Feedback on State of the Onion

Hello!
Every year we organize the State of the Onion, a compilation of updates from the Tor Project different projects as well as highlights from our community.

For the past two years we shift it to be an online event, you can check the previous editions:
2021 - State of the Onion 2021 - YouTube
2020 - State Of The Onion 2020 - YouTube

This post is to collect feedback from the community regarding the event. Even though each update is around 5minutes long, we know the full event is quite long and keeps getting longer :wink: We would like to know if this is an issue for folks or not. Please let us know if:

  1. This is ok, after all you can watch it online letter anyways.
  2. You would prefer if we kept it 2hrs long max (as it has been more or less)
  3. Why don’t you split it in 2 days instead? One day is Tor Project teams updates and the other is just for the projects from the community?

Let us know what you would prefer! And feel free to share any other feedback regarding the event overall format.

thanks!

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Hi,

Thanks for the work you do on Tor. I really like the idea of “State of the Onion”, but for the last two iterations now, I’ve been very bummed out by the fact Tor uses very proprietary tech to make it happen, when there are good FOSS alternatives.

I’ve complained to @anarcat about this extensively in private, but I’m happy this post gives me a chance to air out my grievances.

Overall, I think there is a clear contradiction between the overall goals of Tor and the use of proprietary tools.

Having been a core member of the DebConf Video Team for years now, I certainly understand the challenges of organising a conference and how streaming live can be troublesome.

One of @anarcat’s argument in favor of Streamyard (the proprietary solution you are currently using for SOTO) is that it is not realistic for Tor to host and master the tooling to make SOTO happen. Although I respectfully disagree, I understand the argument he makes. Still, this does not mean proprietary streaming solutions are your only options!

Matrix + Jitsi worked very well for the last two FOSDEM, and I’m sure the kind folks at matrix.org would be more than happy to set you with a similar offering if you were to ask them.

Jitsi itself it also able to stream to RTMP endpoints (Youtube, etc.) and could be used in conjunction with a public Peertube instance to create a very simple and easy to use solution for such a short-lived conference.

Otherwise, great commercial offerings using FOSS tech exist. The DebConf Video Team works extensively with Carl Karsten at Next Day video. Using the FOSS stack we’ve developed together over the years, they have hosted dozens of conferences in the USA, in Australia and online. To be clear, I have no business affiliations with them, other than being glad Carl & folks use our stack and work with us in maintaining it.

I cannot commit alone for this, but there’s also a chance the DebConf Video Team could be convinced to host SOTO for you, using the aforementioned FOSS stack.

If in the end you decide to keep using Streamyard, I think you should at least consider making the SOTO livestream available on platforms that aren’t solely focused on spying on people and stealing their data (Youtube, Twitter and Facebook – the last one being the worst offender!).

Streamyard lets you simultaneously publish your livestream to commercial platforms and to a custom RTMP endpoint. With very little effort and costs, Tor could host a stream using the awesome nginx-rtmp module (it’s even packaged in Debian!). You could even decide to stream to a public Peertube instance if you don’t want to set up nginx. Either of these two options would give privacy-focused people a viable alternative.

Cheers,

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Hi @pollo, thanks for bring up this topic.

We did some editions of PrivChat using Jitsi and broadcast to YouTube. It worked okay-ish, but we had a bad experience in one edition, and the streaming quality was compromised. This bad experience motivated us to find a streaming solution that wouldn’t require the Tor Project SysAdmin (TPA) Team to host it, overload the Comms Team, or add extra requirements for the participants (for example: installing xyz app). I also dislike proprietary software, but it’s important to say that so far we only had a few minor issues with that setup.

I’d like to explore a short-term and a long-term solution for Tor live streaming. Where the short term would be adding a custom RTMP endpoint. Which Peertube instance would you recommend?

A long term solution would be contacting DebConf Video Team, self-hosting or contracting Carl Karsten at Next Day video. However, I believe self-hosting is a solution that TPA can’t commit. So, we only have these two other options. I’ll add this topic on the Comms Team agenda, but as I said, it’s a long term solution.

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i can confirm that, in the short term, we have our hands full with the self-hosting for now. we don’t even self-host the current videoconferencing solution we’re actually using on a day-to-day basis (big blue button) so that would probably be the first order of business, if we would be to self-host anything in that space, i would bet.

edit: for TPA, setting up a VM and finding hosting is not the hard part, the annoying part is dealing with over 50 different services with a team of 3 or 6 or 35 people (depending on how you count). That’s the “death by a thousand cuts” that make us really hesitant in adopting any new service, especially when people do not volunteer to manage it with their own domain knowledge…

but we might want to self-host things like (say) this very forum first… :wink:

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Just to put things in context here, those are not my arguments, but those are what I believe are the reasons things are as they are right now. I also think it would be better to avoid youtube and all that crap, but I also understand where coms people are coming from, and tried (possibly poorly) to relay this.

Also, one thing @pollo is conveniently omitting here is that I suggested he volunteers for this work next time around.

… do we have a volunteer? :wink:

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Setting up nginx to be a RMTP endpoint really isn’t hard and I’d be glad to help with this if needed.

If the goal is to switch to something more ambitious (like a fully free FOSS stack), we should start planning now (and not in October 2022) to be sure things work out.

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Which Peertube instance would you recommend?

With enough advance warning, I’m sure Debian’s instance would be glad to host such a stream.

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