Dec 17, 2006

Not Learning From Your Mistakes

A previous post noted how the Denver Post misspelled Donald Rumsfeld's name on the front page of the Sunday edition. Today they misspelled the name of Qwest Corp on the front page of the business section. Qwest is one of the largest employers in the area, and frequently featured in both the business section and the general news sections.

A couple of observations:
  • It's clear that over-reliance on spell-checking software led to both errors. Both resulted in a valid English word used in an obviously inappropriate and incorrect way, but in a way that should be fairly obvious via human QA.
  • You would think that after the initial error, the editorial group would be very sensitive to this type of error.
  • It also seems like the Post's email triage is no better than that of most organizations. I had emailed the Post to alert them of the original mistake, but the only response was that - due to their editorial policy - they could not publish my comment unless I provided my full address and phone number. I still wonder if my email ever made it to anyone who could actually impact editorial quality.

Lessons learned:

  • Automated QA tools can supplement, but often not replace, human QA. So you can do it yourself, or have your customers do it for you... often at the most embarrassing times.
  • Email is one of the preferred and most cost-effective methods of communication among your customer base. You should value and service incoming customer email with at least as much intensity as you do communication via other channels.

1 comment:

sanchmo said...

IIRC, MS Word's spellchecker tends to ignore capitalized words, assuming they are proper names. The Blogger spellchecker highlights words it thinks are misspelled - for example the word "Qwest" in my post above. However, it does so in the full context of the post, and forcing a human to make the change. Both are pretty decent approaches to a very complex use case.

I'm pretty ignorant of the software & processes used in the newsprint industry, but considering how important trust and content quality are to the industry, you'd think they would be best in class.