New Website? 4 Reasons to Ignore Analytics for a Few Months

For Website administrators, having and using a Web analytics application is an absolute necessity. That’s how the thinking goes, anyway. Most wouldn’t dream of starting a Website, producing content, and making strategic decisions about the direction of the site without referring to data from their analytics app. To do so would be anathema.

But isn’t it healthy to question common assumptions? Shouldn’t we be loathe to blindly accept the “analytics make the Web go ’round’ dogma?
For the critical thinking Web administrators among us, here are four reasons new Websites may not need to collect any data about visitors– at least for the first few months.

  1. You don’t have any traffic.
    Our first reason is the most obvious. If your Website is new, it won’t have any traffic anyway. And if you don’t have any traffic, there’s really nothing to monitor.

For the first few months of your site’s existence, you should focus on activities that create traffic where before there was none. Producing great content, engaging an audience on social media, and demonstrating thought leadership are things that will bring visitors to your site over time.

On the other hand, scrutinizing the modicum of data collected by an analytics application during your Website’s infancy will be a waste of time. There simply isn’t enough data from which to learn much of anything.

  1. It’s a distraction.
    So it’s your site’s second week of life, and you’re already fiddling with Google Analytics. Know what that means? It means you’re not engaging in more productive activities that would give you a reason to use the analytics application in the first place.

Remember: Learning from data can be time-consuming, and most analytics applications monitor a lot of stuff.  When you don’t have any traffic, the time you spend “analyzing” those metrics is little more than a distraction.
And when you’re distracted, you’re not doing things that help your site.

  1. It slows your site down.
    This will be true whether your site is new with no traffic or mature with ample traffic, but there’s just no denying it: Google Analytics slows your site down, even if only a little bit.
    When your site has lots of visitors, however, it’s ok that the analytics app slows it down. Knowing where your traffic comes from and how well it’s converting are worth the trade-off of having your site run a bit more slowly.

But when your site is new, why slow it down for the few visitors who do somehow end up there? There’s not enough traffic from which to glean helpful data, and you’re putting a damper on the overall experience for those first new visitors and, hopefully, those who will become your first subscribers.
It’s just not worth it.

  1. A lot of it is hype.
    Question: How do you know your site is successful?
    If you’re selling a product, you should have some buyers. If you’re selling a service, you should be getting some clients. If you’re blogging, you should have a growing subscriber list. And so it goes.
    If those things are happening, you know your site is successful. You don’t need an analytics application to tell you that. It’s just… obvious.

That’s why analytics is, to an extent, a lot of hype. Sure, most companies should develop an analytics strategy that includes tracking particular metrics, measuring conversion rates, and using data to make decisions. Many small businesses and single-owner operations should, too – especially when they’re getting a lot of traffic.

But if you’re getting the business, the inquiries, or the subscriber numbers you’re after without fiddling with analytics, then you’re doing a good job. Analytics can tell you things that help you improve those numbers over time. However, in the beginning, the push to make decisions based on data could leave you more confused than enlightened.

The solution? Take a measured approach to analytics. Use metrics when you need them, and ignore them when you don’t. In the end, you’ll enjoy less stress – and more success – than if you went along with the hype.

USB 3.1 Arrives

There is a new USB standard about to arrive and it’s called USB 3.1. This new standard is set to reach desktops as hardware companies release motherboards with ports that can transfer data twice as fast as the previous 2.0 USB technology.

USB 3.1 is special because it can shuffle data between a host device and peripheral at 10Gbps, which is two times faster than USB 3.0. USB 3.1 is also generating excitement for the reversible Type-C cable, which is the same on both ends so users don’t have to worry about plug orientation.

Motherboards with USB 3.1 technology are being targeted at high-end desktops. Some enthusiasts like gamers seek the latest and greatest technologies and build desktops with motherboards sold by MSI, Asus and Gigabyte. Many of the new desktop motherboards announced have the Type-C port interface, which is also in recently announced laptops from Apple and Google.

PC makers are expected to start putting USB 3.1 ports in more laptops and desktops starting later this year.

The need for faster access to external storage could make the motherboards with USB 3.1 are very attractive to gamers especially.

Some storage peripherals with Type-C connectors are becoming available, but can not reach full USB 3.1 speeds yet. However, the data transfer speeds will continue to improve as controllers are refined.

USB 3.1 will surely be standard on all computers within the year. Faster is without better in this case.

Axcient Publishes West Chester Case Study

Axcient recently published a case study on how the Borough of West Chester uses a hybrid onsite/cloud backup service. Two years ago we migrated away from “old school” tape drives to high end NAS appliances for local backup at both the municipal building and Public Works. In addition to this NAS solution a parallel cloud backup of our data was also implemented. Axcient had contacted my office a couple of months ago and requested to write and publish a case study in respect to our backup model.

CaseStudy-BoroughOfWestChester_Page_1

We also partnered with Fraser Advanced Information Services as part of this project and Fraser AIS continues to provide support for this service.

You can read the “Axcient Case Study – Borough of West Chester” here.

This and 4 other published articles about our technology services can be found on right panel of this fine blog under “Published Articles”.

Mobile Phone Privacy Gets Protected

The Supreme Court of the United States said last Wednesday that police officers must have a warrant before searching the cell phone contents of an individual under arrest.

Supreme Court The Supreme Court was unanimous in its decision to give cell phones of all kinds special privacy protections. [Image Source: Art Lien]

Supreme Court The Supreme Court was unanimous in its decision to give cell phones of all kinds special privacy protections. [Image Source: Art Lien]

In a unanimous ruling announced Wednesday, June 25, 2014 the high court settled two cases surrounding instances in which law enforcement officials scoured the mobile phones of suspects in custody and then used information contained therein to pursue further charges.

Here is a sample of some important language from the ruling:

“The police generally may not, without a warrant, search digital information on a cell phone seized from an individual who has been arrested,” the Supreme Court ruled.

“Modern cell phones are not just another technological convenience,” the court continued. “The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought. Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple — get a warrant.”

This is a big win and a long one coming for protecting our digital privacy and moving our laws into the 21st century and working to get them on pace with technology trends.

The high court’s decision last week stems from two cases in which individuals received extended prison sentences due to convictions that may not have been possible had police not accessed their cell phones to gather evidence. In both instances, a warrant was not requested nor issued to search the contents of the arrestee’s phones.

This is yet another example of the laws governing our land being outdated where technology is involved. Cell phones and now smart phones have been around for a couple of decades and just now some of the same protection that has been applied and demanded in other areas (like land line phones) are just not being adopted to address the actual technology we all use today.

Vinyl 101

Technology sometimes, if rarely, does shift backward. This does not occur very often because in most cases technology changes improve on what has occurred before. There are a few examples of when looking backward can actually be a good thing.

Growing up in the late 70’s and early 80’s was a wonderful time, especially if you had an ear for music, which I did. Classic Rock was all around me and consumed much of my time, both in listening, collecting and enjoying the sheer awesomeness of the artwork. Like most people in my age group, let’s just say the late 40’s most of my vinyl was eventually sold or given away when CDs burst onto the scene in the 90’s.

What a mistake that was! During the past couple of years I have rediscovered vinyl and a new hobby was born. And I am not the only one to rediscover vinyl. Vinyl sales have been steadily growing during the past few years and most artists are now actually releasing vinyl versions of their new material. Because of these factors vinyl is one of the few exceptions where technology takes a step into the past.

Why Buy Vinyl?

There are two basic reasons for this: You are an audiophile, and appreciate the sound of analog recordings, or you simply like the sound of vinyl records, packaging, and turntables. And it usually is both! But the aesthetics, the physical aspect of it, is pretty key to its appeal. These records are more beautiful and substantial than CDs, which mostly have the look of office supplies, and they are the best way to make purchasing music feel like something. Vinyl allows you to have a sentimentality about albums — there’s a tactile quality, a ritual to pulling a record out of a sleeve and putting it on and focusing your attention on the act of listening for one side at a time. Even if you still mainly listen to music on your computer or iPod, it gives you the option of having a more special experience with your favorite albums, and an object you can display in your home.

Is Buying Vinyl A Smart thing To Do?

In my opinion buying vinyl records today is the truly only way to purchase music that is likely to give you a return on your investment. You can’t resell a digital file, and in most cases, CDs have almost no value on the secondary market. Vinyl records — new or old — retain a lot of value, and so long as your copy is in decent condition and there is some demand for the title, you can often make a profit if you choose to sell. You probably shouldn’t get into buying vinyl as a way to make money — there are much easier ways to do that — but it’s definitely nice to know that if you had to, you could sell your collection.  But I of course have no intention of selling mine.

What Does Analog Mean?

Analog means that there is a continuous signal in which the varying part of the signal is a representation of another time-varying quantity. So, when it comes to sound recordings, the instantaneous voltage of the signal varies continuously with the pressure of the sound waves. Basically, the groove of a vinyl record is like a drawing of the sound wave in a single continuous line through the entire side. Your turntable essentially reads that and decodes it in real time, which results in the sound you hear from the speakers.

How Is Vinyl Different Then Digital?

Digital signals are not continuous. They are discrete, which means that they send a series of samples of an audio signal’s power at precise intervals. Sound does not naturally break down, so a digital system subdivides it into bits, the smallest possible form of information. This is binary code, so everything is broken down into one of two directives, which is typically described as 0 and 1. The benefit of binary code is that by breaking down information to its smallest possible form, it can represent virtually anything with only two elements.

Does Vinyl Actually Sound Better Then Digital?

Sometimes. It depends on a lot of factors, and most of them have to do with the quality of your turntable, amplifier, and speakers, and I will get to that in a future post. If you’re listening to a vinyl record, CD, or high-quality digital file of the same song on a good stereo system, you probably won’t notice a lot of difference between what you’re hearing unless there is a problem with the actual physical media — scratches, dust, defects. There have been many studies that show that the untrained ear can’t discern these differences, and that those who favor one format have a confirmation bias based on their preferences or values going into the test.

Why Do I Like Vinyl Sound So Much Better then Digital Sound?

There are aspects of vinyl records and analog recordings in general that you definitely can notice beyond the pops and crackles of surface noise. This sound is actually a result of analog’s limitations in capturing and reproducing sound, particularly on the low end of the mix. Digital recordings are far more accurate than analog recordings and can capture a much broader dynamic range. Analog recording is much less detailed, and the gaps in data result in a slight abstraction of sound that is often very pleasing to the ear. You get a very similar difference between images captured on film as opposed to digital cameras – purely digital recording can feel too precise, cold, and clinical, and lose the “warmth” and humanity many people associate with analog technology.

Do You Need a Stereo Receiver to Enjoy Vinyl?

Yes. If you are buying a stand-alone turntable, you will need the receiver – or just an amplifier – to process the signal from the turntable and line out to your speakers. This is where the volume and audio control knobs for your system will be. Some receivers will have a radio built in, and you can line other things into the receiver too, like CD players and televisions.

Setting Up the Receiver
If you have a turntable with a built-in pre-amp, it’s as simple as connecting everything with the appropriate RCA cables and stereo wire. If your turntable has no pre-amp, it will be a bit more complicated because you will need to “ground” the system so that electricity flows properly or you will hear a constant low-pitched hum through your speakers.
Buying Vinyl
Anywhere they sell it, really. If you don’t live near a record store, you can’t go wrong with Amazon since it stocks a wide range of new vinyl at reasonable prices and will ship anywhere. There are other good online shops such as my personal favorite Discogs. You can buy vinyl from the official websites of many artists and most independent labels. Buying used records this way, or at record fairs or garage sales, is a great way to build up a solid collection without spending a lot of money. Probably the most fun way to purchase vinyl is to find a local record shop, like the Electric Avenue Music at 323 East Gay Street in West Chester PA where you can simply browse until you find something that catches your eye… and ear. This is also the best way to meet really cool people who also have a love of vinyl.
What Is The deal with 180 Vinyl?
Most new albums will be very well made and sound great on even an average stereo system. A lot of new records will have some sticker announcing that it’s on “180 gram” vinyl, and that’s a good thing, especially if you’re an audiophile. The thicker, heavier vinyl will degrade more slowly than a thinner pressing and the records will stand up to repeat play a little better. That said, all vinyl degrades a tiny bit every time you play it. Not to worry though I still enjoy a lot of vinyl that was pressed in the 1950s and 1960s.
What About Old Albums Released on 180?
You should be cautious of new reissues of old albums on vinyl. In many cases, the master is made from the most recent CD of the title because the record label does not have access to the original analog master. If you are into the “warmth” factor, like me this totally defeats the point of having the recording in this format because you are basically just buying a lesser, imperfect version of a CD. If you’re unsure about whether a new reissue is sourced from CD, take the time to do some research beforehand. If you have the option of finding an original vinyl pressing of the album, you should just do that.
Buying Old Vinyl (My Favorite Part)
If you are planning to acquire vinyl copies of your favorite albums, you should know that many records either were never released in the format, or were released in very small numbers and are now out of print. The latter is especially true of vinyl produced in the ’90s through the early ’00s, when vinyl sales were at their lowest and CDs completely dominated the market. Vinyl pressings for major-label albums released in this era can be incredibly difficult to find and very expensive to buy on the secondary market. Searching sources like Discogs is probably your best bet here.

Storing Your Vinyl

You should always store your records in a cool, dry place, and have them standing up vertically. If you stack them on top of one another, you run a high risk of warping the vinyl. If your records are warped, they will never sound right again, and you can’t fix it. It can be a challenge to find just the right way to store your vinyl that works in your home. Customized “LP Browsers” like the one pictured above is the best way to go. You can learn more about the amazing “LP Browser” here.

Internet Explorer Security Alert

 

Earlier this week Microsoft unexpectedly released a security advisory warning users about instances of active exploitation of a vulnerability found in all supported versions of Internet Explorer (6-11).

The remote code execution vulnerability “may corrupt memory in a way that could allow an attacker to execute arbitrary code in the context of the current user within Internet Explorer,” and can be exploited by the attacker hosting a specially crafted website that is designed to do so and then convincing a user to view the website with IE.

Microsoft says that the targeted attacks that have been detected in the wild are currently attempting to exploit this vulnerability in IE 8 and 9, and that it remains vigilant and works with partners to detect and take action against malicious sites that attempt to exploit this flaw.

In order to protect their customers as much as possible until a definitive security update fixing the flaw is released, the company has made available a Fix it solution, and has also recommended to users to:

  • Set Internet and local intranet security zone settings to “High” to block ActiveX Controls and Active Scripting in these zones, and
  • Configure Internet Explorer to prompt before running Active Scripting or to disable Active Scripting in the Internet and local intranet security zones

The Fix it must be downloaded and run by the users themselves, and the other two actions might affect the usability of the system, but this last possibility can be mitigated by adding trusted sites to the Internet Explorer Trusted Sites zone to minimize disruption.

“In a web-based attack scenario, an attacker could host a website that contains a webpage that is used to exploit this vulnerability. In addition, compromised websites and websites that accept or host user-provided content or advertisements could contain specially crafted content that could exploit this vulnerability,” Microsoft warned in the advisory.

“In all cases, however, an attacker would have no way to force users to visit these websites. Instead, an attacker would have to convince users to visit the website, typically by getting them to click a link in an email message or Instant Messenger message that takes users to the attacker’s website.”

Using Share point

Once logged in select “Sites” on the top menu bar.

Once you are on the “Sharepoint” page you will see an sites you are a member of. For this case, you want top open the “team Site” which is where our organization stores and shares organizational documents and cooperative projects.

Once you are the “team site” you will be able to see and announcements regarding newly posted documents or files. Libraries are basically folders of related documents, such as “HR Documents” and “Internal Policies”.

In this case the Library we will use is “Contracts & Insurance”. In this “library” there are folders for each year starting with 2013.

You will be able to open any document that has been stored here as well as uploading a new document. To add a document to the library select “new document”. Select upload existing file. Then brose to find the document you would like to upload to the library.

Browse out to your computer and find the desired file, select it and “OK”. That’s it. Your document is now part of the library!

A future post will cover the steps for connecting any Sharepoint library to your Outlook client.

News & History

realize and I apologize that I have not written any tech articles during the past week or so but I have been really busy and there has not really been any tech news out there that would grab your interest. That’s not to say that there are not exciting things on the horizon. There certainly is!

Active Projects
Interactive projectors are scheduled to be installed in our municipal building next month and with any luck we will be launching “West Chester Connect” in early July.

Windows Phone
I continue using a Windows Phone and for the most part this has been my primary mobile device since October 2012. This operating system has continued to grow and improve in big ways since it’s launch. I am looking to make a decision this summer in respect to the mobile devices we use at the Borough. Since Blackberry’s departure as our primary mobile phone an assortment of Apple and Android devices have been issued. The problem here is that it can be challenging to support so many different mobile devices for the staff. This situation in addition to the seamless integration of Microsoft Office, Skydrive, SharePoint & Lync will probably lead us to adopting Windows Phone as the official phone for our staff this fall. Stay tuned.

Microsoft 365
Microsoft has scheduled our organization for a system upgrade on June 1, 2013. We covered the changes that are coming during our technology training this month. If you missed the training you can check out the slideshow here. The big improvements that many of you will see is the ability to upgrade from Office 2010 to Office 2013 and to access Microsoft Office anywhere through Microsoft’s new Office Web Apps.

In addition to all of this news I wanted to make available this great short video which goes through the history of Microsoft Windows. It is amazing that Windows has been with us so long (1985).

Hey, There’s No CD in There!

f you have purchased a new laptop recently, especially a notebook, ultrabook or even a good sized tablet you probably realized right away, “Hey there is no CD drive in there!”  CD drives are in fact starting to become less relevant as consumers demand smaller and lighter form factors from their computing devices. This desire for small devices in conjunction with fast and dependable network/internet connections makes this all expected and logical.

Physical Discs are in the process of becoming extinct.
Computers without a disc drive aren’t so different. Let’s talk about why all of this is no big deal.

First. Can you really download everything? The answer is yes … if your Internet connection is up to the challenge. This is the first item to check before turning your back on physical media.

Let’s imagine that you want to watch a movie on a new Ultrabook. Since you have no disc drive, you decide to buy the movie from iTunes or Amazon. You opt for the HD version, so the file size is about 4GB.

If you’re on a 10 megabit per second (Mbps) connection, and the actual speed of the connection is close to what was advertised, the file will take about an hour to download. If you speed at home is 20 Mbps your download time will be reduced by half. The faster your internet speed the faster the download will be. That is not bad.

Reduce the speed to 6 Mbps, however, and the download will be closer to two hours. A connection of 2 Mbps extends the download to over four hours, and a person on a 0.5 Mbps line could start the download before leaving for work, only to find it not yet complete when he returns home.

Solving the Internet issue is an important step, but it doesn’t address the other big problem: What should you do with your DVD collection?

Second. Buy an external optical drive. Optical drives are boring commodity hardware and inexpensive. Before picking one up make sure that it supports “read and write”. Also make sure the drive supports Blu-ray if you want to watch HD movies from a disc. These external drives connect via a USB connection and just about all of these computing devices still come with these connections, except of course for Apple’s iPAD.

The second way to deal with physical CDs and DVDs is to create digital copies, or ISO images. This is a little more complicated so I will cover that procedure in a future article.

WC Tech Blog @ Flipboard

You can now subscribe to the “West Chester Technology Blog” through Flip board. If you have an iPhone or IPad and you use Flip board, simply click here (from those devices) to subscribe. Once done you can enjoy this fine technology blog right from the comfort of Flip board.

What is Flip board? Flip board makes use of iOS devices to transform blog posts, social networking feeds, images, video, and articles into an impressive layout that replicates the print reading experience, essentially putting traditional RSS readers out of business for most users.  If you recently heard that Google Reader was put out to pasture, know that this app and other similar ones are probably responsible.

This is a great app for collecting material from topics you are interested in and placing them into a very readable – magazine like format. I am holding out hope that an official Flip board app arrives to the Windows 8 store soon.

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