Let X-Plane Tell Us How You Use X-Plane

One new addition to Version 10.40 is almost guaranteed to be controversial: at the user’s discretion, we now collect anonymous usage information.

Before you light your torch and grab your pitchfork, let me explain why we have not become the next Spyware Kings.

Whose information are we collecting?

The X-Plane 10.40 installer has a screen to explain the data collection, and a checkbox to opt-out. If X-Plane is already installed, you can toggle data collection on or off using the Operations & Warnings window in 10.40 and later.

We will only collect usage information from users who have that checkbox enabled. If you upgraded to v10.40 from an older version of X-Plane, for instance, the checkbox in the Operations & Warnings window is disabled by default.

(But, read on to find out why you should go turn it on!)

What does “anonymous usage information” mean?

In our case, we collect two main types of information:

  • system configuration (including your operating system, CPU model, graphics card model, amount of RAM, what language you’ve selected, and so on)
  • X-Plane usage (including which aircraft are flown, which airport you start at, and so on)

This information is 100% anonymous. Essentially, all we ever learn is that some user, somewhere was running Windows with a Core i7 CPU, 8 GB of RAM, etc. and they flew the C172 from KBFI. We cannot trace this information back to a specific person.

Will I be contacted or be spammed if I participate?

No.

Since everything we collect is anonymous, it obviously does not include contact information like your name or email address. We can never use the information collected to contact you in any way: no marketing, no spam, no way to bug you.

Why does X-Plane want this information?

In essence, your usage data helps us make better decisions about the future of X-Plane.

For instance, if we found that 50% of users were running 10 year old machines, we would need to think long and hard about increasing the system requirements in future versions.

Similarly, if we found that only 10 people ever flew a particular aircraft, we could conclude that users weren’t very interested in it, so we probably shouldn’t create a new aircraft that was very similar. Likewise, if 25% of flights involved the 747, we might decide that people really like big airliners, so we should probably create another.

This is roughly a billion times better than the way we currently make decisions about this type of thing (both in terms of hardware support and sim features). The current model looks like this:

  1. Make a guess about what users want
  2. Argue with the other developers who guessed differently
  3. Ship something that users may or may not actually like

I can’t stress how much having actual data will improve our ability to make X-Plane the product that users really want.

Why you should participate

Sending this anonymous usage information is like casting a vote—in this case, a vote for us to support the way you use X-Plane. When you send your usage information, you cast your vote for us to support your hardware configuration, to build more of the planes you like to fly, or to improve the airports that you like to fly at.

Just like in electoral politics, you have every right to abstain. But abstaining means we’ll hear other people’s voices and not your own.

If you’d like to participate, you just need to do the following:

  1. Get the 10.40 update and launch X-Plane
  2. Open the Operations & Warnings dialog
  3. Check the box labeled “Send anonymous usage information to help make X-Plane better.”
  • Facebook
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter
  • Google Buzz
  • LinkedIn

About Tyler Young

Tyler is a software developer for X-Plane. Among other projects, he was in charge of the new X-Plane 11 user interface.
This entry was posted in News. Bookmark the permalink.

47 Responses to Let X-Plane Tell Us How You Use X-Plane

  1. Thomas Kirk says:

    Don’t know bout no one else, but I’m like, you know, ready to vote………:)

  2. Ben Supnik says:

    One quick note on how the “send anonymous data” option works for -existing- users who have already run the sim and already have prefs:
    – We default your “send anonymous data” preference to “undecided”, because you have never seen the UI.
    – Any time we can send data, we do not send data if you are undecided – “undecided” is the same as “don’t send” for the purpose of sharing data.
    – The FIRST time you pick the “operations and warnings” dialog box, since you’re undecided, we ask you “do you want to send data or not” and then set the preference the way you ask.
    – From then on, you can turn the check-box on or off.

    Why do it that way? My concern was that if we left the setting off and didn’t ever mention anything, then about 0.0001% of existing users would enable the setting. For new users (once the new installer ships) the choice to send data is part of the install process (along with the EULA) so everyone gets to decide once and be done with it. But for existing users, we had to pick between a few choices, none great:
    1. Just opt everyone in. CLEARLY totally unacceptable!
    2. Opt everyone out and hope they find the setting..my fear is that this would skew the analytics to: basically only people who read this blog. Clearly if you’re reading this, you’re among the wisest of our users 😉 but it’s not great for getting a picture of our user base.
    3. Ask everyone who has never decided at startup…but…X-Plane already pops up a ton of junk at startup. Joystick! Demo! No scenery! Another popup at startup seemed like a fail.
    4. Ask when the user goes for operations and warnings… a compromise, but perhaps the least bad option.

  3. Steve says:

    It’s not spyware if you tell us you’re doing it.

    It’s a great idea, and I’m all in favor of it. But I’m glad you’re making it optional.

    In my opinion, you need a fifth option:

    5. Opt in/out could be injected at the point of each update at and after 10.40.

    That’s a compromise that will look less like a compromise. Make it blatant and easily understood, and not sneaky looking like some piggybackware is these days. 😉

    • Tyler Young says:

      There will be no “sneaking” it in—per Ben’s comment above, if you already had X-Plane installed prior to 10.40, your preference will be marked as “undecided.” The only difference between being undecided and actually having opted out is that we’ll show a popup when you go to the Operations & Warnings window that essentially says “hey, there’s a new checkbox here for sending data—pay attention to it!”

    • Cestomano says:

      +1

      Only asking about it (using a popup) when you upgraded to 10.40

  4. bedoig says:

    The only thing I find surprising is that you haven’t collected this information all allong. Just my opinion, but I would say this definitely warrants a prompt at the start of the application.

  5. Chris Hallam says:

    when will the 10.40 update be ready for us to try this out? and will you post ( after some time with this system) common trends of favorite or non favorite things you see users using etc

  6. Jim Dalgleish says:

    A long overdue feature for X-Plane! I am all for it!

  7. scotchegg says:

    It’s a reasonable request and you’ve been perfectly transparent. I’m in.

  8. Alex K. says:

    Great news on version 1040 altogether. I like the data collection idea because it will allow you to really see what hardware users are actually using. I was quite surprised when you wrote in another post that XP10 must run on Intel graphics. If I personally buy a new version of a simulator (then FS series, now X-plane) I was also ready to buy at least a new graphics card.
    If I look at forums there are hundreds of discussions about “will a xxx-card be good enough” to run X-plane. I believe uers want the best out of X-plane and do buy good hardware to achieve this
    I must give another comnent, too: users also want a new, better low vis fog model for bad conditions IFR approaches. This is missing in X-plane for years now.

  9. wedge says:

    That seems perfectly fine for me, a lot of software and games just do ti by default, or often will bury the acceptance of such collect in the EULA which almost nobody reads.

    I’ll definitely opt-in, as it is perfectly legitimate to provide data that thelp define the user base, the market, and to get the correct way to go and not leave users on the side.

  10. Riccardo says:

    how does this impact network usage during online operations like IVAO flights?
    I mean, when and how ofter data is sent on the net? which is the expected bandwith usage? is it a streaming of data or one shot at startup?

    • Ben Supnik says:

      It should be quite low – it’s not continuous streaming data. Tyler knows the details, but I think in the first version we do need to record when you start a flight…one of the questions that is most important to us is what kinds of aircraft do you like to fly. We’re not trying to build a continuous-path-flight-aware-style app.

      • Tyler Young says:

        Ben’s correct, bandwidth usage should be minimal—on the order of a couple kilobytes at sim start, at the start of each flight, and when you open a window within the sim.

  11. Tim says:

    This sounds like a great idea to help X-plane become better and a good way to understand how we are using the sim.

  12. Tom Knudsen says:

    I think this is an excellent idea Ben and I for one would happily participate.
    Wha do you grep for exactly, I take it there will be a shit load of data coming your way
    with this function?

    And last but at least one important question not mentioned above, does this impact the performance of the user i.e while flying?

    • Ben Supnik says:

      There should be very little performance impact; network IO is async, infrequent and we don’t send out a ton of “events”. When we add more detail to the analytics picture we’ll be careful to keep the performance impact minimal.

      The only users who I can imagine needing to turn off analytics for performance would be users who are trying to use an online service like XSquawkBox with dial-up (if anyone ever still does that) – that’s a scenario where (1) every network bandwidth byte is in use and (2) the total network capacity is just tiny. But even bridged cellular connections and DSL are a lot faster than that.

  13. Arnie says:

    no problem about that, it´s a good idea, I´ll waiting for and look forward for 10.40b !

    Cheers !

  14. Well at least Laminar Research will now definitely know what we have known all along that the default B744 needs an update… badly.

    There maybe somethings in the data that they won’t want to see as well… It will be interesting.

  15. Greg Sheets says:

    What about plugins used, scenery loaded, frame-rate/xplane performance metrics?

    I will opt in, data is always good. However, use of data can be evil, especially if you decide to not include the way I use XP in future versions :-).

    • Ben Supnik says:

      It’s going to take a few iterations to get a really deep and complete picture of how people use X-Plane; the analytics in 1040 will get us some very basic and key usage data and then we can add more parameters to further refine the picture.

  16. Carrie M says:

    Hi Ben!

    Quick question, I’ve downloaded the updater, checked the ‘beta’ box, but it only shows 10.36. Am I missing something? Or is it not yet available?

    Kindest Regards!

    • Ben Supnik says:

      1040 isn’t out yet – we’re announcing new features in the run-up to beta 1; I still have to do a once-over on datarefs and cut a build for test.

  17. Carrie M says:

    Hi again Ben!

    Will the extended DSFs improve night lighting? Because at the moment flying above merely 8,000ft, we can all see the night lighting ‘pop’ in, in chunks, and it’s far worse for us high altitude flyers on PilotEdge :D.

    Furthermore, ascending past 10,000ft in low visibility conditions means once we hit 10,000ft, the low visibility suddenly turns into full 100+ visibility. would you consider extending the altitude range at which this happens, as it happens all too suddenly. Furthermore, would there be a possibility of multiple visibility layers, as in FSX or P3D?

    And finally, despite running an i7-4790K at 4.4ghz with a GTX 780, the moment clouds are introduced we see sudden FPS dip from 80+ to around 38FPS, those with lower specs suffer worse.

    And pretty please 😀 can we have X-Plane natively support 6DOF with TrackIR? The only thing missing is tilting head sideways 😀

    Also, when binding a joystick axis to view (such as one on an xbox controller), when the right joystick is centre, the view is also centered! Is there a way to pan the view without it centering when joystick is released? as the only way to do it now is to bind it to 4 separate keys/buttons. Those 4 buttons could be used for something far more useful, and it means the right thumbstick/joystick is useless. This is also apparent on certain joysticks which utilise mini thumbstick for hatviews/panning around.

    Kindest Regards!

  18. aerogram says:

    It’s a really good idea, but I agree with bedoig in that it should not be buried in the Operations and Warnings menu but be up front in the Installer/Updater,
    Best Wishes,

    • Ben Supnik says:

      It will be in -both- places. I’m working on the 3.30 installer, which has it up-front.

      But if you’ve ALREADY installed, you need a way to change your mind if you want to.

      As of this morning, both locations have links to an explanation of data usage.

  19. Jose L Castillo says:

    Ben but I think a great idea to know what types of equipment are at x-plane, as the soft I do not think you can get much more information, saving configuration and installed addons.
    If you want to know which users want is all easier, for my part, I consider myself an ardent salesman x-plane every time I speak, I do not know those details and shortcomings that users hurt us, and let me expose.
    – Less number of planes by default and a higher quality simulation systems and models
    – A weather that varies progressively, not by leaps
    – Four Seasons
    – Airports terminals and updated.
    – Improved ATC
    – An AI with CSL models that give life to the simulator, and even they could carry network traffic not flying online
    – Added support Vatsim and IVAO, is sad to see a CSL stammering, in other cases not see
    – Support for hardware on the market as VRinsight
    Future … We are at a point where the majority of users have Internet via fiber or cable with download speeds around 100mg, enough to generate P2P networks that share the stage, meshes and textures or ortophotos, without having them pre-download form, that was just downloading airports and would be a great start.
    Implement wear and tear and misuse of systems, exploit the way missions with planes to define roles, like having a CL415 very detailed and a script that fires represent real time, something that has competition.
    A system of sharing cabin, forcing developers to make use of certain dataref so that it can perform.

    Anyway … IS AWESOME surely work you do, is to thank and praise, but it is also true that our beloved simulator is lacking, and that we should not be satisfied with the fact said to have better flight model, competition in 2016 it will stomp the 32bit will outsource functions to continue the agony of their simulators, DCS or the future Flight Simulator sell a great future, and even Outerra.

    It is therefore only ask profound progress is made, to ensure the future and the health of x-plane, EG. explore the use of DX12, a S.O. it will not be locked to a user and it seems that performance against opengl is too high.

    Well, thanks for the opportunity and for the feedback, but x-plane is no longer the promise which was owed forgive mistakes, it is the future that we must requiring an immersive and perfect simulation.

  20. Luca says:

    One thing to be careful about Ben is the interpretation of the anonymous data.

    For instance let’s assume that most users don’t use ATC because it currently doesn’t work well.
    Would you consider it a priority to update ATC or would you neglect it because not many users use it? 😉

    • Ben Supnik says:

      Right – this is the weakness of measured analytics data – it can only measure what is, not what can be.
      (The strength is that it has the potential to be a good statistical picture, e.g. not just one set of users who are good at emailing us, actual use not self-reporting, etc.)

      What we have so far is pretty simple, but for example, the way we might answer that question is by measuring both how many users _try_ the ATC feature and how long they spend using it.

      If we have a small number of users using it a very long time, we have an unpopular but decent feature.
      If we have a lot of users try it once for 3 minutes and a small number use it for a long time, we have a bad user experience and we need to look at what goes wrong in those first 3 minutes.

      • Kirill says:

        Hi Ben, why X-Plane 10 is initially not a complete landscape was done and in the coming years is not much to add, in the above privacy in Microsoft Flight Simulation X Steam Edition landfshavt completely covers the surface of the Earth and a few sad that in the X-Plane 10 is not a complete landscape.
        I hope the new v10.40 still developers will try and finalize the landscape and will pokrvat fully the Earth’s surface. I think many people will be pleased to finalize this.

        • Ben Supnik says:

          Hi Kirill,

          X-Plane 10.40 is -not- going to add polar terrain or antarctica to the global scenery. This is a final decision.
          At this point you have asked for this dozens of time, off topic in a number of posts.

          Please do not ask for this feature again; I will delete future off-topic requests for polar terrain.

          Cheers
          Ben

    • deanwings says:

      @luca. most excellent insightful question 🙂

  21. Jim Dalgleish says:

    I would also say that I’d also be for the extended option to add contact info, if the user doesn’t want to be anonymous, so that if there could be a matrix for Laminar to consult for extended testing purposes (ie. bugs or crashes that show up with systems using a certain graphics card).

  22. Kirill says:

    Ben but I still interested in this question, several off-topic, what do you think to the output graphically advanced video games (GTA 5, and others) as well as various simulators primarily aircraft, you get by for example reagirutete raise graphic characteristics of the game, and so on or what?

    • Ben Supnik says:

      I’m afraid I don’t understand what the question is. Would you like to ask in Russian and I’ll try to translate it myself?

      • Kirill says:

        Sorry Ben but I do not have available only in English through an interpreter translate google and yandex. Yes, and the grammar in the great Russian language I promblemy.

        • Ben Supnik says:

          Может быть, говорить по-русски? 🙂

          • Kirill says:

            О вы знаете русский ?

          • Ben Supnik says:

            очень немного. 😉

          • Kirill says:

            Здравствуйте Бэн, вот меня интересует 2 вопроса:
            1)Как разработчики X-Plane реагируют на выход новейших видеоигр с высокой графикой такие как GTA 5 и другие в точ числе такие авиасимуляторы как Prepar 3D v2.5. ?

            2) Мы как пользователи можемь что то предлагать вам разработчикам X-Plane различные предложения и нововведения по разработке X-Plane 10?

          • Ben Supnik says:

            Here is a rough translation of Kirill’s question, with some help from Google. I haven’t spoken Russian in 21 years, so I may have misunderstood the grammar.

            1. How, as developers of X-Plane, do you react to the latest videos of games with high quality graphics, such as GTA 5 and others including at this point such flight simulators as Prepar3D 2.5.

            2. We, as users, might to offer to the developers of X-Plane various proposals and innovations for the development of X-Plane 10?

            (I haven’t spoken Russian in 21 years, and neither me nor Google understand idioms terribly well, so I may have mangled this, but the questions now make more sense than the original translation.)

          • Ben Supnik says:

            1. I always watch and observe new graphics developments in the other -3d game genres, like racing games and “shooters”. GTA 5 looks beautiful; I have also looked a lot at the combat games. Fortunately, the large game engine developers (e.g. Frostbite, Unreal, etc.) present their latest technology at conferences like SigGraph and the Game Developers Conference.

            X-Plane lags behind these engines in adopting new technologies; because X-Plane has a much larger world with add-on content viewed from virtually any camera angle, some of the techniques and technology from these games won’t work at high framerate in X-Plane. So we must wait until the hardware is more powerful, or find ways to adapt the technology.

            A while ago, many major game engines went to deferred rendering. X-Plane added this feature in X-Plane 10. Now most game engines are adding (or have added) physically based rendering; I think this is a good fit for X-Plane in the future. But we cannot always do what these game engines do; often these graphics are based on pre-computing huge amounts of data from the game “level” ahead of time, since the level cannot be modified by third parties and is not very large.

            To be honest, I have not seen any Prepar3D screenshots that really surprised me; the rendering looks like FS X with add-ons. We do watch new add-ons and note their quality.

            2. Yes, but _do not_ ask for Antarctica again! 🙂 You can file a bug report requesting a feature, or email Austin directly. On the blog, please do not request new features when it is not _related_ to the blog post.

            But we already have a huge list of things we are working on, and I try not to discuss new work until it is ready to test, so sometimes users request features and we appear to do nothing, when really the code is being worked on.

        • мимокрокодил says:

          попробуй проверять текст на опечатки – именно на них спотыкается транслятор, порождая странные транслитерации(на которых, в свою очередь, спотыкаются читающие)
          и да, осознай – за XP не стоят конторы с миллиардными бюджетами, так что требования “а перепишите движок, чтоб не хуже крузиса был” – слегка нереальны.

  23. James Good says:

    I think this is a great idea… It’s probably not your intention, but I’d also love to see a summary of the stats every now and then. i.e. How many people are flying from my local airport, maybe it’d push me to finish some of the airports I have created, and not shared.

    Cheers,

    -James.

    • deanwings says:

      i have no objection to the data collection. i can see why Laminar wld prefer the initial setting to default to Opt In, otherwise the sample will be unrepresentative, almost useless. So how not to tread on toes? IMO: 1. Startup screen while loading but not interrupting, display the current preference, mention which menu item to go to modify (opt out) if wanted. (+ remove all that unwanted gumf about how wonderful the mobile version is bla bla). 2. publish the data summary periodically interesting, more people will stay opted in. 3. remind users their bandwidth wont impede performance.

Comments are closed.