Thousands of miles from my terminal, someone is accessing an article.
From the moment they enter, the time spent on the piece, where they're from, where they go next, data is recorded.
It's probably a mark of how society has changed that we accept such digital sleuthing, for in today's market place such data is crucial and we've come to accept "cookies" and "analytics" as a necessary way of business.
In the mid 2000s I would often speak to young journalists and executive on the talk circuit that attracting you, meant we'd have to learn to write for the human eye and robots, traversing a middle road.
The inverted pyramid that prescribes journalism's craft has become a truncated set of trapezoids strategically littered with key words. Video, much the same.
The circle is complete. You have a website whose data tells you where your readers are; you in turn learn to write strategically to gain greater traction with those readers.
In June, a visit from a senior figure within the BBC illustrated just how important analytics has become embedded in journalism. Indeed as a video feature I made at Sky News clearly illustrates their content e.g. video and articles is driven directly by their analytics. Now writing for the web is becoming elevated to an art.
This point was aptly demonstrated by a former student of mine now at Sky, who emailed me ecstatic that a lecture on analytics had resulted in her producing the most viewed article that day.
The true value of analytics
I study analytics examining data on what pages work, how long they're accessed and how the site is entered and exited ( see figure on the right), except in the last three weeks I haven't been able to because the given software has ceased to produce such data and try as I might to politely point this out to my web service provider, Fasthosts.co.uk, there's been no satisfactory outcome.
So here's where this article takes a different turn, from not just the primacy of analytics, but to that of the relationship with web hosters.
My web host is Fasthosts. I have been with them for almost a decade and over that period as the Editor/Web Master of the School of Media Arts and Design, University of Westminster, and conference speaker have either directly of indirectly helped set up accounts probably more than a 100.
Recently, as a delegation we returned from China, Chongqing, addressing professors from some of the country's respected universities on "audiencing and analytics" (See Viewmagazine.tv)
I host my own sites with them and have recently overhauled one of them. Earlier this year I transferred a glut of accounts from web hosters Easy Space, who I felt had lost the ethos of customer service.
I have found Fasthosts agreeable and customer service advisors rather pleasant. I could say more kind things, but I'd rather my comments were not lifted out of context.
So what's my issue? My analytics are down since the 22nd July as the figure (a snapshot of
Fasthosts matrix data) on the right illustrates. I'd really like them back.
- What have I done about it? Emailed them over the course of the last three weeks
- What's been done? Nothing yet, other than an email saying this is gone to second tier level, then the trail goes cold.
When I first went online in 1995, there were only a few web hosters around. I signed up with Easyspace's predecessor. It's fair not only to say today web hosting is a lucrative business, but perhaps has produced the unwieldy situation of how businesses address volume.
When customer service becomes too much of a business
It's a dervish circle. The more popular a business comes, the more volume, customers, it handles, the more front-facing customer service it needs to meet problems that may arise.
Most web hosters have a 24/7 telephone service. With Fasthosts I have often got through fairly quickly.
"If you're not recording this, please do", I asked. And if management from Fasthosts are listening please note.
Partly just common sense, partly an acute interest in communications from a background in broadcast media (BBC, Channel 4, ABC), good communications is important.
I'm not an expert on servers and have no idea how long it takes to go underneath the bonnet of of one. It may be that indeed my issue is being investigated alongside the 1000s of others with their individual issues - a question of volume.
But what's relevant is the passage of information.
If, as a car owner, you sent your car in for repairs and failed to hear anything back from the mechanics, you'd be forgiven for being concerned.
If your mechanic, as mine does, rings or emails you at the end of the day to say, your valve injector's packed up and it's going to take them two days to order a new one and another day to fit, perhaps you'll feel more relieved. You're in possession of new information.
So the questions in my conversation became?
- Is there a problem that can be solved?
- Can you please keep me informed by the end of the day?
I'm not dissatisfied with my web service provider, and as such this post isn't a critique, but a chat to management or someone understanding my predicament puzzled, yet committed to "offering a satisfactory customer service".
It's important, as she or he will agree, that when you're paying for a service, it's right to have realistic expectations of what you should be afforded and resolutions and good communications is one of them.
And yesterday morning my Fasthosts advisor agreed, so the issue is being prioritised I was told and that he would email me by the end of the day with an update.
"That puts you in an invidious position", I said, "as, if there's no update you'll have nothing to report".
"No", he answered gently, "I will get back to you".
If you're reading this piece, then it's because he didn't get back and I am no more wiser at what's going on.
A footnote: Yesterday after tweeting I did receive a survey to fill in, but I declined thus far on this basis:
"Please note that we will not be able to respond to support enquiries via this survey.I have but can't get any joy. I thought that's what surveys are made to address - issues.
If you do have a support enquiry please visit www.fasthosts.co.uk/support, where you will find a comprehensive knowledge base containing hundreds of easy-to-follow quick guides, commonly asked questions, and a facility to submit your support enquiry online".
Some days later the matter was resolved. And an email from the service informed me of the fault. Hope this helps you. For more issues on the web and video go to my main site http://www.viewmagazine.tv
David Dunkley Gyimah will be presenting at a number of conferences on video analytics.