Ping architecture and functionality

Ping is an analytics service that enables you to track remote web access across institutional web properties outside of Slate and correlate those accesses with records in Slate. Ping data is aggregated periodically every hour, and Ping access is matched to Slate records every night.

How does Ping capture data?

Ping provides a snippet of JavaScript code which is loaded when a user navigates to web pages on which the code has been specifically placed.

If the user accesses a page using Ping for the first time and has not previously signed in to Slate on that computer, a persistent cookie is sent to the browser. This cookie contains a unique and random identifier that allows accesses from the same computer to be associated with one another. If the user has already accessed a page containing the Ping service or has accessed a resource within Slate, this cookie has already been set and does not need to be reset.

When the page is loaded, basic information about the page is collected (e.g., the URL, the date/time of access) and is sent back to the server when the user leaves the page. As this data is sent when the user leaves the page, the duration of the page access can be calculated and stored. Additional data points, including the IP address and the browser, are also stored. If the user is currently logged into Slate, this user ID is also stored.

Enable Ping

Ping must be enabled to begin collecting data. Ping collects data from two types of sources:

  • Internal, once activated on all Slate pages, including events and applications
  • External, once the Ping code is placed in a webpage's HTML

To enable Ping on all Slate pages:

  1. Click Database.
  2. In the Configurations section, select Configuration Keys.
  3. In the Branding, Privacy, & Ping section, select Embed Ping on Slate Pages. A popup appears.
  4. From the dropdown, select Enabled.
  5. Click Save.

Important!

Enabling Ping on all Slate pages will not include forms.

Enable Ping on the external page on which the form is embedded by following the steps in the procedure below.

To embed Ping tracking on any website outside of Slate:

  1. Click Database.
  2. In the Branding section, select Ping. The page includes a snippet of JavaScript.
  3. Copy the snippet.
  4. In your external webpage or template, open the HTML editor.
  5. Between the <head>...</head> tags, paste the snippet.
  6. Save.

  Where should the Ping tracking code be placed on an HTML page?

While the Ping service will typically function regardless of where on an HTML page the code is placed, we would recommend that the Ping code be placed immediately prior to the </head> close tag. This is the advice, too, of Google Analytics, and it does not matter whether Ping precedes or succeeds Google Analytics or other JavaScript code in the <head>...</head> block.

How does Ping associate a web access with a specific user in Slate?

Ping captures and stores the IP address and unique cookie associated with each web access. In some cases, the user may already be logged in to Slate (e.g., to an application status page), and this identity may also be captured and stored. When a user opens an email sent through Slate or clicks on a link sent by email through Slate, this IP address and unique cookie are also captured and stored. When a user logs in to Slate, this IP address and unique cookie are also captured and stored. In the case of a Ping web access when a user is not logged in, the IP address and unique cookie alone---without any other data---would be insufficient in identifying a specific user in Slate. However, when combined with the data from email opens, clicks, and portal logins, all of which are associated with a specific recipient/user in Slate (an "authenticated event"), accesses through Ping which might otherwise be unidentifiable can be identified to a specific user. The authenticated event does not need to precede the web access recorded by Ping. For example, a user might access a financial aid web page as their first interaction with Ping or with Slate, and then, a month later, click onto a link in an email message. While the initial web page access would not be identifiable at that point in time, when the authenticated event was recorded, that same initial web page access could be identified back to the specific user.

How is Ping different from Google Analytics and other analytics services?

In many regards, Ping is no different than Google Analytics or any other analytics service. Like these other services:

  • Ping sets a cookie and records web accesses, including the page URL, IP address, browser, and cookie.
  • Ping sends this data to a secure server.
  • Ping enables an authorized user to query or report against this data.
  • Ping enables accesses associated with a specific cookie or IP address to be associated with other activities or profiles similarly identified.

Unlike general analytics services which are intended to provide information only in the aggregate, Ping is different in the following ways:

  • Ping uses the profile data from a web access to find matching profile data in authenticated events (email opens, clicks, and application page logins) and associate the web accesses to a specific user based upon this matching profile data.
  • Ping provides a view of the web accesses on a user-by-user basis.
  • Ping provides querying and reporting on a user-by-user basis.
What changes may be necessary to a web site privacy policy?

For organizations residing in the United States, privacy policies for such analytics are not generally required as a matter of law. For organizations residing in a European Union country, the EU "Cookie Law" may direct an organization to disclose their use of cookies. The directive's requirements for an organization using Ping would typically be no different than for an organization using Google Analytics.

This is to say that, in nearly every case, an organization's existing privacy policy, if any, should be sufficient to support the use of Ping, provided that an organization's privacy policy does not explicitly indicate that cookies will never be used to identify a specific user. (Such a privacy policy would likely already be incompatible with Slate independent of any use of Ping, as Slate, like any secure online service, must use cookies to track a login session.)

The techniques used by Ping are used by Google Analytics and commercial organizations throughout the United States and world.

These details do not constitute formal legal advice, and we advise that you consult your general counsel if you have any legal questions.

Does Ping record each web access individually or does it group accesses together?

Each web access is individually captured and stored, enabling detail in a very granular way while also providing the data to be accessed in aggregate.

Does Ping track web accesses to other schools' web pages or to other web sites on the Internet?

The Ping tracking code is unique for each school, and Ping only records web accesses on pages on which it has been specifically placed. The unique random cookie is different for each school using Slate, even if the same student is accessing multiple schools' web pages using the same computer. The Ping tracking code must be placed on each and every web page in order for it to track the accesses to those pages. The Ping tracking code can be added to a header or footer on a web site, enabling it to be run on all web pages on that web site, just as would be the case with Google Analytics or another analytics service.

How is Ping data stored within Slate?

The web accesses are stored in a [ping] table, and query filters and exports are available in the Slate Template Library which will facilitate access to this data within queries.

For how long is Ping data stored within Slate?

As present, there is no mandatory retention policy designated by Technolutions. This may be imposed at some point in the future for data storage or performance reasons. There will also be retention policy targets added to Slate specifically for Ping data.

Can Ping be used alongside Google Analytics and other analytics services?

Yes. Ping will not interfere with any other analytics services.

Will Ping affect the performance of a web site?

Ping is loaded asynchronously and reports its data back to the server asynchronously using sendBeacon method in supported browsers. As these data operations occur asynchronously, there will be no performance impact to a web site, even in a situation where the Ping service may be unavailable or unreachable.

What Filters and Exports are available for use with Ping?

Ping Configurable Exports include:

  • Total Duration (Seconds)
  • Total Count
  • Unique URL Count
  • Last Timestamp
  • First Timestamp

Ping Filters include:

  • Ping by URL
  • Ping Count by Timestamp
  • Ping Count by URL, Timestamp
  • Ping Duration by Timestamp
  • Ping Duration by URL
Can Ping be reported in the aggregate?

Ping Destinations and Sources allow users to drill down into website paths for which Ping is in use. This functionality allows for the aggregate of reporting of counts per pathway, as well as the Source, Medium, and Campaign for each path. A date range may be specified to limit the overall reporting. 

Can Ping be integrated with Facebook Custom Audiences?

Yes, after linking a Facebook Ad account within the Deliver Configuration tool, a query identifying a targeted audience through Facebook Custom Audiences enables integrated ads and analytics between Slate and Facebook.

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