Whenever I register as a website user or make a purchase online I encounter a form that invariably has a field called "state" and a pick list of choices. Since I live in Pennsylvania, to speed my way through this field, I type the letter "P" to move myself to the correct position in the pick list. I always expect to get to "Pennsylvania" because both alphabetically and by postal abbreviation, it is the first U.S. state starting with "P."
At least 40% of the time, however, instead of getting "Pennsylvania" as a result, I get "Palau," a nation in the Pacific Ocean with a total population of about 20,000. This means I have to spend extra time fumbling with the pick list to correctly enter "Pennsylvania" in the state field.

Who cares? Well first of all, Palau isn't a U.S. state. It hasn't even been a U.S. Trust Territory since 1978. But worse than engaging in geopolitical incorrectness, sites that include Palau in their pick list of state choices are making me work that much harder on the inherently annoying task of registering, i.e. providing the same information over and over again. On top of that, these companies are polluting their own databases, complicating all their internal data processing activities.

So why does Palau appear so often on state pick lists? Because marketers and product managers continue to cede too much of the website design to programmers. And one thing I can assure you of about programmers: data entry of any kind is anathema to them. That means that every time they are faced with typing a list, they'll opt to grab it from another site, copying and pasting for speed and convenience, and propagating errors like this as they go. But the blame can't be placed entirely on the programmers. These errors persist because nobody is checking their work.

It's a small error in the greater scheme of things to be sure. But it's also a small amount of work to make sure that errors like this don't occur. It is the job of programmers to develop applications and make certain they work. It is the job of marketers to make sure the applications work well. And this is just one mildly amusing bit of proof that attention to detail is still lacking. And considering that our collective futures are online, that's not good. So mind your P's and Q's.

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