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Site measurement is hard

Amazingly, I saw a new, great relevant post right after my post on comScore versus site side measurementBoxes and Arrows writes a great article about the reasons why site side measurement is wildly inaccurate.  I had never heard about AOL IP address issues, that is a new one!

3 Responses to “Site measurement is hard”

  1. Rob Wilkerson Says:

    The “AOL complexity” with respect to IPs (developers that have been around for a while may have a few other, less euphemistic pet names for it) is well known to most web developers that have been around for a while. For us, though, it’s less about metrics and more about security.

    Want to attach an IP address to a session as a supplemental unique key? Can’t do it. Want to filter on IP to allow certain functionality to a particular user base? Can’t do it. Want to check that a session hasn’t been hijacked using the visitor’s IP address? Can’t do it. I could go on, but you probably get the idea. :-)

    Just a different limitation caused by the same problem – the inability to rely on IP address as a unique identifier of a user within a session.

  2. brent Says:

    Does anyone ever do that? There are so many problems with trying to use IP as a unique ID that I never even associated the two issues. Tons of companies use a firewall that makes all the traffic look like it is coming from one IP, but to switch IPs from request to request as it passes through the firewall is “special”. I assume this is something AOL built as part of dealing with certain scalability and caching issues. Everyone knows AOL caches tons of stuff.

    Actually, that is something that hasn’t really been discussed: Third party caches like these can be real deal-killers.

  3. Rob Wilkerson Says:

    Not any more. Actually, not ever (effectively), but it was a lesson that got learned over and over until it set in for good. Intuitively (and theoretically), IP is such an obvious choice for uniquely identifying users. It would still be useful to do so, I think, but most of us have been beaten with that stick too many times. We know not to bother.

    We also understand the web and its infrastructure much better now than we did in its infancy. At the time, most of us knew HTML, JS, maybe a little CGI, but the big picture was still hazier than it should have been.