@johnlovett : If You Only Knew the Power of the Dark Side


Following the rules, per John Lovett’s tweet, sounds like solid advice . . . for those issues where pretty much anyone would agree rules are solid.
However, for just about everything there are few areas of clear delineation and vast areas of gray.

There is also tremendous value in having a comprehensive understanding of what is possible via technology.

Both for defense against attacks, and also to better utilize systems where the user may have imperfect information about the structure of the system.

Having a hacking mentality is something I view as a crucial component of high performance online optimization.


When Google started crawling the web there were grumblings that their manner of indexing wasn’t following the unwritten rules of the Internet at the time.

Google did their thing back then and now it’s all cool.

Analysts Answering Questions

Setting aside that and other overly familiar tales of rule breakers that succeed in business or in becoming the captain of the USS Enterprise, are people who follow the rules the ideal person for someone to do analysis for you?

Reading between the lines of ‘The New Know‘, which is such an excellent book I purchased two copies for a vendor I work with, the response might be ‘no.’

Analysts should be able to solve what Thornton calls ‘Alpha Level’ problems, those problems which haven’t an existing solution and by extension lack rules.

By definition, the paradigm of a rules based environment is opposite the effort to solve new problems, or existing problems in new ways.

Analyst of the Simple Triangle

There is a study of geometry, yes geometry, which examines the non-empty spaces and how features change.

What’s important is the ability to conceptualize the coordinates for the triangle across the different shapes of the surfaces.

Reducing the complexity of the challenge from the sphere, to the saddle function, to the flat plane may create a more computationally friendly environment.

For many organizations,  as data complexity is reduced the utility of that data across the organization grows.

Web Analytics Tools Reduce Complexity

There is a challenge when the analytics center of excellence themselves rely on a reduced view of the world as their sole input, without an understanding of what is going on behind the scenes.

Any tool, take Google Analytics for example, reduces the complexity of what is the reality to a summation.

In this case it is a dashboard, the most summary of summations, which I guess has some utility to someone:

An individual who thinks about the world in terms of how to game a system might be able to interact with the Google Analytics interface, and over time have a concept of the behind the scenes plumbing which drives Google Analytics.

This individual with the hacker mentality might be able to visualize a model of things such as the data model behind Google Analytics, how data transformations which are nominally opaque occur.

At this point, the importance of choosing to place a custom variable value for every visitor or not in Google Analytics would become apparent.

Mental Gymnastics

Gymnasts work out all the time to keep at peak efficiency, and so should analysts be working their mental routines constantly because you never know when you might be called upon to take a reduced view of the world and produce real results.

For the record, I didn’t actually create an auto-tweet robot, or some other scheme, to cheat the ACCELERATE contests going on.

Not because I couldn’t make an attempt, but because it was sort of uninteresting for the purposes of the conference.

Enter the Matrix

The challenge of understanding differences in the tools available, both from explicitly available information and otherwise obtainable resources, will always be interesting to me.

When I work with clients and see Google Analytics reporting interface above as the Matrix, I know I’m on the right path.

This fundamental understanding  enables analysts to exceed the limitations of the reality which they are placed into by their tools.


Make sure you come to ACCELERATE if you are signed up to attend, it’s a packed house and I hear seats may be given away if you are late.

Thursday night is Web Analytics Wednesday at ROE, sign up here.

I’ll be speaking in the afternoon at ACCELERATE and at least stopping by the Web Analytics Wednesday, so let me know if you want to connect.


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2 Responses to @johnlovett : If You Only Knew the Power of the Dark Side

  1. John Lovett says:

    Michael, Interesting and thought provoking post.

    It’s interesting because in today’s analytical world the importance of knowing the rules is paramount. Yet, the rules keep changing. Try to measure Facebook today and develop a method and plan that’s good honest marketing…only to have the EdgeRank formula change. The same applies with Google’s algorithm. Knowing the rules is a full time job. For the hacker in you (and others) knowing the rules and the technology capabilities is the key to staying one step ahead of the game.

    However, that’s the fundamental difference for me. Knowing the system is being smart as long as you’re delivering the value. Gaming the system to bloat the numbers doesn’t deliver value. It takes a discerning eye to spot the difference, but I know you’re watching ;-)

    Thanks for the post,

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