The personal website of Chris Coyier

Collect Everything, Analyze Nothing

This is a great essay on usage data collection:

It starts with a brilliant idea: we’ll collect information about every click someone makes on every page in our app! And we’ll track how long they hesitate over a particular choice! And how often they use the back button! How many seconds they watch our intro video before they abort! How many times they reshare our social media post!


And then they do track all that. Tracking it all is easy. Add some log events, dump them into a database, off we go.


But then what? Well, after that, we have to analyze it.

Ideally, the people collecting that data use it to improve the app. We do that at CodePen right now. We collect anonymous usage data en masse and then sometimes use it to inform design choices we make. None of us are data scientists, so I’m fairly certain we aren’t extracting the best possible information out of it (which is largely this guy’s point, collectively we suck at the analysis part), but we typically use it for stuff like Well, this feature is clearly used more than we thought and this feature is less, so let’s do some emphasis shuffling.

At the moment we don’t use it to perform any personalized recommendations, although we’re in the early stages of that also. I hope it ends up being useful.

Personal data is much trickier, as, for one, you have to be super GDPR careful. More likely, you’re monetizing it. I’d rather die than sell people’s personal information as a business model. If you aren’t selling it, it might as well be anonymous or public data.


As a side point, it’s always weird when I can’t figure out who wrote something. There is no name here: https://apenwarr.ca/log/

But you can’t find a Twitter link. That suggests he’s a co-founder of this, which has three probably-men co-founders. They are listed on the site in this order: David Crawshaw, Avery Pennarun, and David Carney. In the footer, the cities listed are New York, MontrĂ©al, and Toronto. The .ca domain name could match either MontrĂ©al or Toronto, but based on the ordering my best guess is this was Avery Pennarun’s essay.