[Tails-ux] #8948: Reconsider the terminology around "persist…

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Author: sajolida
To: Public mailing list about the Tails project, Tails user experience & user interface design
Subject: [Tails-ux] #8948: Reconsider the terminology around "persistence"

I'm putting tails-ux in copy once but I think that this discussion
rather belongs to tails-project@, so please answer on tails-project@ only.


The history of the terminology around Persistence is pretty awkward and
full of hesitation on the correctness in English (with no native speaker
on board back then).

- Back in Tails 0.11 (2012) when we introduced Persistence, we inherited
this term from previous live operating systems without giving it much
more thoughts.

- In the first documentation on Persistence (1513e71cc4), I wrote
"persistent storage".

- During the review process, we changed it to write "persistent
volume" for English correctness (da75d22109). The argument being that
"a persistent storage" was incorrect as a noun.


- When we redesigned Tails Greeter in 2015, we decided to used "storage"
again and that's why we have "Encrypted Persistent Storage" in Tails
Greeter today.


- Since then, we failed to update all our documentation and software and
be consistent. We're still using a weird mix of "encrypted persistent
storage", "persistent storage", "persistence storage", "persistent
volume", and "persistence volume".

I think that it's partly due to the fact that I've always felt that
"encrypted persistent storage" was not such a good solution either,
it's long and redundant.

- During all this time, we never really checked the understanding of
these terms with users and always based our claims on which terms were
better or worse based on our non-native English and what we thought
would be better for users.

- When working with Simply Secure in August 2018, they had no problem
calling it "Persistence" and told me that it's a common practice to
use capitalized words, even neologisms, to refer to major features.

In this email, I'm proposing to follow this recommendation and to use
Persistence, a single work with a capital P. See examples below.

I feel a bit ridiculous doing all these changes and debates around a
single word but I'm unsatisfied with continuously struggling with this
inconsistent wording in my new work (and the work of translators) and I
think that now is the right time to solve (and simplify) this once and
for all.

Why now?

- We have a native English speaker (yay!) in the technical writing team.

- We have Weblate (yay!), which will hopefully make it easier for more
translators to fix strings if we happen to break several hundred
strings in a single commit.

- We are working on complete rewrites of some of our most important
pages as part of #9814 (Explain better what is Tails). While doing so,
I'm testing my content with new users so we can check if it actually
works for people.

- We have some budget and coders to work on our UX debt (#14544).
Giving some love to the Persistence configuration is among the top
priorities as it hasn't seen significant improvements to its phrasing
since it was first written in 2012, despite being a piece of software
through which we want most of our users to go.


I went through our website and custom software to check how using
"Persistence" would work in practice. I've also used it myself for some
time in my emails and in Redmine.

Below are some examples of usage taken from existing strings.

I'll use these practical examples to finish discussing this with you and
especially with Cody. I will then use them to finally write new entries
about Persistence in our writing style guide.

the Persistence / your Persistence

To refer to the encrypted partition (when there is one).

For example:

- Enter your passphrase to unlock the Persistence.

- Upgrade your Tails USB stick and keep your Persistence.

- This method might in rare occasions break the file system of your

- Cannot delete the Persistence on %s while in use.

- Create an apt-sources.list.d folder in the Persistence.

- Freeing space in the Persistence.

- Follow these steps to create a new password database and save it in
the Persistence for use in future working sessions.

- When starting Tails, enable the Persistence.

- If you choose [Install Every Time], the package is saved in the
Persistence and will be reinstalled automatically every time you
start Tails.

- Enable & use the Persistence

- Your Persistence is unlocked. Restart Tails to lock it again.

a Persistence

To refer to an non-existing or hypothetical encrypted volume.

For example:

- Create a Persistence (optional)

- You can create a Persistence in the free space left on the USB

- Restart on your backup Tails and create a Persistence on it.

- To create a Persistence or change its configuration, choose
Applications → Tails → Persistence.

- An attacker in possession of your USB stick can know that there is
a Persitence on it.

- If a Persistence is detected on the USB stick, an additional
section appears in Tails Greeter.


To refer to the feature and not the object.

For example:

- Warnings about Persistence

- Read the documentation on Persistence.

- To understand better how Persistence works, see our design

- Only Persistence allows you to reuse data across different working

the Persistence feature

To refer to the feature and it's useful to clarify that it's a feature.

For example:

- The simplest way to carry around the documents that you want to use
with Tails encrypted is to use the Persistence feature.

the $FEATURE persistence feature

To refer to the different data that can be stored in the Persistence.

For example:

- To store your GnuPG keys and configuration across separate working
    sessions, you can activate the GnuPG persistence feature.

the Persistent folder

To refer to /home/amnesia/Persistent.

For example:

- Save the database as keepassx.kdbx in the Persistent folder.


To refer to the property of something that can be saved in

For example:

- Persistent Tor configuration

- Only the data that is listed here can be made persistent.

- This option is useful if you want to make some specific files

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