Example user names in docs


#1

Hi,
I’m new to the forum and this is my first post - I’ve been reading up on the posts that most interest me and they’ve been very useful - thanks!

I have a question, is there a standard as far as usernames are concerned? To be more precise, in the software that I document, screenshots often have lists of names and users. To protect the privacy of real users, I usually invent fake names. So far, I’ve been very boring and perhaps a little politically incorrect with names such as John White and Jane Green…I’ve thought about using superhero names but maybe that’s a bit childish/geeky/obvious? I’m at a loss, does anyone have any suggestions?

Thanks :smile:


#2

I have often used names from The Flintstones. Fred Flintstone, Barney Rubble, Mr Slate, etc.

I like them because they are clearly not real names, and yet they don’t come across like joke names (Superman, Bugs Bunny, etc.) either. Plus the characters have the kinds of relationships that exist in real life and work (spouse, boss, child, pet, neighbour, club member, etc.), so if the thing you are describing involves those kinds of relationships, they work for that too. Also, there is a large enough cast to provide enough names for most purposes.

And even if the reader does not recognize the reference, the names still work well enough and are very unlikely to accidentally coincide with the names or real people.

Hope this helps,

Mark


#3

Thanks. That actually sounds good, definitely better than what I’m currently using. The software I document is engineering software used around the world but mainly by the Japanese, Americans and Europeans…if that’s any help for others who may have suggestions.
Thanks again, much appreciated.


#4

I sometimes use the trick that some novelists have of constructing personal names from the names of geographic features (like small towns).

It’s kind of fun too: “Tantaraboo Willowmaven”.


#5

Sold! Thanks. I would never have thought of it. I’ll get started on some names right now. Thanks again


#6

Be careful of using trademarked names – some names are trademarked for quite a long time. Also be careful of using names that may not be recognizable in an international audience. (Bugs Bunny, Superman, and the like… I would consider those to be “joke names.”) There is nothing wrong with using Joe Smith, Jane Smith.

If you are selling into an international audience, it might be useful to have a defined set of names that are common within that region. For example, Bob Smith, Helen Ye, Jose Garcia, and so on. Pick your market and work with your translation team to figure out what the equivalent of “Joe Smith” would be there.

If you have a standard set of names that you use in all examples, it usually works fine. For example, within the internet industry, Bob and Alice are well-known user names. Example.com is a defined sample domain.


#7

+1 on avoiding trademarked (or even copyrighted) names.

If you do, IMO, you’re sorta asking for legal trouble – as your use suggests an association with the organization behind that famous name.

For the same reason, I have to be vigilant about our use of domain names (RFC 2606 explicitly reserves example.com, example.net, and example.org for doc – if you use someone’s domain name, even innocently, you’re suggesting an association with an owner of that domain name.)


#8

Thanks. I guessed as much about the trademarked names. I do use the standard domain names example.com etc. already.


#9

The exclusive right to a trademarked name covers the use of that name in relation to products or services that are the same as or confusingly similar to the purpose for which the trademark is registered. Thus you can can use apples in an example without violating the trademark of either Apple Records or Apple Computer. You can write an example in which Tom drives a Ford and Mary drives a Chevy.

But if you are really worried about a nuisance suite from Hanna Barbara then use names from Jane Austen or Dickens.


#10

I like http://uinames.com/ for generating random names from around the world – you can specify target countires and specify if you’d rather ‘male’ ‘female’ or ‘random’ (which is a combination of the two, I think) names. I see they’ve also added a ‘bulk’ option which spits out a bunch of names and their countries. I’ve been trying to ensure that I include names from around the world (so it’s not all John Smith and Jane Brown), and I’m pretty lazy, so uinames has helped :smiley:


#11

I think this can be a case of trademark dilution – I think the first such law was enacted in 1995. The law, and the actions that companies take in this area is still evolving – and in the age of DMCA, it is far too easy to “take down” web pages that violate even a copyright.

I wouldn’t want to risk a DMCA-takedown of any docs I create.


#12

I used to work in Vancouver, BC, which is very multi-cultural. And our docs were read worldwide. So I tried to put in lots of multicultural names - North American Chinese (eg Frank Chan), Japanese, Sri Lankan, various European, Hispanic, etc. I think this is pretty important. Now that I am in Portland I am using reasonably famous African Americans (Ida Wells, Frederick Douglass).
Two cavaets: you don’t want the names to be too distracting or cute. And you definitely want to keep away from anything that people could be offended by.