2012/UK/User Rights

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User Rights

A brainstorming session during IndieWebCampUK 2012.

Archived from:

2012-253 The Engine Room / The Skiff


  • most of the IndieWebCampUK participants!

Discussion leaders:

  • Jeremy Keith (@adactio)
  • ...
  • ...

Broadly speaking, most sites containing user-generated content fall somewhere between the extremes of the Facebook model and the Wikipedia model.

The Facebook model:

  • The data is yours (often very personal). If you want to export it, you should be allowed to do so. If you want to delete it, you should be allowed to do so. The user rights are clear.

Note: in Facebook exports (e.g. you download your data), you get not only your posts, but people's comments/tags on your posts/photos etc.

The Wikipedia model:

  • Data belongs to the community (technically, you own it but you license it). If you want to delete it, it's up to the community to decide. (Even user pages can be nominated for deletion.)

It seems that the Facebook model is actually easier. The Wikipedia model is a bit trickier to make clear to the user.

Licensing is the obvious solution, but that can be a problem if the site has been running for years. Can you retroactively apply a licence to something somebody added years ago? Not really โ€” see Wikipedia's pain issues there.

The nature of the content can also be tricky. If the user has contributed to a "knowledge base" of facts, then it's probably pretty clear that the data doesn't "belong" to the user; it's simply data. But if the content is a comment (somebody's opinion), then the user probably feels more of a sense of ownership.

(Tom remarked that the ability to change your username in Wikipedia alleviated a lot of those concerns โ€” perhaps the ability to change your username at any point should be a user-right for sites that are more along the Wikipedia end of the continuum).

Allowing users to *flag* things for deletion *on a case-by-case basis* may be the best compromise:

  • 1. It gives users a feeling of power: they are actively doing something to get something deleted.
  • 2. It avoids the problem of wiping out large swathes of knowledge just because someone has had a change of heart about one particular entry.

Etherpad chat:

  • 4:23 Tom: "Can you retroactively apply a licence to something somebody added years ago." No.
  • 4:23 Tom: Look up Wikipedia license migration issues to see the massive quantities of pain that causes.
  • 4:24 Tom: OSM license migration was pretty successful: 98% of UK objects have been relicensed.
  • 4:25 Tom: wikipedia's policy on revision deletion: http://enwp.org/WP:REVDEL
  • 4:32 Jeremy: Did OSM retroactively apply licenses or did they have to have a "limbo" state for content that was added in the past but hasn't yet been licensed with the new terms?
  • 4:35 Tom: Jeremy: when people logged in, they had to agree to the new license. if not, at switchover, the old content was removed.

See Also