Playing with Google Analytics

I have been playing with Google Analytics over the past few days to try and understand better who actual access to my web sites are happening.

Although it is an awesome tool – and you can get some interesting information, I have struggled in a couple of areas to understand things.

I jot them down here so that pehaps other new people can pick up on them

I have been playing with Google Analytics over the past few days to try and understand better who actual access to my web sites are happening.

Although it is an awesome tool – and you can get some interesting information, I have struggled in a couple of areas to understand things.

I jot them down here so that pehaps other new people can pick up on them

  1. You are expected to create lots of profiles for a single web site.  Each profile gives a different view.  I originally thought you had one profile for one web site – it took me a while to realise otherwise.
  2. A filter placed in a web profile throws data away that doesn’t get through the filter. Therefore ALWAYS have one profile with no filters on it, so you always have access to the data
  3. Beware of white spaces in filter patterns.  Its easy to forget that when you use the | character to join to filter patterns together
  4. If you have a DirectoryIndex directive with an index page at some other directory (eg /directory/index.html) then your web site will have some entries like this www.example.com//directory/index.html (ie a double slash in them) – be sure to allow for that case in your filter patterns.
  5. The standard advice is to put the tracker script just before the </body> tag.  But I quickly realised I wanted to add an “onClick” javascript call to my outgoing links so that I could track those – and then had to move all my tracker scripts to just after the <body> tag for them to work.

Melinda’s Backups Goes Live

At 4:45 yesterday afternoon (UK time) a supportive association to support Melinda Doolittle opened its web site for membership. I have had the privilege of working with lots of talented people to make this happen, and have been honoured to have been asked to be joint webmaster of the web site. Please anyone who reads this visit http://www.melindasbackups.com and view our aims and ideals

At 4:45 yesterday afternoon (UK time) a supportive association to support Melinda Doolittle opened its web site for membership. I have had the privilege of working with lots of talented people to make this happen, and have been honoured to have been asked to be joint webmaster of the web site. Please anyone who reads this visit http://www.melindasbackups.com and view our aims and ideals

Melinda Doolittle – a breath of fresh air.

I starting watching American Idol this year after I heard that Leona Lewis – see Will Leona Lewis last?  was due to sing there. Watching the auditions was quite boring, except for a very few. One which caught me attention was when a frightened 28 year old backing singer came on and the proceeded to blow the judges out of their seats with an amazing snippet of Steve Wonder’s “For Once in my Life”.

I don’t think I caught sight of her much during the culling of all the auditionees down to the final 24, but she made it through.

Then the first live show occurred and she stunned everyone again with a fabulous performance of Aretha Franklin’s “Since you’ve been gone”.

She has followed that up with further stunning performances of “My Funny Valentine” and “I am a W O M A N” making it effortlessly into the final 12, and making me a fan (I am Melinda Backup #372]

Another great performance of “Home”, although it was not a favorite of mine,

and then it was British Invasion week.

I was worried that she had chosen a really boring song “As Long as he needs me” from the musical Oliver. I downloaded Shirley Bassey’s version from YouTube, and even she couldn’t make it exciting. So was this to be Melinda’s downfall?

Actually no, it was an sensational, and currently my favourite of all her performances.

I think this woman will have a big career.

UPDATE: 5th May. Since I wrote the above Melinda has made it into the top 4. Not only that, each week she has embraced the genre that has been set the contestants and really delivered fabulous performances in every category. I have only one performance that didn’t really grab me (“Heaven knows”). One of her unofficial fan sites holds really high quality copies of each of her performances. I recomend you go there to download them

I have made MP3s from these videos you can find them on this page

If you want to make a CD of her performances then the wav files for that are here

UPDATE 19th December 2008 – the unofficial site mentioned above no longer exists.  However I am now IT director of Melinda’s Backups, a web site owned by Melinda Doolittle and licenced by her to us to operate on behalf of her fans UPDATE July 2009: and now the official fan club.  This contains all the videos, and mp3 files here, but additional exclusive videos and mp3s from post idol performances. You do have to become a member (its free – we just want to avoid spammers) to access them.

Will Leona Lewis last?

I feel emotionally drained. I have spent the weekend reviewing the various recordings on the net of Leona Lewis’s performance on the X-Factor, and trying to find out why by the time we reached the final I thought she should win.

I feel emotionally drained. I have spent the weekend reviewing the various recordings on the net of Leona Lewis’s performance on the X-Factor, and trying to find out why by the time we reached the final I thought she should win.

Leona started as quite an ordinary contestant, but as time progressed she made more and more of an impact on me. Looking back on the performances, “Summer Time” on week 3 was the first time that I really felt she was something special. Week 4 (Chiquitita) was good but not brilliant, but again week 5 and “Sorry seems to be the hardest word” and she had captured my heart strings again. And what followed from there just got better and better.

I am really a sucker for the powerful high note.

This short passage from the song “All by myself” ,her third song of the final, shows exactly clinched it for me (and I think was actually what Simon Cowell was refering to when he said that that high note might just have won her the X-Factor). I clearly was not alone. I found Leona’s High Notes on youtube which shows off this area of her talent. Take a look. But beware, the continued tugging on your emotions as each song hits its climax can make you exhausted.

But will she last? The last time I felt like this about a singer was Alex Parks in Fame Acedemy – back in 2003 (I think). I still remember her rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine” in the final. And yet Alex has disappeared without trace. I checked back into my archives for my recordings of that performance and I have to say that, when comparing it with Leona in full flow, Alex’s performance was fairly tame. And in reality, Alex Park was much less my cup of tea, I liked Caroline Goode as much.

I have converted all Leona’s live songs from the tv clips to play (just) the sound on my portable music player. I find these still have the excitement of the original TV performances, so to my mind the quality of her first album will be the real indication of her long term appeal. I hope that she that she recreates some of the buzz of her live performances. If she does I will be hooked and I expect so will others. I wish her the best for a long term future at superstar level.

UPDATE 18 Jan 2007. I have been able to include Leona’s first single and video here UPDATE 19 Dec 2008 – this video seems no longer available from SonyBMG.

UPDATE 24 Jan 2007. The performance of Somewhere over the Rainbow is now my favourite. With a little digging, you can find the the Eva Cassidy version, which defines the phrasing that Leona uses. But what is even more poignant is when you realise that Eva Cassidy died of bone marrow cancer, and that Leona sung this song initially at the funeral of her cousin who also died of cancer. The fact that Leona is dedicating her performance on the X-Factor to her cousin allows you to understand the emotional stress she must have been under when she did the performance, and why, I think, Simon Cowell made the comment he did about why this was the best performance he had ever witnessed across all the shows he judges. What is clear is that Leona takes the quality of her performance on slow quiet sections to another level. I have moist eyes at the end of each viewing of the performance.

Lewis Hamilton driving for McLaren

On Friday, McLaren announced that Lewis Hamilton would be driving in Formula 1 next year, driving alongside Fernando Alonso. Having seen Lewis Hamilton drive at the British Grand Prix earlier in the year, and then having seen the ITV coverage of his recovery from a spin in Turkey I have been looking forward to this announcement for some time.

On Friday, McLaren announced that Lewis Hamilton would be driving in Formula 1 next year, driving alongside Fernando Alonso. Having seen Lewis Hamilton drive at the British Grand Prix earlier in the year, and then having seen the ITV coverage of his recovery from a spin in Turkey I have been looking forward to this announcement for some time.

It was unclear whether McLaren would announce Hamilton as a full driver, or whether he would get a testing role first. In the event, he has graduated to full driver but this has meant that there is now some people who wonder whether this elevation to full driver immediately was a mistake.

The argument goes that as Hamilton is unfamiliar with a Formula 1 car his performance will not be good as will be expected of him by a overhyping British media. Putting him alongside Alonso will just highlight those shortcomings.

I actually think that the situation is worse than that. It is clear that since Adrian Newey left, McLaren have gone downhill, and instead of being one of the three leading cars, it has fallen back into the category of Honda, and perhaps the surprise of next season BMW.

Nevertheless I think those that express the view that this will destroy Hamilton miss his ability to never give up. It is, I believe, one of those characteristics that is essential in an ultimate world champion. Just think back to two particular occassions in last season with Michael Schumacher to illustrate what I mean.

Firstly, Monaco, when due to that “unfortunate” incident in practice he got relegated to the back of the grid. Monaco is supposed to be a place where you cannot overtake, but in the event Michael came 5th, ahead of Fisichella in the championship winning Renault. He never gave up.

Or the last race of the season at Interlagos, where despite saying his championship was over he still tried. He suffered a puncture whilst overtaking Fisichella and after getting it fixed ended up last. Nevertheless, he charged from the back and finished in fourth place (again ahead of Fisichella).

I think Lewis Hamilton has that very same ability. I have watched his fight back in Turkey and his determination to not give up. But its not only that, its the fact that when under pressure and with the impossible to do, he just gets better. That is the mark of a champion. So despite all the setbacks that motor racing (especially F1) will inevitably throw at a him I think he will continue to work away at getting better. And if the pressure is really there I think he will get better still.

So I think Ron Dennis made the right decision

Recording my day in history

Yesterday I recorded my day for history at history matters. It was the day the parts for my new computer arrived, but as a reflection of todays times, it was ordered over the internet, and shipped by a courier company.

Unusually my wife had popped out just at the times when they wanted to deliver the parcels, so I spend my evening retrieving them from the local depot.

Yesterday I recorded my day for history at history matters. It was the day the parts for my new computer arrived, but as a reflection of todays times, it was ordered over the internet, and shipped by a courier company.

Unusually my wife had popped out just at the times when they wanted to deliver the parcels, so I spend my evening retrieving them from the local depot.

I’ve built the hardware, but I have yet to get the graphics working (intel 965G chipset) as I appear to need the latest kernel (2.6.19-rc2) in order to get the agpgart module to recognise the chip and allocate the video ram. Even Debian Unstable doesn’t get that close to the development edge, so I am going to have to download and build my own kernel.

Free as in Freedom as well as to Free as in Beer

I just came across Aaron J Siego’s post in his blog about the difference between free as in beer versus free as in freedom, and how the open source community has not done enough to espouse the benefits of the second form of freedom.

I just came across Aaron J Siego’s post in his blog about the difference between free as in beer versus free as in freedom, and how the open source community has not done enough to espouse the benefits of the second form of freedom.

Well, I couldn’t agree more. It made me re-read my own Open Source Philosophy post written in March 2004 (and actually culled from words I had written several years before that) and I think that he makes the same point that I was making then (although in a considerable more lucid way).

It was only a few days ago that I replied to a post on Slashdot where someone was saying that because he wasn’t a programmer it didn’t matter to him that the source wasn’t available. My reply to him was yes it did. Maybe he couldn’t fix bugs, or add new features, but because of the availability of the source others could and he would reap the benefit.

What Aaron points out is that the traditional free software foundation view is that the it is a question of ethics, and that all their arguments about why software should remain free is couched in those terms and he thinks that is a mistake. I agree, I think it is the arguing from this direction, whilst technically correct, fails to really motivate the man in the street, who sees the free as in beer as the dominant factor. I think a more persuasive argument is one of enlightened self interest. Free as in Beer is the short term benefit. Free as in Freedom is the longer term. What those people who are choosing free (as in beer) but binary modules are doing choosing a short term benefit against choosing a long term benefit that far outweighs that.

What I think needs to be shouted about much more is that even though a user personally can’t programme, that fact that others have access to the source and can use it gives them

  • ratchet improvements in quality and functionailty over the long term
  • innovation driven from the multitude of difference viewpoints interacting with one another
  • innovation driven by amicable competition between teams who can also share with one another
  • support services that are often personalised and fast, provided you are courteous in asking for them

Trip To Perth

In May 2005, at a days notice, I had to go an work in Perth, Australia for 6 weeks. This is an album of some of the photos I took whilst I was there

In May 2005, at a days notice, I had to go an work in Perth, Australia for 6 weeks. This is the story of how I got there.

Sometime early May

Within my role at work I get to see requests for help from our colleagues around the world. I had seen a request for people who understood electricity market competition and who might be able to provide some input to a proposal, so I suggested some names.

10:00 Tuesday 10th May (UK time)

The call comes around again, this time with the statement that none of the people I suggested before are available. They are looking for someone who can go to to Perth (Australia) for a month. I make a quick call to my wife to see what her thoughts are before tentively proposing myself.

16:30 Tuesday 10th May (UK time)

Its on. I will be going – catching a plane at 14:15 the next day. Unfortunately I can’t go home immediately as I have a business meeting at 18:30.

20:00 Tuesday 10th May (UK time)

Arrive home to find me wife saying that she needs me to help buy some new wardrobes for my daughters bedroom. These have to be bought before my daughter returns from university at the end of may. So quickly find as much dirty washing as possible and throw it in the washing machine so I can take as much clean stuff with me as possible. Go off to IKEA to buy wardrobes.

22:30 Tuesday 10th May (UK time)

Return from IKEA and unload the car. Go an sit on my computer and unsubscribe from all the mailing lists that cause me to receive about 300 messages a day (do not fancy my personal mailbox being full with 10000 messages when I return).

10:45 Wednesday 11th May (UK time)

Fully packed and ready to go. Expecting a car at this time to pick me up and take me to the airport.

10:55 Wednesday 11th May (UK time)

No car. Phone car company who have no record of any instruction to pick me up. Spend 10 minutes holding on the line whilst they make enquires – eventually return to say that they can pick me up at 11:45

11:45 Wednesday 11th May (UK time)

Car arrives and takes me to the airport. At least I have business class and can check in without delay. Two legs. One from London to Dubai, second one from Dubai to Perth.

13:30 Wednesday 11th May (UK time)

Board the plane for the Dubai, and wait for it to take off

14:30 Wednesday 11th May (UK time)

Push back – we are on the way. On route, after eating I have two objectives. One to watch Oceans Twelve, two to get some sleep to try and bring body forward to match Perth time. I must of succeeded with the second because I can’t remember much of Oceans Twelve except the closing credits.

00:30 Thursday 12th May (Dubai time)

At Dubai airport – some time to kill

01:30 Thursday 12th May (Dubai time)

Start to board plane for Perth.

02:00 Thursday 12th May (Dubai time)

Push back on the start of trip to Perth. On route after a brief snack straight after takeoff, go to sleep in a further attempt to bring body clock forward.

09:00 Thursday 12th May (Perth time)

Still on the plane but force myself to wake up. Wonder when breakfast will be served – whole plane in darkness.

13:00 Thursday 12th May (Perth time)

Breakfast served and plane starts to come awake. Did I make a mistake by trying to not sleep?

17:10 Thursday 12th May (Perth time)

My bags are almost the first of the (not very busy) flight, so its straight through customs and into a cab to the hotel.

08:00 Friday 13th May (Perth time)

Into the office for the first full day.

This is an album of some of the photos I took whilst I was there

A Comment on Politics

With the UK general election upon us, I decided to reflect on my feelings about politics in general, and the problem I have about how to vote. Although I am no longer a “young person” who feels disconnected with Politics – I can well understand why they might feel totally disenchanted with polititians.

With the UK general election upon us, I decided to reflect on my feelings about politics in general, and the problem I have about how to vote. Although I am no longer a “young person” who feels disconnected with Politics – I can well understand why they might feel totally disenchanted with polititians.

I try to think about some guiding principals and try and understand which of the political parties is likely to take me in the same sort of direction. I believe that thinking about the specific issues of the day is not the right approach, because one lot are going to be in power for a number of years and the issues change (sometimes in the space of days).

So what are the top level issues that I think are important. For me they are:-

  • Statesmenship (Trust and Integrity); I want to believe that the people in charge of the country are working for my good and not (just) working for their own glorification. I do not expect every polititian out there not to get a reward for their hard work, but I do expect that when it comes to a choice between what is best for the citizens of Britain and personal gain that we can trust in this instance that we come first. On this front I feel entirely let down by Tony Blair with Iraq. To my mind there is strong evidence that a position was manufactured in which we had to support going to war in conjuction with the Americans, when in reality there was no real reason to do so at that time. The reason he did this is less obvious, but seems to me to be related to going down in the history books with a great reputation, and might well be why (as it has so blatantly backfired) he has expressed going for a third term.
  • Good Management of the Economy. This is about stability, low inflation, full employment and some growth. This is about the overall environment in which everyone lives. In this respect, there is no denying that Labour, and Gordon Brown in particular, have a record that no-one else has achieved. There has been a lot of talk that from an economic management point of view there is very little to differenciate between the parties, but the management of our econony has been impressive.
  • Avoid wasting our taxes. I understand that I have to pay taxes, and provided my tax burden is approximately fair compared to everyone else, I am not that concerned about the odd few pence on the tax rate one way or the other. But I have an underlying belief that competitive providers of a service do so much more efficiently and with higher quality than a monopoly (be it a commercial or a government) provider. I am very nervous of a government whose direction is to increase taxation in the belief that they are better at understanding our needs than a competitive environment. This underlying philosophy seems more of a Tory direction.
  • Protection for the weak, including prevention of exploitation by the strong. Although the classical view here is of a nanny welfare state providing services to support the poor, this is not so much my concern. Of course I am concerned that we provide safety nets for the everyone in society, but that is more of a given in modern Britain. It is much more about global businesses holding the world to ransom because of their ecomonic power and their ability to use this money to lobby and change our laws to their advantage. I am looking for my polititians to be resisting this.

Although most issues are relatively short lived (we might be fighting the MRSA bug today – but will it be a key issue in a years time?) one area does require special comment, and that is Europe.

Because of my job, I often travel to Europe on business, and I am generally in favour of closer integration. I believe that as a co-ordinated group Europe can a useful balance to the American superpower. However the following things concern me greatly:-

  • The enormous and generally unaccountable power that stems from the European Commission. It is, like all beaurocracies, driven by the employees within it who have to ensure that they remain important by suggesting new initiatives which they have to drive thought and therefore keep their jobs, and as such is by design guarenteed to generate rule after rule to dictate how we control our lives.
  • I remember the UK experience of decimalisation, which kicked off price inflation at the bottom end of the market. Talking to my European collegues who have switched to the Euro, they have noticed the same thing – so if we enter the Euro (which I would like to have happen) we could be kicked hard in a similar way.

None of the political parties can really be said to offer a vision that matches mine – but there perhaps may be one last think to add.

I think it important that we do not allow any one government to go on too long. As has been said many times before, power corrupts, and eventually everyone slowly succumbs to its siren call. It is necessary to change power to another group every so often just to keep everyone on the straight and narrow.

As a closing comment I want to say to the young people out there who feel that the whole political system is corrupt and has no meaning for you – please vote! Maybe your vote doesn’t count for much on its own, but it is likely that your views are very similar to others who also could vote. If it even appeared that you might do so on mass you really could make a difference.

The problem of course is who to vote for and right now I don’t have an answer.

Open File Formats

The state of Massachusetts is defining that all government documents should be in an open format. Quite right too. Any government department should ensure that all documents are produced in a form that anyone can read the data – for ever and without payment to any third party licence fees.

The state of Massachusetts is defining that all government documents should be in an open format. Quite right too. Any government department should ensure that all documents are produced in a form that anyone can read the data – for ever and without payment to any third party licence fees.

The problem with the approach that they are taking is that defining that Microsoft Office XML standards are open. It also appears that Microsoft appears to be offering a licence to read this documents that confirms to this open standard. However, I think this openness is illusary and should not be allowed. For me the key reasons are

  • The licence is extremely tightly worded to imply that whilst you might be able to develop software to read these formats, you can’t distribute this software to others
  • You can’t write software to write to these formats
  • The formats are defined arbitarily by Microsoft and are not guarenteed not to change.

All this means that sometime in the future it could well be that future generations do not have access to applications which can read and manipulate these documents.

There is a standard, OASIS Open Document Format for Office Applications (OpenDocument), that can be used to xchange documents across the network. The next release of openoffice.org (2.0) will support this as its default standard.

I would like to encourage everyone to adopt this standard as their default exchange mechanism. If we can build up enough momentum behind this, then a few years down the line we will have a standardised mechism everyone can use – and hopefully prevent archive material disappearing never to be readable again