For most people, your first name is assigned to you at birth by two people who don't know much of anything about your personality or preferences, and it's something you never change for the rest of your life. If you think about it, this is really weird. It's like if you had to pick out all the clothes you'll ever wear when you're 9, and you're not allowed to change that set of clothes. This isn't a bad system, since you can't exactly ask a baby what they want to be named (otherwise we'd be running around with a lot of Babas and Gagas), but it could definitely use some improvement! I think it might be a good idea to, say, have a 'birth name' that you use up until you're a certain age, such as 18, at which point you get to pick your 'chosen name'.
Obviously, not everybody is going to like the name that they picked at that age, at a later age, and it'd be a bit hard to integrate with existing systems (since I would assume that most people wouldn't like being referred to as their birth name), but I think it's a neat idea at least.
The reason I brought this up is that I'm experimenting with the idea of not going by the name I used to go by; if you're really attentive, or I've known you a while, you might have noticed that the name on my about page, Kata, isn't the name that used to be here, which is the one on my license. I don't particularly think I'm going to go through and get a legal name change, but I'd very much appreciate being called that online at least for now. (If you're curious, it's pronounced /'kætə/, i.e., like the start of 'cataclysm'; it's based on the Greek word κατά, meaning 'downwards'). I'm not sure at all if I ever intend on changing my legal name, but for now I think I'd like to be called that online as opposed to my birth name.
I also ran into something particularly annoying with GPG when I was doing this: it doesn't allow names less than 5 characters by default. While writing up another angry blog post about how silly and arbitrary that limit is, I sourcedived GPG and found that it actually allows it if you pass
--allow-freeform-uid. The fact that that's not included in the error message you get for a bad UID is pretty bad design, since it's not even hinted that that restriction is something you can circumvent. The restriction on names being five characters or more is also incredibly aggravating, since there's no reason for it! Plenty of people have names that are only four characters, like 桜井速 人, the Japanese martial artist. He could write his name as "Hayato Sakurai", but isn't the point of internationalization that you shouldn't have to? And that still wouldn't help me. (Ultimately, before I discovered
--allow-freeform-uid, I found out that it considered the character U+200B (ZERO-WIDTH SPACE) perfectly valid, so I just put one of those in my name and it worked fine. Which is also an argument against this validation: it allows stupid stuff like a name consisting entirely of spaces, but forbids a perfectly valid name like "Kata"!