Internet Feast Or Famine?


April 9, 2006

“The Internet is a banquet and some poor suckers are starving,” wrote local blogger Mark Stroup after Pittsburgh’s recent Web Analytics Wednesday. I laughed when I first read the comment but haven’t been laughing this weekend when I saw, on the Web Analytics Forum, how lavish the banquet is and realized how few are eating.

I read the forum very regularly so that I can learn, ask questions, answer questions and just satisfy my generally nosy personality. It is a wonderful resource, particularly because the people who write go out of their way to make everyone feel welcome. Sometimes people get on and ask really esoteric questions, but that’s usually because they are working with a very sophisticated company and need to know. However, I was very frustrated this weekend to read as analyst after analyst weighed in on the topic of non-linear conversion metrics, fancy statistical measurements, neural networks and self organizing maps, and every other form of “let me show you how much I know.”

I don’t want to write, “as if anyone cared.” Well, okay, I do want to write that, but I won’t — there truly are companies that are at the head of the Internet banquet table. But I feel like web analysts are already a privileged sort, when it comes to the Internet, because knowledge is power, and analysts have so much knowledge. Other questions, like the one I asked about Mint, and the questions a new CoreMetrics user asked about how his product worked, got lost completely. (I’m not an administrator of the Forum and I still find myself sending private email to posters, asking if their question ever got answered, particularly if I’m interested in the answer as well.)

It’s not that I’m crying so much about the analysts whose unanswered boring questions (like mine) don’t get answered in the rush to evaluate the next cool thing. No, they can ask them again, the way that I do if no one answers. I keep thinking about who has a seat at the Internet table. Some people do web analysis with non-linear equations while most owners of businesses with websites (and isn’t that every business now?), even owners of e-commerce sites, are still saying, “What are web analytics and why do I need them?” When I see this tiny group of privileged people working to conquer a very esoteric question, while the vast majority of businesses don’t even understand what web analytics do, I finally understand Mark’s point about the Internet feast vs. the Internet Famine.

I wrote a follow-on post to this one, where I focused less on “wherefore web analytics” and more on the topic of new web analysts and their questions.


ps Many thanks to Pat McCarthy at Conversion Rater for encouraging me to write about the difference between the Internet “haves” and “have nots.”