Podcast [maybe?] on how databases sometimes fail at "nontypical" names
May 2, 2023 11:54 AM   Subscribe

Sometime in the past few years I read or listened to a piece of media about how assumptions about naming can shut people out of databases entirely. People were described as unable to access government services because design assumptions about names did not permit their actual names. Examples included people who do not have a last name or have names of a single character. Does this ring any bells? I'd like to revisit this article or podcast, but can't find it.
posted by Glomar response to Law & Government (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

Best answer: maybe this Radiolab episode? https://radiolab.org/podcast/null
posted by juliapangolin at 12:02 PM on May 2 [3 favorites]

I think it was this episode of radiolab

Or what julia said!
posted by aint broke at 12:04 PM on May 2

Response by poster: Great answers. Thank you!
posted by Glomar response at 12:23 PM on May 2

I can't fathom why nobody has posted the relevant Xkcd:

I'm not seeing that link, so I'll add it as text:
posted by AugustusCrunch at 1:51 PM on May 2 [2 favorites]

XKCD in question: https://xkcd.com/327/

Lately I've been trying to break things using Null or False as my username in random places that ask for them. If you still have SQL injection issues in this day and age you deserve to have your database blown up.
posted by cgg at 1:54 PM on May 2 [1 favorite]

Other falsehoods programmers believe, about: time, gender, anything.
posted by davidest at 2:57 PM on May 2 [2 favorites]

I think this was also a recurring topic on Futility Closet, though I don’t remember if they ever did a full episode on it. (Partial discussion on ep 207 here)
posted by pepper bird at 3:42 PM on May 2

This isn't what you are looking for, but for those interested it has come up on the podcast about the Irish language, Motherfoclóir, with the point being that Irish governmental systems often can't manage Irish language diacritics (fada).
posted by Iteki at 11:19 PM on May 2

Response by poster: Folks looking at this question and enjoying it may also find this interesting: The Quartz Guide to Bad Data
posted by Glomar response at 9:22 AM on May 4

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