Friday, February 19, 2010

What's in a name?

After finally reaching a consensus on our new subject and geography taxonomies, today we sat down to begin the process of matching our existing terms to the shiny new ones. Ninety-eight percent of the time this is really easy. Gender maps to gender, France maps to France, and so forth.

However, for the two percent that aren't obvious there are some very tricky questions:

How do you map the term Middle East to a new system where it no longer exists? Do you include every country in the region? Only the important ones? Only the ones where you're actually doing work?

Who thought it was ever a good idea to combine 'Antipodes and Space' in a single term? How are Australia and the moon at all related? (And if you're like I was and don't even know where the Antipodes are, Wikipedia is here to help.) This is violating basic principles of indexing term construction! What were they thinking?

If a region extends across three countries, do you map the regional term to all three national terms? Does Kurdistan become Iran, Iraq, and Turkey?

What about disputed territories? Argentina still claims the Falkland Islands, so does the old term get mapped to United Kingdom or to UK and Argentina? Are you somehow validating Argentina's claim if you add that term?

In a classic case of the 80/20 rule at work, we'll spend 80 percent of our time on this part of the project discussing 20 percent of the list.

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