Using WebGazer as a dashboard

Jun 09, 2018, J. Pablo Fernández

Do you ever wake up covered in cold sweat wondering if the WebGazer email alerts are being deleted as spam by your email client? No? Well... me neither! Of course!

This is a guest post by J. Pablo Fernández, the founder of Dashman. Dashman is an online service that helps you control what to put on your wall-mounted big screen tv's.

Now, being serious, alert systems like the one offered by WebGazer is an essential part of running a robust service. Their Achilles heel though is that they can fail silently. Are you not getting alerts because everything is going as planned or because your alert system burned down?

Incidentally, that's why you keep on evacuating a building if the fire alarm stops blaring. Maybe someone turned it off or maybe the fire got to the alarm.

If you are wondering if everything is ok, then, you could start your browser, type, sign in and check. You'd see something like this:

WebGazer - Gazers
WebGazer - Gazers

But I guarantee you that unless you have a daily or weekly recurring task, eventually you'll forget about it and stop doing it. It is much better if it's permanently displayed on the background:

WebGazer on Dashman
WebGazer on Dashman

The question is, how do you do it? You might think of throwing a full screen Chrome and loading WebGazer there; but that has a few issues. You need to keep refreshing the page to make sure it's showing up to date information. You might also want to show other pages, maybe a specific WebGazer report, maybe your Google Analytics, or the quote of the day. There are plugins for Chrome that will allow you to do some of this but it's clunky at best.

Lastly, there are two features that you'd be hard pressed to find as plug ins:

  1. A way to change the websites you show across your whole company from the comfort of your own laptop.
  2. Having all those screens locked and secure so that if someone comandeers that computer, they can't delete all your Gazers or do any other damage.

This is where Dashman comes in. Dashman offers all of that and more. Dashman is a good old Windows application (Mac, Chromecast and others in the roadmap) that you download and install in your computer and in every computer that is going to act as a display.

Using WebGazer as a dashboard

On your own computer you register and set up your account with all the websites you want to display:

Adding WebGazer to Dashman

In that little screen cast I just showed registering, adding the gazers dashboards and two drill down reports for specific gazers.

Once you have set up your Dashman account, you need to install Dashman on the computers that are going to be actually displaying the information. On those computers you are going to run either Dashman Displayer. Once it's installed you need to connect them to your account. You do that by entering the account id on the displayer and approving it on Dashman Configurator:

Adding WebGazer to Dashman

For the sake of simplicity that is in a single computer, but the displayer can run on any other computer in the world as long as it's connected to the Internet. Approving a displayer is not just a matter of giving it permission. Dashman uses end-to-end encryption, so, during that process, the keys are generated and exchanged so that the displayer can actually decrypt the information.

That means that nobody at Dashman, no employee or attacker that may have gained access to the Dashman's servers or database will be able to know which websites you are displaying, neither have access to your cookies, screenshots, etc.

Once everything is setup, Dashman will continuously display those websites:

WebGazer on the wall

Earlier I mentioned those computers would be tamper-proof. There are two layers of protection. First, Dashman renders the websites on a different computer (running either the Configurator or a Renderer, a different app) and ships it, encrypted, to the displayer computer. Even if someone commandeers that computer, all they get is screenshots. No actual access to a website would be achieved.

On top of that, Dashman can run as a good old password-protected screensaver. If you run it that way, if someone connects a keyboard and a mouse to that computer, they would first have to figure out the password for the account. Their shenanigans might be stopped at this point.

There's a secondary advantage to running Dashman as a screensaver. You can run it on every single computer in your company. You'd be surprised how often you accidentally glance at a blank screen, how often people take breaks, have meetings, etc. All those wasted opportunities to show some useful information:

WebGazer on the desk

Dashboards are supposed to be that, dashboards, like in a car. Something you can glance at any point and get a piece of important information. Most of the time, that information is that everything is business as usual and that there's nothing extra to do. And that's good. That's the piece of mind that you can focus on your current task without worrying something might going awry.

So, what's stopping you from turning WebGazer into your dashboard?