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I'm Mike Pope. I live in the Seattle area. I've been a technical writer and editor for over 30 years. I'm interested in software, language, music, movies, books, motorcycles, travel, and ... well, lots of stuff.

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I write books to find out about things.

— Rebecca West



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Blog Statistics

Dates
First entry - 6/27/2003
Most recent entry - 12/9/2018

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Posts - 2537
Comments - 2589
Hits - 2,102,467

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Entries/day - 0.45
Comments/entry - 1.02
Hits/day - 372

Updated every 30 minutes. Last: 5:31 PM Pacific


  10:47 PM

At work the other day I was working a list of our products and I found I kept hunting around in the list for a specific one. Here's how the list was arranged (I left a few out for brevity):

Amazon CloudFront
Amazon CloudWatch
Amazon DynamoDB
Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2)
Amazon Elastic MapReduce
Amazon Glacier
Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS)
Amazon Route 53
Amazon Simple Email Service (Amazon SES)
Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3)
Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC)
Amazon Web Services Account Billing Information
Auto Scaling
AWS CloudFormation
AWS Elastic Beanstalk
AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM)
AWS Storage Gateway
AWS Support
Elastic Load Balancing

It's a bit more obvious here than it was in the document I was updating, but you can see that the products are arranged in strict alphabetic order. (You might wonder, as I did, why sometimes it's "Amazon" this and other times it's "AWS" that, but what you see here are the official product names, and there's no messing with that.)

Still, and in spite of this perfectly logical order, "Elastic Load Balancing" at the end felt like it had been tacked on as an afterthought. Likewise "Auto Scaling" felt out of place, and seeing Amazon CloudWatch separated from AWS CloudFormation was odd.

Putting things in alphabetical order has a number of recognized challenges. You need to decide whether you're going to sort case sensitively; how to accommodate spaces and punctuation; how to handle acronyms and initialisms; and so on. (You can explore some of these under Special Cases in the Wikipedia article on Alphabetical Order, or if you happen to have a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style (16th ed), refer to 16.56ff.)

None of the special-case handling, however, addressed the particular situation of our list, which was this: from the perspective of the user looking for a product, the "Amazon" or "AWS" portion of the name is essentially invisible. Users know these products as CloudFront and Glacier and Auto Scaling. (Or in some cases, the products are best known by their initials, like S3 and IAM.)

So we've taken a stab at alphabetizing the list in what might be called "user-oriented name order." You can see the result in the published page. I'm actually curious how people like this and whether they'd agree that the order we've come up with makes more sense.

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