#068: Engaging with Your Local Analytics Community

August 1, 2017

The conceit of this podcast is having real analysts hang out with each other — enjoying each other’s company and talking a little shop. But, for you, dear listener, that hanging out is occurring through your earbuds. What does it take to hang out IRL with other analysts? Guest host Moe Kiss from THE ICONIC joins the guys this week to chat about Web Analytics Wednesdays, MeasureBowling, MeasureCamp, and what it takes to get those local, in-person relationships rolling successfully.

People, Sites, and Such Referenced in the Show

Episode Transcript

[music]

00:04 Announcer: Welcome to the Digital Analytics Power Hour. Tim, Michael and the occasional guest discussing digital analytics issues of the day. Find them on Facebook at facebook.com/analyticshour and their website analyticshour.io. And now, the Digital Analytics Power Hour.

00:28 Michael Helbling: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Digital Analytics Power Hour. This is episode 68. A long while back, there was a predecessor to the Digital Analytics Power Hour. It was called “Beyond Web Analytics”. The hosts of that show were Rudi Shumpert, Adam Greco and Gary Angel. They made it 68 episodes before their careers took them all in different directions and away from each other. But we wanted to stop a moment along the way to tip our analytics hats to those that came before us. This is episode 68 and while we’ll keep going with this podcast for a while longer yet and we might have a surprise or two in store, reminiscing like that makes us think of community. Analytics is and was a tight knit group of people who share a common passion, sometimes expressed in uncommon ways, around an art and science that many do not understand. And so that’s what we’re gonna talk about on this episode, some tips, tricks and ideas for making your local analytics community all that it can be. As always, I’m Michael Helbling, I lead the digital analytics practice at Search Discovery and I’m joined by my co-host Tim Wilson, senior partner at Analytics Demystified, welcome to back, Tim.

01:49 Tim Wilson: Hey, fun, fun fact. I actually saw, in person, Gary Angel and Adam Greco today.

01:55 MH: Nice.

01:56 TW: I won’t say where I am and tip our hands as to exactly when this is being recorded, but I actually chatted with both of them today.

02:02 MH: And sitting in the third chair, as a guest host is Moe Kiss, product analyst at THE ICONIC. Welcome Moe.

02:10 TW: Moe Kiss.

02:11 Moe Kiss: Hi guys.

02:12 TW: Yay.

02:13 MK: Hi.

02:15 TW: Ah, the crowd goes wild.

[chuckle]

02:17 MH: Alright, so this is sort of the episode where I think I have an interest in hearing from you two, so let me set the stage. There’s multiple chapters in the DAA around specific cities and trying to grow them. And where I live in Atlanta, we’ve been trying to get the DAA chapter up and running, we’ve done some events. But both of you have been really engaged and active in building up analytics communities in your towns. And so I think today’s discussion, let’s talk about what worked and what didn’t, how did that process work? Analytics is a pretty friendly place but getting us all together sometimes can be difficult.

03:01 TW: I think because of the success we’ve had in Columbus who have said, “I wanna do this in Seattle or New York. Or we used to do this in Boston but it’s been a struggle. Or we’re gonna try and get this rolling in Austin.” So I guess I was kinda thinking that’s the part of this… It kinda worked out that Sydney is… I don’t think I was super aware that Sydney had a strong community until I managed to crash the very end of a Web Analytics Wednesday a couple of years ago and got to meet some of the people there, who were awesome and clearly connected. And then actually meeting Moe and she’s like, “Oh yeah, I know those guys,” and she’s been involved. So I think we all have some sort of a hunger to be engaging in person unless you’re a extreme introvert. And that may be another topic we cover. [chuckle] But I’ve been super lucky or… And I don’t know how much is luck and how much is effort, to have that community in Columbus, Ohio which was kind of an adopted town for me a decade ago.

04:09 MK: I think it’s a bit of both. I think it is luck but I think it’s also a lot of effort. And I suppose when I talk today about my experiences, I’m really riding the coat tails of the guys who’ve been organizing our Web Analytics Wednesday for the last few years ’cause I really just started to get really involved. And I suppose, for me, the best way to do that has actually been to offer to help out and that’s organizing Web Analytics Wednesday and MeasureCamp. That’s actually been, I guess, my in to the community but it’s also made the community, I guess, less scary. Because I can still remember the first Web Analytics Wednesday I went to and lots of new people would feel this, is you go there and there’s this tight-knit group at the front. They all know each other, they’re all cracking jokes. And you kinda sit at the back and you don’t really know who to talk to, you don’t know what to say.

[chuckle]

05:02 TW: They’re the cool kids of analytics.

05:05 MK: Like it’s a bit awkward, yeah.

05:06 MH: Yeah. They are the cool kids, Tim. Tim, you don’t know…

05:07 MK: Yeah. There are cool kids of analytics.

05:11 TW: I’m already an analyst, I don’t need to feel like an outcast amongst other analysts.

05:15 MH: You’ve always been one of the cool kids, Tim. You don’t know how it is for the rest of us.

[laughter]

05:22 TW: Oh, bullshit.

05:24 MH: But you’re not wrong. And actually, if I think back, I think my very first Web Analytics Wednesday was back when I lived in Madison, Wisconsin and we put together a few of them. And yeah, they were small gatherings, we were just trying to get people together and then just sort of chatting. I always went into it with sort of this attempt to greet or say hello to every person there as a way to get out of my comfort zone and pursue the intended purpose. I think sometimes that probably made people uncomfortable.

[laughter]

06:00 MH: Who is this weird person?

06:02 TW: You make me uncomfortable every two weeks.

06:03 MH: Why is he insisting on talking to me? But I was not a cool kid of analytics, I was just someone eager to learn. But it is interesting ’cause actually, some really good friendships over the years have emerged out of that. And certainly, when I moved back to Cleveland and started having opportunities to go down to Columbus every once in a while, hanging out with that community gave me a view of, “Wow, this is how a good web analytics community can work.” And seeing what that group did and… Tim, you spearheaded that and then others joined you and it grew into its own thing. And I feel like we’ve got some of the seeds of that and a lot of people want to have that, but maybe don’t understand what they need to do to make it happen.

06:52 MK: And I guess from the Sydney perspective, what we’ve really learned as a group over the last few years is that you can’t just live on the shoulders of one person. One person can’t be the force that’s driving it, that’s organizing it, that’s getting the speakers. It really needs to be a group and we’ve actually just set up an organizing committee to run both Web Analytics Wednesday and MeasureCamp for that reason. It’s also a way, like I said, to involve more people and make it a bit less scary by sharing the tasks and the prep for each month.

07:27 TW: I will say is the… I’ve been on point but the way it started in Columbus, there were basically three of us and one moved away within a year or so but it’s been… A guy named Dave Culbertson and I have been the guys there from the beginning and we added a few other people along the way and certainly, those core were reliable. I will say as an organizer, what has driven me berserk is the people who say, “Oh, I’d love to help out.” And they don’t really mean it because you ask them to do one thing and they’re completely unreliable. And that’s the… As things have grown, it’s like, “Yes, it’s a machine.” But there are literally like 25 details and if you say, “Oh, I only miss my detail, one out of three times,” that math works out where that falls on the organizer. So, I definitely did hit a point of burnout. I agree that I think, when you showed up at Web Analytics Wednesday and said, “I’ll volunteer,” and they’re like, “Ehh.” I have no idea what they thought but like you actually…

[chuckle]

08:29 TW: Showed up and volunteered and they’re like, “Oh, hell yeah!” And I’ve had the same thing happen where there’ve been people who have volunteered over the years who have really been there and they’re awesome. They’ve become not only close friends but I mean, shit, I’ll refer business to them, they are people where I’m like, “Yes!” And there are other people who have said, “Oh, I’d love to help out,” and then every time I asked, “Oh, not this time or well, maybe or I’m gonna be 15 minutes late,” and they text me that 17 minutes before they’re gonna show up.

08:58 MK: Yeah, I see. I guess we’ve been pretty lucky that the people who do volunteer, they really wanna be there. And I guess we’re also… We’re starting to implement some different ways to have a bit more accountability. So, Simon Rumble, obviously, from Snowflake has been instrumental in running WAW for last few years. And he has a family and the job of not only being the organizer but the host of the evening, that’s a lot. You’ve different speakers to organize, you’ve got all the tech at the venue, all that sort of stuff. One of the ways that we’re trying to change that, is that we have a host each month and that host is responsible for organizing that event. And I guess, at the moment while it’s in trial, we’re still… Simon will be on back up, he’s got the clicker, he’s got the right cables in case whoever is hosting forgets.

[chuckle]

09:47 MK: Which does happen, ’cause I was hosting last month and I forgot my clicker. But I think it’s about finding ways to make people accountable if they’re gonna be involved as well. But I think we’re lucky, we have a really good… The Sydney group, analytics community is really strong and there is this group of like 10, 12 people that are all willing to step up. And I think It’s really hard to find.

10:10 MH: Well, and I think the other thing that I’ve observed and certainly, the Web Analytics Wednesdays, they’ve always had success or failure based on the local group and being tied into the DAA, while the DAA’s good for lot of things, that in itself didn’t seem to predict failure or success or what is your take on that?

10:32 TW: Well, so I think I’ve a little bit of the history that… There was an agreement between the DAA and Web Analytics Wednesday around… It was weird, the DAA was supposed to be, “This is educational and training,” and the Web Analytics Wednesday in its initial form was, “This is socializing and being casual and informal.” And then for the DAA Chapter system wasn’t really there yet when some of the Web Analytics Wednesday started. But the easy way around that was to say, “Well, I’m not taking money from anybody so screw you all. I’m gonna do information and networking and combine it.” And I think that’s kind of evolved over the years, that’s what Sydney does, that’s what Philadelphia used to do. I think there’s one in Houston…

11:22 MH: They do a lot of content in Toronto as well, I think.

11:25 TW: Yeah. But I actually looked and you look at the other ways like MeasureBowling, tip of the hat to Peter O’Neill and saying, “In a way, to me, that feels like where Web Analytics Wednesday started,” and saying, “Crap. We need a way to just socialize.” And I kinda wanna get back to Moe’s point. I struggled with Web Analytics Wednesday because the one in Columbus has grown. 100% of time, I walk away and say, “I saw five people who I didn’t even manage to say hi to them and I’d have loved to have talked to them for half an hour.” I talked to five people for five minutes that I wanted to talk to for half an hour. And I met three new people who were cool and new, and there were a bunch of people that told me they’d been there five times and I don’t even recognize them so I’m concerned that I have face blindness.

[chuckle]

12:14 TW: And that’s not about me, that’s like… It’s grown in scale. So grappling with the… I don’t want anybody to ever show up and not be… I mean, I will look. I will look for people who are standing alone, who have not figured out how to engage and I will… If I’m not scrambling to do something else and can extract myself, I want to go engage with them. But I would say to anybody who is… If there is an event, we’re talking about places where there are established events, and it’s like, “Oh, I show up and I feel like I don’t know how to step in. And man, it’s hard for me to just walk up to somebody and say hi.” And you know what? If for some reason that flames out or you pick the one asshole in the whole group, then 10 minutes later, walk up to somebody else.

13:02 TW: Analysts are nice people. You will very quickly be deeply engaged in a conversation and realize you talked to somebody for 45 minutes. But that is when there is that community there which it sounds like… Moe, you basically wandered into it and became integrated with it. I sort of helped start it. I don’t know what the scene is right now in Atlanta. I know you guys have had some DAA events and it’s kind of exciting to see the DAA not just saying, “Oh we have a symposium once a year.” The Chapters that are saying, “No, we’re gonna have some other events throughout the year,” is exciting. How’s that working?

13:40 MH: Yeah. So, there’s a couple of people here that are kind of doing that initial work, I would say, like Jim Gordon and some others. So that is where I see kind of those little buds starting to emerge but it’s about kind of setting that up and keeping it going, kind of like… And I feel like that’s a part of the way those are, it’s like come hell or high water, you have that event every month, no matter what. Whether it’s three people sitting at a bar together, cursing their analytics lives, [chuckle] it’s better than not having it, right?

14:17 TW: But that’s scary, right?

14:19 MK: I think consistency with when you hold the event is super important and it’s also important to have something memorable like, “It’s the first Wednesday of every month. It’s the second Wednesday of every month,” or however you do it.

14:31 TW: I’ll counter that a little bit because I’ve heard from people that are like, “You know? Every Wednesday I teach… ” Actually, one of our long time sponsors, he teaches a mixed martial arts class every Wednesday. And at this point, I take into account spring break schedules, how… You can’t do it the first… I can’t do it the first Wednesday of every month because that’s gonna put it on the 4th of July. I mean, there are times where… So I feel like communication and publishing the schedule is more important because then people say, “Oh, if I have a weekly commitment, I can’t make this most of the time. I’m gonna triply… ” But I also maybe wrong. I feel like I’ve marched on different years where it’s like, “We’ll stick to this,” and people are like, “Well, that doesn’t work.” Or even like, “We’re gonna stick to the same location,” and people are like, “Well, you should move it around.” And we move it around, and people are like, “What you really need to do is stick to the same location.” And the fact is, I’m like, “We just need to have it consistently. You can’t go for six months without doing anything.”

15:34 MK: We haven’t really had the stage where it’s fallen on like July 4th or anything. I know there were a couple times.

15:40 MH: Well, probably it wouldn’t be a big deal if it fell on July 4th in Sydney.

15:43 MK: Yeah, exactly.

15:44 MH: Yeah. Is that a holiday out there in Australia?

[laughter]

15:48 MH: You don’t have to cater to the United States audience. Just FYI, we already take care of that.

[laughter]

15:54 MK: Oh, good to know. Good to know.

15:55 MH: You can do all the other holidays.

15:56 MK: Okay, fine. If it falls on the Easter holidays but even then, it’s not a Wednesday. So I think it’s just about being clear with the audience that are coming if there is a shift. There might be a one-off shift but I don’t know. I still really like the consistency and I take your point, Tim, about the fact that that might exclude some people that have commitments on that day of the week, but you’re never gonna be able to please everyone when you pick a date, right?

16:20 TW: Well, I’ve also realized sometimes those people are full of shit. That gave them an easy excuse, and then I’m like, “Hey, look, we’ve got one on a Tuesday.” And they’re like, “Oh, you just called my bluff. I’m still not gonna show up.”

[laughter]

16:31 TW: But I do think it is a commitment, like you mentioned Jim… Like Jim Gordon, he’s a motivated guy and I’ve had conversations with people where they’re like, “Oh, we had one and only 10 people showed up. But we needed to be consistent, so we had another one and only 10 people showed up.” It’s like, “Yeah. Do that 10 more times and then tell me you’re only at 10 people.” So I think it is a commitment and there can be a funding need which is tough ’cause it’s like a chicken and egg. I honestly don’t have trouble getting funding, so we’ve divided responsibilities differently and that’s one of the things that I’m on point for although I’ve gotten a couple of other people who can help ’cause they have their ear to the ground. But it’s like, hey, once you’ve proven consistency and once you’ve proven 50 to 80 people, then it’s easier to find sponsors. You actually have a reputation. I do think it’s a hurdle and when we started Web Analytics Wednesday, basically, I would email Eric Peterson and say, “Hey, here’s the receipt. Can I get $100 for the first round of the drinks?” And I’d get it.

17:42 TW: And that was super-helpful and I’ve definitely heard from people that if they haven’t found a company… In Austin, there was a startup that said, “Oh, we’re gonna sponsor this.” And they had the appetite for three of them. But it’s tough for a startup to say, “We’re gonna commit for a year. So I don’t… Michael, who funds… I guess, I don’t even know how the DAA stuff works like is…

18:07 MH: Yeah I don’t know exactly. So you know…

18:11 TW: So [chuckle] whoever is sponsoring those things is pissed ’cause [chuckle] that’s not been communicated.

18:16 MH: And I am not directly connected to the functioning of the Chapter. There’s a team that’s running the DAA chapter, and so we’re participating in that but I’m not on the inner circle. And mostly just because I’m bad at being in the inner circle of things.

18:36 MK: In Sydney, it’s been quite different. We’ve had one long running sponsor pretty much from day dot, a company called Panalysis which… And Rod who runs Panalysis is an incredible supporter of Web Analytics Wednesday. But we basically stepped back recently as a group and we’re like, “Look, we just don’t want it to rely on one sponsor. We wanna have a couple but also it means that the threshold that the companies need to offer is a lot lower if you have three or four sponsors.” So that’s actually a recent change for us is that we’ve now kind of shared it out. We have a company called DataTrue and obviously, Snowflake sponsoring as well. And that’s, I think, takes the burden and the pressure off a bit but it’s still really tough and even if you have to go to a recruiter and be like a recruiting agency and be like, “Will you pick up a couple of hundred bucks at the bar and you can have two minutes to talk about job ads.” I don’t see anything wrong with that.

19:32 TW: So yeah, I mean the money… It is definitely beneficial to say these are free drinks. There was a point where we had people… ‘Cause Web Analytics Wednesdays is… One of their credos is you do not make people pay. That’s meant that nobody’s supposed to make a profit but it definitely is, I think, a barrier if you say, “Hey, come out to this thing and buy some drinks.” Even though we have… There are tons of analysts who don’t drink at all but I remember the scrambling and trying to find one sponsor after another.

20:03 TW: I feel like it should be a good play for people who are in large… If you’re in a large company where you have struggled to hire analysts, I’ve sort of heard and seen that pitch of, “You know, if you sponsor this, it’s a drop in the bucket for your HR budget.” Now they may say, “Oh, we don’t want our money to be buying alcohol or something.” But it is a fantastic way to say, “Let’s invest in this over the medium term because we’re looking to hire people and if we can get word spread around… ” And it should. If you’re an analyst inside a company that has resources that’s large enough to say, a couple under bucks here and there, should not be a big deal and you can even host it at your company and you can pitch it as a recruiting mechanism and you can put it on your quarterly goals to actually get more involved in the community.

21:02 TW: I think that that’s the real work. At the end of a quarter, at the end of a year, you’d be like, “Oh wow, I actually put a lot of work into this.” You could talk to your manager about it. But there is both the time component and the “somebody needs to buy a few drinks,” which on the one hand makes all analysts seem really, really cheap, on the other hand, that’s just the way it is. You provide free food and drink they’re like, “Yeah, I’m knocking out dinner while also learning something.”

21:32 MK: Wait, you get food?

21:34 TW: Us?

21:34 MK: Yeah.

21:35 TW: Oh hell yeah. We feed them dinner, yeah.

21:37 MK: Oh. So we all go for dinner afterward as a group.

21:41 TW: Yeah, I know. I did that and I was horrendously jet lagged and damn near fell out of my chair at some awesome little hole in the wall Chinese food place. No, we bring… Because we do ours at like 6:30 and we don’t… It’s either, basically, we have a pizza place and we have a Chinese food place that is very cost effective. But that’s not where… And when we initially started, we were meeting at pubs where it was like… It actually was pretty expensive. So we actually did, we would buy the drinks and if people wanted to order food, the food was on them. And that worked fine too. And there’s the atmosphere too, like you could say, “Oh, I’ve got a conference room we can host it in.” And it’s like, “Well, if it’s a sterile conference room in a okay part of town, that’s not necessarily a draw.”

22:26 MK: Yeah. We’ve gone through the different venues and it’s mainly… We’ve tried to keep it consistent at one pub the whole way through. But recently, we’ve had to move venues ’cause they’re doing renovations. And the funny thing is the new venue, it’s pretty tight, especially we get… The Sydney Web Analytics Wednesday does get a pretty big crowd. And while some people have complained that maybe there isn’t enough room, the really nice benefit that we’ve all commented on is that it’s actually made people interact with people they didn’t know before more. ‘Cause you kind of can’t go sit at a new table on your own, you’re forced to take a seat at table where people are already sitting, that sort of thing. And I feel like Tim has some strong views about this, but [laughter] it’s something that we’re trialling at the moment.

23:13 TW: Sounds like rationalization to me, like, “Oh, this venue is too small but here’s the upside.” No, we’ve had… I can think to two or three times where we just literally… The space was too small and just that… The fact is, you have to pick the space before you announce the event and then if turnout blows up, we’ve never been in a spot where we’re like, “Oh, we’re gonna cut that off.” And we’re just that case where people are siting on top of each other and it’s not good. So I know. I think it’s a fair point to say if you have a big cavernous space, then people are gonna go be a bump on a log.

23:49 TW: In Sydney, how often do you feel like… We’ve been doing them in Columbus for like, nine years. And every single one, there are people who show up who could have been coming for seven years and they just found out about it. They just tripped over it so we do some level of promotion, but I feel like that’s a place as soon as people start, that they’re like, “I know the people in my company but where do I even begin finding the other people in my community?”

24:16 TW: I feel I just lucked out on the Web Analytics Yahoo group and found these two guys, and between the three of us, we knew enough people to get the first one. But I feel people struggle. They’re like, “I want to have my local community. We have no local community. I would love to start it.” And it’s like, “Well, who are those people?” What do you do? Do you start surfing LinkedIn and reaching out to people saying, “I don’t want to hire you, and I don’t want you to hire me, but I wanna get together and hang out?”

24:42 MK: Well we use Meetup, and Meetup, I think, has been kind of a big shift. Soon as we started promoting it on Meetup, there was this big change in the numbers. I know in some other cities, Meetup has actually kind of been detrimental to Web Analytics Wednesday because there’s been some really good Meetups that are kind of in competition. The Data Science Meetup might pull some people away from say Web Analytics Wednesday. It has its pros and cons but I think it’s also about having that core group. Once you find that core group, they’re really the ones that promote it. We have people that are working at an agency and they grab some people from their work and they grab some friends of theirs and it is a little bit word of mouth, still.

25:25 TW: Yeah, that’s a good point. I feel that is how the word spreads. Meetup, it’s funny, because there’s a… I think just surfing the Meetup.com because… In Columbus, there is a Data Visualization Meetup which I’ve never actually been to. But I’m definitely aware of it and there are people who come to Web Analytics Wednesday who are aware of it and occasionally, there’s a conflict. But I schedule mine out a year in advance so I’m like, “Well, I could tell you, if you wanted to know.” But for a while I was publishing, there’s a very… This master calendar. It’s called TechLife Columbus and it has every night, there are two or three meet ups, and so for a while, I was posting on that and I was definitely finding people that way. Now, whenever we post the new event, we just have it auto post this crappy little link that’s barely notifying people that it exists in that same Meetup.com group.

26:18 TW: But that’s a good point. If you go to things that are one level out and say, “I’m gonna go to this Data Visualization Meetup, and I’m gonna make myself talk to people. And I’m gonna talk to five people and I bet I’m gonna find two people who would be interested in this other thing, or know somebody who would be interested.” It is one of those where it’s like, I feel it’s more something you can tap into. Meetups are a thing and some Meetups have three or four people but that’s okay. Sometimes you say, “Well if I walked away from that and it felt they weren’t really doing this stuff I’m interested in.” Well, don’t stop. You still need to keep going ’cause it’s these… I feel like we’re inherently tucked away in little pockets in companies and you just have to meet as many people as you can who either they are the people that you wanna form a community with, or they know people, or they know people who know people that you’d wanna form the community with and it just takes time. ‘Cause you’re on a… You’re not on a daily cycle. You’re inherently on a monthly or bi-monthly cycle.

27:27 MK: And one thing that I guess you need to consider is catering for a varied audience. Not only reminding people when we cover some really technical topics, but reminding people, “Hey, this is not Web Analytics Wednesday every month, sometimes it’s technical, sometimes it’s not.” Because it’s about people realizing every month is gonna be a little bit different. Some months might be kind of someone presenting the standard two sessions and then sometimes we do a panel. We’ve got a debate next month which I’m really excited about. We’ve done networking sessions. You have to kind of keep changing it up a bit to really attract new people as well.

28:06 TW: We had this one a month and a half ago, we had this lady, I think you guys know her, Lea Pica.

28:12 MK: Oh, just a little bit.

28:13 MH: Oh yeah.

28:15 TW: She just wasn’t, there were so many people in the audience who were like, “This is so not for me.” No. [chuckle] Everybody thought that Lea was awesome.

28:25 MH: I’m gonna tell her you said that.

28:27 TW: We’re recording it so.

28:30 MH: You never know what will make it into the final cut.

28:32 TW: This is the new promo for her podcast, Present Beyond Measure. No, but that’s actually… It’s a double edge. One, letting people know, which actually, it’s funny ’cause I do try to tell people like, “It’s a varied group thing of topics.” But that’s why you wanna have networking saying, “You know what? The topic didn’t engage you but you had two good conversations, then come back for the next two good conversations and eventually, there’ll be a topic that you like.” I do feel like there are people who show up once and that’s it. That’s the one shot, and they don’t show up again ’cause maybe that wasn’t the one that hit, and I’m kind of like, “A lot of work went into this, and it was free, and it was, try to be clear that it’s volunteer-driven.” I guess I would say that to people who were saying, “I went to this one thing and it was lame.” It’s like “Well, if you went once, then shut the fuck up. You didn’t organize it, you didn’t give it enough of a chance.”

29:26 MK: See I like to think optimistically that most people come once and even if that session wasn’t for them, they’ll give it another go. We have slightly different points of view there.

29:38 TW: Well, I guess I, and maybe this is ’cause when people say they’ve been five times and I was like, “Oh is this your first one?” And they’re like, “No, I come all the time.” I’m like, “Wow, I look like an asshole.”

29:50 MH: You’re like “Oh, right!”

29:53 TW: And there are people who come and… It was interesting, two Web Analytics Wednesdays ago, somebody came and it’s like, “How did you hear about this? He was like, “Oh, this lady told me about it.” I’m like, “I used to work with her and she came to one a year ago.” So I’m like, well, that’s okay. Her role is such that maybe it’s not the right thing for her, but she actually walked away with enough of a… She was clearly kind of evangelizing. But that goes back to it takes time.

30:19 TW: If you wanna start it up, if you want to start that community, there’s just no way around the time and tenacity component, and there’s no way around. You’re gonna have some misses, and it’s not gonna be… I feel like there’s a perception. People show up in Sydney, or they show up in Columbus, or they show up in like… I went to Philadelphia a couple of times. And if I walked into that first one and said, “I wanna start it up in Omaha,” and I didn’t get 75 people there, it’d be like, “Oh man! How did you get there?” It’s like, “They started with a small group, too.”

30:55 MH: And that’s another thing is, what size of town do you need to be in to make these kinds of things happen?

31:01 TW: I think they’re like the LA or other places. “We’re just too spread out,” which I also think is a little bit of a bullshit if you’re in Atlanta.

31:11 MH: No, I think that is…

31:13 TW: Proactively calling your bullshit on that.

31:16 MH: Tim, listen.

[laughter]

31:19 MH: Your town is cute. It’s very quaint.

[chuckle]

31:23 MH: It’s really cute. Now Atlanta is really spread, and see, the problem is with traffic, it makes it a disincentive. There are literally about four major sort of areas where people go to work everyday in Atlanta. And so if you are in the fourth one and they’re having… And the first one, you’re not gonna wanna drive all the way down.

31:43 TW: Because that’s an hour and a half? How long of a drive?

31:46 MH: It could be an hour each way, easy.

31:49 TW: The funny thing is, well, you drove down from Cleveland to Columbus, and for a while, there were regulars who were driving a couple hours.

32:00 MH: Yeah. Those people are weird and special, and you should support and love them because they’re so dedicated. But, the point being is that it’s, as you’re getting started, I think… And maybe I’m totally wrong and you’re right, and we need to test it because one thing we haven’t done is just, “Hey, every second Wednesday of every month, we’re doing this. We’re doing it here, be there,” and just let it grow, and just make it happen. And so maybe that’s what we’ve gotta do. We just gotta, for the next six, nine, 12 months, just make sure it always happens.

32:35 MK: And is there no public transport there? Like we had ours right next… No.

32:38 MH: No, no. Here in the South.

32:43 TW: If we’re not guzzling gas while we’re…

32:46 MH: Yeah, I mean.

32:47 TW: We tested it a little bit ’cause I was, I was…

32:50 MH: That’s a whole other show.

[laughter]

32:53 TW: I was adamant that I believe very, very strongly that we kept getting into ruts with our venues and it was always in the same spot. And I was looking at the pockets that had large companies that were farther away, and I said, “No, damn it.” And a couple years ago, I’m like, “We’re gonna move it around. We’re gonna do central Ohio, central Columbus. We’re gonna do north Columbus, we’re gonna do east Columbus.” And I’m pretty sure we proved that that is not the way to go, that picking one spot. Now, we do one spot and then we say, “We’ll have special exceptions, ’cause there’s a conflict,” or “Hey, we’re gonna go do it at Nationwide Arena, where the Columbus Blue Jackets.” That’s where our July one was, which was amazing.

33:38 MH: So you’re now renting out stadiums for your Web Analytics Wednesdays. Is that what I heard?

[chuckle]

33:43 TW: Yeah. We did have to do some communication around that so people didn’t think that everybody got an entire section and that we were standing in center ice. But what about… So I didn’t do the MeasureBowling thing that was in, I think it was in June 10th.

33:57 MH: Oh yeah. I saw some of the pictures on social media. It seemed like it was…

34:01 TW: I’m a huge supporter of the concept. I don’t bowl and frankly, I’m exhausted and we’ll play the card of, “I’ll go head to head with anybody who’s trying to grow their communities.” And I would’ve loved to see somebody in Columbus pick it up, and I got a little shit about, “Why aren’t you doing it?” And I’m like, “Because, no.” I gotta call uncle at some point. But that is international. It’s got kind of defined rules. It seemed like anybody who raised their hand was successful at running one.

34:32 TW: I feel like we’re getting back to saying, “If you wanna engage in your local analytics community, step one is see if it already exists, and then show up and talk to people, even if it feels like you’re late to the game.” That was Moe’s early point. And if there isn’t one, then you know what your option is? Start it. And that’s it. You just can’t sit. We’re still too, too small and too niche to say, “I want to do this but I want to do it passively.” The passive people will benefit. If you actually have a hunger for engaging with other local analysts, then guess what? That means you’re gonna need to carve out, on an ongoing basis, time to do that. I’m sounding preachy.

35:21 MK: But I think there are so many benefits though that I’ve had. Yes, you dedicate time to helping run and organize. But there are so many benefits that I’ve had personally and professionally from making those connections at Web Analytics Wednesday, in addition to meeting a whole bunch of people that I now call really good friends.

35:43 TW: I’m just hanging out with Simon Rumble once a month. I don’t think you need to go any farther than that. That just seems like, cut my pay by 10%, and let me do that. Just listen to him talk.

35:55 MK: Oh yeah. Yeah, definitely. But some of the connections that I’ve made, and again now, I’m all preachy. They just…

[laughter]

36:07 MK: They have. They’ve saved my business money, because people like us and they wanna do work with us. So, where they’ve recommended someone who’s given us a family and friends discount. That stuff’s invaluable.

36:18 TW: Or you have somebody to call. The number of times in Columbus that has been a, “Hey, we’re thinking about Optimizely and I thought that person is using it.”

36:31 MH: Right, I heard you use it.

36:33 TW: Yeah, can we grab lunch? I remember Dave Culbertson, my co-founder in Columbus. He occasionally stands up at Web Analytics Wednesdays, and says, “Listen, have you even had coffee or lunch with anybody you’ve met? If you’re a regular and you’re not having one-on-one meet ups… Now not necessarily in Atlanta, ’cause you’re in Quadrant Four and you’re in Sector 22 [laughter] and Zargon can’t… ”

37:00 MH: Easy. Easy. I would drive… Easily, I would drive a mile-and-a-half in any direction to have lunch with…

[laughter]

37:07 TW: I remember him making that, and it didn’t really occur to me, which is funny because he and I have… I’ve got three or four people that are all people I’ve met through Web Analytics Wednesday that I have semi-regular meals with and we’ve just figured out how the geography works. And those are super… And they’re very different kind of focused conversations. Just meeting those people and… It’s not a, “Oh, I’m networking because I wanna get my next job.” It’s like well find the people who are doing other cool stuff that may be applicable to your job, or that you’re interested in and hang out with them. And I guess that’s part of it too. All you gotta do is find two of those people. It took literally three of us having one lunch, and we said, “Shit, let’s do a Web Analytics Wednesday.” And if nothing else, the three of us were gonna be hanging out together, and if we got a few extra people, sure.

38:05 MH: So, just pick three people you like hanging out with, and make that the starting point. So question for you Tim and Moe, if you experience this too. Where did you see the transition between networking event to networking plus content? ‘Cause I know the Columbus Web Analytics Wednesday has some kind of a speaker content most times now.

38:27 TW: It does. Well, pretty early on, it was in order to pay for the food and drink, we needed to have a sponsor. And we let the sponsor… We would give them the no sales pitch, but…

38:40 MH: Yeah, so they did 20-minutes of something.

38:44 TW: Yeah, and that actually was fine. It was kind of more exhausting, just working the schedules, and it was… It just introduced more logistics, but we had… So, that wound up being more product vendors, but the fact is if they don’t get the salesperson, if they get somebody else who… It’s like our episode where we had… Sure, we had Clicktale on the Digital Analytics Power Hour. Well, we had freaking Dr. Liraz Margalit who’s just passionate about the space, and it’s not that hard to find… And the good thing is those vendors tend to have budget.

39:16 TW: So, as long as you’re clear saying, “This can’t be a sales pitch, you need to… ” And potentially, we may only have 10 people, so it’s better if you can find the local people who say, “Sure. I can… $200 is a lunch with a big client. I can do this, if potentially, I’m gonna get exposed to three clients.” The ones that have field marketing budgets, it’s a no-brainer. I don’t think they necessarily… You necessarily want them to be the ones who wind up being the ongoing organizers, that can be, I think, a challenge, but… But we had content. There were times when it would just be somebody in the group would say, “Hey, I’m doing some stuff with PPC.” “Sure. I’ll bring some handouts, and we’ll chat about it.” So yeah, that’s a good question. I used to blog about it…

40:09 MK: We’ve always had content. That’s kind of been what gets people to turn up. We probably tread a fine line as well where we say to people like, “You’re not here to pitch a product, or sell a product. The way around that is if you wanna talk about a particular product, share with us some analysis that you did or a way that you used it. Don’t just give us, here is how it works and this is why you should buy it.” That’s a really fine line that we’re still trying to, I guess, get right between people trying to sell, and people actually presenting content that the analytics community wanna hear about.

40:45 TW: I feel like the content is how they can tell their significant others that they need to go to this thing for content and then the beer and the drinks and the food are what kind of lubricate the introverts to the conversation. So, it’s kind of like this peanut butter and chocolate sort of combination.

41:03 MH: Yeah. No, I think that’s really good. We kind of just had a little Web Analytics Wednesday right here, right now.

[laughter]

41:12 MH: But yeah, I think this is really good and useful for anybody who’s looking to build up their communities, so thank you both for that. And certainly, if you’ve been listening and you have ideas about what you’ve done in your community, grow it, or great ideas for helping others grow their local analytics communities or chapters, we would love to hear from you.

41:33 TW: They may feel like the podcast is kind of their little community, but frankly that’s…

41:38 MH: It is.

41:39 TW: That’s your earbuds.

41:40 MH: The podcast can be your community, at least in a certain sense every two weeks, and we are very thankful for that, Tim.

[laughter]

41:50 MH: But we would love to hear from you on the Measure Slack, or on our Facebook page, or on Twitter. And one thing we do on the show is we go around, and we do a last call, and who has a last call they’d like to share?

42:04 TW: Can we have our guest host’s, guest go first?

42:06 MH: Sure.

42:08 MK: I’d love to go first ’cause then you guys can’t steal my last call.

42:12 MH: That has been known to happen, yes.

42:15 MK: So I’m pretty excited, Snowflake, who are an agency here in Sydney that specialize in Snowplow. At the Iconic, we run both Snowplow and Google analytics, and just to be clear…

42:25 TW: Wait a minute, this isn’t gonna be the little browser plug-in sniffer thing, that was gonna be mine.

42:30 MK: Yes! I’m so excited.

42:30 TW: That was totally gonna be mine!

42:32 MK: No, it wasn’t. You’re making that up. I don’t believe you.

42:33 TW: No, it wasn’t. It wasn’t gonna be mine. It wasn’t gonna be mine.

42:35 MK: Okay, good.

[laughter]

42:37 MK: Well, anyway, they have a Chrome extension, and I’m very excited because for those who, I guess, were around Web Analytics Wednesday when I started attending a couple years ago. For a fair while, it used to be called “Moe’s Therapy Session for Snowplow” ’cause I would just get Snowplow guys, and basically pin them in a corner and pummel them with questions about Snowplow. So I’m pretty appreciative that this new tool is out there to help with that.

43:03 TW: Nice! Michael?

43:05 MH: Well, in the community sense that we have been talking about on this show, something interesting has been going on in the analytics Measure Slack. And also, on my team, there is a website called “BeatSense” where we’re gathering to listen to music together like we used to do a few years ago with turntable.fm. Seems like it happens maybe on Friday afternoons in the United States, but if you’re abroad or other places, maybe start a little group around you, but it’s a great way to hang out, keep working on a Friday afternoon and listen to Tim Wilson’s terrible music selections. Was that gonna be yours, Tim?

[laughter]

43:52 MH: So Tim, and so, yeah, we enjoy that. So Tim, what’s your last call?

43:57 TW: I’m gonna do the Digital Analytics Power Hour love fest. So a lot of podcasts I listen to or a handful that are this similar format, when the hosts talk about they did something or were somewhere, and it was so great to meet people who listen. I had that happen when I was at E-Metrics a while back in Chicago. So I’m gonna say, “Hello, Jennifer Chance,” who I believe introduced herself. She said I was her virtual co-worker or we were her virtual co-worker because she loves the podcast, and it was delightful to meet her, as well, as Tom Tao. So that’s my mini pre last call, but then my main last call… So that was just cool. Anybody who listens, it is always awesome to actually hang out and chat. And I know we don’t have millions of listeners but it’s still awesome the people who are loyal listeners, to hang out with you in person. And “Hook ’em Horns” for Jennifer ’cause she actually works for University of Texas.

44:57 TW: My other last call is kind of a throwback, a nod to two past guests. I’ve had this on my list for a while ’cause he wrote it a while back, I just haven’t used it, but Christopher Berry, who wrote “The Data, The Judgement and The Decision”. Did you read that post? I’m gonna read the first four lines of it. “The data is imperfect. Judgement is imperfect. Decisions are imperfect. The question isn’t about perfection. It’s about progression. What becomes true if we were to focus on progression? Credit goes to Matt Gershoff for inspiring this post. A remark he made at a recent… ” And it goes on. Those are two favorites of ours and it’s fun to see one of them writing about something where the two of them were riffing and it inspired Christopher to write something kind of provocative, which is something I’ve heard Matt also rant about. So I last call that post.

45:53 MH: Nice! I need to go back and read that. That’s very helpful. So, yeah, awesome. Alright, well, thank you both. Moe, thank you for joining us as our guest host, it’s been a pleasure.

46:06 MK: Thanks for having me.

46:08 MH: And a big thank you goes out to our forebears: Adam Greco, Rudi Shumpert, Gary Angel. Wherever you guys are, thanks for paving the way for us. And remember, for my co-hosts Tim Wilson and Moe Kiss, keep analyzing.

[music]

46:27 Announcer: Thanks for listening, and don’t forget to join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, or Measure Slack Group. We welcome your comments and questions. Visit us on the web at analyticshour.io, facebook.com/analyticshour, or @Analyticshour on Twitter.

46:47 S?: So smart guys want to fit in, so they made up a term called analytics. Analytics don’t work!

46:56 MH: We’re gonna do a countdown, five…

46:58 TW: And then she’s doing an opening monologue to make people laugh?

47:02 MH: Yes. Just about five or six minutes of your best material. No stress, easy.

47:09 MK: The red light is flashing, is that meant to be happening?

47:13 MH: Yeah, that means it’s recording, so that’s good.

47:15 MK: Okay.

47:16 MH: Alright, you’re in a hotel, you’ve taken flights, given talks.

47:21 MK: I’ve had a big day.

47:23 MH: It’s gonna work.

47:25 TW: That’s bullshit.

[laughter]

47:27 MH: Tim gains all the praise, also does all the work too so I guess nevermind.

[laughter]

47:34 TW: No, you had…

47:39 TW: You don’t spend time preparing for that moment in the mirror and stuff?

[laughter]

47:48 MH: That’s how we do our next live show Tim, with couches.

47:53 MK: Couches.

47:53 MH: Yeah, we’re not doing it without couches.

47:57 TW: I can try to pick up as a follow on that may or may not be mildly non sequitur to Moe and we can go from there.

48:07 MH: And then, Darren’s gonna send me an invoice for 500 bucks for having to stitch together four files.

[laughter]

48:19 MK: Geez! That’s a very… I’ve heard it at the end of the podcast. I have no idea why you do it.

48:27 MH: Rock, flag and beyond web analytic… [chuckle] Rock, flag and beyond web analytics.

[music]

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One comment on “#068: Engaging with Your Local Analytics Community

  1. Thanks for sharing your meetup experiences. Great to hear the #wawsydney promoted by Moe! Listeners if you are ever in Sydney do drop in and say hello, you can find their next event at http://www.wawsydney.com/ I go when ever I can and always enjoy it thanks to the huge efforts by people like @shermozle (Simon Rumble) and @rodjacka (Rod Jacka).

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