Tor and support

Notes from Tor dev meeting unconference session, 13:00 CEST 4 July 2014.

Related ticket: #10966.

Present: Lunar, harmony, David F., Roger, Griffin.

tor-assistants mailing list was once the support mailing list. Everyone was reading it, then later, Runa started doing it, then it moved to the RT system, but still only Runa was doing support. Later there was more money and more languages and a hiring process. (That's when Lunar and some others started.) Runa tweeted and solicited for Tor support. Runa gave sample support questions and translation strings as a form of job interview.

Roger: one of the reasons we switched to RT over tor-assistants because there were campaigns in e.g. Iran to get people to mail tor-assistants for bridge addresses. Also people mailing "get bridges" to tor-assistants.

Tor has a trust relationship with the support assistants. They do it because they care, they have an incentive not to screw up.

In the meantime, we had people asking for support in languages we don't have funding for. (Russian.) Russian increased in the last six months. We had in the past German and Portuguese.

Lunar's main concern: how do we vouch for these people? When we stop supporting a language, we should stop advertising support for that language:

Roger: two risks. 1. Someone sends private information, the support person doesn't know what to do with it, and someone gets hurt. 2. The support person gives bad advice and someone gets hurt.

Any support can review the tickets of others on the team, but you can't do it if you don't know the language.

Roger: should we maybe do spot-checking? E.g. peer-review every two tickets out of 100.

There isn't a formal oversight process, but support does informal oversight and review.

Roger: a question without a good answer is the funding question. Suppose we get funding for Russian, we advertise Russian, the funding runs out, we stop supporting Russian. Maybe need to commit to six months or a year of support in a language. Or have a part-time Russian supporter who gets paid when there's funding.

Griffin: Connect with organizations that already do foreign-language trainings, who have funding but not necessarily people power.

We would love to have volunteer support if it's good and it works. Roger: find people in the community whom we trust and who understand Tor well.

Support has an internal list where they collaborate on answering questions. However there aren't any (or few) developers on the list.

Idea: meet someone at a dev meeting, they speak a language, we know their key. "It's more about the person than the money." Roger: I want them to come to us and be part of our community. How to keep out malicious actors who claim to speak a language? Idea for vetting volunteers: first point them to the mailing list and IRC and StackExchange and see how they do before making them a support assistant.

Lunar: who makes the decision of when to add a new RT account and add a new language queue? E.g. after the vetting process, when does it become official? Roger: maybe similar to LDAP accounts, someone proposes and sponsors it on a ticket and there's a public record, Roger or Nick looks at it, etc. It will also help that person get recognized if they have more visibility.

Roger: There are organization who could be convinced to fly all the help desk people to one place, work together, get their questions answered, train each other, for e.g. five days. Not meeting with users, but with each other.

Some support members are not as well integrated in the community.

Lunar: first step: we have a sponsor, and someone reviewing the application/interest.

harmony: What are the commitments for people interested in doing support? For e.g. LDAP, you have PGP commitment with legal name, etc. Sounds good? Help desk people need to know how to do PGP. After you sign someone up, what are the expectations on them? For example, how active do they need to be? Roger is fine with people who answer questions well, even if they do it very rarely. Another side: users send in their names and addresses. Moritz was concerned, but some others didn't express any concern. Is there a commitment to user privacy?

Lunar on commitment: With RT, it's easy to see the queue grow. Lunar would be happy to have a special thing; e.g. 20 tickets in two weeks in a language queue, we send them all a message in English saying sorry, we don't have support for you, this language is closed. A support person needs to commit to about one session every two weeks.

What Lunar wants in the TBB is a troubleshooting guide, which has the help desk email at the end. It also has guidelines like, "send your OS and TBB version in the first email, not the third." The FAQ could also say, if you try in your own language, and don't get a response, try again in English. Lunar is not so sure: they already have people writing in three languages at once, and get three different people helping them at once.

Griffin suggests sending a reminder at one week, and cut off at two weeks, for help desk assistants. Roger: do we want a mechanism/process for closing a queue? How do we get rid of a helper after they fail for two weeks? Lunar: the main problem is users waiting too long; that's the problem we're trying to solve.

Tails has a list of requirements for translators. For example, they require at least three translators for a language to be considered supported, translators need to know how to use Transifex. harmony: Tails has a threshold (percent translated) for their web site below which a language is considered out-of-date and unsupported, and then it's removed from the web.

Roger: if we do this right, support can be a great way to get people into the Tor community. Helping others is a great way to learn more. Lunar: 80 or 90 percent of tickets don't require much work and can be answered easily. Roger: that suggests a FAQ document.

Lunar wants to take the RT articles out of the RT DB, put them on a public web page, allow others to review them. It should show a diff whenever an article changes. (An article is a template used to answer stock questions.) Long-term crazy goal is to put the articles in the translation system, so changes to one language can get propagated to the others.

In summary:

  • We all welcome volunteer support assistants, on the basis that they have a sponsor and someone reviewing the application.
  • We will open a queue only when there are two speakers of that language to do support (in most cases).
  • After two weeks of unanswered tickets, we decide the language is not supported anymore.
Last modified 5 years ago Last modified on Jul 4, 2014, 12:18:34 PM