I will not log in to your website

Two or three times a day, I get an email whose basic structure is as follows:

Prof. Aaronson, given your expertise, we’d be incredibly grateful for your feedback on a paper / report / grant proposal about quantum computing.  To access the document in question, all you’ll need to do is create an account on our proprietary DigiScholar Portal system, a process that takes no more than 3 hours.  If, at the end of that process, you’re told that the account setup failed, it might be because your browser’s certificates are outdated, or because you already have an account with us, or simply because our server is acting up, or some other reason.  If you already have an account, you’ll of course need to remember your DigiScholar Portal ID and password, and not confuse them with the 500 other usernames and passwords you’ve created for similar reasons—ours required their own distinctive combination of upper and lowercase letters, numerals, and symbols.  After navigating through our site to access the document, you’ll then be able to enter your DigiScholar Review, strictly adhering to our 15-part format, and keeping in mind that our system will log you out and delete all your work after 30 seconds of inactivity.  If you have trouble, just call our helpline during normal business hours (excluding Wednesdays and Thursdays) and stay on the line until someone assists you.  Most importantly, please understand that we can neither email you the document we want you to read, nor accept any comments about it by email.  In fact, all emails to this address will be automatically ignored.

Every day, I seem to grow crustier than the last.

More than a decade ago, I resolved that I would no longer submit to or review for most for-profit journals, as a protest against the exorbitant fees that those journals charge academics in order to buy back access to our own work—work that we turn over to the publishers (copyright and all) and even review for them completely for free, with the publishers typically adding zero or even negative value.  I’m happy that I’ve been able to keep that pledge.

Today, I’m proud to announce a new boycott, less politically important but equally consequential for my quality of life, and to recommend it to all of my friends.  Namely: as long as the world gives me any choice in the matter, I will never again struggle to log in to any organization’s website.  I’ll continue to devote a huge fraction of my waking hours to fielding questions from all sorts of people on the Internet, and I’ll do it cheerfully and free of charge.  All I ask is that, if you have a question, or a document you want me to read, you email it!  Or leave a blog comment, or stop by in person, or whatever—but in any case, don’t make me log in to anything other than Gmail or Facebook or WordPress or a few other sites that remain navigable by a senile 35-year-old who’s increasingly fixed in his ways.  Even Google Docs and Dropbox are pushing it: I’ll give up (on principle) at the first sight of any login issue, and ask for just a regular URL or an attachment.

Oh, Skype no longer lets me log in either.  Could I get to the bottom of that?  Probably.  But life is too short, and too precious.  So if we must, we’ll use the phone, or Google Hangouts.

In related news, I will no longer patronize any haircut place that turns away walk-in customers.

Back when we were discussing the boycott of Elsevier and the other predatory publishers, I wrote that this was a rare case “when laziness and idealism coincide.”  But the truth is more general: whenever my deepest beliefs and my desire to get out of work both point in the same direction, from here till the grave there’s not a force in the world that can turn me the opposite way.

75 Responses to “I will not log in to your website”

  1. Noam Says:

    hear, hear!

  2. Bruno Says:

    I use a program called keepass to store my various website passwords, and sync my password database via dropbox. Works on linux and windows. Very simple and convenient.


  3. William Says:

    > In related news, I will no longer patronize any haircut place that turns away walk-in customers.

    As annoying as this is, it’s not quite a pointless obstacle in the way the other things on your list are. Servicing walk-ins requires a certain amount of spare capacity to be lying around to service an uncertain, unsteady load, and that means inefficiency. If you can get all of your customers to book in advance, even a day or two in advance, you can exactly match your on-duty hairdressers to demand. Hairdressers waste less of their lives standing around an empty shop, you get a cheaper haircut, and we all bask in the warm abstract virtuous glow of efficiency.

  4. Alex Says:

    Given your self-proclaimed crustiness, I suspect you won’t take me up on this, but have you considered a password manager? It’ll handle the annoying part of remembering all the usernames and passwords you’ve accumulated.

    The rest of your problems (aggressive timeouts, failure to save work, etc.) will unfortunately not be solved by this, but oh well.

  5. Scott Says:

    William #3: Well then, I’m simply willing to pay a premium for hairdressers (and restaurants, etc.) that don’t require reservations—which makes it particularly ironic that those establishments are typically a lot cheaper than the ones that do require reservations! (And, if they’re good, they seem to be operating at capacity almost any time I visit.)

    For me, it’s really about the indignity. I’ve walked a half hour just to get to this place, and now, despite being a live customer who’s physically present and waving $20 bills, and despite not a single other customer being visibly present, and despite the other customer (if they showed up) having to wait at most 5 or 10 minutes, the staff look at me like a cockroach that skittered into their store. I’m nothing, compared to the theoretical phone-customers who might or might not show up in the future.

    Why didn’t I call myself? Mostly, because I hate making unsolicited calls of any kind, a phobia that I admit isn’t entirely rational and that often causes inconvenience. To me, though, it just feels so much more polite to go over to someone if you want something from them, than to make an instantaneous demand on their attention from arbitrarily far away. And to then be penalized for that politeness is enough to dampen my mood for the rest of the day.

    The similarity to the website login, for me, is that in both cases we have organizations that turn away actual human beings directly offering them something they ostensibly want (money, or a paper review), solely because the humans failed to engage them through the intermediary of their bureaucratic process.

  6. Scott Says:

    Alex #4: With a password manager, what if I’m trying to log in from my phone? A friend’s computer? A public computer? It seems like the real solution would be for everything else I cared about to piggyback off my Google or Facebook or Amazon logins…

  7. Matthias Görgens Says:

    Excellent stance!

    For the rare occasions when you can’t avoid logging in, a password manager is a saviour.

  8. Matthias Görgens Says:

    Oh, i wasn’t the first to talk about password managers.

    Scott #6: I have the password manager running on my phone as well. If i want to log in on another person’s computer, which happens only rarely, I just type the password as displayed on my phone.

  9. Shecky R Says:

    At 35 you’re too young to be crusty or senile… you younguns just keep wanting to encroach on the stubbornness we old codgers have spent a lifetime earning!

  10. Tommaso G Says:

    So annoyingly true! I’ll be glad to join your boycott!

  11. James Lee Says:

    How do you feel about systems that are openly hostile?

    This email was sent to you by the CCC 2017 PC member
    … in connection with a review request.

    To answer this review request please log in to your EasyChair
    account associated with address …
    and you will find the review request either under the Alert
    menu tab, or by following links EasyChair -> My Conferences ->
    CCC 2017.

    It’s not just that they don’t contain a link to the paper or the conference. EasyChair emails don’t even contain a link to EasyChair.

  12. Aaron Tello-Wharton Says:

    If you are actually struggling to log into Skype, I recommend solving this with one of these two odd fixes:

    1) If your password is “long” change it on microsofts website, their Skype client truncates passwords for [reasons]

    2) Change your primary hard drive’s serial code / id (I forget which). Skype has blacklisted some hard drives serial codes for again, [reasons]

  13. Pekka Taipale Says:

    An intelligent person can solve problems that a wise person can avoid.

    Likewise, a password manager solves a problem that the author here does not want to have. Therefore, suggesting a password manager is counter-productive.

    It’s not just that I can’t remember a password to a site. It’s also that I have to enter my identity to a site which may then leak it out, or be hacked and leak my username, personal information and password out. And first and foremost, what is the need to store my personal information including password? What’s the use case?

    I’ll need a good reason to enter my information to a site. If I’m doing something because I want to help others, don’t try to force me to jump through hoops to do it.

  14. AstroJetson Says:

    I’m the same way, I won’t log in to get to things that people want to use my time to review / comment on / etc.

    Pro tip on hair places, Hair Cuttery and others specialize in walk-in customer to the point that trying to make an appointment is impossible.

    (Oh, I had to give you an email to post this, lucky for me that the default BillG@microsoft.com still works. 🙂

  15. Troy Says:

    Scott, re #6, consider 1Password’s syncing service. It runs on pretty much any common device or platform, and critically, it doesn’t require trusting the sync service with any cleartext data. If the sync service is hacked, all it has is ciphered data (the keys are solely on your client devices).

  16. rick fleischer Says:

    And surveys; don’t forget surveys. The ones that won’t let you skip a question that makes no sense (by which I mean ALL of them). I like telling vendors what i like and dislike, but there’s never a mechanism to tell them that I dislike their surveys. I won’t even start a survey any more; I’m almost certain not to finish it.

  17. Frans Faase Says:

    I think we all should do this. And the people who are saying that you should use a password manager, have not understood the issue that you addressing. The web should be a place where we cooperate, not where we, to build our own ego, create all kinds of unnecessary obstacles.

  18. asdf Says:

    William #3, the tiny haircutting place I use will generally cut my hair with no waiting, if there’s a chair and haircutter available (they have two chairs and either one or two haircutters on duty, depending). If they’re full or booked up they ask me to come back at time T, usually within an hour. That happens maybe half the time. They’re right in my neighborhood so this usually works ok. I never feel like I’m up against some bogus “appointment only” edifice.

  19. Henrique Says:

    The people recommending a password manager are missing the point. Remembering the password is probably the easiest part, and sometimes unnecessary, since a lot of websites are only used once. The problem is captchas, confirmation e-mails and terms you have to accept. And the different interfaces with dubious quality. Not to mention the possibility of spam (or the sale of your information to third parties), which is the number one reason those websites require logins.

    And as with the haircut place, all that is entirely for the convenience of the owner of the website or the person asking for a review, not the customer/reviewer. By forcing someone to use a website to review you’re denying them a courtesy.

  20. Michael Says:

    From idealism point of view, though, «piggyback off my Google or Facebook or Amazon logins» is a pro-monopoly stance…

    Although if you make people actually use single-session services like videochats where you can send someone a link and that’s all, that would be nice.

    Of course, requiring people asking something from you to make their systems transparent for you is a good plan.

  21. Norm Says:

    Vote up 1000+ for Scott!!! :-)!!!

    Indeed just two days ago I tried for the first time to use something like Dropbox. I tried Dropbox for about three hours with just the mud wrestling Scott described and gave up. Then I tried Google Drive and gave up similarly. I decided just to use e-mail — those services are not worth using for free. In both cases, the login process was designed by the Chief of Torture assistant to the Devil himself from the depths of Hell except the Chief of Torture was brain-damaged, high on drugs, falling down and blind drunk, and on a Jihad against humans.

    For a ‘password manager’, I have heard of those off and on for years but so far have yet to read even a single word that meaningfully describes what the heck they are, why they are not a massive security problem, why one such would do me more good than just the little solution I have with my favorite flat ASCII text editor, etc.

    Moreover, no way, not a chance, never without $10,000, will I ever even once consider typing in a password. Won’t do it. Not a chance. Instead, the path of a password string from my text editor to some standard HTML single line text box for passwords is the system clipboard. For me, a password is something like

    I’m more comfortable with 15+ random digits, but as Scott has mentioned too often the stupid, Devil led login scheme flatly refuses, guarded by soldiers with feet locked in concrete, guarded by rabid dogs, with trip wire land mines, to say what is the maximum length of a password or why a password was refused due to length. For the ‘length constraint’, have to use the binary search version of the TIFO method — try it and find out. So, for a string of some random digits such as


    not a chance will I, slowly, carefully, tediously, insultingly, watching each keystroke one at a time under a bright light — all necessary because I can’t see what I’m typing into a single line text box for a password — type such a string — NEVER.

    Dropbox and Google Drive both lost me as a potential customer/user forever due, first, to their out of Hell login process.

    Some of the problems? To log in, do I need to have JavaScript enabled in my Web browser for that Web page? Generally I don’t have JavaScript enabled except for a few carefully selected Web sites because by now the JavaScript programmers have gone way, Way, WAY overboard and totally messed up the way the standard HTML interactions work and too often given my Web browser some JavaScript that is an infinite loop that pegs my CPU busy at 100%, grows my virtual memory space on disk, nearly locks up my computer, requires that somehow I kill the executing instance of the Web browser, which has been known to leave my Web browser and its data corrupted requiring me to reinstall the Web browser, with a later version I don’t want (typically, if it ain’t broke, I don’t fix it — an update, a latest version can have new bugs and be worse, can have its user interface changed some something worse or something new I have to learn) and tediously type in all the various options and settings for the Web browser, say, waste half a day right away and another day or two net present value — all just from some dumb JavaScript infinite loop.

    Gee, and the Web browser writers develop intricate screens for the settings, with tiny tiny, itty bitty, tinsy winsy text sizes (I like text characters about 30 pixels high) that I have to learn to navigate interpreting silly iconic hints — I HATE icons.

    Instead, of COURSE, the browser should not lock up my data behind their from Hell user interface and, instead, be willing to write all the settings to a simple flat ASCII, human readable file, with in-line comments, a file I can edit and give back to the browser, copy, save, search, copy to another computer, backup, etc.

    So, all that Web browser mud wrestling and time wasting just by some dirt bag from Hell user interface with JavaScript for just a @#$%^&*() login.

    So, usually I leave JavaScript disabled. Then when the login doesn’t work with no good indication why, I have to enable JavaScript, take the risk of encountering a JavaScript infinite loop and ruining my browser installation and settings, or just f’get about the login. Similarly there is also the cookies issue.

    So, sure, somehow current computing has some very common problems:

    (1) Doesn’t know how to write mathematics. It’s not easy to learn to write mathematics; typically a severe undergraduate major in pure math is needed. Start by writing proofs in abstract algebra. Then in linear algebra. Then in advanced linear algebra. Then in Rudin’s ‘Principles’. Then in, say, general topology, more algebra, more analysis, measure theory, probability and stochastic processes based on measure theory, …, read from von Neumann, Halmos, Rudin, Neveu, Breiman, Luenberger, and a dozen or so others, and, now, presto, bingo, have a good shot at knowing how to write math. I’ve read works that try to be in math from chaired professors of computer science at famous research universities, professors who don’t know how to write mathematics. Bummer. Computer science and computing need to learn how to write mathematics. Sorry ’bout that.

    (2) Doesn’t know how to do technical writing. More generally just can’t document their work in English or apparently any natural language.

    By the way, on pidgin C++: News flash for Silicon Valley, C++ is not the universally accepted programming language syntax and is not a natural language. Sorry to give you this news. Instead, C++, like C, has a deliberately obscure ‘idiosyncratic’ (idiotic) syntax generally to be avoided.

    (3) Takes simple, standard HTML and adds enough JavaScript to change how the resulting Web pages work and make a huge mess that loads slowly, enters infinite loops, and otherwise is obscure and a path through a swamp of mud wrestling.

    (4) Responds to a click nearly anywhere on a Web page by putting up some big overlay that blocks some or all of the rest of the page.

    Gee, guys, mostly I click on a page JUST to bring it to the top of the Z-order and give it the keyboard and mouse focus, NOT to change what the heck I’m trying to do. E.g., shopping at Amazon, collecting notes on what I’m doing, doing other work, etc., commonly the Web page from Amazon leaves the top of the Z order so that I need to click on the page to get it back to the top. Then, presto, bingo, I get from Amazon a new Web page inviting something or other — in the past month, I have gotten maybe 1000 such unwanted pages from Amazon, which I just kill and hope to return to the page I want, now at the top of th Z order. I’m done screaming at Amazon’s brain-dead Web page programmers.

    Those are just some of the frustrations now common across the Web. Excedrin headaches #909453323, unanesthetized root canal procedures, pains in the back side, another epsilon to full hardening of the arteries, more loss of tooth enamel due to tooth grinding, etc.

    So, examples include Google Drive, Dropbox, Attkisson, Breitbart, Amazon, and many others. All of you, you’ve been warned.

    I’m not nice about it anymore: (1) All that stupid stuff you are doing you shouldn’t be doing, don’t do that anymore. (2) All that obvious, good stuff you should be doing, do that instead. Capache?

  22. Nancy Lebovitz Says:

    I’ve never used a password manager because I worry that it’s a single point of failure. What if I lose my access to the password manager? What if the password manager goes under or has a security breach?

    I have no idea whether I’m being reasonable about this.

  23. Ian Says:

    A second vote for keepass and randomly generated passwords, where the database is saved on dropbox to sync between devices. There’s an app for android, too. Sure, you have to open the program with the master password every time you want to enter a password, but it’s better than memorizing dozens of variants of an insecure password. On the occasion that you have to login to something on a new device, you have to transcribe a bunch of random characters from your phone.

  24. Steve Feinstein Says:

    I see a bunch of comments recommending using a password manager. This is good advice which looks to me to be missing the point. It’s become my battle to fight against those who would treat the symptoms, and not focus on the source of the problem.

    Prof. Aaronson is providing his time and expertise (for free!). It’s our job to respect his time and not require him to have to jump through hoops to help us. I’d also wager, that making it easier to get the information we request will also get us better more thoughtful feedback since no mental energy has to be wasted fighting the system.

  25. Pereza Says:

    […] palabra […]

  26. Geoff Butterfield Says:

    Password managers are good tools, but I think people suggesting them are missing a larger point. This isn’t a technical problem, this is an engagement problem. Online communication has gotten increasingly more difficult with the proliferation of tools and security measures. Company A is on Slack, Company B uses Facebook, Company C uses Google Services. It takes time and energy to set these up, and god help you if you screw up a two-factor set-up.

    I’m also reminded of websites like Dot & Bo (I think) that wanted me to login just to browse the site. I’m not logging into anything these days with a *very* compelling reason, and that includes whatever communication platform of the day is being used.

  27. Donkey Hotay Says:

    I wish I could log in to like some of these posts…

  28. Shaun G Says:

    Regarding the walk-in haircuts, two points:

    1) Would you demand the same from, say, a doctor’s office or a dentist’s office? Why or why not?

    2) Many haircut places offer online check-in now. I’ve been using the Supercuts app for almost two years, and it’s extremely simple. It shows you the approximate wait time, you click a single button, and you’ve got a reservation. Then you just walk in at your appointed time and breeze past all the walk-ins.

  29. Scott Says:

    James Lee #11: Oh man. I forgot to mention it in the post, but I have a special enmity relationship with the diabolical torture implement I call HardChair. A couple years’ worth of PCs now know that, if they want me to review papers for them, I’ll do so only on the condition that I can access the papers and email them the reviews directly, without needing to search for my HardChair login.

  30. Bob Says:

    Haha, great boycott. Count me in!

    I also suggest a new boycott:
    no firm/company/entity should be allowed to send a “No Reply” email. It is extremely rude: you have the audacity to send me a message, expect me to read it seriously, and then tell me that if I reply you won’t even have the possibility to look at it! This is really disrespectful.

  31. Criação Says:

    “…all you’ll need to do is create an account on our proprietary DigiScholar Portal system, a process that takes no more than 3 hours.”
    A litte hyperbole here, but not less annoying!

  32. Scott Says:

    Everyone: The suggestion of using a password manager is well-intentioned, and I might even try it sometime.

    But in some sense, I feel like password managers are both overkill and underkill for the problem I have.

    They’re overkill because we’re talking about accounts that nobody wants to hack—and if someone did hack them, I wouldn’t care. (I do know enough to reuse the same passwords only for all the different sites that don’t matter, reserving separate passwords for the sites that do matter.) So the time overhead of launching a separate app every time I need to log in is probably a massive deterrent for me.

    But password managers are also underkill because often I’ve forgotten additional relevant information, like my user ID (was it aaronson? saaronson? scottaar? scottaar2? scott@scottaaronson.com?), and in the case of research.gov and other government sites, a PIN code (but not the PIN code that you used for NSF, a different PIN code, you dumbass!).

  33. Scott Says:

    Shaun #28: The only reason I overcome my aversion to unsolicited phone calls when making doctor and dentist appointments (including for my daughter), is that in that case there seems to be no alternative! 🙂 On those occasions when I had walk-in clinics available as a student or postdoc, I very happily availed myself of them, and I wish it were more of a thing.

    In practice, if you walk in to a doctor’s office, often they won’t even treat it as if you had called—they’ll just send you away, without even offering to schedule you for a later appointment. When a pediatrician’s office, which happens to be right down the street from our house, did that to me after Lily had been up all night screaming with an ear infection, I resolved never to use that pediatrician again.

  34. John Says:

    What about grant reviews? Every time I try, it takes me 20 minutes to log in to the NSF’s website. I hate that thing. (And NSF isn’t even the worst of them.)

  35. Scott Says:

    John #34: Oh yes. Yes indeed. I included grant reviews in my original post, but I can add that NSF is an extremely bad offender here (admittedly, I don’t know whether it’s their fault, or the fault of various government oversight regulations that they labor under).

  36. Jordan Ellenberg Says:

    Alas, the lion’s share of the time I have to create a useless login is when I’m submitting a recommendation letter for a student applying for grad school, and I’m just not willing to penalize the student for the admissions office’s bad policy.

  37. Matt Leifer Says:

    Most password managers will store your usernames, pincodes etc. as well.

    Anyway, I am pleased to report that Scholastics, the back end for http://quantum-journal.org allows you to do absolutely everything via email and your messages then get auto populated in the system. We’ve had the ability to do this since Tumblr/Posterous, so I don’t know why more journals and funding agencies haven’t adopted it. Something about cumbersome legacy systems no doubt. Anyway, all that is to say, you can expect us to contact you frequently for reviews 🙂

  38. Scott Says:

    Jordan #36: Of course, I’d also never penalize a student in such a case. So it’s lucky for me that the majority of recommendation letter services I’ve dealt with have seemed relatively competently designed—like, please click this one-time URL that’s right in the email; then you’ll be at a page where you can upload a PDF. Why can’t everything be like that?

  39. Eyal Says:

    Scott #32: In fact password managers (at least the one I use, LastPass) typically don’t require launching a different app (use convenient browser extension, even on my phone) and also remember and auto fills usernames and PIN numbers.
    I use it for reviewing papers on these annoying websites and it works pretty well.

  40. Alex Says:

    Scott #6 + Scott #32: The password manager I use (LastPass) can sync between computer and phone. Additionally, you don’t have to generate a random password if you don’t want to – you’re free to use your current username and password,

    LastPass (and other managers) also has an auto-fill feature that tries to automatically identify and fill the username and password fields. It works decently well for me. That’s the feature you might be more interested in – let the password manager remember what stupid ID you used this time.

    Mentally, I have 3 tiers of accounts:

    – Accounts I really don’t want hacked, which I don’t expect to use on someone else’s computer. In those cases I use a randomly generated password.

    – Accounts I really don’t want hacked, which I may want to use on someone else’s computer. In those cases I use a password I know, and manually enter into LastPass for convenience.

    – Accounts I don’t really care about. In those cases I’ll use a password I know, just in case I want to log into those accounts on other people’s computers.

  41. Scott Says:

    Shecky #9:

      At 35 you’re too young to be crusty or senile… you younguns just keep wanting to encroach on the stubbornness we old codgers have spent a lifetime earning!

    As far as I can remember, my first feelings of crustiness and senility occurred around age 16. But then again, my memory is getting worse every day… 🙂

  42. Scott Says:

    OK, this is truly off-topic, but what is it with airlines ordering you to put your backpack under the seat in front of you, in order to make more room for suitcases in the overhead bins? It’s like, because I managed to pack extremely light, I should sacrifice for the sake of the people who packed heavy? In the future, maybe I should pack a mostly-empty suitcase, just so I can put it in the overhead bin?

  43. doubleunplussed Says:

    Science seems to have some coordination problems like this. We all hate it, but can’t coordinate well enough to boycott it effectively.

    Physics has its fair share of professional societies, but it would nice if they could vote on and coordinate boycotts like – “No member of the APS will publish in journals that don’t have whatever requirements we are going to impose on peer review”. Like a union. But this has its own problems because it’s the societies that publish the journals.

    Anyway I’d like to see physicists become more of a democratic body in their own right, influencing the way the field is run directly rather than via the universities and the existing societies, all of which have their own incentives that might be at odds with the actual physicists’.

    That way your boycott could become universal. I don’t doubt most physicists agree with you, but it’s a tragedy of the commons – most people won’t cease publishing in/reviewing for whatever journals help advance their career, unless they can enforce that others will too.

    Physics needs more coordination if we’re going to solve problems like this.

  44. pku Says:

    Great idea. Does anyone have an idea how to also boycott the DMV? They have every single negative feature listed here and also a bunch of things not listed.

    Also re: paid journals, isn’t there an arxiv-like site where you can see everything anyone published for free? (If so, why not?)

  45. Raoul Ohio Says:

    I don’t use a password manager, but if I every do, I won’t think hard about what one to use, because Password Safe is by Bruce Schneier.

    Bruce is likely the world’s foremost security expert. Everyone is advised to subscribe to his newsletter and visit his web sites. Bruce’s breadth and depth of knowledge and writing skills might be unequaled in the tech world. Bruce provides quick analysis of EVERY security issue in the world that hits the news.

  46. Haribo Freak Says:

    Scott, have you thought about giving up email entirely and relying solely on the post (and telegrams) for long-distance communication like Don Knuth? It’s really boosted his productivity. You are at a point in your career where you can do whatever the hell you want whereas the rest of us poor bastards will almost surely never reach such a place. Do it for us!

  47. Christian Harms Says:

    Funny comments but the pw-manager is not the problem.

    If someone send me a link to content hosted by facebook / instagram I will get a Register-PopUp. Same issue – I DONT WANT create an facebook account to access to “public content”. We learnt that AOL was not the internet – so facebook too!

  48. tas Says:

    As a postdoc nervously trying to advance my career, I feel like I am often unable to take such positions for fear of offending someone more senior or missing an opportunity. I strongly encourage more senior people who do not have these fears to double down on boycotts and so forth on my behalf.

    One policy I do follow is only providing free-form reviews. If the review form asks me to split my review into several text boxes, I will put the entire review in the first text box and leave the rest empty.

    Easychair is a joke. At the very very least they could include direct links in their emails and allow you to reply to their emails.

  49. Bradley Stevenson Says:

    Just use an online alter ego, there’s lots online. I use a chrome extension and don’t bother like https://cyberalterego.com

  50. Vaniver Says:

    Scott: password managers also remember the username; they thing they key off of is the URL that you’re on. (Which is another thing I’ll often forget for sites I rarely use.)

  51. Fasda Says:

    I have 20 years old, and i completely agree with your position.
    As a side note: I will take care to make most my software open to everyone, and force an omniauth only when te user needs permissions or want to be tracked….
    Is stupid how many sites want you to make an account just for “nothing”

  52. Daniel Seita Says:

    Prof. Aaronson #42

    I think you’re starting to focus on things that don’t matter much. 🙂

    This is also truly off-topic, but it matters more: but have you considered running for political office? According to the Texas secretary of state website, to run for the US House of representatives, there’s no live-in-Texas-for-X-years requirement (really?!?). I’d suggest you run for the senate, except it seems like you need to live in the state for five years.

    (Sorry, I wasn’t going to ask this, except it seemed like this was going off-topic which makes me feel less guilty.)

  53. Scott Says:

    pku #44: No, many, many older papers are still locked behind paywalls, because the authors are dead (but the publisher still owns the copyright), or the authors simply find it too onerous to dig up their ancient (often pre-TeX) papers and put them online. In fields outside of math, CS, and physics, this is often the situation even for new papers. This is precisely the problem that Aaron Swartz was trying to solve, but he got busted, setting in motion the chain of events that led to his tragic suicide.

  54. Gene Chase Says:

    My wife gives me a great haircut. Price is right. And there’s a sensual dimension. Priceless.

  55. Scott Says:

    Haribo Freak #46: Actually, from an outsider’s perspective, it seems likely that Knuth accomplished the most back in the old days, when he was still using email and plugged in to the world! But of course, it’s hard to disentangle causality: maybe if Knuth were still answering email, he wouldn’t even have written the Volume 4 fascicles that he has.

    Anyway, believe me that I’ve thought often, and enviously, about the “Knuth option”! But it just seems incompatible with my personality: like, within 2 hours I’d probably have broken down and be back to using email.

  56. Evan Says:

    Password managers are great, and I recommend that everyone, including Scott use them. I wish it was easier to set up, but using it is pretty easy. I use them for everything from online banking to message board logins to vendors that I regularly shop with, to various governmental websites.

    What all of those have in common is that they are providing a service which I *want* to use. They are not asking me to help them (for free!). Even the government websites – ok, maybe I am not super thrilled to be renewing my car registration, but I will happily create an account to do so online rather than the in-person alternative.

    Also, each of them generally makes an effort to be useful to me before I create an account. Better online shops will allow me to purchase as a guest, but creating an account adds functionality. Message boards let me read anonymously, and require a sign-in to post. I might like it if they just use oauth2 and allowed me to use my gmail sign-in, but I also see the disadvantages for that.

  57. Scott Says:

    Daniel #52: No, I have no desire right now to run for any political office, least of all political office in Texas, where I’m so new and understand so little. The furthest my aspirations in that direction go is that if the whole people came to me, imploring me to lead them, I wouldn’t turn them down. 🙂

    Even if my only goal in life were to influence politics, it seems likely that I can do more good as a politically-engaged, blogging scientist, than as a candidate who’d get his ass handed to him in some local Texas alderman race.

  58. anondergrad Says:

    First, I’m actually really glad to hear someone else has this kind of intense aversion to unsolicited phone calls. I’ve had it all my life.

    Second, the unfortunate thing is that many other academics (i.e. grad students and junior faculty) probably don’t have the leisure to refuse to use something like EasyChair. It’s really only senior faculty who may be able to fix that for everyone.

  59. Scott Says:

    anondergrad #58: I feel sad that junior researchers don’t always feel at liberty to take these sorts of stances, even against really obvious idiocy, but that just makes me want all the more to speak out on their behalf!

  60. anondergrad Says:

    Scott #59: That was actually exactly my point! Please continue trying to get this changed for all of us!

  61. GASARCH Says:

    I get very annoyed when I want to leave a comment on a blog and then find out I need to log on to something to do it.

    As for the NSF: When I reviewed the TV show 24 a while back I noted that

    Chloe can break into the NSA’s computers in LESS time than it takes for me to access my NSF fastlane account.

  62. Chris Says:

    I may have an answer for your skype question: if your account is attached to an msn account (for example mine is my old hotmail account) they now require you to use the password for your msn account to log in to skype. Another example of msn adding value for skype users 🙂

  63. Mateus Araújo Says:

    My “password manager” is a text file where I simply write down the username/password combinations for the websites that do not matter. It contains 63 logins and counting.

    For the very few websites that do matter I can just memorize the login.

  64. fred Says:

    Prof. Aaronson: “I have discovered a truly marvelous proof of P!=NP, which I haven’t been able to upload because my password manager is down. LOLZ!”

  65. Richard Gaylord Says:

    you might want to reconsider your decision not to use the pediatrician near you. the doctor may not be responsible, or even aware, of the way you were treated by his staff. as a disabled person who spends a lot of time in medical facilities, i have encountered two types of nurses: those who view their job as one of helping the patient, and those who view their job as one of ‘protecting’ the doctor from the patient. if you talk to the doctor about your experience with his staff, he might well talk to his staff about how they should do their job properly. my own criterion for boycotting physicians is that i refuse to talk to doctors who have spent no more than a minute or two reviewing my case as presented in a thin folder which is placed on the wall outside of the examination room, before entering to see me. since my entire medical files are now over 6 feet high due to the complicated medical history i have for my rare disease, no physician can possibly do an adequate examination or treatment based on a cursory glance at my records before seeing me.

  66. ks Says:

    “In related news, I will no longer patronize any haircut place that turns away walk-in customers.”
    This is great. They are too fancy 🙂

  67. Grunkle Says:

    I hate logons that add no value.
    I hate submitting my email (spam).
    I hate ads with sound or animation.
    I hate popups.
    I don’t care that the privacy or cookie or whatever has changed.
    I would rather close a site than turn off an ad blocker.
    I am tired of sites that don’t put the content on one page – click for next may cause me to click to close.
    I am tired of being trolled.

  68. aram Says:

    #61: GASARCH

  69. Oleg S. Says:

    Dear Scott,

    I’ve recently watched the Arrival movie, and it strongly reminded me of you paper (spoiler alert!). In another essay you explore limits to computation in the physical world. I wonder, have you ever considered the reversal of relations between available computational power and physical laws?

    More specifically, how access to powerful oracle would change the limits of what could be done in a physical world?

    When I think about it, the clue that there is some real-world power behind computational complexity comes from black holes firewall paradox. If I understand it correctly, the answer to what is just above event horizon depends on whether we’ve performed some immensely complex computations on the outgoing Hawking radiation. So if by any chance one gets an access to oracle for corresponding computational class, it would be possible to toggle firewall on and off.

    I’m also thinking about NP problems, which have resemblance to the problems of finding the specific low entropy state of a physical system. The whole process looks very much like reversing the second law of thermodynamics to me. But my knowledge of the field is insufficient to go anywhere beyond handwaving arguments.

    And finally, there is quantum mechanics, which allows to win certain games with probability higher than it’s possible in a purely classical world, although I’m not sure if this has anything to do with BQP != BPP.

    So, I wonder if you have have some thoughts about this? If anything, I guess explaining faster-than-light travel by access to oracle would give superhuman aliens more credibility 🙂

    P.S. I’m sorry for off topic and possible misinterpretation of your post as a permission to ask various P!=NP related questions in comments to this blog.

  70. Raoul Ohio Says:

    Let me interrupt the gloom with some good news.

    You know those nagging events when you CANNOT find the LaTeX command for some symbol you want to use? Or are not sure this is the best one? This site


    lets you draw (with the mouse) something in a box, and lists all the best matches in a wide variety of LaTeX packages.

    This site is also good for when politics or haircuts have got you down, and you need some entertainment, you can make up new math symbols and see what is out there that looks kind of like it.

  71. RubeRad Says:

    as long as the world gives me any choice in the matter, I will never again struggle to log in to any organization’s website.

    Reminds me of the story in Surely You’re Joking Dr. Feynman where he agreed to give a talk at a college as long as he didn’t have to sign his name more than 10 times. Turned out it would have taken an 11th signature to confirm receipt of the honorarium check. Hilarity ensues. Anbody who has ever enjoyed anything on this blog would enjoy that book.

  72. Marvy Says:

    To expand on that a bit: he then said “fine, I already gave the talk, so you should be happy; just don’t pay me”. Except! This is a pretty massive bureaucracy we’re talking about. “We CAN’T not pay you, we already allocated the funds!”.

  73. Marvy Says:

    Also: the limit was 13, not 10.

  74. RubeRad Says:

    13, really? That’s funny, I just re-read the book a few months ago and could have sworn it was 10. But yes, that was the funniest part, he didn’t care about the money, but the bureaucracy couldn’t handle the written check not being received, so they had to find a way to let him have it!

    Hopefully Scott’s principled stand can similarly break some of these forced-login institutions

  75. DMcK Says:

    So totally right on Scott. I don’t get three per day, but have made basically the same resolutions.

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