On Sat, Oct 10, 2009 at 11:13 PM,  <l...@hushmail.com> wrote:
> Hello. I hope this is OK. It’s quite long.
> I wonder if anyone can help with this/these question/s-comment/s in
> the form of clarification. I hope it doesn’t seem too petty but I
> wonder if others go through the same confusion as I.
> On this page: one can go to: “Load
> Official Plugin”
> The viewer can see, as did I, that “Fetch over Freenet is checked
> AND that it says,
> “This is untraceable, safe….”   NOW, untraceable means anonymous.
> The other choice available is to, “Fetch over the web from
> Freenet’s central servers…and is “TRACEABLE”, meaning NOT
> (Freenet isn’t safe?)
> On this page: FREEMAIL-SETUP
> GQkjE7NY4,EtUH5b9gGpp8JiY-Bm-Y9kHX1q-yDjD-
> 9oRzXn21O9k,AQACAAE/freemail/4/setup/index.html
> It clearly directs one method of using the same plugin page as my
> beginning comment above (Load Official Plugin), with the “only”
> comment for that choice being that it is NOT ANONYMOUS!
> So, is one correct to assume that the first directive is false,
> misleading and/or has been tampered with (edited) by someone with
> bad intent? Or is it the second one?
> One point I am trying to make here is that this can cause some
> immediate doubt and confusion in someone new to Freenet. I am
> concerned because the world needs Freenet and Tor more than they
> might consciously know. I recently saw figures about the estimated
> number of users for both, and the numbers were very small. They are
> small enough that large arrays of computers, set around the world
> and networked, are capable of watching ALL nodes and gathering the
> data to be analyzed.
> Look at Tor. On the Network Map (of the world), there are nodes
> running in sequential order, and all these are located in the same
> place – near the CIA in the US.
> Some of these sequential orders are showing up in other locations
> around the Tor network.
> I have found Freenet to be so frustrating and confusing to set up
> and use, that as I search the web for information that is clear and
> helpful, I keep coming across more comments from Users who are
> quitting the program. Now it does make sense to me, that with
> anonymity programs, the more using them, the better and more safely
> anonymous it is for all. But, it seems the numbers are dwindling. I
> don’t know.
> I have used Tor for about 4 years. I recently went to its Hidden
> Wiki and about one half of all its services were gone! So, I
> wonder, as do others, is Tor is dying out?
> I really don’t want to see that for Tor or Freenet.
> If one goes to: first, before
> finding the .jar or .zip download page (supposedly both are
> anonymous but of course, IT DOESN’T SAY, then they might make a
> very bad choice solely from being confused by the directions.
> So, while this might seem very petty and/or trivial to (I don’t
> know-most who might read this), it is very important to write
> directions for the reader, not the writer!
> In Tor, the Hidden Services may be tampered with, changed,
> purposely to be misleading and dangerous, by those who want to
> destroy anonymity and our right to it. They use anonymity to try
> and destroy anonymity, except for them, of course.
> Is this also possible with the Freenet pages of “howto’s?” Can they
> be edited so that one is not aware of what is true, accurate and
> good for the User?
> Anyway, I am once more trying to set up Freenet, Freemail and Frost
> and am close to quitting. If I were more knowledgeable, I would
> write “howto’s” but I am not. It seems all I am is frustrated.
> One last thing, at Freemail-Setup, it tells me to download
> Freemail. The next bit of ‘howto’ is setting it up for “command
> line version setup”.
> I’m not doing that.
> I don’t know the pros and cons of command line Freemail. At the end
> of that instruction it says, “Now you have Freemail proxy
> running….”
> I DO? How? I didn’t do that so what the fuck happened? Does the
> download set it up or does it have to be set up after it’s
> downloaded? The latter makes sense to me but, it is now telling me
> I already have it running without doing anything. So, why the
> instructions? I mean, C’mon! I have to go by what the writer
> writes, right?
> Since it tells me I have it up and running, where is it? I can’t
> find it. These instructions are telling me to insert the long
> Freemail address I was given.
> I was given? When? Where? I haven’t done anything yet but the
> directions jump from something I don’t want to do and didn’t do,
> to, “I’m up and running!”
> This is a joke right? It’s only for those who are IT smart, meaning
> very few, and anonymity will be shot on site.
> Just before it gets to THUNDERBIRD, it tells me, “Remember that the
> Freemail.jar program needs to be running whilst you are reading and
> sending emails. Sooooo, where is it? There is no window to put in
> any information.
> Perhaps if I could get some help, yeah, I might be able to help
> others.
> Sorry for the rant but writing it out here seems to be (I hope,
> even though I don’t believe in hope), it will be read with
> understanding and with help coming as a result.)
> By the way, at the Plugins of Node...yadayadayada, what does the
> word “Visit” mean? Is that some tech-term for “download”, “install”
> or what?
> I mean it couldn’t mean going to my email because it hasn’t been
> set up yet!
> Best regards to all and to all a good site:)

(A long and meandering email deserves a long and meandering response,
right?  Fair warning: this probably answers very few of your
questions, but may make things clearer overall.  Or it might not.)

As you have clearly gathered, Freenet is complicated.  That isn't
really a problem; the rest of the Internet is really complicated too.
People manage to use it just fine.  A huge system of metaphors has
been built up, around things like email (which is like regular mail,
you see; except that it isn't, except that it's close enough to be a
useful metaphor in some ways) and the web, and desktops, and files,
and firewalls, and so on.  The problem isn't that Freenet is
complicated; it's that it's complicated in ways that aren't much like
the rest of the Internet, and we haven't yet found good metaphors.

On the rest of the Internet, we make do with bad metaphors, and then
slowly add more detailed understanding.  If you use a bad metaphor in
ways that it doesn't apply, the results are often unexpected but
rarely catastrophic.  However, Freenet is anonymity software.
Anonymity is a hard problem, that is highly prone to failures that the
Freenet software has imperfect control over.  The result is that when
a bad metaphor for Freenet breaks, the result *is* potentially
catastrophic.  Furthermore, there aren't as many people using it, and
so the better metaphors haven't been thought of.

The combined result is that Freenet is hard to use.  Some of that
complexity is probably unavoidable -- there are plenty of rules that
Freenet can't enforce that the user has to follow to remain anonymous.
 So Freenet includes lots of scary warnings that you *actually need to
pay attention to*.  Some of that complexity results from the fact that
we haven't yet found a good metaphor for some things -- or even an
approximate analogy to a something on the rest of the Internet where
there are decent metaphors in use.  And some of that complexity
results from the fact that Freenet is very, very far from finished.

Which brings me to your questions about plugins.  Once upon a time,
the only way to install a plugin was to manually download the jar file
and tell Freenet to load it.  For convenience, some plugins shipped
with the installer (see, shipping is a decent metaphor in some ways,
crappy in others).  Then the ability to update plugins over the web
was added, for convenience.  Unfortunately, if you do that, you give
away the fact that you're using Freenet to an observer who can see
your network traffic (if you're using opennet, you've already done
that; the concern is mostly for darknet users).  Recently, toad added
the ability to update over Freenet itself.  Even though Freenet could
already update itself over Freenet, adding plugin support added new
complications.  So now you have your choice of three different
methods, each useful in different situations.

I'm guessing that the Freemail documentation you're reading is
outdated: there did not used to be a way to load official plugins over
Freenet; now there is.  The documentation hasn't all been updated.

In general, the developers know Freenet is complicated.  We know it's
hard to use.  We know the metaphors tend to suck.  But here's the
problem: we understand how it works without the metaphors, because
we've grown used to the complexity.  That makes it hard for us to know
how to explain things better, how to improve the option wording or the
warnings, or what sorts of names to choose for things.  To give one
example: there was a rather large amount of discussion over the
distinction between "fetch" and "download".

So when you say "this sucks" we just get frustrated and stop reading.
Specific questions we can answer, but we'd rather find a way to avoid
having the question be asked again later by some other user.  What we
need is user advice on *what would be better*.  You don't like the way
a warning is worded?  Please, suggest a better wording!  We'll
probably respond by telling you all the ways your wording is awful;
don't take it personally, it's not intended that way.  Offer a
revision that incorporates the suggestions.  After a couple
iterations, you'll probably have an improvement.  There's nothing
magic about such things; once your suggestion is better, we'll be
happy to make use of it.

Most of us would rather make the code better than make the
documentation better.  Writing documentation is hard, and the best
result you can hope for is that fewer people complain; in fact, if you
take something completely undocumented and write a cursory
explanation, then plenty of people will find it useful -- and you'll
get *more* complaints, not fewer.

So, if you want improved documentation, you should be willing to
improve it yourself.  We have a wiki ( http://wiki.freenetproject.org/
); feel free to add to existing pages or start new ones.  I'm willing
to answer questions, but I will be much, much happier about the
prospect if the results are going to help more than one person.  So,
if the questions you have aren't answered in the docs / wiki / etc,
and someone takes the time to answer them for you, then we would
probably be very appreciative if you took the time to add some of
those answers to the wiki so that someone else could get the benefit
of them as well.

Evan Daniel
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