How being focused can blur your vision

sintmaarten 2

In our company we are all very dedicated to serving our customers with their business problems with bad quality customer master data. Aren’t we all?

A few days ago, one of our customer support desk engineers sought an answer to what happens with the addresses on the islands of the former Netherlands Antilles. See also my previous post The dissolution of a nation. Kids of my generation had to memorize the names of these islands at primary school: the ABC islands – Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao – and the three islands with an “S”: Saba, Sint Eustatius and Sint Maarten. My colleague, now fully internet savvy, wanted to look up an address on Sint Maarten. Why not use an internet map and type “sint maarten”?

Yes, here it is! They even have a Spar supermarket there (just like home), and the address of this supermarket shows a postal code! A postal code with the same structure as in the Netherlands (NNNN AA). Pleased with this catch, he started to compose an answer to the customer.

Just before sending it, I passed his desk and we started talking about this (the topic has my attention, you know). And he showed me the map proving his arguments: the coastline was near. But when we zoomed out, the picture became clearer: tunnel vision obscured that he had been focused on Sint Maarten near the Dutch coast!

Matching persons with different official names

Dealing with matching of persons or contact data in general, we are all aware that individuals can make use of abbreviations or nicknames as kind of synonyms for their name. Classic examples are the usage of the name Bill for the actual name William, or like my own father is using the name Mans while officially his name is Hermanus. Most data matching engines make use of a kind of synonym table to take care of this. That can be done because within a culture or region the nicknames are quite often linked to the same names and people do not tend to use completely different official registered names.

It becomes more challenging if there is no longer a link between nickname and official name. That may happen, for example, if people move from one cultural region to another where also other writing sets are used. Take for example my chinese friend 高为民, whose Latin name would be Gao Weimin (family name first), but the moment he works in Europe or the US he is using the Latin variant William Gao. There is no common relation to the name William and Weimin both in Latin or Chinese and it they are no phonetic variants of each other. Continue reading ‘Matching persons with different official names’

Confusing streetnames ending in an unfortunate fatality

Just a few days ago I wrote about the many standards we have for streetnames in the Netherlands. But on top of that new streetnames are added constantly for newly build neighboorhoods. Sometimes this also results into changing of existing streetnames. This was also the case last week, when rescue people were not able to find the exact location in Putten. An emergency call was made for a 60 year old man, who suffered from heart failure. People who tried to re-animate the man heard the ambulance passing by, but they didn’t see the ambulance. The end result was that they arrived after 19 minutes and they were too late to save the man’s life. This is a very unfortunate accident and an investigation has been started to find out what exactly went wrong. Preliminary results shows that the navigition systems of both the police and the ambulance were not up-to-date.

I have looked at the location using Google Maps. Normally you expect that a street consists of one thoroughfare. But in this case the street, named “Kraakweg”, consists of three different parts, which are clearly not in one direct line. I have indicated it with 1, 2 and 3. Number 4 indicates another street, but with almost the same name “De Kraak”.


Continue reading ‘Confusing streetnames ending in an unfortunate fatality’

Toponymic confusion

via-dolorosa1Did you know that Urshalim, al-Quds, Yerushalayim and Jerusalem are four names for the same city? There is great international confusion over the names of countries, cities, streets and rivers which have been changing so frequently that postal services, health and rescue workers and transportation companies are struggling very hard to cope.

The UN’s expert committee on names is expanding standardisation efforts in order to to make it easier to find your way in an increasingly globalized world. The most prominent examples of these efforts are the change from Bombay to Mumbai and of Peking to Beijing, thus re-installing the correct names from a pre-colonial era. But the toponymic name battle still has some major challenges. Some examples… Continue reading ‘Toponymic confusion’