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dirty data (was: The naive test for equality)

From: mAsterdam <mAsterdam_at_vrijdag.org>
Date: Fri, 12 Aug 2005 01:50:15 +0200
Message-ID: <42fbe3fc$0$11064$e4fe514c@news.xs4all.nl>


Gene Wirchenko wrote:
> mAsterdam wrote:

>>Gene Wirchenko wrote:
>>>mAsterdam wrote:
>>>>Gene Wirchenko wrote:
>>>>>dawn wrote:
>>[snip agreement]
>>>>>>There are always differences of opinion about what constitutes a
>>>>>>student on a campus.  Finance people often use the term as if the
>>>>>>student were the same as a corporate customer.  Student = Customer.  If
>>>>>>someone has received some approval to audit a course for zero dollars,
>>>>>>the instructor might consider them a student.  That is just an example,
>>>>>>but the point is that entity names are also just words and are
>>>>>>interpreted by humans, each of whom brings a different context to the
>>>>>>meaning of the word.
>>>>>
>>>>>    Such a student is a student by the normal use of the term. 
>>>>>I think this factor is what causes a lot of the trouble.
>>>>
>>>>Could you elaborate some on this factor?
>>>
>>>     One who studies.  If I study medieval history, I am a student.  I
>>>might not be enrolled anywhere.  I could even be a leading authority
>>>in the field.
>>
>>I see what you mean, but I am not sure you got my question right.
>>I meant: what is this factor which is causing a lot of trouble?
>>In more modern words: what is the anatomy of this anti-pattern?
>>We might learn to more easily recognize it.

>
> I think that the trouble comes from overloading terms. "student"
> already has a meaning. What distinguishes the special meaning from
> the more literal meaning? If I do not know that a special meaning is
> in use in a specific context, I can make a lot of mistakes.

Yep. One trick is not (just) to ask wether someone is a student or not, but details about the students registration (wether they are really checked is an issue, depending on other, maybe later requirements - first make them checkable).

> I coin terms for our in-house client billing system. Two
> examples are "Work Function Code" and "Work Classification Code".
> These terms have precise meanings. It is possible for someone to
> misinterpret these, but I think that they are sufficiently unusual
> usage that most would ask what they mean instead of assuming as with
> "student".

Arrrgh - feast of recognition. Not. :-|
I'm used to similar systems. Some departments take these distinctions very serious, other only pay lip-service. Once in a while new managers want to know what's going on and suddenly all kinds of conclusions hit the surface, drawn from the highly polluted data.

> One area of confusion we have is because of overloading. We use
> "client" to mean someone who buys from us (mainly services, for
> example order fulfillment) and "customer" to refer to someone who buys
> from one of our clients. Some of our employees do not make the proper
> (for us) distinction.

You know what CICS stands for? Received on Thu Aug 11 2005 - 18:50:15 CDT

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