[Owasp-leaders] Proposal for changing OWASP Documentation

Seba seba at owasp.org
Mon Feb 15 10:26:50 UTC 2016

hi Gary, all,

Great suggestion / thread.

With the SAMM project we have the same challenge (but a bit further down
this line of thought).
The first release actually included an XML containing all the text for the
SAMM projects (which also benefits translations, by the way).

With our new v1.1 release, we face the challenge to:
1) keep this in synch over the different v1.1 documents
2) "publish" this XML towards various outputs: wiki, tooling, indesign, ...
3) link to the various OWASP resources (currently covered with wiki
categories - https://www.owasp.org/index.php/Category:SAMM-Resources

So: definitely interested to share the pain / improve our way of working :-)
How do we make this "actionable"?



On Sun, Feb 14, 2016 at 9:32 PM Gary Robinson <gary.robinson at owasp.org>

> Hi Folks,
> I want to reach out to the leaders and bring up the subject of OWASP docs
> projects, in fact all OWASP documentation including wiki and text available
> to our code projects as well.  I’ll try to keep this e-mail brief so won’t
> get bogged in details, but generally I want to know if the community
> experiences the same pains, see the same opportunities, or has other
> suggestions for improvement.
> The issues that can arise from our current method of developing our
> various docs include:
>    1. Draft content that exists in the wiki.  This may be in varying
>    states (correct, incorrect, lousy, confused, etc.) and is visible to the
>    internet and typically not clearly labelled as draft.  Google ‘owasp purple
>    monkey dishwasher’ for an example of a draft wiki page visible to the
>    internet.  This content also needs to get cleaned up after a project
>    release.
>    2. Substandard descriptions/content can get into our docs.  Getting
>    people to review every line/example/diagram/appendix is difficult with a
>    volunteer organization (as other threads have discussed)
>    3. Duplications happen, as 10 different projects create/copy/paste
>    their definitions of topics such as XSS, SQLi, CSRF, etc.  This wastes
>    effort in an organization already constrained of active volunteers.
>    4. Content gets out-of-date.  The work to create a new version of a
>    doc project takes years.
> I’m sure some readers will be mentally adding their own issues to this
> list.
> Proposal:
> Bringing together discussions with a few people over the last few years
> (you know who you are), I’m proposing the following: we write our docs with
> reusable resources.  What would this mean?  Something similar to the
> following:
>    1. We dump all of the content from our wiki, current docs,
>    descriptions in code tools, etc.  We put it into markup (as some projects
>    are already doing) and add it to source code repositories.
>    2. We share doc markup files *across ALL docs and code projects*.  For
>    example, imagine we have a folder for SQLi.  This directory contains the
>    OWASP ‘golden source’ for SQLi definition, examples, code, tests, etc.
>    Repeat for all other AppSec issues (CSRF, cert pinning, etc.).  We use a
>    mechanism to ‘compile’ these markdown files into PDFs and integrate into
>    code project HTML pages.
>    3. Similar to good coding projects, we control who can edit the files
>    under certain directories – people we know have expertise in an area.
>    Edits get peer reviewed before submission.  Other people can suggest edits
>    and prove their experience to the existing team to join it.
>    4. We allow anyone to ‘include’ this markup file into their project.
>    So if the Code Review Guide wants to add a section on SQLi, and needs a
>    definition, I don’t write it (or copy from wiki), I simply include the
>    relevant markup file.  Same for testing guide, dev guide, ZAP hints page,
>    security shepherd info page, cheetsheet, and on and on.
>    5. We allow all of our docs, plus the wiki, plus all code projects, to
>    dynamically use an markup file update.  We make this ‘real time’.  This
>    needs an example.  Say in March a massive change occurs in the world of
>    SQLi.  Right now any project that talks about SQLi would need to manually
>    go in and update, and those updates will be of varying quality and
>    content.  If, instead, one (true) source file was update, all those other
>    projects could spot the change and automatically rebuild themselves,
>    meaning the next person to download a development guide PDF, or view the
>    wiki, would get the updated SQLi information.
>       1. This is a big change.  This may be a controversial change.  *However
>       it would greatly reduce our workload* (only one markup document
>       needs to get updated).  It will also *greatly reduce review tasks*,
>       as everyone is sharing core content which is reviewed once.  It also
>       improves our image to the world, as all projects have the same great
>       descriptions and content.
>       2.   This change also improves our responsiveness.  Imagine a
>       heartbleed type issue being reflected in all OWASP code and documentation
>       projects, as well as the wiki/cheetsheets, within a few days?  (simply the
>       time for the team to agree updates to the text/examples/descriptions,
>       review, and submit)
>    6.  We should also make these markup files available to anyone on the
>    internet (read only).  This way the source descriptions become an OWASP
>    resource it itself, and anyone out there needing to spread the word on
>    AppSec has easy access to rock solid, up-to-date definitions.
> This changes the model, from people like myself who run ‘projects’, to
> smaller expert teams who know ‘technologies’ (such as SQLi or IIS secure
> configuration).  It focuses people where they want to be on docs projects,
> but easily shares that knowledge across all OWASP (and more) projects.  It
> also means there’d never be another need to clean-up the wiki – it would
> always be based off the markup content.
> *Big downside*: there’s a large piece of work to start it off.  All
> content would need to get organized, put into sensible structure, converted
> to markdown, argued over, ‘experts’ defined and assigned, etc.  I doubt
> this would be a volunteer effort, and may need contractor involvement.
> Could this be combined with the OWASP wiki redesign?
> So… the ask from the community, what are your thoughts? Could this be a
> viable option to save us time on docs/descriptions and increase quality?
> Would there be funds to perform the initial conversion of everything into
> markup pages?  Would there be resistance to working in this new model?
> Gary
> _______________________________________________
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> OWASP-Leaders at lists.owasp.org
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