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I propose that there are five classes of secret.

A Class-five is a bit of knowledge which is known to many people but has not yet passed into the hall of public facts.

A Class-four is shared by more than two people, but not acknowledged openly.

A Class-three is known only to two people. This could be either because they are both party to it or because one person is discovered in the act of doing something which would otherwise be classified as a Class-two.

A Class-two is a secret known exclusively to the person whose secret it is.

A Class-one is known to no-one.
EXAMPLES of different classes of secret
A popular but private web-site might be a Class-five -- some porn-sites for instance, might fit this category.

Usernames, typically, are Class-four secrets. They are secrets in the short-term in the sense that users often become comfortable with revealing their true identities alongside their usernames -- some of which mutate and become identities themselves!

Passwords are most likely to be Class-threes or Class-twos. Many users maintain both kinds, in-house passwords known to the user and her/his mate as well as some which are known to no-one else, not even best friends and spouses.

A Class-one is a very special type of secret. It is like a black hole of truth -- it has enormous gravity, it can cause reality to bend and shift around it, but it can't be seen directly. A password is an example of something which acquires Class-one status when its owner forgets what it is -- or never knew it to begin with (inheriting a computer from someone who has died, for instance, and left no record of passwords).
THOUGHTS about secrets
A secret is a kind of lie, a lie-in-waiting. In the tapestry of shared facts, it is the stitch that has been dropped out. Is that why there is something vaguely unattractive about secrecy? We're expected to live our lives as if there were no lies, nothing requiring concealment. Yet all of us conceal some things, some times. Even if it is only our passwords or our credit card numbers or our sexual orientation, there are some areas which are strictly Class-two, for all of us.

Secrets are to life a bit like syncopation is to jazz: notes dropped out from the rhythm of reality. When the mood is right, when the player is good, when the tune is sweet ... a secret is that part of the melody that works because it's NOT there.
Clicking here .... will take you to a list of the different strategies used by H2G2 researchers to generate passwords and a few of their suggestions to safeguard Class Two passwords from becoming Class Threes -- or Class Ones!

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