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Friday, November 11, 2005

I want to talk about document validation. Now, I don't know anything about document validation, but that doesn't seem to stop anybody else, so here goes.

If I were asked to validate a document, my first question would be: "Where did this come from?" If the answer was that it was faxed from an unknown source, I would stop right there. It is so easy to cut and paste just using a pair of scissors, a roll of tape, and a simple copy machine. I've done it myself (not on anything official). I don't believe there is any way to validate a document that is not an original.

If I had the original, not a fax or photocopy, and if a reasonable chain could be made from, say, a file drawer in a Texas National Guard office to the paper in my hand, I would next look at the formatting of the document and compare it to any contemporaneous documents that could be found. Are the headers placed on the page the same way? Are dates formatted the same way? Are acronyms and abbreviations, and general wording, consistent with those other documents? Again, if I saw significant differences I would stop.

I would also examine the overall physical atttibutes of the document. Since I would not accept a fax or a photocopy, I would be able to compare the appearance of the paper and the ink with those contemporaneous documents. Is the paper the same size? Same color and weight? How about the ink?

But for pete's sake, if the letters on the document in question are formed differently than those contemporaneous documents, if in fact they were shown to be identical to the output of MS Word in its default settings, right down to the line returns, and especially once I noticed the little superscript "th", I would laugh my head off and throw it in the garbage.

Is that so hard?

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