As per conferencing tradition Friday was spent on travel and meeting the other attendees. Some of the highlights for me were…
- David from KDE
Besides demoing some KDE eye candy we discussed their project infrastructure. KDE is a federation of smaller projects and had over sixty students this year (ten times the number mentored by Tor).
Their project’s scale has led to some unusual infrastructure decisions. For instance, they have a partly decentralized git infrastructure where pushes go to a single master host and pulls are from any of several mirrors. The config they use to do this leads to some… odd behavior. For instance a ‘git pull’ updates your tracking branch but not the origin branch reference. The result is that to do a pull for realz you need to call *both* pull and fetch. No doubt they also get fun behavior from mirroring delays…
We also talked a bit about post-review and defaults they could set to better support their setup. KDE has the largest public ReviewBoard instance, but the above git setup makes it a bit confusing to use.
- Sukhbir from Debian
In 2011 Sukhbir applied to us for GSoC to work on TorBirdy. We loved his proposal, but due to prior commitments he ended up working with Debian instead. Since then he has become a GSoC mentor for Debian and involved with the Tor by implementing his earlier proposal for TorBirdy.
Sukhbir’s interested in getting even more involved with Tor so we discussed other projects that might interest him, and ways that we could better publicize TorBirdy on our site.
- Arc from Python
When I found out that Python had a mentor at the summit I made a mental note to hunt him down and ask about packaging best practices. After an unexpected discussion about rugby I found out that it’s actually easy to support both python’s 2.x and 3.x series by including a 2to3 conversion at build time. This can be done via either distutils or distribute.
I also asked him to look into his crystal ball for when python 3 would take over the world and he said ‘Next year. Ubuntu and Fedora are ready and willing to make the switch. The last main holdout is Gnome. They tried to migrate but work there isn’t finished yet.’
Saturday was the first day of the unconference. After an amusingly confused attempt to have each of the couple hundred attendees shake each other’s hand there were sessions. Some were a little interesting, but I spent more time on the hallway track since that’s the real benefit of the summit. The only useful tidbits I got from the talks were…
- Do outreach early. The successful GSoC students who stick around tend to be the ones that get involved before the application phase. We should try harder to recruit college students to hack on tor, with the carrot that this’ll give them a leg up when applying for the program. OpenHatch might be something to look into for this. This would be a nice task for a community manager if we get one…
- Google Code In is a program somewhat similar to GSoC where highschool students become involved with open source. Last year they had 18 organizations and this year they’re narrowing it down to 10. I was already highly tentative about having us apply and now that I’ve heard more I’m sure we don’t have enough bandwidth for the hand-holding this would require.
As for the hallway track…
- Adriano and Luis from Umit
Last year Adriano showed me Open Monitor, a censorship detector written in python. Sounds familiar? I thought so too, and tried a few times to get them to talk with Ooni Probe and vice versa without success. My impression is that they’re UI developers (a skillset we sorely lack in the tor project) with a rather unscalable backend, while Ooni Probe’s backend is far more mature but lacks any sort of UI for rendering real time censorship information.
I made another stab at getting the two projects to talk, after which the meeting took a weird turn with Adriano arguing that ‘some censorship is good’. Evidently they decided that Open Monitor won’t look for censorship concerning ‘porn or terrorism’. I argued that this was a slippery slope and that censorship monitoring shouldn’t try to pass a moral judgment on the content being censored, but after a time it was clear that we were talking past each other.
I still think that we should leverage their UI expertise, but that’s up to the Ooni Probe devs.
- Open Source Lab
Met with a couple administrators from the OSU’s Open Source Labs. They provide hosting for several of the largest open source projects including Apache and the Linux Foundation. Mostly we talked about amusing legal threats they get for hosting the phpBB project. Evidently lawyers are quite skilled at clicking the ‘this is a phpBB forum’ link followed by ‘hosted by the OSL’ before sending their angry emails. We also talked a bit about setting up non-exit relays. They might be pretty receptive to this if we want to follow up.
- Sumana and Rob from Wikimedia
Unsurprisingly Wikipedia occasionally has issues with spammers using Tor. We talked about some possible options, such as requiring accounts for Tor users to edit with a sort of proof of work in account creation to make ban evasion more of a pita.
- Terri from Python
Mailman 3 is coming, and with it an interface that *doesn’t* look like it came from the 1980s! Most importantly for us, the new version of Mailman provides a forum interface, letting email and forum users communicate by whichever method they prefer. This would be a good answer to our forums ticket. She estimates that it’ll be ready in six months or so.
Flying out on Sunday cut my day short, but there was one session that I thought was interesting. Gnome and Wikimedia are launching a program similar to GSoC to encourage more women to get involved with open source. It runs later this winter. One gotcha is that Google’s not involved so mentoring orgs need to cover the $5k stipend.
I like the idea. Is this something we want to take part in? If so then I’d be happy to administer the non-financial parts of it.