On My Watch

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Community Metrics and Instrumentation

Why Communities Fail suggests traditional metrics used to measure communities are wrong:

"The third problem with online communities is how businesses go about measuring the success of their communities. Businesses say that their primary objectives are generating word-of-mouth marketing and increasing customer loyalty. Yet the metric that businesses use most often to measure success is the number of visits to the site. Moran points out that there isn’t much of a connection between what businesses want and what they’re measuring. Better metrics might be rankings in Google or the number of inbound links"

So what are the right metrics then? Yes, of course what is measured should be aligned with the goals of the community. But how? How should a community be instrumented?
In my view, the top metrics (selected from a larger list courtesy of GetClicky ) to choose from include:
  • links
  • links-outbound
  • site-rank
  • visitors
  • visitors-unique
  • actions-average
  • time-average
  • bounce-rate
  • visitors-online
  • feedburner-subscribers

And inbound link statistics, in particular, are a good indicator of real, organic community traction and are applicable to nearly all community types. Plus tools like GetClicky provide them - as shown here

And additional ones to watch include:
  • Twitter-use - since its use is rapidly increasing and creates a useful snapshot in time
  • Cross-community links, such as Facebook for consumer-focused communities, LinkedIn for business/executive-focused communities or even Apache mailing lists for developer-oriented ones.
But, I have yet to see a really good model for which to use when and which ones to really bank on.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Real Time Web Architecture
Kind of an eye chart, but here is an architecture for real time web apps, a possible reference architecture.

Note the inclusion of CEP (like Apama, Streambase or Esker) and Data streaming (like Cometd) along with traditional web and mashup servers. I think that is where the future resides - being able to handle both client pulls (dynamic and static) as well as real time data feeds. Real time data feeds traditionally have been feeds (like securities prices) that are limited to certain markets but increasingly they are broader, mass market feeds - such as Feedburner, Facebook, Twitter and phone/sms - integrating both system-generated and human-generated messages.
Programming languages will be all over the map (from compiled C#, Java, etc) to open web scripting (Python, Javascript etc.) to messaging and proprietary optimized event processing languages like StreamSQL and Apama's monitor script.

Depending on feedback, I hope to describe these components in more detail in future posts and also keep this updated to reflect technology and market developments.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Web 2.0 Expo

Didn't exhibit or speak but did walk the exhibit floor at Web 2.0 Expo in NYC yesterday.

It was surprisingly vibrant coming in the midst of the financial meltdown - just blocks away.

Source: Wall Street Journal Digital Network
Although there was some good gallows humor in among the crowd.

In my adhoc "survey", nearly all said traffic was either excellent or good. Although obviously anecdotal only, there was quite a bit more activity in Web 2.0's half of the Javitz Center than Interop's which was dead.

This vibrancy is either a sign of an innovative space with a good value proposition or a bunch of ostrich's hiding their head in the sand.

In any case, while there were definitely a number of me-to technologies, what struck me was the focus on business models and user experience as opposed to technology - big change from years past.

Can't mention everything (maybe I'll do a more complete overview if I have time) but here are a couple worth mentioning from my loop around the exhibitor floor.

Sightix stood out to me - in terms of both business model and technology. I wanted to show a good example here but unfortunately couldn't get online demo to work very well (not sure what I am suppose to select) or how to create my own account. (Maybe it is just me ....)

In any case, what I like about it is the focus on social relatioonships and the contextual linkages between people - not just that someone is part of your network but also the how and why. Are they a friend, a customer or your boss? (I think Sightix can show this.) This opens up a lot of possibilities - socially rich ERP/CRM is one good example. Business model was also EASY - along the lines of "Try it - if you like it, pay us on a CPM basis" - making it easy to experiment.

Another was Sun - a couple social computing initiatives in particular - Zembly.com and Sun's offering around GlassFish and Shindig (for OpenSocial) - that deserve a closer look. I also had an interesting discussion with Angelo Rajadurai (Rajadouri) regarding how to "integrate" - or better yet - cross fertilize (my words) disparate but related communities. Is this the new (or is the new new) Sun?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Community Lifecycle
The following diagram (borrowed from Forrester's Jeremiah Owyang) shows some steps a successful community goes through - from Conception to Maturity - as measured by member activity.

Nothing controversial here - Strategy, Research, Launch, Kickstart, Growth, Ongoing Management, Continuous Improvement - but my biggest question ( I am not a Forrester client) is how member activity is measured. Is it total hits or some sort measure of community engagement - such as number of inbound links? In my view and experience, defining the proper metrics is not only critical to defining and measuring success but also in advancing the community across the lifecycle. You want to avoid this:

That is volatility - or worse which is decline. There can obviously be volatility on an hour-to-hour, day-to-day or even week-to-week basis but generally you need an up trend to advance the community from strategy to the continous improvements associated with maturity. And since you can't fix what you can't measure, you need the right metrics.

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Private Communities

In my experience, private communities, while sounding exclusionary - like private gated communities in Florida, are really just purposeful communities - pulling together people for a reason - one that helps and/or rewards all participants.

So they are different from those communtiy efforts seeking to cast the widest net - and the most eyeballs.

A good example might be an M&A group evaluating a company's books, a project team organizing a project or a product management comittee. In terms of customer-focused private communities, - "10 Tips For Building Successful Online Customer Communities" - from Communispace - offers a reasonable starting list. Finding the social glue (#3 on their list) may be the most important - providing sustainability and engagement - and also requires real well-intentioned effort.