The Kitchen Async

I don't believe in hell, but the road to obscurity certainly seems to be paved with good intentions. Apologies to the 40.32% of visitors to my blog who are returning and have found nothing new for a while; I will be better in future.

Today's topic, so excruciatingly telegraphed by my headline, is  Google Analytics' Asynchronous tracking code. Already the cause of debates only out-heated by the argument over whether Sex And City 2 is a vile piece of culturally hegemonic rubbish or an elaborate satire of diabolic genius, the GA Async code begs one inescapable question: Do you or don't you?

All those in favour…

The technocrat in me says yes. He says that only rubes and luddites cling to the past; that the Async codes is the wave of the future, and if we don't suit up and paddle out this instant we'll be left behind drowning in the rock-pool of latency while the cool kids perform tricks and master the correct usage of the word 'gnarly'. The technocrat makes good points. It certainly would be good to be able to use 'gnarly' in a sentence with confidence. But his desk is littered with Apple Newtons and Atari Jaguar games consoles. His track record isn't perfect.

All those against…

On the other hand, the conservative in me raises up his hands like Marcel Marceau before the wall and urges: 'what's the rush?' The old code works fine. Better than fine. The old code got us through some hard times and no amount of la-de-dah queued tracking calls and faster load times can measure up against a history of reliability. The conservative wonders who even asked for a new version of the tracking script anyway, and concludes that it was some fancy-pants college boy from Stanford in all likelihood. And isn't it always?

Abstentions…

Into this psychically dubious arena steps a third voice, the voice of reason. He says 'it depends', and looks apologetic at having offered yet another equivocal answer to an unequivocal world.

Feel free to skip to here….

But, seriously for a moment, wordiness aside, ask yourself these questions before deciding:

  1. How customised is your current installation? If you have lots of hard-coded events and virtual pageviews, transitioning over is going to be unpleasant.
  2. If you're a smaller organisation without dedicated IT resources, the Async code is marginally more complicated, and complexity is the favorite lurking place of costly mistakes.
  3. How reliant are you on the GA help centre? Currently the documentation for the async tracking leaves a fair amount to be desired.
  4. How eager are you to be up to date with the latest GA functionality? If the transition from urchin.js to ga.js taught us anything, it's that Google can be fairly ruthless in prioritising development on the new track. But this only matters if you use it.

The newer script is technically a marvel, and does improve load times and by placing it at the top of the page now without penalty, you will capture a few more of your most impatient visitors. But it isn't without pitfalls. Caveat Googleanalyticsimplementor.

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3 Comments

  1. Posted May 28, 2010 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    I went to Ohio State, and my pants are $20 jeans from Target ;)

  2. philip
    Posted May 28, 2010 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    Hey Brian, thanks for stopping by! All explanatory stereotypes are crafted with the greatest affection, guaranteed.

  3. Posted May 28, 2010 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    No worries…I'm pretty think skinned ;)
    If anyone has questions about async, please feel free to ask in the async help forum (even if you just want to chat about why we created it):
    http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Google+Analytics/label?lid=5a6c689030bdafe7&hl=en

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