Decide whether to remove the "clock synchronization" notification
This notification might be misleading, too technical, scary.
Synchronizing the system's clock Tor needs an accurate clock to work properly, especially for Hidden Services. Please wait...
|Related to Tails - Feature #14544: Spend software developer time on smallish UX improvements||In Progress||2018-08-31|
Related to Tails -
|Related to Tails - Feature #6284: Display time in local timezone||Confirmed||2015-10-27|
#5 Updated by Anonymous 2017-06-30 09:07:34
- Assignee set to sajolida
- QA Check set to Info Needed
- Type of work changed from Research to Discuss
Today’s situation is different. We’ve removed the “Tor is not ready” notification and we still only habve the “clock synchronization” notification. IMO, this notification is important as it tells the user that something is not ready currently, and UX wise that’s better than to say nothing.
I could instead think of modifying this message to say something more userfriendly though.
Like “Synchronizing the clock to be able to connect to the Tor network” “Tor network connection will be established once the clock has synchronized”.
Reassigning to the UX experts.
Eventually we might want to discuss this at the next monthly meeting so that we can reject it rather than keeping such tickets around forever.
#11 Updated by Anonymous 2017-06-30 10:01:53
> u wrote:
> > Today’s situation is different. We’ve removed the “Tor is not ready” notification
> Wait, no: this notification is still there (
Ok, well, I never see this when I start Tails 3.0. Might be that my network is too fast (although it’s not really).
#13 Updated by sajolida 2017-09-06 18:33:55
This was discussed at the September 2017 meeting:
This ticket was originally created as part of Feature #10491 (Redesign the network configuration and startup) and proposed removing this notification once we have something much better. This won’t happen any time soon so the question is still open whether we want to:
- Remove it all the way, even without Feature #10491
- Rephrase it
Random notes from the discussion as no decision was taken:
- This notification currently provides some (maybe not very good)
feedback that something is going (“Please wait…”) before Tor is
- Useless notifications are bad because they train people in ignoring
them. The utility of this one could be better studied.
**Remove this notification and instead improve the notification when
starting Tor Browser when Tor is not ready yet. Hinting at the onion
icon in the top bar.
- Rephrase as “Starting Tor”.
#14 Updated by sajolida 2017-09-06 18:59:13
- Category set to Tor configuration
- Type of work changed from Discuss to User interface design
- Starter changed from No to Yes
Writing now my personal opinion. Sorry I was not that helpful during the meeting but I found this meeting quite stressful with people showing they were impatient, people saying UX stuff that irritated me, etc. Taking notes on the side didn’t help me focus and make proposals.
What bothers me with the proposal of removing the notification and relying on an improved Tor Browser popup is that it’s a punishing behavior: if you don’t wait enough (even if you’ve actually never been told to wait!) then you get a pissed off popup telling you that you didn’t wrong and not waited enough.
That’s why I like and will continue to defend the fact that this notification is feedback (and not punishement, contrain, or whatever), it’s not great feedback but it’s the only feedback we have right now to tell people that something is going on in the background. I would be sad to go in the direction of even less feedback. Regarding the usefulness of this notification, it’s helpful as long as it tells people that they can’t use the Internet just yet. Maybe the current text is not very good at that and could be improved in this direction.
So actually, I would propose to do both proposals:
- Rephrase the current notification to be shorter and more useful. “Starting Tor. Please wait…” as segfault suggested. Maybe adding something to explain that until then it’s impossible to go online. Maybe in there directly teaching about the onion icon with an icon, an animation, etc.
- Improve the Tor Browser notification to explain basically the same thing again but to different users and behaviors.
Also, it might prove useful to whoever wants to work on this to actually test the current notification (and possible improvements) with users:
1. Sit down with someone who hasn’t start Tails very often. Break the Internet so that the user gets a Wi-Fi connection but no upstream Internet.
2. Boot the laptop for them.
3. Before the Greeter appears tell them that their mission is to connect to the Internet and visit https://wikileaks.org/.
4. Let them try stuff out, following our usual guidelines: https://tails.boum.org/contribute/how/user_interface/testing/.
5. Stop them after some time because it will be very cruel!
6. If they didn’t react or comment on the notification, ask them about what it meant after the test is over.
7. If you want to change the text in the notification or in the Tor Browser popup try to get them to comment on your proposal.
Do this with 5 people.
Making this a UI design ticket now. Someone should propose a design, ideally backed up with test with real users but I’m ready to accept a design of my own proposal :)
#15 Updated by Anonymous 2017-09-06 20:43:14
> What bothers me with the proposal of removing the notification and relying on an improved Tor Browser popup is that it’s a punishing behavior: if you don’t wait enough (even if you’ve actually never been told to wait!) then you get a pissed off popup telling you that you didn’t wrong and not waited enough.
This sounds not right, indeed, I agree.
> So actually, I would propose to do both proposals:
> * Rephrase the current notification to be shorter and more useful. “Starting Tor. Please wait…” as segfault suggested. Maybe adding something to explain that until then it’s impossible to go online. Maybe in there directly teaching about the onion icon with an icon, an animation, etc.
This sounds like a great plan and like a real improvement.
> * Improve the Tor Browser notification to explain basically the same thing again but to different users and behaviors.
Thanks for proposing this as incremental change :)
#16 Updated by intrigeri 2017-09-07 10:30:44
Actually, lots of this discussion (and some of sajolida’s reasoning) is based on the erroneous assumption that the Tor status icon turns to “OK” once time has synced, and that Tor Browser will display a warning dialog until the time has been sync’ed. Both are wrong: the Tor status icon turns to “OK” as soon as Tor has bootstrapped, and once this is done Tor Browser won’t display any warning dialog. So most proposals that were made here and on the ticket are buggy. In retrospect, we ought to have checked what the current behavior is before discussing improvements :/
Some more “random” data points that might be useful to the next person who tries to make progress here:
- The current notification only incidentally conveys info about connecting to the Tor network: it’s about trying to do stuff . We actually have no notification about trying to connect to the Tor network.
- As a consequence, (I didn’t test this, I’ve only read the code, sorry) the current failure mode (when Wi-Fi works but the Internet connection is broken) is to close the “Synchronizing the system’s clock” notification and replace it with another one… that essentially dumps the output of
htpdate. Here again, we don’t tell the user that we can’t connect to Internet or the Tor network: instead, we tell them that some weird operation that happens to need Internet access failed.
- In many situations, at the very same time we display a Tor status icon that suggests Tor is ready, and then a notification asking users to wait until the time has sync’ed (and finally a notification that says “Tor is ready”). That’s not good. But I bet that diplaying “Starting Tor. Please wait…” while the Tor status icon has already turned to “OK” would confuse users even more by making the mismatch between these 2 messages even larger.
- GNOME doesn’t display notifications when trying to connect to the Internet (but granted, it takes less time than bootstrapping Tor :) In recent GNOME I’ve seen the Wi-Fi/Ethernet icon be animated while NM is connecting to the AP/router/Internet. I find this less obstrusive than notifications, and the animation catches my eye enough for me to realize that “something is going on in the background”.
- If I try to use the Internet with a working AP/router but broken upstream Internet connection on a regular, non-Tails GNOME system, it’s the app’s responsibility to nicely tell me that the connection failed and what I can do about it. IIRC Firefox and Chromium do a sane job at it, but IMO most other apps display crappy technical error messages. So perhaps this design problem could be solved somewhere upstream, rather than in Tails only; I suspect experienced GNOME designers may have useful input. Some distros enable NetworkManager’s connectivity checking (that calls home) as a way to improve this.
The best quick fix I can think of right now is to 1. replace the “Synchronizing the system’s clock” (that doesn’t do what everyone here seems to believe so probably users will get confused as well) with a “Starting Tor…” notification displayed when we start trying to connect to the Tor network, that is replaced with the existing “Tor is ready” notification once Tor has bootstrapped and the clock has been sync’ed; 2. make the Tor status icon turn to “OK” only once the time has sync’ed. So we’ll get the feedback sajolida reasonably wants to display, no more mismatch between the status icon and the notifications, and less low-level technical details users should not be bothered with.
Interestingly, this approach would force us to clean up our semantics a bit both in terms of GUI and backend, which can save us time and headaches when reasoning about the parent ticket :)
(Bonus, and I’m less sure about it: 4. replace the time sync’ing failure notification with one that’s more generally about connecting to Tor; 5. replace the “in progress” notifications with an animated Tor status icon.)
#26 Updated by sajolida 2019-01-14 14:59:40
A technical friend of mine contacted about how to change time in her Tails. She said it was needed for Tor to function. I understand that synching the time to UTC and at the same time warning people that a good clock is needed for Tor might be very confusing: they might think that the clock in UTC is unsynced. Getting rid of the warning would solve this.