Thursday, March 23, 2006

Device phone home feature

We've been having an internal debate as to whether or not we want to put a "device phone home" feature in our software to send us anonymous usage statistics. We have good arguments on both sides of this one and we'd like to hear your thoughts.

The basic concept behind the feature is that our software would send us anonymous usage statistics on total number of packets routed, total number of bytes routed, total packets blocked by the firewall, and so forth. We would then aggregate these statistics and put some fancy graph widget on our homepage so everyone could watch the growth (or even decline) of the Vyatta community. Of course, this software feature would be OFF BY DEFAULT and would require human intervention to enable it.

The pro argument for this feature is that it will help us and the community understand how the software is being used. And, it should give future potential community users the confidence to try our software - strength in numbers.

The con argument is privacy. People don't want their network usage statistics monitored by anyone - that is why no-one enables public SNMP on their Internet ports. We'd do our best to make sure the usage statistics came to us from an innocuous source (maybe the loopback IP address or something), but the potential for privacy issues to arise is real.

Your thoughts? Would you be interested to know how the Vyatta community is using the software via anonymous usage statistics or is the privacy concern too great? Please speak up and leave a comment here or feel free to send me an email at allan (at) vyatta.

And in case you are wondering, no, we have not written this feature yet, it is not in the current code base or images we are distributing. We're just talking about this feature right now.


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