Web analytics tools are now in operation for about 15 years. While primarily developed to support the operators of public commercial web sites, they offer a stable and mature set of general features to track the behavior of users of arbitrary web based systems. Independently, in recent years web based social software is increasingly used to support collaboration and knowledge exchange in modern enterprises. This paper examines how enterprise social software can benefit from the features provided by state of the art web analytics solutions.
In the first part of the paper, we give an overview of the most common capabilities of commercial and open source web analytics tools and examine how the data they produce can be accessed and utilized by other applications. Subsequently, illustrating how social software users – be it as authors or
consumers of content –, site operators and even the software developers can profit from this integration. To demonstrate the general feasibility of the approach, we then describe how one scenario was implemented in a commercial web based enterprise collaboration platform using an open source web analytics tool. The current popularity of individual documents, like wiki pages or blog posts, was measured using the number of recent visits for the respective web pages. The resulting metric was then used to improve the document scoring mechanism of the platform's search component. Finally we show that the web analytics tool can in turn be used to track precisely how the search functionality is used – and thus allows for an assessment of the effectiveness of the abovementioned improvement. It further enables a qualitative analysis of user behavior that helps to find defects in the software and additionally motivates further refinements and enhancements.
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