Monday, May 30, 2011

Want iGoogle made for laptop / netbook screens? Use PimpMyiGoogle

Download updated PimpMyiGoogle (May 2011):
Install Pimp My iGoogle –

View Pimp My iGoogle –
Writing userscripts for most sites feels a bit like a game of cat and mouse.  Everytime Yahoo! or Google or anyone else who has a site that I write scripts for changes their page the following occurs:
  1. My existing scripts partially or completely break
  2. I go to work on writing an update
  3. I get most of the way there and hit a roadblock
  4. I need to relearn a bit of the differences between script behavior en Firefox and Chrome
  5. Updated script is fixed and posted to userscripts
  6. Make a new post on
I am pretty much at step 6 again.  This time it was PimpMyiGoogle.

Google looks to have completely rewritten its content layout and changed its backend JS functions.  I noticed that on 1 computer in Chrome a few weeks back that the script no longer worked.  However, it kept working fine in Firefox and on my computer at work.  I figured that they might be running a new test.  Well, fast forward to last week and all browsers on all of my computers stopped respecting most of the improvements made by the userscript.

So, this weekend, I dove in and made the fixes.  Basically, the script had to be rewritten from scratch.  I decided to clean up a bit and change the old "show sidebar" button to a new CSS3 button.

ToDo for the script:
  • Get min/max buttons to work in Chome (odd Object does not have click method error although the JS inspector shows that their is a valid click event listener).
  • Check the module status (expanded/minimized ) to determine which button icon to show.
Any other suggestions for the script? Please let me know.  One idea I want to play with is pulling gTalk out of the sidebar and make it a floating menu.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Google Adwords Does not Like Firefox Aurora (5)

It seems to me that every day Google is taking one further step towards going completely hostile towards Mozilla and Firefox.  Either that or they are indifferent to them. 

Logging into AdWords today with the latest Firefox Aurora browser (Firefox equivilant to Google Chrome Canary - near-nightly updates, some risk of instability) this is what I saw.

When did a release from 2 days ago become defined as "old"?
I got the alert message up top, which has become quite common when entering many sites with Internet Explorer 6, thanks to the campaign to kill IE6.  They must be doing some poor UA sniffing and they have not updated their code to reflect the fact that Mozilla copied Google's own release schedule for their browsers.  Being the fans of web standards that they are, Google should be using feature detection anyway. 

I hope this is just an oversite.  Hopefully it is not in conflict with "don't be evil".  You would hope that the AdWords developers would be trying the apps in all types of browsers in advance and only once they have been released.

As recently as 2008, Google was the source of 91-94% of the Mozilla Foundation's (non-profit behind firefox) funding.

When Google decided to launch Chrome instead of further bolstering Firefox, that was the biggest sign that the partnership was going in the wrong direction.  Then, when Eric Schmidt had his privacy gaffe, the Mozilla camp used the dreaded M and B words in suggesting a move away from Google.  I don't know if a partnership with Google can heal, once that has happened.

This is heading towards a sad end for what was a beautiful partnership responsible for forcing the advancement of web browser technology and web standards.  We should leave all of our browsers at half-scroll when the deal finally dies likely later this year.

At least Google does not have a long history of partnerhips turning sour

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Angry Birds Web App using Firefox 5

Yesterday Google announced that it has launched Angry Birds as a web app in collaboration with Rovio and it is available in the Chrome App Store.

Now that I have been using Firefox Aurora a bit more than Chrome Canary these days, I wanted to give it a shot since a web app should work in both HTML 5 enabled (mostly) browsers.  Unfortunately, the Chrome store said that my browser does not support this web app and that I should use chrome instead.  Well, I installed the app in Chrome to see that it basically is just an app bookmark that points to a specific website

Once I saw the URL, I decided to give it a cut and paste try in Aurora (currently Firefox 5).  The rest was bird flying, pig crushing history...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Google Analytics Fast-Access Mode = FAIL-Access Mode

GA is a great service.  Google gives away this great service that other companies charge thousands of dollars. Besides that they have a wonderful API that you can use to write useful data applications.  My main complaint over the years, has been the use of Sampling.  In general, it may be good enough when looking at high level visitor data, but my experience is that sampling dramatically distorts calculations related to goals, e-commerce data, as well as data related to traffic sources which send relatively small amounts of visitors.

Recently, GA has introduced some new changes to its use of sampling. It appears that they have started using it in more cases.  Reports that would never trigger sampling with the amount of visits involved are now using "fail fast-access" mode.  That is Google's euphemism for "this report was based on sampled data and may be totally wrong".  Plus it looks like there may be a bug in the sampling method.

Take a look at this report using normal data for a site I monitor:
Normal graphic (you can see Easter's impact) of Google (Paid/Organic) coming to a site
Everthing above looks fine showing a fairly typical traffic pattern, with the exception of Easter week and an extra holiday in Great Britain (It must have been special hat day in the UK) .

Where did the traffic go?

Now look at the next two images which are the same report as above but with advanced segments applied:

Non-Paid Search Traffic: This should show the Google organic traffic the site received.
Non Paid Search Traffic....I didn't think that I only bought PPC???
Paid Search Traffic: This should show the Google PPC traffic the site received.
Data Dave is sad and confused.  If Google the search engine is sending me this traffic, what is it if not PPC or Non-Paid

What happened here?

OK, wait.  What if I just looked at the same report showing all three segments at the same time. Perhaps, it will start to make sense (or not):

Nope.  If anything, the results look even weirder and more distorted than when looking at the data individually.  There sure seems to be a big time bug in the sampling trigging and calculation system of GA.

In conclusion:

  • With no segments applied, the site data looks normal....however:
  • With segments applied, 1 month of relatively little data triggered sampling ("fast-access"). This never used to happen for relatvively little traffic in GA. 
  • In both cases of sampling, Google sent the site 0 visits during the month of April.
  • Where GA showed visits, it was very incorrect (multiple stand.devs apart from the actual observed data)
    • With sampling applied, in the first week of May, GA reports that Google PPC sent more way traffic than all of Google combined.
    • Non-Paid alone surpassed All Visits traffic for a coupld of days as well.
Data integrity is the foundation for any analytics / decision support tool.  We cannot improve our websites if we cannot rely and believe the data upon which we will be basing our decisions.  Luckily, I am not alone in seeing this latest turn for the worse with GA and sampling. 

 Hopefully, they will fix it soon.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Updated App engine project GA Evolution

Despite the lack of posts.... this blog has not been forgotten.  Just wicked busy at work and home for the last few months.

I have updated with a few improvements:

  • Fixed bug in Weekly reporting that caused weird placment of data when the weeks in included the middle-end of Februrary (parseInt bug in most browsers was to blame)
  • Updated jQuery to 1.6, Flot to 0.7 and fancyBox to 1.3.4 - it really flies now
  • Using the latest SDK for appengine
Next up I will need to change how the app handles sampling.  The CI value has been marked for death deprecated by Google, so I'll switch to another parameter they have that indicates if sampling was triggered in the report or not.

Any requests out there? Please let me know through the feedback form or as a comment here on the blog.

Soon, I hope to write a post too about how I won my Nokia E7 in February while in London.