Posts Tagged ‘Silverlight Analytics’

Obtaining opt-in consent: The responsible way to collect application analytics

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010 by Brandon Siegel

Runtime Intelligence is a powerful tool that is able to illustrate in great depth how your applications are actually being used. But of course, with great power comes great responsibility. While individual developers are free to collect analytics data in any way and in accordance with any privacy policy they wish, allowing your users to opt-in to collecting usage information is not only standard in the industry, it’s also the right thing to do for your users. With Runtime Intelligence, we’ve make this important functionality easy to implement via the OptInSource properties of the SetupAttribute. Simply specify the name and owner of the property, method, field, or method argument that will contain the user’s opt-in setting at runtime, and the instrumented Runtime Intelligence code will retrieve the opt-in setting before any attempt to send analytics data.

If the user has opted-out, no data will be collected or sent in nearly all cases. The exception to this rule is that if you have chosen to use Tamper Detection and Notification, and you have configured it to send Runtime Intelligence messages when tampering is detected, these messages will always be sent regardless of the user’s opt-in choice. Additionally, the Exception Reporting feature contains a mechanism that allows the user to specify an explicit opt-in for an individual exception report, which will override the Runtime Intelligence opt-in setting for that message only. The default exception reporting dialog that Dotfuscator can inject makes use of this mechanism, and the specifics of how to provide this explicit opt-in are detailed in the manual so that developers rolling their own solution using Exception Reporting can do the same.

As a quick example, let’s say I wanted to persist the user’s opt-in setting using Isolated Storage. For simplicity’s sake, I am using the IsolatedStorageSettings class available in Silverlight and Windows Phone 7, but applications that target other frameworks can perform the same operations in a slightly more verbose way. Your business requirements would of course drive the value of RIOPTIN_DEFAULT; for this example I have chosen to opt-in the user by default.

public static class UserPrefs {
    public static bool RIOPTIN_DEFAULT = true;

    public static bool RIOptIn {
        get {
            bool optIn;
            if (IsolatedStorageSettings.ApplicationSettings.TryGetValue("rioptin", out optIn)) {
                return optIn;

            return RIOPTIN_DEFAULT;
        set {
            IsolatedStorageSettings.ApplicationSettings["rioptin"] = value;

Now all I need to do is set the following properties on my SetupAttribute (either in code, or via Dotfuscator’s Instrumentation tab), and my users will be able to rest easy, knowing that they have control over whether and how their activity data is shared.

    OptInSourceElement = SourceElements.Property,
    OptInSourceName = "RIOptIn",
    OptInSourceOwner = "UserPrefs",

You can see a complete example by checking out the awesome open-source OneBusAway app at The Runtime Intelligence opt-in preference is wired up via data binding to a toggle in the app’s settings scene, and is persisted in the same way as my sample above (property backed by isolated storage). They’ve included their Dotfuscator config file in source control, so you can take a look at a real-world example if need be. The OneBusAway project is also a great example of our exciting partnership with CodePlex that provides free, integrated Runtime Intelligence analytics to all the projects they host, so definitely check it out!

Launch of Visual Studio 2010 & Dotfuscator CE 5

Monday, April 26th, 2010 by Brandon Siegel

With the launch of Visual Studio 2010 and Silverlight 4 at the DevConnections show in Las Vegas last week, I am pleased to announce that Dotfuscator CE version 5 is now generally available. With an all-new user interface, more intelligent obfuscation, and application analytics instrumentation, this promises to be the biggest change we’ve made to Dotfuscator CE in its history. I am particularly excited because soon, with the application analytics included in Dotfuscator CE, millions of developers world-wide will have the opportunity to see real usage data coming in from their applications. Even better, they will be able to do so completely cost-free.

I was invited to act as part of PreEmptive’s delegation to the launch event and humbled to speak with so many passionate developers, architects, DBAs, and yes – even managers. What I did not initially expect was the overwhelmingly positive response from nearly everyone we talked with. Most people had never heard of application analytics. But, with a brief introduction everyone quickly understood the idea and many offered up scenarios where they would want to use it for their applications (completely unsolicited, I might add). It was thrilling to receive such a positive response to something I - and the other fantastic developers here at PreEmptive - have worked very hard over the past few years to create.

I very much encourage the great folks I met in Las Vegas last week, along with millions of passionate developers across the globe, to open up Dotfuscator CE and try out the free analytics we’ve included. Today, most web developers wouldn’t think of publishing a web site without including web analytics. I hope that having these analytics included with Visual Studio 2010 will lead to application developers thinking the same way about their applications. Of course, using the two together in a Silverlight or ASP.NET application to get a complete view of the visitor’s experience is a natural fit. But application analytics extends far beyond that. Now, all .NET developers are able to get live information that can help steer development focus, even in areas that were previously completely opaque – from cloud apps running on Windows Azure to mobile phone applications on Windows Phone 7 and even to applications running on Linux and Mac with Mono.

In fact, I look forward to seeing how application analytics will be used to support open source development throughout the .NET ecosystem. Because open source developers essentially donate their spare time, being able to focus their efforts in places that have the most user impact is crucial. An open source development model also allows far greater flexibility for developers to immediately shift their focus to match what their users are actually doing with the software they produce, without the constraints of rigid development and deployment practices. Because of these factors, I specifically encourage maintainers of open source projects to try the free application analytics provided in Dotfuscator CE. Together with the bug reports and feature requests you already have, you will be able to truly make the most of the precious time that your contributors give.

Some might say that it’s counterintuitive for a company known for source code obfuscation to support open source development, but at PreEmptive our guiding principle is simply “help software succeed”. With application analytics, we have the opportunity to extend our dedication to this principle beyond proprietary software. In the past few months, we’ve released numerous projects on CodePlex including some awesome editor extensions that integrate application analytics right into the Visual Studio 2010 IDE, an endpoint starter kit so you can write your own backend to receive and process Runtime Intelligence messages, a data visualizer sample to demonstrate how to consume analytics data using our RESTful analytics API, and an API helper library to make using our API even easier. And our new partnership with CodePlex, which will provide free application analytics for hosted projects surfaced right within each project’s page, provides us yet another great opportunity to help software succeed.

Today is the first day of Microsoft’s MIX10 Conference

Monday, March 15th, 2010 by Gabriel Torok

One of the items being announced today by Microsoft at MIX is the SilverLight Analytics Framework. The Silverlight Analytics Framework will let designers and developers visually build analytics into their Silverlight applications using Microsoft’s Expression Blend.

Now, most readers of my blog already know that Developers can already inject Runtime Intelligence analytics into Silverlight (and any other managed code) using Dotfuscator inside Visual Studio. I am excited about this new framework because it offers an entirely new way to configure runtime intelligence (using Expression Blend) and that means a whole new community of users also have access to analytics for the very first time. This is also being echoed by Michael Scherotter, principal architect evangelist at Microsoft Corp. and architect of the analytics framework. He writes that we have “successfully used the Silverlight Analytics Framework to open its application instrumentation to a new audience of designers.”

Runtime Intelligence offers the following advantages over traditional Web analytics services:

· The analytics endpoint (and the resulting data) can be self-hosted and managed by the application provider (you don’t have to send your data to a third party – but that option is also available too).

· While the resulting Web analytics maps to the Silverlight Analytics Framework data model, the underlying SOAP schema is shared with Dotfuscator’s instrumentation.

The common schema allows Dotfuscator to provide a complimentary instrumentation mechanism for any .NET Framework component. THIS means that

· Middle and back-office application tiers can be instrumented providing a deeper view across distributed application workflows.

· Older or alternative applications using WPF or some other non-Silverlight form factors can be benchmarked against the newer Silverlight applications to track both user behaviors and application usage.

The world of application analytics is about to take a big step forward. In fact I believe that one day in the not too distant future application analytics will be as common as web analytics is today and the distinction will eventually disappear.

What decisions could you make to better serve your customers, to reduce your costs, and improve your products if you had ready access to usage data streamed to you from the wild?

Tell me what you would do - I would love to hear from you.