GitLab telescopes telemetry effort after users push back

Gitlab Logo
Gitlab Logo

GitLab has been forced to backtrack on the telemetry plan it unveiled earlier this month, after users declared they’d rather keep their pipelines and other operations untapped by the CI/CD vendor.

The instrumentation effort – which depended on “additional JavaScript snippets…that will interact with both GitLab and possibly third-party SaaS telemetry services” –  has been unplugged in the face of user pushback, and GitLab has pledged to “rethink our approach”.

The scheme was unveiled earlier this month, in a blogpost from VP of product, Scott Williamson.

He wrote, “To make GitLab better faster, we need more data on how users are using GitLab. SaaS telemetry products, which provide analytics on user behavior inside web-based applications, have come a long way in the past few years.”

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“GitLab has a lot of features, and a lot of users, and it is time that we use telemetry to get the data we need for our product managers to improve the experience,” he said.

A few weeks on, GitLab has indeed harvested a bunch of user data…unfortunately it has mainly revealed that users objected strongly to the telemetry plan. 

An addendum to Williams’ original blog now states, “We will not activate user level product usage tracking on GitLab.com or GitLab self-managed before we address the feedback and re-evaluate our plan. We will make sure to communicate our proposed changes prior to any changes to GitLab.com or self-managed instances, and give sufficient time for people to provide feedback for a new proposal.”

Williamson has opened a new issue for the, er, issue, which has quickly attracted more feedback. Amongst other concerns, corporates and government users advised that anything that moves data out of their organisations is a deal breaker.

The comments also threw up suggestions for exactly how the firm should track issues that matter to its users. Such as “Jonas’s” “Use your issue tracker for insights into what users like or not.”

GitLab’s stumble is all the more surprising, given its roots in the open source world – a space where concerns over privacy and surveillance, and commercial interests over-reaching themselves are never far from the surface.

Arguably, GitLab should have been expected customers to be restive, given that it had apparently welcomed a tranche of former GitHub users when it was borged by longtime industry big brother in chief Microsoft. A point which commenters made in the newly created issue.

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