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"I Didn't Enjoy Job Before CyberPartisan". Interview With the Creator Of Partisan Telegram And P-SMS

Meet our vivabelarus. The creator of Partisan Telegram and P-SMS tells us how these most important applications for the security of Belarusians were "born", what new products to expect, and whether it is difficult to be a cyberpartisan.



Protest Marches, Ideas, Friends


Let's go from the beginning, how did you come up with the idea of Partisan Telegram?


It came from the marches. When my policeman friend was arrested, they put him face down on the floor in a bus and went into his phone, asking him for his password. When he told me about it after he had done time, I thought: "What if my phone had sent me a text message at that moment?" I would have known what had happened to my friend and maybe been less worried. That's why the first feature was SOS messages, which have now been removed.


Something more wasn't planned at the time, because there was no network on Sundays. And there were thoughts about what could be done without the network.


Did you come up with P-SMS too?


Yeah, P-SMS came up at the same time. I asked myself the question: "How can I communicate only via text message without anyone reading it?". And I started P-SMS before I started working on P-TG. It was relevant during the marches. When you need to ask a friend where the police are standing or where the water cannon is, but there is no internet and you need other means.


And how did you transition from ideas to realisation, why did you decide to do it yourself?


I don't remember when the idea formed that "we need to do this". It's a gradual process from "it would be nice to have this" to "why don't I do it myself?". Before this incident, I was thinking about how I could help the protest with my qualifications. And there had been some attempts. But in general I realised that I couldn't do much more than participate in marches. And when the idea came to mind, I realised how I could make a case with my qualifications.


Basically, I wrote in a bot [CyberPartisan] with early versions of P-TG and P-SMS implemented. Next, they just needed to be finalised so they could be published.


Did you immediately realise that it was a " hit" and that the applications would be useful for all Belarusians?


I made apps right away, because it was necessary. At least to share them with my friends. There were no thoughts about their publication and distribution. And then, when the applications were ready, I began to think that since I had such a good tool, I should provide it to other people. So I wrote to cybers. And a few minutes later I also wrote to Nexta's bot. See if anyone would respond. Maybe I'd write to someone else if no one responded. No reply from Neхta. Probably, they thought that some fool writes, he doesn't know what he wants. But when CyberPartisan posted about P-TG, they reposted it. And kind of admired it. Because Putilo asked for something like that at the time, and then the cybers did just that.


"Before this incident, I was thinking about how I could help the protest with my qualifications. And there had been some attempts. But in general I realised that I couldn't do much more than participate in marches."

About Working In the CyberPartisan's Group


How quickly did the cybers respond to your bot message, did you have to wait long?


Pretty fast. I wrote it at night. In the morning I got a reply: "Why is there a thing like this in the code?" They gave me some ideas on how to improve it, and I improved it about a week later.



But I was immediately put to work on test tasks on small things.😄 They remembered about P-TG a little later. And we only came back to P-SMS in the spring. I mean, there were developments on it, but they were not used in any way.


What feature of Partisan Telegram, in your opinion, was the most useful for Belarusians?


At the moment, I think that account logout. It was suggested by some user. It seemed nonsense to me at once. But if they ask me to do it, I will do it. And when I saw that this function works invisibly, transferring to the remaining account, I realised that it was a " hit".


Did you work on P-TG alone from the very beginning, when you joined the Cyber team, or did someone help you?


I wrote CyberPartisans sometime in early December 2020. P-TG was something I did alone for a long time. Sometime in the spring I got an assistant. A nice guy who helped me with the Android P-TG, and then he started doing P-TG for computers. Well, he's doing it now. And then there were other guys who helped with Android. But without really diving in, periodically. The development of P-TG and P-SMS is almost entirely my responsibility.


I also had and still have a lot of help from the testers. They are not involved in development, of course, but I don't know what I would do without them.


How long did you have to work on implementing the idea before P-TG went public?


Less than 2 months since I knocked on CyberPartisans bot.


Now you have to do management and recruiting, a lot of communication with subscribers on P-TG and P-SMS. Do you get tired of it? Do you have weekends, holidays?


It varies, some things make me tired, some things don't. Writing out the answer to a question in the comments can be fun. Then you look at your watch and realise that you didn't program anything, you just answered the questions. 😅


Weekends are usually spontaneous. You just work-work-work, and then you realise you have a attack of procrastination. And that's it, you don't work.😄 Well, or friends invite you somewhere and "so, today I'll make myself a day off". In general, my work is more or less spread over a week.

I take a holiday sometimes for a week or two. Sometimes it's a semi-vacation.

Sometimes it happens like with weekends: the holiday arranges itself.


What disadvantages do you see in being a cyber?


I'm kind of psychologically pressurised by not being able to discuss work with friends and my life with colleagues.


I still don't really imagine what to say later on at job interviews about why I have such a hole in my career.😅


Aren't you tired of working on two applications, would you like to take on new projects?


To be honest, P-SMS is a bit boring. You've made an app and then there's the pressure of maintaining it. But in general I am satisfied with these applications. Sometimes there are specific tasks that I am too lazy to do.


There is no compulsive desire to start new projects because the old ones are boring. Rather, there are thoughts about what else could be useful to do. But there is no time to realise everything.


"I'm kind of psychologically pressurised by not being able to discuss work with friends and my life with colleagues."

Have you ever thought about giving it all up and living a normal life?


Nope. I didn't enjoy my job before CyberPartisans. You know, you do a project, you realise it's profitable. But it just didn't make sense. There was no feeling that I was doing something interesting or useful. But in the CP, there is such a feeling. There is a feeling that I am doing something useful, that I am really helping people. Although sometimes the responsibility is stressful. If I overly reassure people with my applications, but I can't really protect them, the responsibility for their arrest will be on me to some extent.


In general, I don't really understand people who work just for the money. It's like "I don't care what I do, as long as I get paid more". For me it is important that what I do is interesting or useful to me.



New Ideas, Volunteers, Anonymity


Any ideas for new apps for Belarusians? What else would help people?


Firstly, there is a desire to make a partisan Element (Matrix). As a safer alternative to Telegram for those who don't trust Durov too much.


Secondly, I'm working on a password manager bot. The idea is that it would be cool if a person would not know their passwords, they would be stored in the cloud, encrypted with a master password. And when detained, for example, the password from Telegram cannot be beaten out of a person, because he does not remember it himself. To get the password, you need to write to a bot, provide it with the master password, and only then you can get your Telegram password. And if you write a fake password to the bot instead of a real master password, the database with passwords will be deleted. There is no way to find them out.


And how can you get your password from Telegram if you can't enter the application without a password?


Through a "clean" account to find out the password from the " partisan" one. Well, this way you can store any password, for example, from an encrypted hard drive.


What specialists are needed for the development of current applications (P-TG and P-SMS)?


We need Android developers (Java), C++ developers for desktop (Windows, Linux or Mac), iOS developers (Swift), testers. The main problem is that people simply don't have enough free time to immerse themselves. Free time to volunteer is more important than straight up cool skills.


Oh, also. I came to CyberPartisans with my projects and we released them. It would be cool if other guys came in with their designs. Because suddenly they don't want to work on other people's ideas.


The key is that they don't just give ideas, they actually do it themselves. 😄


Well, of course. 🙂

We need developers with their own ideas, not advisors.


"I didn't enjoy my job before CyberPartisans. You know, you do a project, you realise it's profitable. But it just didn't make sense."

By the way, do people write to the Partisan Telegram bot some stories about how the app has helped?


The stories were mostly when we asked to write. After that, maybe there were a few more stories in the bot/comments. But the bulk of it was then.


You're the only cyber right now who doesn't hide your Telegram account. And even actively replies to people. Why did you decide not to hide it?


I don't see much point in hiding it. The account is used only for cyberpartisanship, and has never been used for anything else. I don't really see how hiding the account would increase security.


Did the police ever write to you in person?


No, they didn't. Or I didn't realise it was the police. 😅



About Politics And the Future


Let's talk about your personal political position. Who among Belarusian political figures do you respect the most?


I have basic respect for all those who try to do something good and do not put sticks in the wheels of others. But I don't have direct admiration for anyone. For me, the ideal is what many people talked about in 2020: the absence of a leader-chief. When everyone is their own leader and tries to do things where they can.


And which figure from world history do you consider a model for yourself?


Kalinowski, I guess.


Why?


I admire his devotion to his ideas to the very end. And his faith in the people.


Did you think about what you would do after the liberation of Belarus?


I haven't planned much. Things will never go according to the plan anyway. 😆


Probably, I'll continue doing what I'm doing now. Unfortunately, there are enough dictatorships and such software is in demand.

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