Saturday, 25 May 2013

Data Quality - when the goalposts move

Abbreviating, shortening or simplifying language is not new. In England, the first abbreviation system called 'shorthand' was introduced in 1837, and was designed to record meetings or dictations and quickly found favour amongst secretaries all over the world. Businesses are always trying to find ways of speeding up communication with acronyms. Also, who could have forgotten the craze of CB radios in the 1970s and 80s?

The internet and text language/speak have introduced some real changes in grammar, spelling and syntax. For instance, there is text speech, shortening words like "U" instead of you. Joining acronyms into one word delimited by capital letters and then adding a popular file extension to make the word look like a file name is an Internet forum trick - "can't believe whats happening" becomes CantBelieveWhatsHappening.jpg

Twitter's limiting of communication to 140 characters has forced the use of hash tags to precede search titles - i.e. #DataQuality. Also referring to people's user names, you precede them with an @, like @TheDataGeek (which is my user name - follow me)

What makes text speak stand out is the sheer speed and scale upon which it has been taken up by the international community. Integrate this with the internet, and you have one of the most significant changes in international communications in modern times.

While the greater corporate interests are well known, some interesting social trends are beginning to emerge. People are starting to use text speak while filling in formal documents like CVs and business letters. Presently, this is frowned upon, but soon we will have to amend our algorithms to allow for them.

How long will it be before some people will want to put a delimiting character before their name? The possibilities are endless:

My name could become @RichardNorthwood or @richardnorthwood or even #RichardNorthwood

Could the &, @ or # become new gender neutral salutations? Will people start using other symbols in their names? Could we see the removal of spaces between words?  Could we see a further simplification of the spelling of words? It's possible. Whatever happens, our information systems must evolve to cope with the biggest change in the way we communicate since the Gutenberg printing press.

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