User analytics in under five minutes


by Conrad VanLandingham

Prowd

Prowd is a Slack integration to recognize your team’s work, built during a Differential Hack Day. It’s meant to be a simple way to send others recognition, and with a real-time leaderboard you can see how you stack up yourself (if your team uses Slack, you should try it out - it’s free!).

We wanted to integrate analytics and start collecting user insights, and we chose to try out Astronomer - it looked cool and @rywalker challenged us to see how fast we could do it. Astronomer seeks to automatically record your user events and funnel them to any analytics service you wish. As it turns out, it really didn’t take very long to setup:

I don’t know about you, but as a developer it feels like I’ve progressively moved towards that of a skilled integrationist. The larger a project grows the more every interaction relies on an intricate web of instrumentation with third parties. This comes with the allure that we are able to move faster, build more powerfully, and break things quicker, but it also means growing complexity as the number of integrations multiply.

Astronomer seeks to make collecting user events and data for any analytics service a one-liner. For a Meteor app, it’s just:

meteor add astronomerio:core

From there - Astronomer is wired into your application and automatically figures out what events and data can be tracked, tracks them, stores them, and sends them to any analytics service of your choice (such as Google Analytics, Mixpanel, Keenio, etc).

Leveraging user behavior and data is extremely important - some of our most important tools in product development is being able to measure your ideas and performance with real user insight (so you know what your problems are and when you’ve solved them).

But leveraging user insights effectively is hard. It’s hard to really know what you need to track, how you need to visualize your data, or what tool is going to work best to tell the story that you need to know. Hard is expensive. Expensive means it is increasingly difficult to convince your client, boss, or the powers to be to throw money at it. It also means that often you’ve only truly figured out what you need after you’ve spent a multitude of resources trying everything else out, and friction to change course is high. I have seen countless half-assed integrations with insights and analytics services (admittedly on my own projects too). Right now, to do it right - it can take weeks to collaborate on what to track, how to track it, implement code and wire it up with your analytics service of choice (that was probably arbitrarily chosen anyways). Not to mention the need to now constantly run QA on the data and events you are tracking and continually refine them to make sure your data is telling the stories you need to know.

4:47.

This is why Astronomer is so cool. possibly the best thing that can happen to this space. In less than 5 minutes, we were able to ditch potentially weeks of collaboration and instantly start tracking every user interaction with our product; and send that data to any provider that Astronomer supports.

Instead of front-loading the effort it takes to determine your events and data metrics that your business needs to make decisions, Astronomer allows you to figure it out as you go with minimal time commitment, lowering friction and making it easier to find the stories you need for your business.

For Differential, this makes it that much easier for us to show our partners and clients the value in collecting and analyzing data from user events. I know that we are excited about the work that @rywalker and his team has done with both UserCycle and now Astronomer, and I highly suggest you check them out. Astronomer is in Alpha for Meteor projects and if you have any questions or run into any hiccups, reach out to the Astronomer team at hey@astronomer.io.

So why don’t you try adding Astronomer to your Meteor project (integration guide) and tell @astronomerio how long it took you. I bet you can’t can beat me 😎

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