The evolution of a system: ad hoc to organised


Several things have happened recently that have made it abundantly clear that I need an effective account and password management system.

Firstly the company IP address was attacked and then used to send 4000 items of spam (sorry out there).  After my IT people fought the good fight, the system was repaired. Two weeks later it was attacked again in a different way.  They didn’t get in however did damage files that needed to be repaired.  Again my IT people were fantastic.  Unsurprisingly, they then talked to me about password strength and not having a predictable way of generating passwords, plus changing them frequently.  It all seemed too hard and something that I didn’t want to be bothered with … but could see the necessity.

And the risk is growing:  New York Times – internet credentials stolen

Secondly, due to my embracing (or trying to – at present it is more like mud wrestling than a passionate love affair) more technology I have in the past two weeks created 10 accounts with the commensurate username, password requirements associated with 10 different types of software.

With the requirement to remember more and more account details with more and more complex passwords, it occurred to me that the way a system evolves is organic.

At first, I (probably like everyone else), didn’t have too many passwords or accounts so remembering them all was easy.  Plus the passwords weren’t that complicated. So I invented things on the spot and relied on memory to recall the data when needed.  However, over time, accounts and passwords multiplied.  Then, I graduated to listing them in a document so I could look them up should I forget.  Next came an encrypted database on my laptop followed by a flirtation with a cloud-based solution which I rapidly killed off when it became intrusive … so back to the encrypted database on my laptop.

Or, to take a less technological example:

  • If I only have 4 items in my panty, then I don’t need a system.
  • Graduating to 44 items may mean that, if I don’t want to take ages looking for what I need, then I might sort different types of products to different shelves
    (i.e. tins on the bottom shelf, dry goods on the next, condiments on the third.)
  • And if the pantry is in a public place, then I might need to have security (i.e. a lock on the pantry door).

So the need for a system evolves with complexity.  It may not even matter if the system is idiosyncratic (i.e. I put all red foods on one shelf, green on another, and white on another etc.); as long as the system is understood by the user.  The purpose of the system is that you can ‘find’ things.

Another driver towards a system is the extent to which a user is tolerant of the time taken to find something.  In my case I expect to be organised and to be able to ‘lay my hands’ on what I need with very little time lost or effort.  Someone else might be willing to spend less time on a system and more time in searching.

The number of people involved drives the need for a system so that all can use it.

And finally importance might drive the need for a system.  The more important the items being stored then the greater the effort is warranted.

This leads to getting organised.  Which takes time and effort.  Time to sit and think about what it needed.  Maybe do some research on the web?  And then effort to implement, work through the bugs, disseminate the system information to others (if they are involved) and possibly document.

So here I am with a cloud-based encrypted program again.  Only this time, I am committed to both its use and learning how to use it properly so that I can readily generate highly secure passwords frequently and easily.

Technology is the future.  And like any evolving future, it needs evolving systems.  I am currently working on developing/learning systems for effectively using the technology at my fingertips.

  •  So what areas of your life are not working the way you would like?
  • Do you need a system?







3 thoughts on “The evolution of a system: ad hoc to organised

  1. Hi Tracey,

    Thanks for the information on creating secure passwords and sharing your journey, as I can imagine it would have been a steep learning curve, particularly the unintended spam. I find it frustrating but also, like you, an opportunity for growth, as you now know things that you did not know before.

    What I really like is how you use metaphor to explain very complicated ideas, it makes them so much easier to follow, particular for those of use who like to use our imagination.

    Thank you.



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