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Sent to me in e-mail by webmaven:

"Falsehoods programmers believe about names"

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.
Shall I discuss why this is a continuing series, or do you already understand what I mean?

I consider myself to have a pretty simple name history. I was given 3 names at birth, which is traditional in the culture I grew up in and live in. I live in the US and the names I got were pretty standard WASP names. I changed my name three times: once to shorten my first name, once to change my first name, and once to change my last name. One of these changes is legal (i.e., my new name appears on legal documents).

Despite this simple history, I sometimes have to deal with the following falsehoods perpetuated by computer systems or organizational records (out of 40 listed):
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.
7. People’s names do not change.
8. People’s names change, but only at a certain enumerated set of events.
20. People have last names, family names, or anything else which is shared by folks recognized as their relatives.
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 that person.
39. People whose names break my system are weird outliers.

Most of the time it's easy for me to deal with these things, but it's still annoying to have to deal with them.

I also have had to deal with this falsehood as far as computer systems and organizational records are concerned:
Two family members never have the same name.

I won't even start on the falsehoods that people in general (as opposed to people who program computers) have about names and my names in particular.

This entry was originally posted at http://firecat.dreamwidth.org/678075.html, where there are comment count unavailable comments.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 19th, 2010 10:17 pm (UTC)
How about the assumption People's Names are Short! If I use First Name then Maiden-Married Last Name, the whole Last Name doesn't fit! If I do First Name Maiden Name, then Married Name (so that the family will be filed together), then First Maiden Doesn't Fit! Or the Maiden Mysteriously Disappears. I still Like my Maiden Name, even though I've been married for 32 years.
And don't get me started about III. Moose is a Third, his father doesn't use Jr or II. But a lot of systems aren't set up for III or dare I say it, anything behind the Last Name. Dumb. Then they try to throw out one of the Harolds as a duplicate! I happen to know there are two of them (there used to be three) and one is much younger than the other one. :D It's hell in Airline Registration Systems especially, where they are playing matchy matchy with mysterious lists.
Jun. 19th, 2010 10:32 pm (UTC)
Yep, computer systems don't handle all that stuff very well either. Grr.
Jun. 19th, 2010 11:59 pm (UTC)
it used to be that if you had the name Christopher as either a first or last name, your name was truncated because that name is longer than 10 characters.
Jun. 20th, 2010 12:00 am (UTC)
and, I like to use all 3 names, and I will often include my first and middle in the first name field, but indeed it still gets shortened to an initial. aarrgghh.
Jun. 20th, 2010 12:16 am (UTC)
I use the name I had a birth: first name, no middle name, hyphenated last name.
My least favorite computer system error is the California DMV:
They don't print hyphens, even if they see them on the screen. When the IDs were literally a photograph of the typed license document, I could draw in the hyphen before the picture was taken. Now that the license card is directly computer generated, there is no hyphen. This was a problem when I had to replace my social security card, using my driver's license as a proof of ID.

It is common for a person or a system to decide which part of my last name is my real last name, or to assign a middle initial based on part of my last name. I learned a long time ago that any credit card offer addressed to Patrice B. Bennet-Alder would be unsuccessful if I actually applied and they ran a credit check.

I do some systems credit for trying. My first computerized school report card printed my last name as Bennet 1/2 Alder.
Jun. 20th, 2010 01:46 am (UTC)
Bennet 1/2 Alder

Jun. 20th, 2010 12:25 am (UTC)
The accented character in my first name gets rejected or changed to a different character (such as having the high bit stripped) by web sites a lot.
Jun. 20th, 2010 03:31 am (UTC)
Last names are always one word. My (Dutch) birth name threw every system I encountered during school for a loop. That was one significant factor in my decision not to resume my birth name after the divorce.

Even LibraryThing has this problem. Every time I enter a book by (for example) A. E. Van Vogt, the "author name" field comes back "Vogt, A. E. Van" and I have to correct it manually. You have no idea how much it pisses me off that this still happens on a book-lovers' site!
Jun. 20th, 2010 06:58 am (UTC)
L'Engle breaks a lot of sites too.
Jun. 20th, 2010 07:54 pm (UTC)
I'm one of the volunteer librarians on goodreads.com and don't even get me started about
Guin, Ursula K. Le
Le Guin, Ursula K.
LeGuin, Ursula K.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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