Jeff Jarvis has a post entitled A principle: I have a right to know when I am read which is somewhat charming in its naivaté. He writes

How about this as a fundamental principle of content and conversation on the internet:

I have a right to know when what I create is read, heard, viewed, or used if I wish to know that.

That is my followup to the whine about RSS — and content — caching below.

If this simple principle were built into applications — not the internet, per se, but in how readers and viewers work — then caching and P2P, which both serve creators by reducing bandwidth demand, would not be issues. This also would help those who want to make use of advertising (though actually serving ads is a different matter).

I’d like to see this as a technical add-on to Creative Commons: Distribute my content freely, please, on the condition that you allow applications to report traffic back to me. And applications designers should build such reporting in. The creator is still free not to require this and the end user is still free not to consume those things that require ping-backs. But simple traffic reporting is at least common courtesy.

I  can understand where Jeff is coming from with this post. However that doesn't change the fact that it betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of how the Web has worked for over a decade. The results of Web requests being cached by intermediates between the user and target web server is a fundamental aspect of the design of the World Wide Web. From intermediate proxy servers at your ISP or your corporate network right down to your Web browser, caching Web requests is a fundamental feature. This reduces the load on target Web servers and leads to a better user experience due to increased page loads.  A consequence of this is that web site owners most often have an inaccurate view of how many people are actually reading their web site. All of this is explained in several writings from last decade such as Why web usage statistics are (worse than) meaningless and Understanding web log statistics and metrics.

Not being able to tell how many people are really reading your web site is a consequence of how the Web works. The only difference now is that instead of HTML, the discussion is about RSS feeds.  It's cool that some Web-based RSS readers provide readership numbers to website owners as part of their HTTP request. However this is a courtesy that they provide. Secondly, even if all Web-based RSS readers provide readership stats there is still the fact that traditional HTTP proxy servers don't. Is my ISPs proxy server sending back how many times its served cached requests for Jeff's feed back to him? I doubt it. I also am pretty sure that the proxy servers at my employer's don't either.

As for technical add-on to Creative Commons license? I'd be interested to see what kind of lawyering would produce a license that gives Jeff what he wants without requiring changes in every proxy server on the planet. 


 

Monday, November 28, 2005 6:35:03 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Can't HTML pages force or at least request a "no-cache"?

Let's face it, the dirty little secret of RSS is that it has caused content creators to informally give up their copyrights. Given the minimal value of the average blog post, it's not that big a deal now.
pwb
Monday, November 28, 2005 8:11:44 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
That's an odd right that Jeff's asserting: when in history have authors ever had the knowlege that their work was being read, and by whom? I'd disagree with the assertion that weblog authors give up copyrights, except in the strictest sense. Republishing without attribution is still illegal or at least unethical. People may have specific objections, like presenting news along with context-based advertising, but I don't think that using a web based aggregator or reading news on multiple machines necessarily involves an act of copyright infringement.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005 7:28:07 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Perhaps we need to retrofit all books with tiny RFID devices that can communicate with embedded devices in the eyeballs of every human. That way, when I read an article Jeff writes over the shoulder of someone else, he'll know. Oh yes, Big Brother will know.
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