Typos in the Cloud

By 1st January this year the next largest city in Denmark changed its name. It was only a minor change from “Århus” to “Aarhus” – replacing the Scandinavian letter Å with a double A, which is the normal conversion to the English alphabet.

Data quality would be a lot easier if people, companies and cities stopped changing names. It always goes wrong. First of all a lot of data will be out-of-sync. And then the change may go wrong.

That is what happened at Google Maps. They introduced a typo so the name of the city on the map now is “Aahrus” – swapping the r and the h in the middle of the name.    

For those out there not sure where on earth Århus/Aarhus/Aahrus is, it is the red dot in the upper right corner, where you have London and Paris in the lower left corner on the map below. You may click on map to enlarge.

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4 thoughts on “Typos in the Cloud

  1. FMJohnson 31st March 2011 / 13:12

    This is an aggravating story and unfortunately a Google Maps classic. Which for me is another concern about Linked Data (a.k.a The Semantic Web, or Web 3.0) — the reliability of all the data we’re linking to.

    In a blog post about it, I mention this in the context of a Tim Berners-Lee TED Talk on Linked Data, in which he mentions that he has labeled the lecture hall on Open Street Maps. My thought was, “What if he accidentally or deliberately mis-labeled it? That bad data would then infect every other application that consumes it.”

    The Sematic Web: Repository-less MDM

    • Henrik Liliendahl Sørensen 31st March 2011 / 13:35

      Thanks Frank for commenting and making the link to your blog post, which I think is a very good review on the challenges ahead related to web 3.0, data quality and master data management.

  2. Jarrett Goldfedder 1st April 2011 / 04:12

    Great idea here which can spawn some discussion about who determines the rightness of data–in 1998, the standards of what the US Federal government considers “obese” was redefined, putting about 29 million Americans into this new category. Were these people really overweight, or was this just a label arbitrarily decided by a group of nutritionists?

    If enough people agree with the new spelling (or at least, don’t protest), then the Google mistype may stand as accurate. The people of Århus/Aarhus/Aahrus will just have to live with it.

    BTW, I checked Google Maps and it looks like the error was corrected since this blog was posted. Long live the Aarhusians!

    • Henrik Liliendahl Sørensen 1st April 2011 / 05:17

      Thanks for the comment Jarrett.

      I don’t like the term overweight for the BMI of 25 to 29.9 range either 🙂

      Yep, I also noticed the correction was made by Google Maps during the day. It was reported by several newspapers (where I found it). I guess the correction was made based on crowdsourcing, as Google told the newspapers that they could report a problem in Google Maps like everyone else as described in the article from the largest Aarhus newspaper called Jyllands-Posten here (in Danish).

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