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Cutting Out The Middle-Men

In my last post for The Startup Gardener I wrote about Ghostery, a great tool for protecting the privacy of web surfers from the all knowing, all seeing Google. That’s all very well for web surfers, but many of my readers are website publishers. If people start using tools like Ghostery to block Google Analytics, how can you get meaningful visitor data then?

Well, it turns out that Ghostery is really designed for blocking third party web bugs. This means that you can glean the information you need from your visitors by hosting your own analytics software on your own server.

Dodgy Salesman

How can we offer such low low privacy invasion? We cut out the analytics middleman and pass on the privacy to you!

Hosting your own tools is not as hard as it sounds and it will give you a nice feeling that you are not violating your visitors privacy by sharing information with others without them really knowing about it. And even if you think that sharing information with Google is a price you are willing to pay, hosting your own tools can give you access to a useful “second opinion” when used in conjunction with an third party offering.

It Sounds Kinda Expensive!

I know what your thinking, hosting my own tools sounds nice in theory, but Google is “free”. These other tools are going to be expensive to licence and host! Well not necessarily. With the rise of Free open-source software, there are some solutions out there that are just as affordable as Google Analytics. In fact in some ways it will cost you less as you won’t be paying Google with your visitor’s goodwill. And you can host them off a sub-domain of one of your websites, which is free with all good web hosts.

One offering that seems to hold a lot of promise is Piwik which I intend to experiment with over the coming months. It has a lot of pretty graphs, but does it have all the information I need? Check back here is a couple of months and I’ll let you know. Here’s hoping it’s as good as it looks.

Well, till next time my fine feathered friends.

-Jimmy McGrath

Used any good “host it yourself” analytics software? Let us know by commenting below.

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2 Comments

  1. MrAwesome says:

    Hi Jimmy,

    So when you do implement Piwik or a similar solution, what information do you think you will want to be tracking?

    The level of tracking and type of information you log will determine how much privacy is being violated and therefore how evil you are.

    So, how evil are you?

  2. Hey MrAwesome, thanks for the comment.

    I’m going to be checking out Piwik soon, and I’ll probably post my thoughts on it here in the next month or so.

    I’ll be tracking everything I can, I want to know where my my visitors are coming from, what language they speak, how they found my wares and whatever else I can find out about them. This sort of information will help me provide a better product because it will help me work out what my visitors want.

    As to how evil I am: I didn’t study six years at evil school for nothing sonny! :-)

    But actually, even though I like a bit of evil now and again, I think this sort of tracking is legitimate. I feel that people who visit my sites are entering into an agreement with me. I give them something and in return I can learn a little about them. When I visit a website I expect the website owner to know that I am viewing their pages, after all I am using their resources. Part of the problem with Google’s behaviour is that web browsers are entering into agreements with the website owners, not with Google. They don’t even know that Google is part of the equation. So to be subtly tracked by an unknown third party that I have no business with makes me uncomfortable.

    Also when I use a self hosted tool like Piwik I can’t track the movements of a visitor across the web, just on my sites which has quite different implications. I simply cannot profile my visitors like Google can.

    Can you see the difference?