[Air-l] Warchalking does not exist: a wager.

Dave Munger dsmunger at commontext.org
Mon Jun 30 12:46:20 PDT 2003

Paul Ruiz claimed he used warchalking to deliver his "Live from Eldred  
V. Ashcroft" blog on Lawmeme:


It was amazing to see these published notes just moments after the oral  
arguments were completed (too bad the ruling itself wasn't so amazing.  

I don't know if Ruiz still "uses" warchalking, so though it may not  
qualify for betting purposes, I think it's a pretty interesting example.


On Monday, June 30, 2003, at 11:32  AM, Christian Sandvig wrote:

> Hi Steve and air-l colleagues,
> Steve:  Remember the hallway conversation we had last fall about  
> whether or
> not 'true' Warchalking exists?  If I remember, it was your contention  
> that
> it does and that you'd seen it in the Loop.  As you know I'm doing a
> research project on Wi-Fi and I've been trying to settle this for a  
> while.
> I'm writing this note to air-l because I need help.
> For background, Warchalking is the use of symbols (marked with chalk)  
> to
> indicate the presence of a Wi-Fi hotspot.  In pure form, the story of
> warchalking is that there is a subculture of Wi-Fi users that use  
> chalk to
> communicate with each other about Wi-Fi locations.  Hip/cool  
> businesses then
> co-opted the subcultural warchalking to advertise their own hotspots.   
> More
> at:  http://www.warchalking.org/
> My contention is that the first (subcultural) story about warchalking  
> above
> is entirely a media phenomenon -- it is a beautiful idea, but it  
> doesn't
> make any sense as a directory service to find Wi-Fi.  It is too easy  
> to miss
> a warchalk mark, and the chalk wears away (or washes away in the rain)  
> too
> quickly.  Warchalking symbols were heavily promoted in the New York  
> Times
> just *48 hours* after they were first made public on the Web.  There  
> was a
> subsequent wave of media stories about warchalking, giving everyone  
> ideas.
> Every single occurrence of chalk I've found can be attributed to  
> chalkers
> who want to self-promote their own mark.  So I believe that people *do*
> rarely make warchalking marks for various reasons (to be cool, to  
> advertise
> for their own network) but I *don't* believe that people use  
> warchalking
> marks in a meaningful way to find Wi-Fi.
> After the conversation with Steve, on December 18th I posted an call  
> to many
> colleagues around the world asking for verifiable instances of  
> warchalking
> that work the way that warchalking describes itself.  Reports to date:
> zero.  If warchalking worked as a directory location service,  
> shouldn't I be
> able to find it?
> I just had a close call -- a friend told me that my office at Oxford  
> had
> been warchalked.  Since it is a WEP (non-open) node and I didn't do  
> it, this
> could be half of a "true" instance of warchalking!  I ran out as soon  
> as I
> heard but couldn't find the mark.  It must have washed away?  (Here in
> England, it is raining.)
> So I am willing to propose a wager, or a bounty.  I'll bet one dollar  
> that
> warchalking is not a meaningful way of locating Wi-Fi hotspots.  To  
> win the
> bounty, can anyone deliver someone that uses warchalking to locate  
> Wi-Fi
> hotspots?
> Caveats:  (1) Warchalking done by the provider of the hotspot does not
> count -- it is supposedly a co-option of the "pure" subculture.  I  
> dispute
> the subculture, not the self-promotion.  (2) I am not disputing that
> wardriving, warwalking, and online hotspot mapping (warchalking with  
> bits in
> GIS databases, not with chalk) exist as advertised.  (Though others  
> have.)
> My beef here is only about the chalk part.
> I've made a web page for this bet that has the relevant emails I've  
> sent and
> some links:  http://www.niftyc.org/bet/
> As you may have guessed I'm writing a paper about this.  Email me if  
> you
> want a copy when I finish.  Thank you for any help!
> Christian
> --
> http://www.niftyc.org/
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Dave Munger
dsmunger at commontext.org
dsmunger at charlotte.uncc.edu


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