Warchalking marks the Wi-Fi 'hot spots'

Warchalking, as the practice has been coined by founder Matt Jones, entails simply drawing a chalk symbol on a wall or pavement to indicate the presence of a wireless networking node. If you see one of these symbols, you should, in theory at least, be able to whip out your notebook computer equipped with an 802.11 wireless networking card, and log on to the Net.

Warchalking is remarkable because it is based on an ad hoc process of people discovering Wi-Fi nodes, whether commercial or not, and signaling their presence with chalk symbols. It is also remarkable for the reception the idea has had.

"I've been a bit overawed by everything to be honest," said Matt Jones, who came up with the idea after seeing students of the UK Architectural Association in what they called a "wireless Internet performance". The students had chalked an office plan on the pavement of London's Bedford Square, and sat out in the virtual office with laptop computers hooked up to the Internet over a Wi-Fi connection.

"I thought it seemed like a really nice idea," said Jones, who has an architectural background himself. "I have only had a wireless networking card for two months myself, and was interested in how it could change a city."

Several days later Jones was chatting to some friends, and someone mentioned the symbols that hobos used to use. "These were all about making visible what might otherwise go unnoticed," said Jones. After spending half an hour in Adobe Illustrator, Jones set up a Weblog to publicize his idea, emailed the address to a few friends, and waited.

"The idea of the warchalking blog was to put an imperfect idea out there and see what happened," said Jones. "It has been interesting to see how it has happened, but it has grown so fast it does not really feel like my idea anymore. I feel more like the gardener than the builder." Nevertheless, Jones hopes to finalize version one of the runes soon.

News sources: ZDNet News and Slashdot

View: Matt Jones Warchalking web log @ warchalking.org including v0.9 of the Warchalking card (PDF)

First picture of a warchalk in London and in Copenhagen, Denmark

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