Right, let's see if I can phrase this properly without looking like I'm bitching and moaning or without talking complete nonsense. I didn't want to bring it up at the beers, because frankly that's a stupid time to talk to admins about this kind of stuff. They just want to have beer too.
I'm not talking about privacy here in terms of boards's legal obligations. That's irrelevant.
There seems to be some general concern, not about the direction necessarily that boards is heading, but about the implementation of new functionality after upgrades and the likes. Specifically about the volume of links which can be made between a poster, their activity on boards, and their other activities on the web.
First and foremost, the inclusion of "social networking" functions seems to be drawing the most ire. Cloud will hate me for saying this, but boards.ie is not a social networking site and never will be. Myself and 150,000 other posters didn't sign up to boards as a social networking site. We signed up to boards to participate in boards. If we want social networking, we'll go to social networking sites, who are now miles ahead down the road on that bandwagon.
I don't know what the current idea of social networking is going to evolve into, but as far as I can see, boards.ie has missed the social networking 1.0 boat. That ship has sailed and bebo, facebook and myspace are taking up all of the seats.
I think for each upgrade, you need to examine the new functions and by all means include them, but make them opt-out by default. If I want visitor messages, then I'll tick that box. If I want to participate in social groups, I'll tick that box too. But I'd prefer if I wasn't getting spammed or stalked by other members without first having agreed to it.*
Other things like PMs and ignore lists have been around for donkey's years and I think there are very few people who would insist on turning them off by default. Adding new ways for people to link to you or send you messages is all well and good, but I don't think it's appropriate any more to assume that everyone is happy to have these thrust upon them. Even a short email or a sitewide annoucement letting them know that these things have been added and details on how to turn them off, would be a step in the right direction.
Secondly, I think boards needs to think strongly about the non-private, but ultimately superfluous information that is displayed in a user's profile. As a programmer, I understand completely the rationale behind the makers of vBulletin's wish to extract as much information as they can, twist it and interpret it in all sorts of ways and then display it for anyone to see. It's fun, in a "look what we can do" kind of way. Yes, programmers are sad. I also understand the legal standpoint of "The minimum information necessary". I think we need to align ourselves with the general Irish/European feeling on privacy - which falls somewhere in between the two extremes.
One example of this is profile visitors. A person's profile shows me (and I understand, every other registered user), who has been looking at my profile. What purpose does this serve? All it essentially does is track people's movements around the site (yes, that's a tad alarmist, but it's all I could think of) or perhaps some people like to see how popular their profile is.
It's a probably part of the social networking package so that indeed, people can measure their popularity based on their profile.
OK. I hope there's something cohesive in that. I don't want to come across in a "stop changing things", old grouch, bitching kind of way. It might just be the scope of exposure I've had to change management in recent times that makes me stop and look at this kind of stuff. The programmer in me (my inner child) still goes "cool" when this stuff appears, but then there's this grown-up guy who says, "Yeah, it's cool alright, but tell me why it's there again?".
*For the record, I haven't been spammed or stalked, but some people have and others have raised it as a concern