jeff sisson's blog (email me)

Rip Van Winkle logout

15 Sep 2013

As “username and password required” has become a de facto internet standard, a number of odd patterns have emerged.

I like this list from a free password generator site:

A strong password:

  • has at least 15 characters;
  • has uppercase letters;
  • has lowercase letters;
  • has numbers;
  • has symbols, such as ` ! " ? $ ? % ^ & * ( ) _ - + = { [ } ] : ; @ ' ~ # | \ < , > . ? /
  • is not like your previous passwords;
  • is not your name;
  • is not your login;
  • is not your friend’s name;
  • is not your family member’s name;
  • is not a dictionary word;
  • is not a common name;
  • is not a keyboard pattern, such as qwerty, asdfghjkl, or 12345678.

Given these definitions, it seems like a “strong password” might (strongly) correlate with having a “boring account”, while a “weak password” might lead to more of a “leisure account”.


Jacob wrote in about a video game called Faxanadu, which uses transcendental passwords to save state:

the way you save the game is by visiting a a Guru, who tells you your mantra, which usually looks like LlkjjIOuJNLkjJ. when you restart, you enter your mantra and it takes you to the place you were at.

The mantras also reward saving state. Compared to playing the game straight thru, saving with a mantra gets you extra health, money, etc. He describes the mantras as less like cheats, more like “advantageous save states”, which is a useful category to define.

If passwords confer advantageous states, it stands to reason that logging out (saving state) often is the only way to get more money and health from an account. I’ve come to think of this practice as doing a Rip Van Winkle logout.

In Rip Van Winkle’s case, logging out for ~20 years conferred “the luxury of sleeping through the hardships of war”. The state that emerges from logging out of Gmail/Facebook/Twitter is quite a more opaque. Nonetheless, a few recommendations:

The Rip Van Winkle logout

  • use a password that includes:
    • a friend’s name
    • a family member’s name
    • a preferred dictionary word
    • a common pattern such as “666”, “420” or “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”
    • a previous password you remember fondly
  • logout & login with this password as needed (when the winds of health/money/luck change)

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