Monday, April 21, 2008

Considering context

One of my golden rules for improving data quality is to consider context. Any piece of data which is not considered in relation to other relevant data is highly likely to be misinterpreted. This is especially true of postal addresses.

This awareness of context may be the reason why I have a distinctive dislike of satellite navigation systems. They provide drivers with route information without providing any information about the context of that route, as would be available using a map. It gives the impression that drivers can switch off their brains and that their satellite navigation systems (inevitably using imperfect data) will lead them to precisely where they need to be. Road signs and other clues that they are going wrong can be ignored - the robotic voice can be followed without question.

Reports of satellite navigation disasters abound, and a new one has been reported this week. The village of Holdenhurst, near Bournemouth, UK, are having to change the name of their main street from Holdenhurst Road to Holdenhurst Village Road to try to reduce the number of lorry drivers being sent their by their satellite navigation systems instead of to Holdenhurst Road in nearby Bournemouth.

I, for one, will not be forsaking my paper maps.

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