Open Webstats from GovUK

In the #solo12eval session* on Monday organised by Shane McCracken and Karen Bultitude on the topic of evaluating impact (whatever that is) of online science engagement, I was reminded (yet again…) of the Culture24 report on Evaluating Impact online. The report included as one of its deliverables a set of example Google Analytics report templates (now rotted?) that provided a starting point for what could be a commonly-accepted-as-sensible reporting framework. (I keep wondering whether it would be useful to try to do the same for academic library websites/library website analytics?) One of the things I pondered afterwards was whether it would make sense to open up Google Analytics from a ‘typical’ website in that sector to all-comers, so that different parties could demonstrate what stories and information they could pull out of the stats using a common data basis. Something a bit like CSS Zen Garden, but around a common Google Analytics dataset, for example?

* From the session, I also learned of the JISC Impact Analysis Programme, which includes an interestingly titled project on Tracking Digital Impact (TDI). That project is presumably in stealth mode, because it was really hard to find out anything about it… (I thought JISC projects were all encouraged to do the blogging thing? Or is that just from certain enlightened parts of JISC…?)

Loosely related to the workshop, and from my feeds, I noticed a couple of announcements over the last couple of days relating to the publication of web/traffic stats on a couple of government web properties.

First up, the Government Digital Service/@gdsteam posted on their Updat[ed] GOV.UK Performance Dashboard, which you can find: Performance Platform Dashboard.

As you can see, this dashboard reports on a variety of Google Analytics stats – average unique visitors, weekly pageviews, and so on.

As well as the dashboard itself, the @gds_datashark team seem to be quite happy to show their working and presumably allow others to propose check-ins of their own bug fixes and code solutions to .. Gov github

To make it easy to play along, they’re publishing a set of raw data feeds (Headline narrative text, Yesterday’s hourly traffic and comparison average, Weekly visits to GOV.UK, Direct Gov and Businesslink, Weekly unique visitors to GOV.UK, Direct Gov and Businesslink, Format success metrics) although the blog post notes these are ‘internal’ URLs and hence are subject to change…

(Via tweets from @jukesie and @lseteph, I was also reminded that Steph experimented with publishing BIS’ departmental webstats way back when)

In the past, UKGov has posted a certain amount of costings related data around website provision (for example, So Where Do the Numbers in Government Reports Come From?), so if there are any armchair web analysts/auditors out there (unlikely, I know;-), it seems as if data is there for the taking, as well as the asking (the GDS folk seem to be quite open to ideas…)

The second announcement that caught my eye was the opening up of site usage stats on the website.

Data is broken down into site-wide, publisher and datasets groupings, and reports on things like:

– browser type
– O/S type
– social network referrals
– language
– country

The data is also available via a CSV file.

So I wonder: could we use the GDS and data/data feeds as the basis for a crude webstats Zen Garden? How would such a site best be architected? (One central github repo pulling in exemplar view requests from cloned repos?) And would it make sense to publish webstats data/analytics from a “typical” science engagement website (or library website, or course website), and allow the community to see what sorts of take on it folk can come up with in respect of different ways presenting the data and more importantly, identifying different ways of making sense of it/finding different ways of telling stories with it?

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

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