What Web Users Copy to the Clipboard on a Website: A Case Study

Ilan Kirsh


The clipboard is a central tool in human-computer interaction. It is difficult to imagine a productive day-to-day interaction with computers, tablets, and smartphones, without copy and paste functionalities. This study analyzes real usage data from a commercial website in order to understand what types of textual content users copy from the website, for what purposes, and what can we use such user activity data for. This paper advocates treating clipboard copy operations as a bidirectional human-computer dialogue, in which the computer can gain knowledge about the users, their preferences, and their needs. Copy operations data may be useful in various applications. For example, users may copy to the clipboard words that make the text difficult to understand, in order to search for more information on the internet. Accordingly, word copying on a website may be used as an indicator in Complex Word Identification (CWI) and help in text simplification. Users may copy key sentences in order to use them in summaries or as citations, and accordingly, the frequency of copying full sentences by web users could be used as an indicator in text summarization. Ten different potential uses of copy operations data are described and discussed in this paper. These proposed uses and applications span over a wide range of areas, including web analytics, web personalization, adaptive websites, text simplification, text summarization, detection of plagiarism, and search engine optimization.


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