Well, that'll be the lesson not to use one's name as a unique key in the fine database. You might fail to collect...
Welcome once again to On Call, The Register's weekly column in which we recount readers' reactions to the drudgery of digital duties. This week, meet a reader we'll Regomize as "John Smith" who once worked for a very large bank. No doubt you've never met anyone with such an unusual name. John was lucky enough to be …
Names are a bloody nightmare. In the wilder shores of say social services you have clients who have multiple names for fraud, multiple names because they are trying to hide from abusers and other bad guys, multiple names because they are abusers and bad guys, multiple names for living multiple lives, multiple names as a symptom of metal health issues, multiple names because they just fancy it... When you've been there and see it in action its easy to understand why bureaucrats are so damn keen on ID cards and the like: its not so much some conspiracy to control the people, its much more that having a genuine validated unique key would make things so much easier. I suspect that they tend to underestimate how well the bad actors would be able to compromise an ID system, but I guess they figure that even a partial improvement would be worthwhile.
I assume the poster means that your ID is cryptographically signed by the government; that signature is used to verify that the ID is genuine.
i.e. the government would: (i) validate ID; (ii) hash; (iii) encrypt hash with private key; (iv) append it to ID.
An interested receiver would: (i) read ID; (ii) hash; (iii) decrypt government's hash using government's public key; (iv) compare.
No central database. Just a requirement to carry ID and the ability to detect whether the ID has been validated by the government. I'm not really in favour of ID cards in general, but I think that's what we're discussing.
The problem with that is that, without centralization, there is nothing that indicates uniqueness. What prevents me from making a new key every day, walking in with some identification, and having it verified? I could have a bunch of identification keys that all indicate me. In which case, how can I prove that one of those is me and the others are not, for example if someone else went in with a key and got it signed as me.
Alright, that was an assumption, but your method involves the government hashing and signing something. You just refer to it as an ID. What would that be, and even if it isn't a key, what prevents me from making more of them? I assumed that it was a key because that would allow the identified person to sign something as them, whereas an otherwise useless ID would only allow them to show someone an identification without necessarily proving that it's theirs. This raises another issue: if it's not a key where you can show the public part to identify who you claim to be and sign something with the private part to confirm that it is your key, what stops me from copying your signed ID when you show it to me and later presenting it as mine?
I am known by my second name and sign with that. Banks hate this but it seems to be a very English thing and I am not. (Think Fredrick Brian Bloggs known as Brian).
As the cards would be issued by a very southern system, I would be very likely to have problems. I have already had comments on money laundering from banks and suggestions that my signature was redesigned to cover up some sort of dodgy past.
What would I be accused of with that?
You and I both. When signing, I usually do include my first initial, but the biggest pain is usually when registering an online account, and they ask your name, and it all depends on whether it's just a friendly name, like how they'll address you 'Hello So-and-so' in the inevitable emails, or is it going to be used against your card if you're doing online transactions, and it just isn't clear at all up front which kind of name they need there.
-- K. Mann
My father shared a first name with his father, and so went by his middle name. Once about twenty years when he was to come visit, I booked his flight, giving the airline the first name (well, nickname) that he habitually used. This was when security rules had been greatly multiplied, and he had a half hour or so of hassling at the counter before he got his ticket.
All the men in my family are named Charles and all the women are named Rebecca, because we're illiterate Appalachian hillbillies.
This has created havoc for me in my medical, travel, and employment records.
US medical places insist on calling you by only your first name, because god forbid anyone find out your last name and they completely ignore nicknames. So they call "CHARLES!" and I've gone through 30 years of "that's my grandad (or dad) - ignore it" so that it doesn't even make a dent in my attention. Then an hour later I ask why they didn't call me.
I'm in the same boat - my son is the 6th generation in a row with the same first and last names, just different middle names. When I was a kid and telemarketers would call asking for "Firstname Lastname", he'd sometimes put me or my brother (both underage) on the phone. In later years he had to ask "the homeowner, the one who just bought a car, or the one getting ready to go to college?"
Same here. I can't even sign up to the same GP as my Dad because the NHS system cannot handle two people with the same name at the same surgery. The NHS is supposed to recognise people by their NHS ID, or at least name and date of birth, but that clearly doesn't work, so all this talk of a unique ID might be good in theory but I can tell you it ain't gonna work in practice.
Strange, and unfamiliar, but dangerous if you succeeded.
You might just spare a thought for people trying to give each of you the intended treatments and management.
One might speculate on whether the refusal attributed to "the NHS computer" is just that, or something more local.
"Same here. I can't even sign up to the same GP as my Dad because the NHS system cannot handle two people with the same name at the same surgery. The NHS is supposed to recognise people by their NHS ID, or at least name and date of birth, but that clearly doesn't work, so all this talk of a unique ID might be good in theory but I can tell you it ain't gonna work in practice."
That sounds more like a either a problem at your surgery or the software they use. My NHS surgery clearly has no issues with duplicate names so long as other details are different as I discovered when joining the queue for my last flu jab and on giving my name was told, "oh, there's two of you, DoB please?" and all was well with the world. I have no idea how long we've both been registered patients there but I, at least, registered about 40 years ago. I think the 'flu jab was prioritising older patients first, so he'd be of a comparable age to me too. I doubt my surgery is unique in the software it uses but I'd not be surprised to find there's multiple vendors and/or versions out there.
"My NHS surgery clearly has no issues with duplicate names so long as other details are different as I discovered when joining the queue for my last flu jab and on giving my name was told, "oh, there's two of you, DoB please?"
This is why it's still important to have humans in the loop. They noticed there were two of the same name and that raised a flag so they let you know the issue and asked for another piece of information that would clear up the discrepancy. With computerized systems, they either completely spaz out or figuratively flip a coin or note an error in a log file that nobody routinely reviews and often where nobody is notified so the problem continues until some person somewhere pulls up the logs and spots the problem. I'm not certain that AI will ever have the same level of problem solving skills. I know when I get stuck trying to figure something out, I'll ask somebody else and since their experience, their "toolset", is different, they might be able to point out a solution that my toolset wasn't as good for. Will AI systems ask other AI systems when there is a problem?
GP != NHS
GPs are private and always have been as GPs refused to allow the formation of the NHS back in the 1940s until the Bevan government of the time cut them a deal that allowed GPs to remain private and outside of the NHS. This is why the GPs can sell their partnerships and their patients off to the highest bidders (Virgin Health Group, American health groups etc.).
So that kack computer system your dads GP surgery uses? Almost certainly not the fault of the NHS (for once).
Some years ago I had taken my late father to a hospital appointment - at a specialist place some distance from home. In the waiting room, someone else was telling a tale of confusion caused when it turned out there was another patient, at the same specialist hospital, with both the same name and DoB !
I am one of two people with the same name at my GP's surgery - causes some confusion at times when picking up prescriptions etc. I finally met him a few weeks ago in the attached pharmacy and we shook hands after we both went to the counter at the same time when our nae was called.
The hospital where I work has three name fields for each patient: family name, given name(s), preferred name. Only unique key is a unitary reference number, which I've never seen not be the case for medical records keeping. Hell, at least one state in Australia has a system where you keep the same URN across all hospitals.
The preferred name shows up in bold on any generated document or ID bracelet.
Seems to work and can't have been too troublesome to implement.
Had an uncle whose name WAS Charlie because his father was Charles
Also have a nephew named Tony who was thought to be deaf by his teacher because he never responded when she called him... brother got very narked with the teacher and ended up shouting at her at a parent's meeting because she still insisted to calling him Anthony despite being told otherwise on multiple occasions
Brother and sister independently were tracing out ancestry but both came to a halt after a couple of centuries on mum's side because all the men were called William or George, and because of the short lifespan at the time they were hitting the same name but with similar birth dates and no way of telling if it was the same same person or reusing the name after an early death or an adoptee or a different branch or...
Regarding flights and names: I'm a "Jr." so my first, middle and last name are identical to my father. Unfortunately, people who design both web and paper forms don't always think about generational qualifiers. Many years ago, when I was beginning driver's training, I had to fill out one of those forms for my learner's permit. Since the permit didn't have a place for the "Jr.", I apparently didn't include it.
Permit leads to driver's license, which becomes my main method of proving my identity. Later on, I get credit cards, which do include the generational qualifier. Then I start to fly occasionally. For a while that's ok, but post 9/11, I start getting "randomly" selected for additional screening all the time. I finally made the connection that the name on my ticket payment method didn't match my ID (which didn't match who I really was).
Next license renewal, I remembered to ask them to add the "Jr." Nope, can't do that without a pile of paperwork that proves who I am. F it, let's just renew. Finally got it straightened out when I had to supply all the different forms of ID when I needed to upgrade my license to "Real ID".
Likewise, William Henry Gates III. I never really understood why people do that. Yeah, "honour" a male relative such as father or grandfather by using their name, but use it as a middle name to minimise confusion. It almost feels like a warped throwback to the aristocracy, but in their case it was the title, not the name that carried on and you got things like Richard the Third or the 5th Duke of Gloucester. Worse, IMHO is "jr". Great if there's only two generations, but if it does junior become senior when they name their kid junior too and grandad becomes senior senior? Worse, some people actually name their kid "Junior".
I have no objection to people choosing to do what they want, but it does feel as if some parents really don't spend a great deal of time thinking of a name for their sprogs, not even to the extent of considering what hell their kids might go through at school because the first name/last name or initial/last name name make "funny" combinations in the minds of young kids :-)
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"I start getting "randomly" selected for additional screening all the time. I finally made the connection that the name on my ticket payment method didn't match my ID (which didn't match who I really was)."
Now you are on a list since They likely have you down for using an alias. One of the reasons I've stopped flying is that I was "randomly selected" for extra screening each and every time I would fly. I'm not a political activist, I don't attend protests and I don't have any sort of criminal record. The last ticket I got was in 1993. When I worked doing sound and lights, I had background screening due to working on many US Presidential speeches so there's a file somewhere on that. I expect that if I had failed the check I wouldn't have been given clearance to be on the crew. The fact that I could pass the check was a big reason I got so many of those gigs. Now why is it necessary to grab my bits and toss my luggage every single time? And they gleefully like to take my neatly packed bag, unwind everything, wad it up, sprinkle it with the contents of my toiletry case and cram it all back in the suitcase. From my experience I can see how poor the US TSA and Homemade Security are at doing their jobs. If a boring Bob like me is such a huge focus, their RADAR needs a fresh calibration.
" One of the reasons I've stopped flying is that I was "randomly selected" for extra screening each and every time I would fly. I'm not a political activist, I don't attend protests and I don't have any sort of criminal record."
That you know of
Post 9/11, for a couple of years every time I checked in I would have a good wait at the desk while they grabbed my driver's license and disappeared into the back room They would come back, hand over the ID with a dubious "you can go", and no explanation. Maybe my name and physog mimicked an uncaught Baader–Meinhof member? Started flying within the US using my passport as ID, no more hassles.
'Started flying within the US using my passport as ID, no more hassles.'
It's a very good idea to bring your passport along when flying. If you ever have to put down in another country, you could really need it or wind up being sequestered somewhere. On 9/11, aircraft were being instructed to land at the nearest suitable airport regardless of filed destination. I can't recall if any US domestic flights wound up in Canada or Mexico or what was done with flights inbound from out of the country. A friend was on a business trip and wound up in Chicago with his home in Los Angeles. His quick thinking had him march straight to the car hire desks and book a luxury sedan before going to retrieve his luggage. If he were kicked to the curb in Canada, he'd could have needed his passport to hire a car.
"" One of the reasons I've stopped flying is that I was "randomly selected" for extra screening each and every time I would fly. I'm not a political activist, I don't attend protests and I don't have any sort of criminal record."
That you know of"
Well, I am reasonably certain that I'm not some sort of subversive. I can be certain that I'm on some list somewhere which is scattershot as my name is not unusual verging on common.
"Finally got it straightened out when I had to supply all the different forms of ID when I needed to upgrade my license to "Real ID"."
I've never bothered to get a "real id" since I don't plan on flying commercially again. I've had a driving license for quite some time now (not admitting anything) in good standing and don't move every 5 minutes so if They don't know who I am, they're far less competent than I currently don't give them credit for. I don't find it worth my time to round up more documentation, wait in long queues and have to resubmit several times for not filling in a space or putting a nought rather than leaving something blank or just putting in a dash, N/A, etc.
My father and grandfather both hated their first names, and consequently from childhood went by nicknames used by everyone except their own parents. My middle name is a modernised version of my grandfather's first name, which I'm pretty sure my dad chose for me purely as a dig at my grandfather for giving him a crap first name.
Not so much father and Son but Grandfather and Grandson. My Grandfather and I share the exact same name. My father has a different name. So no Sr. Jr, or I, II, II, etc. We both lived in the same town, and by coincidence we shared the same house number on different streets in the same city, This took place back in the early 1990's
Local bank was nice, but was bought out by a bigger bank. So far no problem. Then an even larger bank comes in and renumbers the accounts, using Lastname, Firstname for ordering of accounts with the new numbers. Now My account, My parents Account, 2 Uncles, 1 aunt, and my grandparent's accounts are in sequence, instead of spread out over many years of account number increments. All of a sudden My checks are bouncing. Seems my paycheck was being deposited, by the teller into my grandfather's account. Checks I wrote were either processed by his account or by mine, but since my account had no money the one processed on the right bounced. Grandfather was having similar problems. Our account numbers were different by the last digit alone. When you looked at the screen, the accounts were almost identical, except for street name. Same house number, same First, Middle, and Last names. There were even mixing my other relative's accounts. We checked, even our SSN numbers were similar but because of timing the first half was very different. The last 4 were similar, but with even mild dyslexia they would look the same.
It took us 3 months to get them to see they had made errors, and that the "big bank" was at fault. The fun part was that my father, an attorney specializing in Ranch law (Lots of land contracts, stock agreements, banking, etc) walked in with every member of our extended family, and handed them a request for everyone's account information. We had all signed it. When the Account manager started to say he couldn't do that, the local branch manager was called and told he needed to be at the bank within the next 30 minutes or we were going to take the bank to court. Shortly there after the Branch manager was there, in his office sweating the proverbial bullets as he read over our complaint, and watched as we sorted there every transactions since they renumbered our account with my Accountant Uncle. They then showed them each and every Banking law they had broken with their negligence. It was fun watching them go back and forth tearing down the Branch manager. Then I stepped up, being a computer programmer (recent graduate at the time) to show them how they could have avoided that with a simple change to the probable routine they used to renumber all our accounts. After that we pulled all our money from the bank, IN CASH (not cashier's checks), walked across the road to the local credit union and opened accounts there, making sure that they didn't number our account sequentially. I believe we took out about a quarter of their on-hand cash at that point. I know they didn't keep much on-hand, and would send to the larger District bank about 3 hours away if for some reason they needed more. It wasn't a payday week so they wouldn't have had extra on-hand.
Approximately 6 months later the local office of the big bank was forcibly closed, and the government had to step in. I don't have many details as we had already closed our accounts, and were only notified of the FDIC stepping in because there may have been money owed to us. No other notifications were sent to us after that one.
The head honcho at one site I worked at came up with a rule for system login names.
"Official first name", followed by hyphen, followed by "official last name".
Clashes would be negotiated with HR. As it happened, my login already followed his rule.
Then he remembered. He HATED his first name, and never used it. He came for advice.
I sold him the scheme as an extra level of security. Not only would a bad actor have to guess his password, but his user name too.
>"Official first name", followed by hyphen, followed by "official last name".
We have userid = 1st 3 letters firstname + 1st 3 letter surname + X if you don't have enough letters
Company is German, they don't see any problem with it spelling rude or offensive name (they might not have a sense of humour)
"No problem in German, only in English (and American)."
ISTR an episode of Miami Vice guest staring Phil Collins who went around the episode calling everyone "wanker". On a US networked TV show where swear/curse words were very rarely used. Ever. Censors are/were strict. But "wanker" got through because it was pretty much an unknown word in the US at the time. The British audience found it hilarious because so much imported US TV was so "sanitary" in that regard. There was little no internet back then so language, culture and fashion didn't propagate as quickly as it does these days. I'd not be surprised if swear/curse words, especially from English, transfer fairly quickly and widely into non-English countries, partly because there;s so much US tv and films exported all over the world.
I surprised me that Chas'n'Dave managed to to get 'Gertcha' broadcast on the BBC because it contained the word 'cowson' <gasp>
As a kid, for me, a norf lunduner, that was like calling someone "An objectionable, contemptible, unfortunate or stubborn person, place or situation" (synonyms "git" or "damned" according to https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/cowson)
(Wiktionary says mainly sarf lundun, but it had certainly crossed the river in the '60s)
Our place had a new rule that all usernames on the new system would be "first letter of first name, first 3 letters of surname"
Bollocks to "jjon" - I changed it back to "jamie".
Still, I once phoned a colleague and pretended to be this doddery old high up in the company, and asking him what his "computer user thing" would be. Poor Frank Uckworth never got a straight response, despite pleading for it beforehand so that his secretary could update the files in time...
I worked for a chap who disliked his first (of three) given name, so in anything useful to him he went by his second name.
On surveys, questionnaires, internet forms, etc. he used his first name, so spam, and sales calls would alway ask for his first name - a useful filter for phone answering...
He hated his third name even more - I'm not sure he really admitted it's existent beyond the initial letter.
Westpondian here. My bank account has my full name on it, I sign my checks as Middle-nickname Lastname, and sign paperwork at work as Firstname Lastname. Never once had a problem.
A former co-worker had been known by a nickname unrelated to his real name all his life. Per work rules, he HAD to sign his real name; they required signatures to be related to the real name. "James Smith" could sign as "Jack Smith", but not "Bubba Smith" even if everybody called him that.
My bank account has my full name on it, I sign my checks as Middle-nickname Lastname, and sign paperwork at work as Firstname Lastname. Never once had a problem.
My signature is a sprawling scribble, so what the squiggles transcribe to is probably irrecoverable. It is, however, fairly consistent across documents and time. Have not used my legal first name except for legal documents in over half a century.
Now that cursive script is not taught in school in the US, do people make up a script cipher and use that?
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Names are a nightmare..
A few years ago, for work, I had to create a small system to enable users to download software. The providers (mainly Oracle) required that we track who made the downloads, including physical addresses. For security reasons, I was not allowed to tap into any existing systems, beyond Active Directory (which was purely used for authorisation). So, I built up a small website that when a given user signed in, they could download any software they were entitled to, and the system would ask for any details required by the publisher. The site worked well, until we had a student with a long name. The system stored the Fore and Surnames separately, so I thought allocating 30 characters for each would be more than enough. No. It wasn't. A user complained he wasn't able to enter his name in the system, so I went and had a look. Both his Fore and Surnames were longer than 50 characters, and he refused to use a shortened version. So, I quietly altered the table to accept 100 character names, obviously updating the web page check..
Fore- and surnames longer than 50 characters but refuses to use a shortened version? The person is both being an asshole AND has way too much free time. People with those kind of names ALWAYS have a shortened name for general use.
(Longest name of a person I ever worked with was an Indian chap with two 15-letter forenames and a 15-letter surname. Called himself by the first 4 letters of his first name.)
Fore- and surnames longer than 50 characters but refuses to use a shortened version? The person is both being an asshole
For asking that a system has the decency to be able to store their given name?? Not everyone in the world has an 'English' name, or naming conventions.
AND has way too much free time. People with those kind of names ALWAYS have a shortened name for general use.
But there's 'general use' and 'official use', if you're asking for some ones name and address for (presumably) legal licencing requirements and they give it to you, then it's on your system to store it, not them to work round your lazyness.
(Longest name of a person I ever worked with was an Indian chap with two 15-letter forenames and a 15-letter surname. Called himself by the first 4 letters of his first name.)
Had he not, would you have not respected that too? I have a friend who has a name that's commonly contracted, but he prefers the longer version, it annoys the living shit out of me as it's more letters to say or type and I often forget. I do try though, and don't think he's an arsehole for asking to be called by his name.
Remember the person in question has probably encountered this with IT systems and general bureaucracy many many many times in their lives. That probably gets grating after a while.
Unfortunately, it's all too common though, even now, people still forget that not everyone is from a western European background. I have over my career had more arguments with people than I should about the length of things like 'email' and 'first_name' in a database, because those bytes are apparently so precious that we could never just set 'email' to anything sensible, it has to be max 50 chars because it's more important for someone to be 'right', than our data to be right.... no... I don't care that you can literally show me RFCs that prove it could in theory it could be longer, no one would ever, ever do that.
I have also built my own fair share of systems with these limitations too, sometimes through ignorance, but often, shamefully, simply due to time pressures, as doing it right is much much harder.
” For asking that a system has the decency to be able to store their given name??“
50 characters. FIFTY. Times two. That’s a 99.999th percentile outlier, and it’s unreasonable to expect systems to be designed for it.
(Just to put it into context, this is what a 50 character first name looks like:
Aside from designing for it, I question if this would EVER actually occur in nature. I suspect there might be a bit of embellishment going on in the original story.
”Had he not, would you have not respected that too?“
Respected, yes. Used? No. It’s beyond the bounds of reasonableness to expect others to memorise and use a name like that in everyday situations.
Maybe not, but I was at school with a Maltese pupil whose first name was the same as his father's and then he had an additional 12 middle names (including Walter Winterbottom?). He dreaded official forms that asked for ALL of your names. His father chose them to honour the 1949 England national football team who beat France in a "Friendly". Apparently the French were not much liked by the Maltese after their occupation by Napoleon.
Part of our work includes qualification certificates. Full names of 60-70 characters are not uncommon, and we regularly use 50+50. At least one database had a surname field extended to 100 characters in order to load data. One of our formatting tests for text flow is longest first name and longest surname, on the basis that combination might exist. It is not unreasonable to expect a database to handle them.
As for using someone's proper name - respect is addressing them in a way that doesn't make them uncomfortable. I will try to pronounce someone's name correctly, not anglicise it or use a diminutive for my convenience (unless they prefer it - one friend views her proper name as a telling off).
First NameS cumulatively adding up to 50-chars, possible albeit uncommon. As in: James Stuart Roderick Andrew Farley Timothy Hamish. That's 50 characters.
A 50-char first NAME, which is what we're talking about here; the chance is essentially zero that it will ever be encountered; and even less that there isn't a shorter form that the person is used to using. It's simply not possible to function in the modern world with a resolutely unshortenable 50-char first name.
Respect works both ways. I will try to a reasonable extent to accommodate people such that they feel comfortable, but if they have a hugely inconvenient characteristic that makes it difficult to communicate, be it a name or anything else, then they own at least part of the responsibility to facilitate efficient and comfortable communication. To expect others to bend without making any effort yourself is the height of arrogance.
I used to work with a partially deaf guy. The problem wasn't that he was hard of hearing; it was that he refused to wear a hearing aid of any description. He demanded that every sound be scaled up or down for his convenience; presentations at uncomfortably loud volumes for the rest of the room, travel to client sites when everybody else had to use Webex so he could "understand properly", group conversations where as soon as he joined everybody except the speaker had to be mouse-quiet so he could hear, and so on.
After a couple of weeks of this, one of our colleagues quite rightly told him to fuck off and put a hearing aid in if he wanted to understand what was going on, because we were done bending over backwards to accommodate his foibles.
You have reminded me of a time where we had representatives from multiple departments on a Root Cause Analysis conference call.
As a number of departments were based in Chennai and it was scheduled during their daytime we ended up with four people named “Bala Subramanian” on the phone call.
When assigning follow up actions we had to identify them by department and their numeric staff ID.
I had a similar problem in a US multinational with a dev shop in India, and little interest in learning about other countries’ conventions (Ironically, I was employed in the then-new Internationalisation department to try fix those attitudes).
The problem was exactly what you said: you’d get an email summary of an issue from a Bala or Giri, and because the US IT dept had just dumped people’s informal names into the Exchange directory, you had no clue which user that actually was when you went to the issue tracker, which (being run by the Indian operation) used official names for users.
Eventually, you figured out who was who by domain responsibility, but the whole thing would have been easier if the “also known as” fields had been filled in the US email directory. Apparently it was a long-running battle from the Indian side to get this done, as it had led to a couple of accidental mis-emailings of sensitive information, but as these problems didn't happen in Santa Clara, they were obviously not important..
> ...the length of things like 'email' and 'first_name' in a database, because those bytes are apparently so precious....
That's what I was thinking. What is the cash value of 100 bytes? Yes, I remember emptying the chad from a card-punch, when bits had a physical meaning. Yes, I know it is not just the 100 bytes at entry but storage, duplicate backups, wire-transfer or tape vault messenger.
Random shopping: BigRiver sells a 3.2e+10 byte thumbdrive (expensive mass storage) for $7. $2e-10 per byte. Figure this year 1000X that much cost counting redundants and data-shipping. $0.000,000,2 for 100 bytes. Say each employee or customer has 10 of these fields and you have 1,000,000 customers. (Let Amazon do their own maths.) This is TWO DOLLARS. If your fully costed pay is $20/hour, how long can you argue with Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff or Jamie before you are losing money?
Yes, I can say "NO!" in less than 6 minutes. But when Boss and HR and AFVLN (Association For Very Long Names) join the fray, months and hours of meetings and legal opinions, the added billion bytes looks cheap.
One of my coworkers has a two letter given name and three letter surname. They routinely have to add bogus characters to get past systems that "require" three or four letter given names. My own surname is often misspelled to add a space (it doesn't have one in my family, but I've met others where the only spelling difference is adding a space). I've had some that automatically insert a space into my name "because everyone spells names starting with "Mc" with a space" (or refuses to capitalize correctly).
And then you get into the whole "names never change" (and then a coworker of mine got married and gave up trying to change her surname for months at least because the system couldn't handle it.)
"because everyone spells names starting with "Mc" with a space"
I'd love to know where the person who came up with that "rule" lives. I've known many, many Scots and Irish where surnames starting with Mc or Mac are fairly common and I've never met one who puts a space after the Mc or Mac. I suppose it might happen, but if so, must be quite rare.
My daughter just has a first name and a surname. No middles. But still racks up four capital letters and two punctuation symbols. She finds it a continual source of amusement how often people who know her well still manage to get it wrong.
My wife's given name is normally a short version of a longer name, but her mum has that one, as did my ex-wife.. (now-wife gave me her sisters name when we first met, thankfully..) She gets annoyed when people assume she's really the long form.
"Unfortunately, it's all too common though, even now, people still forget that not everyone is from a western European background."
That includes Irish and Polish and probably others Western Europeans who constantly have trouble with English and more specifically US centric IT systems and what is "acceptable" in name fields. Which, on the face of it, seems a little odd considering the huge Irish and Polish diaspora in the US. IIRC most white Americans claim some Irish blood :-) I guess they were all anglicised when they arrived to match the forms they had to fill in.
I went to uni with someone who had that issue at banks in the times of paper forms... 88 character name (and yes, I can still remember it all) simply didn't fit...
He ended up using just the first name (which was a reasonable length) and the last part of his surname - and missed out the rest.
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My sons first names excede 30 chars in length. I filled out his passport application and entered them all, there being suffificient squares of the form. I then got a phone call asking me what to do as there was insufficient space in the DB. I asked who was calling me and it was the passport agency. I advised him to as his boss as it was his problem; he said the boss had asked him to ask me! I muttered a comment that sounded like anchor and to my surprise he said, "yes, a total one". We agreed to ignore the last name.
True. I have only 26 letters (including two spaces) in my three first names (and a nice short last name that people usually misspell because ITS IN THE D**M DICTIONARY). But even that confuses a fair number of Westpondians, to the extent where I now simply recite the name of the 41st President, who also had three first names (although just 21 letters): George Herbert Walker Bush.
"...for cultural reasons like picking a name that mono-lingual Brits can pronounce."
There's a bunch of other cultural reasons beyond pronunciation. In many Hispanic cultures the mother's maiden surname is added on (which in many western systems is incorrectly recognised as the second part of a double-barrelled family name). In many Slavic cultures the name has a patronymic besides a family name (which in many western systems is incorrectly recognised as a second given name). Females usually get an 'a' tagged on to the family name, so members of the same family have different family names depending on their gender. And AFAIK Lithuanian surnames also have different endings for males and females with the added twist that married females have yet another different ending, so father, mother and daughter would all have 3 differently-spelled versions of the same surname (which for computer's purposes qualify as 3 different surnames)
Another potential source of problems is having a name that in your native tongue that uses letters from a non-Latin alphabet which can be transcribed in multiple different ways into Latin alphabet. Or a language that doesn't use a phonetic alphabet at all, in which case the names are simply made up (as is the case for many westernised Chinese names)
Names are complicated. Cos of all the differences in culture, language, spelling, etc. Some having one word names (Indonesia comes to mind), some having no surnames / family names, some having multiple ways of spelling them, etc. Not to mention names with -/, and other characters.
I normally just try to have a single field for the whole name. Around 200 - 255 characters length.
Works out generally.
My middle name is the same as that of my mother, my sister, brother, nieces and nephews, and grandparents etc.
It's a family surname so should have been hyphenated, I guess, but it never was legally. So, I'm plain old "Jamie Jones" (not Jamie Landeg-Jones) [ though I often go by the latter online these days because there are far too many called "Jamie Jones" who aren't me. ]
In Spain, no such thing as a maiden name - women do not change their surnames (and why should they?). So in general use you use the first (your father's first) and if being more formal add the second (your mother's first). So many systems there assumed that my middle name was my surname. But my favourite was signing up with Renfe (railways) for a Points card - I got a PDF to download and print which was in the name of... John Smith NULL
I have found the surname of my paternal great great great grandfather spelled in 9 different ways, none of which matches my own variant. It is only by cross-referencing other records that I became certain that the records all refer to the same person. Only one of those records has the same spelling as the baptism and marriage of his father.
Lots of surnames are variants on a theme in the UK - I can see why - especially factoring in several centuries ago when literacy was low (always interesting to find old family documents and see the signature just signed with an "X" or similar). Found a few cases where surnames changes by a letter (or 2 in one case) on official documents and then the "new" typo surname consistently used going forward (as presumably none of the family members involved had the literacy skills to notice the change (or alternatively maybe just didn't care?)).
Signed with an X isn't necessarily illiteracy (although they probably were). It's a cross as in christian not 'x' as in unknown - saying that they were swearing to God the statement was true.
If they were doing this in front of people who knew who they were then there is no need for their name.
My maternal grandfather had a hyphenated last name (Ravn-Jorgensen). He dropped the hyphen and following when he came to the US through Ellis Island and later changed his last name because no one could properly spell or pronounce it (Ravn to Rawn).
My son's fiancee used a stage name, but (like so many aspiring actresses) lacked funds, so my son legally changed his name to the surname of her stage name, and when they married, she changed her name for free.
and when they married, she changed her name for free.
Some places have the rule that when you marry, you can keep your name or change it to a name from your husband. Where I live doesn't have that rule: when you marry, you can choose any name you want.
I don't know if that rule only works for women here: maybe it technically applies for men as well, but not in such a way that it's actually workable to do so.
Different Government departments here in the UK even struggle to name local authorities consistently. You can have Telford and Wrekin, Telford and the Wrekin, Telford & the Wrekin, Telford & Wrekin or even Telford and the Wrekin UA. Is it St Helens or St. Helens? Yet do also have unique identifiers, so Telford and Wrekin is also E06000020, CSSR Code 418 or perhaps even 00GF. Since I often spend a lot of time trying to combine datasets, I despair at our inability to adopt a consistent naming scheme for anything. And there are only 360 local authority districts!
Shortly after the local council decided Staines should became Staines-upon-Thames (which hasn't stopped Waitrose abandoning the place) someone decided to spruce up some hoardings around a building site (after they started to fall down)..
Unfortunately they decided to cover them in posters saying 'Staines-on-Thames'... they lasted a few days before they were replaced with ones saying 'Staines-upon-Thames'
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Not to mention multiple names for crossing cultures. The name they use at home is not the name on the birth certificate, neither of which are the names they use in work/school.Or with friends. So, in a school exam they have to use the name on the birth certificate, which may or may not be the name the parents use, which may or may not be the name that school office holds, which may or may not be the name they are known by. Add to which there may be 30 Mohammed Mohammeds or 15 Yossi Cohens, some of whom are known as Mo or Joe- but might also use a middle name to differentiate themselves from all the other Mohammed Cohens.
This all reminds me of a cartoon from the 1960s or 1970s. A man with a piece of paper in his hand is standing before a woman at an old-style computer console, with magtape drives and printers in the background. She says to him: "It really would be easier for everyone if you just changed your name to 'JLZ88#23*8A'."
When building such a database about ten years back, we used incident references as unique keys, rather than tying to an individual.
Often the problem was that the individual was not who they claimed to be, so it made a lot more sense to, system-side, do the comparisons to known fraudulent incidents and leave questions like "are these all the same guy" to law enforcement or legal. We just needed to know if a new applicant looked like a known bad actor so humans could look closer.
Similar sort of thing here in the past. Cases came into the forensic science lab with various names given for suspects, injusred parties etc. There'd be lists of items that might or might not become court exhibits labelled with one of these names. There was no way for the reporting officer to know whether these names were genuine or not nor whether the items were correctly labelled but that was OK providing the labels and lists matched. The magic phrase was "described as". It didn't even matter whether an item that came in as "Left shoe of Joe Bloggs" was a right shoe (or even something other than footwear); the report could simply say "Item 5, described as Left shoe of Joe Bloggs was, in fact, a right shoe. It was examined for blood stains....etc." and let the court sort things out.
> it made a lot more sense to, system-side, do the comparisons to known fraudulent incidents and leave questions like "are these all the same guy" to law enforcement or legal.
In the 1980s I was refinacing a mortgage. One of the papers asked "Are you this guy?" and listed "my" name with a criminal record. Several things about him were wrong (not me), and my name is medium-common so I was not shocked they found a felon with my name. They didn't ask me to prove it, they only wanted my "no" on record so they could add perjury if I lied about not being that guy. (i.e., if it went to law enforcement or legal.)
Last I looked, omitting my middle name, "I" am on murderer's row in two states, as well as multiple assaulters and fraudsters.
Denmark, and I suspect the other Scandinavian countries, sorted that many decades ago.
Your true identity is your social security number which you need for any interaction with officialdom, banks or employers. It is also Big Brother’s wet dream, but admittedly practical in everyday life.
"It is also Big Brother’s wet dream, but admittedly practical in everyday life."
And yet we hardly look at the Scandinavian countries and think of them as oppressive dictatorial hellholes.... so maybe properly-implemented ID cards don't actually lead to privacy armageddon?? Maybe, just maybe, it isn't the ID cards or the unique identifiers going with them, but the people running the systems, the checks in place on the systems, and the rule of law that keeps in check any potential abusers of the systems??
Your true identity is your social security number
Here in the UK I've known people who've found out the hard way that their National Insurance number(*) has also been given to someone else. Usually around pension claiming age.
(*) Probably the nearest we have to SS numbers.
And yes, in Denmark, the normal CPR number, as it is called, is a unique number.
The CPR numbers provide a one-to-one relation (a number points to a person). But the reverse is not true. One person may have zero to many CPR numbers. There also is the concept of replacement numbers, where letters are added replacing some digits, which, unsurprisingly, is done very inconsistently.
And, for being a hard-to-guess number... The CPR number is 6 digits birth date, a three digit sequence number and one check digit. It takes no time at all to guess people's CPR number.
Actual Social Security cards have text on them stating that they are not to used for ID purposes. I pointed that out to a bank official when he asked for mine as verification. He said that impersonators almost never thought to carry a matching SS card. Might be different now. The late 1960s was a more innocent age.
> Actual Social Security cards have text on them stating that they are not to used for ID purposes.
You may be as old as me. That text has changed many times. The "not ...ID" was walked-back long ago.
"(1/72 revision) Legend “Not For Identification” was no longer on card (shown from 1946 to 1972)."
> When I was in college 20 years ago they would post the final exam grades on the wall outside the classroom, listed by our student ID numbers. You can guess what the student ID number was…
Over 20 years?? I remember a spring semester in the 1980s when grade postings were cut-off (sometimes just folded!) to obscure some of the SS#. Yet at that school in the 1960s, SS#s were never associated with students (except when paid). It was a major kerfluffle to assign new ID numbers to existing students and issue new student cards; and change the system for incoming students.
We use unique keys in education, but for reasons known only to the Department for Education, by the time a child leaves school they have three unique identifiers.
A UPN (Unique Pupil Number) that's assigned as soon as they hit the state education system
A ULN (Unique Learner Number) that's assigned when they're 14
A UCI (Unique Candidtae Identifier) that's assigned when they're entered for public examinations
Three unique codes that all do the same job, but for some reason we need all three, when the first one given would do the job admirably...
The second makes some sense - data protection laws are Different for under-13s, so if you have two distinct systems, and one of them only has the under-13s stuff you can keep them segregated.
Maybe the exam system is separate because it has external exposure and they don't want to be telling university Clearing about your 8 year old spelling tests?
I'm sure there's a better way to do all that, though.
I never visited a school in the UK but i took an exam for the Cambridge First Certificate in English so having a way to uniquely identfiy someone that takes exams but doesn't have a UPN/ULN is probably a good idea. Of course you could just assign a UPN but my guess is that whoever is in charge of assigning UPN and ULN doesn't care about external guys taking exams at universities.
Ah. Following Conway's Law (roughly “the design of a program mirrors that of the organization which created it”), I would assume that there were at least three different authorities involved, each deciding that they needed a unique ID, and none communicating with each other.
In the 1980s I had to work on one application that used names as the key. This app was used to log information our company had with various suppliers.
As those suppliers could have multiple sites the users eventually ended up needing to deliberately misspell their names - for example 'Heinza' and 'Heinzb'
How about using social security numbers as a unique key?
Wot? They're non-American and don't have one? IMPOSSIBLE!! Wot? Our made-up numbers for non-Americans are colliding with real numbers? IMPOSSIBLE!!!!
Also you're "not supposed to know" SSNs because they're PII so getting access to the tables you need to troubleshoot is a nightmare. And of course it's impossible to anonymize anything for testing.
The first company I worked for sold a standard system to keep track of leased vehicles. The obvious major key was the vehicle's registration plate.
A major re-write was called for when a Netherlands company informed us that in their part of the world, car registration numbers changed for a large number of reasons.
In the US (surprised it's not universal, or maybe it is), it's a VIN, Vehicle Identification Number. Riveted metal plates in at least two places, and sticky labels on almost anything that could be removed and sold.
Of course, classic and owner built cars are a special case...
I am called Michael Jones. At my university one year there were 10 of us enrolled (it varied each year as people came and left).
It didn't help that login username, email address, and name in the system all had to have numbers added to the end and were treated independently. I was MJones on the domain, Michael.Jones-1 for my email, and my name was on the system as Michael Jones (2). Mine was the most rational, others had for example a username of MJJones (adding a middle initial), an email of Michael.Jones-5 and a name of "Michael Jones (7)" or whatever.
I was in a summer program at a university when I was in high school. Their usual login name system was first initial, middle initial, first 6 letters of last name, so Robert Jonathan Smith would be rjsmith. But I was only there for a summer program, and somebody got lazy and skipped the middle initial, so it ended up like r_smith. Upon graduation, I enrolled - and kept the same login. My entire time there, people asked how I ended up with an underscore in my username.
Bonus issue - the associated email was, of course, email@example.com which some poorly-programmed web forms didn't like. Later I had a server with a dynamic IP, and simply kept the same login name, so my email was firstname.lastname@example.org which a LOT of web forms didn't like ("no domain has more than one dot, right?")
[Name and resulting logins anonymized.]
> Well, that'll be the lesson not to use one's name as a unique key in the fine database. You might fail to collect...
Or “last.name” or “ last.name”. Notice the space in the second. Yes the customer had two records depending on if the user entered a space at the beginning of the search field.
It absolutely can be! One of the 'rules' of names is that there aren't really any rules beyond what people do in practice.
When I as taught filing for the Inland Revenue (dating myself a bit there), we were even taught how to handle multi-word surnames for sorting things (in short, use the word after the very last space, so Dave Edwards Jones was under 'J' and Dave Edwards-Jones was under 'E').
I've even seen triple-barrelled surnames that only had one hyphen. I'd love to know the family politics that lead to that kind of thing.
Thanks. That's interesting.
I'd have filed the same way, but then I'd have assumed that Edwards was an unusual middle name.
However, knowing what you've now told me, that's confusing! I'd expect a surname of "Edwards Jones" to be filed under "E", as with "Edwards Jones", otherwise the hyphen becomes over-important.
Maybe spaces in surnames should be written as non-breaking-space characters :-)
The predictive text on my phone knows my email address, and so entering it in on forms is easy. But it adds a space afterwards. Almost /every/ web form out there rejects this as having "invalid characters". Can't you just do a bloody trim() on the thing before validating it??
this i never understood. User or customers equal numbers. Various bits about a user or customer changes, address, status bit also name. it shouldnt matter if someone changed their name because surely you arent using name as a primary field or upn.
Oh wait, thats exactly what 365 does.
Many years ago when I still worked in retail pharmacy we had a payment rejected by a health care insurer on the grounds of it being a duplicate claim. What happened? The idiots used one policy number for one family and used date of birth as the underlying identifier. So when the twins picked up their anticonception on the same day their only logical conclusion was that we were defrauding them.
And speaking of twins: around the same time there was this moron who had given his just born twins the same initials. Should have been removed from parental authority, as you convict your offspring to a life of administrative fuckups.
Yeah, I went to school, with twins, John and Joseph. Fine in person, but I bet they had issues on computer systems. Officialdom was already running benefits and tax on computers by then even if it was the beginning of the home computer revolution (The school got it;s first computer while I was there, a Commodore PET 2001, which pretty much dates the year :-))
Many years ago, I worked at a UK university for several years. When my fixed-term contract ended, I moved on, but after a couple of months, I started receiving forwarded letters and journals for another David Harper who still worked at the university, but in an entirely different department. I contacted him to let him know about the screw-up. He told me that wasn't the worst of it. When I left, they stopped paying his salary as well as mine. It seems the HR department had deleted all the David Harpers on the payroll, just to be on the safe side.
A place I worked was a multinational, and used Lotus Notes for email. There were exactly two people in the address book with my surname.
I was andy.a......@uk.company.com and the other was andrew.a.....@au.company.com
People would just fill in the name they knew and Notes would fill in the rest for them They assumed that if the system did not complain about a name, they must have typed it correctly.
So I would regularly forward messages about his company function, and he would forward things about IT.
So when I was on holiday, I turned up at the Brisbane office, confused the receptionist - "AndyA here to see AndyA" - and we went for the beers we had been promising each other.
"I was andy.a......@uk.company.com and the other was andrew.a.....@au.company.com"
Similar here, but at the same company and domain. One letter difference. On creating a new email, Outlook helpfully (mostly!) gives a dropdown of names matching what you are typing, usually based in order of who most often contact, so most people just click on the first matching name in the list. Except I'd been there for years and the new guy was, well the new guy. So my name would normally be the top one and the difference in spelling was subtle enough that you had to look quite closely to be sure, assuming you were aware of the possibility in the first place. Even after a few years, I still get his emails every now and then although he rarely gets mine :-)
Yes, but it gets idiotic when they then even automate their screwups.
We need specialised people to work in IT security, and I now have had multiple instances whene I was working for large companies and had to remove HR from the selection process as they only looked at tickboxes like degree status and certifications - you know, the systems where you need to answer reams of questionnaires? Not only did that limit the selection to the people who knew how to play that game, it diligently filtered out exactly the oddballs you need to do the job well - the ones that learn lockpicking just because it's technically interesting, or have at least two separate computers at home to experiment with. To find these people you need to be able to read between the lines - the hacker dictum "it takes one to know one" still applies to this day.
Once I had ALL the CVs I could start weeding myself and have the shortlist vetted - and in every case the right people were filtered out early on, with the most ridiculous argment that the person "would not fit the culture". In a company that was wall to wall developers..
"would not fit the culture"
There were some missing words, probably "that we think we have".
I suspect ISO9000 and its spawn lie behind this sort of behaviour. It's likely to prescribe things like "must have at least N years experience of X" where X is minutely specified to current version and the life of versions of X is considerably less then N. It's supposed to be a quality standard but is only a standard for quality of adhering to arbitrary bureaucratic prescriptions.
"I suspect ISO9000 and its spawn lie behind this sort of behaviour. It's likely to prescribe things like ..."
Nope. The ISO 9000 series tells you how to structure and document your processes (so you are aware of what you're doing and do it consistently). The content is entirely up to you.
E.g. a recruitment criterion could be "Must have 3 degrees and 99 years experience." or "Must give the impression they understand our widgets when interviewed over a cup of tea." Both are acceptable as long as they're documented.
However, many people writing procedures lack the intelligence and, especially, understanding of the business, to write procedures which actually benefit the business, quality and efficiency.
Here's one for the weekend -->
Not only did we have to document our procedures, we had to document every change to our procedures, and document those documents in a separate document.
And yet we still managed to send two very large clients each other's software release, thus breaking two NDAs at once.
The guy who screwed up blamed it on there being too much documentation to follow.
In my last job we had a director who was an ex naval aviator. Nice guy but with a zero tolerance for bullshit. We were starting up a new project team and all the techie types agreed that the perfect person to be the tech lead was a guy who had left to join a startup the previous year but was now available. HR objected on the grounds of "we don't re-employ people with X months" (I don't remember the actual number). The response from the director was along the lines of "You seem to be under a misapprehension. You work for me not the other way around. Either you send the offer this afternoon or your replacement will do so in the morning".
The guy took the job. Never saw that HR flunky again.
I worked for a research company in IT support. One month I checked my balance and thought "Hmm. Ive spent a lot since payday that was 5 days ago" so I went in to the bank and asked for a mini statement which they duly provided. I could identify every payment going out, but it took me a couple of minutes to realise that nothing had gone in.
I went back to site and straight up to HR. They brought up my details on their system (all based around a system with a 3 letter name akin to what you get out of plants) and said "That's all there. Name correct. Address right. Can't see anything wrong". At this point I piped up and said "That's not my bank account"
Another employee had changed banks and informed HR. They changed their details which, for some reason, also updated mine. He got his and my (considerably less) pay. Confusingly, we had completely different names, different nationalities, and worked in completely different departments.
It took them a few days to get money to me. No idea how long it took them to get the excess back from him though
It's easier to recover money from people you're actively paying regularly.
I used to work in a recovery team that handled that sort of thing - chances are they got it back very quickly by just paying them less the next month or two.
The problem is when they leave the company and stop replying to your emails. Former employees can be really tough debtors, and - not that I'm recommending trying it - are one that's _relatively_ likely to get written off if it's the company's screwup.
I am aware of a company that had this exact issue (hence the Anon). A change to some of the back-end systems identified an issue whereby a number of people who had left the company were still being paid. While they immediately stopped the payments it was decided that the bad press around chasing people to recover the payments would have had more impact that the 'lost' money. Admitting in court that you did not have proper control of your finances is never a good look and tends to makes customers think twice.
When I retired, they paid me out my unused vacation time. I thought at the time it looked a bit light, but it was the end of the year and I had other things to worry about. A few weeks later, I went back and did the math, and, yes, they *had* shorted me over half what I was owed!
Luckily, or perhaps cleverly, I had taken screenshots of my accrued vacation time on their system, before I left. I sent this, along with a copy of my final paycheck with a polite letter, asking how the amount had been calculated. The balance was in my bank account by the end of the week. I like to thinkmit was unintentional,on their part, but I can't quite figure out how that could be true.
I got off a flight to the US where someone else had my very common name was apparently also on my flight. US immigration processed him as me.
When I turned up, I quickly had guns pointed at my head because it was MY FAULT that they had processed someone with a different passport etc incorrectly.
I was taken to a private room to be yelled at for a while and told things about US policy which were patent fabrications. What a time to be alive.
Posting from Guantanamo.
I used to have a job that required me to visit a range of North Sea oil and gas platforms. To be allowed to go, I had to go through a range of helicopter, survival and firefighting courses, plus regular medicals and inductions (the platforms were owned and operated by different companies, so I had to be certified for them all). The one common system was the database on which everyone had to be registered, showing all the various certifications, etc. one of the key drivers behind the system was to ensure staff and contractors (of which there were thousands) took the necessary breaks between offshore tours; some people were known to arrive back from installation to travel to another the next day - breaks were mandated to try and minimise tiredness and compliance with working hours regulations. But extra trips meant extra money for some.
When checking in at a heliport your ID card was scanned and you were shown a screen with your details to verify. On one trip, the screen displayed those for someone else with the same name as mine - whoever had processed my trip hadn’t checked properly. Naturally, I wasn’t cleared for the flight. A call to their office (pointing out that, if I didn’t get to their platform they risked being shut down) and I was quickly added to the manifest and we all took off, almost on schedule.
After arriving on the platform and going through the necessary familiarisation induction, I started work, which happened to be in the main control room. A call went out over the tannoy asking for me to report immediately to the control room. I made myself known, only to be told it wasn’t me they wanted - my namesake turned up a few minutes later. We shared a joke but then agreed that the system I described above needed a complaint raised as it had happily allowed him to be booked for a second trip when he was already offshore. We did wonder how much we could have earned by not reporting the fault and selling the workaround - but we both recognised why the system was needed.
Anon, even though the incident was a couple decades ago…
In my experience, US Immigration have zero tolerance for humour.
Took an ex to NY for her Birthday, Immigration Officer looks at our passports and asks the purpose of our visit.
"Its for a Birthday."
"Whose Birthday, Sir?"
"Well you have the passports, you tell me."
You could have frozen the River Taff with the resultant stare.
My daughter, moving home from graduate school in DC, went to change her license. The numpty behind the counter refused to accept her DC license, because, "we don't accept foreign licenses".
My daughter attempted to explain, but it took a supervisor to clarify that the "District of Columbia" was in fact, a part of the US, and not the same as the country with a similar, but not identical name, where documents are typically in Spanish, because that's what they speak in Colombia.
She left with her license but with confusion as to how some people manage to navigate everyday life.
I, a UK citizen, once went on holiday to Mexico via California. Flying back from Mexico to California there were two immigration lines: one for US citizens and one for Mexican citizens. So I chose the shorter one and had a short chat with a nonplussed customs officer who had never seen a British passport before. This was in the mid 90s, so it was an amusing incident rather than a harrowing ordeal.
On a business trip to San Diego in the 90s I thought I would go to TJ. Got the tram to the border & just walked across - no Mex immigration check. Wandered into TJ - weird place, full of farmacias & stripey burros, definitely wouldn't visit these days though. On the way back there was just a line at the border and my UK passport with the bit of I94 in it was fine to get back in.
Similar Here. about 20 odd years ago.
A (Brit) friend of mine was working in Texas for a while (government work of some kind, he never told me what, he had been in the navy but was now doing something on land he wouldn't talk about) and I went to visit him for a couple of weeks holiday.
Decided to take a day trip over to Mexico, expecting to get a stamp in passports, buy a postcard, etc.
Just strolled over the border, no check, immigration, etc. Just a lady at a turnstyle who wanted a $1 to let us in.
Coming back, two queues (lines) at passport/customs. One signed "US and Canada Passports", one signed "Others". Needless to say one queue had 5 people in it, the other was a mile long and probably took an hour or two to negotiate in the scorching heat. There were "border agents" wandering up and down, randomly asking question or looking at documents as we waited. Initially one of them looked at us and walked past, then five minutes later another walked up and started to approach us. I started to get that sinking feeling......
"Are you on Mexican passports" he asked? "No, British passports", we answered. My friend then stated that he was working in the US for 12 months as part of exchange work on a xyz visa, and I said I was visiting on vacation and we had just been to Mexico on a day trip. He looked at our passports, realised, and asked us to confirm we were both already admitted into the US, then asked for a cursory look at our back packs. All with that sinking feeling....
"That's fine" he said, just go and join the "US and Canada" line, and you'll be through in no time. "and Have a Nice day"
Presumably they do some kind of basic racial/visual profiling of people.....
That reminds me on a story, where US citizens get asked whether they have their passport with them. The US citizens started to complain, that he can enter Canada without a passport. Once cooled down the officer said something along the lines: "You are right, you can enter Canada without a passport. But when you come back to the US without a passport the US border control check will be several hours to verify your identity".
I picked it up even here, or in one of those "German living in the US" Youtube channels.
I recall flying to Sydney, around 20 years ago, to conduct a qualification audit on a potential new supplier to a UK utilities company. The supplier's HQ was in Sydney, so there I had to go. Left the UK on the Saturday and arrived Sydney Monday morning (with one brief stopover for refuelling at KL). Immigration started to quiz me and asked how long I was going to be there: I replied that I was booked on a flight back to the UK on the Thursday afternoon. He struggled, for a moment, to accept that I flew half way around the world for a three night visit, then (with a smile) processed my papers quickly as I didn't have much time to waste.
The supplier's people (including the MD) were pleasant enough and didn't argue with any of my audit findings, though I never found out if they got the contract. Slight jet-lag when I got home :)
I made my first trip to the US late last century, along with my wife and three kids. The immigration officer asked how many nights we were staying and I replied "15 days". A very stern looking officer replied "I didn't ask how many days, I asked how many nights" and waited for me to work out the answer (which I managed without the aid of a spreadsheet or even a calculator).
Every trip since has seen me being very subservient to the humorless (cos they are 'mericans) person holding my passport.
George Carlin (RIP) had a whole routine on airport security, and part of it was specifically about why you can't tell jokes.
"Well why is it just jokes? What about a riddle? How about a limerick? How about a bomb anecdote? You know, no punchline, just a really cute story! What if you intended your comment not as a joke, but as an ironic musing?"
Another tale. I might have told this before. Business trip to LA in the 90s. Immigration guy asks why I'm visiting - digital TV conference. So the guy asks me "So which TV screen size do you think will be the future?". So I immediately replied 16:9, definitely. He then said he was interested in the tech, I think as a way of saying it wasn't a trick question. The guys I knew at the conference were a bit boggled when I related the tale later!
I once flew from my tiny Caribbean island to Costa Rica via Miami. Immigration officer asked why I was going there if I already lived in a tropical paradise. I explained the island was eight square miles, if you didn't get off every once in a while you got island fever. He may have smiled, I was allowed to proceed.
I've often wondered if people who live in a "tropical paradise" yearn for a holiday in the snow. Or for a holiday to a temperate country like the UK where even at the height of summer, the weather can be so unpredictable :-)
Just the other day, it was a "sweltering" 31c here[*] and I saw a very few people obviously from warmer climes with coats on! :-)
"here" being NE England, on the coast. Above 30c isn't common. At all.
But they are human....
I visited my sister in the US years ago, and having been through the looooong list of things you can't bring in, more than once, I came empty handed for Thanksgiving, planning on getting something locally.
After going through said long list of things i couldn't bring in, getitng a 'no' to them all, the guy was obviously aghast that I was vistiing with nothing at all, and asked me "you the youngest?"
Him: When you're through baggage claim, go and buy her some chocolates, flowers, ANYTHING....
I still chuckle at that, and it usually gets me approaching the desk with a smile - can't hurt!
I used to get stopped at US security every time because a UK citizen with the same name as me once committed a crime across the pond.
Usually it was dealt with quickly, but a few times it was a couple of hours in the security area while things got sorted.
I later applied for and got a 10 year visa to sort it, and while I was going through the interview process the interviewer noticed how many times I'd been stopped and apologised - removing the marker so it wouldn't happen again. Trump and Covid meant I haven't been back since to see if it works!
When I was in the military, I spent a couple of years on a base where there was somebody with the same name (and rank) as mine, which unfortunately led to a considerable amount of opening mail and trying to work out which one of us was the intended recipient. We got round a bit of it (such as bank statements) by getting the sender to include our middle initials, which were thankfully different.
However, at one point I tried to open, by mail (this was in the early 1990s), a share-dealing account with The Share Centre and that got really messy, as it happened that my namesake already had an account. It would seem that when TSC received my application, some bright spark saw that they already had somebody with the same name and address in their system, so decided I was the same person (this was before anti-money laundering legislation) and executed the buy instruction I'd included with my application against their account without digging deeper, such as noticing that bank details and signatures were different. In those days of quarterly statements by post, It took a several months before this came to light, and then a lot to-ing and fro-ing to sort the whole mess out.
My wife, researching her family history, came across three generations of men, (grandfather, father, son) all with the first name of Major but different middle names. None were ever in any branch of the military.
As an aside, back when I was late teens, I dated a girl who's surname was Major :-)
I've got a name almost as generic as 'John Smith' and personally I'm happy about that because it makes me really tricky to search for. There's several other people in the UK with the same name and DoB as me.
When I need to be 'unique', I include my two middle names, as far as I know that combination is unique.
At my job, to give an example for the need to keep properly track of users when generating mail addresses, I keep using John Smith as an example.
And lo, we have one moving to UK from NZ in a few days...
We will see if the naming AI will work it out.
Back when I was freelancing there was at least one freelancer wit the same name. Given that agents are the results of a cross between HR and double glazing sales it's not surprising I got the occasional copy of someone else;s contract through the post.
Uh, another very common name here. Years ago, my dentist in Evanston, Illinois had four patients who went by John Hill. I'm generally glad to have a tough to search name was well.
But recently I tried to order a pair of earbuds through NewEgg (the seller was a company located in Hong Kong). That company told me, "Your name is blacklist". I had never even heard of that company, let alone ordered anything from them before. They asked if I had another name to use for delivery, and I said I didn't. Ultimately, they cancelled my order and refunded me my payment.
I don't think I'm going to be able to get off that blacklist. Oh well...
I have a very uncommon surname which I didn't like when I was a kid. However, it made it easy to buy the domain so my mail address can be email@example.com, which is pretty handy.
My name is not Tarr and I'm not a doctor either. I could have been professor Fether instead.
My surname (aka last name) contains a hyphen *and* an apostrophe. It also contains some esoteric capitalisation. It's been like that for hundreds of years, long before computers were invented and double barrelled surnames became fashionable. It causes no end of grief when dealing with computer systems. My wife is constantly on the phone, spelling out our surname to banks, credit card companies and utilities.
Surely that would only work if the `name` field was last in the table and the query had been built up in a string using 'single' speech marks around values?
If the fields were surrounded with "double" speech marks, that 'single' one would not close the (presumably INSERT) query, but be seen as part of the "quoted" string. And even if they had been 'single quoted', but `name` was not the last field, then the first error would stop the rest of the line being processed.
Try dealing with French bureaucracy when you have a name like McDonald. No matter how clearly you write it, you will almost always be unable to prevent them entering it as Mc Donald, as they would for De Villiers or von Braun.
Your papers will be randomly filed under M or D, they never match legal documents from the UK, etc. Even when you get it fixed, years later someone will helpfully "correct" it and break everything again.
I understand the pain. I have Mac Donald, but use all combinations to suit culture I am in . Thus M'D... in Africa , they are used to names like M'Bana.
In Germany it gets simple like von F so works as mac Donald. In UK I end up as Donald, Which reflects my school as about 90% of pupils began with Mac or Mc or M' or Mhic; so the school always indexed under second part of name. OK but explain how name is on certificates when needed in England is a pain.
Many years ago a friend shared the same name as me. Very useful when I was overdrawn as I'd give the cheque (said it was a long time ago...) to him to cash for me, in return for a couple of pints.
Sadly he died, too young, and his obit was in the local rag. I had a client at the time had one of their members call to ask if they knew their web designer had died - to which the lass that was my main contact there replied "well, I hope not - I had a coffee with him this morning!"
I've done several tours with the same company over many, many years. I was, however, surprised to go back to deliver a project whilst working for another company, to find they still had my details in their system. When trying to get a temporary pass, they managed to pull up my old photo and details (and I am talking from at least a decade before).
Now whether or not they thought I was evil....
I once had a coworker get entered into the HR database twice, once with a misspelled first name.
Her first paycheck arrived written out to the misspelled name, so she called HR, who apologized and cut her a new one on the spot.
The next month she got two paychecks, one in each name. HR apologized again and told her to shred the one issued in error.
At the end of her fourth month she got no paycheck at all. HR hadn't been sure which entry was wrong, so they'd deactivated them both. More apologies.
Month five was the first time she got paid correctly.
She thought it was all behind her until in January she was presented two tax statements, one in each name, and both for her entire salary. Despite HR 'straightening things out' the IRS still audited her.
And the worst bit? A year after leaving she gets a letter saying that, because of the second HR listing, the company had miscalculated her bonuses the entire time she'd been there and they'd like very much if she'd cut them a check for $37,000 sometime in the next seven business days.
Almost as good.
She called the company's lawyer and asked what his reaction would be to finding out HR was sending five figure demand letters to former employees without his okay.
The lawyer said something like "Well, I'd probably go over and chew them new assholes, why?" followed shortly thereafter by a string of expletives once he caught on that it wasn't a hypothetical question and that he was going to have to waste his morning dealing with them.
Back in high school (US), there was an apparently troubled lad, who almost shared my name (analogous to, say, David Meyer & David Meyers). For a while, it was quite common for me to be called down to the principal's office early in the day, because apparently other-'David' had been getting into trouble again. It was quite annoying for a while (I was enough of a nerd that I really didn't care for getting out of classes), but eventually it died off. No idea whether they got a clue that Meyer != Meyers, or if other-'David' had shaped up or dropped out. I don't think I even ever met him.
And phone numbers! Certainly in the pre-GUI days, a lot of S/W came from the US and was rarely, if ever, localised for other markets, and when it was, it was a half arsed job. I remember an early "office suite" in the DOS days where you simply could not use the "phone number" type field when creating a database. Just a generic "number" field set to a length to suit UK phone numbers. IIRC, I think I used two fields, STD and Phone so the data entry/display template screens could include the parenthesis around the STD code. Little did we know back then there was going to be not one but TWO (or three??)great national phone renumbering schemes. I'd hope my database design was long out of use by then through.
Even today, I still find it odd that UK software expects mobile phone numbers to be one long string with no separators for what is effectively the STD code and number, probably because you have to dial it anyway. AFAIK, there's no option to dial just the "number" for someone on the same "STD" code as your mobile phone. When giving my number out, I still speak it as 5-digit code and then 2 groups of three for the number though. I'm old fashioned like that :-)
(For US readers, UK mobile phones have unique dialling codes that do not overlap with the landline phone system, you can always easily tell if you calling a landline or a mobile phone, which historically meant you could tell roughly how expensive the call was going to be. Calling a mobile used to cost significantly more than a landline, likewise on or off network could be significantly different on mobile to mobile calls and each operator used to have their own dialling codes before number porting became standard)
London had 4 'renumberings' in a couple of decades
01 > 071/081 - doubled the number of exchanges (071 inner, 081 outer... unless you were on Mercury)
071/081 > 0171/0181 - phoONEday, the whole country got renumbered as part of a big plan to harmonise geographic/non-geographic/mobiles/premium/etc
0171/0181 > 020+n - because they were still running out of numbers
"I still find it odd that UK software expects mobile phone numbers to be one long string with no separators"
The real pain is the sites that insist you enter all 16 digits of your credit card without 'punctuation', despite them being handily grouped into 4s on the card to make it easier to read!
Back in 2000 I got a temp job through a contracting company. I filled out all the paperwork and was told my first few pay checks would be mailed to me until they got direct deposit set up. I duly submitted my timecards every week and after 2 weeks had not received a check in the mail. Contacted contracting company and was told the check had been mailed but it was the post office's fault since they are "often slow" in delivery. Waited another week and still hadn't received my first or second weeks pay check. Called again and was told they were mailed and it was the post office's fault. Waited one more week and still hadn't received anything so called a 3rd time and was told all three checks had been mailed and I had cashed the first two. I told them I certainly did not receive or cash any checks.
The representative implied I was lying and in an indignant tone said we mailed them out to the address I put on my employment form at P.O. Box 1234 in Arlington Heights! I told them that was not my address. He was very annoyed with me and put me on hold while he pulled the paper copies of the forms I filled out. He came back on the phone after a long time and rather sheepishly admitted that wasn't my address. Turns out there was another person with the same name who had applied for a job years before, but wasn't hired. When putting me into the system they saw my name already in and just assumed I was the same guy.
Now the fun part. They wanted me to go to the police, filled out a report to investigate the person cashing my checks to charge them with theft. After the police were done with their report I could submit to their headquarters and they would do their own investigation and once completed I would get my pay. I told them I wasn't doing that as it was not my mix up. They said that was the only way to get my pay. I went into work the next day and told my boss what was going on. I explained I liked working there but wasn't doing it for free. He told me not to worry. He called the contracting company and said if I didn't have my checks issued by the end of the week he wasn't ever using that contracting agency again. As they were the biggest client of the contracting company they complied. I walked into the agency and made sure the person who implied I was lying was the one who had to hand me my checks. It was a nice feeling listening to him admit to being wrong after dealing with his earlier attitude
I had a short term contract at Barclays Bank in Pooles payment processing centre, I got paid for my first week or two invoices as it was the end of the month, but the next month was December & I was told that payments would be held until something like 5th January.
I worked through December including one 21 hour day* Christmas & in the run up to new year got an approach about making this contract longer term.
5th January came along & went, the 6th, the 7th I started making daily calls to the agency & they swore blind they had made the payments as we approached the 12th I asked could they verify the sort & account code despite the fact the previous payment had been received, in reading out the numbers, I heard two transposed digits, which they then tried to blame as my error.
"If it's my error how come I got paid for November?"
Oh..... can you wait until the end of the month?
Its been six weeks since I got paid last & that was for effectively ten days, so no!
Ohhh as its our error I'll put out a rush payment, this time.
Come Friday late morning I was told my contract was over, too late to speak to the manager as he had driven home to Birmingham, when he came back on Monday he was pissed he got me back for another 4 days, I know I should have told them to stick it, but had hoped the Manager could smooth out the issue.
*Evening overtime to swap dumb terminals at 6pm, except nobody shipped the monitors for the PC's, we then had a 3 hour wait while they decided to proceed or not, once that was decided I spent the next 7 hours pulling every VGA monitor I knew was a spare across the 3 interconnected towers leaving at 4am for the pub's B&B across the roundabout.
I once worked with someone who gave their son the same Christian name (and obviously surname) as them (it wasn't a son inherited from another marriage or anything like that). Why you'd want to do that in the first place seems odd to me, but also given the obvious problems and confusions it could only lead to I could never understand why it would seem like a good idea. At least the Americans use 'Senior', 'Junior' or I, II, III etc when they feel compelled to do that.
That said, I know from researching my family tree, this seems to have been quite a common thing to do in the middle ages - even recycling names if an earlier child died, but in those days it seems you only had about half a dozen names to choose from anyway, and I guess there weren't many problems with getting Amazon deliveries mixed up in the same household back then.
Charlemagne named his first son Pepin, as the dynasty had always alternated between Charles and Pepin. But Pepin (Pepin the Hunchbacked) turned out to be unsuitable. When the opportunity arose, Charlemagne had Pepin the Hunchbacked sent off to be confined in a monastery.
Then he renamed his third son (and desired heir) Carloman to Pepin!
In my current job it took three months to get paid through the normal salary run. Eventually the problem was resolved when some HR bod realised that when they entered my sort code into excel it truncated the first number, which was 0. I don't need to explain anything else on this forum :)
The HR peeps always made sure I got the salary in my bank next day when I raised the problem so props to them.
"some HR bod realised that when they entered my sort code into excel it truncated the first number, which was 0"
Considering someone in HR "discovered" a technical issue with Excel, that's pretty impressive!
I'm still with the same bank that I switched to when I got my first job (Same bank as then employer, so money went in a day early!) and the sort code not only starts with a zero but is a for a branch that is long gone now (Must be 20 years since that was demolished for a new road!) :-) I've never had any issues through any systems where my bank details are required though.
One wonders how they deal with substantial numbers of people from the Indian subcontinent. Just about all male Sikhs have ‘Singh’ in their names somewhere, usually at the end. About all female Sikhs have ‘Kaur’. A truly incredible number of assorted Hindis, Rajputs, and more are named ‘Patel’. (Patel means Farmer. There are a lot of farmers in rural India) Then there are the non-Sikh Singhs. (Singh means Lion. All male Sikhs, plus lots of Rajputs, are lions…) (Yes, Singapore means Lion City) And every Pathan is a ‘Khan’. All of them. (Or so I’m told, anyway) My high school (in Jamaica…) had three Singhs, one not Sikh, three Patels, and two Khans. (No Kaurs, it was an all-boy school. Yay British Empire!). I gotta wonder at how schools in, say, the Punjab, keep track.
And then there’s the Kims in Korea, about a quarter of the population. At one point the president of South Korea was a Kim, and absolutely no relation to the criminal gang running North Korea. Something like 60% of China uses variations on six family names…
The fine institution of higher education that I sometimes do adjunct instruction at uses first initial last name in the email… with numbers to differentiate between individuals who have common names. I know for certain that there have been at least 129 J Garcias because I one had a student whose email was firstname.lastname@example.org. (It’s Deepest South Florida. Lots of Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and a lot more….) You really don’t want to know how many jsmiths and jbrowns there are. And every third Kelly, Ryan, or other Irish name has FX for the first two names. Those who are Catholic will know why. No, just putting in middle names or initials won’t help. Hell, some of the Mexicans are FXs, too. A legacy of the Battalion de San Patricio, no doubt.
Seriously, anyone who uses a name as the primary key in a database deserves what he gets.
who were once pulled over by a police officer. The young men were understandably nervous when the officer approached.
Officer: "What are your names, boys?"
Boy 1: "B-b-b-ben Franklin, sir." 
Officer: "Uh-huh. And you?"
Boy 2: "T-t-tom Jefferson, sir."
Officer: "All right, out of the car!"
Upon checking their drivers' licenses, this was accurate; he really had pulled over Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson...
 For non-US folks, these are the names of two heroes of the American Revolution and considered founding fathers of our country, over 200 years ago.
A while ago (20 years or more) I called up to a house that had by brother-in-law, his dad, and his son (my nephew). They all had the same name "First Last". Knowing this I asked for "First Last" and knowing it was me (sick humor, I guess) they obviously replied "Which one". I believe it was my nephew I was looking for as he was living at my house at the time. When referring to them, we always called them by "First, the grandad"; "First, the dad"; "First the kid". This continues to this day, even though "First, the kid" turned 60 years old today. Sadly, "First, the grandad" passed away about 10+ years ago.
Me? Where I work, there is someone with the same name as me, and when outlook auto-fills in thing, I sometimes get emails. At one time there were 3 of my name, and my email was "email@example.com". Somethings never change.
At a company I worked for many years ago our office had two female colleagues that had the same exact names, first name, middle name and even surname. They even lived only a few hundred metres apart on the same road but hadn't known each other before working for the company. There was quite a few things went wrong or were confusing for a while as they both did the same job too! The only difference was their employee staff number and which team of engineers they were the work controller for! Any mishaps soon got sorted though as they sat only 10 feet apart in the office and were both there and waiting when IT support were needed to sort issues out for them.
More recently on my second to last job I had the same circumstances of name for myself. First, second and surname, however my name-sake was based in the USA and I was based in Cheshire in the U.K
I did receive lots of invites to sales conferences across America. Which my managers wouldn't let me go to - 'Its a mistake your an engineer'
My last job which was through an agency is the only one they ever 'forgot' to pay me. Not due to name confusion just sheer incompetence, twice they did it. The second time and them sending me everyone working through the agency salary and bank details in a plain text email had me walk out the door. Only returning to hand my uniform and ID back to the company the agency had me working for. They weren't best pleased and the senior manager couldn't understand why I wanted to stop working just because of a few errors by the agency they were using. The irony being 3 days earlier I attended a course for the company about the importance of data security and absolute confidentiality within their business. Was I only supposed to protect their data and not worry about my own or other employees?
I had a colleague get an invite to a luxury box for a big Scottish rugby international... unfortunately it turned out it should have gone to his namesake, the MD of our Scottish division
(I used to get emails for a namesake senior manager in our security division. We have similar job descriptions... but I build the kit he sells)
While they're at it the could do some other basic built-in verification such as a checksum on bank account numbers so that mistyped entries are detected instead of assigned to another accout,
Banks must have been one of the first organisation to use computers but they still give no indication of understanding the technology.
So, the bank guarded against future abuse by setting a trigger on payments to some account. And confused that account with a new, unrelated one. And when that trigger went off .. 3 times in 3 months .. they still didn't investigate. And it was only the failure of the payments forcing the payee to investigate that turned it up ?
Bank should be banned from trading. Clearly incompetent.
House I lived in in the 90s, it turned out I had a namesake (at least initial+surname) living further down the same road. I discovered this when a relative asked BT Directory Enquiries for our number, and was given his..
Earlier, late 80s, I'd moved and left my new number on a friend's answering machine. He misheard, dialed the number he thought he heard, and when it answered he asked for <my name> saying he was <his name> and got passed to someone with my name who had a friend with his name... Much confusion ensued..
Until recently I worked for a US company that had offices all over the world. There was another guy in the company with the same name as me and somewhat awkwardly we worked in the same office. There were many jokes about how this was only possible because we had opposing spin and so forth, but there was a problem.
The HR department kept paying me his overtime and expenses. I could tell when this happened because all of a sudden my bank balance was higher than I expected and I then got an email/phone call/walk to my desk moment. I ended up having a regular payment set up on my online banking that allowed me to pay the overpayment back to the company. This went on for at least 10 years and when I handed in my notice I did suggest that I was likely to continue beig paid while he received a P45.
You would wonder how any company could make this mistake more than once let alone making the same mistake with the same employees several times a year for years. What made it more astounding was that the company in question were one of the biggest credit card processing companies in the world. They sold their services to major banks globally based on the claim that they made sure that payments were always accurate and on time, yet they couldn't figure out how to make sure that they correctly paid 2 employees who just happened to have the same name.