Hacking TinyURL

View Larger Map

I once had a custom URL made at tinyurl.com that showed that route that Jorkens and Terbut followed in Lord Dunsany's story "Jorkens' Revenge." In this story, the Munchausen-like Jorkens manages to win an unusual wager with his nemesis, Terbut. Jorkens bets him £5 that it is further from Westminster Bridge to Blackfriars Bridge than it is from Blackfriars Bridge to Westminster Bridge. The perplexed Terbut then finds that the taxi ride one way is indeed longer than the ride the other way and grudgingly pays Jorkens £5 without fully understanding why he lost.

Jorkens won this particular bet because the road between the two bridges is shaped like an arc of a circle, and driving an arc of a smaller radius gives you a shorter distance than driving an arc with a larger radius. That's fairly easy to see in the above map.

This is the standard example that I give that shows that exactly how you measure something can be important.

The TinyURL for this map is easy to remember: http://www.tinyurl.com/JorkensRevenge. I can't find any handy examples of this, but I've also created other TinyURLs to use in footnotes in various articles that I've written. Something like http://www.tinyurl.com/ArticleTitle instead of a long, cumbersome URL for some reference that I wanted to cite. I've always assumed that for things that nobody will care about in a year or two, a TinyURL is probably good enough, and that they're probably no less ephemeral than any other URL.

When I was thinking about this earlier this morning, I wondered what other custom TinyURLs people might have created. I then tried several custom TinyURLs made from combination of days of the week, meals, common first and last names, etc.

When I did this, I found a surprising number of custom TinyURLs that had been created by other people. Lots of them even had detailed directions either to or from someone's house on Google maps, much like I did with "Jorkens' Revenge."

So those custom TinyURLs seeem to leak information that you might not want people to easily find, particularly when the URL might contain information about what you were doing at one of the endpoints of the trip.

The bottom line seems to be that if something is convenient for you it's also convenient for someone else, so don't make it too easy for people to learn things that you might not want them to learn.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *