LDAP: Attributes and Keeping Them Simple

by Tom Adelstein

A consensus exists among many writers about jargon. Throw a bunch of undefined words at a reader and he or she will soon fall asleep. In fact, put one term in a paragraph that the reader doesn't understand and a page or two later sleep will start to creep and the reader will lose interest.

So, in spite of the what many technical writers practice, I thought I might give you a break. You don't need to know everything about LDAP directory components or the construction of an address book to begin understanding the technology behind directories.

To a person who wants to find the name and email address of someone, he or she wants to do a simple search to find it. Does that person need to know how the information got into the directory? Do they need to understand how the directory came into being? Think about that.

In Gerald Carter's book, "LDAP Administration", he addresses attributes in a way I find intimidating. Here's a little quote for you:

Attributes types and the associated syntax rules are similar to variables and data type declarations found in many programming languages. The comparison is not that big a stretch.

OK then. How about another way of discussing it. Attributes hold information you need in a directory. For example, they might contain someone's name, address, telephone numbers, employee numbers, the department in which he or she work, his or her job title, etc.

Many other attributes exist in directories and LDAP administrators organize those attributes using something we will discuss in the next installment.

So, get ready for the next bit of jargon called objectClasses. You should find that subject pretty interesting if I can manage to write about it without putting you into an altered state.