Bug of The Day: Bad Data Means Search for Book Title Fails

This is your periodic reminder that data has problems, just like code does.

A correspondent on LinkedIn pointed me towards a book by George Lakoff, an author I admire. For some reason, I had not been aware of the book. So I looked it up. I wanted to go straight to it, so I put the title in quotes:

Where Mathematics Comes From

Hmmm. That’s a little strange. Nothing? Let’s try without the quotes.

Where Mathematics Come From

Do you see the problem? Do you see why the quoted search string didn’t work? It looks to me like there’s a bad entry in a database somewhere.

Data is messy. Data is often wrong. Data can trip up functions that might otherwise appear to be working fine.

Data needs to be checked and examined critically, just like program code does; and so do the interactions of good and bad data with program code. Otherwise, you might lose a sale, mess up a payment, or open the door to a security breach without noticing. That’s why, in Rapid Software Testing, we use a variety of ideas for covering the product and the things around it with testing.

Sure, you might have automated checks set up for certain functions and workflows through your product. That’s fine, and a good thing. Are you using the power of automation to help find problems with your data?

2 replies to “Bug of The Day: Bad Data Means Search for Book Title Fails”

  1. “May be with “” it was searching for the full book name like the part after title which includes “how the embodied mind.” because generally “” means exact search even on “Google”

    So since we gave half the title it did not gave anything

    while we can say it should have tried without Quotes as well.. but i think first results can be treated right.. and not necessarily a data bug ”

    Michael replies: It looks like the title of the book is misspelled in Indigo’s database. It’s hard for me to see how that’s not a data bug.

  2. So you are right with the “” being exact in the search term but you don’t have to search the whole book title. The problem with the search is that you have to have the tile in capitals as that is how it is stored. The search with “” is case sensitive.

    Aside from that I would agree there is a data bug with the misspelling of the name of the title but also potentially with the fact that case matters when searching for an exact string.

    Michael replies: You’re pointing out something quite important here—that the notion of a correct search result is much less important than the notion of useful search result.


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