Tech jargon is notoriously difficult to understand, but as more and more security issues dominate the news, more bizarre terminology comes with it. From honeypots to buffer overflow attacks, Sideways is a dictionary that uses analogies to explain how this stuff works.
Sideways is a project built by the Washington Post and Alphabet. The goal of sideways is to explain technology to the world in a way that actually makes sense for non-techy people. For example, a DDOS attack is explained as:
It’s like a high school prank, where you post the details of your friend’s house party all over town, so instead of 20 people, 900 show up.
It’s like sending a sealed letter instead of a postcard. To ban encryption would be like requiring all mail to be sent as postcards, including bank statements, medical letters and holiday photos. Your postman, neighbours and postal service would soon know you pretty well.
Each term comes with an analogy like this, and anyone can submit a new one. People can then up or down vote submissions so the best analogies float to the top. These analogies aren’t always perfect, but that’s not really the point. It’s more about providing a base level of understanding for terms that readers otherwise gloss over completely. To that end, Sideways does employ editors who will moderate the user-submitted definitions to remove totally inaccurate submissions, which will hopefully help prevent the whole thing from becoming a mess a obtuse terms and definitions.
The Sideways Dictionary site is simple enough to use, but perhaps most useful is the Chrome extension, which scans articles for terms and makes it easy to search for those terms in Sideways while you’re reading. Whether you’re a techy person or not, the analogies here are useful for everyone, so it’s worth checking out how it works.