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[liberationtech] CryptoParty Handbook

Jacob Appelbaum jacob at
Tue Oct 9 10:25:21 PDT 2012

Asher Wolf:
> On 9/10/12 10:36 PM, Jacob Appelbaum wrote:
>>>> I did not work on the technical aspects of the book. I cannot. I do not
>>>> have the right skill set.
>> This attitude, I think, is a key issue this community and many others
>> face. You cannot? Or you will not?
>> I believe that you are totally able to learn and I think that it is very
>> demoralizing when people say they are *unable* or *unwilling* to learn.
>> That isn't to say that you will become a developer of cryptographic
>> protocols. It is to say that many people will need to make choices about
>> security and trusting a vanguard is dangerous. We're always trusting
>> someone and I realize that reality. I didn't write my own compiler to
>> compile my email client before sending this email with hand crafted
>> electrons... However the high level view of most of this stuff is well
>> within the grasp of each person - it just requires an interest and
>> *educational resources* that empowers *all people* to learn.
> Wait, I'm just trying to remember when I last slept more than 4 hours in
> a night while trying to educate myself.

I do not doubt for even a minute that this is true. I merely wish to
suggest that what I took from your other mail is one of a statement
regarding innate ability. A lot of people use that kind of language
without even realizing it - it is similar to sexism and actually, I
think often is a product of sexism in a lot of cases. If you had
included "I'm working on it but I don't understand x or y, who does?" -
I would have taken it entirely differently. The former is seemingly an
expression of a lack of a safe space or something worse and the latter
is one that encourages collaboration. I'm sure there are other paths.

> I've gone from being a Facebook user to running OTR, PGP and Tor all in
> under a month.

That is proof that ability is not static and that with the Will to
change, we will asses our capabilities and realistically adapt.
Sometimes we'll fail and sometimes we'll succeed. The important point is
that while we all have limits (physical, mental, capital, social, etc),
we must never mistake capacity and ability - both in terms of time
bounded ability or skill bounded ability.

No one is born a writer - we all practice. That isn't to then go on to
say "pull up by the bootstraps!" but rather to say - some of us face
more hardship than others. Short of serious genetic, environmental or
abuse issues, we're all able to grow, learn and adapt. Obviously
systemic sexism, racism, classism and so on will impact the realistic
and practical time constraints that we're all facing during that growth.

> I'm trying to put in the time I have free - mostly between 1am and 4am -
> towards learning.

I think it would be an interesting experiment to run an indygogo fund to
support your work here; perhaps where the idea is to produce a free book
and part of what people contribute is time or other resources, including
capital. I'd contribute both to that cause. Your dedication and passion
is apparent and I respect that our goals, as well as our tactics and
strategy overlap. I also respect that they often diverge.

> Note: I'm a sole parent, without access to child support, no childcare
> and trying to support myself, my son, put myself through postgraduate
> studies and contribute to social movements.
> 1 year ago I didn't own a laptop. Everything I created online in the
> past 2 years prior was on the only thing I could afford - a phone.

That says to me that you're making progress toward your goal and that is
exactly why I said that I respected the effort; regardless of the
content, I might add.

> The CryptoParty peeps in Germany wrote the book during a time frame that
> coincided mostly between 12 midnight and 4am my time here in Australia.
> I tried to contribute where I could.

> But I can't spot issues I don't even understand yet. I don't know what I
> don't know. It takes time to learn.

Of course.

> I outlaid the costs on CryptoParty Melbourne from my own pocket, to
> educate myself, as much as other people.
> Am I unable or unwilling to learn? Am I demoralizing others by being
> unwilling to learn? You decide.

I think that the language used in the previous email does actually
reflect a kind of demoralization. I don't blame you for it but it
certainly *shocked* me because some of this story is known to me from
when we met in person. That subtext doesn't carry through - so it is lost.

> Am I always trusting others rather than trying to understand for myself?
> Well, I cannot read the code (yet) behind certain platforms. When I try
> to develop an informed decision around security based on the best info I
> have at hand - usually by watching the tech journos and tech experts on
> twitter - and then I am often called to account - personally - for my
> decisions to use or not use certain platforms.

I think that is a reasonable strategy - though I would be concerned
about many of the tech journalists - they often have terrible
information security practices. Time hasn't been kind to the field of
journalism and a lot of their promises fall to surveillance. I find very
few journalists in my work that *really* understand it all the way down
the stack. A shining example of a journalist that gets it is Declan
McCullagh - who was part of the original cypherpunks in the SF Bay Area.
He understands a lot of the core concepts and as someone who has talked
to him in a source capacity - I didn't have to teach him to use Tor or
OTR or any of the other stuff one might use in that kind of
relationship. I won't name the ones that make me cringe but perhaps it
becomes apparent from things unrelated to their private/professional
communications security patterns...

> Am I being empowered to learn? Am I empowering others to learn? I hope
> so. I'm trying to be the best example I can be, and to be honest it is
> not easy.

I don't know if you are empowered but I'd like to help contribute to
that empowerment - which is why I've been putting in the effort to reply
to this entire issue. It all started with a few tweets taken quite badly
for which I'm sorry! :)

I think you're setting a good example, certainly you are trying to do
so; I hope that you take what I said as positively as I meant it and
that is to say, positively, of course. :)

All the best,

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