Re: Internationalization--Standard Icons

From: Geoffrey Waigh (
Date: Fri May 28 1999 - 17:44:21 EDT

Michael Everson wrote:
> Geoffrey Waigh wrote:
> >That's true, and given a relatively small number of manufacturers, it is
> >possible to get most people to follow the standard. However it doesn't
> >mean that the public likes it, because that which comes out of standards
> >bodies has a less than perfect correlation with usability.
> Thou beggest the question. I like the record/stop/off icons on my VCR just
> fine. And the two vertical lines for pause. And as a member of the public,
> too. Not _because_ they are in standards, since I was a user of them before
> I was a standardizer.

I didn't intend to dispute whether tape icons were well accepted but whether
a spate of icon standardization would be accepted by the public at large.
If you want an example of this, a number of years ago there were a large
set of icons representing different recreational/physical activities. Maybe
these were from the 1976 Olympics or perhaps some other government project.
Whatever the case quite a few of them provided widespread coffee shop
debate on what they were. Eventually they were phased out, because without
a dictionary too many of them were unhelpful.
> It's hard to say. People get used to a lot of the pictures. In Europe, No
> Parking signs have no text on them. This is linguistically independent, and
> people have to learn it, and people do learn it.

It depends on the people and how many pictures they are required to learn.
In some areas you can sell this new language because the local politics
accept that if nobody is getting preferential treatment it is okay. In
others it doesn't fly, they want to be communicated to in their own

> >As I mention above, I don't think the acceptance will be outside the
> >committee. You mention ISO 8601 and in North America at least, it is
> >seldom used.
> Date formats like 1999-05-28 are common enough in computing use, are they not?

Alas no, not in North America.

> You don't say that. You say "Oh, that's following the international
> standard for telephone number formatting".

Thank-you, but I did explain it in a polite fashion and only in detail after
they asked questions.

> Well, if you want business cards that people outside the US can use easily,
> you should use international notation. Anyway lots of things are "foisted"
> by standards, and most of them are good. That's why we have standards, and
> want standards.

The motivation for me using the notation was because I kept getting
correspondence from Europeans that listed their number as
[access long distance network] [omit country code] [city code] [local portion]
with whatever formatting is local custom. Which is less than helpful.
However in North America the standard notation is rarely accepted by
software nor are many people willing to change the specifications on
the software because they don't want to retrain the users. Luckily
other than raised eyebrows from the odd formatting, everyone here can
understand the number as written.


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