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Proposal: Reverse Engineering

Wow. Congratulations on getting through the definition and commitment phases so quickly!

As the notice on the proposal says right now, we are preparing to launch the site. We should be ready to go in a few days. In the meantime, there is one more small issue to work out: the description.

Right now we have:

Proposed Q&A site for security Researchers, Software and Hardware Developers

which, to be honest, isn't great. Stack Overflow is the "site for software developers". The phrasing right now is too broad and does nothing to narrow down the audience and identify the kinds of experts you want to attract.

I would like to propose a more focused description:

Proposed Q&A site for software and hardware engineers building new designs based on existing products, protocols and processes.

How does that sound? Do you have any alternative suggestions?

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    It's a good idea. You got 8 upvotes over 19 views. Let's change it. – Keelan Mar 13 '13 at 12:51
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    I think this is too narrow. Reverse engineering isn't always done with the intend of building new designs based on the work analyzed. – jix Mar 13 '13 at 16:17
  • @jix We do want to encourage folks to ask questions about problems they're trying to solve. If they're just taking something apart for the hell of it, Q&A might not be the best way to go. That said, I'm open to suggestions. – Adam Lear Mar 13 '13 at 16:57
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    I was thinking about things like malware analysis, debugging third party binary only code or detecting unlicensed use of source code. Those all do not involve building new designs and I think If you ask more people doing reverse engineering you can come up with many more examples (see also the answers). Even in the case where the reverse engineering is done to build a new design that is compatible to something existing I doubt the people building the new design will always be the ones analyzing the existing one as not every reverse engineer is a software engeneer (or interested in that). – jix Mar 14 '13 at 12:23
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    Right, so ... would you mind reverting that change, as this is not what the people who voted for this proposal were voting for. – Syzygy Mar 15 '13 at 20:06
  • @Syzygy Yeah, I intend to update it again before the site goes live. Robert just proposed another alternative, though. – Adam Lear Mar 15 '13 at 20:20
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How about just adapting the core definition found in Wikipedia:

Reverse Engineering
Proposed Q&A site for researchers and developers who explore the principles of a system through analysis of its structure, function, and operation.

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I don't think that the proposed change captures the spirit of reverse engineering. Reverse engineering is the process of understanding systems that have already been created; that's the initial act, and then the succeeding acts are many and varied. One might want to analyze a piece of malware, or discover vulnerabilities in the system, or modify the system to add functionality or improve/change the existing functionality, or create a piece of software that is interoperable with the existing system, or build a similar system. Furthermore, all of these applications are well-known to reverse engineers.

The proposed tagline, "Proposed Q&A site for software and hardware engineers building new designs based on existing products, protocols and processes.", is not a good choice for many reasons. First, the target audience is "reverse engineers", not "software and hardware engineers". Secondly, the scope has been needlessly limited to one relatively uncommon application of reverse engineering, and one that is not really interesting to most practicing reverse engineers. Note that none of the example questions proposed during the definition phase relate to "software and hardware engineers building new designs based on existing products, protocols, and processes". In fact I favor a less detailed description such as "Proposed Q&A site for all topics related to reverse engineering."

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Building new designs based on existing products is not the only application of reverse engineering. For example:

  • One might reverse engineer a malware sample to gain understanding about how a system was infected.

  • One might reverse engineer a game to develop an optimized winning strategy.

  • One might reverse engineer a product to determine if components were stolen from a competing product.

You can find a larger list of applications for reverse engineering on Wikipedia.

I suggest a more broad definition that focuses on gaining understanding of products rather than building them.

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