For the past three weeks, several projects took me away from blogging. "Documentation for Developers" was the topic when I addressed my Ruby on Rails group. I spoke on the subject of private security to my local DefCon group. Then, last week, I volunteered to present a chapter of exercises from Wireshark 101 to an OWASP lunchtime study cell.
Over the years, working on projects for different companies on different platforms for different audiences, I developed a set of guidelines for creating documentation. The focus of this presentation was that developers can begin that process by relying on tools such as Microsoft Visio to design their systems. Other tools include Nassi-Shneiderman charts and Warnier-Orr diagrams. "Do not design in code" is the only mandate. Creating a software system and then calling in a technical writer is like building a house and then calling in a drafter to draw the plans. Documentation is specification.
I also drew on the allusion from Joseph Weizenbaum of the compulsive programmer as a compulsive gambler. The code developer's superstition is that one more patch, one more fix will overcome a lack of knowledge of the substantive literature of the application field.
(The slides are on Slideshare here.)
For the hackers at DefCon 512, my goal was first to overcome the common myths about security guards. We are subjected to ridicule. Self-deprecating humor works for Big Bang
Theory because we have A Beautiful Mind, Sneakers, Johnny Mnemonic, and Hackers (with Angelina Jolie) to provide depth and drama. Nothing like Law and Order: Special Victims Unit exists for private security. That pro-police propaganda is contradicted by the absolute facts that more money, more resources, more personnel exist in private security, as much as three-to-one over public policing. Most people do not know that 36 private guards died when the Twin Towers came down. I have worked with a Ph.D. philosopher, a nuclear engineer, two ministers, and an airline flight attendant. Security guards are not the buffoons we are caricatured to be by mass media presentations in service to the central government. Moreover, if you let us, we prevent problems because that is the nature of all businesses: business looks to the future; government attempts to remediate the past. My PowerPoint for this is on Slideshare here.
Wireshark is a tool for computer network security analysis. Our study group is sponsored by OWASP, the Open Web Application Security Professionals. They meet once a week at lunch for an hour to work out of some chosen book. Our current project is Wireshark 101 by Laura Chappell. I volunteered to work all of the labs in Chapter 3: Display Filters. As a technical writer, I do this all the time, coming in to some technology, getting a handle on it, and presenting it to others.
This is Chappell's smaller book on Wireshark. The labs are direct, step-through exercises to show how the toolbars, menus, options, and selections all work. I captured one or more screens for each lab, and made them into a PowerPoint presentation.
Previously on Necessary Facts
The Shifting Paradigm of Private Security
Private Security in the 21st Century
Redshirts: Expendable in Fiction and Fact