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Wanted: GA Analysts who don't do Regular Expressions

Do you do this Regular Expression stuff in Google Analytics? If you don’t, I would really like your help. (Sorry, this is for newbies only.)

I worked with the documentation pros at GA to improve the Help Center documentation on Regular Expressions, but I can no longer look at it through newbie eyes. I still worry that the uninitiated will read and and think, “Huh?” but maybe I am wrong. I wrote another article, but the documentation people said, “Robbin, we think we have enough.” And maybe they are right. (That’s the part that I don’t know.)

So please go to this page in the GA Help Section (if you are new at it), and send me email, telling me how new you are to this, and whether it made enough sense for you to be able to get started with Regular Expressions. Send me email so that others won’t be influenced by your thoughts. Remember, the less you know about this, the more valuable your thoughts are.

Robbin Steif

About Robbin Steif

Our owner and CEO, Robbin Steif, started LunaMetrics ten years ago. She is a graduate of Harvard College and the Harvard Business School, and has served on the Board of Directors for the Digital Analytics Association. Robbin is a recent winner of a BusinessWomen First award, as well as a Diamond Award for business leadership.

http://www.lunametrics.com/blog/2008/05/09/wanted-ga-analysts-who-dont-do-regular-expressions/

7 Responses to “Wanted: GA Analysts who don't do Regular Expressions”

Nathan says:

I would build out more around “what is a regular expression”, “why someone would want to use them.” I did a quick search for “regular expression” in the help center and your article was one of the first to come up. Why hit hits on “what” it doesn’t go far enough into the “why”…particularly why regular expressions exist.

I’m not new to using GA, but am really new to setting up GA (especially customizing the code to gain or exclude data)

Pearce says:

I would like to make a nit picky comment that when you say, “What are regular expressions?” your first line should be the answer. i.e Regular expressions are special characters that match or capture portions of a field, as well as the rules that govern all characters.

Which is actually a confusing answer, I am new so i do not know what would be better but as of that I do not understand what a regular expression is, or what it can do. I look down and I understand it is the criteria for filters in GA. But that is about it.

Here is the wikipedia definition that I understand better after reading it:
regular expressions provide a concise and flexible means for identifying strings of text of interest, such as particular characters, words, or patterns of characters. Regular expressions (abbreviated as regex or regexp, with plural forms regexes, regexps, or regexen) are written in a formal language that can be interpreted by a regular expression processor, a program that either serves as a parser generator or examines text and identifies parts that match the provided specification.

Regular Expression are so powerful but can be very complicated. It’s a good thing Google tries to explain them, but in my opinion you always want an expert to look at them.

steve says:

@André: I disagree on “always want an expert to look at them”. Sure when you’re beginning it can be useful to cross check your understanding with someone else, but IMNSHO, the biggest part of learning is learning from your own mistakes. And speaking personally, even “experts” get it wrong. :-)
Cheers!

Alex B says:

I do use regular expressions so I’m not your target here, but have you considered reading through the documentation/explanations of similar tools for inspiration? For all I know you have already done this, but tools such as grep have so much written about them that I can’t imagine a good description doesn’t exist somewhere.

Robbin says:

Nathan, even though you posted instead of sending email, people send me email and reference your comment (so I left it.) Pearce, that is a good thought, and if I can get that help center article changed, maybe that is the way to go. I often wonder if it should say, “Regular Expressions are a programming capability that live inside Google Analytics; they are there to use if you choose to.” Andre and Steve, I considered writing, “So this request isn’t for RegExperts like you,” but decided to stay away from that…. Alex, thank you for your thoughts. The issue is not about me learning it, it is about me teaching it. And I don’t worry abut people who grep, I think about people who say, “Now what is this Regular Expressions stuff?”

Alex B says:

Robbin, I understand that but I wasn’t very clear. What I meant is that since grep is for regular expressions, reading what people wrote about grep could provide a good basis for determining how to describe them. For example, what is grep? Read what people have written about grep, and you might have your answer for how to describe regular expressions. Could be wrong, but it’s worth a shot.

Sorry for the confusion.