Talk:Alice and Bob

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Other languages[edit]

What names are used in other languages? Or cryptologist only write in English? 09:37, 22 Jun 2004

That's an interesting question! The majority of modern cryptographic research is indeed written in English. Some of the German Wikipedia articles on cryptography use Alice and Bob (e.g. de:Quantenkryptographie). A google search for "Alice Bob kriptografie" gives a Czech page ( as well as German, so it seems fair to say that Alice and Bob are used, at least sometimes, in other languages as well. — Matt 13:54, 22 Jun 2004 (UTC)
And there is some discussion on the question of cryptographer / cryptologist at Talk:Marian Rejewski from a Polish language perspective. No comments on names for the 'strawfolk' in Polish discussions however. ww 13:44, 9 Aug 2004 (UTC)
Alisa and Boban in Serbocroat.[1] Edrigu 03:03, 21 September 2007 (UTC)
(Archive URL: [2]) Jimw338 (talk) 03:34, 7 February 2015 (UTC)

humor in this article[edit]

As the external link shows, the entire subject has been the object of amusement for a long time. This is not out of line here on the WP to note this, in my view, and so the recent deletions of all humourous comment was perhaps too much. Schneier's reference to the Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice movie was itself mostly humourous. In my view, it's harmless, though some of the attempted humour has been a little leaden. ww 19:31, 9 Sep 2004 (UTC)

I think we may have discussed this before, but I really don't think such things are OK stylistically in an encyclopedia. Phrases like: "The whiff of Wonderland one gets is not irrelevant." or "Too far down the alphabet, perhaps, or perhaps the movie is not the ubersource" are not the kind of thing you'd expect to see when you whip out Britannica. A reference work, even one as (comparatively) laid-back as Wikipedia, is written in a different style to, say, a weblog, or a chatty textbook (like Applied Cryptography, for example), or a set of lecture notes, or Everything2.
Moreover, humour, in particular, is problematic for reasons other than style; of all the things that don't transmit well across cultures, humour (and "in-references") is probably the worst. Wikipedia is an international project, so we can't assume that everyone either has the cultural context to appreciate the joke, or that they would find it funny. We should be writing for clarity, not subtlety. — Matt 22:43, 9 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Matt, I agree that subtlety can be lost for international audiences, but this is a problem with translation generally, not only humor, and nothing WPians can do or not do will help much with it. This is a problem up with which we will, I expect, just have to put.
I didn't mean translation into other languages; I meant English speakers for which English may not be their first language. There's one very easy thing we can do about such readers missing subtle references and overt jokes -- simply avoid it. The resulting text is much more encyclopedic, and likely to be clearer to a wider selection of people. — Matt 17:36, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Matt, I had in mind just that situation when using (or perhaps misusing) the word translation. It has been my experience, and perhaps also yours, that humor (I'll stick with AE, as that's what my fingers seem to want here) often needs to be explained to those outside the <language, community, educational background, experience context, ...> for whom the humor works. In this case, the humor is that odd 'hacker' perspective in which a comment such as (straining to remember an apt joke), '...and that's why APL is a Chinese programming language', is funny. But the fact of the humorous context is still notable encyclopedically. Just how exactly seems to be the crux of the difference here. Do you agree as to that?
As for clarity, I agree wholeheartedly as you might expect. However, I do think a light tone can sometimes contribute to just that.
Much of point of the whole Alice and Bob thing is the humorous quality of it. Certainly almost all of the context within which it is used is so. The mere meta-syntactic participant aspect is the least significant when discussing it. To leave it (or at least some of it) out is un-encyclopedic, it seems to me, at least on this subject. In particular, I've had it pointed out to me that Alice seems a good choice (however it was originally made, I suppose) as it does have a whiff of Wonderland about it which fits well with the oddities and obscuritites of crypto into which one is plunged following Alice and her compatriots. It's harmless, and to the point.
I'm afraid I disagree...I think it's neither harmless nor on-topic. Sentences like "The whiff of Wonderland one gets is not irrelevant." seem to add little information, and would be very confusing to those who haven't heard of Alice in Wonderland. I believe the article is much better without it. We do note: "The names are ...sometimes humorous". You could, in theory, add something like, "The name of Alice is associated with Lewis Carroll's children's story Alice in Wonderland, and the puzzling and obscure nature of cryptography is frequently compared to the nonsensical Wonderland of the book.", or some such, but it still seems to me as if it wouldn't add much, (and I'd like to see a source before we add something of that nature.) — Matt 17:36, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC)
To draw a (perhaps not quite on point exactly) parallel, one would, I expect, be doing somewhat the wrong (encyclopedic) thing in a discussion of Gulliver's Travels to leave out some comments on the amusing choices Swift made and to concentrate solely on the political / philosophical / structural elements. This may lead into deconstructional issues and I fervently hope it doesn't -- it is that fear which occasioned the 'not quite on point' observation.
More generally, User:Wetman has some comments on this at his user page which are I think relevant and persuasive. The Britannica style is not, for him, nor for me, what WP should quite be aiming at. And indeed there is much non Brittanical about WP. But, as you point out, we seem to have disagreed on this, and I anticipate that we will do so in future. ww 16:14, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I think using an encyclopedic style is what is important, not (especially) Britannica's brand of it. Almost of all of Wikipedia is written in what I would call an encyclopedic style. — Matt 17:36, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Matt and I clearly have some divergence of opinion regarding this article, and indeed style and humor issues generally here on WP. Others surely have an opinion as well. Perhaps they'd like to comment? ww 17:45, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC)
It seems like you confuse writing about humour with writing in a humorous manner. You may write a whole chapter about the humorous references on this topic, and no one will object ... as long as you keep the encyclopaedic style. Inserting humorous comments into an encyclopaedic article is something completely different, not only because it does not translate and is easily misunderstood, but also because you trade seriousness of the article for fun. DerGraph 10:59, 1 July 2007 (UTC)

Random quote I came across: "the Alice of cryptographic fame is neither hermaphroditic nor transgendered" - Neal Koblitz and Alfred Menezes, commenting on a signature scheme in which Alice is able to prove that she is Bob. [3] Arvindn 06:24, 21 Nov 2004 (UTC)

(archive link "Another Look at Provable Security" Neal Koblitz" p 33: [4]) Jimw338 (talk) 04:16, 7 February 2015 (UTC)

reversion this date[edit]

The elision of a paragraph noting the literary convention has been reverted. The reasoning for the reversion is that a) it is a literary convention, albeit in engineering articles and b) the discussion of the material behind the convention is relevant to what is actually happening and so to an understanding of possible reificational effects of the convention's use. Neither point is off topic (albeit b) is more serious than the tone of the rest of the article) and so didn't deserve deletion. Comments? ww 19:16, 21 Mar 2005 (UTC)

It wasn't reverted, it was reworded as a compromise: I agree with the anonymous editor who removed it originally. The material was:
"One problem with this literary convention is that it oversimplifies reality. Alice almost never makes the computations ascribed to her. Instead she clicks icons on the screen of a computer she purchased from a retailer, who received it from a factory in Asia, where it was assembled from chips designed, fabricated and packaged in half a dozen countries. The software intended to perform the mathematical function (Alice computes...) was downloaded over the Internet accompanied with a cryptographic hash verification value she never checked. It typically runs on a closed source operating system with known security flaws, some of which were corrected in patches she never installed. Her computer is connected to the Internet where it is constantly attacked, and often penetrated, by various forms of malware. The computer sits on a desk where it is easily accessed by coworkers, cleaning people and others. Of what it is really calculating, Alice has no certainty."
The point seems to be that a human doesn't necessarily do the actions, and that it's usually an agent acting on his/her behalf. The new summary retains this point, although I wouldn't have thought it necessary to point this out. Regarding a) I've added the word "conventional". b) I think most of the paragraph is off-topic. The article is about the standard characters used in descriptions of protocols; it's not about the the perils of running closed-source operating systems, accessiblity of desks to coworkers, factories in Asia, and so on. — Matt Crypto 19:40, 21 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Its Mallet not Mallory[edit]

Don't use the term Mallory if you want to get a paper published. The use of the Mallory character is very severely deprecated after complaints from someone called Mallory. The name Marvin is not much better because the MIT AI lab was founded by Marvin Minsky and using that name looks like a personal attack. This point came up long ago and the name Mallet is now used in pretty much all the recent papers. Can't find a reference for it but this is not the sort of thing that gets written down. Thats why Mallet should be the main character. --Gorgonzilla 17:33, 16 August 2006 (UTC)

Goodness, does every person named Mallory get to veto use of the name? There are easily tens of thousands of 'Mallory's in the world. And Mallet does not sound like a name to me, and I wager to most Americans, making it an odd choice. I understand it's hard, but please try to find a reference for any of this.Xkcd 12:35, 30 October 2006 (UTC)Xkcd

Added to disambiguation pages for "Alice" and "Bob"[edit]

I added "* [[Alice and Bob]], [[placeholder]]s for [[archetype|archtypal]] characters in fields such as [[cryptography]] and [[physics]]" to the disambiguation pages for Alice and Bob. I didn't bother with the rest of the names as they are less well-known. davidwr 09f9(talk) 19:18, 19 May 2007 (UTC)

Page title[edit]

Huh, I see that the Talk page wasn't moved by the admin... eh, not a big deal. Anyway, this page was moved unilaterally to Placeholder names in cryptography, which I moved back (with admin help via db-move, due to the target page having an extra revision due to the first, botched move). While this is a perfectly correct and referential name as well, I'm not in favor of the trend for Wikipedia when a good, non-controversial alternative exists. (Side comment: The main reason why these names proliferate is that, say, neither side can agree whether to call it "Operation Cast Lead" or the "Gaza Massacre" so we end up with something like "2008-2009 Gaza conflict", since mercifully renamed to just "Gaza War.") Alice & Bob are by far the best-known of the pair, and the rest of the group vary somewhat. This page is really "Alice and Bob and Friends," but the Alice and Bob part is by far the most recognizable, so that should be the page title. It's the same in that many articles on, say, a city could also be entitled "City of Springfield and environs" or even "Settlement at 39° 46′ 59.7″ N, 89° 39′ 1.34″ W," but the recognizable and famous name is used. SnowFire (talk) 05:35, 9 May 2009 (UTC)

Missing Information[edit]

Throughout this entire page, it seems that the name Chezky is completely ignored. Someone should really add that in. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:34, 11 March 2010 (UTC)

List of characters[edit]

This list is quite long and mostly unreferenced. I suggest we start by removing all unreferenced names not identified in Applied Cryptography — that is, all except Alice, Bob, Carol, Dave, Eve, Mallory, Trent, Walter, Peggy, and Victor — until they cite a reliable source. Feezo (Talk) 02:33, 13 March 2011 (UTC)

I've gone ahead and pruned the list. Feezo (Talk) 01:07, 15 March 2011 (UTC)
As per Wikipedia:No original research you are correct in there removal - additions with no refs can be removed at any time by any editor - does not matter how long they have been here. The "BURDEN of proof" is on the editor(s) that adding the info originally or back into the article. All that said - were did this info come from - i take it its not madeup - can we not find references?Moxy (talk) 04:20, 16 March 2011 (UTC)
Thanks for the feedback...I won't remove the list again myself, as part of my personal 1RR policy, but I will look for some references. The problem is that many of these don't appear to have ever been used in a reliable source. For example, I can only find a single use of "Plod" anywhere on the Internet — in a blog — and there were no relevant Google Books or Scholar hits for it either. Feezo (Talk) 04:36, 16 March 2011 (UTC)
any thing here?Moxy (talk) 05:06, 16 March 2011 (UTC)
sockpuppets! (talk) 05:24, 16 March 2011 (UTC)
Replied on user's talk page. And no, I haven't found much more. Some of the names, e.g., Steve have in fact been used in published works, but not according to the way described; "Steve" was merely a third party along the lines of Carol, and had nothing to do with steganography. Feezo (Talk) 07:15, 16 March 2011 (UTC)
I would take the IP's response of "sockpuppets!" as meaning to say "I dont have any refs for what i am trying to restore to the article and will not revert again as per WP:BURDEN". Ok then all solved.Moxy (talk) 07:28, 16 March 2011 (UTC)


Now what's with Mallory or Mallet? I always encounter with just Mallor. — Preceding unsigned comment added by MoZo1 (talkcontribs) 16:19, 10 March 2013 (UTC)


This page is getting vandalized. A lot. It's on my watchlist, and in the past two weeks alone, I've seen someone change "Eve" to "Obama" and someone replacing random words with a name for a piece of male anatomy, to put it lightly. --XndrK (talk · contribs · count) 23:08, 2 October 2013 (UTC)

First use[edit]

Greetings! Could anyone verify if the names Alice and Bob were used in Criptography in 1978 in the paper on the RSA algorithm for public-key cryptography? If it is true, it'd be a good idea to add this datum to this article. Besides, it'd be even better to find out the first use for the rest of names.


George Rodney Maruri Game (talk) 22:30, 15 May 2014 (UTC)

The RSA paper is indeed the first use. I'll be adding it, and other illustrative ones through Feb 2017. Quinn d (talk) 19:30, 25 January 2017 (UTC)

Unhelpful examples of David, Erin, Gena and Heather[edit]

I am puzzled by the edit by OsamaBinLogin on 2014-02-11T07:41:00 — the first part of OsamaBinLogin’s added text seems a reasonable clarification, but the last two steps do not follow on and seem to contribute nothing:

10. Then David decrypts the email he got, and gives a copy to Gena.
11. Then Erin decrypts the email she got, and gives a copy to Heather.

I suppose they are meant to illustrate how the cast has been expanded through the alphabet, but I think that becomes clear from the next section anyway. Does anyone feel that they should be kept? PJTraill (talk) 13:25, 30 April 2015 (UTC)

P.S. The latest addition, ‘Dave Googles "How to read decrypted messages".’ seems even less helpful. PJTraill (talk) 13:29, 30 April 2015 (UTC)
P.P.S. If we are to keep these texts, perhaps we can add some explanation to avoid them confusing other readers. PJTraill (talk) 13:34, 30 April 2015 (UTC)

I took them out. OsamaBinLogin (talk) 06:33, 7 May 2015 (UTC)

Major edits upcoming over the next month (Feb 2017)[edit]

I'm a computing historian and scholar (PhD), and have been doing historical research on Alice and Bob. As part of a visiting scholarship at University of Victoria's ETCL, I'll be updating this page extensively (starting Feb 13), incorporating my academic research. Quinn d (talk) 19:26, 25 January 2017 (UTC)

Awesome! 👍 Like --rugk (talk) 21:01, 25 January 2017 (UTC)

I've started the process. I'll be adding the history section shortly. Quinn d (talk) 00:38, 15 February 2017 (UTC)