Lost in (Cyber) Space
Lately it seems like I need to write down more and more things in order to remember them: groceries, errands, appointments, projects, etc. I feel lost if I don’t have a pad of paper in the room with me! Becoming active in cyberspace seems to have only added to my memory loss.
I am a big proponent of writing things down. I’m not suggesting that you save every document and piece of paper you come into contact with. The less paper in your life, the better. However, if you’re like me, you’re a very busy person and your memory is not always reliable. As tempting as it is to use the same password and log in ID, it’s not always possible. Sometimes the ID is already in use by someone else. Having only one password is not the safest practice, either. If someone gets hold of that password, they’ll try to use it at any other sites they know you’re registered with. It’s recommended you change your password periodically as well, just to be safe.
There are numerous web sites that ask you to register, or log in. Some of these sites have bulletin boards, or forums, where you use an ID, or user name. Other sites keep track of the number of times you visit, and the types of things you use while at their site. There are web-based e-mail sites, like Gmail and Hotmail, which require an ID name, and numerous other Internet sites that require user names and passwords as well.
As an example, here are just a few types of sites which require registering:
- Product Development Research Site
- Women's magazines
- Stock trading sites
- Forums for writers, moms, woodworkers, etc
- Recipe sites
- Social networking sites
Of course, I also have ID’s for our Internet Service Provider, webmail, and even my computer. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Cookies are a wonderful invention – for many of these sites I don’t have to remember anything. They automatically remember me from the cookie they placed on my browser when I registered the first time. The problem arises when I try to access these sites from a different computer.
Whether the computer belongs to a friend, a relative or the library, I always have problems remembering the exact web address for certain sites, and my log in names and passwords. I never realized how much I relied on my bookmarks/favorites until my computer crashed. I had to rebuild my bookmarks one by one. It’s always wise to backup your bookmarks if they are really important to you.
One of the ways I keep track of things is with a small spiral notebook. I’ve also been known to use index cards in a file box set next to my computer for tracking sites. Some other ideas include using an address book or a spreadsheet program. Let’s look at each of these ideas one at a time to see how they can be implemented.
Spiral Notebook I use a small one, slightly larger than an index card. I just write down the information as I obtain it. If I change a password, I scribble out the original and rewrite the information. When I need to recall the information, I just flip through the pages until I find what I’m looking for.
Index Cards These can work in a variety of ways. You can use one card per site, or group similar sites together on one card. If you use one card per site, create new cards when you change passwords. If you group sites on one card, just rewrite the info as there is room. When the card gets full and you need to add a site, rewrite all the active information on a new card.
Address Book This would work just like any other address book. List the name of the site in the “name” section. On the “address” line, list the web site address. Place your log in ID in the “phone” section, and your password in the “city/state” section. However you decide to set it up, be consistent with all of your entries.
Spreadsheet This idea works well if you print out your info periodically. If you lose your bookmarks and cookies due to a computer crash, your spreadsheet will be gone as well. Consider printing out the info each time you change something – throw away old printouts
Whatever system you use, be sure to list the web address of the site, the e-mail address you register with (if you have more than one), your log in name or ID, and your password. If you travel often, you’ll be able to pull the important index cards or pack the notebook, address book, or spreadsheet with no problem.
One final note about writing this information down: keep a copy in case you misplace the original. If you discover you’ve lost your notebook, cards, address book, or printout, you will need to immediately get the copy and change all of your passwords. For some sites it’s not quite as crucial, but if you have an account at PayPal, eTrade, or some other site that involves money, you may want to keep your passwords in a separate location and devise some sort of code to remember how to match your passwords to the correct sites and log in ID’s.
As always, be discriminate about what information you give out to any Internet sites. Try to surf the site thoroughly before you register to avoid getting excess ID’s and passwords that you won’t use. With a little organization and discipline, you won’t be lost in Cyberspace!