Written for The Guardian - Thu Jan 4 2007
Oh, look, the system has generated a message on my screen at work. "Your password will expire in 14 days. Do you want to change it now?"
"Your password will expire in 13 days. Do you want to change it now?"
"Your password will expire in 12 days. Do you want to change it now?"
No. Really. NO! I want to change it in two weeks' time. I can use the same password for four weeks. After four weeks you make me do it anyway. Stop, for the love of all that's holy, stop pestering me to do it from halfway into my run. Stop. Stop, before I punch my way through the monitor, grab the cabling, pull it through and leave it writhing on the desk like a disembowelled witch.
I'm a good boy. My password isn't "password" or "qwertyuiop". It's "NsLd438W". It's safe. It's impossible to memorise. Really. It's taken me two weeks to be able to throw away the note stuck behind the desk. It's finally committed to memory and you're pestering me to change it!
When I'm really slack, I get three reminders to pay my phone bill. I get two reminders to renew my domain registration. I get one reminder to insure the car. I have never received a reminder to make a will or feed my kids.
But seemingly I require 14 daily reminders to change a password; a password that will expire in a fortnight and oblige me to change it then anyway, at no cost to me but the inconvenience of dreaming up a random alphanumeric, and the 10 seconds to type it in. This is no drama. If it were great fun changing a password I would be glad of the prompt. "Woo hoo! Yeah! I'll change the password! Pass that mouse ..." If it were frankly aversive, I would be ill-inclined to bring the agony forward.
"Your wisdom teeth will be extracted in 14 days. Do you want them extracted now?" Er ...
But password changing is not an "event". It is 50% grey. It is "mild" weather. It is a beige filing cabinet. It is Belgium. It is dull. "In 14 days you will walk past a cat. It will be brown. It will not look at you. Do you want to walk past it now?" WHY NOT?!
Perhaps that is why the password reminder feels the need to promote itself so heavily. It's not a pair of trainers; it's membership of an elite cult.
Please. Give me an option to disable this. At least give me a checkbox: "Don't ask me again." This self-obsessed password business requires changing.
"IT Department. In 14 days I will come over there and beat you all unconscious with my keyboard. Do you want to change it now?"
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