I thought you might enjoy this: When I was closing Word 2007 today, I was
surprised to see the attached dialog pop-up. Microsoft’s new spell checker
asked me whether it could transmit certain unknown words and phrases that I
used in the last several weeks.
Among them are choice examples like Wikipedia, Gladwell, shortcode and
others — words that were certainly not in the original distributable. I
assume Microsoft will re-distribute the most frequently submitted words in
an upcoming spell checker update. Brilliant! And it reminds of the way in
which Google first introduced its “Did you mean…?” feature– by tracking
how users corrected their own spelling mistakes before re-trying a search.
Frankly, any company today that isn’t doing this kind of thing is nuts. Learning from your users in real time and automatically improving your software based on what you learn is one of the things that distinguishes Web 2.0 (“Live Software”) applications. Frankly, I’m a bit surprised that Microsoft asks permission. So many companies today (e.g. Google, Amazon) are collecting data from their users as a matter of course, and applying it for the benefit of other users.
I’m curious about changing mores with regard to this kind of data collection, when its use is limited to improving the software. Do you think it should be “opt in” or “opt out”?