Making decisions is not always easy, especially when you need to decide between the good and the bad, but sympathize with the in-between because you can see the advantages and they seem to outweigh the disadvantages when the product / service is used as intended. I’m not making sense? Well, hopefully it becomes clearer in the next few lines.

I ran across userfly on the ReadWriteWeb blog. It is a new online service which allows you to record a screencast of anybody who comes to your website. That way you can study the user’s behavior while s/he is on your site. This in itself is awesome. You do not need fancy and expensive equipment anymore to do basic usability testing, but you can do it on the fly. However, as you can see in the screencast, every keystroke you make is recorded and played back. Does that ring a bell?

Although I would hate to see anybody misuse this one line of code which is all that it takes to set up userfly on a website, the potential is there. When each keystroke is recorded, it is very easy to spy out passwords. However, there is a solution to that: Use a password manager or copy and paste your password in a browser’s text field. Then only the keystroke “v” will show up, but not the entire password.

Demonstration of userfly on Vimeo.

Tumbarumba‘s problem, to which linked, lies somewhere else. With the Firefox plug-in Tumbarumba you can replace text on a random web page you are viewing with text from a number of short stories. That adds a bit of fun and may be very good for an April Fool’s Day joke or for a session on web credibility. However, it poses a problem because

  • you don’t know on which page the replaced text appears
  • you may not detect the replacement when you only skim the text.

For example, when you take a screenshot of a page, save or print it before reading it in it’s entirety, you may not realize that text was replaced. If you then use that text as reference and quote it with the incorrect text, then that is a problem. Maybe you stumble upon the replaced text because the inserted one is way out of context, but maybe some passages will actually fit. How will you recognize the switched text then?

Tumbarumba was created as “a frolic of intrusions—a conceptual artwork“. Your mind is challenged. However, will you change your on-screen reading habit and read everything carefully?

Tumbarumba demonstration on YouTube

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