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
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
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
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