Thursday, 11 August 2005

Death to all semi-colons !

Semi-colons are unloved creatures at the best of times. Most people don't have a clue what to do with them and feel slightly uncomfortable at the thought of introducing them into, what is otherwise, a grammatically correct sentence. To be honest, my use of semi-colons is experimental at the best of times, so I shall refrain from using them in this entry to avoid looking like a grammatical slob (more so than usual at any rate).

Anyway, I am losing track of my original point. They are unloved creatures, and whilst I may have trouble placing them correctly, I don't despise them to the extent that I avoid using them altogether. That is, until today.

I suppose it is not really the semi-colon's fault; Adobe is really the prime suspect. My CDROMs, yesterday on the verge of completion, were suddenly swallowed up in a mire of confusion.

I had tenderly, for an obscene number of man hours, compiled extensive metadata (title, author, subject, keywords, description, date of publication e.t.c) for over 500 documents. This enabled me to develop search indexes so that people can search the contents of the CD ROM. We go to test it and what happens? The author search doesn't work!!

Two hours of frantic testing later and we discover the culprit. Yes, the dear old semi-colon. Now, whilst Adobe allow keywords to be separated by semi-colons, when it comes to authors it is a different matter entirely. For some reason Adobe believes that there can only ever be one author to a document, and therefore the services of a semi-colon are unrequired.

Well Adobe, may I advise you that in research papers you can have up to 10 authors(if not more) and therefore it would be logical that the semi-colon separation principle would apply here too. And if it doesn't, it would be nice if you could mention it in your 'Help' function.

Unfortunately, logic and computer software don't tend to mix. I therefore spent a frantic morning removing in the region of 5,000 unloved and dejected semi-colons from my metadata. Happily, I can say it is now done and, fingers crossed, I'll be able to get on the plane on Saturday safe in the knowledge that my CD ROMs are complete and void of all semi-colons.


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