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User Management Guide

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Anonymous Users

When a user visits your portal without logging in, that user is called "anonymous." While working with anonymous users is inherently limiting in some ways (because there are few things you know for sure about them).

But there are some things you can know for sure about users, such as the date and time they are visiting and any information in the request or session.

WebLogic Portal takes advantage of that information and provides many features that make working with anonymous users more useful and meaningful in your portals, such as letting you set up visitor entitlements, delegated administration, and some types of personalization based on that information.

WebLogic Portal provides even more power in working with anonymous users with a feature called anonymous user tracking. When you use anonymous user tracking, anonymous users are given records in a database, where you can store meaningful information about them such as personal preferences.

Note: Campaigns and behavior tracking are not currently supported for anonymous, non-trackable users.

This chapter includes the following sections:


Setting up Anonymous User Tracking

WebLogic Portal lets you identify and retain information about non-authenticated visitors to your portals. When you enable anonymous user tracking, non-authenticated users receive a cookie after a predetermined time (30 seconds by default), and preference information is persisted in a database rather than in memory.

Each time an anonymous tracked user returns to the portal, the ID in their cookie matches the primary key in the tracked anonymous user database, their previous user properties are maintained, and your personalization and campaign rules will work for those users. When anonymous tracked users register in your portal, their user profile is moved from the anonymous tracked user database to the user database.

If users do not have cookies enabled or if they delete cookies frequently, there is no way to match the users with their existing records in the anonymous tracked user database, and on subsequent returns to the portal these users are treated as new anonymous users.

Tracking Anonymous Users

This feature enables you to track users before they register with your site, meaning you can present personalized content to an anonymous user over multiple sessions. You can also persist information about a user's behavior, provided cookies are enabled on the user's browser. This feature can be parameterized to exclude those who spend less than a designated period of time on your site, avoiding the expense of storing data on irrelevant users. Finally, should a tracked anonymous user choose to register with your site, the data collected on that user is persisted in the account of the newly-registered user.

Five User Profile Types for User Tracking

If Anonymous User Tracking is not enabled, users who visit the site without registering will be considered ANONYMOUS. If it is enabled, such users would be considered TRACKABLE on the first visit.

If a TRACKABLE anonymous user remains at a site longer than the specified duration, the user is converted automatically into a TRACKED anonymous user, and a cookie with the tracking id is given to the user. That id is used as the primary key of the tracking EJBs associated with that user, so that when the session ends, the user's properties are persisted and available for the next visit.

If this TRACKED anonymous user returns, the tracking id in the user's cookie is used to retrieve the user properties from the database, and those properties may be used to enable campaigns to be run against the user.

Finally, if a TRACKED anonymous user registers at the site, the tracking data is transferred to the newly created user (now considered a REGISTERED user) and deleted from the anonymous user.

The final user profile type is UNKNOWN, which designates users whose status cannot be determined.

Tracking Based on Visit Duration

Because users don't always remain at a site long enough to demonstrate interest, the duration of the initial visit is used as a configurable trigger. If this value is set to 30 seconds, a user that leaves after 25 seconds would not be remembered on the next visit to the same site. A 30-second or more user would be remembered, even without having registered.

This parameter is set by editing the web.xml file (Enabling Anonymous User Tracking).

Enabling Anonymous User Tracking

Here are specific instructions for enabling your Web application to track anonymous users. Using this feature requires that cookies be enabled on the user's browser.

Anonymous User Tracking is not enabled by default. It must be enabled in order to function by completing the following tasks:

Enable Anonymous user Duration Checking

Configure Visit Duration

To Enable Tracked Anonymous Users

Anonymous User Tracking is implemented by configuring the PortalServletFilter by adding the following entry to the web.xml file inside your Web application:

<!-- Portal Servlet Filter, always required for Portal -->
    <filter-name> PortalServletFilter </filter-name>
    <filter-class> com.bea.p13n.servlets.PortalServletFilter </filter-class> 
        <description> Option to fire SessionLoginEvent , defaults to false if not set</description> 
        <description> Filter will create an anonymous profile for every session. Defaults to true if not set</description> 
        <description> Option to track anonymous users , defaults to false if not set. 'createAnonymousProfile' is ignored if this is true</description> 
        <description> Length in seconds visitor must be on site before we start tracking them . Defaults to 60 seconds if not set</description> 

Creating Anonymous User Profiles

If a user visits your site and then registers within the same session, any data collected on that user is persisted in the account of the newly-registered user.

The Create Anonymous Profile parameter does not enable Anonymous Users to be tracked from one session to the next without registering. This would require the Tracked Anonymous User feature.

NOTE: This feature defaults to True.

Disabling the Create Anonymous Profile Feature

This feature is configured with the PortalServletFilter settings in the web.xml for the enterprise application.

To disable this feature, set the init-param node called createAnonymousProfile to False.

Filter will create an anonymous profile for every session.
Defaults to true if not set.


Handling Anonymous (Non-tracked) Users

You can target anonymous (non-tracked) users with personalized content using any personalization tool besides campaigns and behavior tracking--tools such as default (non-campaign) placeholders and content selectors. Campaigns and behavior tracking are not currently supported for anonymous, non-tracked users.

The main difference between completely anonymous (non-tracked) users and registered or anonymous tracked users is how long their profile information is retained.

For example, if an anonymous user visits a portal and sets her preferences to "favorite color=purple" and "favorite hobby=reading," those values are persisted in memory and can be used to display personalized content and trigger campaigns while the browser session lasts. However, if the user closes the browser and revisits the portal, she has to re-enter her user preferences. Registered and anonymous tracked users have their preferences saved in a database.

While anonymous users do not retain a consistent store of user preferences from session to session, you can still provide a fair amount of interaction management functionality. For example, many personalization conditions are based on such things as generic HTTP session and request properties you define, dates and times, and personal session preferences that have no relationship to registered users and their profile properties. For example, you could display personalized content for anonymous users accessing your portal with a specific type of browser during a specific time frame.


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