Also, Look at Stackoverflow.com

It may look like I am a quite lazy writer, seeing that the last entry is from 2nd of April. However the reason for that is not that I am lazy, it’s rather that my main output is on stackoverflow. Over there I have so far answered some 750 questions, almost all on Google Analytics or Google Tag Management.  My acceptance rate hovers around 46% which is not bad at all and does not include the cases where I have accidentally answered the question in the comment section while trying to clarify what the OP was actually asking.

Stackoverflow is – well, if you are here you most probably know what SO is. It is a question&answer site, strictly not a web forum (discussion is actively discouraged). It works rather well because, or despite of the fact (I couldn’t tell which it is) that a number of people have made it their lives aim to enforce, defend and make up the rules by which this thing works. I am not in particular interested in meta discussion and I am often baffled by the energy wasted on discussing trivia. Nevertheless I “flag” people and “vtc” (vote to close) questions for being off-topic etc., on the basis that even if I bring my own bottle to the party it is probably bad style to barf on the carpet, so I try and and follow the rules.

What I like about SO is that it gives me a chance to hear about real live problems – even as a professional analyst you do not encounter every possible problem. So I look at the questions, try to reproduce issues and find solutions, and that way I am prepared should I meet the very same calamity that I have examined on somebody else’s behalf. And I am helping others in the process, so that looks like a win/win situation to me.

In terms of “reputation“, the internal currency of SO this is not very rewarding; reputation is awarded on the basis of how many people found an answer helpful, not on how good the answer was or how much research it required, and since more people have simple problems than complex problems reputation points are disproportionately awarded to simple answers.  The Google Analytics tag is not a popular tag, it attracts usually some 20 views per question, and many of them are debugging questions which are not very interesting. Also SO does not expire outdated questions, so lots of my older answers refer to the transition phase between the old ‘asynchronous’ GA code and Universal Analytics. At this point in time you really shouldn’t work with the old code anymore, so that’s boring stuff, too. Also, while doing a short review of my old answers I realized that much of the older stuff is a bit off – that was the time when I still used phrases like “it stands to reason” etc., which it usually doesn’t. You either have a source or an reproducible experiment, else you really shouldn’t bother to answer. In any case craving reputation on SO is like hoarding monopoly money – it’s a lot healthier to look at it as some psychological incentive to get started with the game, not as a goal in itself.

Very little (okay: nothing) of what I write on SO is particular earth-shattering stuff. Nevertheless there is a type of answer that I quite like, and that’s when I have  the chance to include a bit of background.

For example when a javascript newby asks how he can track form submit I could say “use an onSubmit handler” and leave it at that. Or else I could make some educated guesses regarding his particular use case and try to get him not only hints to a solution, but also a better understanding of his problem.

I also like to clear up problems that stem from the shitty habit of IT persons to either use 20 different words for the same thing or, more often and more annoying, to use the same word for any number of only vaguely related things. “Server” is one of those words, “event” is another.

And the real fun is discussing unusual requests that are not covered by any documentation (even if my solution does not seem to have made it into production).

Come to think of it I have to admit that yes, I am a somewhat lazy writer. For the blog I have to select a topic myself, and it might or might not be of interest to somebody. On SO I know that my answers are at least potentially interesting, since somebody actually asked for it.  And it’s obviously not just me – SO has millions of users, and even a small tag like GA has hundreds of contributors. Some of them I hold in high esteem even if I only know them by their answers on SO.

So if you are interested in what is currently on my mind the blog isn’t a bad place to check occasionally. If you are looking for some hands-on advice for Google Analytics or GTM then asking a question on stackoverflow might be a just as good an idea (and please do remember that the place has some rules).

 

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