Open Web Analytics 1.4.0rc3 is out!  You probably don’t care, do you?  You should!  At least we do!

Anyway, let’s start in the beginning:

As we strategized about future development of Wikimedia properties, it became abundantly clear that the measurement tools that we have are insufficient to make the decisions we need to make.  This was a key recommendation from the Strategy task force. We evaluated several possible analytics frameworks as a supplement or even replacement for our homegrown system(s).  After evaluating a couple of open source solutions (while keeping an open mind about the possible need to go with a proprietary solution), we decided to try out Open Web Analytics (OWA) for this year’s fundraiser, with the goal of evaluating it for broader use.

OWA is a PHP-based analytics tool which provides very sophisticated capabilities for real-time data analysis, providing many tools offered by proprietary counterparts. For us, OWA seems to hit the right balance of flexibility and scalability, with the added benefit that there was already an integration plugin for MediaWiki.  Over the past few months, we’ve been working with Peter Adams, the designer of OWA, to adapt OWA for our needs and to make sure that it would work at the scale that we operate at.

Many of the features in the 1.4 release were made initially for our use, but are general-purpose features that many OWA users should be able to benefit from.  We wanted to track how successful we were at getting people from banners, to letter, to donation, so Peter added a couple of features called “conversion goal tracking” and “goal funnels” which will help us figure out where people might be dropping off, but can also be used for general conversion analysis on any OWA-enabled site.  We also needed to keep track of all of this on a per-banner basis, as well as knowing whether the user clicked on the banner or on the “Donate” link in the sidebar, so the “campaign tracking” feature was added.

Finally, we needed to deploy many instances of OWA, so clustered deployment was added in this release.  Peter worked with Nimish Gautam here at WMF to make OWA more scalable, with Nimish becoming a committer on OWA. Peter focused on the architecture, while Nimish focused on making sure that all of the work integrated seamlessly into Wikimedia’s environment.

We’ve just deployed OWA for purposes of observing traffic patterns for the fundraiser, and we’ll be reporting on how well it works for us.  We’re not using all of the features; for example, we’ve disabled features such as mouse movement recording/playback.  We’re being very careful to respect everyone’s privacy and stay true to the WMF donor privacy policy and the Wikimedia privacy policy

We believe the work we’ve done is generally applicable to anyone who wants MediaWiki analytics, and we’re eager to see how it works for others.  We are also at a point where we would love help with testing this.