Should there be a "data hygiene" index for software - to indicate how clean the program is? not creating unused temp files, registry entries, environment variables, etc.

For example, look in your users folder in Windows, you'll see all manner of work space files used by your applications.

For example, this makes it hard to know what needs to be backed up and what can be discarded as being machine-generated.

  • My browser history is machine generated. But on the other hand, I do want to back that up.
    – Anon.
    Jan 23, 2011 at 22:32
  • 6
    Leaving stuff in the temp folder is okay, but I agree about monitoring other locations along the lines of "My Documents". It's my documents, App X. Leave your garbage out of it.
    – Adam Lear
    Jan 23, 2011 at 22:32
  • 4
    @Anna Lear: The identity of "my" magically transfers to the one pronouncing it. :)
    – user8685
    Jan 23, 2011 at 22:37
  • 1
    @DeveloperArt: Indeed. One of the greatest loopholes of our times. :)
    – Adam Lear
    Jan 23, 2011 at 22:46

2 Answers 2


Yes, and you should get started on one ASAP.

You can't always blame an application for not cleaning up its mess. Some times users pull the plug on the app.

Maybe the direction should be for an application to have a way to identify the purpose of the files it creates and how long the user/operating system should allow the file to hang around? If it's standardized, running a cleanup routine shouldn't be that much of a problem.

  • +1 Thanks for the encouragement. I think there would be several sub metrics adding up to an overall hygiene score. Jan 23, 2011 at 22:53
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    No need to make it too complicated, but also feel free to get some help.
    – JeffO
    Jan 24, 2011 at 1:32
  • +1 @Jeff O thanks for the offer: it should certainly be a collaborative effort. @Developer Art talks of the security angle, but there are others such as convenience in maintaining a system, keeping it tuned-up, knowing what to back up, making it easily re-deployable by knowing which files are required if the software, say is moved between machines. Jan 24, 2011 at 8:52
  • if you define the criteria in an answer then I could make this the accepted answer. Jan 25, 2011 at 16:18
  • accepted answer as it is succinct response to question. Credit to @Developer Art for the security angle. But the question is not only about security, but maintainability, re-deployability, what to backup, efficient use of resources, reliability, compatibility co-existence with other apps that generate data... Feb 3, 2011 at 12:40

I think that would be a great idea to have that commonly adopted metric. Would provide a clean picture of what a program is capable of.

There aren't any such indexes really, mostly for historic reasons and because people don't care in mass.

The closest thing we've got something like this is the application permissions on Android, that is for mobile devices. When you install an app, it displays in black on white what permissions it requires for operation and it's up to you to approve or deny them.

It still is not an index of application hygiene, rather an index of operation scope and potential threat.

That kind of index if ever pulled off would in practice rely on trust and reputation of a publisher not to distribute secretly an update after the initial version has been presented and tested. The thing is that there is no working and widespread mechanism on consumer PCs to restrict an application or even see what it's doing. By widespread I mean a simple built-in mechanism available and understandable by an average Joe. Yes, there user groups, permission levels and so on but a normal user will get lost there. Something as simple as the mechanism on Android is not available.

We first need to put that sort of protection barrier on each and every PC only then that would that index make sense. Without that mechanism, everything is based on trust - you will trust big ones without an index but you won't trust the small players even with an index assigned to their products.

But a really interesting idea. Seriously. Both hands up.

  • Thanks for response. If we did have one, then one place at least that I think would benefit Open Source projects particulary would benefit because there would be less ambuguity about how to get them to build and run successfully for the non-expert common man and woman on the street. Jan 23, 2011 at 22:49
  • +1 thinking about it for a while, as you touch upon security - another area of benefit, as such residual temp files can reveal activity to an adversary. Jan 23, 2011 at 22:54
  • if you define the criteria in an answer then I could make this the accepted answer. Jan 25, 2011 at 16:18

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