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Starting a SSL Project on the Right Foot

Currently, SSL is home to about a dozen research projects, addressing issues as varied as code comprehension, bug detection, and secure strategies for updating software or conducting IRB-approved experiments on remote devices. However, under our lab’s umbrella commitment to “practical and deployable solutions to real-world security threats,” there is plenty of room for establishing new research projects. If you are looking to start something new, here is how to go about it.

  • Give your project a name that is clever, but still clear: If you look at the names of our current lab projects (http://ssl.engineering.nyu.edu/projects), you will see they all nod towards the function or goal of the project. One approach to finding such a name for your new project is to combine two words that help to emphasize aspects(s) of your research. “Uptane,” for example, draws together the idea of software updates with “octane,” a term associated with gasoline, and therefore, automobiles. The name “CacheCash” is a reminder that this new content delivery program operates on a top of a functional cryptocurrency.

    Your project name should not have a lot of other hits on Google. When people search, they should end up finding your project right away.

    One last consideration...make sure your project name is pronounceable. You want a project name people can actually talk about.

  • Register the domain name for the project: Register your project name under a domain like .com, .io, or .org. Point the domain registration to either the web site (if you have it) or the description on the SSL webpage (if you do not).

  • Choose a logo that meshes with your project name: Do not be intimidated about doing this. If you review other lab project websites (such as https://theupdateframework.github.io/ ), you will see that a logo can be quite basic and still enhance your project’s message.

  • Set up a Google Group for the project: Having a Google Group makes it much easier to recruit other team members, to set up group meetings, and to manage projects. It also provides a contact for others to learn about your work. See https://support.google.com/groups/answer/2464926?hl=en for instructions on how to set up or edit Google Groups.

  • Write a project description for the SSL Web Page: Draft a few sentences highlighting the goals of the project. The write-up does not need to be polished. Just provide a brief description of the problem you are addressing and how your project could solve it. Make sure to include the names of the SSL personnel working with you, as well as any outside researchers who might be part of your team. And, include that Google Group contact e-mail so others who read about your project and want to work with you can touch base.

  • Consider Creating a GitHub Organization for Your Project: If there are going to be multiple collaborators on your project consider creating a github organization for the project. It is possible to convert a github user account into an organization if you have already created a user account for the project. An organization will allow you to have a github pages url of the form "orgname".github.io rather than "personalaccount".github.io. Multiple projects can be contained under a single organization.

  • Begin to layout a web site: While not something that has to be addressed when initiating a project, you want to be prepared to launch a web site once your group has something tangible to offer (i.e. a paper or series of papers, demos, study data, hackathons or other events). Your web site should be built from a github repo, using github pages. Go to https://pages.github.com/ to learn more.