June 2, 2008

Space Matters

FreebaseLet me tell you a story: I noticed that the exoplanet count on the freebase exoplanet catalogue were bigger than what should be. It should only be 293 as of writing.
So I started to check the list on freebase. It turned out that there were duplicate entries for some exoplanets. The dupes turned out to be caused by the fact that the exoplanet naming convention were quite prone to a very peculiar error - the ommission of a simple space. For example: XO-1b should be XO-1 b. So i started correcting them on freebase. I renamed some exoplanets by adding the space between the host star name and the letter to denote the planet. (The naming convention is best explained on my previous post entitled "What's in an exoplanet's name?")
Then I noticed that some of the mis-named exoplanets were imported from Wikipedia - the source of the error. So now, I am spending some time correcting the names of exoplanets on Wikipedia.
The moral of the story is that "Space Matters". A simple error in the naming convention - such as a thing as mundane as a "space" can create lots of work, specially when it ripples across different services on the web, moreso when it involves databases where every "character" counts - even the space.
Moving forward, this is a call for everyone who would be entering future exoplanet data into Wikipedia/Freebase to please be wary of the "space".
In the next few months and years, tons of exoplanets will be discovered and paying close attention to detail (naming convention) will greatly help the community involved in cataloguing all these new exoplanets in an open database such as freebase.
Remember, the 'space' between a planet and its parent star (the distance between them) matters for life to flourish.