It is an extension of WhoIsOnline: Not only do we want to know who reads the wiki, but also what pages they read, where they came from, where they left to.

For something not based on individual visitors but on wiki communities "watching each other", see RecentShortTermAttentionChanges.

Code: Oddmuse:Big Brother Extension.

Privacy Concerns

Everybody can now track how you browse this site. Does this not disturb you? In times where privacy is ever on the retreat, don't you think that communities should at least protect privacy where this is possible?

"But I called you on friday at home and you didn't anwer but you edited a few pages by that time on community-wiki. I've seen that on community-wiki Who's watching us!" wtf

What I'm trying to express in my words is: "I love it. Do not remove it, please."

I think this is one of the coolest things on the wiki. I just wish the UI had a few changes.

I think it dramatically increases the sense of community. I was surprised at how informative it was. I now see limits in my former vision of ActivityAwareness?- I thought of it more in terms of real-time, immediate, interaction. But with this, I see what people are paying attention to, more generally, as well. I can see what pages people are sniffing. I ask myself: "Now, why is Mattis looking at the MissionStatement pages?" I feel as if I have glimpsed the future of SocialSoftware prematurely.

No, it does not disturb me, knowing that people can see how I browse this site. I wrote a ton of the content myself, anyways.

People are so troubled by privacy on the Internet. But we have so much privacy on the Internet. The hard thing on the Internet isn't privacy- that's easy! And it's well explored territory.

What's really hard, and in many cases technically impossible? Visibility!

It's easy to stay hidden. The hard start is making yourself visible. We have to manually construct bodies for ourselves. It's like if everyone were invisible, and we have to make these atoms and molecules and cells, in order to give ourselves a body so that we can see each other.

As long as people are visible by consent, I think it's okay, no?

Personally, I want to be visible.

I really really really want you, Mattis, Bayle, Christophe, anybody, really, to be able to see me move about and work and do things online. I want maximum visibility.

For now. Should there come a day where I need to trace or hide myself, I want to be able to step out of the light. Go into shadow. Hide completely.

The thing is: The way things are today, the default behavior is to be in the dark, dark, dark, dark shadows. With the slightest bit of effort, you can easyily throw yourself into complete and udder darkness, where nobody can see you.

But you cannot be visible. It's just incredibly hard to do.

Let's shed a little light here.

I think that being able to see each other is the strength behind unifying ourselves on the Internet. We know that SocialSoftware is an awesome thing. And we know that it has to do with being able to see each other. SharedAwarenessSystem, and all. I've read somewhere that any software where you can see other people doing and speaking is a social software. And the more you can see and hear people, the more social it is.

Now, it should be voluntary.

I'd say:

  • If you're logged in with a user name, you are visible. If you want to be invisible, log out.
  • If you're not logged in, you show up as anonymous. It still shows that someone is looking at such-and-such page, but we hide the identity of the person.
  • If you're a bot, we don't list you at all. Observing bots is annoying.

Next, I'd work on the UserInterface.

I think we don't capture enough information about the pages we're looking at. I wish you could see more, about how I'm meandering through the pages.

I wish you could see: "LionKimbro: RecentChangesWhoIsWatchingUsBigBrotherMissionStatementMattisManzel ; RecentChangesApplicationWiki → (offwiki: HyperCard)"

Lots and lots of information.

I'd want the same for anonymous visitors- they would each be an unnamed SerialIdentity. Furthermore, it'd be nice to know where in the world they're coming from. So, you'd see: "Anonymous: http://example.com/foo/bar/ThePublicWebPublicRefineryProcess → (offwiki: DocumentMode)"

What'd be even cooler is if, when you're looking at a page, you could see all the trails that people were taking walking through it..!

For example, if you were looking at ThePublicWeb, and that Anonymous had just walked through it like 3 hours ago– it would draw the trail for that user at the bottom of the page.

"Tracks– Anonymous: http://example.com/foo/bar/ThePublicWebPublicRefineryProcess → (offwiki: DocumentMode)"

So, if we're engaged in a conversation, we can see that we are paying attention to certain pages, certain subpages.

We're having some discussion about ThePublicWeb, and you can see the other person reading up on some relevant section, stuff like that.

I have difficulty putting it into words, but I feel very strongly that this is very useful information.

It's the difference between putting on blindfolds and talking with someone, vs. taking off blindfolds and talking. Suddenly, you can see their ParaLanguage; Their hand signs, doubt or enthusiasm in their face, nervous ticks, detailed studied analysis, contemplations, all these signs. Granted, it's not exactly that. But it's like that.

Right now… As I am typing this, … There is someone anonymous walking around on CommunityWiki. Who is it? They pulled a page just 12 seconds ago…

This is really interesting information.

And far more interesting if I know who it is. If MattisManzel and EmileKroeger are around at the same time as I am – that's very interesting. Especially if we're hovering around the same set of pages.

We should have some kind of IRC gateway, to #wiki, or #communitywiki if we get to be too annoying, on the RecentChanges page…

About privacy : I don't 100% agree with logged in == "I agree to be big-brotherized". Maybe there should be an option "always echo as anonymous on the radar, even when logged in". Maybe by putting "CategoryInvisible?" on your homepage. I don't mind being under the scrutiny of BigBrother (well, it does disturb me a tiny bit, but Lion has some very good points), but I don't think imposing it by default, or tying it to another feature (logging in) would be very cool. It could creep out some people and scare them away. If people don't want to echo, it isn't a big problem either.

On the other hand, I can't imagine myself obsessively watching the bigbrother page.

Heck, I wonder if this couldn't be redirected to an irc channel :

>EmileKroeger has come to WhoIsWatchingUs from http://www.liberalsareevil.com/bigbrotherwatch/
>EmileKroeger is reading RecentVisitors
>EmileKroeger is reading RecentChanges
>EmileKroeger is reading ApplicationWiki
>MattisManzel has come to RecentChanges from Google:communitywiki
>EmileKroeger is editing WhoIsWatchingUs
>MattisManzel is reading WhoIsWatchingUs
>EmileKroeger has edited WhoIsWatchingUs (link visitors and big brother actions| cool, individual based and
>   wiki based list. repeated my privacy concerns.  i'm planning to remove visitors and bigbrother actions.
>   Lion: "Whoah there! Let's reconsider..." | IRC channel ?)
>EmileKroeger is editing WhoIsWatchingUs
>EmileKroeger has edited WhoIsWatchingUs (minor edit)

… anyway, yeah, maybe it can give some interesting ParaLanguage.

Clearly there is a full spectrum of opinions regarding the questions of Privacy (although I might be predisposed to see this because I am incredibly sensitive to this subject as a result of some of my other activities).

I think it is worth remembering that "The internet is a very big place." and that there are times when Privacy is desired and times when it should not be respected. Combining these two thoughts, I would suggest that it is likely that sites will emerge at one end of the spectrum that support absolute visibility and that others will strive for complete Privacy. Eventually, sites will probably declare their (default) position on this subject just as they now try to incorporate a MissionStatement. That way, members and especially visitors, will be guided regarding what their expectations in these matters should be. Then, individuals can decide if their current needs are best satisfied in public or private forums and use the one that is most appropriate at the momen, and for a particular purpose.

In the mean time, I find the experimentation being done here to be extremely helpful in understanding what is technically possible and what others see as the possible consequences of such developments.

/me shrugs.

Feel free to display which pages I'm reading on CommunityWiki to others. I don't care.

I see that some people do care. Perhaps those people could suggest some intermediate steps between fully-visible and nearly-fully-cloaked. I hope there are ways of aggregating information to develop a WikiFeatures:QualityIndicator . Other people are interested in the read-to-write ratio of wiki. I'm hoping that at least some information can be made visible to answer some of these questions, in ways don't scare away people.

I agree with HansWobbe that a variety of kinds of sites is probably better than insisting that one particular level of privacy is the only appropriate level for every web site.

DavidBrin (in TransparentSociety) argues that the problems resulting from some information becoming public can sometimes be fixed by making even more information public. Can that idea be applied in this case? Would people be more accepting if the "big brother" page could only be read by people who are logged-in, so the fact that they were reading that page also became public?

What do we gain by that?

It seems to me that the best thing to do is make sure that everybody has access to the same information.

Some good points made by Lion up above. I'll go along with it for the moment. ;) I will need to check the stuff about adding an opt-out option. Not sure yet, however: Until recently we offered different kinds of services:

  1. browse anonymously
  2. edit pseudo-anonymously
  3. edit with a username
  4. let other people know when you last visited the site if you edited with a username

Now we have:

  1. browse anonymously
  2. edit pseudo-anonymously
  3. edit with a username
  4. let other people know when you last visited the site and what pages you looked at if you edited with a username

I'm not sure this slight difference warrants an extra options. I agree with Hans here – this might go into the MissionStatement.

I worked on Self:action=visitors and did away with the big-brother action. Check it out and let me know what else we can do.

Remembering what external referrer brought people here might be possible; remembering what site people left to will be tricky unless we let all outbound links redirect via the script – and I think that's annoying.

Similarly, it should be possible to list on page X all the page trails that went through page X at that particular moment. I'm just not sure we really want this.

InformationDensity?! Perhaps it should be sectioned by "time-ago."

Within the last 30 minutes…

…and then so on and so forth. Within 30 minutes, within 1 hour, within 3 hours, within 12 hours, within 24 hours.

It seems that there's a lot we could do with this.

Further, I believe we should link it from RecentChanges.


I'm too late to see what "bigbrother" did, but what "visitors" does now is cool.

I do think that there should be an "invisible" option in the user cookie.

I'm also excited about the possibility of writing remote services that re-process the information from "visitors" in different ways.

This is an interesting topic… I find it funny how this feature affects the way I browse this site, and that's why I understand the concern for privacy… But I think it's perfect for a community wiki, because this is like a meeting place, and how can you meet someone if the person is hidden? Like LionKimbro said, it brings on something from the RealWorld that is absent on the net, a kind of context to the person…

And… Should it be voluntary? I'm not so sure… There's always the option of remaining anonymous, so technically it is voluntary, but of course, being anonymous limits the capacity to edit pages… But even then, I'd say if you're "logged in" then you should be visible, it seems more honest to me this way… Otherwise the feature is not very useful to see what pages people visit, and it's not fair to the rest of the people that remain visible…

As it has been said, the privacy level should depend on the site itself. Some kinds of sites do not specially benefit from the openness, some sites need to be private, and some sites benefit if the users are visible, like this one… the only thing is that users maybe would have to be warned about it when they sign in with their names…

BTW, I like LionKimbro's suggestion, it would make it easier to assimilate the information…

I don't think in this case it's "unfair" for some to opt to be invisible – although I would stay visible by choice I doubt I'd feel put upon if others did not (although maybe I'd try to convince them to), provided that at least a good-sized group was visible. I think being visible would be more of a fun thing than a responsibility anyway.

Anyways, I think the invisible option would allow us to be more welcoming to newcomers, and more welcoming to different sorts of people (i.e. the sort that doesn't want to be visible), thereby "broadening our horizons".

I think a nice middle ground would be an easy way to be stay logged in with your name but appear as anonymous in the visitors listing instead of not appearing at all. This way we still see what pages are being read right now the most by all the users… This is possible now, but a bit tedious (log out, browse, log in to post, log out, browse…) this way it makes it easier for people that don't want to be seen…

What could the services be that sprout out of the fact that we can see what traces people are taking on community-wiki? I imagine a map of the pages here. I imagine setting a time interval you can choose freely, say July 15th to July 24th, click, and it shows you what readers have been looking at more bold than what nobody has been looking at. The more looked at the more bold the page title gets. Or you use color. Blue for pages rarely looked at, more violet for the more a page has been looked at and red for the page looked at the most of all in the respective time intervall (maybe exclude the page recent changes from the map?). Interesting should be also the traces readers take. What link from what page to what page has been followed most often in a given time intervall? On the map draw this line more bold or in a different color. The direction readers move is interesting too. A little arrow getting bolder when people follow a link in one direction only. …
This would take us pretty straigth into stigmery. Just we do not behave ant-like and use pheromones, we use our eyes. Homo s. s. is an eye-animal.

One thing that I feel makes a bit of sense now that I've gained a bit of expereince with …visitors, is that I should do something like add a comment to my home page, advising people of whether or not I have chosen the 'visible' option that is being suggested. I'm not sure why I feel this might be needed, but I clearly remember thinking long and hard about adding my picture to various web sites. Ultimately, I decided that the benefits were greater than the risks. The same type of quandry appears in this case of 'who is watching'. I certainly understand why people would want to be able to choose, and I believe that they should declare such a choice, in spite of it being possible for others to infer this.

By the way; Alex, I feel this really is an impressive piece of work (Neat!) that has some interesting implications for various communities.

I noticed that if you browse only the diffs, it gets recorded as "some action" in the visitors log. I suggest that it actally note the page name when a diff is browsed.

I now store both URL and pagename, instead of picking one or the other. The new drawback is that you won't notice the difference between visiting foo, foo's diff, raw foo, and foo's history unless you examine the target URLs. I guess that drawback is smaller, however.

Something strange: I went directly to the visitors page here from OddMuse, but it showed that I had just read RecentChanges… Maybe it read my mind because that was just what I was about to do :) still….

Related Links

Define external redirect: CategoryInvisible InformationDensity ActivityAwareness

EditNearLinks: UserInterface DavidBrin DocumentMode WhoIsOnline BigBrother SerialIdentity HyperCard RealWorld ParaLanguage