Friday, February 15, 2008

Please stop dialling my ISBNs

Google have recently enhanced Google Docs so that one can send out emails with data fields and get the respondents to fill in a results form in the spreadsheet. Doesn't that sound great? I have been very impressed with occasional experiments with Google Docs. I have merely toyed with the spreadsheet but used the word processor a few times and was very impressed by the Presentation. It doesnt have all the bells and whistles of PowerPoint (and isnt that a solid recommendation?) but it works very slickly with the web and has some great collaboration features. It also allows you to publish the Presentation (see the end of this blog for the Presentation, I did not in the end need to present to the O'Reilly Tools of Change conference this week).

GigaOm was my lead to Google's web-aware survey form. But I am not quite sure about his gripe about Windows Mobile.

......consider Windows Mobile. If I have a spreadsheet full of phone numbers, I should be able to select a number and dial it. But the Mobile version of Excel is so true to the original, it doesn’t think about data in the context of being a phone. So I have to manually copy the number to the clipboard, create a new contact with that number, and dial it.
I dont think a spreadsheet can be expected to know that a number which could be a telephone is a phone number. We have this potential problem with phone numbers and ISBNs in print. The Exact Editions system parses PDF files before databasing them so as to sort out and mark up phone numbers and ISBNs. Although we currently only identify phone numbers when they have the proper International prefix, it would be nice if there was a way of identifying and "internationalising" ordinary phone numbers. So the system would need to know the context in which an Italian magazine was using one number, and quietly supply the +39 prefix. My colleagues tell me that should be possible. In which case, I guess it will be done, sooner or later.

It sounds like a lot of work. The conversion process would need to be carefully designed so that we did not find ISBNs triggering phone calls and were not accidentally Skype-ordering books off Amazon when all we wanted was a takeaway pizza. Here is the presentation that I was not called upon to give:


Alain Pierrot said...

A nice field for semantic web solutions!

In the meanwhile, it would be a good idea to have user friendly shortcuts allowing authors and editors to style/tag numbers against a (short) list of types:
phone numbers

What categories would be meaningful?

Adam Hodgkin said...

I dont know what an EAN is.
Wikipedia suggests it may be a European Article Number....

In deciding which categories to support one needs to think through the extent to which the schema/classification system in question is used in print.

I dont think films or music have nearly as well organised product identifiers as books/journals.

Alain Pierrot said...

Semantic Web: Where Are The Meaning-Enabled Authoring Tools? gives a suggestive account of what should be done to get more from content of documents.