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A user metric is a terrible thing to waste

When it comes to user metrics, what should you log when you don’t know what to log?


When you’re first getting an MVP site off the ground, you don’t know quite what you might want to track.  And might not have time to think about it.

If you log everything your users do, however, then weeks or months of data will be there for you when you need it most, to answer your questions right away.  That’s why I’m excited about companies like Heap are doing, logging every single user click.

For those without Heap invites, or if you’d prefer to use Kissmetrics, I wrote a simple gem to do the same with KissMetrics, for all your user clicks that hit your web server:   km_everything. It logs all controller actions by default, but you can set up a whitelist to give them more meaningful  and product-manager friendly names, or a ‘blacklist’ to prevent certain actions from being logged that aren’t meaningful and would use too much of your KissMetrics event quota.

Also, from what I’ve observed on KissMetrics, server-side metrics have proven more reliable.  Metrics recorded via Javascript can be off if the user closes their browser too quickly after taking an action.  Logging the metrics server-side also won’t take up any of the user’s processing power or show signs that remind them they’re being tracked.

Excited about our brave new world of meaningful ad hoc analytics with reams of user data, powered by ubiquitous metrics.  This data will then show us how to make our sites even better for our users.

  1. Robbie Clutton says:

    Sounds like a great idea, although KissMetrics does charge by the number of events it receives so be careful not to send so much you get a surprising bill at the end of the month. Also the Javascript code you get from KissMetrics will do some simple metrics out of the box such as page views.

    Also check out Brent’s simple KissMetric gem which he built recently:

  2. Trace Wax says:

    Thanks for that, Robbie! The simple_km gem will dovetail nicely with the km_everything gem. All km_everything does is look up controller actions and log them via km_resque. The Kissmetrics API hit can take a moment so it’s good to call via a background job so as not to slow things down for users. Luke Melia’s km_resque works great for that. Luke and Brent should talk about using simple_km as the backing for km_resque, so he wouldn’t have to use the KissMetrics API directly.

    As to cost, KissMetrics’ cheapest plan provides 500K events per month, more than enough to log everything for a burgeoning startup. Once the users and events start flowing in, it likely will make sense to be conservative about what gets logged. With km_everything, though, it’s just a single config file change instead of peppering events throughout the code.

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