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Communications IT

Ask Slashdot: Name Conflicts In Automatically Generated Email Addresses? 383

Posted by timothy
from the hash-of-full-name-plus-birthday dept.
New submitter matteocorti writes "I work at medium-sized university and we are considering reducing the number of domains used for email addresses (now around 350): the goal is to have all the 30K personal addresses in a single domain. This will increase the clashes for the local part of the address for people with the same first and last name (1.6%). We are considering several options: one of them is to use 'username@domain.tld' and the other is to use 'first.last@domain.tld.' The first case will avoid any conflict in the addresses (usernames are unique) but the second is fancier. Which approach does your organization use? How are name conflicts (homonyms) solved? Manually or automatically (e.g., by adding a number)?"
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Ask Slashdot: Name Conflicts In Automatically Generated Email Addresses?

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    • by Ark42 (522144)

      Most of these are valid, but seriously, if you fall outside of:
      11. People’s names are all mapped in Unicode code points.
      or
      40. People have names.

      Then, well, wtf....

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        11. Archaic Chinese characters can exist in names but not yet be available in Unicode.

        40. The artist formally known as prince now known as some thing that is not a character.

        • by Ark42 (522144)

          Choosing to name yourself something that doesn't use modern characters (in both cases) is your own fault.

          1 line of UTF-8 characters for "name" should cover everybody who matters. Trying to divide things up into first/last or force any other convention upon names is asking for trouble. (Although it's hilarious how many people's 3rd party form auto-fill software will enter just their first name into the "name" box when purchasing on my website for example...)

          • Trying to divide things up into first/last or force any other convention upon names is asking for trouble.

            So when a payment gateway's API asks an application to do just that to the name of the cardholder, how should the application conform to the API?

        • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Thursday January 31, 2013 @11:38AM (#42751759)

          On the first point: Someone may be named using archaic Chinese characters in their native language, but if they're studying in, say, Germany, or in the United States, they're required to choose a Latin form of their name, which is what will be used for legal purposes. If they're studying in Russia, they must render it in the Cyrillic alphabet, and in Greece, in the Greek alphabet. If you're in one of those legal contexts, you can assume all employees and students have a name conforming to the local legal requirements. I have students from many countries in my classes, but they all use names written in Latin characters when signing up for courses or turning in homework.

          On the second: The artist legally named Prince Rogers Nelson never changed his name. He's just used a variety of stage names.

        • OK, then I guess they can never use a computer.
          Come up with an acceptable alternative name that at least is printable using unicode.

      • by vux984 (928602)

        40. People have names.

        Newborn infants are often not named immediately. Whether they need an email address, user name, and permission to access a corporate domain prior to receiving a name is an entirely separate question.

        But the point stands that there -are- people who are not named.

    • by Scoth (879800) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @11:20AM (#42751481)

      I wish the designer of my company's setup had read that. I called an analyst from India who moved here Fnu for about a year before someone finally gold me that was an acronym for "First name unknown" and her real name was her "Last" name.

    • by UnknownSoldier (67820) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @11:22AM (#42751519)

      I was going to post the same but I see you were first. ;-)

      People need to stop assuming everyone has a legal First and Last name.

      Using an auto incremented name is a bad idea.
            john.doe.5
      I now know that there are at least 4 other John Does out there!

      This is one of the reasons Blizzard's Battle.net tag assigns a random 4-digit number instead.
            John.Doe.4231
      Good luck guessing how many other John Doe's there are and what there numbers are!

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        People need to stop assuming everyone has a legal First and Last name.

        Everyone has a name, which people pronounce out loud. English uses characters and combinations of characters to represent sounds. Thus, everyone has a Name which can be translated into English. In our society, people are assumed to have a first and last name, if you only have one name then the other can be assumed to be blank, empty, NULL, etc. but it is easily compensated for in any society which can grasp the concept of "zero" or "nothing". It's a trivial task to program for, if you can't handle an empty

        • by Dragonslicer (991472) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @03:13PM (#42754415)

          Everyone has a name, which people pronounce out loud. English uses characters and combinations of characters to represent sounds. Thus, everyone has a Name which can be translated into English.

          If this last statement has an accuracy requirement, then it is demonstrably false. Many (most? all?) languages do not have characters representing every sound that a human can make. For example, there is no letter or combination of letters in English that represent the sound of the guttural (I don't know the accurate linguistic term) letters Het and Haf. Conversely, Hebrew has no letter for the sound of the English combinations ch and th, though there is a letter for sh. You can get close enough for most purposes, such as using h or ch for those Hebrew letters, but if you pronounce them as if they were English, you'll be pronouncing the name incorrectly.

    • Some of those points are just stupid.

      "People have exactly N names, for any value of N.
      People’s names fit within a certain defined amount of space."

      So how many people have a uncertain number of names at any given time? Is your name involved in some quantum uncertainty fluctuation?
      And I do not believe that some people have infinite names. That is obviously untrue.

      • by tepples (727027)

        People have exactly N names, for any value of N.

        So how many people have a uncertain number of names at any given time?

        I think the assumption here is that N is a compile-time constant.

      • And I do not believe that some people have infinite names. That is obviously untrue.

        I believe it is the old Welsh tradition (or maybe a similar variant) to have a single given name, followed by a listing of your patrilineal genealogy as a series of surnames. So, in this tradition, it is technically possible to have a name of unlimited length. However, the longest proven genealogy in modern times is 85 generations, which does put a maximum realistic size on this type of naming system.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        My daughter was born in another country (Australia), her last name is my name and her mother's name with a hyphen in between.

        The consulate of my country (Belgium) did not accept double names, so they only put my name on her passport.

        When my daughter and her mother returned to my country a couple of months before I did, the local community (Schaerbeek) had a conflict with the ministry of foreign affairs and they were doing a boycot action: they unlawfully did not recognize any foreign birth certificates, so

    • by Applekid (993327)

      I'll fess up and admit I've never actually put too much thought into human names.

      Unlike Joel Spolsky, though, Patrick McKenzie doesn't actually try to point folks in any direction to the truth. What is the robust way to handle names? that simultaneously not in violation of all those misconceptions?

      • by nabsltd (1313397)

        Unlike Joel Spolsky, though, Patrick McKenzie doesn't actually try to point folks in any direction to the truth. What is the robust way to handle names? that simultaneously not in violation of all those misconceptions?

        Most of those misconceptions don't matter, though.

        Somewhere, you have a legal identifier (on a passport, driver's license, etc.) that can be called your "name". That identifier can be input with a single Unicode text box that has a reasonably insane length limit (say 512 characters). Even if someone has a name that won't fit in 512 characters, it's highly unlikely that you will have a collision because of truncation. Even if you do, it doesn't matter, because you shouldn't use the name as a unique record

  • Why the hell does everyone assume western names?

    Just do fullname@domain.tld. I really is that easy. In case of conflict you can simply add middle name or initial. It also fits names that are outside the typical western naming convention.

    • by Trepidity (597)

      In a university setting, some kind of western name assumption is typically already made: students and employees are in a database with family names and given names listed, and all sorts of communication is already generated from that (e.g. paychecks).

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Not everyone has a family name nor a single given name.

        Paychecks have no need for a name of that format. I can make a check out to a coworker whose name does not follow that convention.

        • by Trepidity (597)

          If the person is a United States resident, at least, they have something filled in in the "surname" and "given name" sections of their birth certificate (if born in the US) naturalization certificate, green card, or visa document. That might not be true in all western countries, but I know it's true in Denmark as well: to work or study legally in the country you need to register with the Citizen Register and list something in those boxes. Then the university will just use whatever your state registration sa

    • I would much prefer fullname@xyz.tld over full.name@xyz.tld. It just looks cleaner and is less confusing when spelling it out to people. You expect emails to format to string@string.string. Throwing in any additional symbols, especially one that's already used elsewhere, throws people off even if there's no technical reason not to.

      For simplicity, I'd say go with username@domain.com. That way there is standardization across email and other systems... which also confuses people less. Our email system (Novell

    • Let me throw out an issue – may you have thought about it and can give me some clue.

      Western nomenclature is given_name family_name. Eastern is flipped. Having a standard convention helps decode who you are talking to. If Kim is the given name then the probably female. If Kim is the last name then, well, 50/50 chance.

      But at least when I pick up the phone I can chose to be formal (using the family name) or informal (using the given name.)

      Your proposal breaks that convention so we lose information. Any i

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        You are not losing data since you have no idea that the data in the email is formatted family name last. I see this getting flipped all the time because the HR person is ignorant of the naming conventions.

    • by wisnoskij (1206448) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @11:26AM (#42751587) Homepage

      It is a Western university.

      First off, no one wants a 200 character email address and we are limited to Western characters.

      Anyone going to a Western university has a Western style name to use in cases such as this.

      • Really, are you sure ...

        What if they object and get to use their "real" name as printed on a visa

        Commonly these can include people with only one name, people who always put their family name first ,...

    • by HappyHead (11389)
      In a course I once taught, I had two students of middle eastern descent, who were not related to each other, yet the first 47 letters of their names were the same. After the 48th and 49th letters, which were different, they again matched for another 10 letters, at which point one name ended, and the other continued. Many email programs will stop looking at the "full name" being assigned after a certain number of letters has been reached, and frankly, expecting someone to type that much just to send someon
      • by samkass (174571)

        Things don't have to be either-or. The email system can route both userid@domain.tld and First.Last@domain.tld (with First.M.Last for conflicts, and shortened forms for very long names if desired, or omitted at the user's discretion) to the proper users. There's no reason to restrict each user to one and only one address. I think most Western non-geeks would prefer First.Last where possible, and forcing people to remember some jumble of userid letters seems like a system designed for the ease of the impl

  • by TheNinjaroach (878876) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @11:12AM (#42751377)
    We've had two username collisions at our company, we avoided them by adding a middle initial.
    • by mjr167 (2477430)

      This is a bad idea. If people know that the email address is "First.Last@domain.tld" they will just type it in without thinking. They will say I want to email John Doe and type John.Doe@domain.tld into the email address and fire off without bothering to check if there are multiple John Does.

      The company I work for has an employee in HR that shares my first and last name. We have separate middle initials but because I was first I get First.Last and she gets First.M.Last. I often get rather awkward emails

  • first.mi.last@.domain.tld; if no middle initial, use x. if still not unique, add letters to middle initial (ie. Stephen could be first.st.last)
    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      NO, STOP!
      Assuming western naming conventions is brain dead.

      • Re:Middle Initial (Score:5, Insightful)

        by i kan reed (749298) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @11:20AM (#42751473) Homepage Journal

        Or you could, you know, conventionally assume the conventions of where your company is based, and treat special cases as special cases.

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          Maybe in 1955 where you are that is ok, but these days there are too many special cases to call them special cases.

          Also it is brain dead to design a system that way. It means you know there will be problems you could have easily avoided.

        • by Shoten (260439)

          Or you could, you know, conventionally assume the conventions of where your company is based, and treat special cases as special cases.

          The key problem with this idea is the word "Automatically" in the title. Special cases are called "errors" in this scenario. And whether you plan to have a solution for them or just need code handling to catch and throw a meaningful, helpful exception when you encounter them, you need to try and predict what they will be. Humans are great at defining unforseen exceptions. Software isn't.

    • And you have still not solved the problem. You still have some minority of users who have the exact same address.

  • Perhaps when sending an email the user does not want to reveal his or her real name. By putting names in email addresses you make this impossible.
    • Re:USERNAMES (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mk1004 (2488060) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @11:21AM (#42751495)

      Then let them use a private, on-line account.

      In a professional environment, you always use your real name. Yes, I know this is a university, but someday the students are going to need to learn how the business world works.

    • by Trepidity (597)

      University usernames aren't typically anonymous anyway. They're often pretty trivially generated from real names, e.g. bgates, and in any case you can usually go to university.edu/~username/ to look the person up.

  • The name "john.doe@domain.tld" is not available.

    Suggested alternatives:

    "john.doe123@domain.tld"
    "john.doe314159@domain.tld"
    "john.doeABC@domain.tld"

    • Not a bad idea, and the one used by Google, et al.

      The problem is, within a large organisation that will presumably be using directory and calendar services, you can end up making name lookup harder than it should be and/or confusing.
      In nearly every big company that I've worked with, 'jon.doe@xx.yyy' always ended up getting mail, and invited to meetings, that were intended for 'jon.doe1@xx.yyy'. (Outlook, Lotus Notes et al are all great at 'helping' you complete the 'to:' fields in this way)

      In one notable e

      • by mk1004 (2488060)

        Hah! Career limiting move on his part, I'm sure.

        My post was intended to be more of a joke about how Google, Yahoo, etcetera 'randomize' a common name. At some places I've worked, the first person there gets first.last, and if someone else comes along with the same name, they add MI. That's probably a better method than appending random characters, and can help a bit with the 'helpful' auto complete.

      • by gnasher719 (869701) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @12:24PM (#42752343)
        Here's a solution to this problem: If there is more than one John Doe, you change them _all_ to john.doe followed by a random but unique three digit number. john.doe itself is redirected and automatically gives a reply containing the list of correct john.doe email addresses plus some information that makes them identifiable.

        So if I wanted to email John Doe in accounting, I'll get an email back telling me the CEO is john.doe386, there is john.doe196 in accounting, and the janitor john.doe412.
  • a few ideas (Score:5, Funny)

    by stewsters (1406737) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @11:22AM (#42751503)
    I have 3 solutions.
    First is to misspell names. Science has proven that you can unjumble all but the first character.
    john.doe@company.com
    jhon.doe@company.com
    jnho.doe@company.com

    Second one is to increment the punctuation. This may be a bit confusing, but at least everyone has their correct name.

    john.doe@company.com
    john,doe@company.com
    john_doe@company.com
    john-doe@company.com
    etc.

    Third idea is to have them share. Why do they all need their own? Things will be addressed to the correct name. If don't want to share emails, just change your name.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Intentional misspelling like that is the dumbest thing I've ever seen suggested.

    • Re:a few ideas (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ssam (2723487) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @11:37AM (#42751741)

      also remember that its lots of fun to receive email (and post) intended for someone else in your company with the same (or similar) name. especially if you are a student, and they are a professor.

      (i guess its why we have @student.uni.ac.uk. @postgrad.uni.ac.uk and @uni.ac.uk for staff)

    • Another solution is to add the abbreviated department john.doe.ft@company.com or and reduce even more the collision risk, add the birthdate (only month day), john.doe.0229@company.com. And nobody will forget your birthday anymore!
    • I would avoid punctuation as people will get it wrong and not realize the intended person did not get it. Worse, I have an account with a provider that ignores punctuation even though you can put it in your email address so first.last and first last both go to me. I had an idiot admin insist he had the correct email even though I told him I was getting emils with private information from him. He refused to verify the addy and suggested I change mine. I declined and said since I notified him of the privacy
  • KISS (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gmuslera (3436) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @11:22AM (#42751515) Homepage Journal
    If usernames won't give conflicts, then use them. And for the people that wants fancier emails, you can put aliases as firstname.lastname while there are no duplicates
    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      If usernames won't give conflicts, then use them. And for the people that wants fancier emails, you can put aliases as firstname.lastname while there are no duplicates

      One company I know did this. The username was derived from your real name, but because they know of conflicts, they let you pick what you want. You could pick a first initial-last name if it was available, else first-name-last-name, first-name.last-name, or a few other combinations. You could choose any one of them (they ran a collision check

  • "Why not both?" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jaryn (880486) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @11:25AM (#42751557)
    My university takes the unique usernames approach ( abc123@mail.domain.tld ), but also creates aliases for everyone ( generally in the form first.last@domain.tld , but the user actually can choose whatever they want, if there's a collision). Seems to work well enough.
    • This is essentially what I went with for my business.

      username@domain.tld is the actual email address, with an automatic alias of firstname.lastname@domain.tld, and (if the user requests it) an additional alias of nickname@domain.tld I have only refused one request for an alias -I decided it was stretching the bounds of "business appropriate" a bit too far.

      It makes email addresses easy to remember. It works for us. YMMV

  • My old company used first initial, middle initial, and the first 5 letters of your last name. Collisions were handled with numbers, so there were some usernames that were tdharry19@company.tld. It's the same idea as passwords, maximize your entropy to avoid collisions.

    A lot of places these days have added something, usernames and e-mail addresses not being identical. Makes it a tiny bit harder to get usernames for your network. So your username is tdharry19, but your e-mail address is Tom.Dick.Harry@com

  • I presume the old format looked like:

    emailname@subdomain.domain.com

    Make the new ones:

    emailname.subdomain@domain.com

    This should prevent any name clashes and still move all the emails to one domain and even preserve the similar format the users already have. New users may not even need their own .subdomain after the email name, but you'll be adding them as you go forward and can check for clashes when they are added and maybe just add a .subdomain to them, or numbers to the end.

    • by Shoten (260439)

      I presume the old format looked like:

      emailname@subdomain.domain.com

      Make the new ones:

      emailname.subdomain@domain.com

      This should prevent any name clashes and still move all the emails to one domain and even preserve the similar format the users already have. New users may not even need their own .subdomain after the email name, but you'll be adding them as you go forward and can check for clashes when they are added and maybe just add a .subdomain to them, or numbers to the end.

      What happens when their subdomain changes because they change jobs or departments? This effectively re-instates one of the reasons to get away from 350 different domain/subdomain combinations in the first place, as the OP is doing.

  • it would be great for SALES to have FirstdotLast but you might not want your IT or Security folks to have an easy to guess name.

    If you insist in doing FirstdotLast then use FirstdotMidotlast format (and hope you don't get somebody with a long first and or last name)

  • Based on my experience, I expect 99% of your students and a non-trivial percentage of your faculty will just forward their university email account to their personal Gmail account. They won't much care what their university address is (okay, faculty WILL still care and express their opinions, even though they won't be using it).

    The staff will be the only group that actually uses your email offerings with any sort of consistency.

  • Get the people with conflicting names to change their name. Problem solved.

  • Student Joe P. Bloggs enrolls in 2013 and receives Student Services ID 13123456, IT therefore gives him:
    username jpb.23456@college.edu

    You're not giving away the store by embedding the full ID number but 3 initials (could use X for those who don't have one) and 5 digits would probably have few collisions

  • As others have pointed out any assumption you make about names is probably wrong for somebody. Some simple examples, i am on the system as 'samuel' but i am known as 'sam'. I have colleagues who are know by their middle name or by their anglicised name.

    It sounds like you already have globally unique usernames, so that would be a good starting point. You could then offer people an alias, suggesting fullname, first.last or first.initial.last, but allowing reasonable alternatives.

    Also remember that people will

  • Since people often need to look you up later, permanent alumni address forwarding would be a nice touch.

    For example, give people addresses like bill.smith@2005.example.edu.

    The pseudo-machine (2005) would exist to keep unique addresses to each of those names.

    If people have truly identical names, add '666' to the second one.

  • You work at a university and you are sorting out the email system? Well, wave bye bye to your job soon, because one day the suits will say "Hey, lets move to Microsoft's Live.EDU" and then the problem is somebody else's. [Or Google mail for organisations, of course]. Either way, the suits will wonder why university IT are doing mundane things like setting up email addresses when that can be outsourced. Cheaper.

  • Keep in mind that as a university you are going to have a much larger turnover than a standard organisation, so their strategies may not be suitable for you. I would suggest that using any combination of First Name and Last Name will give you a pretty large amount of collisions, either with current users, or with past users. Collisions with past users may not seem like a huge problem until you get a ton of new users asking you why their accounts filled up with donkey porn spam on the first day. Of cours
  • by SecurityGuy (217807) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @11:39AM (#42751765)

    This is the first question you should ask. Once upon a time I worked for a department that managed its own email, and hence had it's own domain. Someone had the bright idea of consolidating to just use the central email solution in the interest of saving time/money, in spite of the fact that managing mail took very little time and very little money. Transitioning everyone took a lot more time than managing the original process, shoehorned people into arbitrarily small mail quotas (hint: do not tell people who cost $100+/hour that they need to manage their email to fit in an amount of disk that you can buy for a dollar), made them less efficient and less happy as they had to switch from mail clients they knew well and were happy with to unfamiliar ones they didn't like.

    In the end, we spent more time and money making everyone less happy and less efficient than if we'd just left it alone.

    As far as simply avoiding clashes, consider that this is one of the benefits of there being a hierarchy in DNS. You can have bob.smith@finance.domain.com, bob.smith@engineering.domain.com, bob.smith@sales.domain.com, etc. Is there an actual requirement for everyone to be @domain.com, or is someone just empire building?

  • by hawguy (1600213)

    We use easy to remember, RFC compliant UUIDs.

    Easy to generate and we haven't had any username collisions yet.

    Email me for more details, I"m at mailto://ddd74e74-58e7-4077-ab87-0037feef6013@f3be36f9-be76-4042-9ec2-e7df5bb01479.com [mailto]

  • ... and don't even use names. Issue them a number or nonsense sequence of characters like most big companies do. Your collision % is probably based on current students, right? Remember the current student body changes by 25% every year. Name collision will grow over time until common names ten years from now need to have a nonsense sequence anyway..

  • No identical twins. Then use:
    genomesequence@domain.tld

    You could alternatively institute a no repeat (first.last) names admissions policy, unless of course if you're an Ivy League school.
  • that are free. Letting them pick their own username is a good example.
  • by ledow (319597)

    I work in schools. I often have to generate the systems to make usernames, passwords or email addresses and the like. Sometimes several dozens of times over in a variety of formats and allowable restraints (I do HATE software / services that can't just let me enter whatever the hell I like, how long I like, and with spaces if I like, and handle it like any other string - passwords, I accept, but anywhere else is just another way to waste my time going back and forth).

    Every single clever system you think w

    • Though a random number or other GUID-type identifier still needs to be attached to all names to account for two people with the same exact name and multiple instances of people with no name.

      So take this name: (At least I hope it's a name)
      add random number: 94921
      xn--eqr37k.94921@domain.tld

      And null names handled:
      xn--.23213@domain.tld

      This leverages currently existing software investment in Punycode and can easily be converted using online tools like I just did here.

  • Eliminating an identifiable first name prevents random creeps stalking the female employees. (Yes, it can be a problem, both internally and externally.)

    Our company eliminated first names and went with first initial, middle initial, last name with no separator: John C. Doe becomes jcdoe@domain.com.
    For duplicates, the longest-term employee is assigned jcdoe, the next is jcdoe1... etc. Over 10,000 employees and only 7 conflicts that I know of and 3 of them are rcsmith. One is R.C. senior, one is R.C. junior a

  • You're giving away one-half of the user's login credentials. Second problem is first.lastname@blah.edu could still be subject to collision and eventually is giving away information about the user making phishing campaigns much more effective.

    The best solution I've ever seen is a place I worked for which had around 1500 employees. They used the first name of the person and first letter of last name "Jims" or "bobb" and suffixed with a 3 digit number "jims112" "bobb113" (they never used the 0 as it would get

  • What they have done at my company makes sense:

    Use firstname.lastname999@domain.tld where 999 is a 3 digits random number (retry in case of colision, also improper funny numbers are left over).
    This apply even for non-coliding names, the first one to be registered will have the digits also.

    Reading the posts above, I find that it is the best way to go.

  • We use username@, but the username is generally FirstInitialLastName, unless it's already taken, in which case it's "what do you think you'll be able to remember?"

    But we don't have 30k users.

  • At the university I previously studied at, they went through pretty much the same process when they decided that individual departments would no longer be permitted to have their own email domains. They set up a system to allow people transferring to the University-wide domain to specify their own name, with the limitation that it had to include at least one character from your first and last names (along with various other requirements). So if your name was John Smith, you could choose whether you wanted J

    • by demonbug (309515)

      Oops, didn't realize university.edu was actually in use - trust a business school to buy up such a generic domain name. My earlier comment doesn't (as far as I know) actually apply to the actual university.edu.

  • by BenEnglishAtHome (449670) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @02:19PM (#42753753)

    Where I last worked, there were over 110K employees and we had plenty of people sharing the same name. Here's how it went.

    Default: first.last@xxx.gov

    Same names: first.middleinitial.last@xxx.gov

    Still the same: Senior employee got first.middleinitial.last@xxx.gov. Junior employee got first.x.last@xxx.gov.

    Still the same? Increment the middle initial. The first person with the same name as someone else got an "x", the second person got a "y", the third got a "z", and I don't think we ever needed to exceed that. If necessary, we would have just continued through the alphabet, starting back at "a".

    The biggest single problem we had with names and email addresses was employees who were legally empowered to use a different identity when dealing with the public. Anything that the public might see (their name or signature on a document, their email address, etc.) was a pseudonym, yet we had to use their legal names for internal purposes. Undercovers are a pain but I assume the OP won't be dealing with that. :-)

1 Mole = 007 Secret Agents

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