[tor-dev] Using the consensus-health web page to debug the Tor network

Karsten Loesing karsten at torproject.org
Tue Sep 24 14:01:00 UTC 2013

On 9/21/13 11:42 PM, Damian Johnson wrote:
> Hi Karsten. After thinking about this for a bit I'm gonna vote for #4. :)
> DocTor's consensus-health page is solely used by authority operators,

I think Roger uses it in his role as network debugger, not as authority
operator.  There may be more people wanting to help with network
debugging who are not authority operators.  And there may be expert
relay operators who are wondering why their relay isn't listed or isn't
listed with a given flag.

> and only for specific tasks. If its current visualization of this
> information was truly helpful then I'd agree that we should keep it.

The information is at least somewhat helpful.  But it's clearly not the
best visualization one can imagine.

> However, for the use case Roger mentioned...
> "i wanted to know how many relays had a Running flag from those two
> authorities and no Running flag from any others"
> ... means he had to either...
> a. Read through ~4,000 entries on that page, counting how many fit his critera.
> b. curl the page and grep the html for what he wanted
> Either one sounds terrible, and I sincerely hope we have better uses
> for Roger's time.


> If we can persuade him to give us the use cases for
> what he wants from consensus-health then I think we can come up with
> better alternatives.

Our best bet is to suggest an interface, ask if Roger (or anybody else)
would be missing something, and then implement that interface.

> Possibly a suite of scripts that give him the
> answers to common questions (and can be adapted for more exotic ones).
> For instance, in this case something like the following would've done
> the trick...

A command-line tool doesn't sound too crazy.  That tool (or suite of
scripts) should be able to cache downloads and votes and share them
among all queries we might want to ask it.

But is a command-line tool more user-friendly than a web interface?  For
example, when we wrote Compass, we started with a command-line
interface, but then Roger wanted a web interface for it.  Maybe, if
there's the possibility that we'll want a web interface later, we should
start with a web interface right from the start.  A web interface has
the advantage that people can share query results more easily than with
a command-line interface.  Also, no installation required.  We should
probably run a poll for the preferred interface.

But regardless of the interface type, I can imagine this as a fine #4.
I even think we can come up with interface options that allow us to
represent future queries without coding.  For example, Roger's query
above could just be (assuming a command-line interface):

 $ ./doctor --download
 $ ./doctor --flag moria1:Running --flag maatuska:Running --noflag
consensus:Running --count

All in all, I think your #4 is a fine idea.  I'm curious which interface
will be preferred by future users.

All the best,

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