Maybe computers should talk to us more 00:05 on Wednesday

All of the following companies can be found in my address book:

  • Please
  • Please UED
  • Please User Experience Design

They of course all refer to a single company. I understand it but my computer doesn’t. So how could we make the silly computer understand the association?

A nerdy and technically rather fail-proof approach would be to build in additional user operated functionality to associate these items with each other. Something along the vein of “select multiple contacts with differently spelled company names, select Associate Companies from Edit menu, click Confirm”. This is probably a plan for wasting lots of time and besides, the whole system fails when the user fails to update it.

Or, we could try a less geeky, openly incomplete and fail-prone approach. We could make the computer notice when we’re writing a company name that sounds familiar. When you’d write “Please UED” the computer would say “It looks like you’re adding a contact to Please User Experience Design, click here to confirm this is the same company.” (this approach sounds familiar, doesn’t it!). Instead of auto-completing and changing the new company name to match the existing name, the computer could simply associate the two names and remember from then on that searching for “Please UED” would also return all contacts who match “Please User Experience Design”. Kind of an assisted learning system, but for computers themselves.

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