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Tag: analytics

QR^2?

When I was in Japan a few years ago, I was astounded by the abundance of square blocks of black dots (see below) on advertising and print which I later found out were called QR codes. The concept is actually quite ingenious. A standard barcode can only store so much information in the thickness and positioning of the barcode lines because its a one-dimensional code. But a two-dimensional QR code can store a ton more data. This makes it possible to store long web addresses, include error detection/correction methods, and even embed text information in more sophisticated languages (like Japanese).

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QR codes have slowly been increasing in adoption in the US and Europe as phone camera/image recognition technology has improved to meet their Japanese counterparts. But, Microsoft decided to take the technology one step further: instead of just being black and white blobs, why not introduce greater customization, tracking ability, and a little color?

Behold, Microsoft Tag (HT: Register). The main visual difference you’ll see are the availability of color and custom designs:

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Underneath the surface lies a bunch of other enhancements, including:

  • Support across most major phone brands
  • Tag manager to provide analytics information on how people are reading your tags
  • API to allow developers access to the tag manager
  • Allows you to change Tag behavior based on a user’s previous tag viewing history or even the user’s location
  • New error correction/color allow for smaller tags and better translation

The question is, will businesses use it? On a basic execution level, the Register brings up the potential problem of recognition. As ugly and clunky as “vanilla” QR codes are, they are very distinctive. Will it still be easy to identify Microsoft’s smaller, customized in-color boxes as codes to scan?

On a business-level, the biggest problem is that “Vanilla” QR codes do quite well in terms of functionality already. Microsoft will need to provide significant value-add in their tag manager/API/customization features to get businesses to switch to a format that Redmond has control over. Given Microsoft’s strengths in software, I’m also astonished they didn’t build in more functionality to make it an easier sell (such as the ability to embed more sophisticated instructions in the codes, or to run specific software/pass specific information when used in a certain context) – a future enhancement, perhaps?

With that said, those who rely on advertising to make a living may find it pretty easy to hand over the reins to a well-put-together Microsoft project as a hedge on their increasing dependence on Google and Apple for their livelihoods. In any event, there’s probably no harm in downloading the reader on your phone or checking out the Microsoft Tag website.

(Image credits – Microsoft Tag website)

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Google Reader Analytics

I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion my love for Google Reader. And here’s another reason to throw into the mix: analytics. While this is a feature I don’t use very often, it’s nevertheless very interesting to look at (translation: I spent an hour looking at it, and feel like if I don’t blog about it, then it was a waste of an hour). You can access it by clicking on the “Trends” link in the Google Reader navigation box, or by typing “g” and then “[shift] t”.

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The trends feature gives you a snapshot of two things: (1) your Google Reader browsing habits and (2) details on the blogs and RSS feeds that you subscribe to.

There is a block dedicated to showing how many items you read on a daily basis (I apparently read most of my posts around noon-time with an odd spike around 3-4 PM, and the number of posts I read on a typical weekend is less than half that I would read on a typical weekday):

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The analytics also gives me an analysis of which feeds I read the most (I had no idea I read that much VentureBeat):

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As well as an analysis of how often certain feeds update, as well as which of my feeds are the most “obscure” (as measured by how few Google Reader subscribers each feed has):

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So, who cares? Good question. In terms of how I’ve used the feature, I’ve used it to cull subscriptions from my list — by singling out feeds which updated too frequently but which didn’t have consistently high quality content or by singling out feeds which I never read — and also to encourage me to post encouragements to the more “obscure” blogs that I follow, so as to encourage them to keep posting.

But, really, it’s just cool.

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