[Editor's note: Amusing and practical example of geographic taxonomy, topology with the example of England versus United Kingdom.]
Republished from Yahoo! Geo.
By Gary Gale, Head of UK Engineering, Yahoo! Geo Technologies
George Bernard Shaw once said the golden rule is that there are no golden rules and at Geo Technologies we understand that there is no one golden rule for Geo and so we try to capture and express the world’s geography as it is used and called by the world’s people. Despite the pronouncement on golden rules, a significant proportion of the conversations we have with people about Geo lend themselves to the Six Non Golden Rules of Geo, namely that:
- Any attempt to codify a series of geo rules into a formal, one size fits all, taxonomy will fail due to Rule 2.
- Geo is bizarre, odd, eclectic and utterly human.
- People will in the main agree with Rule 1 with the exception of the rules governing their own region, area or country, which they will think are perfectly logical.
- People will, in the main, think that postal, administrative and colloquial hiearachies are one and the same thing and will overlap.
- Taking Rule 4 into account, they will then attempt to codify a one size fits all geo taxonomy.
- There is no Rule 6, see Rule 1.
I codified these rules after a conversation last week, via Twitter and Yahoo! Messenger, with Andrew Woods, a US based developer who was, understandably, confused by the vagaries of the how addresses work in the UK. Andrew’s blog contains the full context but can be distilled into three key questions:
- If the country is The United Kingdom, how come the ISO 3166-2 code is GB?
- If the country is The United Kingdom, is England a country?
- If England is a country, do I use it in an address?
As a US developer, Andrew is naturally fluent with the US style of addressing, with all of its’ localised and regional exceptions. This is a good example of both Rules 3 and 4 in the real world; most people in the US will use number, street, city, State and ZIP for specifying an address. But how does this transfer to the UK? What’s the equivalent of a State … England, Scotland or Wales? Let’s try to answer some of these problems: