I wonder if anyone of you actually clicked on the link to this post because of the title? Although I will never really know, I will be able to see how many of you actually visited the site from the link. This is through the wonder of analytics. But what are the positives and negatives of analytics on the site? – this is what this week’s waffle is all about – analysing those analytics!
Before anyone says anything I know I am out of date with this next comment, but I said I would look at some aspects of the report and I didn’t quite get this one out before the 2015 report appeared. What am I talking about? The NMC Horizon Report 2014 Higher Education Preview listed analytics as one of the technologies we should be watching in the next one year or less. I have already waffled about the flipped classroom and gamification and thought, before I move onto the 2015 report, I would complete this one on analytics.
It feels now that every action and interaction on the internet can be recorded, monitored and analysed. When I created my first ever wordpress.com site, I was keen to implement a ‘hit counter’ in order to ascertain how ‘popular’ my site was. Now, huge about of data can be collected and presented from weekly round ups from your Twitter activity (SumAll) to pie charts and line graphs of the actual viewers of websites. From these, popular posts can be analysed and rankings on websites like Teach 100 and Top e-Learning blogs achieved. From this analysis and/or rankings, more visitors can be attracted to any site and the popularity and ‘hits’ increased. But does this data actually mean anything and what can be possible impact of these analytics on a humble website like mine.
Attractive Titles/Keywords – Part of my daily activity used to be to scan through my RSS feeds and to ‘Buffer‘ any interesting articles to share. Although, mainly due to the increase in work and demands on time, I am finding this more difficult, I still try to find a moment to scan the titles and be more selective with what I actually engage with. One of the key factors in attracting my attention is the title. The content of this of course needs to relevant to my area of interest and I often feel that my eyes/mind scan for keywords such as ‘games’ and ‘engagement’ for example, emphasising the importance of keywords and tags. However, ‘attractive titles’ also cause me to stop and click. When I say attractive, I am relating this to the ‘hooking ability’ of the title. Anything that appears radical, extreme or even controversial often attracts my attention. Interestingly my two most popular waffles have been ‘50 degrees of videoing success‘ and ‘Teacher, leave those phones alone‘. I am often left wondering whether it was the title or the actual content which attracted the visitors to these waffles. Interestingly I was going to call the videoing waffle – 50 shades of video – I wonder what the analytics would have been like then! Linked to this is the aforementioned use of keywords/tags. After my weekly live show (Wilson Waffling Live) I published the HD recorded version of the show onto YouTube. During one of the shows I mentioned the Britain’s Got Talent contestants Collabro. Since I mentioned them in the show, I added it as a tag without really thinking about the impact it would have on the views of the video. Usually the views of my YouTube video are between 1 (me) and 10 (half of these being me to check the video )however the video with the Collabro tag in it managed to reach 170 within a couple of weeks! Of course it could have been because it also had a toad eating a bat in it.
Positive Analytics? – Running a website, blog or even a Minecraft Server takes a certain, if not huge, amount of time. There is always moments in any admin’s day, week or month that they ask that reoccurring question of – “Is this worth it?” In order to decide whether the time is being used effectively, I myself as an admin, turn to the analytics for the site to see how many people have visited. I often see this as a reflection of the ‘worth’ of the site and also the impact that I, as a humble waffler, might be having. I might be alone in this use of analytics but I feel it is probably a natural measure that others might use. Even rankings derived from visits can reflect this and these can often be used as a basis for ‘comparing’ sites to each other. Lack of visits and ‘hits’ could result in people not blogging or reducing the number of blogs. Although this might be considered a valid response to blogging it can surely not be the only criteria for assessing the impact of any blog. Personally, while waffling away here I clarify and consider many aspects of teaching and technology that I might not have engaged with if it was not for my blog. With this in mind, what is the minimum number of visits that I site must have to recognise its worth? Even if no-one is actually reading this, I still consider that because I was written it there has been an impact on my own thoughts and practice – surely this is enough?
Clicks or Engagement – As I continue to work on my PhD (of course, you should be expecting a waffle on this shortly!) I read more and more about engagement. I recently reintroduced a ‘levelling up game’ on both my website and Minecraft server. After investigating the range of gamification software which I could implement, I become aware of how these encourage ‘clicking’ rather than engagement. One badge which was achievable in the last levelling game was to watch videos, ten in total. Although some users might have actually watched ten videos, it would also be possible just to ‘click’ on these and then move onto the next one without watching the full video. This would still allow the user to gain the ‘points’. Gleam, the application I use for my badge competition actually puts the video up in another window and will not record the ‘activity’ as completed until the video has been watched to the end. Although this might seem initially to be an improvement, the word ‘watched’ is used in its loosest term here, since letting the video run while you go off and make a cuppa would also allow you to meet the requirement of ‘watching’ it. Although the above examples might reflect some level of engagement, none of them is really measuring full engagement. Comments added in the response to waffles can sometimes reflect deeper engagement although this is not always the case – you only need to look at the work of the extreme spammers “great post, keep up the good work and look at my website!” to know and recognise this. Can engagement with a site really be measured by applications, software or even analytics? Recognising effective engagement relies on a judgement being made by someone. Comments can be analysed as to their ‘worth’ but clicks never can be.
Many might assume from this waffle that I am rather against the use of analytics and relate this to the relatively ‘unpopular’ nature of my site. When comparing Wilson Waffling to the blogging and Youtube giants, I am probably appear like some of the dust you find under the fridge when you eventually move it when moving house. I’m sure that if I had thousands of hits and/or views per day I would feel that my ‘wafflings’ might be having more of an impact – but the words ‘might’ and ‘more’ would be important. Impact and engagement can not be measured by clicks or retweets but more by engaging with feedback, comments and users. These analytics are should be more influential. Finally – and I know I have been going on for a while now – remember the point I made early on within this waffle. Even writing something or posting something can have an impact on your own engagement and development/learning. Don’t feel you need loads of visitors or hits – or even comments. If you as the blogger have benefitted from it and, perhaps more importantly, have enjoyed writing it, then this analytic is probably the most valuable.
I look forward to hearing your comments and ideas, please add them in the comments below or send them to me via Twitter(@iwilsonysj), Facebook, Google+ or email.
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Have fun and I’ll catch you later