Wanted: Novice Guides

Daniel Kahn Gillmor dkg at fifthhorseman.net
Wed Feb 15 15:53:36 CET 2017

Hi all--

On Wed 2017-02-15 09:05:29 -0500, Jason A. Donenfeld wrote:
> As WireGuard gets more and more popular, I have more people contacting
> me about novice guides and blog entries and step by step things. If
> anybody would be up for writing these or assisting with it, it would
> be much appreciated. Probably better to tackle this before horribly
> written guides with bad advice fill the void instead.

Agreed about wanting better-written guides to pre-empt terrible ones :)

A good "novice guide" usually has the following pattern:

 a) Present the specific goal of the guide at a high level (if you think
    want X, this is the guide for you) -- the goal should not be
    "install WireGuard", which is meaningless to a novice, but something
    like one of the following:

  * have two machines establish a secure connection between each other
    across the public Internet
  * give my laptop an IP address on my home network no matter where I am

  * allow co-workers to access office resources from the road

  * run a "virtual office" offering secure connections between the
    computers of multiple co-workers who are scattered and have no
    central physical location
  * operate a public-facing encrypted Internet proxy service
    (a.k.a. "VPN provider")

 b) Present frequently-confused *non* use cases (if you think you want
    these other things, this is not your guide)

 c) Document assumed platform details (if your examples are only known to
    work on Ubuntu 16.10, say so!)

 d) Document steps to take to achieve the goal (these should be very
    simple.  If it's more than 5 steps, the tools or the platform should
    probably be improved)

 e) Diagnostics, troubleshooting and debugging (again, should be
    relatively minimal, but should include at least how to check that
    things are working, what you might see if they're not working, and
    recovery from common failure modes)

 f) Outbound links to learn more (this should include suggestions about
    where to file bug reports, and how to follow up on this mailing list)

choosing (a) and (c) carefully are kind of critical for even knowing
where to begin if you want to write such a guide for novices.

Those of us who are not novices understand that tools like WireGuard can
be used on a lot of different platforms (c) to perform a lot of
different tasks (a), but how those tasks are carried out might have more
to do with policy details (where do you get the peer's public keys from?
how do you verify that they're the right public keys?  How do peers find
each other if there are no stable public IP addresses?  How do you
allocate IP addresses for the wg interfaces?  Which traffic should each
peer route over which wg interfaces?) than with WireGuard itself.

The fact that the WireGuard-specific instructions for any such guide are
likely to be minimal is one of the strengths of WireGuard, i think.  But
that also means that any novice guide is going to be at least as much
about non-WireGuard details as it is about WireGuard itself.

Jason, what kinds of novice guides are people asking for?  What kinds of
guides are people on this list interested in writing?

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