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IBM's Teri-is-a-Girl-and-Terry-is-a-Boy Patent 277

Posted by kdawson
from the how-about-lee-and-robin dept.
theodp writes "The USPTO has granted IBM a patent for utilizing naming conventions to assign gender-based avatars for instant messaging. A user named Teri, IBM explains, would be given a girl avatar, while a user named Terry would be provided with a boy avatar. The three IBM 'inventors' were stymied by users named Pat, who as a result will be assigned a 'generic, genderless human figure image as his or her avatar.' Way to honor that significant-technical-content patent pledge, Big Blue!"
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IBM's Teri-is-a-Girl-and-Terry-is-a-Boy Patent

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  • I know a Terry... (Score:3, Informative)

    by ceoyoyo (59147) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @06:38PM (#25633941)

    who is going to be very irritated when it's assumed she's a boy.

  • Strange (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @06:39PM (#25633953)

    The filing date is February 28, 2008.

    The only way a patent gets through that quick is 'Accelerated Examination' (decision in 1 year or less).

  • by msauve (701917) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @06:39PM (#25633965)
    the name Bambi?

    It's commonly thought of, and used, as a girl's name, but in one of its most famous uses (the movie) it's a male name.
  • by amRadioHed (463061) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @06:40PM (#25633975)

    Xie would be the last name. Unless you mean is Xie Hua male or female. Either way, Hua sounds feminine to me.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @06:48PM (#25634079)

    Francis is a boy. Frances is a girl. HTH HAND.

  • Not even that. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kadin2048 (468275) <slashdot@kadin.xoxy@net> on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @06:55PM (#25634169) Homepage Journal

    When ever you try to assign gender on anything except the Chromosomes it will fail.

    Actually it fails pretty spectacularly when you try to determine it based on chromosomes, too. There are XY women with androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS), and both XXY and XYY men. In many cases, especially those of AIS, they may go their whole lives without knowing that their chromosomes convey something different than their sex organs.

    And using sex organs starts to fail as well when you get into intersexed and transgendered people; someone's sex organs may not match the gender they 'pass' as in social contexts, or that they prefer to be treated as.

    It is anything but a black and white issue.

  • RTFP (Score:4, Informative)

    by The Amazing Fish Boy (863897) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @07:19PM (#25634411) Homepage Journal
    The whole point of the patent is that it's for cross-cultural communication, not just for English names only. It's not a totally unreasonable idea. It sounds like it looks the user's gender up based on where they are from and what their name is. Odd spellings would likely be classified as unisex, unless there were a general rule for naming conventions (e.g. In North America, names ending in 'i' are likely to be female.) Furthermore, you could build up your 'odd spelling' database by recording the gender people select for themselves.

    The example ozamosi posted below [slashdot.org] would be covered fairly well by this patent: Robins in North America would be classified as female, but Robins from Sweden would be classified as male.

    My criticism of the invention's effectiveness is that it's not completely fool-proof, and would inevitably assign the wrong gender for people with the spelling typically adopted by the opposite gender. It might be a worse "faux pas" to address a male as female (or vice versa), than to leave assumptions of their gender out of the picture. Of course this might vary from culture to culture, and I really don't know about that. It might be more effective to just force the user to input their gender, but this would have to be done on every client, which could be problematic.

    Of course, I'm not sure whether we should be assisting the enforcement of "societal conventions" based on differences in gender, but that's a different topic from the invention's effectiveness.

    By the way, here's the relevant part:

    an expansive list of names compiled from those used in many different cultures catalogued according to gender (that is, male, female, or unisex), a list of rules for associating a username not included in the list of names with a particular culture, and a list of rules derived from naming conventions that are employed in many different cultures catalogued culturally, linguistically, nationally, regionally, and/or according to other relevant anthroponomastic criteria.

  • by catch23 (97972) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @07:19PM (#25634415)

    Why would Xie be the last name? I know someone by this name, and Hua happens to be the family name (I'm Chinese btw). I also know someone by the name of Xie Chen. (obviously Chen is the last name here). In the first case, Xie Hua is a guy, in the second case, Xie Chen is a girl.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @07:58PM (#25634825)
    If you're Chinese you should know better-- we put the family name before the name.
  • Re:I dare you.... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Shin-LaC (1333529) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @07:59PM (#25634835)

    I wonder what the origin of that difference is?

    American girls keep stealing boys' names. No, seriously. Check out chapter 6 of Freakonomics [wikipedia.org].

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