Counterproductive input validation

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A lot of news paper websites are asking for demographic information like your birth year, gender and zip code. Of course they can't know if you lie or not. But they try. For example if you enter an invalid zip code it'll ask for another one. Or if you say you were born in 1812 it'll ask you to try again. Big mistake!

In a case like this where you can't verify the answer anyway, you are deceiving yourself if you require a "valid input". You would get better data if you just realize that people who try entering 1812 aren't going to tell the truth anyway so you shouldn't trust their second attempt at lying either.

You will get a higher quality of your data if you just accept the obviously invalid data and ignore it instead of asking again and get plausible but probably false data.

As a sidenote, the article I went to read:

County prosecutors in Michigan reject request to charge Michael Moore

The harshest reaction came from the two Republican prosecutors, Antrim County's Charles Koop and Isabella County's Larry Burdick. Worthy and Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III are Democrats.

"Alleging that a person is attempting to buy votes is a serious allegation, and one that is taken seriously by this office. However, your request to prosecute Mr. Moore trivializes the intent of this section of the election code," Koop said Thursday in a letter to Greg McNeilly, executive director of the state Republican Party.

But don't bother entering 1812 as your birth year if you click on the link to read the full article. :-)

ps. (yes, I realize they likely don't use the data for anything useful anyway so the whole exercise is entirely pointless)

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This page contains a single entry by Ask Bjørn Hansen published on October 7, 2004 2:19 PM.

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