Friday 29 February 2008

Data can never be perfect...

[This was originally posted on an old blog: Data can never be perfect... ]

This is a re-post of a comment I made on Doug Henschen's article about data governance and the suprime crisis.

Doug's position (quoting from a lot of data governance vendors) is: "A first step toward avoiding such calamities... is an integrated, overarching data governance program that addresses data security, data privacy and data quality so that risks can be better understood and outcomes anticipated."

Basically, if the banks had better data they would have made better decisions and not got themselves into this mess.

The problem is not a lack of governance but an unshakeable belief in the data and risk models. Interested readers should look at "Did Black-Scholes Cause the Housing Bubble?" in Portfolio.

I'm a data guy, but every executive needs to understand that data is merely a map and the map is not the territory. If an explorer has a map that does not match the territory they can see, they would do well to question the map, rather than ask the territory to change.

The credit score is simply another map. There is evidence that they were significantly weakened by new financial products over the last 7 years. Again, see "Credit Scores: Not-So-Magic Numbers" for details.

Data quality, data governance, etc. are all **super** important. However, as data professionals we need to build systems that incorporate common sense, human based checks and balances. Trusting too much in software will eventually get you fired or indicted for criminal negligence.

Friday 18 January 2008

Social Networking: The new Rock n' Roll

[ This was originally posted on an old blog: Social Networking: The new Rock n' Roll ]

In the 1950's Rock n' Roll swept the (western) world and created a youth culture impact that still reverberates today. It also created a complete break between the "kids" who loved and the older generation who just didn't get it. Some said Rock n' Roll was undermining the moral fiber of the nation, some just thought it was a bunch of noise.  The point is that music and culture where fundamentally changed by Rock n' Roll and everyone over a certain age was simply left behind. All of their objections and concerns simply became irrellevent.  The kids just didn't care and they quickly found that they could define the world on their own terms.

Social Networking is the new Rock n' Roll, it creates a complete break between generations.

In our era Social Networking (Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, et al) is going to generate another break.  Our culture will be fundamentally changed and a new generation will re-define how the world works.  You don't have to look far (or listening long) to hear complaints about lost productivity in the workplace, moral decline, "infantile" behaviour and kids not understaning the "real world".  Well, once again, the kids just don't care.  They grew up with IM and email.  Everyone they know or care to know is online all the time and they expect be there to.

I suppose that some of you who are 30+ (like me) will be thinking "I get it, I'm there".  I congratulate you for being so hip, but the truth is that you don't/can't really get it.  No matter how much you try to engage with this new paradigm it will always be an effort.  Some of you friends just won't participate. Those that do won't be totally open, or totally engaged.  You may feel like you're joining in but it will never be the same.

We're like old jazz fans who appreciate Rock n' Roll for it's roots in Jazz but really we long for something more nuanced and sophisticated.  Roll on you cool cats. 

Blog Interrupted: It's been a while...

[This was originally posted on an old blog: Blog Interrupted: It's been a while... ]

Well it's been almost a year and a half since my last post.  You would have been right to assume that this blog was dead but, just like Lazarus, it's alive again. Resurrected and better than ever.

I've been out of the Business Intelligence / Data Warehouse arena working in Database Marketing.  It's definitely given me an extra perspective on data warehouse and the value of data for it's own sake.  The first lesson was that it's not polite to laugh at people when they call a million row table "big";-).  The second lesson was that sub-queries in SQL Server do not work and will never return.

Anyway, I'm back in the industry working as a Data Warehouse Designer / Architect so I'll be using this blog as a place to crystallise my thoughts on how data warehousing should be done. I also love to research new products in this space so I'll be putting company and product summaries here as well with links to loads of useful resources.


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