Know the Code

The Question of the Hour…

After reading the post on Robyn’s site about opting in to Blogshares and opting out of it, I realized something…

When I ping, who can use that data? Can anyone use it? What can they use it for? Obviously, I’ve agreed to have my site listed there because I ping it … but what about all the other sites that then parse that data for their own use? Is there a list of everyone that uses it and what they are doing with it?

Anyone know? Some uber-techno-geek out there that has developed stuff with it? Anyone? It’s an XML feed, I can pull it in to my news reader, but what else is going on with that data?

By Christine

Christine is an Avenger of Sexiness. Her Superpower is helping Hot Mamas grow their Confidence by rediscovering their Beauty. She lives in the Heights in Houston, Texas, works as a boudoir photographer, and writes about running a Business of Awesome. In her spare time, she loves to knit, especially when she travels. She & her husband Mike have a food blog at Spoon & Knife.

6 replies on “The Question of the Hour…”

I think it would be hard to find out exactly who is using the data, just like it would be hard to see who’s using your rss feed and for what (checking it in a reader? or syndicating it on their site?) unless of course you went through your logs and checked for everyone who requested the file then went to see what they did with it (assuming if it was a webserver requesting it and it has the same hostname/ip as the website)

or maybe I’m totally off the ball here..

I would think that Dave Winer could tell from his logs how people are using it. More important, I find it interesting that there is *nothing* on the site telling people how they can and can’t use the data. I suspect it is actually a free-for-all, and not just for blog updating tools as Robyn said in her post.

Sort of scary when you stop and think about it, isn’t it? Unless you just don’t care about that sort of thing, which is actually the group I tend to fall into. Google can spider me, people can use my RSS feed, whatever. But if you don’t like that sort of thing, then it’s something to consider every time you ping.

Indeed – I mean it’s obvious to me at least that if I’m posting my site on a pretty well known “blog update portal” – i’m opening myself up to a lot of visitors and other sites using that data. However, maybe for the people who aren’t aware that that ping data is being used by others, a general disclaimer/privacy policy might be a good idea (perhaps I should e-mail Mr. Winer about that).

But could you really tell how people are using the data from server logs? or wouldn’t they just tell you that the file’s being requested…and you’d have to track down the request to see how that site was implementing it?

The data from the logs can most certainly be analyed to “tell” what’s going on. Combine it with a bit of indexing and spidering of other sites and you can most certainly tell who’s reading what. There don’t appear to be many people doing this… yet.

You post an article, that’s one link. Pings are made, making new links. Timestamps exist for them so we’ve got a temporal fix as well. Do some geo-ip lookups and you can tell location. Now, spider the referal links your site provides and you can see who else linked into it. Ditto on comments and trackbacks. Extend that out to the linked sites. A very big picture starts to emerge.

Now, what does that picture mean? It would depend on the answer you want. On one level some idiots will try to take it out of context to support some harebrained perspective they espouse. RSS/XML has seen one particular vendor do this time and again.

So the question becomes will people refrain from exposing data because of what the idiots will do with it? I sure hope not. Because once the data is out there it becomes possible to build a /true/ big picture. Right now we’re at the mercy of a things taking only short-sighted approaches based on short-term data. As more stuff comes online it becomes possible to build bigger pictures. As a result the short-sighted perspectives are exposed for the junk they espouse. But unless the good data gets shared the bad data will outnumber it.

Yes, this is a terrifyingly risky process. To share ones use of the net and links to data poses all sorts of exposure risks. As more people expose data the one’s that don’t will become obvious. Turning things against them will be a lot easier.

It’s sort of like income tax records. They’re all public. I can find out what you made last year simply by following the law and asking for it. We do this to politicians as a way to expose hidden agendas. Those that don’t expose this info are made to look suspicious; what’re they hiding?

This will certainly get worse before it gets better.

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