Full Flavour Behaviour!

Excessive salutations
posted Thursday March 20th @ 1:00pm

It's a serious issue, data normalisation. If you can successfully allocate each entry in table column to one of a finite list of possibilities then your storage problems can be literally decimated. Imagine you have a column - "First name" for example - in a table of personal details. Let's say you have a very homogenous population and there are only 200-odd different first names, of a maximum length of ten letters. If you make a key you can store a number from 0 to 255 and have each represent one different name. On each row of the database that column is now one byte instead of ten.

It's very seductive but it has its limits. For example, the shorter the maximum length of a column, the less the memory saving. Also, the greater the chance that you'll have to expand your key, the smaller the saving in time and effort. And if you run over your 256 name limit, you're saving even less space as you spill into two bytes. Not to mention the irritation of pulling down a list of three hundred possibilities every time you want to enter a name.

I know it sounds stupid doing it with first names but I bet you'd fall into the trap I've seen many a time and do it on a salutation ("title" to some). After all, how many are there? Mr / Mrs / Miss .. plus a couple more. Well, Dr, Prof, Ms - got to be politically correct - maybe Mr & Mrs.. wait, this list is getting long. How long? Well check out this doozie from Riverford Organic.


Great! Now the list is so long in proportion to its contents that it takes longer to choose pretty much any item than it would have done to type it in. Worse than that, if it were just Mr, Mrs and Miss people would at least know what to put but, now you've started putting in Dr and Rev and - for crying out loud - Gp Cpt, you're only going to annoy people whose specific title isn't in the list. You're too thinly spread across too many options for the data to be usefully normalised, you're making the form harder to use and you're annoying people.

But even better than that is the desperate, cloying hipness of "Mr & Mr" or, even better, "Mrs & Mr". Are they implying, with the first, that gay couples are going to fight over the vegetables unless they're explicitly delivered to both of them and, with the second, that half their clientèle are such doormats that they adopt a jarring, pointless variation on a standard salutation so familiar as to be nearly invisible just to advertise how much their wives push them around? Who are these people? And, more to the point, do I wish to become one of them?

It's a shame the only alternative (other than shopping myself of course) is Abel & Cole, whose service was such unmitigated crap that I won't even link you to them. Mind you, their website did at least make sense.

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