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“Helpful” systems

Posted by on June 6, 2015.

For a number of years, the “personal name” field on most of my email systems has been “Rob, grandpa of Ryan, Trevor, Devon & Hannah.”  Recently I had my first hard disk crash in almost 40 years.  (That experience may become the subject of another blog posting.  When I get time between putting bits of the system back together.  But I digress.)

The crash forced me to use the laptop, and forced Gloria to use the MacBook, and therefore the Webmail interface.  She noticed something strange.  Messages from me were now showing as being from “grandpa of Ryan Rob, Trevor, Devon & Hannah.”

At first we thought the personal name setting had become corrupted in the process of restoring the email to the laptop, and then restoring back onto the new computer.  However, when I checked the settings, they showed the correct phrasing.  And checking messages I had sent to other systems showed the correct phrasing as well.

The problem, as usual, was a system being “helpful.”  The Webmail interface used by my ISP seems to assume that any personal name field with a comma in it is using the format “lastname, firstname.”  It therefore, “helpfully,” takes anything after the first comma (but, apparently, before any subsequent commas) and moves it in front of the first part.  If, therefore, you have called yourself “Slade, Rob, M. Sc., CISSP” it will sort it into an order that people would recognize slightly more easily.  If you do anything else with commas, it’ll invert it or garble it.

I really hate systems that think they are smarter than I am …

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Submitted in: Rob Slade |