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[liberationtech] liberationtech Digest, Vol 34, Issue 2

Andrew Ford Lyons contact at
Thu Sep 23 12:45:55 PDT 2010

Thanks for the reply, Joshua,

I agree with you on all these points below, but think that #1 was mostly what I was getting at. Actually, what a lot of commentary has educated me about is that there are ways of discussing things that are productive and ways that are not so much. This is sort of why I raised the issue of a sort of consumer reports type of process. Some process with regular transparent vetting of all like tools under different conditions on a regular schedule.

In terms of marketing, my basic idea is to stop doing it all together. At least in the model that's used for more consumer end products. Media grasps on to slogans more quickly than tech. Haystack's "find that needle" schtick fits pretty well, but other program creators do likewise. I2P describes itself as "this isn't darknet, it's a BLACK HOLE." For example. Tor simply claims to offer "anonymity online." As a former headline writer, I know how they work on people and how they inherently oversimplify. And most journalists working for the publications that most people read are not technologists, or going to read all the documentation. They're going to find an "expert" to give the layman's version. These tools (and I'm only referring to the working ones here) have narrower uses than their taglines imply. I'm advocating that people creating these things follow the academic model more than the commercial promotional model. It looks dry, has longish, boring headlines and descriptions, but does better at stating the actual scope of a tool.

On 23 Sep 2010, at 19:55, liberationtech-request at wrote:

> Message: 14
> Date: Wed, 22 Sep 2010 15:19:01 -0700
> From: Joshua Cohen <jcohen57 at>
> To: Andrew Ford Lyons <contact at>
> Cc: liberationtech at
> Subject: Re: [liberationtech] liberationtech Digest, Vol 34, Issue 1
> Message-ID: <DB8E8C9B-6459-40E8-9021-7A4C9E81B1E9 at>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="windows-1252"; Format="flowed";
> 	DelSp="yes"
> Andrew: I do not agree with the thrust of your message about what has  
> happened in the discussion of Haystack.
> 1. It is true that the the discussion started on an excessively  
> personal note. Some of us, including me, objected and urged that  
> contributors keep their eyes on the prize (I have pasted my earlier  
> message in below). I think participants have subsequently kept their  
> eyes largely on the prize, and the result is that several important  
> issues have been debated with great seriousness and in ways that I  
> have learned a lot from.
> 2. One issue is the extent to which people in Iran were exposed to  
> (non-consensual) risks by the distribution of what has been called  
> Haystack (though perhaps what was distributed was not the real thing).
> 3. A second issue is about the norms that players in this space should  
> use: in particular about the importance of Kerckhoff's "no security  
> through obscurity Law/Principle.
> 4. A third issue has been about whether the very considerable  
> attention that was devoted to Haystack.....what some have described as  
> the triumph of hype over security....tells us something of importance  
> about the individual players, about the media, and/or about the  
> government. "Bay of Pigs" is a reach. But considering the very  
> considerable hype (Guardian, Newsweek, etc.), these strike me as  
> legitimate and important questions.
> 5. The fact that most activists in Iran have never heard of Haystack  
> is VERY good news in terms of their own security but essentially  
> irrelevant to a discussion of the roots of the hype and how it might  
> be avoided in the future.
> Josh Cohen

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