wiki:org/meetings/2015WinterDevMeeting/Notes/TorValues

These notes are created by Sue Gardner, who facilitated a couple of sessions on Tor values at the winter dev meeting. These notes are from the second session, which built on the first one.

How you can help: The Tor wiki doesn't seem to distinguish between ThreadMode and DocumentMode the way Wikipedia does, and so I'd suggest we could talk beneath the main chunk of content. I will start a section for discussion. You can help by commenting on the values already articulated, proposing refinements to the terms or replacement terms, by proposing values that you think are currently missing, or proposing-for-deletion values that are currently included that you think are wrong for Tor. Your thoughts are very welcome.

Why values matter / what they're for: Explicitly-articulated values are a tool for helping people and groups make good decisions in a non-arbitrary way -- they help to bring some rigor to conversations that might otherwise feel woolly/fuzzy. They make it possible for groups to scale decision-making beyond individual personalities, by making explicit and commonly-understood the values that are intended to inform decision-making. (So, like, if Tor was trying to decide which of two projects to pursue, and one advanced its values and one didn't, Tor would likely want to pursue the one that advanced its values.) Having articulated values helps everyone in the Tor community know how to behave in a way that's in Tor's best interests. They make it easier to bring in and orient new people. They bring clarity and rigor to tough conversations and make it easier to make good decisions. The process of articulating values is useful too, because it creates a space and process for people to debate and define what's important to them.

What happens next: Not sure. Personally I (Sue) think it would be great if Tor could, as part of a strategy development process, clearly articulate its values, for the reasons I gave above. But I'm not sure exactly what will happen next. I'll update this page if I think it through a bit better. To be clear, at this point the values as articulated on this page are in no way official or finalized. They're just a capture of some initial brainstorming and talking.

The values, so far:

Freedom of Expression. The most-named and possibly most-important Tor value appears to be freedom of expression / free speech / access to information and knowledge / freedom. This was uncontroversial. If Tor wants to move ahead and formalise its values, it will need/want to articulate the best word or phrase to encapsulate this value. I'm proposing for the sake of argument "freedom of expression," but Tor might choose to resolve on a different work/phrase, after discussion.

Privacy. This value was uncontroversial and not much-discussed.

Human rights. The group had a very interesting conversation about human rights. It seemed clear to me (in that and subsequent more-social conversations) that Tor wants to achieve or support some measure of social change. It isn't just in favour of people being able to speak freely, hear each other, and "assemble" online: it sees those values as paving the way to change. "Human rights" seemed to our group to be capturing something important, but also to be too vague and broad to really articulate what Tor wanted to stand for. We also tossed around phrases like "empowerment," "self-determination," and (in later social conversations) "social justice" and "social change." I'd say the result of this discussion was an acknowledgement that "human rights" is over-broad, and that work would need to be done to find a phrase or word that more precisely/narrowly articulates this value. This is a tough one because people have varying personal motivations for participating in Tor, and it would be difficult to find a word or phrase that encompasses many/most of those motivations and is still narrow enough to be meaningful.

Integrity. There was a lot of discussion about this value. Tor is trusted as "having user's backs," and is proud of being trusted in this way. It wants to behave responsibly and with integrity. Part of this is the integrity of research about Tor, and its honesty/modesty about the limitations of the technology. Tor doesn't want to over-commit -- to offer false reassurances to people about how safe they will be, using Tor. It wants to be accountable. It wants to speak fearlessly to earn trust. (Part of this, I would say, also reflects what I might call general engineering or geek values, and Enlightenment values: honesty above niceness, accuracy above false reassurance, neutrality above spin, truth above hope, science above faith, etc.)

Transparency. This value was uncontroversial and not much-discussed.

Diversity. This value was discussed quite a bit. To some degree, diversity was assumed to be about end users and was possibly also intended to include a commitment to impact and possibly also user-friendliness/usability -- that Tor would be available and useful for everyone in the world, that it would be used by diverse communities, that all users would be respected and supported. But also, to some degree people talked about diversity as valuable for Tor internally. That the Tor community should be international rather than American; that it should be inclusive of e.g. women as well as men, etc.

Community. This value was discussed quite a bit. In part, enshrining this as a value would simply acknowledge that Tor is free software built by a mix of paid people and volunteers in a context of shared power, and that the whole community is valued and valuable. Also though, there was some discussion here about diversity, and also about safety/respect/collegiality. We had a separate conversation about dramanimity/hacker culture/jokester/jester culture, that I think fits in here too. This whole discussion suggested to me that Tor might benefit from spending some time trying to work through what kind of community it wants to be. Does it value safety, respect, collegiality, diversity? What happens when honesty conflicts with collegiality, when a desire to be/feel safe conflicts with a desire to fearlessly speak truth, etc. What's Tor's position on hacker/jester culture and how does it manifest inside Tor? Etc.

Discussion about Freedom of Expression value goes here:

Discussion about Privacy value goes here:

Discussion about Human Rights value goes here:

Discussion about Integrity value goes here:

Discussion about Transparency value goes here:

Discussion about Diversity value goes here:

Discussion about Community value goes here:

Meta-level discussion about all values, missing values, purpose of values, etc., goes here:

Last modified 3 years ago Last modified on Mar 7, 2015, 4:19:51 PM