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Audacity's new management hits rewind on telemetry plans following community outrage

Sorry for trying to add it or sorry for cocking up the comms?

Amid the smell of burning rubber, the new managers of open-source audio editor Audacity have announced a U-turn on plans to introduce "basic telemetry" into the product.

Audacity pitched up under the umbrella of Muse Group earlier this month and professed itself to be both "scared and excited."

Mere days later, an impressive number of users went for the former option and expressed alarm at a GitHub request introducing "basic telemetry."

Plans to use Google Analytics and Yandex to track and analyse events within Audacity were greeted with considerable alarm by the community. The request itself is nearing 3,500 clicks of the thumbs-down emoji at the time of writing, with remarks such as it being "a massive middle finger" to the app's supporters capturing the strength of feeling.

Despite attempts to calm things down, new boss Martin Keary (aka Tantacrul) posted yesterday that the plans as originally envisaged had been dropped. Google and Yandex would not feature in the immediate future, and self-hosting would be used for error reporting and update checks.

Describing the original pull request as "a bad communication/coordination blunder," Keary said: "We're very sorry for causing so much alarm."

He went on: "The response to PR #835 has brought about a realisation at Muse that the convenience of using Yandex and Google is at odds with the public perception of trustworthiness, so we will be self-hosting instead."

As for the telemetry capture itself, it is for the chop. However, Keary did say the team would be looking at options in the future, and welcomed feedback and suggestions from the community.

That said, there remain plans to capture error dumps and perform update checks. The former will remain optional and require the user to consent to sending the report (as well as reviewing its content if required). The latter will check if a new version of Audacity is available on startup, a feature that can also be disabled.

Keary told The Register that Muse Group had not completely been taken aback by the reaction – telemetry is a very contentious issue after all. "What wrong-footed us completely was that the news got out before we were ready to make an announcement about it."

"It was a completely innocent mistake that ended up doing the announcing for us... in the worst way imaginable."

Such are the benefits of open-source development.

Still, things could have been worse. The pull request might have turned up before the announcement of Audacity joining Muse, which would have further ramped up the worry.

Keary remains keen on telemetry to inform where time and effort need to be invested. Options including making it a fully optional add-on that users could elect to install have been mooted, although he told us: "We'll have to make do without telemetry for the time being."

Insisting that Audacity "will always be free and open source," Keary went on: "The fact that we were planning on hosting the telemetry data on Google and Yandex was (I think) what convinced some people that we had underhanded intentions. Taking Google and Yandex out of the equation was an easy decision."

Unlike the original pull request, Keary's update has been positively received by the community. While the U-turn has been welcomed, questions persist over Muse Group's involvement and its rights over the Audacity project.

A Register reader highlighted the handing over of the Audacity trademark by Dominic Mazzoni some months before the announcement of Muse's involvement was made.

Keary's response was: "We are painfully aware there is a dearth of information and it is being sorted out." ®

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