|Problems? Is your data what you think it is?|
Re: Does perlmonk.org users are analyzed?by Petruchio (Vicar)
|on Jun 12, 2002 at 22:09 UTC||Need Help??|
This seems like a good opportunity to clarify some matters which may be of interest to the community at large. This will be reposted to a faqlet later.
The site gods have full access to the database, the site code, and the server logs for PerlMonks. Hence, in principle, there is not much they could not do. Other special user groups, such as the editors and power users, have powers which can affect other users, but these powers are constrained by the mechanisms though which the powers are used. Such constraints are not possible for gods, who must often deal with the database directly in the course of development. As far as I am aware, this is the case for the management of virtually all web boards.
On the other hand, it is by far most common even for gods to use handy web-based tools for dealing with site maintenance, and few of these tools would be useful in user tracking. In some instances, provisions have been made to shield sensitive user information from casual inspection; when I must look at a user's variables (an unusual, but not an extraordinary circumstance), for instance, it would be awkward to have the user's password displayed along with the rest. Thus the tool has been altered so as not report the password.
In short, there are no rock-solid safeguards for your personal information or your habits. You should understand this, and make your decisions accordingly.
So much for what can be done. What is done is (assuming you take my word for it) a bit different.
The things which tend to attract the interest of the gods are abusive behavior and votebots. Both the gods and the power users have the ability to temporarily silence people in the Chatterbox, and do so from time to time. This tends to happen seldom, and in response to serious insults or profanity. A reasonably extensive system has been put in place to allow site users to filter for inappropriate content in posts, and though it still happens from time to time, it is seldom necessary for gods to intervene directly. The editors also have some power here, and are able to alter posts or vote for "fast track" deletion. The former happens on a regular basis, though far more often to correct errors than abusive behavior. The latter is customary as a suppliment to the consideration process.
In terms of tracking users, the gods do perform some analyses of records. These are mostly anonymous, thanks to a set of scripts which ar0n has devised, allowing us to single out users with highly unusual use patterns, without having to look at other users' data. In case anyone's not aware at this point, votebots are not permitted on PerlMonks... and while no votebot accounts have been closed yet, they may be in the future.
Overall, it's simply a matter of trust. In my experience, the gods have an ethic which reflects the site's tradition of voluntary self-restraint, and respect for others. In my opinion, the other active gods are trustworthy, principled people. I am happy to tell you that I have no interest in your voting record, as it applies to me or to anyone else. I cannot prove it, however. You must use your own judgement, and decide how open a community you think this is, and whether it's the sort of place you're willing to spend your time.