Sign up form discriminates against people with short surnames



It’s almost at if programming is harder than people think it is.


I used the Falsehoods About Names to introduce design ethics to my Systems Analysis students. I started, “Why did I have you read that article?”

A studious woman with a simple name took the bait. “I don’t understand how this reading had anything to do with ethics.”

Almost before she could finish her sentence, another good student in the class replied, “Let me tell you how hard it is to have a hyphenated name.” The discussion took off from there.

It couldn’t have gone better if I had planted the audience with shills.


It’s even worse if the names have to be cross-checked against trade sanction lists.

Li is the second most common surname in the world… in other news, my Chinese wife says some beurocrat once refused in person to believe she did not have a middle name, because naming conventions are a cultural universal, yeah?


I have never let Mr. Bells live down the time a nurse asked him for my full name and he told her I didn’t have a middle name. I do, in fact. It’s Lynn. But his FIRST wife didn’t have a middle name. It never gets old reminding him of the time he got the wrong wife’s name :wink:


i’ve been teaching for 24 years in areas of texas with a lot of hispanics. easily 30% or more of my hispanic students male and female have no middle name.


My grandpa didn’t have a middle name until World War II, when he was required to have one. He basically got to name himself by filling out paperwork after he was drafted.

He also didn’t have a birth certificate because he was born “in the hills”. When people go on about the need for a birth cert as proof of citizenship, I ask, where would you have deported my grandpa to? He was born in Kentucky to American parents…


Don’t give the Unicode Consortium any more bad ideas, please.

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Someone I knew in college legally changed her name to just her first name. But wound up having to use it twice just as your friend did. She eventually changed it back to her original first and last name.

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There is ample room on punch cards to enter names. And make lists.



I could use a ń in my last name, which often leads to fun. And it’s a long one. Some forms won’t take it. Some will, but then mangle it.

I was swapping stories with once. She has a one character surname, and lots of troubles.


Couldn’t you pad the name with non-printing characters just to fill the field with the minimum?
On Windows, hold down the Alt key and press these 4 digits on the numeric keypad 0160.
When you release the Alt key, it moves one space to the right.

All of the spaces in the above were entered this way.

Input is often restricted to alpha characters.


So many forms refuse to accept the perfectly valid letter þ (thorn) in my name, and force me to use the digraph “th”. :wink: I assume this is not the case in Iceland.

And don’t get me started about my middle name, ■■■■■.


Where was this? I’d not heard of a naming convention where a middle name was compulsory before.

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There’s a longstanding joke among my friends that, since “Muhammed” is the most common first name in the world and “Li” is the most common last name in the world (we may be working off of old data…), the most likely random name for someone to have is of course Muhammed Li.

I’m guessing “America”, because apparently “First name, exactly one middle name, and surname” is seen as the default by a lot of Americans.

A regular on another forum I frequent has complained about this kind of name stuff in the past; his middle name, in a Trumanesque fashion, is “S”. Which leads to issues when he’s asked to write his whole name, ie. “John S Smith” and people tell him that he can’t use a middle initial. Which, if he did, would be “John S. Smith”, a longer version than his full name!


I’m all for picking up on poor/ill-considered design but to jump to “discrimination” is like me complaining that I’ve been discriminated against because my local supermarket stopped stocking ewe’s milk yogurt.

Being thoughtless or ignoring the needs of a segment of the population isn’t the same as setting out to harm it. As this can make a group become disadvantaged one could argue that the effect is discriminatory if not remedied, but this isn’t active discrimination.

We should save that charge for the deliberate acts, not devalue it with knee-jerk victimhood.

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It’s not the same at all.

At best it’s “unconscious bias” which is a form of prejudice and causes discrimination as a result. I’m sure nobody said, “hey let’s make our forms so they don’t work with people that don’t have names that fit in with our assumptions based on our learned experiences” but that’s exactly what ends up happening.

Whenever people pooh-pooh diversity in software development, this is exactly the kind of shit that happens because there’s nobody around to remind others that not everything is the same for everybody.