woopra mascotWoopra is a real-time analytics software that plugs into your website and gives you extensive analytics information about not just the visitors you had in the past, but the visitors you also have online at the moment. We had the opportunity to talk to the Woopra Development Team and learn the experience they have had during the development of the unique real-time analytics solution. Lorelle VanFossen (also, Host of the Lorelle on WordPress) shares the Woopra Story.

What has been the experience of developing Woopra so far? How has been the response to Woopra?
Thank you for taking time out to talk to us about . I’m laughing at how you combined those two questions because it so describes our experience.

The first exposure to the public was at WordCamp Dallas 2008. There were only 200 invitations for beta testers distributed to the attendees. We really thought that would be enough to get us through the next phase in development. Unfortunately, the response overwhelmed us.

Word quickly spread once the attendees got a live preview of Woopra. Cali Lewis of GeekBrief did an interview with John and within a couple hours the launch was picked up by TechCrunch, Mashable, and across the web. Coverage expanded to The Financial Times, Wired, PC World, ZNEt, and more. Within a few weeks, more than 30,000 applications for beta testing sites were requested!

The Woopra team worked almost without sleep for the next six months, expanding servers, increasing resources to add new testers, updating the program, improving the server code, approving new testers, and responding to thousands of questions and requests. While our intent was to focus totally on development, we responded to the public demand and spent more time cat herding and responding to questions, issues, and new features instead of totally focusing on development. Luckily, understanding the power of real-time and being a real-time company, responding to our users was an automatic first response.

We now have a clear roadmap and schedule, and have added a few team members so we can sleep once in a while. 😀 We also now have almost 100,000 beta testers and first members of the Woopra Community. Woopra’s user base continues to grow by 24% every month and we expect that to grow even more once we step out of beta.

While we all knew Woopra was something special, we had no idea how “necessary” Woopra would become to webmasters and bloggers of all levels and traffic. Once people realized the value in real-time statistics, they came to rely upon Woopra. When Woopra is offline for upgrades or maintenance, the complaints flood our forums and Twitter. We’re working hard to develop backup and cross-server site tracking to ensure Woopra stays running for everyone. It’s a huge task, and expensive, but we’re up to the challenge.

What has been the biggest technological challenge in the development of Woopra?
We’ve had a lot of challenges with developing Woopra. Until Woopra, no one had really tackled real-time web analytics in this way. Elie Khoury admits that “merging live updates with historical data to be delivered in milliseconds to the desktop client and web application was the toughest challenge.”

His co-founder, Jad Younan, agreed. “For the first phase, we had to reinvent the wheel when it came to handling the data across multiple servers world-wide while still maintaining the ability to instantly track visitor activities on thousands of websites of all types and traffic sizes.

Woopra’s CEO, John Pozadzides (@johnpoz), agrees:

One of the greatest challenges we had to overcome was designing and deploying an architecture that is technically capable of supporting billions of transactions per month, and which can scale linearly up to hundreds of billions.

Managing Woopra is a complicated business. Underneath the pretty charts, graphs, and data in the Woopra Desktop Client are many levels and all need testing, oversight, and maintenance constantly. As Younan said, we’re constantly reinventing the wheel.

The Woopra Desktop Client has been honored by many as one of the most powerful and innovative uses of Java to date. Khoury’s work has set a new standard for what is possible with Java. He constantly tells us what Java can’t do, then makes it do it.

One of the greatest challenges – one that keeps us on our toes and energized – is the ability to keep Woopra working across many different website infrastructures and designs, myriad operating systems and browsers, and across international borders, tracking data on sites in almost every country in the world. Just take a look at the list we have so far on the ! It’s not about testing one product, either. We have the Woopra Desktop Client, Woopra Web App, Woopra WordPress Plugin or other platform plugin, or the soon-to-be released Woopra Mobile App. It’s a lot of work but we have an amazing team of experts. There are some weeks when I’m sure that our server guru, Jad Younan, averages two hours a night of sleep.

We’re constantly fine-tuning our ability to track data with Woopra, from what is tracked to how it is tracked and reported. We had fun recently with a new feature that allows you to track visitors from Woopra on Google Earth maps.

Luckily, we have an amazing Woopra Member Community using Woopra on almost 100,000 sites, tracking all site traffic levels from two visitors a day to millions, tracking only a single site to dozens at the same time. We’re closing our beta phase and all of these Members get a free account with Woopra indefinitely, but we will be forever grateful for their long support and fantastic feedback. We’re working on coming up with a name to honor them as the pioneers of Woopra development. Got some suggestions?

Our members report in to the Woopra Forums and on Twitter account with bug reports, feedback, and input for future versions constantly. We’re so blessed to have such an enthusiastic community.

Where does Woopra stand now? What is the roadmap to the future?
is still in the early stages of development but we’ve jumped the broom and are now stepping out of beta testing, much earlier than most companies.

We asked the Woopra Community to give us feedback on our pricing plans and what they wanted from Woopra as we moved out of beta. The feedback was incredible and we made a lot of changes accordingly.

We’ve also totally revised the Woopra Members Area to respond to the most frequently asked questions and issues members were having, adding a ton of new features like customizing the Live Chat interface, testing Email Reports, easy site renaming, resetting, and deleting, and more. It’s easy to navigate and access, and is another great design and development accomplishment by Elie Khoury.

John Pozadzides explains, “Woopra’s main goal is the democratization of the Web. It is our intention to bring big-time analytics tools to companies of all sizes. We intend to keep leveling the playing field as we expand our service to include millions of Websites.

We’re working hard on the commercial versions of Woopra, corporate versions, iPhone and other mobile app versions, and many other features and improvements. This is just the first step in a long line of unique tools and products we’re going to be offering.

When I stop in the middle of the flurry of Woopra activity, I have to admit that I’m equally stunned and impressed at what all our small team has accomplished – often against great odds. Last year, I was in the United States discussing work to Elie and Jad in their office in Lebanon. Suddenly, we were disconnected. When they got back online, they told me that they were running on battery. Armored tanks were out in the streets and the power was off. Through the long weeks of disruption and protests around the country, Elie and Jad kept focused on Woopra. We stayed by our computers for hours on end, supporting and encouraging them through the long days and nights.

The focus, strength and determination of Woopra’s founders keeps us on track and gives us courage every day.

What is your perception of the analytics industry right now? Where is it headed to?
Just like Woopra, the analytics industry is still in its infancy. There are a lot of holes in our ability to track information on our websites, and a lot of constraints. We’re still reliant upon JavaScript and Cookies, and the limitations on what data they can track across all browsers and types of users. Privacy is always a big concern. Real-time is still a new concept, too.

We recently asked people how many stats programs they used and why. The response was stunning. Most used at least two, but many used three or four. Why? They said that one program alone didn’t give them the big picture, and they wanted to compare numbers, pitting one analytics program against another.

Again, I ask why?

Our little team at Woopra asked these questions from the very beginning. Why have four analytics programs to get a clue as to how your business is doing? What information aren’t you getting? What information do you really need? Most importantly, what right do we have to dictate to a user the data they need?

We decided to put control of the data in the hands of our users.

If a site ran a marketing campaign and they needed to report the results as they happened, how would that work with real-time data with Woopra, rather than with 24 hour old data from other analytics programs?

With Woopra, they can track the query, keyword, or page data as it happens live, take notes of their initial findings and experiences watching the visitor actions and choices, then export the analytical data from Woopra, import it into a spreadsheet, create the charts they need, and give a presentation to their team on the results in a few minutes with the reports we offer. Or they can create a custom analytics report with Custom Reports or customize an email report to send them the data they want and need on their terms.

Or, as many have done, bring the whole team together during the first hours of the launch and display Woopra on a big screen or project, giving everyone a chance to interact with the data and request custom reports to help them make the next step in the campaign. Why not? And why wait?

As we develop our features, we keep these things in mind. How can we help people control what information they need from Woopra to make their business run and work better?

Woopra recently began offering customizable and extensive segmentation, giving the user the ability for data report customization. You control what information you want to explore and analyze. We’ve just added a new set of Search/Filter customization options with more on the way, right click reports available from the Live view, so you can drill deep into the data to the information you need. We’ve more segmentation features on the way.

Live tracking and data is the future of web analytics. It has to be. We live in a world where decisions are made within minutes, not months. Instead of spending all your time and energy on Twitter with no sense that you are getting an immediate return on your investment, you can track the ROI in real-time. If Twitter isn’t working for you, then you can decide right then and there to change how you use Twitter or go looking for customers elsewhere.

In his presentation at WordCamp Denver 2009, Ben Huh of ICanHasCheezburger described their business model for developing their website products. After much research, their startup site testing cycle has shrunk from months to three weeks before deciding a site will live or die. There isn’t time to waste when you are making those kinds of fast decisions. You have to have the data now or you lose.

Webmasters and business owners are starting to get the fact that they can’t just throw money into sweeping advertising plans and expect them to work. They often miss their demographics by a wide mark because they don’t really understand their customers. Targeted marketing and customer profiling is on the rise and real-time analytics is a part of that process. With Woopra, you can drill down through the live data and visitor history to understand more about the customer’s interests and needs.

Multiple tab browsing is causing havoc among many web analytics tools recently, including Woopra. We’re all experiencing problems tracking visitors who open sites in tabs but don’t read them right away, or let them sit there, or return to them over and over across days and weeks, without leaving the page. If they close the browser and reopen them with the tabs reloading, it sends another visitor notification, even though no one is technically “visiting” the page. While this provides information to the webmaster that the page is being “stored” by the visitor, it doesn’t provide helpful information on actual activity. Woopra’s staff is studying this new phenomenon and debating options on how to deal with it, as are other web tracking programs and services.

We’ve just recently offered a variable timeout option with the Woopra WordPress Plugin and Woopra JavaScript. Members can now control how long they want to track a visitor before they declare them timed out. Expect to see this feature on competitor’s options soon.

Most importantly, the analytics industry must begin a major campaign to educate webmasters and bloggers, especially bloggers, about how to interpret the data, and how to ask the right questions to get the information they need. Woopra is part of that educational movement. We started offering articles to our members on various aspects of web analytics and statistics and will soon be expanding that to cover video and podcasting tutorials.

In the past, tracking your web data beyond basic statistics was expensive, and few could afford the likes of major analytical company products. Woopra is just a mosquito against these giants, but we strive to offer clear, innovative data for an affordable price. Now that we’ve moved out of beta, within income and investors signing up, expect us to give those other analytics programs some serious competition. Woopra was there first with the most user-friendly interface tracking real-time data, but we have a lot more to offer.

Woopra is real-time analytics. What implications does it have for the user?
Wow! I’ve covered so much already about the benefits of real-time analytics! Woopra’s CEO John Pozadzides wrote “Why the Real-Time Web Matters in Real Life” which answers this question, too.

As mentioned, the ability to decide fast, right now, is most important. If you get that instant event notification that TechCrunch or Forbes has published a story about you, you can monitor the server traffic loads and spikes to respond fast to keep the site going. If you put up an ad banner and it isn’t working, you can change it now instead of wasting time hoping it will work. If you make an announcement on Twitter and no one comes, maybe your audience isn’t there. It’s waiting for you on Facebook. Go get them.

While the web developed as a way to share information, it has become a highly social community. With live stats, you can watch that social at work. With the Woopra Live Chat, you can break down the walls between you and your site to chat with your visitor, expanding the social relationships.

The Woopra Live Chat has proven more popular than we ever anticipated, breaking the barrier on the web between visitor and webmaster or blogger. People have come up with the most innovative ways of using it, from announcing contests on Twitter (stop in and accept my chat and I’ll give you a prize) to basic customer service. We’re working to improve the Live Chat with more features and to make it more interactive and responsive with a website widget.

We’re constantly asking our users how they use Woopra. We’re continually surprised at all the innovative ways.

We’ve had reports of advertising and usability testing services using Woopra along side their tester monitoring tools, especially testing websites and web applications. Combining the real-time monitoring of the testers path through a site, they can use the Woopra Live Chat to ask the tester why they made a decision or what changed their minds in the moment, not later after the test.

Many Woopra members are using the live data to track products and services, as well as customer issues. By studying the page navigation path, they can learn how visitors move through the site, and what might be getting in their way, and fix it immediately.

One Woopra Member recently tweeted that they were on the phone with a client, noticing through Woopra which pages he had visited before calling them. This told them what information they knew and where they could direct them anew. Another was so stunned to see potential customers coming from countries she’d not considered. She quickly added those countries to her shipping fees, ready for when they came to shop.

There are so many ways the real-time data is useful. Recently, John Pozadzides gave the example of what he’s learned about tracking individual users through Woopra, compared to the basic information Google Analytics provides. Woopra tracked one person coming back repeatedly to the same post to play a game on that page, sometimes multiple times in the same day, where Google Analytics just tracked them as a unique, then return visitor, without a lot of detail to understand what was really going on.

…the real magic comes from understanding the individual user experience. And that is the information that Woopra delivers! With Woopra I can actually see the people returning, both in real time and historically, and it offers me proof that indeed Bubble Shooter IS the most additive game on Earth!

…But this post is not really about playing games. It’s about harvesting actionable information from your statistics. We can learn so much from paying attention to the trends and details, and this information will help us improve our user’s experience. So keep an eye on the individuals, because the devil is in the detail.

As the interest and enthusiasm for real-time analytics grows, Woopra is exploring all the various tools and features possible to increase the processing of data as well as the response.

What would be your one-line pitch for Woopra?
Elie Khoury has a great one-line pitch for Woopra:

A responsive cross-platform application showing instant updates to webmasters. Webmasters no longer need a phd to analyse their ROI.

Mine actually comes from DB Ferguson, of the , describing Woopra as “eye candy stat crack“.

What does the name “Woopra” signify? Can you also explain the logo?
Woopra is our derivation of “Woop” as that is what people do when they see Woopra. 😀 We call it the “Woop Effect.”
The logo and our mascot represent spies. We’re always watching you.

Woopra, indeed, promises to be a very useful tool in the hands of the watchful webmaster and is very simple to use. Power plus Simplicity is its forte. We recommend you to try out Woopra for your website and get in better sync with your audience. On the run.

We are thankful to the Woopra team to take time out of their hectic schedule and answer the questions at length. This is both, the most in-depth interview ever done by Woopra and the longest post in the history of Digimantra, and it has been fun all along the way. Until next time.


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