I am now “data scientist” at Cheezburger

Today, I (Sean Power) announced that I’ll be leading Cheezburger’s data efforts as “data scientist”.  Nearly three years of consulting has given me a great overview of the state of startups today, and I’ll be sad to stop working with many of the great companies in silicon valley and beyond.  However, it’s finally time for me to join forces with a company that has found its product/market fit.  Here’s why:

“Big Data” is a term thrown around a lot these days and yet holds so many different definitions in often similar contexts.  It usually comes hand in hand with the word clouds, the word analytics, the words “statistics” and “mathematics”, and many other qualifiers.

Much has been said about the practice of data science.  I’m partial to what Mike Loukides wrote on the topic,

The truth is that there’s no definition that quite sticks when it comes to the role of a data scientist.  With Tim O’Reilly and Reid Hoffman calling this era of computing the era of data, I also believe that we live in an unprecedented era of innovation around data.  I decided that I want to be in the heart of the action, on the center stage.

I’ll be working with lots of data.  Cheezburger’s data is sizeable.  Over a month, we’ll see things like 19 million people.  400 million page views.  110 million videos.  That’s a decent amount of data exhaust to tame.  And I’ll be working to find, define and refine my identity in the ‘big data space’ as I help Cheezburger with theirs.

You’ll notice more activity from me on this site, as I blog about some of the challenges, successes and losses that we’ll encounter.  I’ll do my best to be as transparent as possible in hopes that I’ll help others save time and frustration.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to learn from those of you that have paved the way already.  With folks like Bob Page and Lauren Moores having cut the trees and made a path, and others like Hilary Mason paving the way, “big data” is poised to deliver game changing insights and products.

I’ll also be announcing some really exciting stuff that all of us will be able to benefit from in the data community.

Stay tuned.

New FB Comment System Analytics: Comparing TechCrunch.com Before and After The Switch

Alistair Croll & Sean Power blog on watchingwebsites.com about web technology, startups and analytics.  They are the co-authors of Complete Web Monitoring (O’Reilly, 2009) and contributors to Web Operations (O’Reilly, 2010).  If you like this post, you’ll probably like the one we wrote about analytics &  the TechCrunch bump.

Facebook recently introduced embedded commenting within websites, under the name Facebook Comments. Does this new model for commenting on posts help, or hurt, site engagement?  To find out, we compared two weeks’ worth of TechCrunch posts; 7 days before and 7 days after the site implemented the Facebook Comments feature.  Data geeks, you can find the source data here.

In order to reduce the outlier effect of posts with very high, or very small, levels of comment —the massively successful, or truly abysmal, ones—we trimmed the lowest and highest 5 percent of results. In this analysis, “All posts” refers to sums and averages on all posts published, whereas  “average posts” refers to sums and averages on all posts with the 95th and 5th percentile values removed.  By trimming the results in this way, we hope to get a better representation of the effect of Facebook Comments on a typical post.


  • For all posts, implementing FB Comments caused a 42% reduction in the total amount of comments, and a 38% reduction in comments per post.
  • For the average post, implementing FB Comments cause a 58% reduction in the total amount of comments and a 56% reduction in the average amount of comments per post.

In other words, TechCrunch saw almost 50% less comments when they implemented Facebook comments.

But it’s not all doom & gloom.

People liked content more often.  This probably led to a greater number of incoming visits from FB.com, but I don’t have the analytics to prove it.  Both Erick and MG have stated that FB referrals have skyrocketed.

  • For all posts, implementing FB comments caused a 27% increase in the total amount of likes, and a 36% increase in likes per post.
  • For the average post, implementing FB comments caused a 14% increase in the total amount of likes, and a 16% increase in likes per post.

In all cases (with and without outliers), “google buzzing” increased by 30% in both the total amount of buzzes and the amount of buzzes per post.

However, it’s notable to see the impact this had on Tweets

  • For all posts, implementing FB comments cause a 4% decrease in the total amount of retweets, and a 2% increase in the amount of retweets per post.
  • For the average post, implementing FB comments cause a 1% decrease in the total amount of retweets, and a 7% decrease in the amount of retweets per post.

What’s Missing

To be able to fully understand the scope of Facebook Comments, we’re missing a few critical factors which are only available to the owner of the site itself:

  • Visits / post
  • Referrers / post
  • Revenue / post
  • Time Spent on Site / Referrer
  • New vs Returning Visitors / Post

In other words, it’s important to measure the amount of interest visitors showed by the channels that brought them there.

What this means if you’re …

… A High Volume Media Site / Blog

If spam or trolling is a big problem for you (it probably is), the Facebook Comments platform is a viable method to solve this issue.  You may encounter backlash from the community.  Expect numbers to initially dip before stabilizing.  Make sure you track the above numbers diligently, and give yourself at least 2 weeks (preferably 4) to fully understand what you gained and lost.

A Medium to Low Volume Media Site / Blog

Chances are that you’re still in reader acquisition mode.  Facebook commenting is not a viable solution as it stands today, until it implements the ability to authenticate via other platforms (yahoo, twitter, etc).  Consider implementing if you’re having issues related to abuse, trolling or spam where anonymity is not a requirement.  Otherwise, stick with Echo, Disqus, etc.


Your strong value proposition comes in two forms: your ability to drive users from your own platform to publishers, and your ability to prevent spam and trolling by forcing identity on all comments.  If you can claim the largest publishers, you have a chance at usurping Twitter’s position as the leading means of spreading awareness about a piece of news.

A FB Comments Competitor (Echo, Disqus, Etc)

With Facebook entering your market (and Google not far behind), you need to concentrate on providing excellent user experience for your commenter.  Your greatest asset is a community of users demanding that your system be kept / implemented over those of your competitors.  Consider creating ACLs that allow publishers to force users to authenticate via certain ways if you don’t already have them in place.


With the implementation of comments, Facebook has the chance to significantly increase their ability to socially propagate publisher content, and consequently, their stake in the social media landscape.

A Study Determining Which Cloud Provider Works Best For Specific Tasks

Those of us who are building web apps and services inevitably ask ourselves “if I build in the cloud, which one performs the best?”.  In this scenario, the word “best” is a misnomer – what we really mean is “what cloud can perform better given the particular needs of my app?”.  Well, Alistair set out to find those answers.

Along with Webmetrics, he published research that quantifies web application performance on Amazon, Google, Salesforce, Rackspace and Terremark.  Instead of using a “one size fits all” methodology, he compared service response, network performance, CPU, and internal I/O for each cloud provider.

Here’s a quick summary of the results; you can download the full study — complete with detailed conclusions, test methodology, and even agent code –for free from Webmetrics.

No study like this has been done before – and I hope that many people will take the code, improve it, and run tests of their own.  Oh, and it’s all free.  Here’s the original post on the topic.

Enjoy :)

Metrics 101 at Velocity

The funny thing about monitoring is that there’s a ton of data to collect, but few people know where to start. A few months ago, Steve Souders, one of the co-chairs of Velocity, asked us if we’d teach a workshop to try and fix this.

It’s a reworking of many of the things we cover in the book, plus an attempt to explain the math and reporting in an accessible way. Here’s the slide deck.

Applied Communilytics – 10 Speakers & Fresh Material

Alistair and I can’t wait for our Applied Communilytics session tomorrow at Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco.  We have an all-star lineup speaking with us during the day.

We’ll hear from 5 guests in “blitz-sessions”; 15 minutes interviews.

  • John Lovett, principal at Web Analytics Demystified will speak to us about the report he just released with the Altimeter group entitled “Social Marketing Analytics”
  • Chris Slowe, lead developer at Reddit will speak to us about tracking and growing a community
  • Kevin Weil from the analytics group at Twitter will speak to us about Twitter and the future of social measurement
  • Hiten Shah, CEO of KISSmetrics will speak to us about social media metrics and optimization
  • Dave McClure of Founders Fund will talk about AARRR, and separate fantasy from reality in social media measurement

We’ll also have a panel with some brilliant folks that are working to support social media analytics practitioners.  We’ll talk about the present and future of social media, concentrating on “quick wins” for analytics geeks.  The panelists include:

  • Ryan Kuder, VP of Marketing at Biz360
  • Erin Hunter, EVP at comScore
  • Eric Feinberg, Industry Director at ForeSee Results
  • Ryan Holmes, CEO at HootSuite
  • Matt Langie, Sr Dir of Product Marketing at Omniture

The schedule for our day is as follows:

You still have time to register! Here’s a 25% off discount code if you’d like to attend: websf10ac25

We hope to see you there!

Complete Web Monitoring slides from Coradiant lunches

I’m in a few cities in the US presenting an overview of Complete Web Monitoring for my old alma mater, Coradiant and their partner, Dynatrace. It’s a 45-minute recap of the concept of holistic monitoring, looking at the four kinds of website and linking together disparate sets of data with a particular focus on performance monitoring. Slides here:

If you’re in one of the cities, sign up and stop by. Next stop: Interop, then Web2Expo San Francisco for the Communilytics workshop!

Thoughts on the 2010 Web Analytics Association Board of Directors Vote

Web Analytics AssociationDisclaimer: I’m one of the nominees for the WAA board of directors. Shouldn’t really matter, but consider yourself warned.

This year, 21 nominees are running as nominees for five board of director positions – 1 in Europe and 4 in North America.

I’m running for three major reasons:

  • Social Media Measurement: Let’s make sense out of them.  I co-wrote a book on the subject in 2009 with Alistair Croll. I’ve talked to hundreds (thousands?) of practitioners / enthusiasts about the subject. The WAA needs to pursue it’s standardization, advocacy and education in the field.  Yep. I can help that.
  • Lean Startup Analytics: It’s time we give more love to the massive startup ecosystem. Startups have completely different needs than companies in the enterprise space. By appealing to them, we can grow our membership base considerably and help educate those that will turn into the mammoth companies of tomorrow.  Think of it as “educating our young”.
  • Non-Profit Analytics: Much of the efforts put into strengthening the startup base can equally help non-profits.  By passing along educational material targeted to non-profits, we can empowering them with stronger abilities to  understand where their efforts are successful, and where they’re not.

During the day time, I, eat, poop and sleep data convergence.  We need to be more inclusive of non-traditional streams of measurement. This will ultimately help us grow our member base, and make the organization more relevant in today’s “big data” environment.  This is the central thesis in Complete Web Monitoring.

There are 12 people on the board of directors and the WAA has over 1500 members (updated number from 5000, thanks Eric Peterson).  We have the resources, collective intelligence and drive to make strides in each of these areas.  We simply need a bit of support, encouragement, and direction to make these a reality.  Aaaaand, that’s why I came to the party :).

But frankly, as far as the vote is concerned, I’m confused. It isn’t how I imagined things being. I never imagined that there would be as many existing board members running as there are positions.  The people I’m “running against” aren’t people I want to run against.  I’m supposed to be running against Jim Sterne, the founder of the WAA?

A big part of me wants to give Alex, Dennis, JimJune and Vicky a second BoD term. Jim puts it so eloquently:

“Aside from being a major cheerleader for the cause, I bring the organizational memory which will help the next Board and our new Executive Director understand why certain decisions were made in the past.”

Another part of me wants to encourage voters to pass the torch on to new candidates armed with fresh ideas and new perspectives.

  • John Lovett, analyst extraordinaire, brings an understanding and tenure in the web analytics industry that few nominees can rival.  I encourage the WAA to take the opportunity to work with him closely over the next two years.
  • Brendan Hart brings executive metrics knowledge from National Geographic that can greatly benefit our organization from a practitioner point-of-view.
  • Eric Feinberg never ceases to amaze me with his candor, knowledge and ability in the field.  He is a great person to talk and work with and would be a big asset to the WAA.
  • Steve Jackson, who wrote the book Cult of Analytics, and pushes hard for awareness of the WAA outside of North America.
  • And . . . well . . . I’m running and all. :)

I’m not sure which way to go. No matter what, I feel like the Web Analytics Association will gain some great directors, and lose some great candidates.

I’ll probably end up voting for a mix of organizational memory and fresh meat. Either way, the decision will be very hard.

For all of you planning to vote (and even those that aren’t!), I’d love hear your thoughts – either here or on your own blog (if you blog about it, let me know – I’ll add all WAA related posts to the end of this one). By encouraging discussion, I hope that it will help us all come to a conclusion that’s best for the association.

See you on the ballot.

PS: You can see a nominees in action on Twitter by following the Twitter list or finding their individual accounts here.

Here’s a list of blog posts related to the Web Analytics Association Board of Directors vote:

    Web Analytics Association Board of Director Nominee Twitter List

    Web Analytics Association

    If you haven’t heard yet, the Web Analytics Association is an organization that’s promoting web analytics.  It does so by passing on information to the public, by providing access to best practices, and ultimately connecting individuals, vendors, practitioners and consultants in the field.  This year, the WAA received nominations for their board of directors.  It is accepting 5 positions – 4 based in North America and 1 based in Europe to compliment their existing board.

    I’ve put together a Twitter list of all nominees running for the 5 Web Analytics Association board of director positions.  To follow the nominees, simply click on this link, and hit the “Follow this list” button.  Even better, simply add this list if you use Seesmic Desktop, TweetDeck, CoTweet, HootSuite or any other Twitter application.

    If you’re interested in following the nominees individually, I’ve included their Twitter accounts below.  Enjoy!

    • Nicolas Babin, Chief Operating Officer, AT Internet (XiTi), France, Vendor
    • Matthew Bragg, Key Account Director, Foviance, UK, Consultant
    • Joy Brazelle, Director of Product Marketing and Professional Services, ClearSaleing, USA, Vendor

    • Vicky Brock, CEO, Highland Business Research, UK, Consultant
    • D. Blake Cahill, Senior Vice President, Marketing, Visible Technologies, USA, Vendor
    • Juan Manuel Damia, Co-Founder, SocialMetrix.com, Intellignos.com & Analytics20.org, Argentina, Consultant
    • June Dershewitz, Vice President of Analytics, Semphonic, USA, Consultant
    • Eric Feinberg, Industry Director, ForeSee Results, USA, Vendor
    • Brendan Hart, VP, Marketing & Business Intelligence, National Geographic Digital Media, USA, Practitioner - (I can’t find Brendan on Twitter)
    • Lee Isensee, Worldwide Online Marketing Lead / Solutions Architect, Unica Corporation, USA, Vendor
    • Steve Jackson, Director: Business Insights, Kwantic, Finland, Consultant
    • Alex Langshur, President and Founder, PublicInsite Inc., Canada/USA, Consultant
    • John Lovett, Senior Partner, Web Analytics Demystified, USA, Consultant
    • Aaron Maass, Managing Director, MaassMedia, LLC, USA, Consultant
    • Jodi McDermott, Sr. Director, Product Management, comScore, USA, Vendor
    • Dennis R. Mortensen, Director of Data Insights at Yahoo!, Yahoo!, USA, Vendor
    • Gary Nugent, Director of Business Development, The Status Bureau, Canada, Vendor
    • Sean Power, Co-Founder, Watching Websites, Canada, Consultant
    • Robert Russotti, Senior Director, Online Marketing, ANSI – American National Standards Institute, USA, Practitioner
    • Jim Sterne, President, Target Marketing, USA, Consultant
    • Jared Vestal, Director of Marketing Analytics, Restaurant.com, USA, Practitioner

    I know what porn you surf: Analytics gets creepy

    There’s a known weakness in browsers which we wrote about in the book. Every time we talked with someone about it, they’d ask us why we didn’t start a company that took advantage of the loophole, and the answer was, well, it’s creepy. The loophole basically lets you see where else your visitors have been on the Internet. Well, it’s now out in the open, in two forms: Beencounter, and Haveyourfriendsbeenthere.

    To be perfectly clear, the site won’t show you everything your visitors surf–just whether or not they’ve been to a set of sites you define. Here’s how it works:


    1. [Read More]

    Beth Kanter and Non-Profit Analytics

    Welcome To Beth Kanter.OrgBeth Kanter‘s 53rd birthday is today.  Of the many reasons why we’re big fans of Beth, she’s pioneering the concepts of web-based analytics for the non-profit / charity sector.  If you haven’t seen her blog before and you want to deep dive in her thoughts on metrics, start here.

    To celebrate her 53rd birthday, she’s using social media to incite change in the world by sending 53 Cambodian children to school.  Here’s the full description of her birthday wish.  Have a few bucks laying around?  Help her out here.  It’ll help kids go to school in Cambodia!  How cool is that :).

    It gets better.  She’ll write about the lessons she learned during the campaign (just like we did for the Beers for Canada), and share insights on the metrics and measurement tactics she used to determine what worked and what didn’t.

    As always, Beth continues to be a rock solid voice in the world of non-profits & web.  She’s on our A-list.

    Happy birthday Beth!