Matching a Community with a Technology, A methodology

Within the community of people working for internet freedom, there are many great minds inventing technology where privacy, transparency and the preservation of truth drive each decision. These technologies hold great potential for communities under high censorship, surveillance and oppressive regimes—places where news of the outside world is blocked, communications are tampered with, and voices of opposition are punished.

We set out to explore how a clever technology called Magic Wormhole, can play role in bringing about internet freedom.

Below, is a step-by-step outline of the method we used to determine for which communities the technology is best fit.

1. Define What You Know

From the project scope and interest of the team, are there any constraints or interests that give definition to the community?

The goal of the research for Magic Wormhole was to match the secure file transfer technology with potential user communities living under censorship and surveillance. Within our scope of work, our initial set of communities was defined by those under high censorship and surveillance.

2. Survey the Possibilities

Step back for a holistic view of possibilities and begin to ask, “In which areas can we have the most impact?”

From the identified set of countries that were under high censorship and surveillance, we outlined cases where people experiencing a lack of free speech. From here, our focus communities began to narrow in on journalists, activists and human rights defenders.

3. Clarify Factors

Factors give definition to each use case, and are useful in making a decision about which communities to learn more about.

We generated a matrix of factors across 14 columns and use cases down 26 rows. Of the factors we defined, the following were most useful in determining the focus communities we would interview—

  • Level of censorship

  • How well the technology fit the needs of the potential use cases

  • Availability of a partner organization

  • Relevance of the case

  • Likelihood of impact

  • Interest from the team


4. Talk with Potential Communities

There are many ways to engage with communities. Because we were trying to capture behaviors across many geographies, we chose to host conversational-style interviews.

We spoke with individuals and teams from each focus community. These conversations were two-part—1) to learn about their habits and methods for sending files; and 2) to demo the technology and have a discussion about how it may or may not align with the objectives and behaviors of people within their community. Ultimately these interviews begged to answer the question, “Is there a case for the Magic Wormhole technology?”

It was very important to us throughout this process to remain very grounded in reality. We are aware of the barriers any human faces in changing a habit or using a new tool. We wanted to be sure to get an accurate understanding of reality, and not make assumptions or jump to conclusions.

5. Define the Personas

Personas are an easily accessible way to reflect the stories heard from communities, and to address how the technology fits their goals, objectives and behaviors.

After analyzing the interview data, we identified four different persona types that captured the patterns of behaviors and needs we heard through the interview process. One side of the persona gives context to a current method. The flip side of the persona outlines the capabilities and qualities that would be required by the technology for it to be a viable alternative for a current behavior. These personas represent the communities that match with the technology.

Carrie Winfrey