==============================  CFJ 2303  ==============================

    ehird successfully changed eir name to a null string on or about 5
    December 2008 21:53:02 UTC.


Caller:                                 OscarMeyr

Judge:                                  harblcat
Judgement:                              TRUE

Appeal:                                 2303a
Decision:                               REMAND

Judge:                                  harblcat

Judge:                                  ais523
Judgement:                              FALSE



Called by OscarMeyr:                    07 Dec 2008 18:41:31 GMT
Assigned to harblcat:                   10 Dec 2008 22:40:50 GMT
Judged TRUE by harblcat:                11 Dec 2008 22:57:10 GMT
Appealed by BobTHJ:                     11 Dec 2008 23:24:01 GMT
Appealed by woggle:                     11 Dec 2008 23:37:23 GMT
Appealed by Murphy:                     11 Dec 2008 23:51:57 GMT
Appeal 2303a:                           11 Dec 2008 23:51:57 GMT
REMANDED on Appeal:                     18 Dec 2008 15:44:07 GMT
Assigned to harblcat:                   18 Dec 2008 15:44:07 GMT
harblcat recused:                       15 Jan 2009 08:12:36 GMT
Assigned to ais523:                     15 Jan 2009 08:26:43 GMT
Judged FALSE by ais523:                 15 Jan 2009 11:55:07 GMT


Caller's Arguments:

Long-standing game custom has important entities,
especially players, referred to by some title, especially a player's
nickname.  Using a null string as such a title would become very
problematic -- but is it permissible and legal?


Caller's Evidence:

On Dec 5, 2008, at 4:53 PM, Elliott Hird wrote:

> I change my name to the null string (i.e., "" without the quotes.)


Gratuitous Arguments by omd:

see CFJs 1703 and 1361.  However, IRRELEVANT is
appropriate because the name of a player doesn't really affect the


Judge harblcat's Arguments:

While comex might be correct in saying that the name of a player
doesn't affect the rules, it does, however, affect the game of Agora
itself. In order to refer to a player in singular, it is necessary for
that player to have a unique name, otherwise ambiguities might arise
that could confuse the issue.

Seeing as how no other entity in Agora, as of three months before the
player formerly known as ehird changed their name to the null string
(""), bore the name of the null string; and as I do not particularly
find the player formerly known as ehird's new name confusing,

I rule TRUE on CFJ 2303.


Appellant BobTHJ's Arguments:

I intend (with 2 support) to appeal this judgment. I do find the name
"" to be confusing.


Appellant woggle's Arguments:

The judgment does not consider the existence of the very similar
(identically?) named patent title.


Judge ais523's Arguments:

Rule 649/27 includes, in part:
      When a patent title is used as a noun to refer to bearers of the
      patent title, it is assumed to refer only to persons who Bear
      that patent title unless context clearly indicates otherwise.
In other words, saying "I transfer 1 VP to ." would, according to this
rule, imply that the holder of the null-length patent title (Andre IIRC,
although I haven't checked this) is the person who receives the VP in
question, except in contexts which made this obviously incorrect.
(Although the issue of the null-length patent title has been brought up
before, I don't think the relevance of this particular quotation from
rule 649 has yet been considered.) In passing, I note that it would be
far more logical for this to transfer a VP to the holder of the Patent
Title in question (in this case, there only is one), rather than to the
Patent Title itself (a dubious and potentially impossible operation in
any case, but that is beyond the scope of this CFJ). Therefore, it seems
that in this case ehird's attempted name change was ILLEGAL per rule
2170, and I will NoV later in this message. Note, however, that being
illegal does not necessarily cause an action to fail; so we must look

It is also worth considering what would happen in the absence of the
patent title in question. There is some debate about whether the null
string would be confusing as a nickname; although its presence is
normally determinable by the fact that the punctuation marks or spaces
before and after it are generally not merged, it can still be hard to
read. Also worth considering is the fact that email is generally sent
with manual line breaks after about 70 characters (this is considered
good style), and therefore it is not at all impossible that a player's
nickname might appear at the end of a line. A null string at the end of
a line would be hard to detect, requiring the grammatical context of the
surrounding text to be parsed, and even then there would be potential
ambiguities. (Consider the text "I transfer 1 VP to each of j, woggle,
and Murphy"; depending on whether or not a serial comma is used, it is
not at all clear whether a hypothetical null-string-named player is
included in the list of players to transfer the VP to.) This clearly has
the potential for sufficient confusion to imply that the selection of
the null string of a nickname is ILLEGAL per rule 2170 even in the
absence of an identically named Patent Title.

So it's illegal; is it impossible? I first note that the concept of
nicknames is hardly mentioned in the rules at all. Rule 2170 mentions
them, but only to make certain selections of nicknames illegal. Rule
2139 requires the Registrar to track only "information sufficient to
identify and contact [each player]"; I note that although a nickname is
often information sufficient to identify a player (for instance,
"ais523" is almost certainly sufficient to identify me in the context of
Agora, and probably in most other contexts too), it is not the only such
possible information. For instance, it would be possible to identify a
player via habitual email address, or via linking to the archives for a
message e had sent, or even by habitual IRC 'nick' (different from the
usual Agoran nickname in several cases, such as j vs. jayCampbell), as
long as the context was clear.

So what exactly is a nickname, in the context of Agora, and are attempts
to change it successful? CFJ 1361 established that what a nickname is
depends on context. The precedent it established has now been eroded by
legislation to some extent, but I independently came to a similar
conclusion; in my opinion, a person's nickname is a string of characters
(or possibly something more unusual, I'm not sure if this has been
explored yet) suitable to identify them in general conversation, or in
another specific context. In the case of Agora, a nickname is the name
by which someone is generally known to other Agorans, and therefore,
quite a matter of game custom. When ehird changed eir nickname to tusho,
Agorans as a whole generally called em tusho; therefore, de-facto, this
change was a success. However, when ehird tried to change eir name to ,
the vast majority of messages continued to have called em ehird.
Therefore, it would seem that on a practical level, this attempted
change failed; for something informal like a nickname, we have to look
at what names are actually being used to determine what a player's
nickname actually is, and in this case it seems inescapable to establish
that ehird's nickname is, in fact, "ehird", and so the attempt failed
(as well as being illegal).

I would like to mention that as nicknames are highly informal and
game-custom-based, despite being so important to the game, I suspect
that IRRELEVANT might in fact be an appropriate judgement for this CFJ,
even though the points raised in the judgement are very relevant to the
game, due merely to the way it was worded. However, being irrelevant
does not make a different judgement inappropriate; and therefore, I
judge FALSE on CFJ 2303.

I note that although the arguments in CFJs 1361 and 1703 inspired this
judgement to some extent, the precedents set in those CFJs are not
directly applicable, as they relied somewhat on certain text in rule 559
(which no longer exists, and the modern equivalent rule 2139 no longer
mentions anything about nicknames). Although the rules have changed,
though, I believe this judgement is in much the same spirit as the
arguments for those judgements.