A filing cabinet that knows what you did last summer!

Wired published an interesting story about Jaap de Maat's final year project - the finale to a two-year-long MA in Information Experience Design from the Royal College of Art.

The design is basically an old filing cabinet that follows visitors of RCA. It's called 'I know what you did last summer'. It's about the traces in the form of digital information we leave behind with our activities in the digital world:

"It is physically impossible for the human brain to remember every event from our past in full detail. The default setting is to forget and our memories are constructed based on our current values. In the digital age it has become easier to look back with great accuracy. But this development contains hidden dangers, as those stored recollections can easily be misinterpreted and manipulated. That sobering thought should rule our online behaviour, because the traces we leave behind now will follow us around for ever."

While in the old days physical information could be destroyed this is harder to do in the digital world(s). So we should take a great care what traces we leave behind.

I know what you did last summer. from Jaap de Maat on Vimeo.


A simple thing like a password can apparently change one's life

Passwords are bits of personal information that we constantly need to log in to our computers, web pages, phones, and other services. Some of us even manage them with dedicated applications on our desktops (e.g. KeePass) or on the web (e.g. LastPass). However, they might be very dull and hard to remember especially if we try to make them hard to crack. 

Over the years I have been asking people how they choose their passwords (if someone wants to do a study about it let me know). I for example choose a saying like 'too many cooks spoil the broth'. Then I take the first or the last letter of every word like 'tmcspb' and lastly I put in some numbers like 't0m9c8s7t6b'. For safety the last or fist char can be in upper case. I meet a guy whose passwords are quotes of famous people (in different language than the original). A system admin I once meet creates passwords for his users with their first name and a year in which password was created like 'Jack2014' (very secure indeed :/).

As seen above, there are gazillions of ways to create (un)safe passwords. But this guy thinks of passwords as a therapy - a positive affirmation. Apparently, as passwords are used several times a day, they can subconsciously change our behaviour if containing the right message. For example:

  • Forgive@h3r to forgive his ex-wife
  • Quit@smoking4ever to quit smoking
  • Save4trip@thailand ...

There are many other examples in his blog post that he claims that worked (or not .. e. g. he can't loose weight).

Passwords can apparently be used also to learn things as explained in the comments of this post on Lifehacker. For example this guy learned his wife's phone number:

"I had to set my cell phone's password to my wife's cell phone number so I could remember it. It was just embarrassing not knowing it after we were married. I had just always hit the button with her picture on it, like a fast food cash register."

But it didn't work for this person who tried to learn all USA presidents and their sequence:

"eg. W4$h1ngTon, 2j0HNdm$, j3FF3r$0N... My hope was through repeated typing I would remember who was associated with each term. FYI it didn't work AT ALL. After about a week of typing my password an average of 97 times per day I ended up just relying on muscle memory and not remember any of the presidents."

Maybe self-logging and positive affirmation through passwords might do miracles. How many times do you use a password in a day?