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

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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  • by phatvw ( 996438 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @06:45PM (#25634033)
    Why such a narrow patent? Why not patent an algorithm recognizing the patterns in English names in general to be applied in any User-interface rather just in an IM client?
    Also what is this bit about a "database storing anthroponomastic information to perform the anthroponomastic analysis of the username of the first user to determine the probable gender" Is that a table of known names vs gender stats based on public records? Or is it name fragments and endings matched to probability of gender? For example if a name ends in "A" its probably female, but if it ends in "T" its probably male. If they are using an algorithm which decomposes the name, that's kinda cool, but if they are just looking it up in a table of public records, thats pretty lame IMO.
  • Leslie, Tracy, Sam? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @06:53PM (#25634145) Journal
    I wonder where that leaves, Leslie Nielson, Tracy Lawrence, Charlie Dore, Alex McKenna, and the like.
  • by Cajun Hell ( 725246 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @07:07PM (#25634293) Homepage Journal

    It's amazing that they analyze [] the name so hard. I would just throw a database at the problem. It's inconceivable that IBM doesn't have a shitload of demographic databases around, which already have name-sex pairs. Just select sex, count(*) where name='terry' group by sex. If the ratio is overwhelming in one direction, choose that, and if the margin of error is too high (and I'd set that pretty low to avoid pissing off Miss Pat), pick neutral. That would work with any language, too (assuming IBM has a database for that culture).

  • I dare you.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Atriqus ( 826899 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @07:14PM (#25634357) Homepage
    IBM, I dare you find a name where there's no one also by that name of the opposite sex.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @07:15PM (#25634371)

    Better question, what kind of avatar would xx13g0l4zxx get?

  • by seanalltogether ( 1071602 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @07:20PM (#25634427)
    And if its just a table of public records with gender assignments, is the following logic really patentable? "SELECT gender FROM names WHERE name=$name" if(count == 0 || gender == "neutral"){ return neutral.jpg; }else if(gender == "female"){ return female.jpg; }else{ return male.jpg; } I hope my psuedocode isn't breaking the law!
  • by catch23 ( 97972 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @07:22PM (#25634439)

    Also I might note that in some cultures, there is less of a male/female oriented names. My sister and I were named off of a variant of the jade stone, which probably has little to do with me being male, or my sister female.

  • by Naturalis Philosopho ( 1160697 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @07:26PM (#25634483)
    What about odd spellings coupled with gender Jayne Cobb?
  • by Dzimas ( 547818 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @07:31PM (#25634525)
    All names are made up, when you get right down to it. We have traditionally used a fairly small set of Anglicized names in North America, but that's changing. There are lots of kids of all colors with some fairly creative (and occasionally bizarre) names. The most popular male baby names in the USA include Jaxon, Jaden and Xander. Popular girl's names include Alyssa, Ashlyn and Caitlyn. These are hardly traditional. Common "Afro-American" names are merely an evolving sub-set of modern names. Most importantly, many follow fairly predictable patterns... Jada, Tierra and Imani have a and i endings, denoting female. Darnell and Darius have masculine endings, and names starting in De (as in DeShaw) are male while La denotes female (LaToya).
  • by amRadioHed ( 463061 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @10:17PM (#25635975)

    The sound of the name has nothing to do with it. As ChameleonDave points out, it is usually considered a feminine name in Mandarin because it can mean flower.

  • Re:Not even that. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by syousef ( 465911 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @11:32PM (#25636327) Journal

    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.

    I agree it's difficult to assign a gender (if you only allow male, female) to an XY woman with AIS since you have external female appears with internal undescended testicles. However XXY and XYY men are as you just said classified as male, so it's just an AIS XY that is the problem.

    Two ways of dealing with the problem, using only chromosomes:
    1) Assign AIS XY individuals a gender based on reasoning and logic instead of allowing them to choose.
    2) Create a 3rd category, androgen.

    So it doesn't fail. The real world just forces you to come up with more complex rules. It's a hell of a lot more reliable and fair than trying to accomodate every fool that says "I feel like a woman trapped in a man's body". Well sometimes I wish I were a dolphin buddy, but I'm not going to lobby for others to recognise me as one. Life's harsh. In practice I'd take a more compassionate stance and not be so crass about it but having some compassion does not mean I have to deal with other people's dillusions and fanciful wishes that don't change reality.

    I wonder how the law deals with this?

The best defense against logic is ignorance.