Guest author Daniel Mintz is a Campaigns Director at MoveOn.org, and long-time NOI ally and contributor.
Last week saw the first "Culture of Analytics and Optimization" training at NOI, which, as nerdy as it sounds, has been a dream of mine for a while. I've been doing a session at RootsCamp for as long as I can remember called "A Culture of Testing" that grows out of my experience at MoveOn. And over the years, the sessions have always been packed.
As mind numbing as analytics can be sometimes, there's a real hunger out there among organizers for the knowledge and tools to improve our organizing. So after too many years of wishing that we had a day or two instead of an hour, I started talking to Judith and Lola at NOI about the idea of doing a full-on training. They were game and hooked me up with Evan, who masterfully guided me and my fellow trainers through the process of preparing a two-day training.
To get started, I reached out to analytics folks I've worked with in the past and asked if they'd be interested in participating. Everyone was game (though if I'd clued them in on exactly how much work it was going to be, I'm not sure it would have been such an easy sell).
We put our heads together to decide what belonged in the curriculum. It turned out to be pretty straight-forward. We just included everything we wished someone had taught us when we were getting started. That meant sessions on basic statistics, guidance on setting up A/B tests, a rundown on the suite of tools we use for optimization, in-depth sessions on applying metrics to different facets of online organizing, and a session on measuring viral spread. We even included a session on predicting the future (or "projections," as we analyzers call it).
The training itself was great. Participants barely complained as we slogged through statistics and experimental design. And once they got to the fun part-optimizing an online game to create a viral sensation (trainer Jim Pugh created an actual simulator!), analyzing data from a real petition "derby," and projecting the future-they saw why the earlier lessons were necessary. They even seemed willing to forgive us (mostly).
And for us trainers, it was wonderful to see how many folks are excited about joining the community of people who do optimization and analytics. Word is, there was a waiting list this time, and we're full of ideas on how to improve the training for next time. If you might be interested in attending a future training like this, please leave a comment below to let us know! We're trying to gauge interest.
In the meantime, for anyone who's just dying to get up to speed on statistics, I highly recommend Statistical Analysis with Excel for Dummies. And for anyone who's dying to optimize a game, well, I don't think they make a book about that. You'll just have to sign up for the next round of "Culture of Analytics and Optimization," which we're hoping to put on soon.