Site Stats Discussion

After the enabling of Google Analytics on this site (disabled after 1 day), a number of concerns have been raised:
  • Privacy: GA tracks visitor behaviour
  • Privacy law: to comply with German law, visitors must be made aware of the site's privacy policy
  • Performance: GA sometimes slows down the site
I am not a Google Analytics devotee, but I find it a handy tool to see what our site visitors are looking for. It helps in tuning the site to their needs and expectations. GA:
  • makes it easy to look at trends over time
  • allows me to create reports with multiple variables, for instance "keyword => landing page", or "where do the visitors of the download page come from"
  • tracks site search behaviour: where are people looking for on the site itself
Because some of the reactions are very strong, we need to have a community decision on this.
  1. Is it possible at all to track visitors without deterring potential new developers?
  2. If we use something simple as awstats, do we need to inform visitors of a privacy policy?
  3. Which analytics tool can offer some of the functionality of GA, especially for looking at trends?

-- ArthurClemens - 11 Oct 2009

There is an open source analytical software called Piwik, which claims to be an "open source alternative to Google Analytics" and can be installed on our servers. I have used it and it produces lots of data in pretty graphs, but don't know how useful the data is. I also don't know about the privacy concerns.

-- AndrewJones - 11 Oct 2009

Hi Koen,

an implementation of AWStats is useful either way. Can you set it up on the server?

Back to the legal issues about a German website and Google Analytics:

IMHO It is pretty easy to fulfill the legal requirements in Germany. We would need a masthead (so called "Impressum") and a disclaimer, that reads like this:

“Diese Website benutzt Google Analytics, einen Webanalysedienst der Google Inc. (Google) Google Analytics verwendet sog. Cookies, Textdateien, die auf Ihrem Computer gespeichert werden und die eine Analyse der Benutzung der Website durch Sie ermöglicht. Die durch den Cookie erzeugten Informationen über Ihre Benutzung dieser Website (einschließlich Ihrer IP-Adresse) wird an einen Server von Google in den USA übertragen und dort gespeichert. Google wird diese Informationen benutzen, um Ihre Nutzung der Website auszuwerten, um Reports über die Websiteaktivitäten für die Websitebetreiber zusammenzustellen und um weitere mit der Websitenutzung und der Internetnutzung verbundene Dienstleistungen zu erbringen. Auch wird Google diese Informationen gegebenenfalls an Dritte übertragen, sofern dies gesetzlich vorgeschrieben oder soweit Dritte diese Daten im Auftrag von Google verarbeiten. Google wird in keinem Fall Ihre IP-Adresse mit anderen Daten der Google Inc. in Verbindung bringen. Sie können die Installation der Cookies durch eine entsprechende Einstellung Ihrer Browser Software verhindern; wir weisen Sie jedoch darauf hin, dass Sie in diesem Fall gegebenenfalls nicht sämtliche Funktionen dieser Website voll umfänglich nutzen können. Durch die Nutzung dieser Website erklären Sie sich mit der Bearbeitung der über Sie erhobenen Daten durch Google in der zuvor beschriebenen Art und Weise und zu dem zuvor benannten Zweck einverstanden.”

"This website uses Google Analytics, a web analytics service provided by Google, Inc. (“Google”). Google Analytics uses “cookies”, which are text files placed on your computer, to help the website analyze how users use the site. The information generated by the cookie about your use of the website (including your IP address) will be transmitted to and stored by Google on servers in the United States . Google will use this information for the purpose of evaluating your use of the website, compiling reports on website activity for website operators and providing other services relating to website activity and internet usage. Google may also transfer this information to third parties where required to do so by law, or where such third parties process the information on Google's behalf. Google will not associate your IP address with any other data held by Google. You may refuse the use of cookies by selecting the appropriate settings on your browser, however please note that if you do this you may not be able to use the full functionality of this website. By using this website, you consent to the processing of data about you by Google in the manner and for the purposes set out above.”

My company has two blog posts about the issue:

We have also published something about alternatives to Google Analytics. It's here:

Maybe we want to try out the open source web analytics tool Piwik:

I would be very interested both in Google Analytics data but also in trying out Piwik, which I do not know yet.

I think it is right and valuable from Arthur to act on this issue. I have no problem, if we choose another way. But we need to do something. We can learn a lot from funnel analysis and bounce rates on our pages. And I am convinced, that AWStats is cool but not good for such an analysis.

Koen: Can you bring us Piwik and AWStats please?

-- MartinSeibert - 11 Oct 2009

I share Koen's point of view:
  • thanks to the existing infrastructure it should be possible to come up with some kind of light-weight, on-site plugin/log file analyser combination which is able to collect useful, but anonymised data w/o using cookies etc. that are often deemed intrusive (cf. anonymisation services and browser plugins)
  • if there are concerns that there's a need to add/overhaul landing pages and we really want to take (real) user opinions into account, we could make use of anonymous comment boxes (e.g., either add a link below the search form labeled "Didn't find what you were looking for?" or show up this kind of dialog once a search didn't yield any results)

-- MarkusUeberall - 11 Oct 2009

I would prefer that we use a software that digest our log file, over any other software that requires javascript to be used on every page.

-- RafaelAlvarez - 11 Oct 2009

Koen has installed Piwik, and awstats was available for longer (but I was not aware of its existence).

Interesting find: one of the top search phrases is "foswiki plugins". Top Google hit is System.Plugins, and that is not the place where we want the visitor! They should go to Extensions!
  • Blocking the System web in the robots.txt file could help with it. -- RafaelAlvarez - 11 Oct 2009
  • I have updated the Extensions page title to include the word "plugins". -- ArthurClemens - 11 Oct 2009

Another find: Release00x01 is offered as top link in Google, and visitors would go to that page where no hint was given of a newer version. I have now updated all release topics with a notice to get the latest release from the download page.

Do we need to inform our visitors that they are being tracked by Piwik, or is storing the data on our servers safe enough? If so, what would be a good place? The footer, or is that too much out of sight?

-- ArthurClemens - 11 Oct 2009

Ok, so what we have now:

  • awstats, the venerable webserver access log analyzer (we've had that since day 1);
  • statviz, which we tried but requires some further scripting, generates nice click-graphs from access log;
  • piwik, which uses javascript to collect various details such as screen resolution and outlinks.

All of it is running on our own server, so we don't store user data at untrusted third parties. Since our server is in The Netherlands, we probably need to comply with Dutch privacy law. Most notably, the 'wet bescherming persoonsgegevens' (law for protection of personal data). The main question: is what we are collecting 'personal data' in the sense of this law?

IANAL, so i'm not sure. Personal data is explained as (translated from data about a person, where the person can be identified.

If the data is indeed personal data in this sense, we have some obligations. Anyway, I don't think (IANAL) collecting web-statistics is actually collecting 'personal data' in the sense of this law. But if we want to know for sure, I can ask a lawyer.

Anyway, i'd be more worried about the fact that we ask peoples name/city/email address, as that really is identifiable personal data. I think the fact that we, as site owners, collect aggregated info about site visits is not problematic. We might want to put up a privacy policy, which mentions at least:

  • What we collect
  • Why we collect it
  • That we are not sharing the collected information with any third party, other than for complying with law enforcement

-- KoenMartens - 11 Oct 2009

Foswiki has a draft privacy policy that I wrote in May. -- IsaacLin - 12 Oct 2009

BasicForm edit

TopicClassification CommunityMatters
Topic Summary Discussion on the preconditions of a site analytics tool
Interested Parties ArthurClemens
Related Topics SiteStats
Topic revision: r11 - 12 Oct 2009, IsaacLin
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