What’s your website’s D&D alignment?

This is the impression – often the first impression – that users of the website get of the organisation.

Cookies and Dungeons and Dragons – a hypothesis

Recent privacy legislation has led organisations to have to adopt ways of allowing their users to register their cookie preference in ways which expose the underlying motivations of the org. I have a related theory, and it goes like this: these different registration options allow you to map organisations to one of the 9 Dungeons and Dragons character alignments.

This may seem like a bit of a leap, but stick with me. First, here’s a a little bit of background for those readers who’ve never dabbled in (or got addicted to -there’s little room between the two extremes) the world of Dungeons and Dragons (or “D&D”). There are two axes used to describe a character: Lawful-Neutral-Chaotic and Good-Neutral-Evil. Each character has a position across each of these axes, so you could have someone who’s Lawful-Good, one who’s Chaotic Neutral or one who’s Neutral-Good, for instance (a “Neutral-Neutral” character is described as “True Neutral”). A Lawful character follows the law – or a strong moral code, whereas a Chaotic one just can’t be bothered. A Neutral character tends to do so when it suits them. The Good-Neutral-Evil axis should be pretty clear.

Second bit of background: I never just accept cookies on a website. I always go through the preferences registration options, and almost always remove permissions for all cookie tracking beyond the “minimum required for functionality”. I know I’m in a tiny minority in this, but I like to pretend that I can safeguard at least some of my private data, so I do it anyway (and so should you). I’ve noticed, over the past few months, that there are a variety of ways that cookie choices are presented to you, and I reckon that we can map several of these to these D&D alignments, giving us a chance to get a glimpse into the underlying motivation of the organisation whose website we’re visiting.

I’ve attempted to map the basic approaches I’ve seen into this table.

Lawful GoodNeutral GoodChaotic Good
Functional cookies only by default.No cookies, and a link to a long and confusing explanation about how the organisation doesn’t believe in them.No cookies at all, no explanation.
Lawful NeutralTrue Neutral Chaotic Neutral
Functional and tracking cookies by default, clear what tracking cookies are; all easy to turn off.Functional and tracking cookies by default, completely unclear what the cookies do.Random selection of cookies, and it’s unclear what they do, but you can at least turn them off.
Lawful EvilNeutral EvilChaotic Evil
All cookies by default: functional, tracking and legitimate uses.  Easy to remove with “reject all” or “object all”.All cookies by default.  “Legitimate uses” need to be deselected individually.All cookies by default, with 100s listed.  You have to deselect them by hand (there’s no “reject all” or “object all”), and there’s a 2 to 5 minute process to complete the registration, which finishes on 100% but never completes.
D&D alignments and website cookie preference approaches

Clearly, this is a tongue-in-cheek post, but there’s an important point here, I think: even if this glimpse isn’t a true representation of the organisation, it’s the impression – often the first impression – that users of the website get. My view of an organisation is formed partly through my interaction with its website, and while design, layout and content are all important, of course, the view that is presented about how much (if at all) the organisation cares about my experience, my data and my privacy should be something that organisations really care about. If they don’t respect me, then why should I respect them?

If I’m trying to attract someone to work for me, partner with me or buy from me, then my marketing department should be aware of the impression that visitors to my website glean from all interactions. At the moment, this seems to be missing, and while it’s not difficult to address, it seems to have escaped the notice of most organisations up to this point.

Author: Mike Bursell

Long-time Open Source and Linux bod, distributed systems security, etc.. CEO of Profian. マイク・バーゼル: オープンソースとLinuxに長く従事。他にも分散セキュリティシステムなども手がける。現在Profianのチーフセキュリティアーキテクト

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