LDSTech

Phone Number Standarization

Discussions around using and interfacing with the Church MLS program.

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#11Postby Mikerowaved » Sun Jul 27, 2008 9:29 pm

Alan_Brown wrote:Yes, using periods to separate phone number components is common in Europe, and other countries. But it looks a bit odd to many people in the US, so I don't see any reason to adopt a European standard for a stake in the US. The audience that will see the numbers is 99.9% inside the stake, so my opinion is that it's best to use a standard your audience is most familiar with.

Agreed. I was asking for the recommended way to represent a 10-digit number within MLS in the US. Europe and other areas are free to do what they want. I'm not even asking for a mask necessarily (although I think that would solve the problem), just the best recommendation to make to our STS for how we want OUR Stake to conform. IMO, it comes down to two possible formats:

The (800) 555-1212 format offers tradition and (strictly IMO) aesthetics. Negatives are it's more cumbersome to enter, some clerks will add a space after the last parenthesis while others may leave it off, takes up more room on reports, unconfirmed reports of problems with NFS.

The 800-555-1212 offers a more simplistic, compact approach. It's a bit easier to enter and easier to maintain "format consistency" among all the clerks in the Stake.

Looks like plan B for my recommendation. Y'all are free to choose for yourselves or come up with something entirely different. Like Alan said, only on rare occasion will these ever be used outside the Stake. 3rd party software that uses exported MLS data will just have to deal with anything we throw at them. ;)
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#12Postby jdlessley » Sun Jul 27, 2008 10:47 pm

All this discussion about a standardized telephone number format leads me to believe there is a need for something other than text entry for the telephone number in MLS. I haven't studied the various telephone character lengths for different countries, or regions within countries, to fully understand why it shouldn't be just numbers without any delimiters. The format for display could be a user defined option. For reports the format could be determined at the time the report is viewed or printed.

In the United States telephone numbers are ten numeric characters. If MLS is programmed such that during set-up (installation) a country or even region identification could be selected, just as language is selected for many multi-lingual programs, the corresponding telephone storage format could be determined. For the US it would be 10 numeric characters. Then a user option could be the format for display - such as (123) 456-7890. An input mask could be optional since the number is stored without delimiters - regardless of the format the number is entered. MLS would strip delimiters during the field update and display the number using the user defined preference. Changing the user option would automatically change the telephone number display format for all telephone numbers. Input and storage of the number could even be broken into the components of area code and subscriber number.

I did check one country I know has a difficult telephone number issue - the Philippines. They have various length telephone numbers ranging from six characters to eleven characters (1-4 digits for area codes and 5-7 digits for the subscriber number). But even for that situation separate entries for the area code and subscriber number is a possibility.

Of course this solution does not address all the world-wide telephone number formats and character lengths possible. It is just my simple observation.
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#13Postby Mikerowaved » Mon Jul 28, 2008 12:34 am

jdlessley wrote:All this discussion about a standardized telephone number format leads me to believe there is a need for something other than text entry for the telephone number in MLS. I haven't studied the various telephone character lengths for different countries, or regions within countries, to fully understand why it shouldn't be just numbers without any delimiters. The format for display could be a user defined option. For reports the format could be determined at the time the report is viewed or printed.

In the United States telephone numbers are ten numeric characters. If MLS is programmed such that during set-up (installation) a country or even region identification could be selected, just as language is selected for many multi-lingual programs, the corresponding telephone storage format could be determined. For the US it would be 10 numeric characters. Then a user option could be the format for display - such as (123) 456-7890. An input mask could be optional since the number is stored without delimiters - regardless of the format the number is entered. MLS would strip delimiters during the field update and display the number using the user defined preference. Changing the user option would automatically change the telephone number display format for all telephone numbers. Input and storage of the number could even be broken into the components of area code and subscriber number.

I did check one country I know has a difficult telephone number issue - the Philippines. They have various length telephone numbers ranging from six characters to eleven characters (1-4 digits for area codes and 5-7 digits for the subscriber number). But even for that situation separate entries for the area code and subscriber number is a possibility.

Of course this solution does not address all the world-wide telephone number formats and character lengths possible. It is just my simple observation.

Yeah, we kicked this idea around some in a previous thread HERE.

Looking past the needs of my own Stake, there are many Stakes in Zion that have a deadline fast approaching to start storing all 10-digits (many for the first time). Yes, many units in the Church have had to deal with this problem already, but this is only a trickle compared to how many Stakes and Wards will be affected when the 801 Area Code of the greater Ogden, Salt Lake City, and Provo areas get their first ever Area Code overlay early next year.

I don't expect to solve all the problems associated with this, or come up with THE perfect solution, but if we could make suggestions and recommendations to those coming here seeking advise, maybe we can take some of the burden off CHQ and the anticipated flood of calls they will likely get next year on this issue.
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#14Postby SR Ward Clerk-p40 » Mon Jul 28, 2008 1:46 am

I'm going to stick with the point I made when we discussed this issue briefly last year: I used to prefer to use parentheses, but my Palm Treo will dial hyphen-separated numbers, but not parentheses-separated ones. Therefore, I can copy a ward member's number from MyWard straight to my phone and dial. I can also download the ward directory from the LUWS and copy it to Palm Desktop, which then downloads to my phone directory when I HotSync. It saves a lot of time dialing numbers.
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#15Postby scion-p40 » Mon Jul 28, 2008 9:09 am

My unofficial and completely unscientific observation is that frequent 10 key users tend to use dashes or periods, while those less familiar with 10 key may use parenthesis, dashes, or periods. Consistency is esthetically pleasing, though.
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#16Postby jbh001 » Mon Jul 28, 2008 4:54 pm

Mikerowaved wrote:The 800-555-1212 offers a more simplistic, compact approach. It's a bit easier to enter and easier to maintain "format consistency" among all the clerks in the Stake.
I guess I would add that most cell phones I have used display numbers with hyphens instead of periods or parentheses. Do that's another feather in the cap for the 000-000-0000 format.
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#17Postby jbh001 » Mon Jul 28, 2008 5:00 pm

jdlessley wrote:I haven't studied the various telephone character lengths for different countries, or regions within countries, to fully understand why it shouldn't be just numbers without any delimiters.
Because there are legitimate needs to include text with the phone number such as:

000-000-0000 (home)
000-000-0000 (cell)
000-000-0000 (msg)
000-000-0000 (work)
000-000-0000 (John)
000-000-0000 (Jane)
000-000-0000 x00000
UNLISTED
UNPUBLISHED
PRIVATE
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#18Postby RossEvans » Mon Jul 28, 2008 5:19 pm

jbh001 wrote:Because there are legitimate needs to include text with the phone number such as: ...

UNLISTED
UNPUBLISHED
PRIVATE


Whether that is legitimate is controversial. I, for one, disagree.

Now, if MLS developers, pursuant to some business rule dictated by Church policy, determine that these special states should be stored in the database, that would be a different matter. Then they could add such functionality at the time they added validation of real phone numbers.

But meanwhile, absent instructions to the contrary, I think it is a misuse of the existing fields to write comments into fields for name, address, phone number, email etc. Not only does it skate on the edge of policy as a matter of consistent governance, such sloppy data definition and typing represents bush-league database practice. If such free-form comments are supposed to be allowed, then that should be explicity documented in both internal data dictionaries and external end-user instructions for MLS so everyone will know what to expect.
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#19Postby jdlessley » Mon Jul 28, 2008 5:34 pm

jbh001 wrote:Because there are legitimate needs to include text with the phone number such as:

000-000-0000 (home)
000-000-0000 (cell)
000-000-0000 (msg)
000-000-0000 (work)
000-000-0000 (John)
000-000-0000 (Jane)
000-000-0000 x00000
UNLISTED
UNPUBLISHED
PRIVATE
I don't recommend entering text into a number field. It is better programming to have unique telephone fields for the type of telephone number. Another option is to have a switch that identifies the telephone number type.

It looks to me that you are using text in the telephone number field to compensate for deficiencies in the program - known issue for MLS. If MLS was programmed to handle the varying telephone number types then you wouldn't have to abuse the field.
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#20Postby russellhltn » Mon Jul 28, 2008 9:59 pm

jdlessley wrote:If MLS was programmed to handle the varying telephone number types then you wouldn't have to abuse the field.


Another way of looking at it is that the MLS programmers gave the wards the most flexibility by making it text. It would have been very easy for them to make it a phone number format. But they didn't. (Note that MLS already has a downloadable "area" settings, so one mask wouldn't have to accommodate the world.)

So far no one has shown any policy or official direction that prevents the field from being used as the unit wishes. I wouldn't want to be the dba of that central database, but MLS exists to support the unit - not the other way around.
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