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Following "The 7 Essential Questions of Every Beta", what should our faq contain?

This meta kind of starts the discussion, but perhaps we should have one place to sum it all up with a list of "good" and "bad" topics to put in the faq.

  • This Area 51 discussion kind of fuels what I'm going at. – Jesper.Reenberg Mar 20 '13 at 4:26
  • @Gilles, it was my understanding that questions needed to be tagged community-wiki before they could bee edited by others on meta? – Jesper.Reenberg Mar 20 '13 at 19:42
  • I don't know where you got that. No, community-wiki is for questions about community wiki. You can request that the question be made community wiki by flagging, but I don't see why this question should be community wiki. (Also, it's not very useful, “what kind of questions should I ask here” isn't intended as a question but a question family, e.g. 1 2) – Gilles Mar 20 '13 at 19:49
  • @Gilles, I'm pretty sure i saw somewhere that the "edit" link was grayed out with an alt text saying something about that tag, and I guess that the tag excerpt from meta.SO somehow gave me that idea. – Jesper.Reenberg Mar 20 '13 at 20:29
  • @Gilles, agreed, it should be discussed in separate threads. However I believe that it is very useful to have something that sums it all up, such that it doesn't get lost in the process. Thus my idea of having it as a community wiki that everybody could maintain whenever something gets agreed upon. – Jesper.Reenberg Mar 20 '13 at 20:33
  • @Jesper.Reenberg: should there be more than one answer? I.e. editing the existing answer or adding a new one? – 0xC0000022L Mar 27 '13 at 16:49
  • @0xC0000022L, well my original idea was to edit the question itself, and then save the answers for suggested additions or something. But I could not mark the question CW nor did I understand how or what Giles had against it. But I guess what you have done is quite ok? – Jesper.Reenberg Mar 27 '13 at 23:20
  • @0xC0000022L Feel free to add another answer or start another discussion and link back to this. If a conclusion is reached then this can be edited. – asheeshr Mar 28 '13 at 1:42
  • @Jesper.Reenberg How about shortening the title to something more readable like simply What should our FAQ contain ? – asheeshr Mar 28 '13 at 9:24
  • I think we should close this question until we have a list of examples and then mark it as community wiki. The way it is going now (with debates in the comments in individual answers) it is really dirty. We should make a summary after we have the discussion, not before. – amccormack Mar 29 '13 at 0:00
  • @amccormack; I don't see why this needs to be closed. I still think there needs to be a place where it can all be summed up until we get something going? The original idea was still that all the discussion should be outside of this thread. – Jesper.Reenberg Mar 29 '13 at 0:24
  • @Jesper.Reenberg I see, that is fine. We should edit the 1 answer to track the changes then. – amccormack Mar 29 '13 at 0:48
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    Should we have a single CW answer that is the working draft with parts from other answers edited in by mod pro temps? Should it be templated after other sites? – RobotHumans Apr 11 '13 at 21:47
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To start things off, the faq should contain :

If you have a question about ...

  • software analysis (static or dynamic)
  • disassembly or decompilation
  • hardware analysis and testing
  • tools commonly used for reverse engineering hardware or software
  • hindering reverse engineering efforts

and it is not about ...

  • performance evaluation
  • performance testing software
  • forward engineering (hardware construction, software creation)
  • bug hunting (debugging) during software development

Still Under Discussion:

  • 1
    What do you mean by "understanding software tools"? Would that include questions like "How does IDA Pro detect calling conventions?" To put it in the first section, it could probably be rephrased as "How can calling conventions be detected in automated static analysis?" Another example is "How can I make IDA recognise local variables when EBP isn't used?" It's useful to know, and a bit tricky to discover – is that a bad question? – Dougall Mar 27 '13 at 1:43
  • @Dougall "How should I use this to do this ?" should be off-topic. "How does A tools perform this analysis?" should be on topic. The current wording of that point needs to be changed to reflect that. Better ? – asheeshr Mar 28 '13 at 1:43
  • Yep, I think so. – Dougall Mar 28 '13 at 2:17
  • I disagree. On Electrical Engineering we accept questions like "How do I make this circuit in that software?", because they're at least related to electronics design. We should sure accept questions on how to use Reverse Engineering tools, like, for example, Firebug in Firefox. Why not? – user187 Mar 28 '13 at 7:44
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    I am removing Using software tools from the topics listed with reference to this post -> meta.reverseengineering.stackexchange.com/a/67/189 and this one from MSO -> meta.stackexchange.com/a/88910/200868 – asheeshr Mar 28 '13 at 8:06
  • @CamilStaps Feel free to make changes to this answer. Just make sure to link to the relevant discussion here in meta or if needed, to the relevant discussion on MSO. – asheeshr Mar 28 '13 at 8:08
  • Okay, never worked with CW posts before. Thanks! – user187 Mar 28 '13 at 8:18
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    I've made some edits to this, as the site will soon be progressing to the public beta phase. Please have a look, and make any tweaks you feel are needed. We'll be working with you here on Meta regarding the items still under discussion. – Tim Post Apr 2 '13 at 6:18
  • Also, remember - your FAQ comes pre-written to address 'chatty, open ended questions', such as 'shopping' or plain 'what tool is best' questions that aren't grounded in a real world problem someone is trying to solve. Part of your public beta experience will be learning how to interpret the guidelines you've created here in conjunction with the rest of the guidelines present in the FAQ. You don't need to get too specific when it comes to what kinds of tool questions would or would not be on topic, at least not in your FAQ. – Tim Post Apr 2 '13 at 6:40
  • Could we perhaps organize some kind of chat? Because it feels awkward to write up my own answer when editing this one may make more sense. But for example I find the term "software analysis" too broad as an FAQ entry. – 0xC0000022L Apr 2 '13 at 15:04
  • @0xC0000022L You could start another meta post referencing this one to start the discussion. I dont think there will be as many people available on chat as there will be here. – asheeshr Apr 2 '13 at 15:06
2

Here's how the list would look from my perspective. I had accidentally closed the tab with my original proposal, so I had to write it up from scratch and probably left out some stuff I considered important in the original (my commentary on the existing answer was a bit more chatty for example).


If you have a question about ...

  • reverse engineering software
    • to understand the internals of a program whose source is not available
    • by means of static analysis, i.e. disassembling/decompiling program code without running it
    • by means of dynamic analysis, i.e. running program code, including under a debugger, to learn how it works
    • by creating higher level representations of program logic (such as UML diagrams) from existing class hierarchies
  • reverse engineering electronic hardware, e.g.
    • to find out the function of micro controllers, signal processors or whole circuit boards
  • reverse engineering data formats and communication protocols, e.g.
    • to establish interoperability
  • methods as well as tools (and their inner workings) used for the above mentioned tasks, such as:
    • disassemblers, decompilers and debuggers
    • protocol sniffers/analyzers
    • boundary scan and other hardware debugging equipment (e.g. JTAG probes)

and it is not about ...

  • performance testing software
  • bug hunting (debugging) during software development
  • software and hardware development (forward engineering)
  • how to solder
  • vulnerability/security research

Commentary

In my opinion most of the original (or edited) proposals need further qualification not to blur the scope of the site unnecessarily.

For example I think that the original software analysis is a bit too broad. Of course it is a proper superset of what I am describing, but an FAQ should be more to the point than that in my opinion.

As you can see I also took the liberty - after all this is a discussion - to qualify "hardware" further, and thereby limiting the scope.

Edit 1:

Concerning vulnerability research I think it is a fine line. Agreed, most reverse engineers (as in RCE) will have experience with it, but this doesn't mean it strictly falls inside the scope of this site. But this is just one opinion inside a discussion. I'll bow to the majority vote anyway, so if people feel this ought to be the place for vulnerability research questions as well, so be it. I just think it might contradict the idea of splitting topics and creating new SE sites.


Now edit away or comment on this answer :)

  • I like your answer, except I'm not sure why using debuggers and vulnerability/security research should also be excluded. These things are well-known to many reverse engineers and hence I think this website could produce some great answers on those topics. – Rolf Rolles Apr 2 '13 at 21:17
  • @Syzygy: 1.) feel free to edit (this is a discussion ;)) and 2.) I was trying to qualify the exclusion debuggers further, not using debuggers per-se. For example during reverse engineering you will rarely use the VS integrated debugger, but instead cdb, gdb, WinDbg, IDA or whatever. These are also debuggers and can aid in dynamic analysis, but they aren't there solely for bug hunting during development. Let me edit it and feel free to edit further. – 0xC0000022L Apr 2 '13 at 21:23
  • The topics that have to be listed dont have to be as verbose. If you look at other site's FAQs its simply a list of 4 or 5 topics without any description of each of them. People are more likely to read a shorter compact list than a long and verbose one. – asheeshr Apr 2 '13 at 23:57
  • @0xC0000022L I suggest making changes in the first answer itself. As that has more votes and matches up better with the general SE style FAQs, that will be the one that will go up. – asheeshr Apr 16 '13 at 15:22
  • @AshRj: it's exactly the reason I am hesitant to edit my stuff into the first answer. Since the other one has more votes, probably my suggestions aren't in line with what the majority wants. At least the number of votes would suggest that, don't you think? – 0xC0000022L Apr 16 '13 at 15:25
  • @0xC0000022L You could add some of your suggestions to the "Not good topics". Is there any reason you explicitly mentioned "how to solder" ? I dont recall seeing any questions asking about it. – asheeshr Apr 16 '13 at 15:28
  • @AshRj: since this is "reverse engineering" and not RCE as the site scope, yes the reason is that soldering would probably go on electronics.SE. – 0xC0000022L Apr 16 '13 at 15:32
  • @0xC0000022L I dont think we need to mention that. If we had users asking about it, then there would have been an argument for explicitly mentioning it. At the moment, I dont think we need to. Also, why dont you start a discussion about excluding "vulnerability/security research" ? Whatever comes out from that, I will edit that in, if needed. – asheeshr Apr 16 '13 at 15:36
  • @AshRj: we have that discussion already, AFAIK. First question ever on meta.RE.SE. – 0xC0000022L Apr 16 '13 at 23:03
  • @AshRj: the soldering example was also there to make sure people don't mistake the hardware RE part. A soldering iron is clearly one of the tools one would use in reversing hardware, but soldering is still off topic. – 0xC0000022L Apr 17 '13 at 14:22
  • @0xC0000022L I would prefer to wait and see if any questions about it come up. Then, we can add it. The problem with lots of topics listed in an FAQ is that users are much less likely to read it. – asheeshr Apr 17 '13 at 14:24
  • @AshRj: ... which I take it is the reason your suggestions have way more upvotes than mine ... – 0xC0000022L Apr 17 '13 at 14:26

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