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Ask Slashdot: Name Conflicts In Automatically Generated Email Addresses?

timothy posted about a year ago | from the hash-of-full-name-plus-birthday dept.

Communications 383

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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fname.lname.incrementer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42751335)

when i attended, Wright State used something like firstname.lastname@domain.tld, and for duplicates would use firstname.lastname.increment@domain.tldr

not necessarily the best... but at least it was low collission rate

Re:fname.lname.incrementer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42751439)

We use "Firstname.Lastname@domain.tld" and add middle initial for conflicts. (So the first guy to join would be "John.Smith" and the second one would be "John.X.Smith".) I'm sure there's a protocol for three people joining where the second and third share a middle initial, but I haven't seen it come up and we're not a small place.

Re:fname.lname.incrementer (1)

Sique (173459) | about a year ago | (#42751611)

There is a problem with the middle initial, if you have a branch in a country where middle initials are not very common, or in this case, if the university has many students from countries where most people don't have a middle initial. For instance, in my family, most people don't have a second given name and thus no middle initial at all, and my father's name has two front initials before his given name.
But I've seen a kind of "artificial" middle initial, where the first John Smith gets the email address john.smith@organisation.tld, the second becomes john.a.smith@organisation.tld, the third one john.b.smith@organisation.tld etc.pp.

Re:fname.lname.incrementer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42751723)

The simplest solution is to use their student ID or student information system identifier (numeric usually and not their actual student ID).
Example: student_id@domain.tld, with the display name assigned to be the student's name.

Go with usernames. (5, Interesting)

pushing-robot (1037830) | about a year ago | (#42751353)

Re:Go with usernames. (2)

Ark42 (522144) | about a year ago | (#42751453)

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....

Re:Go with usernames. (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#42751489)

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.

Re:Go with usernames. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42751595)

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

Such as, "TheArtistFormerlyKnownAsPrince"

You're making this harder than it has to be.

Re:Go with usernames. (1)

Ark42 (522144) | about a year ago | (#42751615)

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...)

Re:Go with usernames. (3, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:Go with usernames. (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year ago | (#42751809)

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

Re:Go with usernames. (5, Funny)

Scoth (879800) | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:Go with usernames. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42751751)

heh. There's a guy at my company. I see him in the hall, in meetings, etc. but don't work with him directly and I can't be bothered to remember his name. Anyhow, we cross paths at the bars when he's drinking with his friends. That's how I know his name is Pene. Only, that's not his name, it's spanish for "penis". It took an awkward incident at work for me to realize that.

Re:Go with usernames. (3, Informative)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | about a year ago | (#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:Go with usernames. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42751739)

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 value then you have no business being involved in this type of process to begin with.

Where I work, we do the Surname up to 12 characters, followed by a random 4 digit number which has not already been allocated with that Surname. If you were to only have one name, we'd use that one, but even after dealing with many, many foreign workers who only have one name we've never encountered this. Why? Because they are smart enough to understand that When in Rome, Do as the Romans, and have a compatible "Western" name which they go by on a day to day basis. If you're looking to go on some kind of Cultural Acceptance Crusade, do it on your own time- either you understand how to adapt yourself to the communication methods of your clients, or you suffer a disadvantage. That's life, deal with it.

Re:Go with usernames. (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year ago | (#42751789)

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.

DO NOT ASSUME WESTERN NAMES! (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#42751361)

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.

Re:DO NOT ASSUME WESTERN NAMES! (1)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#42751509)

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).

Re:DO NOT ASSUME WESTERN NAMES! (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#42751543)

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.

Re:DO NOT ASSUME WESTERN NAMES! (2)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#42751637)

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 says.

Re:DO NOT ASSUME WESTERN NAMES! (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year ago | (#42751511)

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 GroupWise) is completely separate from Active Directory, but we force users to use the same username/password for both because it generates fewer helpdesk calls for people forgetting their password.

Re:DO NOT ASSUME WESTERN NAMES! (3, Funny)

larry bagina (561269) | about a year ago | (#42751795)

I prefer full.name@.

Sincerely,
Pen Islicker

Re:DO NOT ASSUME WESTERN NAMES! (1)

Chris Hodges (670481) | about a year ago | (#42751873)

username@domain.tld works well - you already have a unique ID, so why not use it? However there's no reason why you can't then use aliases of the form: firstname.lastname@... firstname.i.lastname@... firstname.lastname.department@... (I've seen this used to deal with 2 people who had the same middle initial) firstname.lastname.increment@... fullname@... etc. It wouldn't be hard to pick a default pattern (maybe grabbed from a registration database, which someone else has had to sort out for tax etc.) use that on a first-come-first-served (plus seniority if required) basis, and set up a fallback for the duplicates. Of course, if you're being nice, you could allow those who matter (for some value of matter) to override the default. We do something similar here.

Re:DO NOT ASSUME WESTERN NAMES! (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | about a year ago | (#42751549)

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 idea on how to get that back?

Re:DO NOT ASSUME WESTERN NAMES! (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#42751597)

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.

Re:DO NOT ASSUME WESTERN NAMES! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42751561)

No, not full name. What the hell does "full name" mean, anyway, with non-western names?

familyname.increment@domain.tld
Ohio State does it. There are .1's and there are .1500s, and it works very well. People who want usernames can still use the username+, which is an alias, and it works fine, so the department machines can work with the university. Not a probelm. 90's era solved problem.

Re:DO NOT ASSUME WESTERN NAMES! (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#42751617)

It means the string the person uses for identification. If there are chars that are not valid, replace them in a known way.

Re:DO NOT ASSUME WESTERN NAMES! (3, Insightful)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year ago | (#42751587)

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.

Re:DO NOT ASSUME WESTERN NAMES! (1)

Zape (303550) | about a year ago | (#42751681)

Why the hell does everyone assume western names?

I think it is VERY valid that software should be written to accommodate localization and the inevitability of non-western names. However, the article is referring to a finite user base (the university students) which will predominately be made up of users uniquely identifiable as first.last name (1.6% collision). I think it would be serious over-engineering for this situation to try to program for every possible conflict (including non-western characters). Auto-add the middle initial, treat any remaining conflicts with a tie-breaker and deal with non-western names on a case by case basis. The real key is to establish in the policy that a user can request a new email alias if the default address does not represent their true name.

Re:DO NOT ASSUME WESTERN NAMES! (1)

HappyHead (11389) | about a year ago | (#42751743)

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 someone an email, when a 7 or 8 character userid has already been assigned to them, is just plain cruel.

Additionally, many email clients and servers are not really set up to handle non-western characters, so again, fullname@domain.tld isn't always a practical option. Further, while anyone can type out the address "fuji.taro@domain.tld", but only a few people will be able to easily enter that name as actual kanji. (Note: Slashdot itself can not do this in comments. I tried.) Really, setting all emails as fullname@domain.tld does assume everyone has western names, or at least assumes they won't mind their non-western name being converted into a western name.

The short version: fullname@domain.tld is not always practical, or even possible, but userid@domain.tld is. If someone wants a vanity plate email address with their full name, they can make separate arrangements. If your university wants to allow it as an alias, go ahead, but do it on a first-come-first-serve basis, and all conflicts will be resolved on their own, since most people won't care enough to get the longer version, and those who do, but find their name already taken, will simply have to figure something out themselves.

Usernames are standard (1)

Brycycle (934056) | about a year ago | (#42751375)

I work for a fairly large university (60K+ students), and using username@domain.tld has worked for us just fine... not that it's stopped almost every college and department from running their own mail servers.

Middle Initial (2)

TheNinjaroach (878876) | about a year ago | (#42751377)

We've had two username collisions at our company, we avoided them by adding a middle initial.

Re:Middle Initial (1)

Aguazul2 (2591049) | about a year ago | (#42751705)

Middle initial is a very US style of naming. What about people who use a modified form of their name form for almost all of their life except for paperwork, e.g. Liz for Elizabeth, or those who use a middle name like their first name. You need to give them the option to use their preferred form of their name. Is it possible to let the users choose out of several alternatives if there is a clash? They are more likely to use their Uni address then, rather than be stuck with a name they don't use, a name that is embarrassing to them or some random number.

Am I a genius? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42751379)

Add a middle initial, or add an incrementing number. What is this, Easy Programming Questions Day?

both? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42751381)

Why not both? Port the existing accounts as username@domain.tld, but set up new accounts in your preferred format of first.last.

Have you considered possible privacy issues with using given names as email?

Cage match (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42751385)

I'd recommend cage matches to the death.

Problem solved.

Middle Initial or Number (1)

Slippery_Hank (2035136) | about a year ago | (#42751387)

My university includes a middle initial to reduce duplicate names. When there is no middle initial, or it does not solve the uniqueness problem it will start enumerating the user names, for example john2doe@domain.tld

Middle Initial (1)

sanosuke001 (640243) | about a year ago | (#42751389)

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)

Re:Middle Initial (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#42751413)

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

Re:Middle Initial (4, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#42751473)

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

Re:Middle Initial (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#42751523)

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.

Re:Middle Initial (1)

firecode (119868) | about a year ago | (#42751897)

In a university where I studied, students and normal personel got username@domain.tld style email addresses as a default. One then needed to specially apply for first.last@domain.tld like addresses. If there were conflicts, first.middle.last@domain.tld email addresses were used. Rest of the cases were handled as special cases.

Re:Middle Initial (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year ago | (#42751545)

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

What do you do for existing conflicts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42751391)

Not sure why you would treat these conflicts any different than what you do already.

Its not like you have 30k users an no conflicts. Hell, I've got a company I do some sidework for that has 6 years and 3 are conflicting.

Why are you looking to change what you already have an introduce a new set of problems to learn.

You have to have a system, logically defined, this takes out the problem with people 'not liking' what they get.

Don't migrate existing users, leave them. Change it for incoming users. Its not like its hard to host subdomains. Assuming you have a clue, this is just a simple matter of pulling the info out of LDAP and putting it into a format your mail servers like, which I would presume you already have.

You seriously don't have more important things to do than try to consolidate email domains? Did you consider why multiple domains were used originally? Whats changed?

--BitZtream

Re: What do you do for existing conflicts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42751655)

What he/she said!!

Set a policy for newcomers and invite existing users to consolidate.

If the new domain is sexy and you offer some kind of perk (additional storage which is now cheap, possibly?) people will eventually move. After a couple of years when 60%+ of people are on the new server, you can start forcing people to move.

On the new server users can pick their username! If they act fast you can get john@domain.tld! (Additional perk!). If its already taken they can choose how to differentiate themselves. It's going to be their fault for not acting fast! :)

USERNAMES (1)

Karganeth (1017580) | about a year ago | (#42751399)

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 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42751469)

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.

Really? With a University e-mail address? If somebody wants to be anonymous, they literally have thousands of other e-mail options. My vote would be for whatever method would make it easiest to "guess" the email address of somebody by knowing their name, whether that be first.last, firstlast, or whatever. The point of a University e-mail address is to communicate university related business, not to be some anonymous activist.

Re:USERNAMES (3, Insightful)

mk1004 (2488060) | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:USERNAMES (1)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#42751539)

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.

Both (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42751409)

Use usernames, allow full names optionally on a first come, first serve basis.

Do not use usernames in email addresses (-1)

bleh-of-the-huns (17740) | about a year ago | (#42751427)

Security 101.

1) Doing so provides an attacker with half the information they need.
2) Which leads me to the second point, don't create usernames based on a users name (ie, firstinitiallastname or whatever), knowing the persons email leads back to point no 1

Create usernames using some sort of hashing algorythm or other mechanism using 1 way hashing and salting, just like passwords.

semi point 3, configure the operating environments not to display last login information...

Re:Do not use usernames in email addresses (1)

admdrew (782761) | about a year ago | (#42751619)

usernames != email addresses

Email addresses are intended to be public, and an organization handing them out to their users typically don't want them to be anonymous. And by its nature, as soon as an address is used to send mail it loses its anonymity.

Re:Do not use usernames in email addresses (1)

bleh-of-the-huns (17740) | about a year ago | (#42751731)

That was the whole point I was making, and the OP asked if they should use usernames. I am responding as such.

Re:Do not use usernames in email addresses (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42751633)

Yes, because I love logging into the library computer with

Username: AF382E258D2-C32B392E-5439
Password Th1s !s N0t My P4ssw0rd Th1s M0nth $pr1l

There comes a point where simply assuming that the users accounts will be compromised at some point or another and doing your best to keep damage to a minimum is better.
1) Black list IPs with suspicious traffic patterns (Multiple failed logins, multiple account attempts in x minutes, etc)
2) Least privalege

Re:Do not use usernames in email addresses (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year ago | (#42751683)

That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. That is the point of a password, to have an unguessable field that assuming minimal security measures are kept is unbreakable.

If the username is not something like your name of a display name than you might as well not even have one. two passwords are no better than one good one.

Re:Do not use usernames in email addresses (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42751733)

Mordac, the preventer of information services has spoken ladies and gentlemen.

Re:Do not use usernames in email addresses (5, Funny)

radiumsoup (741987) | about a year ago | (#42751753)

"Hey there, I'm Gary Wilson. I'd like to get more information about this petition you're circulating, but I'm running late to class... can you email me more info?"
"Sure, Gary. Thanks for your interest. What's your email address? Gary.Wilson@myuniversity.edu?"
"No, it's generated using a salted hashing algorithm, it's actually 8msMWlk09$1)_23@myuniversity.edu"
"uh...... yeah, why don't I just give you my card, you can contact me later."

Let Them Pick A Unique Name (1)

mk1004 (2488060) | about a year ago | (#42751429)

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

Suggested alternatives:

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

Re:Let Them Pick A Unique Name (1)

Bearhouse (1034238) | about a year ago | (#42751801)

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 example, *unnamed* sent a racy mail (including NSFW pictures, the fool) to his buddy, except that it went to a random guy that just happened to be a senior manager, legendary for his evil temper and lack of both sense of humour and perspective. As the saying goes, hilarity ensued.

So, do what you want, but make 'same' names 'very' different, I suggest. Probably worthwhile handling them on a case-by-case basis manually.

Combine the two? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42751441)

Organizational-wise, we go with first.last@company.tld. If two people have the same first and last, the default is to go with first.lastN, where N is the next number (so, bill.jones@ and bill.jones2@.) But, you can change the first name you go by using a nickname or alternate (which is generally encouraged to reduce confusion), so Thomas vs Tom vs Thom vs TD (First initial, middle initial).

At the university I attended, professors and staff got their first initial and last name (bjones), students got their first initial and their 6-digit student id number (j111111). I don't know how name conflicts were handled there, though I suspect first initial, middle initial, and last name would generally do it.

My university took the firstname.lastname@ route (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42751465)

...and then they gave the clashes a random middle name initial. It seems mind-numbingly stupid to me. It's like making everybody live on the same street. Yes it might be nice from a pie-in-the-sky administration perspective, but think of the users. Many mails now get sent to the wrong person, and the suckers who got stuck with the random middle names have to explain what the weird initial in their email address is. Sure, use central administration, but there is no point in putting them all on the same domains. The institution or lab domains are kind of like street addresses in the real world.

first.middleinitial.last@domain.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42751485)

the first person gets first.last@domain.com, the next person gets nickname.last@domain.com so like bob.anderson instead of robert.anderson or they can just add their middle initial so first.mi.last@domain.com or nickname.mi.last@domain.com

a few ideas (5, Funny)

stewsters (1406737) | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:a few ideas (2)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42751701)

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

Re:a few ideas (4, Interesting)

ssam (2723487) | about a year ago | (#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)

Our Simple Scheme Never Results in Name Collisions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42751513)

In our organization, any time there is a collision in our usernames we have the affected users--hereafter referred to as "the combatants"--fight to the death. It's cleaner than adding middle initials or numbers to the combatant's--hereafter referred to as "the victor"--e-mail address.

KISS (3, Insightful)

gmuslera (3436) | about a year ago | (#42751515)

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

Re:KISS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42751583)

^ This. Use usernames and allow people to request aliases if they want a "fancy address"

Neither (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42751529)

I worked at a large Uni too for several years and we had a different approach... Every single user on Campus had an ID, attributed sequentially... wether they would be students or teachers. The ID was used hs the username. That sequence had different starting letters for each type of user (teacher, student, fellowship, employee, etc). Then each user had the ability to create their own alias for usability on a per availability basis. First come, first served... The choice of alias was ruled with a policy that told what were the accepted type of aliases.

"Why not both?" (3, Insightful)

Jaryn (880486) | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:"Why not both?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42751837)

Exactly! We do the same. Actual address is username@domain.tld, but the system accepts mail for

        first.last@domain.tld
        last.first@domain.tld
        first.mi.last@domain.tld

and delivers it accordingly. All the information for 150K+ users is already in LDAP. Folks are then free to use and advertise whichever version of their address they prefer.

Re:"Why not both?" (2)

Local ID10T (790134) | about a year ago | (#42751891)

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

mine (1)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | about a year ago | (#42751559)

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@company.tld .

Put the old domain in the name (2)

Mr. Sketch (111112) | about a year ago | (#42751565)

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.

Are you insane? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42751575)

You are planning to break 30,000 email addresses? If so you are insane and if not you are just making work and adding confusion. Anyway, use their existing email address as an identifier to log into a unified system available from a single domain. Have all other hosts involved forward to that system. And hand out new addresses on the unified host only. As for naming? Let them pick.

Be flexible (1)

troyer (8249) | about a year ago | (#42751593)

Back in the day we did a first-come-first-served for the full.names, when there was a conflict the user had a choice of (reasonable) options like adding middle initial or something better than a number. In a mass conversion you generally don't have the time ordering to give preference, and with 1.6% you've got a few names to resolve. But you can still generate an email to those users and let them qualify their names more fully and then resolve the conflicts in those answers.

Point is, getting the users involved as much as practical up front reduces support pain later...

How much of your biz is customer facing?? (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | about a year ago | (#42751603)

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)

Use the Domain to your advantage.! (1)

SilverB1rd (1573025) | about a year ago | (#42751609)

Partition with sub domains, it simple and effective. If your domain is too large and causing lots of conflicts, split into sub domains. You end up with simple user.name@cs.domain.edu. user.name@arts.domain.edu user.name@engi.domain.edu, or if you have a student body included student@ad.domain.edu through student@tz.domain.edu. As a perk you can route http traffic on the subdomains to the relevant sub groups website landing page.

It doesn't actually matter much (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a year ago | (#42751613)

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.

Obvious solution (1)

Bogtha (906264) | about a year ago | (#42751621)

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

Student ID number? (1)

markdowling (448297) | about a year ago | (#42751635)

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

username plus alias (1)

ssam (2723487) | about a year ago | (#42751649)

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 have given there email in a hundred and one places that they may not be able to (or remember to) update. So make sure that the old addresses still forward to the new ones.

What I wish my university had done (1)

concealment (2447304) | about a year ago | (#42751657)

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.

Username algorithm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42751659)

For example John M. Smith with student ID 10403 becomes jmsmith403@domain.tld.

Is it a security risk? Yes, but good luck trying to remember your email address when it asd[wlvlkasp23342!1-dkej@domain.tld. And there will be push back from your university administration as well as the user base with the more secure approach. So unless you're ready to fight to the death on that topic, let it go and go with an algorithm.

Re:Username algorithm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42751811)

For example John M. Smith with student ID 10403 becomes jmsmith403@domain.tld.

Is it a security risk? Yes, but good luck trying to remember your email address when it asd[wlvlkasp23342!1-dkej@domain.tld.

Why not use the much simpler 10403@domanin,tld with the display name (CN) associated with the student's name such as John Doe or John F. Doe or John Fritz Doe?

Not a problem for much longer (1)

Bazman (4849) | about a year ago | (#42751703)

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.

Username, FCFS aliases (1)

jarom (899827) | about a year ago | (#42751709)

Use the username as the primary email address, and allow the users to grab aliases on a first come, first server basis.

Initials + Number (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42751711)

People like short email addresses. Do intials plus a random number.
mjs54@domain.tld

Re:Initials + Number (1)

N1AK (864906) | about a year ago | (#42751853)

I actually think this is a pretty good solution. If you used a unique incremented number each time someone with the same initials joined then something like that would work fine. 3 digits would allow for 999 employees with the exact same initials and gives everyone a name of 5-6 chars (assuming you limit to three initials).

Remember your turnover (2)

stevenmu (1139869) | about a year ago | (#42751715)

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 course you could do something like including their first year in the account, i.e. joe.bloggs.2013@uni.edu. But it's probably just easier to use the username (as long as that is unique of course)

Several different ways to skin this cat (1)

MrWin2kMan (918702) | about a year ago | (#42751761)

One college I have gone to uses a separate domain for students from faculty and administration, @stu.college.edu versus college.edu. They use firstname.lastname, and then firstname.lastname#. They use Microsoft Exchange. Another college I attend now uses a unique ID created partly out of the firstname and a seemingly random 7-digit number, so John9999876@college.edu. This unique ID is also used to login to the student center to access registration, email, etc. It is different from the actual student ID number. As they use Google Mail, it may be generated by Google. My daughter's university also uses Google Mail, but she was allowed to create her own ID, firstinitialmiddleinitiallastname#.college.edu. In business, I like to use firstname.lastname@business.com or firstinitialmiddleinitiallastname@business.com, with dupes using full first name or full middle name or both; sometimes using nicknames or fullnames, like bob vs. robert. I try to respect the preferences of the user if possible. You could use any combination of these. You could use child domains based on named colleges within the university, such as wpcarey.asu.edu or engineering.stanford.edu. Or you could come up with an automatic random email ID generator or use mainframe login ID's, etc.

Are you actually solving a problem? (2)

SecurityGuy (217807) | about a year ago | (#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?

Get them ready for the corporate world (1)

magarity (164372) | about a year ago | (#42751793)

... 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..

Just say no to usernames. (1)

Hallow (2706) | about a year ago | (#42751803)

Using usernames exposes your users account names to anyone they email. That's not a good practice. Security by obscurity, I know, but it can help.

givenName.surName@ generally works pretty well, and givenName.middleInitial.surName@ in the case of a conflict should help. If there is a conflict at givenName.middleInitial.surName@, you can add an index, eg., givenName.surName.00@ - just make sure you do something like specify what characters are ok (for example, not allowing accented characters or whitespace).

You might also want to have policies and procedures in place to handle special situations - for example someone has a significant privacy issue or has a name that isn't... well... polite :) when you string givenName.surName together.

Admissions policy (1)

srussia (884021) | about a year ago | (#42751807)

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.

There are ways to make employees feel valued (1)

doug141 (863552) | about a year ago | (#42751815)

that are free. Letting them pick their own username is a good example.

Don't FaceBook people (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42751877)

Don't FaceBook people unless they want it. 1. If it becomes known that first.last@domain is the pattern, every spammer will use it. 2. You've cited another problem in the question--what to do about all the Joe Smiths. 3. Advise users against using their real name; but if you use usernames they still have the option of using their real names if that's what they prefer. If it's taken, tell them to add a number until the system takes it.

Schools (1)

ledow (319597) | about a year ago | (#42751881)

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 will avoid conflicts, won't. Every single automated system you think will make "easy to remember / guess" usernames, won't. Invariably, you will end up with having to make manual exceptions, which will also nicely screw up any fancy scripts you make to work on the basis of a naming system.

In schools, especially primaries, there is pressure to make short, simple usernames. First name only? Won't be long before you hit two "John"s. First name plus initial? Now you'll get John Smith and John Sergeant. I guarantee you.

Anything more complex and you have the inevitable result that one of the results will be unfortunate or even obscene. First four of surname, plus first two of first name? I GUARANTEE you that you will end up with a swear-word, or having to tell a user that their username is "different" to everyone else because otherwise it would end up with a swear-word (I have at least two members of staff at the moment who are literally a letter away from being very offensive, and I once had a child from a muslim family whose username came out to something like 'porcine', which I didn't think they'd like at all). And eventually you'll still find yourself making a smitjo2 or whatever.

Okay, so full-name on everything? Now you'll get someone like with a surname like "St Matthew-Daniels" who has the most horrendous email ever to type in correctly (and thus has to take the step of having an enforced rename to "Mr Daniels" or similar on everything from the classroom door to their email in order to make things sensible - imagine being a 7-year-old asked to go find Mr St Matthew-Daniels and not knowing who the hell that is because they all call him Mr Daniels).

No matter what system you choose, you'll get someone else with the same name. It's inevitable. If not now, then when one of the women gets married and takes her husband's name, or when X's older brother with the same surname and similar first name joins, or whatever. Just by random chance you'll get a collision that will mess up any fancy system. I have at least 20 Patel's in the school I work in at the moment, a handful of Smith's, and I used to get an awful lot of similar-spelled Vietnamese or Chinese names too.

So keep it simple. Use firstname.surname@company.tld and have done with it (if your company is tiny, you can get away with firstname@ for a while, but the rule above will apply just the same in the end).

It's easy to generate in Excel from a database for CSV import/export, it's easy to manage, you'll lessen the chance of collision as much as reasonably possible without getting stupid (e.g. middle name), and you'll have to deal with exceptions anyway - so just put out the lists in a simple format like that and then do whatever corrections you need to make later.

This looks like a job for (1)

ultrasawblade (2105922) | about a year ago | (#42751883)

Punycode.

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