So, I've been developing some analytic software at my work and also have started to take more notice to analytics in general. For instance, I recently installed Google Analytics on my blog(which is custom and open source).

I mostly make open source software outside of work, so I think it might be cool to be capable of gathering some form of usage data and such on how my tools are used, opt-in only of course. However, this seems to almost never be done. Why? What's with the taboo of analytics in open source software?

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    Firefox sends Health Reports and software-properties-gtk has a "Submit statistical information" option, so you should probably moderate the heading. – l0b0 Jun 12 '13 at 7:40

Some people do - see the recent spat between LibreOffice and OpenOffice over who had more users (based on downloads).

But the problem is such stats are only vague indicators - I have downloaded lots of software that I never use, or only use once. Then there;'s the privacy aspect, many people will turn off usage reports (even products like Office ask you).

Ohloh has some stats on FOSS products, some of them might be of interest to you.

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  • For analytics, I mean in-application analytics like "oh, you used this way to get to that menu more often than that way... I guess I could remove support for the less common way" and such – Earlz Jun 12 '13 at 13:50
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    Many of us , opensource users hate being tracked , thats why we using opensource software. – Phyo Arkar Lwin Jun 12 '13 at 15:12
  • @Earlz - you mean like MS does in its Office app so they can then tell us how their new interface gives us all the things we used to easily do, only now in a more difficult way :) – gbjbaanb Jun 13 '13 at 7:40
  • @gbjbaanb haha , QFT! I believe they track our usae mainly to sell to NSA :D – Phyo Arkar Lwin Jun 18 '13 at 12:29

Web analytics are ridiculously easy to implement (the server already collects all of the necessary information on which pages are hit), and there was a lot of financial incentive to develop them (since they can directly impact how much business a company gets from their web site), so they took off and have received a lot of development effort to make them easy to use and ubiquitous.

Desktop software (both open source and commercial) has a few obstacles compared to this:

  • Harder to implement - Information isn't automatically collected, so you'll likely have to add some tracking calls yourself.
  • More privacy concerns - It's something that users have to opt in to.

Additionally, analytics aren't always as useful as they first appear:

  • If feature A is used more than feature B, is it because B isn't as useful, or is it because B is too hard to use, or is it because not enough people know that B is there?
  • I suspect that desktop analytics would be harder to interpret. Analytics require interpretation (statistical analysis, visualization, etc.). For the web, companies like Google have commoditized analytics: there was enough financial incentive to justify the effort to make the data so easy to understand that anyone can easily benefit from it. This hasn't happened for desktop software; even if you could get the raw data, interpreting it would be more work.

Open source software in particular has the reputation (stereotype) of not giving a lot of attention to usability, so it's not surprising that it hasn't used a (relatively) advanced usability technique.

With that said, some desktop open source software does to analytics. For example:

  • Firefox has telemetry (usage tracking), health reports, and crash reporting.
  • ToME (an open source computer game) tracks player statistics and uses it to help balance gameplay.
  • Debian and Ubuntu have popcon to track which packages are used.

In each case, the projects are large enough to be able to afford the difficulty of implementation (Firefox), or already have an online component (ToME and popcon) and so can more easily overcome the implementation and privacy concerns.

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We , FOSS Advocates hates beings tracked. We feel that is breach of Privacy. Thats why we using Linux instead of Proprietary OSes and Chromium instead of Chrome (just Edward Snowden Leaked how much we are being tracked not just by Internet Giants , but also by Microsoft and Apple.

Tracking inside Opensource software is useless and We will fork it and make a Track-less version anyways. So whats the point?

Call us freaks , we do not even trust Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome so we use forked version of those eg : For Firefox www.geticeweasel.org , for chrome : http://www.srware.net/en/software_srware_iron_download.php

Users of source base distros like gentoo , compiles from sources only. Experts goes as far as reading lines of code of the software they using before even compile.

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    I understand this viewpoint. However, not everyone feels the same way, and for the people that don't feel it violates their privacy, I'd like to know how the software is actually used, rather than just what issues people are reporting or whatever. I understand people can fork it and remove it (or simply not opt-in).. I wouldn't try to stand in the way of that, but for the people who don't care about some analytics being collected, I'd like to collect them – Earlz Jun 12 '13 at 17:31
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    The biggest problem I see with it is that analytics receiving servers are normally centralized and "private". I can't just go and download the usage data for firefox for instance. This, in my opinion, kind of violates the whole open source philosophy that everyone is /relatively/ on level ground. Keeping analytics locked away is like leaving out a crucial document to understanding the program – Earlz Jun 12 '13 at 17:36

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