Thoughts on Names

A blog post by Patrick McKenzie titled Falsehoods Programmers Believe about Names is a great reminder of the increasing complexity surrounding computer software and personal names.

It is presented as a list, and most likely will contain some thought-provoking “rules” that our library software and websites can demonstrate (along with most non-library software and websites).  A few examples:

2. People have exactly one full name which they go by.
10. People’s names are written in any single character set.
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.

    We will see an increasing variety in name structures, and will need to anticipate how to adapt our systems to this.  Most likely we will need to get out of the name-as-unique-identifier game and allow for a single, fully flexible name field that will allow someone to have a name in whatever format, expressed in Unicode.  It still isn’t perfect (it breaks rule 11, for instance), but it will offer a great deal of flexibility.

    Keep these in mind when developing future projects or purchasing products/services that will involve people’s names.  It will make your users happier, and your lives easier.

    found via J. Elaine Hardy on the Open-ILS-Dev list

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