Higher Education Web Dev 2004, Day 3.1

by brian d foy

Related link: http://www.highedweb.org/2004/index.html

9:45 am It's a late start for me. I stayed up watching the Packers game last night. Boy was that a waste.

10:00 am There are metrics and then there are analytics, I guess. Kathy Farrell from Empire State College, it going over server logs at the moment. The log from the Lotus Notes server looks weird, but she's calling it a standard format. I haven't ever worked with Notes, so maybe that's just how they do things. I have to remember that this is a non-techy view off the world though.

It looks like Kathy is wearing the flesh-covered Handeze gloves.

10:15 am Maryann Stopha from SUNY Geneseo is demonstrating WebTrends. I hadn't realized that this was still around, especially since you have to pay for it. Most of the discussion is the usual sort for web logs.

10:25 am Ned Stankus from Hamilton College is talking about logging best practices, which is really more about what to ignore in logs then what to do with them. I want to pipe up and tell them that logs are foremost for capacity planning: you can't do that if you don't log everything. I'm going to sit quietly at the bakc though.

A lot of the problems people seem to bring up in the discussion can be solved by Apache's CustomLog stuff.

10:35 am Now Ned is talking about "campaigns", which some other people might call "sessions". He uses Urchin web log analyzer. Which academic services get a link on the home page? Well, let's see what people are using! If no one looks at your department pages, you don't get the front page link.

You can look at search terms to figure out how to improve your navigation elements. If people keep searching for the same thing, maybe it should be a link. Big search terms: Monopoly Instructions. It seems an Economics professor posted the instructions in 1995 style HTML.

10:55 am Ned just canvassed the room: Who uses Google to search their site? Just about everyone raised their hand.

11:05 am Kathy is talking about searches that return no results. She started tracking those search terms, which led to several bugs in the web server set-up that she was able to fix.

11:10 am Ned is showing a difference between logs for IIS and Apache: the first is case-insensitive, so index.html and INDEX.HTML are the same thing. That causes problems in the logs.

A lot of people are throwing out some bad advice about web logging, such as using third party logging services that use web bugs, or various misunderstandings of URLs. I keep forgetting that this is a non-techy view of the world. It's not a bad things, but it is about a lot of stuff I take for granted.

11:20 am Maryann is talking about a web use survey that she conducted. Most of the students are asking for a web portal for her school.

11:30 am Melissa Meehan from Buffalo State College is talking about their Metrics Toolbox. They actually worked with Psychology faculty to conduct focus groups.

11:45 am Time for lunch: this two hour session was a bit much to sit through, and I'm dozing a bit.