User issues Research Project

1. Introduction:

This project was carried out from December'17 to March'18, as an Outreachy intern project. The aim was to collect feedback and issues from users, categorise and systematically record them, in order to take out meaningful insights that were later translated into content for the support portal, and some general ideas and suggestions relating to various different aspects of Tor. 

This Wiki gives an overview of the methodology followed to collect the data, the relevant insights that came out, and touches upon some of the possible solutions discussed in the user issues session at the Rome meetup.

2. Important Links:

3. Methodology:

3.1. Sources of collection:

  • Comments on the Tor blogs (specially useful for getting information on bugs related to new version releases)
  • Tor subreddit (generally a more tech-savvy bunch of Tor users)
  • Tor stackexchange (a mix of experienced users and beginners)
  • #tor on IRC (a mix of experienced users and beginners)
  • RT where incoming messages from @frontdesk handle are gathered (mostly beginner level users)

3.2. Weekly cycle:

IRC and RT were monitored daily due to the constant traffic of incoming information, while Tor blog was checked periodically (mostly once or twice a week) for any new posts or comments. Reddit and stack exchange were browsed thrice a week. 

3.3. Structuring the spreadsheet:

Based on the information collected, the monthly spreadsheet was structured into two sheets, namely "Errors/bugs" and "Doubts/issues". The former being meant more for the developer teams, whereas the latter for the community and UX teams. 

  • Errors/bugs - further structured by creating separate rows for different operating systems, and columns for the Tor browser version and error messages/warnings. If any existing tickets related to the project were available or created, they were also added to the sheet. 
  • Doubts/issues - further structured by creating different categories, for eg: "Installing, connecting, running", "video streaming", "add ons", "user demands and suggestions", etc.

3.4. Sending out the spreadsheet:

The spreadsheet containing data from the previous month was sent out to tor-project@… during the first week of every month. A brief overview of themes of the month, along with progress on topics from the previous month was also provided in the mail. 

4. Making sense of information gathered:

4.1. Identifying Power users and Regular users:

Tor users can be loosely grouped into two categories, i.e "Power users" and "Regular users".

Power users are users well versed with network and security, often familiar with Tor’s working; whereas regular users are new users, or users not so familiar with the intricacies of how Tor works. There is often a clash between the needs and demands of these two groups of users. 

4.2. Identifying themes in the queries and grievances of users:

For the purpose of making a consolidated set of take-aways from the research, similar and often occurring user problems were grouped into a template query. Some of them are listed below:

  • "I am being blocked out of my Facebook/Twitter/ some other social media account while using Tor."
  • "How do I know about add-ons and other services to use along with the Tor Browser for an enhanced privacy experience. What does Tor recommend?"
  • "I was not aware of basic privacy controls like the security slider."
  • "What are onion addresses? How do I use them?"
  • "What are the different “versions” of Tor? Which one should I use?"
  • "I want to tell people about Tor. Can I get some material like flyers/posters, etc.?"
  • Local issues. (or issues pertaining to specific geographic regions)

5. User issues session in Rome:

In order to present the project, share findings, and gather feedback, an open User issues session was held during the Rome meeting. The session was attended by a diverse crowd of Tor people: developers, UX designers, network researchers, and community team members. Detailed notes of the meeting were taken down by Alison, and can be read at -

Last modified 2 months ago Last modified on Apr 15, 2018, 11:20:38 AM