User issues

Facilitator: Pari, Outreachy intern student based in India, background in UX

  • working on a project tracking user issues
  • we get a lot of feedback from people using Tor: in the IRC channel #tor, on mailing lists, and in places like reddit and stackexchange where a lot of conversation happens. there is also lots of feedback happening in the comments section of the Tor blog.
  • for the past 3 months Pari has been tracking these areas and trying to make sense of it. she has discovered some recurring areas and themes

Finding: there are two major groups of Tor users

group one: power users eg computer programmers, they understand workarounds, they know Tor in depth, on some forums they're answering queries for regular users

  • power user may be asking "I want to run tor on FreeBSD" or "I want to modify the torrc files" etc, they have opinions about things Tor is doing that may compromise their secuirty, they don't care about GUIs, they want to be able to customize it
  • they don't like being told what to do

group two: "regular users", people who have either a very simple understanding of Tor or complete confusion, they require help at almost every step, they don't actually know or understand how Tor works

  • these users need everything to be really easy
  • all information has to be up front
  • they need to be told how to do what
  • these two sets of users needs are often in conflict

Typical queries

I'm using Tor Browser, is there a mail client I can use too? Or can you recommend an operating system?

  • maybe Tor can think about some services to recommend when people ask about these other privacy tools? what is the right language to use that express the level of confidence we have in whatever thing. for most users the most secure option is to live in the woods with no comptuer and never open your mouth. so we can say 'we aren't promising that this is perfect but we can say this will make you reasonably secure'

lots of users have tor installed and they run it but they don't actually know how to do anything with it. for example, many users don't know anything about the security slider.

  • we have funding from OTF for onboarding new features, this may be useful for communicating better about the security slider and other features that are what makes Tor Browser different (there is a trac ticket open about this).
  • generally people have a perception that security is too hard for them and we can help change that perception
  • these challenges are mostly due to design, not language barriers. not just bad design, but also users are not actually aware of what Tor does. we can't get 100% of people to understand all these things but we can do better.
  • will localization help? it will help but it's not all of the work. there has to be some onboarding as well.
  • it's important to implement the style guide across all Tor products so that people do have a better understanding of what is actually a Tor thing

people have lots of misconceptions about Tor related to the dark web.

  • maybe we could help with this by giving a list of recommended onion addresses in categories? maybe built into the browser or maybe on the website or something like that. there is a ticket open on that -- should we actually recommend onion addresses? ticket #12952

"I am being blocked from getting into my account over Tor"

  • they get security alerts, etc -- power users understand this but regular users are very suspicious about this. we added some content about this on the support portal but we could improve that experience more

"what are the different versions of Tor and how do I know about them?"

  • people don't understand update and alpha language, it's jargon to them
  • how do they know which is the right version?
  • when you go to the download link you get a list based on your OS and what is available, but because of the different blog posts that come out about different types they get people confused.
  • the landing page says something about "download slash easy". we are redesigning it as part of the whole website redesign.
  • maybe we need different sections of the blog where we can talk about more technical things like ESR, alpha, etc, and another side that's more for mass marketing.
  • or what if we put a prologue on the blog that says "the programmers are done with this version, if you are a regular user then you don't have to do anything"
  • we should make sure that announcements about core tor releases go to a much smaller group than Tor Browser releases for the sake of avoiding confusion. Steph is working on a new newsletter with all that -- we could have developer announcements, we could have user announcements, and keep them separate. we should be clear that we have different users

"I want to tell people about Tor, can I get some material like flyers, stickers, etc"

  • it would be great if we could have a small kit for downloading SVG files etc. this is the kind of thing that would be great in the community portal

local disturbances in the network

  • maybe censorship or maybe a local relay has gone down, but some issues are geographically relevant to different users.
  • the idea that came up this morning of having users click their flag (eg location) when they open tor launcher that will then choose the correct bridges for them etc.
  • we could also have dedicated announcements for different regions, or countries. one challenge is that the most frequent reason for a local outage is a new censorship event.
  • this presents a communicaton challenge because it's exactly then that it's hardest to communicate with the users because they're being censored.
  • if there's not currently a way to automatically or semi-automatically send out notifications about censorship events -- there is a ticket open for the OTF tasks about doing this
  • we can also ask users about how to effectively communicate in the presence of whatever censorship is occurring (they tend to know)
  • how do we currently get information about censorship events? quickly from OONI, also from power users. it's very usual for us to be contacted by someone we've never heard from before with really detailed technical analysis that they've done in their spare time about what's being blocked and how

other stuff

  • lots of things that come up are actually already happening (people request things that we already do) -- how do we communicate better about what's already going on?
  • just because there is a ticket doesn't mean it's going to get resolved soon -- understanding what is important to users is essential for us prioritizing
  • we need an explanation of what onion addresses are, how to get to them, here is a list of them
  • there are queries from relay operators too but we aren't getting into them -- lots of positive feedback from relay operators about the new wiki guide
  • people can organize local meetups around these issues, we should not just parachute Tor people in and have meetups but we should support local meetups
  • how can we incorporate this work into user testing, outreach, feedback on tools? usually when you do a training the follow up afterwards is your free labor.
  • in Zimbabwe there aren't frequent internet shutdowns, the pattern in Africa generally though is partial shutdowns during elections. Zimbabwe will have elections between July and August. when the last one happened (July 2016) lots of people downloaded VPNs, lots of people didn't know about the existence of Tor, now getting asked about it more.
  • how can we best collect this feedback? doing tool walkthroughs within the training, sketching personas of the people you train and then giving those personas back to the Tor devs, we're thinking about more systematic ways of doing that
  • using metaphors as a way of explaining things -- eg Tails is like a tent
  • how to get this feedback and then bring it back to developers
  • how do personas help? what is a developer supposed to do with that information? it's a generic tool to help you understand the diversity, needs, threats of your users
  • take personas, look at this program from their perspective. how would i want to accomplish this task from their perspective?
  • there are language limitations to explaining tor, for example "relays" doesn't translate well into Spanish or Portuguese. colors and symbols can substitute where language fails. for example green means go in pretty much all languages.
  • we need to incorporate good strong visuals to communicate ideas about Tor
  • localization lab has a glossary of terms that might be able to help
Last modified 3 years ago Last modified on Mar 16, 2018, 2:48:03 PM