McLuhan’s Tetrad Applied to Internet

I have been looking at how to apply Marshall McLuhan’s Laws of Media to the Web for my next post on cloud computing. For a “hard” scientist, McLuhan is as close as we will get to Newton in Sociology for understanding how technology effects society. His Laws of Media are as rigorous as Newton’s and his equation – “the medium is the message” – as famous as Einstein’s “E equals m c squared” if not as equally obtuse.

One can be easily lulled into believing it is simple and straight forward. Though McLuhan’s presentation may seem flippant, the sociology in the background is serious and complex. Indeed it is the background or context of technology that at first seems unmoved and unchanging that does eventually change in ways that might be missed because the changes appear unrelated. But it is in understanding both the obvious implications of a technology and the not so obvious effects on culture and society that transforms technology into media in McLuhan’s view.

For example, an obvious and much anticipated characteristic of the internet is that it “makes the world much smaller”. One might expect in the free exchange of ideas and knowledge that the world as whole would become more unified. But as we look at society, it is anything but unified. Can the Internet as a medium be responsible for this?
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Clouds of Hadoop

How Map Reduce Changed the World

We have been living in the age of Hadoop. I know this for certain because Yahoo! has recently announced it’s commitment to making Hadoop a commercial platform. Yahoo! has nearly a perfect record of picking winning technologies that have already crossed the finish line.

My thesis for this post is that changes in the web are initiated by changes in the technology that propel the medium. As Marshall McLuhan would assert “the medium is the message”, I claim that the Google File System (GFS) later brought in the open source domain as Hadoop was the medium for Web 2.0 and that what we call “social media” is the message.

To be more bold, the Cloud is the medium and the Web, the message. In McLuhan’s universe it’s not the content that is passed through the medium that has impact but how content passes through the medium by and for the “masses” that is the true impact. In short, it is technology adopted by the masses that is the medium. This provides an apt understanding of Web 2.0 and how we are currently as a society and culture being moved by the message.

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Send in the Clouds

Old Metaphor Gets New Life

I always loved that song from Joni Michell until someone explained that she was referring to clowns and not clouds – as in “Send in the Clowns”. However the last lines of the song would be appropriate now with my malapropic interpretation.

And where are the clouds?
There ought to be clouds.
Well, maybe next year.
–Joni Michell, “Send in the Clowns”, as interpreted by me.

Today the metaphor of the Cloud as it applies to the internet has taken on a mythical aurora with anticipation nearly rivaling the other expected cloud event – “comes with clouds descending“. The shift could be as simple as converting computing into a utility all the way to the next epochal gestalt in the evolution of human kind (via the internet). Continue reading

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Segment or Die: The Semantics of Segments

Part 2: A Survival Guide

In general segments arise in analysis to answer the next question. If I have a measure of the total number of visitors to a site, the next question might be “Who of those visitors came for the very first time?” and of those first time visitors the next question could be “Where did those visitor come from or how did they hear about us?” To support these questions we have to separate new from returning visitors, maintain referring domain or introduction that indicates the marketing materials the visitor viewed. So how do we develop segments that potentially address every possible question that an analysis or decision maker might ask?
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Yes, The iPad is Revolutionary

Expect Shock n Awe

The Valley Wag is all a stir lately over Apple’s claim that the iPad is revolutionary and magical. This is has been only the latest skirmish of a battle that has been going on ever since Steve Jobs announced and introduced the iPad in January.  Immediately after the announcement, technologists and financial analysts began to pan and attack. The attacks continue to this day.

After having the iPad for little over month and experiencing it first hand, I have gone back to the reviews and pontificating concerning the iPad to see if they were right and provided any insight.  My conclusion is that most were not. The summary of what I found is the title above. Though most provided very little insight, some had profound and thoughtful contributions with startling implications beyond the gadget that is the iPad.  The supporting evidence with some surprising twists, I provide below the fold. Continue reading

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Segment or Die: The Mechanics of Segments

Part 1: Basic Survival Skills

If you have not yet discovered that segments are the life blood of analytics then consider the following as a quick review of Web Analytics 101, just in case you fell asleep through the whole course:

  • Measures seldom provide useful information without normalization
  • Metrics that normalize measures are meaningless without context
  • Trends that provide context are pointless without reasons
  • Reports that provide reasons are useless if they don’t support actions

This pretty much summarizes as briefly and tersely as possible the good, bad and ugly of web analytics.  These same “rules” apply to any form of analytics so the following applies to almost any form of data analysis.  These statements make perfect sense if one understands what is meant by normalization, context, reasons and actions and how segmentation is a vital tool in each of these analytic processes. Continue reading

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Voice of Customer Analysis: UPDATE

Voice of Customer Analysis: UPDATE

At the same time I interviewed Eric, he was also doing a pod cast with Beyond Web Analytics, which is now available at Voice of Customer with Eric Feinberg. This gives a great introduction to Voice of Customer and how satisfaction plays in this space. Also great FAQ on how ForeSee Results applies to commercial web sites.

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Segments, Segments Everywhere

“But not a one I can use.”

So there I am, the consummate technologist, sitting across the desk from the consummate marketer. I am explaining a new feature in our recently released web analytic offering, arguing that it is unique in the burgeoning Web Analytics as a Service (WAAS) industry. I used my experience in AI expert systems to construct a working storage for each visitor to a site that could operate in real-time to track and update the visitor’s status as they were “live” on the site. I could then define rules that would continually process the visitor state and fire when a condition became true. Besides initiating events or actions, this could change the visitor state which in turn could fire new rules. These transitions (rule firings) begin to segment the visitors by their actions on-line.

The moment that I said segment, her brow began furrow. “Those can’t be called segments!” she says. “Marketers have their own way of segmenting visitors by demographics such as age, income, locale, personal preferences. If we call them visitor segments, the primary users of the tool will become confused. We will have to call them something else.” she said as though this was the last and final answer. Continue reading

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Voice of Customer Analysis

A Conversation with ForeSee Results’ Eric Feinberg

I figured I would get into some trouble with my post on Voice of the Customer. I am still researching and updating my “technology stack” of web analytic offerings and services and expanding into social media and customer experience, so I had a feeling if I called out a couple of product offerings that someone would be left out. However I was seeing trends that I felt compelled to respond to before I got everything organized into nice boxes and flow diagrams.

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Voice of the Customer

Can you hear them hollering . . . in your data?

Sometimes technology out paces and morphs concepts that came about in a different time in a more traditional setting. Voice of customer [VoC] is such a notion given the opportunities of social media and on line interactions that seem larger than survey approaches or comparative marketing research studies that have traditionally defined this concept.  Not to say that surveys and studies are not important, but to truly understand the voice of a customer to the point that a business is listening and conversing with customers and providing options specific to segments of customers seems to go beyond surveys and benchmarks.  This is particularly true on-line where lack of human interaction most likely prevents reaching individuals with an offer that is specific to their needs that would otherwise be closed routinely by an experienced sales person or customer service agent.

The equivalent of a sales close on-line is called a goal conversion, where conversion here means a goal event for the web site – a registration, a qualified lead, or a purchase. When comparing visitors that “convert” at the end of a funnel process to those that enter at the start of the funnel as new visitors, the rate of conversion can be rather small – 2% to 3% on average.  The question on everyone’s mind is who are the other 97% and what can we do to get them through our on line sales funnel?

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