June Li of ClickInsight, matriarch of the Toronto Web Analytics community, is indulging in some pot stirring. 🙂 She made a really thoughtful reply, referenced here., and I’m going to quote from it. Liberally.

Thank you Mike Spaeth of Coremetrics for sponsoring the evening and patrick glinski of Critical Mass for organizing (Yet again! This is the 8th WAW T.O patrick has organized).

I’ll echo that. 🙂 Mike is so damn likable. Thanks to Patrick to continuing to host it, and continuing to put up with my constant badgering over it.

I was part of the conversation with Chris. And I don’t know if it’s fair to blame the schools. Probably something more systemic and complex.

I’m well known in Chicago for blaming their school system for everything 😛 However, I think at the core, it’s unfair to hang the blame solely on the education system. Grade 12 honors math got me into statistics, electoral behavior in university entranced me, and quantitative public policy really propelled me forward. At the same time, our Mathematics departments in Universities don’t have a very nice approach to statistics – it’s all ‘counting’ problems. It’s all very much LaPlace. The goal of Mathematics departments in this country isn’t about producing real commercial statisticians, and I don’t blame them for it. Their job is to produce mathematicians. Want a commercial statistician? Train one, right? (And fine, I’d much rather Universities teach people how to learn and how to think rather than churning out people without that baseline skill.)

I think the schools are impacting both supply side and demand side web analytics on a much larger scale, but it’s not the sole causal variable. (It might actually be a small causal variable.)

When data driven strategy is embraced in a sustainable manner, it’s because it’s a means to competitive advantage. It’s a competitive weapon. But it seems that squeezing insight from data, testing and optimizing fall into the “important but not urgent” category by opinion and “not urgent, not important” by action (or lack of action).

You and Novo are very brilliant communicators of this principle. I struggled today expressing this issue and the corresponding solution. Thankfully, I’m getting a good amount of help from colleagues and the community. 🙂 And I might end up using your enunciation.

I think that in some ways, it might be a failure to communicate the advantage. In other ways, I think there are credibility gaps.

Shaina Boone posited yesterday that Canadian business is inherently ‘different’ from the United States, namely, that the United States is ‘capitalist’, and hence more likely to take advantage of such cold ‘advantages’. I’m inclined to give that some position some credibility. I pay attention to Shaina’s remarks about Canadian culture because she’s an outsider, and you always need an outsider to tell you what things are really like.

This might sound like sour grapes, but it’s not. We’re lamenting the lost opportunities that Canadians are missing on the global stage. And we can’t afford to lose more opportunities on the Web, a more level playing field than others, especially in Ontario with manufacturing in the dumps and about to suffer further with the ripple effect from the GM Oshawa plant closure (Parts Makers Brace for Spillover, Globe and Mail, June 19).

We’re on the same page here. Data, in particular personal data, is to the 21rst century as Coal was to the 20th. If we’re not able to burn through data like we burned through coal – well, we simply can’t “knowledge-ify” fully, now can we? To be sure, qualitative inputs will ALWAYS be required. Quantitative components play an important role too.

This lack of affinity for driving for optimization is not new. It’s not just in Website results optimization. You can also observe this in direct mail. How many direct marketers make it a common practice to hold back a part of their campaign audience as a control group for each campaign, or split test some aspect of their campaign?

I’m stunned by this. I thought you and I were the Johny-come-lately’s with all this web analytics stuff?

As for whether it’s cultural, I would love to hear Joseph Carrabis‘ thoughts on this.

As would I. I really respect Joseph.

I’m interested in hearing the blogosphere react, in particular, I’m calling out Shaina Boone, David Hamel (simplify, simplify, simplify), Patrick Glinski, and Mike Sukmanowsky.