I need your help – Facebook Comment Analysis

I need your input to make a massive piece of data collection worthwhile. I want to do an analysis of comments on University pages. I’m interested in uncovering trends in commenting; for example, what kind of comments are left and what their tone is.

This data will help page administrators steer content production, but also allow benchmarking of page versus page. It’s a big undertaking. It could also help in explaining why your page exists in the first place, and how it’s being used.

Would it make sense to collect the following pieces of data:

Type of post: Is it a comment left on a post by the university, or from another page friend? Is it a new comment by a page friend?
Is the tone of the post positive, neutral or negative?
Is it a question, or a statement?
Does it link to other web content?
What type of question or statement is it? E.g. Feedback, praise, application, complaint, fees, programme specific query, spam etc etc

Let me know if this makes sense, or if you’ve got any feedback – thanks!

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Swedish Government’s cookie opt-in banner has severe impact on their Google Analytics data collection

This is the data which Google Analytics collected, from the Swedish government’s website before, and after, they introduced a banner asking for visitors to accept cookies:

Impact on Google Analytics data of banner asking for opt-in - severe reduction in tracked visitors
With the introduction of the banner, at the end of June, 80-90% of their data disappears – just as we’ve seen in the UK, on the Information Commission’s website. Thanks to the Swedish authorities for sharing this data.

Why a banner?
Here’s what they say, on the banner:

Banner on Swedish government website Why does this matter?
The EU directive which this is based on is throwing the baby out with the bath water. In an attempt to protect our online privacy they have taken a crude approach to an issue which is more complicated than their directive recognizes. In this particular instance, the use of Google Analytics, there is not a privacy issue and the data is used to improve the website.

What’s the precedent for this?
In Sweden, right now, there is none. The PTS, the organisation responsible for making the directive a reality in Sweden, has nothing particularly specific (In Swedish); certainly nothing which directly requires a banner. Uppsala’s county website also sports a similar banner.

But there’s still some data being collected – all is not lost, right?
Wrong. One of the joys of the analytics data we can collect is that, from the start, we get a bucket of visitor data which represents everyone who has visited our site. Our job as analysts is to segment out different types of visitors and figure out how the site is performing for them. The opt in banner segments the data into people who accept cookies. I would hazard that the people who accept cookies are a rather unique demographic, who probably don’t represent most of your other visitors. In my humble opinion, your data is screwed from the start.

You could use this as an argument for the cookie directive. ‘See’ you can say, ‘no one wants cookies on their computer’. I would say that the lumping together of cookies as all universally bad has been lazy legislation; it does not reflect reality. Cookies which track visitor activity for improving the website are  a little different to those tracking your activity across the web. Without being able to gather data on what our visitors are doing on our site – which content works, which buttons get clicked, for example – we’re flying blind and the users’ experience will suffer.

I own a website  (in Sweden) – what should I do?
Check out the PTS regulations, they say  the following:

PTS guidance for website owners
In essence, ‘you don’t have to change your website right now’. Maybe while we wait, we’ll get a browser opt-in option which could be satisfactory for the EU, as  Peter Hustinex (European Data Protection Supervisor) hinted at in a recent presentation. It’ll be interesting to see what comes out from Google on this.

Here’s some additional reading:

E-Consultancy reflects on the ICO’s banner and the implications for future use of cookies.
Brian Clifton’s most recent post on the implications of the EU directive for Google Analytics
IAB (Sweden) – Recommendation on cookie use (In Swedish, but English translation available on their site).

Nikon’s Less Than Cunning Facebook Comment Provokes Friend Wrath

Nikon’s Facebook administrator, or one of them, had a bad day yesterday. They post this:

Comment from Nikon's Facebook page

Which resulted in comments like this:

Comments on Nikon's Facebook page

And more of this…

Comments on NIkons facebook page

Ouch. That’s gotta sting – definitely not thinking of their target group there. Not only did this post catch fire, but it also made its way quickly around the web. Not a great PR day.

A little while later they post an apology:

Comments on Nikons Facebook page

Which resulted in a whole bunch of new posts; some like this:

Comments on Nikon's facebook page

Poor choice of words? Over reaction?
Yes, both. They are talking to a community of artists – this comment was going to inflame them, and rightly so – technology is the tool. We get that Nikon sell equipment – ramming that message down our throat was clumsy. Equally, the comment got liked by a whole bunch of people (though that does not necessarily mean they agree with the sentiment). Further, it’s not uncommon to see a controversial post explode into a feeding frenzy like sharks in a swimming pool – the smallest sniff of blood can attract a lot of hate. It probably reinforced a negative view of the brand which some people already held, their marketing  team are probably looking with their interest at their unlike metric (though that won’t tell the whole story, by any stretch).

Not answering comments
There was a bit of a miss that, as far as I can see, there was no answer from Nikon to any of the comments which appeared on the original post. Yes – it would have taken a ton of work but if they’d got active on the resulting comments, explaining that it was a mistake on the thread itself it probably would have demonstrated sorrow far better than their apology some 12 hours later. Here’s an example of the kind of micro-moderation this requires – this is the band Morbid Angel dealing with their fan’s ire.

Fire the administrator?
A few posts suggest firing the administrator. Like this:

Comments on Nikon's Facebook page

Really? I’ve got no idea how Nikon functions with hiring and firing, but I think that firing the administrator would be a bad idea. Social media’s joy and power is the immediacy of response – which allows us to both inspire people, but also piss them off, very quickly. This post was not their finest hour, but firing the admin would be an over-reaction. Nikon – learn from what happened here and figure out if there was a better way to apologize. Incidentally, ‘apologize’ is corporate speak – you should be ‘sorry’.

What do you think – could they have managed this in a better way?

Cookie Killer Law – EU Commissioner Smack Down: Things just got more confusing…

Confusing and bad news for website owners – EU Data Supervisor says that industry guidelines for cookie use are not sufficient and that consent for cookie use must be actively obtained – criticizing the softer stance of EU Commissioner. 

Rather than have the usual picture of biscuits, jars or muppets to go with this cookie post I thought I'd channel some Johnny Cash instead. Image: Flickr - Diogo A Figueira.

This is another of my posts about the EU directive which threatens life as we know it. This is an amendment to the EU’s Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive which forces website owners to obtain consent from a website visitor before cookies can be left on their computer. The upshot of this would be a sudden, and profound, hole in the data we collect on customer behavior on our websites.

No one really knows what the hell to do – since the Directive’s amendment, confusion has reigned supreme with some EU countries not getting round to implementing it while others, like the UK, bashing out a rapid response – and then giving organisations a year to respond to it.

Websites which have attempted to get visitor consent have screwed their site, and their data collection, with unwieldy solutions – the UK Information Commission’s Office, I’m looking at you.

Right now, there has not been any major indications that cookie use is being reduced.

In the background, marketing and advertising associations have been putting together guidelines for how cookie users can respond to this – use cookies, and yet still remain within the law. Check out the guidelines from the Swedish brand of the IAB here.

EU Data Protection Supervisor criticizes EU Commissioner – Advertising Association guidelines unworkable?

Neelie Kroes, the EU Commissioner behind this directive, had previously said that European companies have a year to comply with the directive and that she supported efforts by advertising associations (such as the IAB) to create some kind of standardized opt-in.

Not good enough, responded Peter Hustinex the European Data Protection Supervisor. In a recent speech he specifically said that the guidelines suggested by the IAB fell short of the requirements of the directive, despite them being welcomed by Kroes, the EU Commissioner.  He went on to say that Kroes’ support for a US ‘do not track initiative’ also fell short of the Directive’s requirements. One measure he suggested was a default browser setting of non-acceptance for cookies.

Read his whole speech here.

What Happens Now?

More confusion – even the EU can’t seem to agree on what this directive means. Germany and Denmark have aready got a ban on using Google Analytics (from earlier concerns about IP addresses), but many companies in those countries continue to use it, knowing that the risk of being penalized is relatively low. However, for those of us operating in the public sector there’s a risk that we could get some form of all-encompassing edict of ‘no cookie use without consent’ and boom, there goes our main method for collecting data for improving our websites. Sigh. Where do we go from here? I really don’t want to be saying ‘I told you so’ in a few years time.

Swedish Companies and Social Media Content

I’m on summer break right now, hence the lack of posting, but here’s something from the Swedish news (though this article is in English): Companies responsible for social media content. Without the time to really comment on this, all I can say is I look forward to the day when we stop talking about social media like it’s a special problem which sits on its own little island, somehow different to everything else an organisation, and its employees does….’Companies responsible for communication’, would be the better title – IMHO.

All Change…and this blog comes back to life

I’m changing jobs in the next few months; which means this blog will be coming back to life as I return to working with analytics, and social media, in a more hands on way. I also want to pick up the usability/interaction. There’s a lot of back story to that previous sentence, from which I’ll spare you now, but my career trajectory is definitely taking an interesting turn.

The purpose of this blog will, for the time being, remain largely similar to its previous incarnation. I’ll be blogging about website management, analytics, as well as social media, in the field of higher education. I’ll also be keeping an eye on the issue of tuition fees, in Sweden, and the ramifications of this for Swedish higher ed. It’s previously been difficult to manage such a schizophrenic blog so I’ll probably look at solving that after the summer. Since I stopped posting in 2009 the traffic to the site has declined a little, but not by much, with an approximate average of around 4 000 views a month. Most of this traffic is coming in, right now, via keywords related to tuition fees.

As usual I’ll do my best to answer comments but right now, given that I’ve spent the last few months away from the fees and admission area I am not at all the best person to answer questions regarding applying to Sweden. Chances are I’ll probably suggest you contact www.studyinsweden.se or the extremely active community on the studera.nu facebook group.

The disclaimer on my blog is still relevant, but my status as an employee of Lund University will be changing after the summer.

Finally – here’s a real nice post from Brian Clifton regarding tracking mobile visits to your site in Google Analytics. Nice use of segmentation, incredibly useful insights regarding mobile visitor behaviour on your site.