It is better when geopolitical issues turn out to not be a Thorn in one's side

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2007/09/26 03:31 -04:00, original URI:

There are many out there who think I am some sort of paid shill for Microsoft, but I am not.

I will admit that posts like How to avoid stepping in it help these people prove their point, since I felt free to poke a bit of fun at Google for making a bit of a geopolitical boo-boo in Google Earth.

But on the other hand, I also have been known to point out now and again when Microsoft products make mistakes, so when regular reader Mike pointed out in the Suggestion Box:

I just installed Family Tree Maker 2008, which has a new Places feature linking births/deaths/marriages etc to Microsoft Virtual Earth map data. I was somewhat bemused to see that suggestions for placenames (presumably derived from the MS geodata) included "Wales, England" and "Ireland, United Kingdom". I think it would come as a shock to both Wales and Ireland to find that they are parts of these entities. Wales and NORTHERN Ireland are part of the United Kingdom, and Wales and all of Ireland are part of the British Isles, but it's a bit of a concern to see the data generating such politically-sensitive nonsense.

I am not afraid to say that if it repros then it is a bug that should be fixed (no matter whose bug it is), though to be honest I don't know if it is true since I cannot make either show up for me in .

Now I can type Wales, England into the search box with the Map option and see Wales, but the search string is no longer there so it could just be them trying to be helpful for someone ignorant of the political situation. They certainly find a msp either way so for the site at least it looks like they are just being polite and not calling someone who visits ignorant? :-)

I do note that a similar search of Ireland, United Kingdom can't find anything while Northern Ireland, United Kingdom gives me a map so they do seem to have either fixed this problem and not added any "helpful yet maybe offensive to a few people" hints!

(I did get a single tack without a map that said Ireland, Shetland Islands, Scotland, United Kingdom in it -- clearly it recognized the ill-formed nature of my query?)

So without knowing how to query the data the way Family Tree Maker 2008 does, I do not honestly think I can determine with certainty whose bug this in fact is (if it still repros?).

Though to be honest, as long as the map that wsa displayed was of Northern Ireland rather than all of it, I would have a hard time calling the Ireland, United Kingdom offensive -- since it kind of silently corrected you. It is definitely worse to show the incorrect text than to respond to a query, though if Family Tree Maker 2008 is doing this then it should be fixed no matter whose bug it is (and if it is Microsoft's I still think fixing it would be a good idea!).

The Virtual Earth side of things from the site seems to be working well now, in any case.  But if something isn't then I am certainly not above the occaional nudge in the right direction now and again, whether in a Microsoft product/service, or the products/services of anyone else. :-)


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Christoph Päper on 26 Sep 2007 6:32 AM:

Ireland used to be part of the UK and people used to be born, get married and die then and there. Therefore it is a valid entry in genealogy, just like Prussia or Nieuw Amsterdam. Until MS Virtual Earth and Google Earth start to support the fourth cartographic dimension, i.e. time, (which would be kind of nice by the way) they are of course not expected to understand outdated terminology and display old geopolitical and geografic features. They are, however, usually expected to make the best of bad input.

PS: I don’t know enough about the historic England–Wales relations.

Rosyna on 26 Sep 2007 7:48 AM:

So how am I supposed to transport a letter from Prussia to the King of Siam?

Anwyho, not sure why someone would consider you a paid shill for MS. While you are paid by MS, you don't do the shill thing.

No, a paid shill for MS is someone that claims  to have a "super" site dedicated to Windows but then has a bunch of Xbox 360 game reviews on the website... something that has nothing to do with Windows but something MS would have a shill do.

Dean Harding on 26 Sep 2007 11:38 PM:

The history of the United Kingdom is rather tumultuous. Certainly under Edward I, Wales was part of the Kingdom of England, so to say "Wales, England" would make sense if you were talking about the 12th century.

Perhaps if "Wales, England" were the *only* suggestions for "Wales" you'd have a problem. But in terms of historical data, and assuming there are other possible suggestions as well, it's probably not so bad.

John Cowan on 27 Sep 2007 10:45 PM:


Edward I conquered Wales in 1282-84, certainly, but he did not annex it; much of the existing Welsh legal and administrative structure was preserved.  Full annexation did not occur until the Laws in Wales Acts of 1535-42, which fully unified England and Wales, suppressing Welsh law as well as the English marcher lords completely, but for the first time summoning representatives from the Welsh counties and towns to the English Parliament.   Even so, it was thought necessary as late as 1746 for the U.K. Parliament to declare that *future* laws for England were to include Wales by default -- the status of existing laws which did not mention Wales, some in force in Wales and others not, being left undisturbed.  

It's impossible to say exactly when Wales began to be recognized as a separate country (not nation-state) again, but Cardiff was recognized as the capital of Wales in 1955, the 1746 Act was repealed in 1967, the Laws in Wales Acts were  repealed in 1993, and the Welsh Assembly (a separate legislature subordinate to the U.K. Parliament) was set up in 1999 and gained additional powers in 2006.

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