August 02, 2002

Penguin Code
Considering using ISO standards in your forms for country names? Might want to think again after reading Web Forms and ISO 3166 country codes Conquering "Penguin Code". The page covers a lot of areas and how geographic location isn't as cut-and-dried as you might think. It talks about cultural perceptions and how users may feel that their county name is important when from a shipping perspective it isn't. Also covers some obvious blunders committed by us Americans frequently when requesting user location information on web forms.

"I am not certain why uninhabited islands made it into the ISO 3166-1, while the following geographic areas did not; England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. People have been living in these areas for hundreds of years, and there is a strong cultural identity involved. The ISO 3166-2 country subdivision codes overlooked these same areas again. Guess, the penguins won out, because they have an automated weather station on their island. Uninhabited islands and several other entries should have never been included in the IS0 3166-1 Country Codes. Why? Because they are not really countries at all."

What state was that?
The ISO site has forms with required state/region fields. They use a drop-down with only one value: N/A -- N/A must be that 51st state otherwise known as "Area 51" -- of course the US government has conspired to hide that state from us. Looks like the ISO requires all of us to move there. Cool. I always wanted to get in on an alien autopsy...

Tick me off...
Here's a humorous check box label from the same page: "The data provided via this form will be used by the ISO Central Secretariat and by the ISO members (national standards institutes). If you wish to restrict the use of these data to the administrative tasks related to the sales transactions and for statistical purposes, please tick the checkbox"
...ISO Central Secretariat...didn't that horse win a few races in Kentucky? Maybe only horses are allowed to live in Kentucky?

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