The Semphonic X Change conference could not have happened at a better time for me. I became a Semphonic employee 4 weeks ago; although I know the realm of web analytics consulting quite well I'm still just getting acquainted with the people in Semphonic's professional circle. So you can see why I'd be pleased to find here, under one roof: all of my new colleagues, many of my new clients, plus the remainder of great folks I enjoy crossing paths with or wanted to meet anyway. So thanks for gathering in one place, people - that was very helpful.
You've probably heard from others already that "X Change is different" because it's centered around small-group discussions rather than formal presentations. That's true. I like the fact that the focus is on everyone in the room rather than just whoever happens to be standing on the stage. It takes a bit of faith to be comfortable with that format - you won't know who's going to be in the session with you until they walk through the door, and while each session does have a set topic you can't say precisely where the conversation will take you. That's okay! That's part of the fun.
I attended 3 sessions led by facilitators other than myself; here are a few take-aways from each of those sessions:
- Duff Anderson from iPerceptions, Best Practices for Attitudinal Research. Lately there's been a lot of talk about incorporating qualitative data into our decision-making mix, so I attended in order to learn more about surveys and get some ideas about how this could fit into the work I do. Although not directly addressed in the session, the application I've come away with is this: how about using survey feedback to drive multivariate tests? Wouldn't it be cool to see if what customers say they want from a usability perspective is aligned with what works from a conversion optimization perspective? For instance, if survey respondents say they want larger images on product pages, why not run follow-up tests to see if larger images improve conversion?
- Paul Bruemmer from Red Door Interactive, Implications of Universal Search. Paul's message was this: incorporating different media types - like video and images - into standard Google search results will change the way that marketers need to think about SEO. A couple of the attendees in this session were doing a lot with SEO and so obviously were interested in keeping ahead of the game in this area. I was happy to learn that this ties into GoogleBase, which essentially provides a more structured way to talk about all "things" in the Internet world. Adding structure means better data, and that will be a good starting point for whatever interesting data problems come next. [Oh, and a big Thank You to Paul for co-sponsoring Web Analytics Wednesday in Napa the night before X Change. I really appreciate your support.]
- Matt Belkin from Omniture, Automating Optimization. When we went around the room saying why we chose to attend that session, I said, "To meet Matt Belkin." Everyone laughed, but I wasn't joking! Something I really enjoyed about X Change was that it put each participant in the position to converse with some of the smartest folks in our industry. In addition to Matt, there were a couple of really articulate discussion participants in the room - Angel Morales from ExactTarget and Daniel Shields from CableOrganizer, who shared, respectively, their thoughts on email re-marketing and multivariate testing. Daniel and I were the only ones in the room who'd ever done multivariate testing, so for something that gets talked up as much as it does I believe we're still a long way from making it a commonplace activity in our field. It's not hard. Go try it.
In addition to these 3 sessions I led 2 sessions of my own on the topic, "Measurement Outside the Traditional Web Analytics Toolbox." I've come away with some insights (maybe they're just gripes) about the way that we, as an industry, are doing data integration - but I'm going to save that for another time.
For me, the small-group discussion aspect of the conference was really what made X Change special and worthwhile. What a memorable event, and what a great way to get welcomed into the Company!