Advocacy writing (was Re: Computer security (was Re: Should I furnish computer?)

Subject: Advocacy writing (was Re: Computer security (was Re: Should I furnish computer?)
From: Sandy Harris <sandy -at- storm -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 06 Jun 2001 12:42:46 -0400

Sandy Harris wrote:

Replying to my own post because I want to switch topics.

> ... We do know by now how
> to build reasonably secure systems. The big problems are getting people to
> administer them properly and convincing governments that distributing them
> isn't international arms trafficking.
> If you're on Windos or a Mac, just install a recent version of PGP. ...
> On OpenBSD or a Linux distribution from a country with sane laws on cryptography
> (Brazil's Conectiva, German Suse, ...) ...
> If you're stuck with a US-based distribution (notably Redhat) crippled by their
> export laws (exporting strong crypto is legally the same as exporting jet
> fighters!), change distributions or start downloading.
> For more on the politics of cryptography:
> Export law section:

There's been some discussion of the overlap and differences between tech writing
and marketing communication. I wonder, though if many other tech writers find
themselves doing things that are more advocacy than either purely technical or

My stuff (above URLs) has a large political component. I suspect any serious
writing on computer and network security must have an advocacy component, to
persuade people to actually take the whole thing seriously and not destroy
their security with poor administartion. Any writing about methods or tools
that change the way a company does business or an employee does a job may
have a large advocacy component. Certainly much of the writing around Open
Source software involves advocacy, sometimes too much of it IMHO.

Almost any good product can, I think, have such stuff written for it. A more
accurate pistol saves cops' lives, a more efficient engine saves money and the
environment, ...

Often the social and economic effects are closely tied to the technical design,
and often the questions raised are complex. What if it's a criminal who has our
accurate gun or better computer and communication security? Why build more
efficient car enignes? Let's junk them all and use trains and bicycles!

So we have at least four things the writer can be doing:
describing details of the product
helping users get the most out of it
advocating the product (emphasizing its design goals?)
marketing the product (emphasizing user payoffs?)
No two of these are entirely distinct; they all overlap.

Are any of those outside our scope? (I think not.) Which and why?

How should we change our approach for each?
Should these be done in separate documents?


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RE: Should I furnish computer?: From: mclm
Computer security (was Re: Should I furnish computer?): From: Sandy Harris

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