[tor-project] User feedback program: past, present and future (2018-2021)

gus gus at torproject.org
Tue Jul 14 19:02:44 UTC 2020


In the last three years, Community and UX teams have been working
together to collect user feedback and integrate it into our products
while preserving Tor users' privacy. In this email, we're going to
explain the present, how it works, and our next phase.

## 1. User Advocate

Since 2018, the Community team works with an intern from Outreachy[0] as
a User Advocate. You can read more about this project here: "Help us
support our users"[1]. Every month, the User Advocate submits to the
tor-project mailing list an User Feedback Report with questions and
comments from our Frontdesk system and other sources (Reddit, Tor stack
exchange, Google Play, blog comments, IRC #tor, etc.).

If you were around at that time, maybe you remember Pari presented an
user feedback research[2] at the Tor Dev Meeting in Rome, in 2018. You
can read our previous user feedback reports here: Cybelle (2018)[3],
Wayward (2019)[4], and Cleopatra (2020)[5]. As Nicolei started last
month, on May 19th, he sent his first user feedback report[6]. Nicolei's
internship will end in August this year. And Outreachy will open a new
selection process in September/October.

After the report is sent, we discuss the issues and comments at UX
and/or Community team meetings on IRC (#tor-meeting). For some of these
issues, we open new tickets in Gitlab, our new bug tracker, and the user
advocate adds comments to open issues. For example, we have some tickets
to improve the website, Tor Browser and other products. We have plans to
introduce a global label [user-feedback] to make explicit which issue
came directly from users.

There's also a proposal to use Discourse, but so far, we only discussed
it a few times during the Gitlab process and at the last all hands, and
mostly to improve our blog moderation and user feedback.

## 2. User Research: UX feedback and Tor training in the Global South

As part of sponsor work, the Community and UX teams have met users face
to face during our digital security training in the Global South. We
wrote about it and also added some metrics of this project in a blog
post[7], "Reaching people where they are." The user research reports are
publicly available here[8], and the users we've met during this project
informed the work we did to outline User Personas. Personas were made
not to frame our work to any target, but instead to reach a common
understanding across teams of "Who are Tor users?" and who we are
designing for. We also did a session about Users Personas[9] in
Stockholm Dev Meeting (2019). We sent a more detailed narrative report
regarding the activities to all Tor core contributors in January (2020),
where outlines each activity we ran carefully in all the countries we

The new Community portal reflects the first step in understanding the
different roles we host in our community. The intent is to serve as a
home for non-savvy technical people but also technical people as relay
operators or onion sites admins to collaborate with Tor. Furthermore, we
made public and gave open access to the material at the training section
in the Community portal, where we collected and organized the materials
that we have used during our travels and meetings with groups. All this
content was co-designed with our community based on their needs.

The most significant difference from Frontdesk, where users come to us
to report issues, this program works with our team members to reach out
and go to communities to run usability tests and interviews with users.
Both ways of collecting user feedback complement each other. We not just
collect feedback but also teach about digital security holistically, to
encourage critical users to make decisions by themselves. Threat
modelling exercises to understand digital security assets have been run
with communities in the Global South.

The point about the whole program it's not just a way to collect
software feedback. Part of our non-profit work is to educate users about
privacy, anonymity and technology as a way to promote and advance human
rights. We developed a program focused on building a network of human
rights defenders, journalists, whistleblower platforms, digital security
trainers, hackerspaces, activists, marginalized communities, and having
a stable relationship with them, the people who trust and most need our

In the last year, we built partnerships in our first Training Program,
where NGOs and other organizations in the Global South were running Tor
training and UX tests by themselves. We had training in Brazil,
Colombia, Mexico, Uganda, Indonesia, and Tanzania. We developed a
process of continuous improvement for these organizations to collect
feedback from their assistants about our products and the decision they
just ran[10]. 

## 3. Next steps

The next phase of this sponsor will happen from July 2019 - 2020, where
we will focus on supporting our partner organizations during this
Covid-19 pandemic, the migration to secure spaces for running their
activities online and also the spread of remote user research made by
them and for us on our recently released improvements in Tor Browser for
desktop and Android, and the entire Tor Project new portals.

In July, Narrira Lemos will be back to work with us as a fellow from
Bertha Institute. The work Nah will be running will be focused on
mobiles and per se Tor Browser for Android. She also will give support
(as she did in 2019) on coordinating user research with communities.

Antonela and Gus
UX and Community Team

## Notes

[0] Outreachy https://www.outreachy.org/
[1] https://trac.torproject.org/projects/tor/wiki/Outreachy#TheProjects
Jun 2018 User Feedback Report -
Jul 2018 User Feedback Report -
Aug 2018 User Feedback Report -
Oct 2018 User Feedback Report -
Nov 2018 User Feedback Report -
Dec 2018 User Feedback Report -
Jan 2019 User Feedback Report -
Feb 2019 User Feedback Report -
Mar 2019 User Feedback Report -
Apr 2019 User Feedback Report -
Dec 2019 User Feedback Report -
Jan 2020 User Feedback Report -
[7] https://blog.torproject.org/reaching-people-where-they-are
[8] https://community.torproject.org/user-research/

The Tor Project
Community Team Lead
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