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Jul 19 2010

The Psychology of Happy Passwords

While at dinner on the 2010 LessCruise, I mentioned my belief in happy passwords to Alex and Brian. They both found it interesting and urged me to post about it, so here you go.

Several years back, when I worked at the Notre Dame, they required password changes every 90 days. Oh, and by they, I mean the Office of Information Technology (OIT). On top of the 90 day policy, they also did not allow you to reuse a password you have previously used.

One day in anger, I changed my password to “oitsucks” or some version of that. My password was linked to everything I did at work, so I typed it several times a day. As I typed it over and over for a few days, I noticed something. Each time I entered it, my mood, whatever it was, would become a bit tainted with anger.

Noticing that a negative password made me feel negative, I promptly changed my password to something that made me feel happy. At the time, I was quite enamored with Ruby on Rails and as such my password included rubyonrails in it.

I took note of my feelings before and after each time I entered my password and found my hypothesis to be true. Happy passwords make you feel happy and angry passwords make you feel angry. I remember laughing a bit when I realized this. From that day on, any password that I need to remember has included happy thoughts.

Next time you create a password, throw some happiness in it. You will not regret it.