relevant page, I go back and add the tag – not because it's useful in the abstract, but because it's relevant to one specific external instance.

In this way I think that Ben is missing one of the elements of metadata, the element that says that you never really stop working on it, and that simple repurpose through a database lookup only works when you are still actively editing the database. There's nothing worse that going to a lot of work doing an attractively formatted page that's driven by a database query against a database that you can't control, and having to answer the question why a certain piece of unwanted data is there and having someone stop you in your chair and watch over your keyboard until it's gone.

Metadata only works when you un-meta it and deal with it again as data.  The list of metadata elements that I care enough to keep updating is not just meta; it's a first class real list, one that has to be treated as a first class citizen and not just some accidental system artifact.  Sometimes the metadata you expose just makes it clear how incomplete your first pass at storytelling was and what it takes to bring it back to the level of refinement that you expect.

(tags: stopped watched; so meta it hurts; arborwiki)

Distraction, scatter, gather, focus, discardia: a five part cycle

Herein a recipe for producing what looks like some kind of careful long term reasonable insight into a question, but what is really a coping strategy for the complete inability to be attentive to anything for very long.

Be distracted away from the thing you are supposed to be doing; that part is pretty easy.  Wander off randomly into the wilderness of recent changes to the Internet or a random page in your personal knowledge management heap or some long-dusty book in Google Books.  Note some small fragment of something that isn't at all relevant to what everyone else seems to be looking at right now but that somehow temporarily holds your interest long enough to compose a few paragraphs with a few links.  Write about it here; try with desperation to find a category it should already belong to so that it has some illusion of continuity with what you have been doing all along.  Hit "save", hit "publish", and return to the task at hand.

Scatter your attention all over the Internet to a range of places where recent changes seem to be more predominant.  Post to Twitter, or Facebook, or your favorite online newspaper's best reader comments section, or to some seasonally or topically appropriate blog where you know that the author welcomes your readership.  Be outwardly visible and pay attention to someone else, something else, some place other than yourself.  Make the rounds of the usual places and hit a few new ones.  Stop before everyone is asleep.

Gather up things you have written on a topic, things captured during previous distractions or scattered to the four winds.  If there is a search engine, search for your own long-forgotten commentary on something, and collect it back to somewhere central.  If all you have is paper, leaf through it steadily and methodically until inevitably that journal yields a relevant fragment.   Pile up the fragments, enumerate them, list them out carefully as though they were bits of papyrus needing careful reassembly.  See what you might have known in the past and re-know it, relearn it.

Then, when all of the distract-scatter-gather process has all been put into motion, can you focus on that one thing you have been getting ready to do all this time.  Come back to what you have gathered up and re-assess the work as a whole.  Allow yourself to work methodically through the work you have gathered together, to pull it apart, to see what the whole set looks like and not just little bits of it.   Pull through everything that is relevant and stitch it all together into something new, something that lasts longer than a simple short distraction but that hold and sustain a concentrated narrative with examples and ideas and themes and notions pulled out from a long time.

The whole process should run on some cycle appropriate for the task or the season.  As I write, I think about the quarterly holiday of Discardia, where you celebrate letting go, and of all of the distracted and scattered thinking I have about that event that culminates in an every three months deliberate effort to tidy things up.  The collected effort of pulling things together means not only that you have everything in mind but also that you can free yourself of the distractions that eventually got you here – and that you get, periodically, a chance to edit out some randomness and make it look like you are more organized and orderly than your easily-distracted nature would allow.

This season's Discardia holiday is coming up on June 20-22, 2009.