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Privacy, and removing user's names from the database

Privacy is a big thing for Subworthy. Whilst there is a form of user-tracking implemented into the platform, it is the absolute bare minimum required to be useful.

Subworthy does not track user users across the system - only the timestamp of the last meaningful interaction a user made with the service. This could be logging in, or viewing their daily issue or clicking a link in their daily email. There is not record of the details of what a user did (or anything about the user, such as IP address etc) - simply that they did something.

The reason for doing this is simple - Subworthy is a bootstrapped service, offered free-of-charge. If a user isn't using Subworthy any more, but an email is being sent to them every day, there is a potential cost-saving there.

Subworthy uses Postmark to reliably process and deliver it's daily emails. Postmark has the ability to track opens and clicks in the emails it delivers, but the first thing I did was switch off this functionality. There is a growing trend for email software to block pixel trackers (the means by which the email platform can detect opens) - I just didn't want to get into that, so just disabled it on my end before the first email was even sent.

The same goes for high-level website analytics. I don't use Google Analytics at all. Instead I leverage Fathom Analytics - a privacy-first service that we pay for to ensure that our visitor data is secure and never sold or shared.

User's names

Subworthy is built on top of the popular Laravel framework, so a lot of the common parts of a system like user management are provided out-of-the-box. By default, when I created Subworthy it stored user's names in the database. But here's the thing - the user's name is never actually used in the system. Daily emails aren't personalised with a "Hi Bob!" intro, and it is never displayed internally. Yet, there was a database field and forms that accepted a user's real world name.

After launching on Product Hunt I noticed a number of users bypassing the Name field on the registration form by either entering a random character or mashing the keyboard à la dgsgdfdg. That's fine with me - it made me realise that I don't need to know what my users are called.

Today I've pushed a minor update that removes any trace of user's real-life names from the system. My next step will be to recommend one of a growing number of email-aliasing services at registration. Whilst users are not paying for Subworthy at this stage, they are not the product, so I have no need to know anything about you. All I care is that you are finding Subworthy useful and want to see it grow.

— Phil

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