Internal Search Stats Coming to Google Analytics Soon

Google announced new features for Google Analytics this week. One of the best is the addition of internal search reporting. This will allow you track queries on your internal search engine in pretty great detail. Here is a nice preview of the feature and how to use it effectively.

Tracking your internal search traffic (searches within your own site) is excellent data for understanding what your site visitors are looking for and where they may be having problems finding content.

World Bank 2.0: The BuzzMonitor

I just heard about a new open source application for tracking discussion of specific issues in social media (blogs, tags, podcasts, wikis, etc.) online: The BuzzMonitor. This was developed by the World Bank for their own purposes and then released as an open source application. From the about page:

Like many organizations, we started listening to blogs and other forms of social media by subscribing to a blog search engine RSS feed but quickly understood it was not enough. The World Bank is a global institution and we needed to listen in multiple languages, across multiple plaforms. We needed something that would aggregate all this content, help us make sense of it and allow us to collaborate around it. At the time, no solution (either commercial or open source) met those requirements so we decided to build our own.

We were playing with Drupal, a solid, open-source content and community platform for different pilots. Drupal being so flexible and module oriented, we decided to write the specifications for a “super aggregator” that would help us people understand, follow and collaborate around mentions of the organization online.

I asked Pierre Guillaume, who announced it on the Social Media Measurement Group on Facebook, how they are using it internally at the World Bank. His response:

Thanks David. We are rolling it out to communicators across the bank with a guide on how to use tagging, voting, rss feeds etc…there is, not surprisingly, a bit of a learning curve both in terms of “getting” social media and using the tool but some champions are emerging, embedding findings obtained through the buzzmonitor in their regular comm and web reports, adding relevant bloggers to their contacts etc.. We also feature the most recently voted on items on a page available two clicks down from the intranet home page, for all staff to see.

Sounds like a great tool for raising awareness of how issues important to the Bank are evolving online. I recommend listening to the online conversation as a key activity for any organization and this looks like a great tool for assisting in that. I have downloaded the application and will give it a try this week.

Marc Andreeson on Facebook's API

Marc Andreeson, founder of the original Netscape, has posted his thoughts on Facebook’s new API, which has created quite the storm of attention since it launched. This observation is quite interesting:

Analyzing the Facebook Platform, three weeks in

The implication is, in my view, quite clear — the Facebook Platform is primarily for use by either big companies, or venture-backed startups with the funding and capability to handle the slightly insane scale requirements. Individual developers are going to have a very hard time taking advantage of it in useful ways.

In short, creating a Facebook application with the API requires that you provide your own server resources to power the application. Facebook’s super-viral distribution of popular apps leads to crushing load on your web servers in a very short amount of time if you are (un)lucky enough to create a popular application.

The capacity to rapidly scale up server capacity is probably beyond even some large corporation’s ability unless they have specifically prepared themselves to do so. Your web application needs to be designed for scaling up the number of servers as well.

Microsoft's Hammer

Is it just me or has Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS 2007) mania taken over the IT world?

I have heard lots of buzz about this package, especially in the association industry, but I’ve yet to see the overwhelming value in MOSS’s interfaces and services over previous versions of SharePoint. MOSS is nice for collaboratively managing documents and searching but beyond that basic project work I think its interface gets in the way. It is a horrible community platform compared to many of the open source and low-cost solutions already available.

Not to mention the organizations that are diving in head first and planning on using MOSS (with MS CMS rolled in) as the total solution for their intranet and public web sites. There is a good reason that different classes of solutions have evolved for public and intranet sites: they have vastly differing requirements for most organizations.

My advice is to bide your time and carefully consider which nails you ultimately decide to whack with the MOSS hammer.

Engaging with Facebook

Rick Klau’s report on the Obama campaign’s Facebook application:

It’s smart for Facebook, because it reinforces their role as facilitator of the community… no doubt many people already go to My Barack Obama, but there’s a non-trivial number of people who want to hang out on Facebook and show their friends what matters to them. (Keep in mind, these people are not all college students, not by a long shot.) By embracing this, the campaign ensures that they’re where their supporters want to be, and aren’t forcing them to come to the campaign’s website in order to engage with the campaign.

If you have an interest in social networking applications, you should read the rest of the post from Rick. I think it is a good example of how to engage in an existing community in a somewhat structured way. Much better effort than the hash they made of their campaign effort in MySpace.

First Product Wiki in the Association Space?

Avectra, vendor of one of the major association management systems, has launched a public wiki to support their products.
This is the first public wiki to support an association-dedicated product that I am aware of. I think there is a good chance this will build critical mass with their customers. Association staff are going to have high incentive to contribute since this is such a major part of their management systems yet there are few to no resources, such as commercially published books, on the subject.

It might work better if the user groups dedicated to the AMS vendors launched their own wikis, maintaining some independence.

(Spotted on Wes Trochlil’s blog.)

Getting Out of the Way

Bill Flagg, the blogging president of RegOnline, recently posted this report about improvements to their online registration process:

Last April we cut 2/3 of the fields from our RegOnline open account form and then saw our sign-up rate triple. The way we did that was by asking for all the billing information later in the process when they are ready to start taking real registrations. We expect to see our conversions from free to paid to go down some, but happy to say our net # of paid users is increasing dramatically.

Hope this helps.

Indeed it does! One of the entries in our book, We Have Always Done It That Way: 101 Things About Associations We Must Change, that I wrote was about just this. Get out of the way of your members/customers when they are ready to invest with you. Here is the full entry from the book, also available on the WHADITW blog:

Many associations collect demographic data from their members when they join or renew their membership. Sometimes this can be as simple as a few check boxes to more involved multi-page surveys. When dues invoices could only be sent via postal mail, it made sense to piggy back a data collection tool with it to save money on postage and take advantage of the member’s attention.

However, just because it works well in snail mail doesn’t mean you should do it online. For example, the cost-saving benefit goes away when you invoice for dues via e-mail or accept a new member via your web site. Another challenge is that conducting an online survey of a member before they can renew is much more invasive of an interruption than including a paper form in the mail. Making online payment challenging by requiring extraneous forms to be completed reduces the benefits of paying online to your members, which will raise your costs when they choose to go with traditional methods such as calling you or mailing in forms that need to be processed.

When a member has made the decision to invest more money in the association by purchasing a product or paying dues online, get out of their way and make it as easy as possible for them to complete the transaction.

Thanks to Bill for providing an excellent case that illustrates this point.

(Two notes: I tweaked Bill’s comment for typos and clarity without changing the meaning. Also, I have an account with RegOnline and used them last year for an event I conducted. Consider myself disclosed.)

Will Card Sort for Conference Registration

Fred at Gulo Solutions points out that ASS&T’s registration form for the IA Summit implies that job prospects are not all that good for information architects. Two registration categories for the unemployed!

I would guess that is a holdover artifact from the dot-bomb. In any case, the categories should be adjusted in order to eliminate or de-emphasize the implied failure of IA as a career.

Outlook 2007 to Use Word for Rendering HTML E-mail

According to SitePoint, Microsoft Breaks HTML Email Rendering in Outlook 2007:

That’s right. Instead of taking advantage of Internet Explorer 7, Outlook 2007 uses the very limited support for HTML and CSS that is built into Word 2007 to display HTML email messages.

Egads! This will be quite a boon for newsletter designers, once they figure out what will work in Word 2007. It will be a horrible pain for the rest of the world. Given Word’s atrocious history of HTML mark-up, I shudder to think what hoops designers will have to employ to get decent rendering.

Perhaps my traditionalist preference for plaintext will come back into vogue.

(Spotted via Simon Willison.)

Bernard Golden on Amazon's Computing Services

Bernard Golden, a noted open source guru, posted an excellent summary of what Amazon is doing with on demand computing services: CIO Blogs – Amazon: Books, DVDs and … Infrastructure?

Amazon’s role in this is truly amazing. It has in stealth created a vision of a new style of computing, delivered in market-appropriate, market-transforming fashion. I’m astonished they’ve turned in this direction (what, single-handedly creating ecommerce wasn’t enough?), but believe they’ve limned one path forward for the IT industry.

Read the whole post to learn more about how Amazon is striking out into a blue ocean.