I have been giving Bruce Schneier's article about leaving his wireless network open a lot of thought lately. Although I agree that its great to help out your neighbours there are just too many risks to leaving your Wi-Fi open. Paul from Pauldotcom raises very good points to which I wholeheartedly agree. Why risk leaving it open? It is analogous to leaving your sugar on the curb in-case a neighbour might run out. Obviously you could end up without any sugar at all and perhaps even in the worst case end up with something other than sugar in your food. The world can be a strange place.
In South Africa we routinely have people asking for help at our homes, they come in all shapes and sizes and I normally eyeball them and unless they really seem like bad apples I normally help out with a little food or money. I use my gut to judge the character of the individual.
Now, if I wanted to I could just always leave some money and food on the curb or in a publicly accessible place, but I'm afraid that that system might get very easily abused and leave the souls who really need my help with no help at all.
Ok, so what about Wi-Fi? I think that open wireless network are just silly, due to abuse, threat and possible liability. However, I do agree with Bruce that its nice and neighbourly to share. "Sharing is caring".
Set your SSID of your Wireless router to something that indicates your willingness to share, for example: "22 1st street for access" or "Text 5551000 for access" or even "Contact B. Schneier for access". Be creative as there is a limitation to how many characters your SSID can be.
In the case of a neighbourhood one can assume that your friends will be able to track you down and phone you for a password, you might prefer "authenticating" or making a "gut call" on all people you let in, but you can still broadcast your willingness to do so - while keeping your Wireless router encrypted with WPA encryption and a good password that you can change after a reasonable amount of time or when you feel that your goodwill is being abused.
This seems to me to be a "best of both worlds" solution. What do you think?