The Viralogy Offer

Viralogy logoIn this post I will explain what the “Viralogy.com script” thing mentioned in the Broken Link Checker survey was all about, discuss the user response and attempt to verbalize my rather unclear thoughts on the issue.

Viralogy Script

About two weeks ago, I received an offer to bundle a social media tracking script from Viralogy with my Broken Link Checker plugin. This script, which is properly called the “Dynamic Insights Tracker”, tracks the flow of visitors and analyses their preferences and social media activity. If installed on your blog, it would record various data about your visitors and report it back to Viralogy. In turn, this information could then be used to present the tracked visitors with a personalized experience on other sites.

Here’s a simplified example :¬† say you have a ¬†blog about the Kindle and other e-ink devices, and you’ve got the tracker script installed. When someone reads an e-book reader review on your blog, the tracker script will take note of that. If the same person later goes on to visit an e-commerce site that deals in a variety of gadgets, the Viralogy API will enable that site to find out that the visitor might be interested in e-book readers, and present them with a dynamically optimized store page that puts the Kindle front and centre.

Naturally, I have been assured that privacy matters a lot to the people at Viralogy Inc, and that nothing untoward would happen to anyone’s personal information. This seems about as believable as the Google Analytics privacy policy.

What’s In It For Me?

Money. Well, duh.

According to Viralogy, I would receive a small bi-annual payment per each blogger who installs my plugin(s) and enables the script. Given that I still don’t have any reliable statistics on how many people actually use my plugins, it’s not really possible to tell how much cash that would amount to. By a very rough estimate, it could be anywhere from $50 to $5000. This uncertainty vexed me.

What’s In It For You?

Not much.

I’m sure I could make up some plausible-sounding bulshytt about how installing the script demonstrates your gratitude towards the plugin developer, and how having the script installed allows you to express that gratitude without actually giving the dev. any money yourself. And it does sound plausible, now that I think of it. But in the end, the tracker script wouldn’t give you any direct benefits.

The survey results also show a general lack of enthusiasm for third-party scripts :

Q : I have received an offer to bundle a social media analysis script from Viralogy.com with Broken Link Checker. Your thoughts?

Pie chart : Should I include the script?

Include the script - 16%, Don't include the script - 39%

People who chose “Other” mostly asked for more information about the script, or said they would be okay with the script being included if actually enabling it was optional. Of course, it would definitely be optional – that’s the only non-evil way to include the script.

Q : If the aforementioned script *was* included, would allow the plugin to install/enable it?

Pie chart : Would you enable the Viralogy script?

Yes - 39%, No - 61%

Conclusions

Tricky tricky. My gut says “maybe”, so let’s do it the hard way and evaluate the pros & cons of this offer.

Pros :

  • Me : A vaguely defined amount of cash.
  • Users : None.
  • Everyone else : The beginnings of personalized web-browsing. Yes, this is a good thing. It’s also pretty much inevitable in the long-term – if not by Viralogy, then certainly by the future efforts of Google/Amazon/Microsoft.

Cons :

  • Me : Potential for negative publicity. That could even be useful, but meh.
  • Users : None that I can see. The script would be optional anyway, so those who don’ t like it could simply not enable it. Perhaps a minority would have some ideological objections? Either way, the user response was generally unenthusiastic.
  • Everyone else : Another tracking script for paranoid Internet users to worry about. Compare with Google Analytics & co.

The costs are relatively small, and the benefits are likewise not very impressive. Conclusion : Not worth it.

Perhaps some other time.

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3 Responses to “The Viralogy Offer”

  1. This reminds me of the Beacon and the Facebook scandal which was generally received very negatively.

    Combined with the latest concerns about privacy that Bruce Schneier wrote about at http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2010/01/tracking_your_b.html and http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2010/02/anonymity_and_t_3.html, I’d say you shouldn’t go for it, especially without clear upsides.

  2. Ozh says:

    Had the same conclusion upon their offer: not worth anything to users and even might unplease them, and worth nothing to me. Conclusion: no.

  3. David says:

    If the script is optional, what would the user have to complain about? As long as it’s clearly explained, it’s just an extra optional feature.

    Including it either without the user knowing or without the option, now that could gain poor publicity. If that were the case, I’d agree with Ozh & Artem – but it’s not. If you had the ability to terminate the agreement in the future, it would be worth trying and see what happens.

    Good luck!

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