[conspire] Terrible UI decisions for crypto

Nick Moffitt nick at zork.net
Thu Apr 28 02:20:21 PDT 2011

This "my key" conflation is so widespread that I now _insist_ on
referring to the "public key" as a "lock".  

The inheritance of the word "key" from the underlying mathematics of
cryptography is probably the single greatest UI obstacle to widespread
adoption.  We have somewhat useful metaphors for "signatures"[1], but
the word "key" is so dangerously misleading that I believe it to be
almost entirely useless in end-user documentation.

The sad thing is that many user-friendly applications have presented
more helpful metaphors to the user, but in the free software world we're
mostly still talking about cryptography as though every user is Alan
Turing or Bruce Schneier.

I think this is probably a good start:


If, like me, you do not enjoy viewing videos by first downloading a
proprietary video player program into a proprietary Flash runtime, the
two videos can be downloaded for offline viewing in a free software
video player[2]:

	clive http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-pSnx3-l6iU http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJrICB_HvuI

The complete video of the school presentation can be viewed in its
entirety (I can't find it in a hurry, but I know I watched it some time
last year).  It's perhaps a bit too focused on the underlying processes
to be a good match for a user interface, but it's a giant leap in the
right direction.

"N'aimez pas votre voiture?
Alor, l'heure est arrive pour la brulé!"
        -- Mark Jaroski

1: Although they're really closer to old-fashioned signet-imprinted wax
	seals or the old Babylonian clay envelope seals than the hasty
	biro-scribbles we use for our signatures these days)

2: You may need to upgrade your copy of clive to a very recent one, as
	youtube.com tends to move the locations of things around to
	defeat its screen-scraping logic.

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