Not dumb, but dumb quotes! (aka Sorry Mr. Boehner, this one may be our fault)

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2011/07/08 07:01 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2011/07/08/10184413.aspx


I think it's safe to come out now....

Were you watching the Q&A where Obama was being asking questions?

It started with this tweet, from Speaker of the House John Boehner:

Well, not with the tweet itself, but with the way it looked to the people who were watching it, where

After embarking on a record spending binge that’s left us deeper in debt, where are the jobs? #AskObama

became

After embarking on a record spending binge that’s left us deeper in debt, where are the jobs? #AskObama

Here's the art from the paper the next day:

The first tweet I saw on the subject was straight and to the point:

and one with a bit more explanation for those who knew what was going on, early the next day (yesterday):

It appears to actually have been Windows code page 1252 (ISO 8859-1 does not have the Euro on it!), but close enough, right? :-)

Anyway, no big deal and no huge Twitter craziness. Even with a newspaper article.

Regular readers here would recognize the issue in question from my 2005 Linguistic and Unicode considerations (or Language-specific Processing #4) or my 2006 Do not adjust your browser, a.k.a. sometimes two wrongs DO make a right, a.k.a. dumb quotes or my 2007 Should old acquaintance *not* be forgot, code pages may screw up their names anyhow or my 2008 If they aren't in Unicode, what could they be in? And you can [smart-]quote me on that! and just figured it was kind of covered territory.

I mean, it was disappointing that POTUS didn't recognize this issue.

Especially after he did so well when he was over at Google (ref: my Barack Obama sorts it all out?).

And lame that the newspaper "coverage" did not include the minimal research to find the issue, either.

But I figured this was all covered territory. Even if it is "news" to the newspeople.

Then as the day progressed yesterday, Scott Hanselman got into it, culminating in this tweet, and blog:

Now whether it was because it was Scott or whether it was because of who he cc:ed, his blog on the subject -- Why the #AskObama Tweet was Garbled on Screen: Know your UTF-8, Unicode, ASCII and ANSI Decoding Mr. President -- went all over and got retweeted out the wazoo. :-)

Really the only involvement I had in all of this officially was when Paul Betts brought me up (note Scott misidentified the code page in the prior tweet it was a response to, which he later corrected):

Paul may or may not have been remembering those four other blogs I mentioned. I don't think Scott recalled them (which is probably how I got to stay under his radar in his blog!).

I suppose that company Mass Relevance really ought to feel fairly dumb too. Though less dumb than the later news coverage, if one is not colorblind to people making mistakes.

In the end, there really isn't much to see here. Though it is nice to see people noticing the problem I've been complaining about for years that no one thought was such a big deal. I have email from several people in Word and Office saying that smart quotes bugs and problems would never leak out to the world outside of Word. And that there would never be a problem....

Until it became about politics, I guess....

Anyway, sorry Mr. Boehner (and Mr. Obama). This one looks like it was our code page and our "dumb quotes". So I guess it's all on us (all the later mistakes were just inexperienced folks misdiagnosing the problem,and Scott who mostly got it right)....

Someone from Word really ought to apologize here, too. :-)


Random832 on 9 Jul 2011 6:09 PM:

Well, I’d say you can’t really blame Word for this. It appeared correct on Twitter itself, so the characters were correct, and there’s nothing stopping someone putting typographic quote marks—which are, after all, there to be used—in by other means; via Character Map, for example. Now, of course, no-one actually _does_ this, but who types up their tweets in Word? Really it's a problem in whatever browser was used.

Michael S. Kaplan on 9 Jul 2011 11:22 PM:

Word started us down that road and assurd everyone it wasn't a problem. Thereforee, they share in a charge of contributory negligence of all future crimes....


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