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Mozfest Readout: Promoting Freedom of Expression with Tor

A week ago, Tennyson Holloway and I facilitated a session at Mozfest 2015 on promoting freedom of expression by contributing to Tor. I previously shared the outline for this session on this blog before if you interested in seeing it. But like all the best laid plans, the session didn't play out exactly as we had anticipated. That isn't a bad thing at all; in fact, quite the opposite. Our session was the third session of the weekend and after sitting in the first session of the morning—and actually my first Mozfest session ever—I took some time during the second session to adjust our plan.

You can see what our plan became below. Ugly and nearly illegible, but better.

Session Outline

After reworking the plan and using the first part of our session to gauge interest and find out where the 40 or 45 people wanted to focus, we ended up with a session plan that looked like this:

  • Introductions, and we are here to talk about contributing to Tor.

  • What are the areas where you might want to contribute?

  • Break into groups and discuss the resources, roadblocks and remedies available in that particular area of contribution.

  • Come back together as a group to share whatever we figured out.

As a large group we brainstormed areas that people were interested in contributing to Tor. We had the following ideas:

  • Contributing as a user

  • Running (entry and middle) relays and bridges

  • Running exit nodes, multiple relays or more advanced bits

  • Educating people about Tor

  • Participating in the broader Tor project

From that we broke into two groups; one for "contributing as a user" and another for "running exits and mode advanced topics."

First, within each group we started talking about resources that exist already that either made people aware of Tor or that they found useful. You can see the resources we captured to the right, and listed below.

There is another handful of resources that I would add to the above list. These are:

Are there other resources that you would add?

After talking about positive resources, we shifted to roadblocks and things that kept people from using Tor. You can see what we captured in the picture below.


It is pretty clear that some themes exist, as you would expect. I would group the roadblocks and challenges together like this:

  • Awareness: Not enough awareness of how Tor can help

  • Awareness: Not sure when I should use Tor

  • Awareness: I need more contextual awareness of why Tor would help in a particular setting

  • Technical Knowledge: Need more of an understanding of how it works

  • Technical Knowledge: Abstraction of technical knowledge

  • Experience: Using Tor just feels different

  • Experience: The speed is just too slow

  • Security: What are the security implications of using Tor

  • Security: Don't want to draw attention to myself

  • Project: Not sure about the goals of the Tor Project

  • Project: Not enough awareness of how contributions that have a tangible benefit

Next, we brainstormed things that could remedy some of the challenges above. You can see our ideas below (against the backdrop of London).


Refining the post-its from the picture, we had the following ideas for things that would reduce the roadblocks and perhaps get more people using and contributing to Tor.

  • Engage educators (and get involved with Tor-Teachers mailing list and look at their resources wiki page!)

  • Small-group hands-on workshops

  • Writing good and approachable documentation

  • Educational resources using video

  • Better desktop integration, and more things like @michflee's Tor Browser Launcher

  • Use user interface design to make Tor more appealing

  • User interface/user experience specific sprints and events

  • Campaigning on Privacy and Tor

During this session, we moved as a group from resources to roadblocks and then to potential remedies for those roadblocks. Not only are those remedies things that speak to the challenges this group of people experienced themselves, but they are also a great starting point for someone looking to contribute to the Tor Project in interesting ways.

Are you going to get involved?

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