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Databases Programming

Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names 773

Jamie points out this interesting article about how hard it is for programmers to get names right. Since software ultimately is used by and for humans, and we humans are pretty tightly linked to our names (whatever the language, spelling, or orthography), this is a big deal. This piece notes some of the ways that names get mishandled, and suggests rules of thumb (in the form of anti-suggestions) to encourage programmers to handle names more gracefully.
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Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names

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  • by jra ( 5600 ) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @09:59PM (#32609054)

    I found the piece very interesting.

    Though my inability to post this comment appears to have outlived the slashdotting of the site.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by OneAhead ( 1495535 )

      That doesn't make sense. I can read your comment, therefore your inability to post it has gone away. The site is still slashdotted. Ergo, the slashdotting of the site has outlived your inability to post.

      Oh wait... RFC2100...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TheLink ( 130905 )
      I dunno, the guy just lists out reasons why you can't uniquely identify people by names. e.g. "some people don't have names".

      Well that's why Governments start handing out people national ID numbers[1]. Then even if you aren't who you claim you are, at least the poor data entry person has something to key in and can actually type it in on his/her keyboard ;).

      [1] As for foreigners wihtout a passport number or national ID, please wait here for those friendly guys in uniforms...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by patio11 ( 857072 )

      After Reddit got done with the site yesterday, I decided "Sure, why not upgrade to Wordpress 3.0. I'll just turn off caching for a little while and..."

    • by pushf popf ( 741049 ) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @10:41PM (#32609290)
      I found the article to be contrived and pointless.

      Yes, there are people and entities that do not fit into a normal name slot in a database, and no, I don't care at all because it hasn't been a problem for anything I've written in the last thrity years. When someone pops up and says "My name is this thing I drew on the sidewalk using chipmunk poop, and it doesn't fit in your database", I'll say "Yes, you're right it doesn't, then go have a beer.

      You can't handle every edge case in the universe because you'll never actually release anything.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 18, 2010 @12:04AM (#32609682)

        If you program like you talk, you'll never ship anyway, because it'll never compile.

        Unexpected EOF in String constant:

        "Yes, you're right it doesn't, then go have a beer.

        You can't handle every edge case in the universe because you'll never actually release anything.

      • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Friday June 18, 2010 @08:22AM (#32611572) Journal

        You know, attitudes like yours are IMHO the root of all that's wrong with computers today. And I'm saying that as a programmer, not as Jane Grandma. The whole idiotic OCD idea that you _must_ make up rules about everything, and that your rules are more important than what people are actually trying to do. The idea that if even someone's name doesn't fit "your" database, then you can just brush them off and have a beer.

        Here's some free clue: yes, you can't handle every edge case in the universe, but you'll find it's easier if you don't create such edge cases in the first place. If your database (actually more likely the program in front of it) can't handle last names with more than one capital letter, or with a dash in the middle, or which are more than 32 bytes long (which with UTF-8 might mean less than you'd think), then guess what? _You_ created an artificial edge case that had no reason to be there in the first place. Instead of handling every edge case in the universe, how about not creating them in the first place?

        I find that about 90% of the problems boil down to the above: some idiot put some artificial limits or rules, that really aren't needed anywhere else. Just because he has the delusion that he's some kind of Moses on the mountain and just _has_ to come down with some rules.

        E.g., he just had to define a byte limit, because he's prematurely optimizing a non-problem he doesn't understand. God forbid wasting space in the database by allowing 256 or 2000 byte strings... never mind that if he actually understood that underlying database, he'd know that a VARCHAR is not padded to that max length. If someone just entered "Alex", the same 4 bytes will be actually used in the database, regardless if the field is a defined as maximum 4, 32, 256 or 2000 characters. But nah, he has to put some restrictive number there, 'cause it looks more like he's doing some smart job.

        There is hardly any reason to even use a user name for anything other than display purposes. (You do have a primary key for that record for everything else, right?) As such there is no reason to make any assumptions about it, or enforce any particular format, or anything. There's no reason to even disallow SQL keywords (just effing quote it before using it in SQL) or angular brackets (just quote it before using it in HTML.)

        There is no reason to create any edge cases in the first place.

        And really it's not even just about names. Names are just one case where people make up BS rules just to feel more like they did the great design job. One could make the same case for the gazillion other pointless rules imposed upon the user or his work-flow or data, not because they're actually needed anywhere, but just because some OCD idiot feels like he _must_ impose some rigid structure upon things that really have none and don't need any. But he'd just feel naked without defining that kind of rigid structure, or without imposing upon humans some data structures theory that was intended only for use by programs.

        • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Friday June 18, 2010 @10:23AM (#32612736) Journal

          The idea that if even someone's name doesn't fit "your" database, then you can just brush them off and have a beer.

          We can. Fact is, trying to write a system which can deal with all those 40 assumptions and still do anything useful with names is impossible. Even covering most of them is impractical, if you want programmers to do anything else. It has nothing to do with OCD. The programmers aren't making the rules because of some inner desire for order, but because the requirements of the system require they be made.

          Suppose your system is some sort of order-taking system. And one of the things it must do is print your name on a mailing label. How do you handle that if the name doesn't _fit_ on the mailing label? Or if there is no name at all? Or if the mailing label printer doesn't handle the name's character set? Or if the postal service for the countries in question have standards for names which are not met?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by vikstar ( 615372 )

      I would find it more interesting if it contained approximate statistics for each type point. I will not spend time designing a system which caters for the 2 individuals having some weird exception to the detriment of millions of others which adhere to a much more useful schema. IE, sure you can just have Name and accept a 2048-length UTF-16 string to accommodate everyone, or skip a few outliers and have given and last names with certain restrictions to catch user error in the input.

    • I didn't understand (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SimonInOz ( 579741 ) on Friday June 18, 2010 @03:56AM (#32610574)

      I though the article was about the inability of programmer to remember names and recognise people, Maybe I should have read the article.

      It's a real problem though - is it just me? I often know things about people (ah yes, plays squash, good at making cakes, father of that kid who rides a unicycle), but their actual name - no. It's a miracle if I recognise them at all.
      Mind you, it means if anyone says "Hello" to me, I am obliged to be polite to them as I might actually know them quite well, but haven't recognised them yet - and certainly don't know their name.

      It's a right pain. Anybody else suffer from this - and what the heck do they do about it? (I'd like a camera attachment what would whisper in my ear "that's Mrs Jones, her daughter, Kira is in the same class at school as your daughter. Likes chess and is obsessed with kayaking" - something tiny that could clip on my glasses, maybe).

  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @09:59PM (#32609056)

    Who the hell has numbers in there name?

  • by jimmydevice ( 699057 ) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @10:05PM (#32609078)
    and let god sort them out...
  • by Wonko the Sane ( 25252 ) * on Thursday June 17, 2010 @10:15PM (#32609136) Journal

    I am fortunate enough to be the child of a professional smart-ass who intentionally gave all his children two middle names so that we would not fit into the computer systems of the era.

    When I grew up my parents used my first middle name as a "given nickname" (it's actually in quotation marks on my birth certificate). So most of the time when I give my name for something I use my "given nickname" as my first name. Unless I feel like using my legal first name as my first name in which case I use that. There are probably four or five different versions of my name attached to my SSN in various different databases.

    I've also got a sufffix: III. I don't have two ancestors with the exact same name as me, but since the various parts come from two different relatives my parents settled on III.

  • Slashdotted already? (Score:5, Informative)

    by RenQuanta ( 3274 ) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @10:16PM (#32609142) Homepage

    After just 15 minutes of the story being posted?

    Wow, that's gotta be a personal best for /. (or, the site is a wee bit underpowered... ;)

    Here's the Google cache in the meanwhile: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://www.kalzumeus.com/2010/06/17/falsehoods-programmers-believe-about-names/ [googleusercontent.com]

  • Text only cache (Score:3, Informative)

    by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @10:19PM (#32609166)

    Even the cache needs tweaking to load.

    Text only version. [googleusercontent.com]

  • Article text (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 17, 2010 @10:19PM (#32609174)

    John Graham-Cumming wrote an article [jgc.org] today complaining about how a computer system he was working with described his last name as having invalid characters. It of course does not, because anything someone tells you is their name is--by definition--an appropriate identifier for them. John was understandably vexed about this situation, and he has every right to be, because names are central to our identities, virtually by definition.

    I have lived in Japan for several years, programming in a professional capacity, and I have broken many systems by the simple expedient of being introduced into them. (Most people call me Patrick McKenzie, but I'll acknowledge as correct any of six different "full" names, any many systems I deal with will accept precisely none of them.) Similarly, I've worked with Big Freaking Enterprises which, by dint of doing business globally, have theoretically designed their systems to allow all names to work in them. I have never seen a computer system which handles names properly and doubt one exists, anywhere.

    So, as a public service, I'm going to list assumptions your systems probably make about names. All of these assumptions are wrong. Try to make less of them next time you write a system which touches names.

    1. People have exactly one canonical full name.
    2. People have exactly one full name which they go by.
    3. People have, at this point in time, exactly one canonical full name.
    4. People have, at this point in time, one full name which they go by.
    5. People have exactly N names, for any value of N.
    6. People's names fit within a certain defined amount of space.
    7. People's names do not change.
    8. People's names change, but only at a certain enumerated set of events.
    9. People's names are written in ASCII.
    10. People's names are written in any single character set.
    11. People's names are all mapped in Unicode code points.
    12. People's names are case sensitive.
    13. People's names are case insensitive.
    14. People's names sometimes have prefixes or suffixes, but you can safely ignore those.
    15. People's names do not contain numbers.
    16. People's names are not written in ALL CAPS.
    17. People's names are not written in all lower case letters.
    18. People's names have an order to them. Picking any ordering scheme will automatically result in consistent ordering among all systems, as long as both use the same ordering scheme for the same name.
    19. People's first names and last names are, by necessity, different.
    20. People have last names, family names, or anything else which is shared by folks recognized as their relatives.
    21. People's names are globally unique.
    22. People's names are almost globally unique.
    23. Alright alright but surely people's names are diverse enough such that no million people share the same name.
    24. My system will never have to deal with names from China.
    25. Or Japan.
    26. Or Korea.
    27. Or Ireland, the United Kingdom, the United States, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Russia, Sweden, Botswana, South Africa, Trinidad, Haiti, France, or the Klingon Empire, all of which have "weird" naming schemes in common use.
    28. That Klingon Empire thing was a joke, right?
    29. Confound your cultural relativism! People in my society, at least, agree on one commonly accepted standard for names.
    30. There exists an algorithm which transforms names and can be reversed losslessly. (Yes, yes, you can do it if your algorithm returns the input. You get a gold star.)
    31. I can safely assume that this dictionary of bad words contains no people's names in it.
    32. People's names are assigned at birth.
    33. OK, maybe not at birth, but at least pretty close to birth.
    34. Alright, alright, within a year or so of birth.
    35. Five years?
    36. You're kidding me, right?
    37. Two different systems containing data about the same person will use the same name for
    • by feepness ( 543479 ) on Friday June 18, 2010 @01:29AM (#32610090) Homepage
      Nice rules. Still wouldn't handle my name [youtube.com].
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bertok ( 226922 )

      Reminds me of a classic database developer nightmare story that I heard:

      A local school was receiving complaints that two students were getting the exam results and the like mixed up.

      The two students? Identical twins living in the same house, with the same name.. John Smith Jnr.

      Apparently their father was John Smith Snr, and the whole "Senior / Junior" thing has been done for generations of "Johns Smiths", and it was a tradition and all, and we can't just break a tradition just because we had twin boys.. so.

  • who needs vowels? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by theNAM666 ( 179776 ) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @10:24PM (#32609192)
  • Dumbfuck summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oldhack ( 1037484 ) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @10:28PM (#32609220)
    Names of what?!
    • Re:Dumbfuck summary (Score:5, Informative)

      by bigstrat2003 ( 1058574 ) * on Thursday June 17, 2010 @10:39PM (#32609270)
      Yeah, TFS is very ambiguous about that. Turns out that TFA is talking about names of people, and the pitfalls you can run into when allowing someone to enter their name into a system.
    • Indeed. Reading the summary, I thought it was some kind of article on how programmers can't remember names (I know I can't...)

      But basically, it's some dude whining about how - because there is no single set of rules that can be universally applied to all names - no systems handle them correctly. That seems kind of self-evident to me; computers are rules-based creations. If you can't define the rules, it sure is hard to code for them. Blaming the programmers is stupid - as his own article shows. (eg.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by sjames ( 1099 )

        Many of the systems that handle names the worst are the ones that try to be "clever", doing things like insisting on first (and only first) letter capitalized, rejecting digits, refusing to allow middle name (or initial) to be blank, always using the first letter of the Middle name and adding a period after or refusing to accept a single character as a name, and many more sins. The "dumb" systems are actually more graceful about it.

        The best policy is to accept what is entered. Even that tends to fail if som

  • by Vellmont ( 569020 ) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @10:40PM (#32609282) Homepage

    Software is NOT designed to be perfect and cover every case. Have a numeral in your name? Too bad. Need some names to be case sensitive, and others case insensitive? Sucks to be you. Have a 200 character name that doesn't fit in the 100 characters the designers thought no crazy person would ever have? Tough.

    I started reading through the list, and it's just ridiculous. There's a few good points, like names don't change, or names are unique. But they're so obvious that the vast majority of the times it's not a big problem. More often it's just a matter of training the data edit/entry folks how to change someones name, or how to not assume a name is a sole identifier.

    But assuming the worst and trying to design a system that'll allow people's names to be Chinese characters when you don't do business in China, have presence in China, or ever ever plan to? That's ridiculous. Software doesn't have to be perfect out of the shoot. It should be adaptable though if some unforeseen shortcoming becomes a larger problem. Gee, I guess if you ever chose to do business in China and need Chinese character names you might have to re-write part of the damn software. Oh well, that's what software developers are FOR!

    If you don't even HAVE a name, then I submit you're crazier than the artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince. At least HE had a name, though it was an unpronounceable symbol. The world can't accommodate every possibility, and software is no exception.

    • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot.hackish@org> on Thursday June 17, 2010 @10:45PM (#32609312)

      He's essentially arguing that, because names vary a lot and are complex, your software should never do anything useful with them. Sorry, but that's a stupid answer. In a lot of systems, being able to sort by surname may well be more important than being able to handle people who claim they have no surname.

      Of course, you shouldn't gratuitously do stupid things, and interfaces should aim to be relatively clear. But most people can figure out how to enter their names into relatively standardized forms, and those that don't should probably figure out how.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by snowgirl ( 978879 )

        I'm going to throw in my agreement here. Yes, there are people who put numerals in their names, or non-unicode point characters, or various other things, but there just isn't a reason to foist that on other people.

        There is frustration about things like, "people have N number of names", and "names don't change" which are good and valid points... but some of the things are just like "dude... seriously..."

    • by lennier ( 44736 ) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @10:57PM (#32609372) Homepage

      But assuming the worst and trying to design a system that'll allow people's names to be Chinese characters when you don't do business in China, have presence in China, or ever ever plan to? That's ridiculous.

      Or sell in New Zealand, or Australia, or anywhere else in the Pacific, or deal with immigrants, or be used by anyone who has a Chinese name?

      This is the Internet now. Welcome to it.

      • Most Chinese emigrants to countries that use a Roman alphabet are perfectly capable of writing their name in Roman characters if they need to. If they weren't, they wouldn't have been able to get visas and get into the country in the first place.

    • "Software doesn't have to be perfect out of the shoot."

      Are you saying software is like a bullet? Or perhaps you meant chute.

  • Thanks, Prince (Score:5, Informative)

    by BlueBoxSW.com ( 745855 ) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @10:45PM (#32609314) Homepage

    Thanks, Prince

  • by thepainguy ( 1436453 ) <thepainguy@gmail.com> on Thursday June 17, 2010 @11:06PM (#32609420) Homepage
    My last name is O'Leary and over the past 5 years web sites have not gotten any better, and arguably have gotten worse, at handling the apostrophe in my last name

    Help me Slashdot, you're my only hope.
  • not surprising (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Phoenix Dreamscape ( 205064 ) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @11:08PM (#32609432) Homepage

    Considering how many entry forms still don't allow '+' in an e-mail address (or, worse, allow it in the sign-up box but not in the unsubscribe box), and considering how many banks still restrict you to an 8-character password, does it come as any surprise that they have difficulty with something that isn't defined in an RFC [ietf.org]?

  • Well Duh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Saint Stephen ( 19450 ) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @11:22PM (#32609492) Homepage Journal

    First thing I learned back in 1993 when I got started.

    1) George Foreman has five boys named George Foreman. Your database better be able to handle that.
    2) Your database better be able to handle Cher (no last name).
    3) People are not required to have Social Security numbers. (it's an optional program - you don't have to partipate).
    4) Not everyone's last name starts with a capital letter.
    5) Mexican people's names break ASCII (the tilda n).
    6) People named O'Grady have a hard time getting their name in a database sometimes and have a hard time getting their name passed via a URL sometimes and generally mess stuff up.
    7) People from Sri Lanka will break your name length limits.
    8) Some people's name is only a single letter.
    9) Some people go by their middle name god damn it! :-)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Eskarel ( 565631 )
      1. Don't use names as a unique identifier, they're not.
      2. Cher has a last name, as most likely did Homer and Virgil and everyone else, they're last names might have been "from _____ or the ______", but they still had one.
      3. It's illegal to use SSN as a unique identifier, so don't use it as one.
      4. Who cares, don't muck around with case, and search case insensitive, more matches are better than not enough.
      5. There are conventions to get around that in ASCII, but unicode solves most of it anyway.
      6. Always properly encode and d
    • Our software can handle eight of those. Possibly nine, I don't know how long Sri Lankan's names get.

      The company I work for gets paid to make software. If someone wants to pay my employer to support certain features, then we'll build in that support. If the client says "Anyone without a last name can suck it" (and that has happened) then the system won't support that.

      As a hired gun (keyboard?) whether what i believe about names is true or false is irrelevant. I believe what I get paid to believe.

  • by SexyKellyOsbourne ( 606860 ) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @11:22PM (#32609496) Journal

    My first name: "where 1=1 "
    My last name: "'; drop table users; --"

  • by justfred ( 63412 ) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @11:23PM (#32609504) Homepage

    I code to spec. The product and marketing departments write the spec (what little there is); the QA department amends the spec with overly specific test cases. I suggest that the spec is incomplete and won't handle...but I'm told, just code it to spec. I recommend changed, but we don't have time for edge cases. I point out potential problems, but we're unlikely to get any of those. I warn of potential compatibility problems but we don't care. Are you just trying to be difficult? If there's a problem QA will catch it. The project is overdue already, and by the way here are some new requirements that need to make it in, and we can't change the release date because we already promised the stockholders. Why is your code so complicated, my twelve-year-old kid could write this.

    It's not my fault. I code to spec.

  • by yyxx ( 1812612 ) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @11:35PM (#32609554)

    Software shouldn't have to satisfy every whim and excentricity. If you don't have a well-defined first name and last name that consists of extended alphanumeric characters in Unicode and starts with a letter, well, then get one, OK? And while you're at it, come up with decent Romanized and ASCII (traditional Latin) versions of your name, conformant with one of the common Romanization systems of your language; you will need that too if you want to travel internationally. Single letter names are also a potential problem because they are confusable with abbreviations, so consider using a variant spelling ("O" -> "Oh").

    This isn't because programmers have some sort of hangups about names, it's because people themselves need to be able to refer to individuals in some reasonable and standardized way, they need to be able to write your name, alphabetize it, and correct errors.

  • ...so what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SanityInAnarchy ( 655584 ) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Thursday June 17, 2010 @11:42PM (#32609580) Journal

    It seems to me that most misconceptions about names can be fixed by the following:

    Allow a single, Unicode-enabled field of "unlimited" length (let's say 4 kilobytes) which represents "name". Several would be defined by different roles -- "Real name", "Nickname", "login", where only login (sometimes simply an email address) is required to be globally unique.

    Now let's look at what that breaks:

    First, #1, 2, 4, and 5. How am I supposed to avoid assuming these? People should be allowed to enter an arbitrary number of names for themselves? I suppose that's possible, but it immediately kills most of the potential uses of this data. If I want to set a nickname that goes with my forum posts, say, what good is it for me to have five nicknames? Seems like the only potential use would be making people easy to find by real name -- so, a social network.

    #6 -- surely 4k is enough, but this is also not a terribly difficult assumption to change later. Annoying, but not devastating, not even as hard as changing from the first name / last name combination into one "real name" field.

    #7, 8 -- most systems would make it trivial for people to change their names.

    #9, 10 -- UTF8 is easy.

    #11 -- very, very curious to see an example. And wouldn't that be a bug in Unicode? And this is again one where I have to ask -- how do you change this? Allow arbitrary images?

    #12, 13 -- obvious solution is to make the name system case-preserving, thus allowing both case-sensitive and case-insensitive searches.

    #14 -- again, avoid by simply allowing the name to be a single opaque field.

    #15, 16, 17 -- if your name supports random unicode, no idea why these would be a problem.

    #18 -- not sure why it matters.

    #19, 20 -- again, if it's just arbitrary text, it just works.

    #21, 22, 23 -- not sure how I'd make that assumption.

    #24, 25, 26, 27 -- again, the name is just an opaque bunch of characters.

    #28 -- what?

    #29 -- opaque characters.

    #30 -- keep the original text as-is. If you want to try to split people out by naming scheme, do it later, but keep the original. This should be a "duh" concept -- always preserve the original user input. Cache transformations for speed, if you like, but they're a cache -- keep the original. Your algorithm might change.

    #31 -- bad idea to assume bad words won't cause problems in general. I currently play an MMO in which I physically can't talk about Emily Dickinson, and have occasion to more frequently than you might suspect.

    #32-36 -- why would it matter? Unless...

    #37 -- Fine, but how would I otherwise connect the same person?

    #38 -- How about unicode-equivalent? And of course, they might not -- one might make a mistake, or the name might be represented differently. But you'd have to deal with typos anyway, so this isn't exactly shocking.

    #39 -- I'm going to have to agree with the assumption, though. If I develop a system which works well for people who only follow the US standard, and I suddenly have a ton of people from China wanting to use my service -- enough that this is actually a problem for me -- that's a nice problem to have.

    #40 -- People can make up names. I guess this explains #32-36, though.

    The sense I get is that half the list is stuff you'd almost have to be stupid to run into (seriously, who doesn't use Unicode?), and the other half involves some seriously weird names and cultures that are going to have to meet me halfway, if they expect me to do anything interesting with their name. As I understand it, the only way to get this right would be to allow people to have zero or more names, each of which is either an unlimited amount of text in any encoding, or an image (raster or vector) of unlimited size. To query such a system requires insane amounts of logic just to deal with the text, and throw in some OCR for good measure.

    I think this is a case where I would much rather see people evolve to match the technology, rather than the other way

  • by RomulusNR ( 29439 ) on Friday June 18, 2010 @12:16AM (#32609754) Homepage

    Yes. It's programmer's fault that they write applications that make poor assumptions about names -- not the people who design software requirements who are neither programmers nor usually very worldly.

    Perhaps we should have a list of "assumptions people make about developers"!
    * Developers get to design their own software.
    * Developers get to have some say in how their software is designed.
    * Developers at least can prevent really stupid things from being put in the software they write.
    * Developers aren't smart enough to know that outliers are inevitable.
    * Developers aren't smart enough to know that of course there are people with punctuation, extra words and spaces, even letters that no one has seen before.
    * Developers wouldn't rather code just one column to hold an identifier rather than two.

  • by zill ( 1690130 ) on Friday June 18, 2010 @12:46AM (#32609898)
    This issue is pretty much universal. Even outside the binary world people still silly assumption about people's names.

    For example, numerous people have raised objections about my signature. They always give me bullshit complaints like "Sir, that is not legible." or "um... that's not your name." or even "Did you just draw a penis on the dotted line?".

    My signature does not have to be legible.
    My signature does not have to be my name.
    My signature does not have to contain my name.
    My signature does not have to contain any name.
    My signature does not have to be in the English language.
    My signature does not have to be in any human language.
    My signature does not have to consist of meaningful symbols.
    I swear if I hear one more complaint about my signature I will carry around a portable photo printer to render goatse as my signature:

    "Yes, my signature is an 600 ppi out-stretched anus. Deal with it. The law says that any mark that I make is a legally valid signature and you have to recognize it as such. You either sign the mortgage or I'm going to the next bank."
  • by FuckingNickName ( 1362625 ) on Friday June 18, 2010 @06:10AM (#32611052) Journal

    I was born with a complicated Spanish name.
    One first name.
    Two second names.
    One hyphenated, accented surname from my father.
    One simpler surname from my mother.

    One of the first things I've done since reaching majority is to give a precise, simple, standard name to everyone who asks for it:
      Xxxxx Xxxxxxx
    where X is in A-Z and x is in a-z. Xxxxx is my first name, and Xxxxxxx is a shortened, accent-and-hyphen-free version of my father's surname.

    You know why?

    Because, in life, there are lots of things one must be "unreasonable" about in order to effect progress, but accommodation of one's name is not of them. It's a tedious, selfish expression of nothing more than ego which ultimately will land you in more trouble than others: some day you will be denied access to something thanks to some computer system not being designed to handle your name, and "computer says no" gets priority over the angry demands to the immigration officer of "Joe\0\rBlogg$ 3'); DROP TABLE citizens; -- [insert spinning cube here] Jr."

    If you and your friends/colleagues have some other name by which they call you, sure why not? But, as any cat will tell you, the world is best when you have three names:

    (i) one for communicating formally;
    (ii) one for more intimate discourse (there's no reason why this can't be the same as (i), though many people end up with peculiar nicknames); and
    (iii) one personal identification which you can keep to yourself and you can't express in words.

    If you want the sum of all your history, culture and personality as expressed in (iii) to be embodied in (i), you're both expecting others to be burdened with your ego and bad at understanding human communication. All I asked for was a couple of words I can use in a reasonably uniform way to easily pick/call you out from a small crowd - that's what (i) is for, after all.

    tl;dr The naming of cats is both a delightful poem and an insightful account of the multiple namespaces for kitty/human names and their different purposes. Don't confuse them.

If graphics hackers are so smart, why can't they get the bugs out of fresh paint?