Is your site mobile-friendly yet?

Back in November 2014, Google announced a “mobile-friendly” label to our mobile search results in order to make it easier for people to find the information that they’re looking for while on mobile devices:

Mobile-friendly search result
The list of criteria Googlebot was to look for in order to assign a page the “mobile-friendly” label was:
  • Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash
  • Uses text that is readable without zooming
  • Sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom
  • Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped

They even included a mobile-friendly test in the Google Webmaster list of tools. Moreover, Google listed common mistakes to avoid when attempting to transition your website to a mobile-friendly platform.

SearchEngineLand provided the ultimate explanation of the impact of what is known by now as Mobilegeddon. Yoast, the author of my favorite SEO plugin for WordPress has an equally helpful list of steps to turn your site mobile-friendly and SEO-optimized.

So, are we there yet? As reported by multiple sources, the new mobile algorithm is being gradually implemented across Google’s data centers. As confirmed by Google’s John Mueller:

It’s definitely rolling out. I know in some of the data centers its already rolled out completely. So that is something where I think you will probably see that change over the course of a week, maybe a week and a half – something like that.

From the first day to the next day, I don’t think you’ll see a big change. But if you compare last week to next week, then you should see a big change.

And I’ve seen some blog posts out there have noticed it’s different, and tried to document the difference between the desktop results and new mobile results. So there are definitely people noticing it.

If your site is not mobile-friendly yet, do not panic. The impact is only on the mobile traffic. But as any other change that has been imposed on websites by changing technologies and requirements – not unlike the Section 508 compliance rush a decade ago — what is good for the user, and in particular the mobile user, is good for everyone!

Sustaining the momentum: All of us are blood!

When reflecting on current race relations in the U.S. , honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. cannot but force us to acknowledge the fierce urgency of embracing the “black lives matter” movement. But that urgency is easy to get lost on media notorious for its short attention span. No matter how powerful or timely a message is, having it silenced by the noise typical of today’s social media would render it impotent. The challenge of persistence is real! So is the need for sustaining the momentum!

Conservation of Momentum

There is nothing more destructive for a society than the pent up energy of ignored social demands… and nothing worse for a social media strategy than losing its momentum.

“Newton’s third law implies that the total momentum of a system of interacting objects that are not acted on by outside forces is conserved. For a system of objects, a component of the momentum along a chosen direction is constant, if no net outside force with a component in this chosen direction acts on the system.  In collisions between two isolated objects momentum is always conserved.  Kinetic energy is only conserved in elastic collisions.”

Think of every twitter message, every social media post, every action, every discussion, every protest, every song every hand reached out to someone who is different from you yet human as much you as the object of this interactive system aiming for informing minds and changing hearts.

The geek in me wants to elaborate on using the 3rd Law of Newton as a metaphor of the power of social media for change; the artistic curator in me just wants to branch out and collect diverse expression of the same message over and over until all get it: #blacklivesmatter and #allofusareblood!

How to inform minds, and change hearts, through social media

The message needs to be told over and over, using multiple channels, using multiple modes of expression. There is no better way to convey a message than to do it visually. That is, unless you add an audio component, but I will get to that in a minute.

All Of Us Are Blood
All Of Us Are Blood

Here are some examples:

Let us look at the question of human dignity globally and and throughout history, reflecting on the cost of human life throughout history:

Getting outside of the comfort zone of averages, and focusing on the U.S., how does the cost of human life change when we reflect on the Three Fifths Compromise? What has its impact been on the lives of African-Americans. What about the impact on Native Americans? I would love to see such powerful data visualization that conveys the lost opportunities for minorities, and society at large.

When you mix inequality with the human development index, things get pretty uncomfortable pretty soon: “For instance, the United States’ IHDI is 17.4% lower than its HDI, yet it drops 23 places in ranking.”

We are not numbers but surely the power of numbers can help convey a message.

If anything, we all are energy, and music… and blood.

All Of Us Are Blood!

That is where the audio side of things comes in — or rather the musical expression of our call for human dignity — “I Can’t Breathe”, a powerful new song by Moanin’ Sons in collaboration with and with the participation of Lonnie Jordan of WAR.

This is a song so masterfully mixing the message with the data with the emotion and the artistic expression that it deserves to be heard over and over, and to be shared as widely as possible. For it can be one of those elements of sustained momentum. Share the message! Join the conversation!

Arlington Philharmonic and Social Media

With gratitude for the old, ready to embrace the new

After a successful 2014 in which I assisted a broad range of organizations with their web strategies: Management Meditations, Family Allergy & Asthma Care, Farhoumand Dental, Universal Service Administrative Company, Royal Oak Laser, I am delighted to announce that I will be contributing to the implementation of the social media strategy at the Arlington Philharmonic!

Arlington Philharmonic, photo courtesy of Joe Frugal:
Arlington Philharmonic, photo courtesy of Joe Frugal:

Arlington Philharmonic and Social Media

Arlington Philharmonic is building a first-class symphony orchestra in Arlington, VA, striving to make classical music accessible to every Arlington resident, to promote the value of classical music in our civic life, and to build strong, creative partnerships with schools, local government, businesses, and other organizations.

You might think that I got involved with it because of my enduring love for music which has been a steady presence in my life: just today I sang at a very diverse concert commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center in the University of Maryland, College Park, and tomorrow I will sing with the 20th Annual Ventures in Community concert in Alexandria, VA, while last week I resumed my NOVA Alexandria studies in piano and music theory. But that is not the sole reason!

Last summer, when my bike got stolen from my newly built but unlocked shed, the very friendly investigator from the Arlington Police who was assisting me with the filing of a case turned out to be among the volunteers at the Arlington Philharmonic. That conversation inspired me to look into offering my expertise in implementing their lofty goals. After a somewhat long process of communicating and clarifying responsibilities, I am officially on board!

Onto new musical and web marketing heights!

Web Analytics and Business Intelligence — Marriage Made in Heaven, Why Still Separate?

Not long before I was given an opportunity to present at the 2006 eMetrics conference in DC, I had been promoted to manage the combined web and business intelligence teams at USAC. The reason was simple — management by metrics was the only way to go if this non-for-profit organization responsible for the $8 billion Universal Service Fund was to be efficient. My thinking then was that web analytics and business intelligence were complementary. Today, my thinking is that they should not be viewed as separate disciplines anymore.

Web Analytics and Business Intelligence — Marriage Made in Heaven

The days of the separate tools are numbered. Big data vendors left and right are offering ways to integrate data from disparate sources. The skill sets should not be unique anymore as we are all to analyze the ways for optimizing an organization’s engagement with customers and constituents as well as its operational efficiency.

Web Analytics and Business Intelligence -- marriage made in heaven
Web Analytics and Business Intelligence — marriage made in heaven. Image courtesy of IQWorkForce.

If Web Analytics is Business Intelligence, as the DA blog claims, why do we still view them as separate disciplines? If eConsultancy is inviting us to break down the silos between Web Analytics and Business Intelligence, why do we still cling to these obsolete boundaries?

True, there is data that originates on websites and data that originates in transaction systems but data is data. Do we need to split mobile analytics from web analytics? What about piping data from the internet of things? It is time this false dichotomy be put to rest.

What we need are skilled data analysts and flexible data analysis tools!



Facebook’s people-based marketing platform Atlas to challenge Google ad dominance

As ubiquitous as it is Google, the powerful search company faces ever competition from different directions which impede its attempt to diversify beyond search. In a blog response to Rupert Murdock of Fox, Google listed some its competitors:

“Within search Google faces a lot of competition: including
Amazon for product search; Kayak and Expedia for flights; and Yelp and TripAdvisor for local information.”

Atlas Advertiser SuiteHowever successful or not these rivals might be, financially Google should be threatened the most by Facebook’s launch of a direct competitor to Google’s advertising subsidiary DoubleClick. Atlas, Facebook’s ad serving platform which it bought from Microsoft in 2013, will enable advertisers to target Facebook users across other websites and mobile apps.

Facebook’s people-based marketing platform Atlas to challenge Google

With its troves of demographic information, Facebook is a real threat to Google’s dominance, and a welcome new opportunity for advertisers. What makes Facebook’s Atlas platform so potentially impactful is that is the massive data it has on its users. Of course, what is powerful for businesses, can be creepy for users.

How to opt-out from the Facebook ads

If you don’t want Facebook to sell your personal information and browsing history to third-party companies, Business Insider has specific prescription:

“…visit the Digital Advertising Alliance opt-out, and in the middle of the page, click on “Companies customizing ads for your browser.” Select the boxes next to the names of companies you no longer wish to receive ads from, and then scroll down and click to submit your choices.

Mobile users will need to additionally opt out of advertising through special control settings embedded in iOS and Android. On iOS, visit the “Settings” app and open up the “Privacy” tab, click on “Advertising” and enable “Limit Ad Tracking.” On Android, Facebook may add this setting as a user preference within the “Application Manager” found in “Settings,” but you can also set up and manage a Virtual Private Network (VPN) on the device that should automatically disallow any browser tracking.”

Yelp and the challenges of reputation management

Online reputation management

One of the business goals of any online marketing efforts should be to improve the business’ online reputation. Some of my clients are in health-related fields like dentistry and allergy, so it is important to be familiar with the main players in online reputation management for their respective fields. An informative survey by SoftwareAdvice indicates that:


  • HealthGrades is the most popular online review site, but Yelp is the most trusted.
  • Patients are most likely to use online reviews as a first step in finding a new doctor.
  • Patients using online reviews are primarily seeking information related to the accuracy of diagnoses, physicians’ years of experience and wait times.

Since Yelp is so important, having a progressively positive collection of Yelp reviews becomes very important. The challenge is when a business has only a few reviews and one of them happens to be negative but written by an established Yelp user.  The second challenge is when the positive reviews are by new Yelp accounts and for some mysterious reason are flagged as not trustworthy.

That is exactly the challenge we are dealing with so I wanted to outline some of the steps to address what could potentially damage the business.

How to improve our Yelp reviews

1. Move positive reviews out of the Yelp filter:

Our problematic experience with Yelp reviews is not unique to us. This Time article provides a good summary:

The trustworthiness of Yelp, Angie’s List, and other “unbiased” ratings services is called into question in a new study by Consumer Reports. And the consumer advocacy publication is hardly the only one taking issue with user-review sites lately.

Many Yelp customers indicate that legitimate reviews are filtered out by Yelp. Many people suspect it is a way to force business to pay for their listings, making Yelp a nightmare to deal with, yet the reality is the influence of Yelp is too significant to ignore.

LocalVox has a very specific article on how to avoid the Yelp review filter and so does Go Fish Digital.

Based on them a specific recommendation for the Yelp business account holders is to reach out to the clients whose reviews have been filtered out and:

– Ask them to add a profile picture. Images make a user look more engaged with the site and less likely to get filtered out.
– Ask them to “check in” on their mobile phones from a few local places. Again, this indicates to the Yelp algorithm that they are human beings who engage with the app consistently.
– Ask them to be active. Although your end goal is to get the review for your business out of the filter, it helps if the Yelper is a frequent user. If they write a handful of reviews, it is more likely to get the review of your business up onto the main page.

Based on an article summarizing these strategies for avoiding the filter review, the most specific recommendation to us as Yelp users is to to make it a habit to:

– Write a bunch of Yelp reviews.

– If possible, link our Yelp accounts with our Facebook accounts.
– Make Yelp friends and like their reviews. Follow Yelpers with positive reviews.

– Turn to friends and families (and that should include friends and families of the staff) and ask them for Yelp (and other online review sites) reviews.

– Turn to loyal patients — in the office with the wifi easily accessible and after the office with emails.

– Reach out to vendors with whom are in already constant interactions and it would be helpful to ask them to consider giving us a good Yelp

Last but not least — Yelp alternatives

While Yelp is the biggest company in online reviews, it is by no means the only one. We should continue working on improving our reviews and rankings on Google +, Facebook, and other sites. PCWorld provides a good list of Yelp alternatives.

For many product categories Google + might turn out to be the top review site.

In conclusion, we need to continue investing time and effort in growing the Google + and Facebook audience in addition to specific review sites like HealthGrades, Vitals, ZocDoc, because of these reviews’ placement on the Google search results pages.

What is your experience with Yelp and how have you dealt with online reputation management challenges?

Visualization tool for your Facebook friends’ geographical location

Visualizing your Facebook friends’ geographical location

A cool visualization tool profiled by InsideAnalysis shows the geographical locations of Facebook friends on a Google map. The Holistic Systems app, available at, was created with client-side JavaScript and Facebook Query Language (FQL) and takes advantage of the Facebook API and the Google Maps API.

Visualization of the current cities of my Facebook friends' geographical locations
Visualization of the current cities of my Facebook friends’ geographical locations

The basic version breaks down the list of your friends by location, gender, relationship status, and list membership. The advanced version of the app features drop-down menu of filters based on interests such as religion, books, music, and work history.

I was pleasantly surprised to see how broad the geographical spread of my Facebook friends is and decided to further explore their origins.  It turns out that the majority of them come from hometowns different from their current cities. Switching back and forth between the home town and current city makes for an interesting graph of Facebook denizens’ migration. See for yourself at

Visualization of the home towns of my Facebook friends' geographical locations
Visualization of the home towns of my Facebook friends’ geographical locations

Kelly Snook and the Musical Gloves

One of my most unusual and inspiring friends, astrophysicist and music producer Kelly Snook, has been working on a fascinating project, the Gloves, with the Grammy-award winning British musician Imogen Heap. The Gloves are a cutting edge experimental gestural music ware originally developed for the purpose of Imogen Heap’s studio and stage work, but now, through a Kickstarter campaign, can be made available to any other experimental musician!

Kelly Snook and the Musical Gloves

Kelly Snook and the Musical Gloves
Kelly Snook and the Musical Gloves. Photo courtesy of Caeli Lohr

Today I asked Kelly a few questions about her inspiration and work on the Musical Gloves. Enjoy:

Kelly, As I was watching the new Cosmos program with Neil deGrasse Tyson, I kept wondering about the sounds of the outer space and your work while you were at NASA. Could you tell me how that work prepared you for the exciting new Gloves Project you have been working on with Imogen Heap’s team?

Kelly Snook:
Getting a Ph.D., working at NASA, and working with Imogen Heap have a lot in common – one thing they have in common is that they take you to new places and make you comfortable pushing boundaries and not being afraid to experiment. Also, they draw upon a confidence that impossible-seeming challenges are worth pursuing.

I have always admired that you seem to pursue anything with unshakable faith. What gives you that faith? And if experimenting is part of your daily agenda, how do you deal with failure?

Kelly Snook:
Failure is a good sign. It means we’re trying something new or something that will make us grow. Faith comes from first principles.

What first principles, if you do not mind elaborating?

Kelly Snook:

  1. Science is investigation of the knowable truths. Religion is investigation of unknowable truths.
  2. The knowable and unknowable are both worthy pursuits
  3. Everything else follows.

And a hand wrapped in a musical glove is a beautiful symbol of reaching towards the audio truth! Can you explain what the Glove is and what is your role in its creation?

Kelly Snook:
The glove is a wearable musical instrument that lets you control sound (through a computer) with your gestures. My role has been as one of the small team of developers of the hardware, software, and audio systems of the glove. My main focus has been on the software and audio side.

What is the Gloves’ team’s ultimate goal and how can we — musicians and techies — help?

Kelly Snook:
You can help spread the word about our Kickstarter to anyone who might want to try the gloves:

I sure will! Last but not least, going back to the theme of music in space, Bulgarians are very proud that the original golden disk that was sent with the Voyager contained a beautiful Bulgarian folk song. If you were the music curator of such a disk, what additional selections would you include?

Kelly Snook:
Ravel’s piano concerto in G, second movement. That’s the most beautiful thing ever written, in my opinion.

Thank you so much for your time, Kelly! Good luck and happy Nawruz (Baha’i New Year)!

Kelly Snook:
You too!

Modern Data Warehousing According to Microsoft: How To Leverage the Power of “Big Data”

Notes from a Data Warehousing workshop with PragmaticWorks hosted by Microsoft in Reston, VA

The morning started with a quirk: I had decided to ask the PragmaticWorks presenter the favor of inquiring if any of the attendees could give me a ride to the metro. There was an awkward moment when he said “I cannot do that, sorry” but when I asked the audience a nice pair of techies had mercy on me and my carlessness. To be fair, no one should expect a presenter to be a cab driver as well, of course; the gentleman was clearly knowledgeable making the whole seminar was very informative.

As I was sitting grateful for the assurance of a ride, a thought crossed my mind that I might win the random attendee reward, a Microsoft Surface 2 tablet. Who knew that not only this would happen but that my ride to and on the metro would turn into a fascinating conversation with a hyper intelligent and equally attractive geek with beautiful green eyes.

But let’s get back to the topic of…

What exactly is modern data warehousingaccording to Microsoft?

Not surprisingly, the presenter started with a sample of the old / new questions businesses are asking:

  • What’s the social sentiment for my brand or products? – Social and web analytics
  • How do I optimize my fleet based on weather and traffic patterns? – Live data feeds
  • How do I better predict future outcomes? – Advanced analytics

Referring to the #iatethebones social campaign during which KFC pulled data through Hadoop and stayed ahead of the million of submissions by using the social media response to predict their sales.

An interesting, and unexpected illustration of the use of predictive analytics to identify top items purchased before hurricane hits was shared. Whether it is an illustration of the power of big data or of the unpredictable nature of humans, you be the judge, but the top of the list is surely surprising:

  1. Strawberry Pop Tarts
  2. Bottled water
  3. Bleach, mops and other cleaning supplies
  4. Flashlights / candles
  5. First-aid supplies
  6. Generators
  7. Batteries
  8. Ice

Then we moved to the claim that 75% of CIO desire to worry less about systems and more about innovation. I can only imagine the question being asked: “What would you like to worry about more?…” But let’s continue

Microsoft’s Data Warehousing Proposition

Microsoft aims to make SQL Server the fastest and most affordable database for customers of all sizes. The goal is to offer a simplified data warehouse management through:

  • Massive scalability at a low cost
  • Flexibility and Choice
  • Complete Data Warehousing Solution

Introducing Parallel Data Warehousing

  • Pre-build hardware + software appliance
  • Co-engineered with HP and Dell
  • Pre-built hardware
  • Appliance installed in 1-2 days
  • Microsoft provides full call support
  • Hardware partner provides onsite break/fix support

Microsoft Data Warehousing Solutions

Of course, at the center of anything Microsoft offers is SQL Server 2012 and its enterprise stack of data management technologies (SQL Server, SSRS, SSIS, SSAS):

  • Scalable / reliable SMP platform for data warehousing or any hardware
  • Ideal for data marts or small to mid-side


Where things got interesting is when the talk turned to the notion of a data warehousing appliance built upon Microsoft technology as a relatively affordable implementation of a parallel data warehouse.

Why Parallel Data Warehouse (PDW):

  • Scalable
  • Reliable
  • Fast

Symmetric Multi-Processing (SMP)

  • Multiple CPUs used to complete individual processes simultaneously
  • All CPUs share the same memory, disks, and network controllers
  • All SQL Server implementations up until now have been SMP

Massively Parallel Processing (MPP)

  • Uses many separate CPUs running in parallel to execute a single program
  • Each CPU has its own memory
  • Applications must be segmented, using high-speed communications between nodes

What intelligence driven organizations are focusing on:

  • Retail services: what customers do we want to attract and how do we maximize our profitability?
  • Healthcare: how do we better analyze census, clinical and provider data together for an integrated view of our business?
  • Data services: how do we combine data from new sources faster and provide a platform for growth to our clients?
  • Major credit card firm: how does Hadoop better improve our ability to provide analysis to our analysis?

Seamlessly add capacity:

  • Smallest (53 TB) to largest (6 PB)
  • Start small linear, scale out
  • Add capacity up to 6 petabytes.

Designed for parallel processing

Data loads in parallel into multiple instances of SQL Server.

Next-Gen performance

  • xVelocity – Fast data query processing
  • Columnstore provides dramatic performance
  • Updatable and clustered xVelocity columnstore
  • Stores data in columnar format
  • Memory-optimized for next-generation performance
  • Updatable to support bulk and / or trickle loading
  • Up to 50X faster
  • Up to 15X compression
  • Save time and costs
  • Real-time DW

Design goals

  • Load data efficiently and non-obtrusively, respecting concurrent queries and loads
  • Reduce table fragmentation
  • Provide system recovery capabilities
  • Providing multiple data loading options

Data loading options

  • DWLoader Utility
  • SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS)
  • Create table as select (CTAS)
  • Standard SQL DML Statements (Insert / Select)

Hadoop ecosystem with its capability of handling vast unstructured data sets, creates a challenge of integrating the noSQL data into a SQL Server-based data warehousing solution. Microsoft’s answer is a very intriguing and is called Polybase but is, sadly, not available yet.

What is Polybase and what are its goals?

  • Seamless integration with Hadoop via regular T-SQL
  • Unifies relational  and non-relational data
  • Enables in-place queries and familiar BI tools
  • Part of an overall Microsoft Bid Data Story

Polybase Details

  • External tables and full SQL query access to data stored in HDFS
  • Imposing “structure” on the unstructured data in HDFS
  • Joining ‘on-the-fly’ PDW data with data from HDFS

The conclusion

Having attended a number of conferences (TDWI, Strata) and seminars, I take a very pragmatic approach to the choice of IT architecture, familiar as I am with the technical preferences and overall reality of my work place. I tend to gravitate towards Microsoft’s BI solution because so far it has proven very successful and relatively affordable answer to my team’s challenges.

Thus I was delighted to hear the fellow who would give me a ride, Jonathan, ask directly the most relevant question: on the approximate cost of the PDW solution. The answer — more of a informed guess was: a quarter rack would apparently priced around $250,000 not including discounts and excluding the data loading services.Let’s just say that while this is not pocket money, it is not Exadata either.

Having a previous Microsoft agreement would be helpful, of course. The maintenance agreement offered has two levels, and two providers — with Microsoft for the software, and with HP or Dell, correspondingly, on the appliance (the Dell solution is packaged and architected a bit differently than the one from HP but is available nevertheless.)

All I can say so far is that to spend this type of money on a Parallel Data Warehousing appliance at the non-profit where I manage the Web & Data Services team, I would need executive support. When we get there though, it would be a move in the right direction — architecturally and technologically — for my team!

In the mean time, I will try not to be tempted too much by the Surface 2, and will enjoy this gorgeous first day of spring! For this beautiful day, thank you, PragmaticWorks and Ramsey Informatics!