Building the ‘stack

Building the ‘stack

Sorry I’ve been AFK on the blog front lately. I know it looks quiet, but that certainly doesn’t reflect what’s going on behind the scenes. So, here’s a quick recap of what’s happened, what’s going on, and what’s to come.

Also, I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone who has made this project possible. From the Twitter support, to the incredibly supportive donations, to private organizations volunteering, people donating their time in real life to help this come together — I’m just amazed at the willingness of people to come together to make this project a success <3

Weeks before Haystack was even announced, we were feverishly working out the technical details, trying to layout what the network would look like, and procuring the first servers we would test our anonymous, anti-censorship tool for Iran with.

A few days after it was announced, we realized that the tech side wasn’t the hardest part. As the Iranian government cracked down on citizens and stepped up Internet filtering, the new challenge would be distribution. We needed to get people together — and fast — to figure out how both parts of the Haystack network would roll out. So we reached out for the first time to the Internet & Twitter to make sure this could happen — and support Haystack you did! Less than a week later we had our first successful test of Haystack from inside of Iran.

The dialogue that came out of our meet-up propelled Haystack beyond my wildest expectations. Since then, we’ve been putting the parts of the plan that came out of that dialogue in place.

On the Haystack front we’ve been building out capacity, testing the network, improving on the Haystack protocol, and meeting with specialists to review our strategy and network security principles. On the organizational front, there’s a non-profit being formed! This will serve to provide the necessary support and legal structure around Haystack. In the future we hope to support human rights and free speech with technology throughout the world. While very exciting, this adds lawyers, banks, accountants, and a whole bunch of other things into the mix. And a huge thanks to everyone donating their time, energy, and hard earned money to make this possible.

Then there’s the PayPal fiasco…

On Monday, I got a notice from PayPal saying that my account was under review and they needed some clarification for what it was for. Great, that’s fine! So I faxed over a letter stating what I was working on, and pointing them to relevant media about Haystack and my past work in the Iran election technology circle.

Somehow they decided that meant I wanted to have my account changed to non-profit status and asked for proof. I call them up and, after getting transfered four times, am told that there’s a problem with the account being in compliance of these laws that pertain to non-profit, tax exempt organizations. Wha? We never represented to paypal or any donors that we were already non-profit. I explain what I’m doing and the service rep tells me I have 14 days to provide documentation to prove the 501(c)(3) status of a non-profit that does not yet exist. We’ve been moving so quickly to get everything done, but changing how quickly the government grants non-profit status is one thing that is totally our of our hands.

So much has happened and yet so little time has gone by.

In the upcoming weeks as we continue to test the platform, we’ll also be gearing up for the launch of Haystack 1.0 and introducing our non-profit more formally, so stay tuned. If you’re going to the rallies in San Francisco or Los Angeles (and possible NYC!), swing by the Haystack booth and say hi!

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