Errors

Testing file include times for a file that may or may not exist

Question: Should you check for a file before attempting to include it, or just suppress errors? Calling file_exists requires stating it twice if the file does exist, so that could take longer. Answer: the file_exists pattern is more than five times faster than the @include pattern for a file that doesn’t exist, and not substantially […] » about 300 words

Cataloging Errors

A bibliographic instruction quiz we used to use asked students how many of Dan Brown’s books could be found in our catalog. The idea was that attentive students would dutifully search by author for “brown, dan,” get redirected to “Brown, Dan 1964-,” and find three books. Indeed, the expected answer was “three.”

As it turns out, my library has all four of Dan Brown’s published books, including the missing Digital Fortress. The problem is that three books are cataloged under the more common Brown, Dan 1964-, but Fortress was cataloged under Brown, Danielle.

The problem is that cataloging is imperfect.

Yeah, it takes some marbles to say that, but the fact is that cataloging is a human endeavor. Humans make mistakes. The challenge we face is to build systems that tolerate error, and then make it easy to fix those errors when discovered.

We Regret The Error

Not all errors in news reporting are as trivial as this one: THE COST of beer kegs has risen by about 30% since the end of 2003. In addition, Neil Witte is the draught beer quality-control specialist of Boulevard Brewing Co., and Steven Pauwels is the brewer’s brewmaster. A March 14 page-one article on beer-keg […] » about 200 words