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Security Portal: The Art of Good Computer Security Writing

Nov 07, 2000, 08:31 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Ronald L. Mendell)

"Good computer security documentation teaches practical solutions clearly. Yet, too often security documents suffer from too little explanation and too technical language. Much technical documentation in general, and computer security material in particular, assumes too much on the reader's part. For an example, read this opening sentence describing the Unix "find" command on a "man" (manual) page:

The find utility recursively descends the directory hierarchy for each path seeking files that match a Boolean expression written in the primaries given below."

"If the intended audience is computer science instructors or professional programmers, the terminology serves the task well. For general audiences, however, the diction level is probably too advanced. The questions that arise include:

  • What does "recursively" mean?
  • How is the hierarchy structured?
  • What is the precise meaning of the word "path"?
  • What is a "Boolean expression"?"

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