ERIC T. PETERSON
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Michele Kiss's Blog at Web Analytics Demystified
Michele Kiss is a recognized digital analytics leader, with experience in web, mobile, marketing and social analytics. Her experience ranges across a variety of verticals, including ecommerce, telecommunications and technology, automotive, restaurant, travel and home building, as a client-side, consultant and agency practitioner. Michele leads Web Analytics Demystified's analysis and analyst mentoring practice.
Want to speak with Michele? Contact Web Analytics Demystified
This month the Web Analytics Demystified team travelled to San Francisco for the eMetrics Marketing & Optimisation Summit. Here are a few of the things that emerged for me from the event.
Communication is critical
When hiring: Communication is a truly critical skill for analysts. Balaji Bram from Walmart recommends looking for digital analytics talent that can recommend and influence others.
When communicating analytics results: Raise it up a level. Ask yourself – how would I tell my boss’s boss what we’re trying to achieve and what our results were? -Tim Wilson. As Ned Kumar put it, “Executives don’t care what you did [aka, your methodology.] They care about what they should do [what actions they should take.]” And perhaps putting it best: Ian Lurie – “Data no one understands is just ink. Ink gets FIRED.” And remember: “Being right without being understood is meaningless.”
With great power comes great responsibility: While analysts may feel they don’t have much power (after all, they may not be the ones who make or execute on decisions), Ian Lurie cautioned: “As the people who present data, we have a lot of power over the decisions other people make. Don’t cheat!”
The nature of social
For the last few years, social has been the “shiny object” marketers have gone after, without necessarily having concrete goals or even reasons. Finally it seems like we are starting to get it: “Don’t build a strategy around a social channel. Build a strategy, and see what channel fits with it.” -John Lovett
After all, social isn’t a channel, a platform, or even a toolset. It is a capability. It’s what allows us to act, but in and of itself, is not goal. Perhaps one of the most apt analogies: “Social is like a telephone. It’s not the end goal, it’s merely an enabler.” -John Lovett
On the client side, Vail Resorts has taken great strides in the past few years with their Epic Mix app, which incorporates in-mountain data with social media sharing. However, Vail hasn’t reinvited the wheel or forced a social experience. Rather, their customers have been telling stories of their trips for years. Social is what they have always done, and it’s just the channels and the integrations that have changed. -Nancy Koons
Working with stakeholders
One anecdote I loved was Nancy Koons‘, who shared Vail’s internal “tweet your face off” competition. Apart from a friendly competition to see who could refer the most traffic and reservations, a big benefit was that their marketers got really good at campaign tracking! After all, if you are incentivised based on a metric, there’s suddenly much more interest in measuring it properly!
In setting expectations, Tim Wilson recommends that rather than asking a client or stakeholder what their KPIs are, analysts need to ask the “magic questions” that lead to the KPIs. “What are we trying to do?” and “How will we know if we’ve done it?” When people are requesting data, don’t ask about dimensions and metrics, and don’t let them put requests in those terms. Ask them to put it in the following form: “I believe that … and if I’m right, I will …” This ensures they have 1) a hypothesis and 2) a plan for action based on the results.
There’s always more
It’s impossible to truly wrap up three days of great presentations in a short blog post, but these were certainly a few of the highlights for me.
The Twitter scene
In true geeky fashion, I took a look at the #eMetrics twitter feed to see what was going on there. Here is a little overview:
Posted Tuesday, April 30th, 2013 |
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On Tuesday, April 16, (almost all) my partners and I were lucky enough to attend the DAA Awards for Excellence Gala, held in San Francisco during the eMetrics Digital Marketing & Optimisation Summit.
Apart from a lovely meal, a great keynote and a chance to network with industry colleagues, the Gala is also where the Digital Analytics Association presents the winners of the annual Awards for Excellence.
This year, I was honoured to be a finalist for Practitioner of the Year, joined by some amazing industry colleagues:
- Nancy Koons, Vail Resorts, Senior Web Analytics Manager
- Peter McRae, Symantec, Sr. Manager of Optimization
- Pradip Patel, FedEx, Manager Digital Marketing Analytics
- Balaji Ram, Walmart.com, Senior leader in Site Analytics & Optimization
We have some incredibly talented people in this industry, and I think this list is a wonderful example of that. These finalists are doing great things to push the boundaries of what we do, and move our industry forward. I feel honoured to just be a part of this group, and humbled to have been selected by the judges as Practitioner of the Year.
Congratulations to all the nominees, the finalists and the winners. Thank you to the kind person who nominated me. Thank you to the DAA members for your support in voting for me as a finalist – that alone is an honour. Thank you to the judges, who had to make such a difficult choice amongst such deserving finalists. And thank you to our community, for teaching me, supporting me, challenging me and inspiring me every day.
Posted Thursday, April 18th, 2013 |
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Advanced Segments are an incredibly useful feature of Google Analytics. They allow you to analyse subsets of your users, and compare and contrast behaviour. Google Analytics comes with a number of standard segments built in. (For example, New Visitors, Search Traffic, Direct Traffic.)
However, the real power comes from leveraging your unique data to create custom segments. Better yet, if you create a handy segment, it is easily shared with other users.
To share segments, go to Admin:
and choose the profile you wish to view your segments for.
Choose Advanced Segments:
(Note: You can also chose “Share Assets” at the bottom. That will allow you to share any asset, including segments, custom reports and more.)
Find the segment you are interested in sharing, and click Share:
This will give you a URL that will share the segment.
Send this URL to the user you wish to share the segment with. They simply paste into their browser:
It will ask them which segment they would like to add the segment to:
Sharing segments does not share any data or permissions, so it’s safe to share with anyone.
Once a user adds a shared segment to their profile/s, it becomes theirs. (This means: If you make subsequent changes to the segment, they will not update for another user. But it also means the user can customise to their liking, if needed.)
Something to keep in mind
Sharing segments of course requires those segments to be applicable to the profile a user is adding them to. (For example, if you create an Advanced Segment where Custom Variable 1 is “Customer” and the segment is applied to a profile where no Custom Variables are configured, it won’t work.)
The good news: Free stuff!
The good news is there are a few super-handy segments you can apply to your profiles today that should apply to any Google Analytics account. (Unless you’ve made some super wacky modifications of standard dimensions!)
Here are a few segments I have found helpful across many Google Analytics accounts. Simply click the link and follow the process above to add to your own Google Analytics account.
Organic Search (not provided) traffic: Download segment
I find this a pretty helpful segment to monitor the percentage of (not provided) traffic for different clients.
- Include Medium contains “organic” and
- Include Keyword contains “(not provided)”
Mobile (excluding Tablet): Download segment
The default Google Analytics Mobile segment includes tablets. However, since ease of use of a non-optimised website is much better on tablet than smartphone, it can be really helpful to parse non-tablet mobile traffic out and see how users on a smaller screen are behaving.
- Include Mobile (Including Tablet) containing “Yes” and
- Exclude Tablet containing “Yes”
Desktop Traffic: Download segment
- Include Operating System matching Regular Expression ”windows|macintosh|linux|chrome.os|unix” and
- Exclude Mobile (Including Tablet) containing “Yes”
- Note: Why didn’t I just create the segment to exclude Mobile = Yes? Depending on your site, you may get traffic from non-mobile, non-desktop sources like gaming devices. This segment adds a little extra specificity, to try to narrow down to just computer traffic.
Major Social Networks Traffic: Download segment
- Include Source matching Regular Expression “facebook|twitter|t.co|tweet|hootsuite|youtube|linkedin|pinterest|insta.*gram|plus.*.google”
Social Traffic: Download segment
- Include Source matching Regular Expression “facebook|twitter|t.co|tweet|hootsuite|youtube|linkedin|pinterest|insta.*gram|plus.*.google|
- Include Medium containing “social”
- Note: Medium containing “social” will capture any additional social networks that might be relevant to your business, assuming you use utm_ campaign tracking and set medium as “social”.
- Note: Is there a social network relevant to your business that’s missing? Once you’ve added the segment, it’s yours to modify!
Apple Users (Desktop & Mobile): Download segment
- Include Operating System matching Regular Expression “Macintosh|iOS”
They’re all yours now
Remember, once you add a shared segment, it becomes your personal Google Analytics asset. Therefore, if there are tweaks you want to make to any of these segments (for example, adding another social network that applies to your business) you can edit and tailor to what you need.
Let’s hear your favourites!
Do you have any favourite Advanced Segments you use across different sites? Share yours in the comments!
Posted Monday, April 8th, 2013 |
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Reporting is necessary but not sufficient. Don’t get me wrong – there will always be some need to see on-going status of key metrics with an organisation, and for business people to see numbers that trigger them to ask analysis questions. But if your analysts spend 40 hours a week providing you with report after report after report, you are failing to get value from analytics. Why? Because you’re not doing it.
So, what factors are critical to an increased focus on analysis?
1. Understand the difference
Reporting should be standardised, regular and raise alerts.
Standardised: You should be looking at the same key metrics each time.
Regular: Occurring on an agreed-upon schedule. For example, daily, weekly, monthly.
Alerts: If something does not change much over time, or dramatic shifts in “key” metrics are no big deal, you shouldn’t be monitoring them. It’s the “promoted” or “fired” test – if a KPI shifts dramatically and no one could be fired or promoted as a result, was it really that important? Okay, most of the time it’s not as dire as promoted/fired, but dramatic shifts should trigger action. A report may not answer every question, however it should alert you to changes that warrant further investigation. Reporting can inspire deeper analysis.
Analysis is ad-hoc and investigative, an exploration of the data. It may come from something observed in a report, an analyst’s curiosity or a business question, but it should aim to figure out something new.
Unfortunately, it’s far too common for what should be a one-time analysis to turn into an on-going report. After all, if it was useful once, it “must” be useful again, right?
2. The right (minded) people
Having the right analysts is critical to doing more than just reporting. Do you have an analyst who is bored to tears running reports? Good! That is a sign that you hired well. Ideally, reporting should be a “rite of passage” that new analysts go through, to teach them the basic concepts, how to use the tools, how to present data, what key metrics are important to the business and how to spot shifts that require extra investigation.
The right analysts are intellectually curious, interested in understanding the root cause of things. They are puzzle solvers who enjoy the process of discovery. The right analysts therefore thrive on, not surprisingly, analysis, not reporting.
That’s not to say that more seasoned analysts should have no role in reporting. They should be monitoring key reports and fully informed about trends and changes in the data. They just should be able to step back from the heavy lifting.
Analytics requires trust. The business needs to trust that the analytics team are monitoring trends in key metrics, that they know the business well enough and that they are focusing analyses on what really matters. This requires open dialogue and collaboration. Analytics has a far better success rate when tightly integrated with the business.
It’s easy to feel you’re getting “value for money” when you get tons of reports delivered to you, because you’re seeing output. But it’s also a sign that you don’t trust your analysts to find you the insights. And sadly, it’s the business that misses out on opportunities.
The first steps to action
If you are ready to start seeing the value of analytics, here are a few ways you can start:
- Limit reporting to what is necessary for the business. This may mean discontinuing reports of little or no value. This can be difficult! Perhaps propose “temporarily” discontinuing a number of reports. Once the “temporary” pause is over, and people realise they didn’t really miss those reports, it should be clear that they are no longer necessary.
- Review your resources. Make sure you have the right people focused on analysis and that they are suited to, and ready for, that kind of work.
- Allocate a certain percentage of analysts’ time to exploration of data and diving into ad hoc business questions. Don’t allow this to be “when they have time” work. (Hint: They’ll never “have time.”) It needs to be an integral part of their job that gets prioritised. The key to ensuring prioritisation is for analysis to be aligned with critical business questions, so stakeholders are anxiously awaiting the results.
- Introduce regular sharing and brainstorming sessions, to present and develop analyses. You don’t have to limit this to your analytics team! Invite your business stakeholders, to help collaboration between teams.
The hardest part will be getting started. Once you start seeing the findings of analysis, and getting much deeper insight that some standard report would provide you, it will be easy to see the benefits and continue to build this practice.
Posted Wednesday, March 27th, 2013 |
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“Big data” is today’s buzz word, just the latest of many. However, I think analytics professionals will agree: “Big data” is not necessarily better than “small data” unless you use it to make better decisions.
At a recent conference, I heard it proposed that “Real data is better than a representative sample.” With all due respect, I disagree. That kind of logic assumes that a “representative sample” is not, in fact, representative.
If the use of “representative” data would not accurately reflect the complete data set, and its use would lead to different conclusions, using “real” data is absolutely better. However, it’s not actually because “real” data is somehow superior, but rather because the representative sample itself is not serving its intended purpose.
On the flip side, let’s assume the representative sample does actually represent the complete data set, and would reveal the same results and lead to the same decisions. In this case, what are the benefits of leveraging the sample?
- Speed – sampling is typically used to speed up the process, since the analytics process doesn’t need to evaluate every collected record.
- Accuracy – if the sample is representative (the assumption we are making here) using the full or sampled data set should make no difference. Results will be just as accurate.
- Cost-savings – a smaller, sampled data set requires less effort to clean and analyse than the entire data set.
- Agility - by gaining time and freeing resources, digital analytics teams can become more agile and responsive to acting wisely on small (sampled) data.
There is no doubt that technology continues to develop rapidly. Storage and computing power that used to require floors of space now fits into my iPhone 5. However, the volume of data we leverage is growing at the same rate (or faster!) The bigger data gets, and the quicker we demand answers, the more sampling will become an accepted best practice. After all, statisticians and researchers in the scientific community have been satisfied with sampling for decades. Digital too will reach this level of comfort in time, and focus on decisions instead of data volume.
What do you think?
Posted Tuesday, March 12th, 2013 |
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What else is in-flight wifi for, if not for reflecting on another awesome #AdobeSummit?
This year, I was lucky enough to return as a “Summit Insider“, together with Tim “Gilligan” Wilson. What is a Summit Insider? We’re there to give attendees (and those who can’t make it) an “inside look” at Summit through tweets, blogs and video.
Summit is a hectic, action packed couple of days, with a ton of information flying at you. So looking back, what were the top themes for 2013?
More, more, more
No, I’m not a petulent three year old. As Brad Rencher noted in the opening keynote, marketers are no longer being asked to do more with less, but rather, do more with more. More data, more channels, more technology (more silos – sadly.) We are trying to effectively utilise (and measure!) more channels every day: desktop, tablet, smartphone, “phablet”, even in-car digital experiences.
The last millisecond
Consumers are more impatient than ever (I think of Louis C.K. here: “Everything is amazing, and no one is happy!”) and future generations will only be more so. After all, we’re impressed by overnight shipping, while the next generation is wondering why it didn’t arrive today. Marketers and brands need to listen, predict what consumers want, pull it together and deliver … near-instantly. We not only need technology, but integrated technology. But success requires more than that – we need integrated teams and processes.
Want to hear what others thought of the keynote? Check out my Summit Insider video:
Or: catch up on the keynote.
It’s all about your team
I’m not going to lie – watching Felix Baumgartner’s Space Jump on the enormous Adobe Summit screens was pretty amazing. This certainly won’t fully capture it, but check it out:
One of the things I love about Summit is how Adobe brings non-marketing speakers to the event, and yet it somehow resonates with the marketing world. Felix Baumgartner spoke of risk taking and managing risk. However, what stuck with me were his words on teamwork. His jump required five years of preparation (with only ten minutes of oxygen!) and in the end, success came down to his team. The number of people it takes to be successful and the importance of working together are lessons critical to digital marketing.
The importance of education
By far the most inspiring speaker of the event was Sal Khan from Khan Academy (so much so that that he got a standing ovation at the end of his keynote – first I’ve ever seen that happen at Summit, or any conference for that matter.) Not only is their mission to provide an amazing education to anyone, anywhere, but they’re actually doing it, with students in orphanages in Mongolia sending emails about how they’re learning with Khan Academy. In digital analytics, education is a cause I too feel passionate about (it’s the reason I love the Analysis Exchange), and it was great to hear not only such vision, but success.
Discussions with Adam Bain of Twitter and Julie DeTraglia of NBC Universal made it clear just how fuzzy those artificial “channel” lines we put up are. The organic combination of Twitter and live television events and the switching from smartphone to tablet to desktop to television (by one consumer in one day!) just prove we need to stop thinking about channels and start thinking about people.
With that said – one channel, Twitter, was a huge part of Summit – or should I say, #AdobeSummit? Check out Summit by the Numbers. (Twitter numbers, that is.)
The power of prediction
It was great to see a discussion of the use of predictive analytics on digital data making its way into Summit. Check out some thoughts on predictive marketing from attendees and speakers:
Control vs Empowerment
One theme that emerged clearly for digital analytics professionals is the interplay between control and empowerment of others. Analysts may want to keep control over a testing and optimisation program, or over access to analytics, and struggle to balance that with empowering people to confidently use data – which is critical to adoption!
Useful tips and tricks
One of the things I love about Summit is hearing about little tips and tricks that others are using. The Analytics Rock Stars session is normally a packed session full of good tips, and this year was no exception. Here are a few of my favourites:
- We all know the value of using qualitative data with our digital analytics data, and site search is a frequently used source of insight. However, Nancy Koons from Vail Resorts had a great tip: Use internal search discover to find literal questions – searches that contain the words “Who” “What” “Where” “How” “Why”. You’ll get insight into long-tail searches like, “What time does the mountain open?” – results you are unlikely to have seen otherwise, since it’s rare for two people to type in the exact same question.
- Experiment with how you share insights. Nancy’s team tried a infographic-style poster to present a long-term analysis, and found this helped with 1) Visibility, since people had it up in their cubicles, 2) Reach, as it got shared around departments and 3) Longevity, since people kept it up for so long rather than losing it in their inbox.
- Cindy Lincks from Brooks Brothers talked about her successes in adoption of analytics within the organisation, and attributed it to two things: 1) Conducting regular trainings (for example, how to use Excel) – and not getting discouraged when people don’t show up at first and you have to keep re-running the same training! 2) Working with stakeholders and getting them to present the results of their projects. This allows them to share their successes, and stops Analytics being “that team that comes in and tells you everything you’re doing wrong.”
On top of the great keynotes, sessions and speakers, Summit is always a great time to meet new people and catch up with old friends. Thank you to Adobe for bringing us all together to geek out for a few days in SLC! I’m already looking forward to 2014′s.
Posted Friday, March 8th, 2013 |
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My Adobe Summit Insider partner in crime, Tim Wilson, said it best:
Conferences are definitely like Christmas for nerdy digital analysts – a chance to step outside of your work cocoon, get a new perspective on your current challenges, meet and mingle and generally talk shop. (And for me, it normally includes an annoyingly giddy countdown of the number of “sleeps”, too!)
Next week, I am heading to beautiful Salt Lake City for the Adobe Digital Marketing Summit. Last year’s event was a great from both an educational and networking point of view, with Arianna Huffington‘s keynote probably standing out as a high point for me. (If you want to catch up on Adobe Summit 2012, feel free to check out my old blog post.)
This year I’m most looking forward to attending sessions on attribution, optimisation and personalisation, the importance of storytelling with data (a story that never gets old!), econometrics and marketing, and of course, the keynotes. (C’mon, a BASE jumper is speaking. Admittedly, one of my favourite thing about the Adobe Summit keynotes is the seemingly random keynote speakers, who always end up teaching me something important about digital marketing.)
I’m also really excited to head back to Summit as a ”Summit Insider” again this year, together with Tim “Gilligan” Wilson.
So what exactly is a Summit Insider? Well, we’re there to fill you in on the goings-on at Summit! Tim and I will be live tweeting from the keynotes and sessions we attend, blogging about the event, and generally making sure that anyone who wants to follow Summit can do so, even if they’re not able to attend.
But there’s more - we want to hear from you! While Tim and I will be sharing our perspective, please come find us – we want to hear what you thought of the keynote, what session really got you thinking and what you’re looking forward to learning. We’ll be kickin’ it paparazzi style, so don’t hesitate to tap us on the shoulder – we would love to her from you! Shy? Having a bad hair day? You can still tweet your favourite things about Summit to #AdobeSummit, and we’ll share your thoughts with the world.
You can find Tim and I on Twitter at @tgwilson and @michelejkiss, and follow Summit via the hashtag #AdobeSummit or @AdobeSummit.
Look forward to seeing you all there!
Want to chat to people much cooler than me? The entire Demystified team will be at Summit, so don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you want to talk.
And if you’re a little early arriving in Salt Lake, come check out #UnSummit from 1:00-5:00PM on Tuesday 3/5. UnSummit is a digital analytics peer gathering (think “mini-conference”) with crowd-sourced content. (Aka, attendees are the speakers and we all share knowledge and insights.) I will be speaking about Digital Analytics When Your Website isn’t ‘Top Dog’: How do we, as analysts, truly embrace the larger digital analytics ecosystem to deliver insight in a new world, where brands are increasingly focusing on social, mobile and other channels as their primary efforts, rather than their website. How do we define the right KPIs, rather than resting on “typical” website metrics, and how can we holistically measure campaigns span multiple channels, and even results in offline conversion? (And if that weren’t enough fun, there will be a heavy dose of puppy and kitten photos for all.)
Posted Wednesday, February 27th, 2013 |
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Is your organisation struggling to see the value of digital analytics? Feel like there are a ton of numbers but no tie to business success? Before you throw out your vendors, your existing reports, or your analysts, stop and ask your leaders the following question:
“What makes our digital customer interactions successful?”
- What outcomes make a visit to our website “successful”? Or in other words: What do we want visitors to do?
- What interactions make a download of our app “successful”? How would we like users to engage with it? Do we want them to use it every day? Or do we want long periods of engagement, even if they are less frequently? Is there particular content we want them to use within the app?
- What objectives are we accomplishing with our Facebook page or Twitter account that make them “successful”? Why are we even engaging with customers on social media, and what do we want to get out of it?
That’s not to say there is only one behaviour that defines a success. In fact, there are many, and businesses that interact with all kinds of customers create the need for different measure of success.
In a B2B environment, a “successful visit” for a new customer might be one in which they submitted a contact request. For an existing customer, a “successful visit” might be one in which they found the answer to an issue in your support section. For a content site, a visit might be successful if they read or share a certain number of articles. A CPG business may want visitors to research and compare their products. A successful visit to a restaurant’s website might be one in which a visitor searches for a location.
So if your business is not yet measuring successful customer interactions, how can you start? First, gather your major stakeholders. In a working session, ask for their input on:
- Why does your website / mobile experience / social media presence / etc even exist?
- If we took down the website / our mobile app / stopped engaging in social tomorrow, what would we be losing? What could customers not do, that they can do today?
- If a visitor came in and performed only one behaviour on the site, what would you want it to be?
- If visitors suddenly stopped doing one thing on the site that spelled disaster, what would that be?
What you’re ultimately looking for is, “Why are we doing this, and what will make our business stakeholders happy?” Approaching it from this standpoint, rather than “What goals should we configure in Google Analytics?” allows for critical business input, without getting buried in the technical details of creating goals or setting success events. Once you have this, you have clear objectives for digital analytics to measure against.
Posted Thursday, January 31st, 2013 |
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I am both thrilled and humbled to announce I have joined the Web Analytics Demystified team as the newest partner, adding dedicated analyst services to enhance Demystified’s offerings to clients. I will be helping Demystified clients use analysis to proactively identify business opportunities, as well as developing the right skill sets and teams to generate insights internally. I truly love exploring data and finding hidden opportunities, as well as sharing my knowledge and developing others. I enjoy discussing, writing and speaking about digital marketing and analytics, including contributing to industry journals, podcasts and speaking at conferences.
Prior to Demystified, I worked as a client-side and agency practitioner across a variety of verticals, including automotive, telecommunications and technology, ecommerce, travel, restaurant and entertainment, and home building. I have had an opportunity to work in web, mobile, marketing and social analytics using market-leading solutions.
I am an avid contributor to the digital analytics community via my work with the Digital Analytics Association (I am currently the Co-Chair of the Membership Committee), the Analysis Exchange, where I help mentor budding analysts to provide (free!) consulting to non-profit organisations and of course, Twitter, where you can follow me at @michelejkiss.
On a personal note, I am originally an Aussie (though you wouldn’t know it from speaking to me – the accent is, sadly, long gone, though my stubborn adherence to Australian spelling has persisted), now living in Boston, MA. I am an avid technology and gadget fan, mainly of the Apple variety, and love to explore new digital trends. I am also a certified Les Mills instructor, so you might find me in the gym from time to time!
You can contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or reach me via Twitter on @michelejkiss.
Posted Friday, January 4th, 2013 |
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