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Dear Ministry of Education: Learn Web Metrics

In Malaysia, Online on September 21, 2008 at 3:46 pm

FMCG is for ‘fast moving consumer goods‘. Most readers will not care for such arcane info unless you have drunk ‘Lipton‘ tea, or pamper yourself with ‘Dove‘ products, or heard of ‘Ben and Jerry’s’ – you will have been affected by Unilever.

The oft-quoted statement by Lord Levehulme, founder of Unilever:

I know that half of my advertising budget is completely wasted, I’m just not sure which half.

I don’t wake up Sunday mornings thinking about Leverhulme, but I did when I read an article today, ‘English on the Web’ , about a website by our Ministry of Education:

THE Online Resources for Learning in English (MyLinE) which was specially created to help UTM students improve their language skills, has proven to be a hit. It’s been so popular that the website has been extended to students in the country’s 19 other public universities.

… By the second semester, the MyLinE website already had 158,192 hits.

Did they say 158K hits? Should it be ‘hits’ or ‘visitors’?

I want to hit the Minister for Education on the head. Look, you are the Ministry of Education, you’ve set up a few websites haven’t you? And you don’t know the metric for website analysis? Quid pro quo: what’s a hit, as opposed to visitor for a website? (Let’s set aside, unique visitors vs returning visitors for the moment).

Recently a few blogs has been going on and on and on … about their hits. Rocky, at least used Alexa search engine, instead of some script-counter widget to analyse performance of their blogs. That’s OK, because blogs are personal, subjective, individual choice.

Can we say the same for our Ministry of Education? C’mon, get some standards.

The IFABC in 2001 – 7 years ago – has this to say:

Hits — Are misleading and do not appear as a standard measure.

‘Hits’ are analogous to the ‘http-request’ – like the Internet browser (the one you are using to view this blog, see the top of your browser now, can you see:http://…”?) requesting pages from servers of domains (e.g. http://www.google.com or http://www.thestar.com.my) … if you don’t get the technical bit on this paragraph, it’s ok. You are a web user, not a webmaster. But let me just say this clearly:

You know why correct website metrics do not use ‘hits’? Because, ‘hits’ is a count of files, not users (humans).

Machines count hits – servers need to know how many requests/functions it takes to completely load a client browser. One load of a page (i.e. 1 user) can generate anything from 50 hits to 5000 hits. That’s just one user, depending on the page. Assuming it’s (conservatively) 300 hits per page, you only need 530 visits to a page to generate the measly 158,000 hits.

That’s a “proven to be a hit” success for a site started 2 years ago (since semester 2006/7)? Less than 1 visit per day? (I don’t have actual data, let MoE check)

It’s a Sunday, and I shall be calm, and like I said in my earlier post, ‘For a better Malaysia‘, the bar is so low, it’s underground.

See for yourself: With websites in Malaysia today going goo-goo and ga-ga with multimedia, hopelessly stuffing each page with multiple animations, jpegs, gifs, and endless links to everybody else on the web – is it any surprise some sites take 2 seconds short of forever to load?

Humans are users, and users do not see every single link on a page, let alone every picture available on a web page.

Are the students at UTM and “19 other public universities” humans or machines? Should you count hits or visitors?

Rocky’s defence (see links above) when he used ‘hits‘ to mean ‘unique visitors‘ was that he’s a layman. And, like I said, it’s a blog with his own regular readers who get his lingo. Can we say the same for our Ministry of Education? Why must Malaysia’s standard be set so low? Can we heighten it a bit, say, sometime in the 21st century?

Finally, to those who would say, we mean this but said that. Remember, I managed tech companies? Well, I’ve dismissed several marketing ‘Directors’ because they cannot do their job. They were not Malaysians, but the mentality was slowly, slowly, maybe, maybe, actually I think, I’m trying … what? Get your act together, customers depend on you, shareholders has invested in you, and staff and colleagues need you. If you can’t do the job, go home. Let someone else do it. This, my friends, is the real world. Not a maybe, maybe world. Unless, of course, you are Ministry of Education of Malaysia.

I know that half of my Education Budget is completely wasted, I’m just not sure which half?

Live in the real world Mr Minister for Education – is it hits or visitors?

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