Several times lately I’ve caught myself over-thinking just a bit while typing online. For example, just this week I typed in a tidbit of info, an answer to a question, as a reply on a friend’s status update in Facebook, only to delete it without clicking the Reply button. Once it was in response to a post about countertop materials. Another time it was a query about the best Mac money management software as a replacement for MS Money. Both times, I checked myself because I realized that I didn’t want Facebook to have knowledge about my opinions or preferences! Now, those that know me would say that I’m normally very open and giving with information online. I love sharing my experiences. But lately I get the willies when I’m on the Facebook site and think of the enormous amounts of data they have about me.
You may scoff at such a realization – especially since I’ve been blogging for five years. But somehow my blog is different. I own the archives, I know how to take down posts, and though they are likely forever archived on the ‘net somewhere, I feel a little more control over their availability. With Facebook, I have no control over their storage or retrieval of my opinions.
Funny thing is, what I’ll often do if I still want to give my friends a bit of info or advice, I’ll hop over to… wait for it… GMail. Why do I trust Google with these tiny tidbits of information about myself and not Facebook? I’m not sure I know the answer yet, but I think about it more and more lately.
Affecting Online Help Statistics
Now, with my blog, I nearly always bring my thinking around to, how does this affect online help? I recently presented at the WebWorks RoundUp here in Austin, and was excited to hear about their new product, WebWorks Reverb. But one audience member asked a great question during my talk about web analytics. “How will data collection be affected if Congress passes a law that regulates how much information can be collected from a browser?” It’s a great question. In fact, just this week, browser maintainers Mozilla (Firefox) and Google (Chrome) have made privacy plugins available that give users the ability to select websites where they do not want to be tracked – using a header indicator, not by blocking cookies or scripts.
Here’s my take on where we stand today as we collect information about our online help and user assistance sites.
What do you think? Are you more aware of the data you’re giving away about yourself? Are the trade-offs worth the data transaction?