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Dogs and Data – Why it’s so hard to keep them clean

by Jodee Hale-Schmid

September 28, 2010

Authored by Keith Boardman, Project Director, Utopia, Inc.

Have you ever wondered why data seems to get “dirty” so quickly – even when you have people assigned to create and maintain it according to reasonable business rules? I was musing on this question the other day and mentioned it to the family. Now we’ve always had a menagerie at our house and it’s not “the dog,” it is multiple dogs at any one time. One thing led to another in the conversation and we came up with the following theories:

  1. Data seems to attract dirt just by existing – dogs tend to go roll in disgusting stuff, tromp through mud, brush against cars, etc. Apparently data does the same thing – we just aren’t around to see it happen.
  2. Dogs left un-bathed start to smell very pungent. Data left un-maintained tends to decay
  3. Dogs run off if not kept on a leash - and come back dirty and happy. Data gets extracted and used without proper controls and unexpectedly shows up in meetings dirty (and presumably happy – or at least the person using it is happy)
  4. When a small wet dog shake s itself, the spray zone is small enough to wipe up with a dish towel. When a large dog shakes, it may be time to call a professional cleaning crew. Same applies to small and large volumes of dirty data.
  5. Extending that analogy - Small dogs can be bathed in a sink by older children and small adults. Large dogs require a bathtub or a hose on the driveway and a Sumo wrestler. Low volume data cleanup can be handled with normal office software. Large volumes require more powerful tools and automation – or a small army.
  6. Well trained clean dogs are a source of great comfort, companionship, and pleasure. Clean accessible data can provide the same feelings to operations managers and the executives.
  7. The only self cleaning that dogs do is in unmentionable areas. Data doesn’t clean itself at all – if it did, I’d be writing this blog about the similarities between data and cats.


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