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ACM SIGCHI WWW Human Factors (Open Discussion)


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Date: Tue, 20 Aug 2013 10:19:50 -0400
Reply-To: Christian von der Weth <[log in to unmask]>
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From: Christian von der Weth <[log in to unmask]>
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Dear colleagues,

We would like to announce DOBBS, the DERI Online Browsing Behavior Study -, which is a research tool for understanding the browsing behavior of Web users, e.g., how often they visit a website, how they use their browser, etc. DOBBS is an easy to install add-on for the Firefox and Chrome that keeps track of a user's browsing behavior in a completely anonymous and privacy-preserving way. The collected data will be provided as a public dataset for research purposes.

The motivation behind DOBBS is that new browser capabilities and new interactive (social) offerings have changed the behavior of users on the Web.

For example, a user can now search for information while listing to an online radio station in a background tab and occasionally check the latest, automatically updated, stock data in another browser window and additionally being mobile while doing this, i.e., being influenced by location and context in the physical world. The user behavior has changed from passive consumption of web pages, to immersed, mobile, interactions. This change in interaction style, features new characteristics which are not well understood so far, which is largely due to the lack of meaningful datasets capturing user behavior as server-side data sources, such as Web server access logs or search engines transaction logs, do not provide sufficient information to investigate user behavior in more detail. DOBBS is an effort to create such a dataset in a non-intrusive, completely anonymous and privacy-preserving way through an open source tool and providing a public dataset. We would like to encourage you to use DOBBS and contribute to this effort.

DOBBS provides a browser add-on for Firefox and Chrome which anonymously tracks:

* how often and long users visit web pages

* how people navigate between pages (e.g., by clicking on links or bookmarks)

* how many browser windows or tabs user during a session

* how often users switch between multiple tabs

* how often and how long users are idling, i.e., not actively using
  the browser window

DOBBS protects the privacy of contributors. Most importantly (more infos in [1]):

* no personal data (e-mail address, IP address, etc.) are collected,  transferred or stored

* all sensitive data, i.e., visited URLs, are being encrypted before  transferred and stored, making it impossible to infer the user's  identity, location, and visited web sites.

Benefits of DOBBS

Having deeper insights into the browsing behavior of users would allow scientists from a large variety of disciplines to derive both fundamental and applied knowledge from different perspectives:

* knowledge about how long and how active users visit websites provides implicit feedback about its quality, potentially improving the ranking algorithms of Web search engines.

* knowledge about browsing behavior enables the design and development of new features that improve the online experience of users. 

* understanding how and when users browse the Web also allows for deriving statements on WHY they use it (e.g., for information seeking, entertainment, socializing, etc.), providing further insights into the sociological impact of the Web - that is, how the Web and being online shapes people's lives.

Availability of Data

The collected data is publicly available. Information about the current status of DOBBS and the download information os provided on the project website [1].

Thanks to everyone in advance for contributing,

The DOBBS Team: Christian von der Weth, Manfred Hauswirth


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