John Chamberlain
Developer Diary
 Developer Diary · You Heard It Here First · Friday 23 January 2004
Opt In Spying
Our group at decided on opt-in spying, not one of the choices in yesterday's Developer Diary for our future products (the current version is too near to release to include it). In this scenario users will be asked when they first use the program if they would like to help us collect metrics and usage information from their use of the program as this will allow us to report our product's usage to funding agencies. Funding agencies like to know things like how many people use software that they pay to have developed.

A bigger question was what information to collect. I originally planned on collecting three summary counts for key activities in the program and sending a datagram when the program is started or stopped. This is lightweight approach that collects the minimum useful info. The company founder however thinks that as long as we are going to get the user's permission, we ought to snarf the whole ball of wax, the status logs which will tell use basically every move they do as well as any errors or warnings that occur. Not only that he wants to add a questionnaire that will profile the user ("Are you a 45-year-old, balding geophysicist from Boise, Idaho, with a satellite imagery fettish? If so, please check box 1.") I can just see our phone-book-thickness usage reports getting shipped off to NASA now.

By using opt-in (with a 60-day nagware feature, hee, hee) we probably cannot expect more than 5% response, but at least we will get full information on the 5%. It will be like the Nielsen families.

Are we pursuing a legitimate path to public software development or is it creeping Microsoftianism? You be the judge.

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