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Trackers on websites
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mattyb
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Dec 15, 2014, 09:42 AM
 
Sorry, didn't know where else this could go.

I can understand trackers on websites, people want to know how their site is used, where people go, how long they stay etc. What I don't get is why certain sites have so many.

Log into MacNN forums and there are 7. Goto The Independent and they have 29. Google News has zero.

Are places paying all these web analysis companies to tell them how their site is being used? Are these trackers linked to adverts sold on the site, and therefore not seen by the website owner?

Spout all you want about trackers on websites, it interests me.
     
mindwaves
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Dec 15, 2014, 11:27 AM
 
I use Adblock and Ghostery extensions for Safari. I unblock only certain sites.

I don't want to be tracked as much as possible. Keep my digital footprint to a minimum.
{{{ mindwaves }}}
     
osiris
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Dec 15, 2014, 11:44 AM
 
I use Ghostery and adblock for Chrome. I don't want any more of my information tossed around the web if I can help it. I do allow ads on some Mac sites, out of respect. But every once in a while I'll turn all this crap off - it's nauseating how many ads appear and god knows what else is lurking in the background, eff that.
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andi*pandi
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Dec 15, 2014, 11:51 AM
 
companies want to know not just that you clicked a URL, but which one, and then they try to figure out why. So if there are 3 links to the same content on the page, each one will have a different parameter, so they can know which area is most used, and then ditch the others.

There are also mouse mappers which even show where you hover, where you linger... it's both scary and interesting.
     
besson3c
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Dec 15, 2014, 12:08 PM
 
I think some of you are conflating remotely hosted advertisements with internal analytics.

Of course the remotely hosted ads also track a bunch of analytics, but the internal analytics are usually completely invisible to the user. There are entire companies such as Optimizely in existence to help companies track the effectiveness of certain parts of their site and how they translate into conversions, the golden egg, by conducting split and A/B testing.

The so-called San Francisco way of doing things these days is to not guess or make assumptions about users like companies used to do, but to experiment and test each assumption, measuring its results along the way, and to make decisions based on this data (given a large enough sample size). Many of these tests are not necessarily about how far an envelope can be pushed in being obnoxious and pushing things (such as ads) at the user to buy, but simply how effectively content draws the reader in, and how clear an onboarding process is (and how this might lead to an eventual conversion). This is pro-user, as we all benefit from a positive experience, good support, etc.

Pair this with remote ads, and the internal analytics associate all of this with the originating ad/site.

Not all analytics are evil. If they were, since 29034920849023 sites use Google Analytics, you would have a hard time using the internet without coming across some sort of analytics.
     
osiris
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Dec 15, 2014, 01:43 PM
 
But some of us don't want to be analyzed!
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mattyb  (op)
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Dec 15, 2014, 01:52 PM
 
I've seen sites with notices like 'You have Adblock enabled it may screw up this site' - is that true, and how?

What does using Ghostery actually do to a site (I have it myself, but I haven't blocked all trackers on all sites) if you block a tracker?

"how they translate into conversions, the golden egg, by conducting split and A/B testing."
What does this actually mean (like I'm five please)?
     
besson3c
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Dec 15, 2014, 02:01 PM
 
Originally Posted by osiris View Post
But some of us don't want to be analyzed!

Why not? Do you hang up when you are on the phone and are told that your phone call might be used for QA purposes?

There are ways that analytics can be useful without being personally invasive. On a website, for example, with no ad-network and sharing of information between companies and all of that, your IP address and therefore geolocation would be captured. Is this too much to ask if this means that with your next visit your experience might be a little better?
     
besson3c
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Dec 15, 2014, 02:04 PM
 
Originally Posted by mattyb View Post
I've seen sites with notices like 'You have Adblock enabled it may screw up this site' - is that true, and how?
It usually isn't. Adblock works by users submitting stuff they deem as being an ad, AdBlock just blocks stuff on this list.

"how they translate into conversions, the golden egg, by conducting split and A/B testing."
What does this actually mean (like I'm five please)?
Are you asking what a conversion, split and A/B testing is? I'm happy to take a stab at answering this, just making sure...
     
osiris
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Dec 15, 2014, 02:08 PM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
Why not? Do you hang up when you are on the phone and are told that your phone call might be used for QA purposes?

There are ways that analytics can be useful without being personally invasive. On a website, for example, with no ad-network and sharing of information between companies and all of that, your IP address and therefore geolocation would be captured. Is this too much to ask if this means that with your next visit your experience might be a little better?
That all sounds nice, but the reality is much more complicated than mere geolocation - but no - I do not want to be used for any purposes without my approval or compensation.
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besson3c
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Dec 15, 2014, 02:15 PM
 
Originally Posted by osiris View Post
That all sounds nice, but the reality is much more complicated than mere geolocation - but no - I do not want to be used for any purposes without my approval or compensation.
Then you should not use:

- Gmail (or any free email service)
- Any social network
- Many/most cloud services
- Many/most web apps
- Many/most modern website
- Many/most e-commerce sites

I really do understand and appreciate your desires for privacy, I've been encouraging people to be more conscious of this for years, but I think at this point we have to choose our battles. Putting our life on Facebook is one thing, most non-ad based web analytics are another. In another thread that Jeffk guy is worrying about his cookies for some reason he hasn't made clear, but I'm assuming because he heard something about how they impact his privacy and he is afraid of this. This is not a battle worth waging when there are so many worth waging daily.
     
osiris
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Dec 15, 2014, 02:20 PM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
Then you should not use:

- Gmail (or any free email service)
- Any social network
- Many/most cloud services
- Many/most web apps
- Many/most modern website
- Many/most e-commerce sites

I really do understand and appreciate your desires for privacy, I've been encouraging people to be more conscious of this for years, but I think at this point we have to choose our battles. Putting our life on Facebook is one thing, most non-ad based web analytics are another. In another thread that Jeffk guy is worrying about his cookies for some reason he hasn't made clear, but I'm assuming because he heard something about how they impact his privacy and he is afraid of this. This is not a battle worth waging when there are so many worth waging daily.
I have blockers that block your list of anything I deem intrusive, and I alone pick and choose what information goes out - of course there's a practical purpose for information, but I get to choose who gets what. Most people have no idea how much of their data gets leaked out - perhaps I am over compensating, but better safe than sorry.
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besson3c
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Dec 15, 2014, 02:46 PM
 
Originally Posted by osiris View Post
I have blockers that block your list of anything I deem intrusive, and I alone pick and choose what information goes out - of course there's a practical purpose for information, but I get to choose who gets what. Most people have no idea how much of their data gets leaked out - perhaps I am over compensating, but better safe than sorry.

Makes sense, it is good to be this way. Me, I draw the line at not sharing things that are tied to my personal identity. My IP address or location I don't really care about.

I've been telling you guys that I'm besson3c for years though, but I suppose I should come clean and reveal my personal identity. I'm actually Tom Hanks.
     
mattyb  (op)
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Dec 15, 2014, 03:28 PM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
Are you asking what a conversion, split and A/B testing is? I'm happy to take a stab at answering this, just making sure...
Yes please.
     
osiris
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Dec 15, 2014, 03:35 PM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
Makes sense, it is good to be this way. Me, I draw the line at not sharing things that are tied to my personal identity. My IP address or location I don't really care about.

I've been telling you guys that I'm besson3c for years though, but I suppose I should come clean and reveal my personal identity. I'm actually Tom Hanks.
You've got mail!

"Faster, faster! 'Till the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death." - HST
     
besson3c
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Dec 15, 2014, 08:54 PM
 
Originally Posted by mattyb View Post
Yes please.
Most web apps/businesses want you to do something, whether this is create an account, signup for a newsletter, buy something, like them on Facebook, whatever. The customer doing this thing that the business wants them to do is called a conversion.

In the past success was measured based on hits/visits to sites, but this is no longer really the valued metric, as there is less value in simply having visitors kick tires rather than actually pulling the trigger to do something. So, digital marketers create these funnels that try to lure the visitor into these desired behaviors or at least draw the user in, usually with a big hero image or call-to-action thing at the top of the page. This initial call-to-action is very important, and is often carefully optimized using either split or A/B testing.

A/B testing is the process of changing something and measuring results. E.g. if copy is changed to say x rather than y, what effect does this have on conversions? If we change this image, add a video, move this button around, etc. what affect will that have? All of these things seem mundane, but sometimes they can make a big difference.

Split testing is when a population is segmented and this same testing process takes place. For instance, perhaps you'll want to measure the impact of showing certain content to people in North America, and a different set of content to those in Europe.

It is true that the main motivation behind all of this is to get users to part with their money, but marketing is changing to move away from the used car salesman aggressive bothering until you buy approach, to actually being useful and trying to create a relationship with your customers, even if these efforts don't result in an immediate sale. For instance, there is a Hilton Hotels Twitter account that looks for tweets from people traveling and makes recommendations, even if those recommendations have nothing to do with anything connected to Hilton Hotels. The idea is that people will remember this act of kindness and want to do business with Hilton in the future.

So, point being, there is less aggression with all of this than there used to be in years past, and more interest in customer loyalty and a relationship. These relationships are established by knowing a little bit about your customers, where they are having difficulty, what they like, dislike, etc. There is a certain invasiveness to this as there always is, but my point is that the intent here is not always to spam the shit out of you and bombard you with solicitations of all kinds. It frankly makes me roll my eyes when companies try this with me. I mean, how has this ever worked?

Like most other people, I would prefer that there are no ads and companies trying to create relationships with me at all (for the most part), but given that this means that I wish that there was no concept of marketing (obviously unrealistic), I would prefer that companies have some very basic info about me to be useful and not overly obnoxious with how they target me. This doesn't mean complete data mining of my life, but if buy lots of electronics on Amazon, for instance, I would much rather they offer me deals on gadgets and shit that I care about rather than jewelry and My Little Pony.
     
besson3c
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Dec 15, 2014, 09:02 PM
 
On the topic of split and A/B testing, I've never understood why news sites don't try to do this with the crap I read. For example, I never read the political articles on the HuffingtonPost, but I do frequent the comedy section and often (more often than I should) go for the titillation of whatever debate happened with Bill O'Reilly or whomever. Why is it that when I go to the site I see links to articles about some fashion thing, the royal family, some celebrity thing, or some touchy feeling thing? I don't think I've ever clicked on one of those articles, so why hasn't the site figured out that I don't care about this?

If the Huffpo or any other site were to rearrange its content based on what it thinks I care about, would that be invasive or useful?
     
mattyb  (op)
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Dec 16, 2014, 07:34 AM
 
Thankyou very much for such a detailed (and understandable) explanation besson.
     
   
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