Pierrick on Piwigo

Piwigo is the open source photo gallery for the web

Phone Home or when an application sends data back to mothership

Phoning home is the act of sending data from an application to its mothership. For example when WordPress sends your hosting server PHP version to wordpress.org.

Recently on the Piwigo project, we checked new versions of the technical components we rely on, such as jQuery or Smarty. Smarty 3.0 is available and P@t has started to work on it. Unfortunately, he realized that the minimum requirements was PHP 5.2. Unfortunately we (folks at Piwigo.org) have no idea  about how many Piwigo installations are running on PHP prior to 5.2. Then came the idea to anonymously send PHP/MySQL versions to piwigo.org when a Piwigo fetches the list of available plugins on piwigo.org. The coding part is simple, just a few additional POST parameters.

To make things perfectly transparent for Piwigo team and Piwigo community, I opened a topic on the forum automatic survey on PHP/MySQL versions, no evil and I admit I was not expecting the reactions. I don’t say that I don’t like to meet opposition, because this is the way we can build something better, I was just not expecting the reactions. Even if we only send anonymously technical details about hosting (PHP/MySQL version), and not things like user email or gallery URL, some of us did not feel comfortable with that. And I consider that if a few Piwigo team members don’t feel comfortable with that, then it may be badly seen by people outside Piwigo team as well! Because we couldn’t agree on the right way to do it, and because this is only a tiny feature with no added value for the user, I’ve decided to remove this feature under preparation.

Just to compare:

  1. WordPress sends the blog URL, the current theme, the language, the PHP version, the MySQL version, the WordPress version to wordpress.org. Read more on WordPress Phone Home & Privacy (and you can’t deactivate that with just a configuration setting)
  2. Apache, by default, when you reach a 404 not found page, shows the Apache version, the SVN version, the  PHP version, the Python version (depending on Apache modules you installed). OK it is not Phoning Home, but Apache offers this information to anybody.

I don’t blame WordPress (or Apache) at all. I think it’s interesting to know what is done on one of the best known opensource web applications. If WordPress could make its PHP/MySQL statistics public, then Piwigo wouldn’t need to create its own phoning home feature!

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Written by plg

December 16, 2010 at 9:56 pm

Posted in piwigo.org

4 Responses

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  1. Hi Plg,
    interesting question,
    new user to piwigo, I intend to use it massively as it expects most of my expectations
    Your point make totally sense, and it’s interesting to see how other projects in general and openSource in particular answer to this question
    Seeing Thunderbird, Eclipse, Filezilla .. all use the same method :
    in the setup process, or at the first run, they propose the option to send back some data anonymously. If you manage to explain that :
    – it is really anonymous, by showing an example of sent data
    – it won’t harm the bandwith, showing the size of data
    I’m sure most of the user will be convinced to let this option checked.
    Even if you have a dropdown of 50% , you will still have a significative amount of users to have accurate data.
    It’s more than essential for a product owner to know the technical equipment of his users. As a CTO of a quite big website, the stats on user’s equipment (resolution, browser, ..) were checked at least every week, and we were adapting the website based on these informations.
    And these informations were sent by the browser, which all send these informations to the website, without every internet user on the planet (excepted a few mega-geeks) being shocked about this.

    – Arno

    Arno

    January 15, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    • Hi arno,

      > in the setup process […] If you manage to explain that :
      > – it is really anonymous, by showing an example of sent data
      > – it won’t harm the bandwith, showing the size of data

      I think it’s a bit too complicated and may be seen as aggressive for many users. The installation process or first steps of use must be as simple as possible and should not annoy users with questions that are useless for them.

      The “problem” is that 99.5% users don’t care about that but the remaining 0.5% may care very much and want to deactivate any feature that sends data if it’s not necessary for their personal use. And I understand that.

      I would really like wordpress.org to publish their result concerning PHP and MySQL version. If WordPress already does it, Piwigo doesn’t need to (considering that WordPress is currently much more popular than Piwigo)

      plg

      January 18, 2011 at 11:32 pm

  2. >The “problem” is that 99.5% users don’t care about that but the remaining 0.5% may care very much
    >and want to deactivate any feature that sends data if it’s not necessary for their personal use. And I
    >understand that.
    Sure ! So why don’t you activate it by default, and let the 0,5% deactivate the beacon with unticking an obvious beacon checkbox in the admin ? (Those who care are those who will check every and any admin option)

    Arno

    January 19, 2011 at 8:39 am

  3. […] months ago, in post Phone Home or when an application sends data back to mothership, I said: If WordPress could make its PHP/MySQL statistics public, then Piwigo wouldn’t need to […]


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