We need better statistics…

Almost every entrepreneur I talk to lately whines privately about the stats they see on places like Compete.com, Comscore, and Alexa. Today Tom Conrad of Pandora told me that they are extremely low. He says his service requires registration, so he has very accurate stats of who’s signed into Pandora and he can’t figure out why the stats services are so far off of the real stats.

Marshall Sponder, over on Web Metrics Guru, looks into Comscore’s stats of Second Life’s users and finds the same problem.

The thing is these services rely on toolbars (I can’t even use any of the toolbars on the Macintosh for some reason, and how many of you even have one of these folks’ toolbars loaded? None of my friends do and I’ve been checking). Or they rely on “panels” of Web users that they survey regularly. Do you know the selection mechanisms? How do they know they are getting a representative sample? Clearly very few people who run Web companies find their stats accurate. Yet we’re supposed to believe in them?

Also, there are lots of sites who seem to have more traffic than, say, my blog, but they get less comments on every post and if we both link to someone new, the new site gets a lot more traffic from me. I have such a site in mind, but I don’t want to get into an argument with that site. Translation: the engagement levels on some blogs are quite different, but advertisers are being sold on these stats companies and on pure “uniques.”

I don’t know what the solution is, though. What stats do you think are the most important? What’s the most accurate way to measure your sites’ visitors? What will advertisers insist on seeing in the future?

Oh, and in the future people aren’t going to visit your page at all. Most of PodTech’s traffic comes from its embeddable gadget. So, are you visiting a blog that has our gadget embedded when you watch one of my videos or are you visiting PodTech? I bet most normal people will answer “a blog.” That’d mean that PodTech’s traffic will get way underrepresented in these services (which matches what we’re seeing in our server logs when we compare our real traffic with what Alexa/Compete/Comscore are telling us).

The Wii isn’t hurting Xbox? Really?

A Wii showed up at PodTech recently and it flipped me around.

I used to be one of those guys who thought that Xbox or Sony’s Playstation 3 would take over the market due to the much better HD graphics.  But after playing a while on the Wii I get why people think it’s so cool: casual gaming and game play.

I can’t really explain it, but after 10 seconds you forget that the graphics aren’t as good looking as on the Xbox. Who really cares when you’re playing all sorts of games that are somewhere between Zuma and Geometry Wars anyway?

This why I think Robbie Bach is full of it when he disrespected the Wii. This is the kind of stuff that Microsofties are taught to say after they are getting their butts handed to them in the marketplace. I remember Microsoft execs saying similar things about the iPod and iTunes two to three years ago.

Hey, I’m a total Xbox freak. But the Wii has me. I wish Microsoft did more innovation on the controller side of the house too, but that’s not all of why the Wii is getting so much hype (it’s still hard to find one).

I’ve been reading a bunch of blogs about Halo 3 and most of the bloggers aren’t giving it rave reviews. Here’s Blake Snow’s review over on GigaOm.

If I were Robbie I’d worry a little more about controller innovation, gameplay, and coming out with a few more killer games that keeps our attention on the Xbox system.

Another thing? Since I don’t get a lot of exercise I’m looking for some games that’ll encourage me (and my son) to get moving a bit and off of the couch. At least Wii gets you worked up playing tennis and other active games. That’s VERY appealing to not just me but most families I know with kids who tend to spend too much time looking at game screens.

Good and bad travel advice

Tara Hunt has some good (and bad) travel advice. I TOTALLY disagree with her about timing, though (her times are too short to be safe). Here’s why:

1) Many airlines won’t let your bags on if you don’t get to the counter 45 minutes before your flight takes off. I learned that one the hard way when we got to the counter with 42 minutes left and were delayed, which ended up costing us $300 due to a layover in Chicago that we hadn’t planned on before.
2) Most airlines won’t let you on the plane if you don’t get to the gate 10 minutes before your flight takes off. I learned that once at Alaska Airlines when I got to the gate with eight minutes to go. There’s nothing worse than looking at the plane you’re supposed to be on sitting right in front of your face and having the gate agent tell you she can’t let you on, even though you got there eight minutes before it was supposed to take off.
3) Security lines can often be more than 30 minutes — in Atlanta this week I waited 45 minutes in the line. At Oakland I’ve waited an hour in that line.
4) Getting to the ticket counter can occasionally take 45 minutes or longer, especially in heavy travel conditions. Due to lines, understaffed counters, or computer troubles. Remember when I was flying to see John Edwards? I waited in line more than two hours and still hadn’t got to the ticket counter (extreme condition because Southwest in Oakland was all screwed up that morning).

The thing is this all varies by airport. San Francisco and Seattle are usually pretty good (although SF can see lots of delays if there’s fog and/or weather). Oakland, really bad (only if you’re on Southwest, otherwise it’s actually pretty good). Atlanta? Horrid.

Anyway, the new rule we recommend? 1:30 for any domestic flight and three hours for any international flight. If you can add more, do. There’s nothing more stressful than seeing a super long security line or, worse, being caught in traffic on the way to the airport knowing you are about to miss the only flight of the day.

Keep in mind that we often break these rules which is exactly why I have this advice (we’ve gotten caught too short a few too many times). In Atlanta last week I was at the airport four hours before my flight took off so I had absolutely no stress (since getting EVDO I don’t care about sitting in airports anymore cause I can get a lot of work done). The thing is you can often get to the counter 50 minutes before your flight and be just fine (but even if this works nine out of 10 times, the 10th time might really cost you).

If you’re carrying your bags on you can even often push it and get there just 33 minutes ahead of time (29, though, and the ticket machines won’t let you print out a ticket and you’ll have to wait in line, which will probably make you late). In many airports that’ll work eight out of 10 times. Not odds I’d want you to bet on and is ALWAYS stressful, even if you make the flight. That brings me to something else, print out your boarding passes at home, especially if you only have carryon bags. That will let you skip the counter altogether and then you’ll only have to worry about the security line.

Some other things I’d add to Tara’s list? Have your airlines phone numbers saved on your phone, or written down somewhere. If you get caught on the freeway on the way to the airport (it happens, sometimes there’s an accident that’ll close all lanes) it’ll reduce your stress to know your options. Once we were caught in such a traffic jam and learned our plane was running two hours late by calling.

I wouldn’t travel anymore without EVDO either. It’s so nice to be able to get onto the Internet without worrying about finding a Wifi hot spot (airports often don’t have complete coverage and if they do many charge you $7 to $12 to get on, at least in the United States). Check Wikipedia about the airports you’re visiting, though. Often you’ll learn something about the airport and the airports with free Wifi will often be mentioned on Wikipedia.

If you’re flying to places you’re unfamiliar with, triple check your tickets and make sure you KNOW where you’re going. We almost went to Genova instead of Geneva and are just lucky my aunt checked our tickets before we got on the train.

I learned something else this week. If someone else is booking your flights (which often happens if you work in a company and other people are making your travel plans) make sure you look at the tickets before you approve them. I didn’t realize there was a stop in Phoenix and if I had known that I would have gotten a non-stop (they were available, but would have required a small change to my schedule).

Anything else I can think of to help you travel? If you’re a woman traveling alone you should check out Tango Diva (they have a man issue on the home page right now). Heck, I can’t help plugging Tango Diva. The founder lives a few houses away from me and she’s going out to breakfast with us in the morning.