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    Tuesday, June 15, 2004

    Who here has submitted false information to get through annoying registration pages on websites? I know I'm guilty. On occasion, I've used a fake name and e-mail address to barge my way into the content I'm looking for. Coming from an internet marketing background, it pains me to spoof these sites. But sometimes I don't think giving up my personal information is worth the payoff. Many sites still haven't determined the fine balance between opt-in registration and free content. So "communal login" services are popping up, like, allowing users to share anonymous logins.

    Some websites have great intentions for collecting personal data, like They simply ask for your e-mail address to keep in touch with their products:

    Stay In the Loop: If you'd like to receive a note when we announce a new product or special offer, enter your email address here. We'll never abuse the privilege in any way. Period.

    However, many sites are still too aggressive when it comes to soliciting personal information. Included in this group are many online newspapers, like CNN has an interesting article about this trend.

    My take is that if you want to discourage bogus registrations, then tell your visitors that the content they're requesting will be e-mailed to the account provided (in the form of a PDF, for instance). That way you know they'll provide a legitimate address. From a usability perspective, this method shouldn't be your first choice unless it's used for specific content like, say, a demo, whitepaper, or best practices guide. This model may not work for online newspapers, but it does speak to the innumerable websites that build moats around their content.