The Dangers of Truncating Text Fields

I was in the car this morning listening to the Holiday Traditions channel through my SiriusXM subscription when this song appeared:

Truncated Text


Holiday Traditns
Herb Alpert And The Tijuana Bras
My Favorite Things

It wasn’t the abbreviation of the station that caught my eye, but the next line. Apparently Herb Alpert was associated with Latin women’s undergarments as opposed to brass instruments.

The IT lesson in all of this is to be careful when truncating text to get it to fit in a specified space. There are unintended consequences. This happens frequently on your supermarket receipt. The receipt is only so wide and can only fit in so many characters, so just about every item is truncated or abbreviated (JOHNSBRAT is really Johnsonville Bratwurst). Developing a text mining program to identify all of these might work, but computers aren’t quite ready to recognize awkward, silly, or funny. Identifying inappropriate words would be an easy start, although seeing Herb Alpert and bras come across my Infotainment system was mildly entertaining. Maybe we should take care of the obviously inappropriate ones and just leave the others to give us a reason to snicker.

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