Blog logoMatthew Lang


A 51 post collection

The death of web analytics?

 •  Filed under Posts, Products, Analytics

It's been a long time since I stopped using Google Analytics to track the activity on my websites. In its place, I went with a product called Gauges.

On its own Gauges is fine but there hasn't been any new major features for a while now. Sure I pay money for the serivce to continue but it would be nice to see something new in the way of features. It's got me questioning though whether Gauges or even web analytics is still necessary.

Do I need web analytics?

I honestly think the answer to this question is no. Well, let me expand on that answer. I don't need web analytics. I can't speak for others, but let me explain using each of my different websites as examples.

Personal blog

For my personal blog, web analytics is nothing more than a vanity feature. I don't need to see what people are reading on my blog, I don't need to tailor content based on what people like or searching for.

My blog is an outlet for my writing, the topics that I am interested in writing about.

Whether people read it or not is not my main concern.

I write because I want to write. I don't need web analytics here.

DigitalBothy blog

For my freelancing blog things get a bit trickier.

Sure it would be nice to see what people are reading and what is proving to be most popular but my freelancing blog isn't just about giving people something to read. It's about advertising my knowledge of web development.

My blog is also the first step in acquiring potential clients. If a potential client likes what I am writing about and they have a need for a web developer like myself, then what next?

At the moment they can contact me through a form but there needs to be more than just a contact form. I need to be able to contact them back on a regular basis and let them know what's changing in the world of web development. This is where an email list comes in to play.

Despite listening to podcasts and reading many newsletters telling me for years that I need an emailing list for my business, I don't have an emailing list for my business. Crazy I know.

With an email list though I can start to build a way of contacting potential clients and convert them to paying clients through a funnel of more specialised content that is only available through that email list.

Instead of using web analytics and learning nothing about my potential clients, I can use an email list to contact them directly and see what interests them in terms of clicked content within each email campaign.

My freelancing blog is the first step in acquiring a client. While it might be helpful to see which content is proving popular at this step, I don't think that it warrants having web analytics. I'd rather see metrics of what people are clicking through to in the email campaigns that I send out.


For DailyMuse, web analytics is not something that I want to measure.

Sure it's nice that people visit DailyMuse and perhaps even sign up for an account, but the key metric here is whether people use DailyMuse on a daily basis and that means measuring when people login, how many people are signing up for the paid plan and how many people are receiving emails per day or week.

I've already got a minimal dashboard for this cobbled together from user data in DailyMuse, so again, web analytics isn't necessary here.

There are also other plugins and solutions that offer user analytics for products like DailyMuse. This is more interesting because I get to see what user's are doing in my product. I'm not at that level yet and so what I have at the moment will suffice for the time being.

Do I need web analytics then?

So perhaps I don't need web analytics then.

Others might make the case that regardless of the type of website I am running, web analytics is better to have than not at all, but I think I can live without it.

I've justified in each case why I don't need web analytics and what I would use instead. I think in each case it's fair to say that I have alternatives in place that work for me and my own needs.

Web analytics isn't dead then, but I think it has been superseded by other analytic products that offer customers more. It's probably good to have in place if the content of your website is the only way of measuring activity on your website, but even then I would recommend that such a website have an email list as well.

I've used web analytics for a number of years but I think I've used it for so long that I've become complacent with it. It's not the type of activity I need to be looking at. I need to be looking at different forms of activity for different sites and that perhaps is the most important lesson in all this.

There's also the fact that Twitter already offers a sizeable amount of analytics that makes social media interaction much easier to see. If you share your website's content on Twitter, then it's worth looking at your account's analytics dashboard on to see the traffic through your account's recent tweets.

For me though, I'm going to stop using web analytics over the course of this week and instead focus on getting my analytics from elsewhere.

Pro colour schemes

 •  Filed under Posts, Tools, Products

If you see me bashing away at text editor then you'll know that I'm a die hard Solarized fan. In the last few weeks though I've been using the Dracula colour scheme as well just for a little change.

Colour schemes for text editors and other software tools are a personal choice. There are benefits to the carefully thought out schemes like Solarized where you get a balanced set of colours that works in most conditions. That works for me. For other people though, they might just use a set of colours because they like the colours in the scheme. Everyone is different and has their owns reasons for what they like working with.

Over the weekend I read about a new colour scheme called Monokai Pro, which is based on the popular Monokai colours and it's availability as a colour scheme for Sublime Text 3. I installed the package and spent some time with it over the weekend. What's interesting about this colour scheme is that while the package is freely available for Sublime Text 3 to evaluate, it does require a license to use. The license is 10 euros to buy.

I debated with paying the license fee for what is essentially a list of colours, but when you look beyond that you see that the Monokai Pro colour scheme has a lot more to it than a colour scheme for your code.

An example of the Monokai Pro colour scheme

The colour scheme changes the interface of Sublime Text as well and there are a number of settings that allow you to customise how different parts of the Sublime Text user-interface look. A very professional finish.

In the end I decided that it was worth the money to buy a license for the package and bought one on Monday.

The most interesting part of this though is not the colour scheme itself but what it is. Yes it's a package for Sublime Text that people can install, yes it's a list of colours that you can change your interface too but other than that it's also a product, a micro-product if you like. And it's not the first product that I have seen that is marketed towards text editors like Sublime Text 3. A few years back I bought a license for the GitGutter package for Sublime Text and I've been using it ever since.

Just goes to show that products come in all shapes and sizes and shouldn't be discounted because of their feature-set or size when compared with similar "free offerings".

Fall like a thunderbolt

 •  Filed under Posts, Products, Business

I have never read The Art of War, but I've seen this quote enough times mentioned elsewhere (other books, games and of course the Internet) to know that it comes from Sun Tzu's book on military strategy and tactics.

Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.

— Sun Tzu, The Art of War

I recently spotted this quote during a gaming session on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered. In between scenes a quote from history appears on the screen.

It got me thinking about the trend towards crowdfunding for products and how transparency is often thought of as a good thing when it comes to building products.

With the recent surge of crowdfunding, you might think that you have to have an idea to tell the world first before it can be successful. It's not always been this way though.

Before Kickstarter, before crowdfunding, before the Internet successful products were built without customers knowing too much about the products until after there were launched.

I wonder if in the light of all this crowdfunding that it's time to consider working on products in a new way? Building the product under the cover of darkness, without the world knowing. Then when it's ready, deliver it to the world. Letting it fall like a thunderbolt.

We live in an age where everything we do is shareable and only a click of way from others knowing what we're doing. It not only applies to what we do in our own time, but also what we do when we're working and that include what we work on.

In some cases it's a good idea to get crowdfunding for a product. You can test the market and get the financial backing before the big push.

Perhaps we might want to consider the opposite as well. If we spent our time working on something without anyone knowing about it, could we capitalise on it and thereby surprise people's expectations?

Evernote - Time to move on?

 •  Filed under Posts, Tools, Products

So apparently Evernote employees now have the ability to read the notes in your Evernote account. There is an opt-out feature in the settings but I wonder how many people will do this?

I started using Evernote when it first came out. Since then I've closed and re-opened my account a number of times. To me Evernote feels bulky and awkward. I've tried to use it a number of times, but each time I find the product too difficult to use. I last tried Evernote just over a year ago. I went for a couple of days before I closed my account again.

Evernote started it's life well as a product but in recent years it has taken a lot of criticism for it's usability, support, pricing and now it's stance on privacy. With the growing criticism you have to wonder if there's life left in the Evernote product and whether it will stand the test of time.

It's starting to look like Evernote has lost its lustre, which is a shame. I know a few people that use it daily to help them run their business.

If I was still an Evernote user today then I would be considering looking at alternatives. I use Simplenote myself for notes and there's also Bear which was named one of Apple's best apps of the year in their App Store.

Whether you're an Evernote user or not, you always have to consider the lifetime of the products you use. It's a small percentage of products that stand the test of time and maintain their status as a wonderful product.

For everything else you have to ensure that if your product of choice folds, you can take your data elsewhere with minimum fuss.

Instapaper acquired by Pinterest

 •  Filed under Products, Links

I'm on the fence about this.

Products and companies get acquired all the time. The concern that many have is that Instapaper will eventually be pulled as a product. Not a crazy theory considering that many tech acquisations do this.

I'll keep using Instapaper until that day but there's room now for a similar product that will continue to run on it's own. Any takers?