[Fwd: [tor-talk] Talking to users]

Ted Smith teddks at gmail.com
Fri Jul 15 12:39:59 PDT 2011

-------- Forwarded Message --------
From: Andrew Lewman <andrew at torproject.org>
Reply-to: tor-talk at lists.torproject.org
To: tor-talk at lists.torproject.org
Subject: [tor-talk] Talking to users
Date: Fri, 15 Jul 2011 13:06:03 -0400

On July 4th, with svn commit r24859, I put the official tor phone number on
'Contact Us' page.  This same phone number has been on the press page for
ages.  I did this to see what would happen, and to give people an obvious way
to call us.  I've heard from a number of people over the past year that they
wish there was a way to call Tor and ask a question.  Perhaps this is a larger
sign of our website and documentation needing help. Perhaps some people just
like to talk on the phone.

The phone rings about twice a day on average.  I've had some great
conversations with people, ranging from victims of cyberstalking, to law
enforcement, and many regular people with questions.  I also talked someone
who wanted to know if tor could help them resist the 'smart dust' from the cia
being blown into their central air system to implant false memories to
convince them they are not an actual time traveler from centuries in the
future.  The good news is, something like tor is wildly popular in the 2400s.

I've also pointed a few people at various relakks and ipredator, because they
didn't care about anonymity, just geolocation and circumvention for various

There have been some tickets created as a result of these phone calls:

* https://trac.torproject.org/projects/tor/ticket/3558
* https://trac.torproject.org/projects/tor/ticket/3559
* https://trac.torproject.org/projects/tor/ticket/3570

One set of tickets came from a 30 minute conversation with someone:

* https://trac.torproject.org/projects/tor/ticket/3590
* https://trac.torproject.org/projects/tor/ticket/3593
* https://trac.torproject.org/projects/tor/ticket/3592

The top three complaints so far have been:

1. Tor is too complex.
2. Lack of Adobe Flash breaks too many websites.
3. Tor's documentation is too hard to find on the Internet.

Here are my general impressions on the complaints.

*Tor is too complex.* Most of the people don't care about Tor per se. They
care about using Tor as a tool to get some task or function done.  In most
cases, this is protecting their identity online.  They don't want to buy in to
Tor, join our religion, nor subscribe to our newsletter.  They just want to
use it and not have to worry about it.  The exceptions to this were the
cyberstalking victim and the law enforcement officer.  Both felt Tor was too
complex, but cared very much about Tor as more than just a tool.  Neither
realized the Tor Browser Bundle existed.

*Lack of Adobe Flash breaks too many websites.*  People use Tor to circumvent
censorship to watch cats on YouTube and other video sites.  Apparently people
also use Tor for Facebook and a number of other sites that require Flash to be
functional.  One person told me that the risk of a rogue Flash app disclosing
their identity is acceptible over Tor.  The flash cookie problem is 'easily
taken care of by plugins, dude'.  I'm sensing that Flash is the main reason
people start with TBB and then move on to installing Tor locally; and finding
it complex and difficult to configure.  Perhaps the sandboxing technology
using in the OS X TBB will make its way into Windows and Linux soon.

*Tor's documentation is too hard to find on the Internet.*  I agree.  I have
trouble finding the docs and various configuration parameters needed.  This is
even more the case when someone is on the phone asking a question.  Clearly we
need to improve this for everyone.  Our docs are scattered across git, svn,
website, trac tickets, and wiki links.  Maybe one central location that pulls
all of this into some coherent page would be a good first step. Maybe a search
crawler that worked well would be also be a good step.

I welcome feedback and comments.


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