Posted on | November 5, 2007 | No Comments
Oh no, another buzzword? Not quite. I’m taking a very close look into why so many large on-line services have a difficult time identifying the needs and preferences of their users.
I’m semi-active in several GNU/Linux user groups, as well as many forums, lists and vendor communities. A significant number of people that I know use a GNU/Linux desktop. What remains is ‘killer apps’ that just don’t come in a flavor suitable for the GNU/Linux OS. So, we virtualize or dual boot.
I was rather curious to see how such users would look in logs, so I did some log sawing on some high traffic web sites that permitted my curious peeking. I have very understanding clients who are kind enough to humor me.
Sure enough, a rather large percentage of tech oriented domain visitors ‘flip-flopped’ frequently.
Most of us would see that and say “Ok, must be some kind of NAT”, when in fact it might be someone with a dual-boot or virtualized schema. At 2:00 PM their hostname indicates Windows XP, at 2:15 Linux i686. Depending on what they are doing, such a visitor might create a log trail that indicates an office with one or two lone GNU/Linux desktops, and 20 or so Microsoft work stations, depending on their use of any given web site.
Cookie based tracking (which privacy groups are currently attacking) is not much help in this kind of scenario, most users who set up advanced desktop configurations (in my experience) flush most cookies upon exiting their browser. We should also take disposable virtual machines into account.
Unless us ‘flip-floppers’ identify our setup to web sites, understanding our preferences will remain sort of a ‘traveling salesman’ problem for those that we visit.
Of course, I have not touched on an increasing number of people using Firefox plug-ins to block third party counters and analytics, I just found this little discrepancy interesting enough to share.