Stop it with the annoying password complexity rules. They make passwords harder to remember. They increase errors because artificially complex passwords are harder to type in. And they don't help that much. It's better to allow people to use pass phrases.
Stop it with password expiration. That was an old idea for an old way we used computers. Today, don't make people change their passwords unless there's indication of compromise.
Let people use password managers. This is how we deal with all the passwords we need.
These password rules were failed attempts to fix the user. Better we fix the security systems.
A meeting recently: Developer Team: Our passwords require special characters, and max out at 30 characters. Me: Why on EARTH did you do any of that? Why do you have a max? Devs: Because ... it's hard to remember something long? How long do you want it to be? Me: ... Get rid of the max. Get rid of the special characters. CIO: Wait. Why do we have passwords at all? Can we link to google/linkedin/facebook and make it their problem? We are not in the security business. Devs: Yes!
My friend told me a story he hadn’t told anyone for years. When he used to tell it years ago people would laugh and say, ‘Who’d believe that? How can that be true? That’s daft.’ So he didn’t tell it again for ages. But for some reason, last night, he knew it would be just the kind of story I would love. When he was a kid, he said, they didn’t use the word autism, they just said ‘shy’, or ‘isn’t very good at being around strangers or lots of people.’ But that’s what he was, and is, and he doesn’t mind telling anyone. It’s just a matter of fact with him, and sometimes it makes him sound a little and act different, but that’s okay. Anyway, when he was a kid it was the middle of the 1980s and they were still saying ‘shy’ or ‘withdrawn’ rather than ‘autistic’. He went to London with his mother to see a special screening of a new film he really loved. He must have won a competition or something, I think. Some of the details he can’t quite remember, but he thinks it must have been London they went to, and the film…! Well, the film is one of my all-time favourites, too. It’s a dark, mysterious fantasy movie. Every single frame is crammed with puppets and goblins. There are silly songs and a goblin king who wears clingy silver tights and who kidnaps a baby and this is what kickstarts the whole adventure. It was ‘Labyrinth’, of course, and the star was David Bowie, and he was there to meet the children who had come to see this special screening. ‘I met David Bowie once,’ was the thing that my friend said, that caught my attention. ‘You did? When was this?’ I was amazed, and surprised, too, at the casual way he brought this revelation out. Almost anyone else I know would have told the tale a million times already. He seemed surprised I would want to know, and he told me the whole thing, all out of order, and I eked the details out of him. He told the story as if it was he’d been on an adventure back then, and he wasn’t quite allowed to tell the story. Like there was a pact, or a magic spell surrounding it. As if something profound and peculiar would occur if he broke the confidence. It was thirty years ago and all us kids who’d loved Labyrinth then, and who still love it now, are all middle-aged. Saddest of all, the Goblin King is dead. Does the magic still exist? I asked him what happened on his adventure. ‘I was withdrawn, more withdrawn than the other kids. We all got a signed poster. Because I was so shy, they put me in a separate room, to one side, and so I got to meet him alone. He’d heard I was shy and it was his idea. He spent thirty minutes with me. ‘He gave me this mask. This one. Look. ‘He said: ‘This is an invisible mask, you see? ‘He took it off his own face and looked around like he was scared and uncomfortable all of a sudden. He passed me his invisible mask. ‘Put it on,’ he told me. ‘It’s magic.’ ‘And so I did. ‘Then he told me, ‘I always feel afraid, just the same as you. But I wear this mask every single day. And it doesn’t take the fear away, but it makes it feel a bit better. I feel brave enough then to face the whole world and all the people. And now you will, too. ‘I sat there in his magic mask, looking through the eyes at David Bowie and it was true, I did feel better. ‘Then I watched as he made another magic mask. He spun it out of thin air, out of nothing at all. He finished it and smiled and then he put it on. And he looked so relieved and pleased. He smiled at me. ‘'Now we’ve both got invisible masks. We can both see through them perfectly well and no one would know we’re even wearing them,’ he said. ‘So, I felt incredibly comfortable. It was the first time I felt safe in my whole life. ‘It was magic. He was a wizard. He was a goblin king, grinning at me. ‘I still keep the mask, of course. This is it, now. Look.’ I kept asking my friend questions, amazed by his story. I loved it and wanted all the details. How many other kids? Did they have puppets from the film there, as well? What was David Bowie wearing? I imagined him in his lilac suit from Live Aid. Or maybe he was dressed as the Goblin King in lacy ruffles and cobwebs and glitter. What was the last thing he said to you, when you had to say goodbye? ‘David Bowie said, ‘I’m always afraid as well. But this is how you can feel brave in the world.’ And then it was over. I’ve never forgotten it. And years later I cried when I heard he had passed.’ My friend was surprised I was delighted by this tale. ‘The normal reaction is: that’s just a stupid story. Fancy believing in an invisible mask.’ But I do. I really believe in it. And it’s the best story I’ve heard all year.
— Paul Magrs (via yourfluffiestnightmare)
The slums of early-20th-century New York were, to a certain white, upper-class clientele, exotic, foreign, even exhilarating. In Chinatown, gunfire might spontaneously break out between rival gangs. The visitors might sit down to dine on “authentic” chop suey, among people speaking an unfamiliar tongue. They might see white women lounging in seedy opium dens with Chinese men. They might leave convinced that they had seen “one of the world’s wickedest spots.” But they had no way to know that much of what they had seen was an elaborate stage show, put on to fool gullible white tourists, engaged in the act known as “slumming.”
Slumming is a tourist practice that made its way to the United States from the United Kingdom sometime in the 1880s. It initially came from the reform impulse, but quickly consumer culture kicked in, and it became a means for more affluent white Americans and Brits to gawk at those with radically different ways of life. In September 1884, The New York Timesran the headline “A Fashionable London Mania Reaches New York,” and described how slumming was certain to become the amusement of choice for “our belles” that winter.
In one form or another, it persisted as a form of tourism until the beginning of the World War II. At that time, the rise of suburbs and television, among other factors, seemed to put it to rest. But beginning in the 1980s, slum tourism has come back with a vengeance and a more international flavor, with tours that see affluent white visitors passing through what are considered slums in countries such as India, South Africa, and Brazil. It’s sparked controversy and moral outrage. Some see it as a racist exercise that taps into a universal fascination with inequality and the less fortunate. Others claim it pumps money into critically poor neighborhoods, as well as the pockets of tour operators. Indeed, in some cases, a significant proportion of slum tourism profit has been pumped back into the communities. But it still represents, to many, poverty as entertainment.
It was different when it began in 19th-century London, where wealthy people traveled through poorer or ethnic neighborhoods in the guise of a “reform enterprise.” At its best, the practice might result in lobbying for improved lighting or ventilation, or even the whitewashing of walls of low-income housing. In more oblivious moments, so-called “flower charities” would distribute “floral gifts” to the downtrodden people they saw. The Times gushed, “What a pleasure it must be to a sufferer imprisoned in one of these tenements to receive a flower, with its color and its green leaves and stems!"
The pretense of high-minded purpose was swiftly abandoned in its American incarnation. Sometimes guided groups swept through Harlem or the Lower East Side, and flung open the front doors of unsuspecting residents. Wealthy observers saw what was to them almost incomprehensible poverty. At that time, New York was the most densely populated city in the world: Parts of the Lower East Side had up to 800 residents per acre. “Ladies and gentlemen” donned common clothes and went out, the Times reported, “in the highways and the byways to see people of whom they had heard, but of whom they were as ignorant as if they were inhabitants of a strange country.”
Much of what they saw was indeed representative of the ordinary lives of the people who lived in these areas, but, in slumming, some saw an opportunity. A homegrown industry quickly arose to give the gawkers something to gawk at, and to keep them spending money. Slummers went on these expeditions to see scandal or, at the very least, impropriety, often in ways that would reinforce the sexual and racial stereotypes they already held. They wanted to see the unclean, the “primitive,” the highly sexed. “The women and men who found themselves on the receiving end of this practice did not always take kindly to the primitivism that slumming reified,” writes Chad Heap in Slumming: Sexual and Racial Encounters in American Nightlife, 1885–1940. Understandably, the residents were similarly displeased by the “seemingly constant traffic of outsiders that surged through neighborhood streets.” But where there was demand, there was money to be made.
In some cases, this involved the opening of “authentic” eating and drinking establishments, which stayed open far later than ordinary neighborhood demand would require, to appeal to wealthy pleasure-seekers. Many examples in Chinatown, Heap says, were not necessarily owned by Chinese immigrants or Chinese Americans. “They tended to be run and operated by other immigrant groups, like Italian or Jewish immigrants, often.” Chop suey joints, for instance, opened throughout Chinatown to serve a bastardized version of a Cantonese noodle dish as late as 3 a.m. In 1903, The New York Timesdescribed it as a “cheap and substantial dish” (waiters didn’t even require tips!), served to the “midnight supper crowd.” Many of these restaurants served both “exotic” food and typical American fare for those with less adventurous tastes. In time, chop suey grew so popular that it spread across the city and, eventually, the country.
Affluent slummers often employed guides or joined organized groups. Industrious young men—independent “slumming guides”—capitalized on the crowds by introducing them to brothels or saloons that were accustomed to hosting slummers, or had sprung up specifically to do so. Usually white and working-class, these “lobbygows,” as they came to be known in Chinatown’s pidgin English, marketed themselves as critical cultural conduits to the exotic, unfamiliar Chinese. They even advertised in local papers and came to be seen as legitimate businesses. In Chicago, for instance, in 1905 a local resident sought police approval to establish “a guide system to escort slumming parties and show strangers the sights.”
One of the most famous was Chuck Connors, who declared himself Mayor of Chinatown and took celebrities such as actress Ellen Terry and businessman and tea magnate Sir Thomas Lipton on his trips. Connors was made famous by his 1904 book Bowery Life, which described his curious dress—"a short coat with white pearl buttons, a white tie and a very small hat”—and was mostly written in an odd attempt at his own vernacular: “It nearly took me bre'th away t'inkin' uv it, an' I ain't got over it yet.” Connors took his tours to a Chinese restaurant, the popular Chinese theater, the Mott Street “joss house” or temple, and what slummers believed to be an opium den, where wide-eyed Chinese people lolled around, seemingly stoned out of their minds.
Visitors could hardly believe their eyes—and they would have been right not to. These opium dens were entirely staged, with Chinese actors employed to give viewers something to look at. With or without a guide, slummers would likely not be allowed into “real” opium dens simply to gawk. “I don’t think an opium den would have welcomed, or allowed access to, slummers to come through if they weren’t there to smoke themselves,” Heap says. Some whites did indulge, and sometimes developed serious addictions—but not in the ersatz recreations Connors showed his clientele.
In these places, everyone was a professional actor. In at least one case, the Chinese actor playing one addict was secretly married to his white, drooping female companion. They repeated the hammy performance many times in an evening. Slummers left feeling as though they had seen something decadent, degenerate, depraved, and possibly even dangerous.
Meanwhile, on the street outside, a fight might break out. The Tong Wars, Chinese gang infighting, were covered extensively by the local tabloids. As gunfire sounded on Pell or Mott Street, slummers got a taste of danger. They likely would not have imagined that this was a show, timed for their arrival and designed to shock. Visitors who didn’t see something that made them duck or clutch at their pearls were often disappointed. A former New York police officer, Cornelius Willemse, remembered, “They’ve built up such fantastic ideas [of Chinatown] that if they don’t see a few Chinamen disappearing down traps in the pavement pursued by somebody with a hatchet of a long curved knife, they haven’t had any fun and they go home disappointed.”
A 1908 film satirizing these practices, The Deceived Slumming Party, features white actors in racist yellowface portraying Chinatown locals. A touring car of slummers sees a series of shocking sights: a police raid, the apparent suicide of a white female opium addict, roughhousing that descends into murder. Just in time they are whisked back to safety—and their tour guide runs back to pay the actors. In San Francisco, trips of this sort were eventually banned. The Timesreport on the ban finished: “The opium smokers, gamblers, blind paupers, singing children, and other curiosities were all hired.”
There was little actual danger. After an undercover study in the late 1910s, an investigator reported that the “sham and fake in the Village for the benefit of the uptown slummer crowd” was “about as dangerous as a Sunday school sideshow.” It’s hard to know whether people knew they were being fooled, because so few first-hand accounts of the practice have survived, Heap says. “I think they’d go thinking they were seeing something authentic. And I think sometimes they did see things that were really authentic, and in cases they’d see things that were really staged."
Out-of-towners were particularly susceptible to being duped, while locals might be more astute. The poet James Clarence Harvey, in 1905, wrote: “Slumming usually means paying a price to see others do things you wouldn’t do yourself for the world, and which perhaps they wouldn’t do except for the price you pay.” People wanted a spectacle, and they got it. Some local residents were frustrated by these attempts to play to the rubberneck crowds. In 1936, Loeng Gor Yun wrote, in Chinatown Inside Out, “Smokers and non-smokers alike are outraged by this false local color daubed on Chinatown by bus companies, but they are powerless, beyond a sneer or a smirk, against the lies they hear being fobbed off on groups of gullible tourists.”
It was in one sense a profoundly inauthentic view of life in poor or ethnic neighborhoods, but Heap is more circumspect about what “authenticity” means here. The behavior might have been staged, but the slumming venues were authentic, inasmuch as they were doing what they were set up to do—immersive theater. Chop suey wasn’t “real” Chinese food, but itself became a genuine, distinctive dish. “Some of these venues are creating a new kind of authenticity,” he says. “It’s not like people are transported away to the old country and are getting a glimpse of ‘what really happened.’” Indeed, the boring routine of everyday life, though different uptown and downtown, was what slummers were trying to escape in the first place.