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April 8th, 2011

Communicating with clear categories in avast! WebRep

avast! WebRep combines antivirus software with website ratings from millions of users in the global avast! community – providing users of avast! 6.0 with a community-sourced guide to the safety and/or content of websites. avast! users can thus know – before clicking a link – what to expect in terms of product or service quality, customer service levels, or website safety and reliability. Ratings results are “traffic-light” simple:  green = GO… orange = CAUTION… red = STOP!

But we’ve talked about that before. This time, let’s take a look at the website categories…

avast! WebRep categories & indicators

 

In addition to ranking a website’s quality or safety, avast! users can also select content categories describing the type(s) of content on the site. Currently, these categories include:

  • shopping
  • social/hobby
  • news/blog
  • IT/download
  • corporate
  • pornography
  • weapons/violence
  • gambling
  • alcohol/drugs
  • warez/illegal

As with classifying anything, these descriptors are not without problems. Consider the following email we received, despite our clear heading (“What type of content does the site provide?”) that indicates that these are categories you can place content into (not receive content from):

“Your latest avast antivirus has a plugin for browsers, where you can select CATEGORIES. I work for an organization that supports PCs in schools and your plugin says PORNOGRAPHY as a category. It installs by default. If you change this language to ADULT, please let us know. We cannot introduce PORNOGRAPHY to students. Thanks”


Clearly, users cannot use WebRep to search for pornography – so initially we were a little confused by the email. Finally, we realized that the person (or school district) has a problem with even the word ‘pornography’.

I’ve not confirmed it with our Tech Support department (they received the initial email), but I suspect the email came from an avast! user in the USA, where education professionals (for whatever genuine reasons) tend to be extremely sensitive to even the words their students are exposed to while at school.

(Notably, only the word ‘pornography’ is a problem for this particular person or school district, and the topics of weapons/violence, gambling, alcohol/drugs, and warez/illegal seem to be ‘ok’.)

 

Seeking clarity

Global communication is problematic. I recall a story a few years ago about web-content filters in US schools or libraries being set to filter the word ‘dick’, which resulted in students being unable to access information about then Vice President Dick Cheney for their school assignments.

The suggestion (in the above email) to change the category descriptor to ‘adult’ might work for the sensitivity of the US education sector, but does it provide a clear understanding of the category to the rest of the English-speaking world?

Tell us what you think.

 

  1. hm
    April 8th, 2011 at 17:35 | #1

    This is such evergreen… ppl in the US are always fighting against any movie which shows naked breast, but are ok with movies, where hundreds of people are killed in a violent way. I, as an European, cannot tell whether it is hypocrisy or US mentality…anyway from MY school experience, I think that in between the kids we have used very expressive words describing lots of things which COULD be in a way described in such neutral word as pornography… I am wondering why “Adult content” is better than pornography… I guess that in Adult content is everything which is supposed to be for adults, such as booze, gambling, or even the violent movies, etc. Well in the end I guess it is “your” call, whether you have thousands of such inquiries and that US market is your main share of business…

  2. iScream
    April 8th, 2011 at 18:07 | #2

    I agree with the above post, the word pornography is “neutral” and I think it better describes the >>type<< of adult content. There also might be users who don't understand the word "adult" but "pornography".

  3. April 8th, 2011 at 20:06 | #3

    Then they also have to add “pr0n” for all those who don’t understand either of those two lol…

  4. hm
    April 8th, 2011 at 21:51 | #4

    @RejZoR
    hehe

  5. April 9th, 2011 at 00:50 | #5

    Guys, you are programmers, right? Then make those category tags customisable for America’s sake!

  6. Tech
    April 9th, 2011 at 02:47 | #6

    If you change to ‘adult’, yes, users can understand that.

  7. SweX
    April 9th, 2011 at 03:29 | #7

    Well, even OpenDNS uses the word “Pornography” on their content filtering page.
    IMO, I think you should keep it.

  8. April 9th, 2011 at 08:39 | #8

    Adult content can also apply to something as innocent as some girl showing her boobies. Softcore pornography content if you want it that way (there is also wiki about it). Hardcore pornography is often directly replaced by word “pornography”.

    So to sum things up…

    Adult content: mild nudity, boobies being shown, girls kissing passionately etc

    Pornography: explicit sexual intercourse with penetration in one or another way, showing of genital organs in one or another way, various bizarre sexual practices etc

    I think you can see the difference and i think this is the reason why avast! team picked word “pornography” instead. Adult content might be unwanted to certain viewers but it’s nothing wrong if anyone sees it really. Pornography on the other hand might not fall in the same category with its more explicit display of sexual stuff.
    It all falls down to religious nonsense and stupid moral principals in the end…

  9. nestorphs
    April 9th, 2011 at 19:43 | #9

    avast WebRep impossible not work in google chrome = (

  10. Aethec
    April 9th, 2011 at 20:59 | #10

    If the guy who wrote that e-mail seriously thinks his students don’t know what porn is (and, depending on said students’ ages, have never seen porn), then he has a problem, not WebRep.
    Besides, as others have said, \adult\ content includes more things than porn, including some that are okay to see (gambling, etc).
    Even if you assume said students don’t know what \pornography\ is and look it up on Google because of WebRep, they’d look for \adult content\ too if that was the category name.

    Anyway, WebRep isn’t installed by default (well, at least I was asked to choose when upgrading to avast! 6), so this guy could disable it.

    On a completely unrelated note (*cough*), the USA is the most puritan country as well as the one which produces the most porn…

  11. Aethec
    April 9th, 2011 at 21:00 | #11

    (please excuse the \’s on my comment, the captcha was wrong and all ” chars were replaced with \…)

  12. Jarosław
    April 9th, 2011 at 21:09 | #12

    When will this application for google Chrome.

  13. Tech
    April 9th, 2011 at 21:18 | #13

    Jarosław :
    When will this application for google Chrome.

    Soon. Some months.

  14. April 9th, 2011 at 23:50 | #14

    Tech :

    Jarosław :
    When will this application for google Chrome.

    Soon. Some months.

    Or days… ;-)

  15. April 11th, 2011 at 01:19 | #15

    This mentality strikes me as being rather nineteen eighty-four in nature. There is a marked difference in filtering content and filtering the language used to describe that content. The word “pornography” will cause offense only to those who wish to be offended, and you can’t win against those people anyway. Furthermore, “adult” is a much broader category than pornography, and would be redefining the category.

    This customer should realize that avoiding the word is counter to any effort to shelter pupils from pornography itself. Open discussion is a much better solution that pretending the material doesn’t exist. Sheltering pupils from ideas is not only abrasive (read: dangerous) but, where the Internet is involved, also unfeasible.

  16. shirley tempted
    April 11th, 2011 at 09:35 | #16

    @WOFall Yeah I think that this “mentality” could be summed up in two words “political correctness”. If it is true, people now in US cannot even wish even Merry Christmas, because other ppl would be offended, so now they wish “Happy holidays”. I think it was Burgess in his book 1985, who said this is “totalitarian regime of minorities” you do not want to offend anyone at all, so you create whole new language and then everybody is happy… it is bit crazy from the European point of view, but if this is what US want, then enjoy :-) .
    Well if I were to make the decision in avast, I would tell the guy to turn off this WebRep feature, it is not needed for the proper work of avast…
    For Mr. Antropov – if you would make cathegories customisable, then you could turn down the whole WebRep feature… every database need the balance between the number of cathegories and the actual cases (i.e. the reality), if you have for each case one cathegory, then it is not very clever database with cathegories, but you would be describing things as they are, it would be like in that short story from Borges and the map of the kingdom… in other words crazy and useless.

  17. April 11th, 2011 at 10:38 | #17

    That invention is great … i’m a loyal avast fan and subscriber … it will be greater if you could make any extension of this for rockmelt and chrome …….. i’m hoping …. -jye

  18. April 11th, 2011 at 10:44 | #18

    Thank you all for your insights. There seems to be some agreement that ‘adult’ is too broad a descriptor, as it can include far more than just porn. I know that my own 3-yr-old daughter thinks of even the evening news as ‘adult’.

    Unfortunately, the US is an overly litigious culture – nearly everything can be a potential lawsuit. Caught in the middle of that are teachers and school administrators, among many others. A teacher who actually TEACHES his students, shining light on what they have already seen and experienced in the world, typically finds himself under intense scrutiny – for surely he must be a ‘radical’ or a ‘troublemaker’. Assimilating always to ‘what is acceptable to the least tolerant among us’ reminds one of the Victorian era at best.. or at worst the Middle Ages.

    The more I think about this, the more I wonder how a person or an organization can even be *against* something, without having a word to call it? :D

  19. Yasir Sajjad
    April 11th, 2011 at 11:29 | #19

    Hello Mr Jason Mashak:
    I am using win Xp and google Chrome, i upgrade my Avast from 5.0 to v6.0, now my Browser is not installed in WebRip list.
    Please Help me out.

    Regards.

  20. April 11th, 2011 at 12:37 | #20

    @shirley tempted
    Just to clarify: I did not suggest to introduce any new categories. I specifically said “category tags” which means labels, words which describe concepts. Basically, such customisation should allow to translate tags from English to… well, politically correct English, or any other flavour of this language.

  21. Ivan Lapis
    April 11th, 2011 at 14:35 | #21

    I think you can keep the word pornography. However, maybe, make them customizable for their sake.

    Also, I took out the webrep in my installations since I already use OpenDNS, and webrep is just annoying for most of the users I install it on. And that, almost all of them don’t need site filtering anyways.

    So yeah, maybe make the tags customizable, just for their sake. The rest of the world however is completely fine with that word. Also, not because it is “adult” it means it’s not acceptable. For example, additional adult contents are gore, sexuality, violence, racism, and so on… You can’t just categorize them as “pornography” just because it is an adult content. However, your categories seem to be slim, so maybe that’s why they need a broader category that will cover those topics? Check out the categories in OpenDNS.

    Also, damn americans, they so over protective. It comes with proper parenting and schooling, not just filtering and not showing what they will eventually see and learn about later on on their own anyways. As they say, the more you try to prohibit something a kid doesn’t know, the more it will find a way around the prohibition. Proper parenting and schooling is a better filtering tool.

  22. သူရ
    April 11th, 2011 at 15:23 | #22

    it’s good, but not great!

  23. April 11th, 2011 at 15:55 | #23

    Yasir Sajjad :

    Hello Mr Jason Mashak:
    I am using win Xp and google Chrome, i upgrade my Avast from 5.0 to v6.0, now my Browser is not installed in WebRip list.
    Please Help me out.

    Regards.

    I think our Community Manager explained it best when she answered you on our Facebook wall: “WebRep currently works with Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer. At the moment, you can install it only for those browsers. Our developers are working on plugins for other internet browsers. However, if you have some problems with WebRep, please submit a ticket at: http://support.avast.com/ ” Patience, patience… ;)

  24. Arto
    April 11th, 2011 at 17:02 | #24

    I think you should make Avast web Rep available for Google Chrome

    I’m waiting foe it…..!!!

  25. Abi Barclay
    April 11th, 2011 at 19:35 | #25

    My problem with WebRep isn’t its functionality – it is two things really.

    1. It isn’t policed or monitored in any way.

    2. You can get a bad site rating from people who just want to try and damage your reputation for no apparent reason other than that they can.

    I know that any publicity is any good publicity, and a bad count can actually entice people to have a look rather than deter them. However, I think that the lack of policing makes this a prospectively dangerous too, and sooner or later Avast are going to find themselves upsetting the wrong person and winding up in extremely hot water.

  26. Abi Barclay
    April 11th, 2011 at 19:36 | #26

    I would add to point two above, you can vote without giving a reason at all. That simply isn’t cricket old chap.

  27. April 11th, 2011 at 22:20 | #27

    Okay Avast what the hell is going on? There is a virus going on, I get an alert every second. Avast.com is offline 70% I try to open it, the forums are offline, twitter is not updated and I can’t update the engine.

    (And for some reason ALL my *.mht files are detected as a virus. WTF?)

  28. John
    April 11th, 2011 at 23:28 | #28

    To avast users, Disable your IM shield and Web Shield, avast has an error in it giving false positives to sites such as google, youtube, newgrounds, etc.

    Hopefully they’re working on patching it, but I discovered disabling web shield did the trick. If you use IM such as windows live 2011, and put a link in a chat window, it ‘blocks’ that.

  29. April 12th, 2011 at 10:55 | #29

    @Zsolt & @John,
    For info on the problem and its fix, which came 45 min later, see here: https://blog.avast.com/2011/04/11/false-positive-issue-with-virus-defs-110411-1/

    We’re very sorry about any troubles this caused, but even with the best of companies… a faulty update occurs now and then.

  30. April 12th, 2011 at 11:04 | #30

    Abi Barclay :

    My problem with WebRep isn’t its functionality – it is two things really.

    1. It isn’t policed or monitored in any way.

    2. You can get a bad site rating from people who just want to try and damage your reputation for no apparent reason other than that they can.

    I know that any publicity is any good publicity, and a bad count can actually entice people to have a look rather than deter them. However, I think that the lack of policing makes this a prospectively dangerous too, and sooner or later Avast are going to find themselves upsetting the wrong person and winding up in extremely hot water.

    It’s DEMOCRATIC! :D

  31. Pomponius
    April 12th, 2011 at 11:28 | #31

    I’ll never use such rubbish. I am not a lemming, I decide by my own!

  32. LadyGrey
    April 17th, 2011 at 20:22 | #32

    Being an American, religious and moral – the categories are fine as is. I enjoy being able to rate the sites I frequent. I rely on my internet filters to block content I wish to avoid. For the better part they work well but when they don’t I send feedback via the browser button. I don’t think I will have occasion to use that particular category but it does provide a useful purpose. The label ‘pornography’ conveys a clear sense of the content and needn’t be watered down.

  33. April 20th, 2011 at 14:07 | #33

    Thank you all for your feedback :)

Comments are closed.