Staying in Doggerland

Currently I’m travelling a lot between my present home in London, United Kingdom and Copenhagen, Denmark where I have most of my family and where the iDQ headquarter is.

When flying between London and Copenhagen you pass the southern North Sea. In the old days (8,000 years ago) this area was a land occupied by human beings. This ancient land is known today as Doggerland.

Sometimes I feel like a citizen of Doggerland not really belonging in the United Kingdom or Denmark.

I still have some phone subscriptions in Denmark I use there and my family are using there.  The phone company seems to have a hard time getting a 360 degree customer view as I have two different spellings of my name and two different addresses as seen on the screen when I look up myself in the iDQ service:

Besides having a Customer Relationship Mess (CRM) the phone company has recently shifted their outsourcing partner (from CSC to TCS). This has caused a lot of additional mess, apparently also closing one of my subscriptions due to that they have failed to register my payments. They did however send a chaser they say, but to the oldest of the addresses where I don’t pick up mail anymore.

I called to settle the matter and asked if they could correct the address not in use anymore. They couldn’t. The operator did some kind of query into the citizen hub similar to what I can do on iDQ:

However the customer service guy’s screen just showed that I have no address in Denmark in the citizen hub (called CPR), so he couldn’t change the address.

Apparently the phone company have correctly picked up an accurate address in the citizen hub when I got the subscription but failed to update it (along with the other subscriptions) when I moved to another domestic address and now don’t have an adequate business rule when I’m registered at a foreign address.

So now I’m staying in Doggerland.

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Broken Links

When passing the results of data cleansing activities back to source systems I have often encountered what one might call broken links, which have called for designing data flows that doesn’t go by book, doesn’t match the first picture of the real world and eventually prompts last minute alternate ways of doing things.

I have had the same experience when passing some real (and not real) world bridges lately.

The Trembling Lady: An Unsound Bridge

When walking around in London a sign on the Albert Bridge caught my eye. The sign instructs troops to break steps when marching over.

In researching the Albert Bridge on Wikipedia I learned that the bridge has an unsound construction that makes it vibrate not at least when a bunch of troops marches across in rhythm. The bridge has therefore got the nickname “The Trembling Lady”.

It’s an old sign. The bridge is an old bridge. But it’s still standing.

The same way we often have to deal with old systems running on unstable databases with unsound data models. That’s life. Though it’s not the way we want to see it, we most break the rhythm of else perfectly cleansed data as discussed in the post Storing a Single Version of the Truth.  

The Øresund Bridge: The Sound Link

The sound between the city of Malmö in Sweden and København (Copenhagen) in Denmark can be crossed by the Øresund Bridge. If looking at a satellite picture you may conclude that the bridge isn’t finished. That’s because a part of the link is in fact an undersea tunnel as told in the post Geocoding from 100 Feet Under.

Your first image about what can be done and what can’t be done isn’t always the way of the world. Dig into some more sources, find some more charts and you may find a way.

However, life isn’t always easy. Sometimes charts and maps can be deceiving.

Wodna: The Sound of Silence.

As reported in the post Troubled Bridge over Water I planned a cycling trip last summer. The route would take us across the Polish river Świna by a bridge I found on Google Maps.

When, after a hard day’s ride in the saddle, we reached the river, the bridge wasn’t there. We had to take a ferry across the river instead.

I maybe should have known. The bridge on the map was named Wodna. That is Polish for (something with) water.

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Turning a Blind Eye to Data Quality

The idiom turning a blind eye originates from the sea battle at Copenhagen where Admiral Nelson ignored a signal with permission to withdraw by raising the telescope to his blind eye and say “I really do not see the signal”.

Nelson went on and won the battle.

As a data quality practitioner you are often amazed by how enterprises turns the blind eye to data quality challenges and despite horrible data quality conditions keeps on and wins the battle by growing as a successful business.

The evidence about how poor data quality is costing enterprises huge sums has been out there for a long time. But business success are made over and again despite of bad data. There may be casualties, but the business goals are met anyway. So, the poor data quality is just something that makes the fight harder, not impossible.

I guess we have to change the messaging about data quality improvement away from the doomsday prophesies, which make decision makers turn a blind eye to data quality challenges, and be more specific on maybe smaller but tangible wins where data quality improvement and business efficiency goes hand in hand.        

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The fact that many people doesn’t live in a single family house but live in a flat sharing the same building number on a street with people living in other flats in the same building is a common challenge in data quality and data matching.

The same challenge also applies to companies sharing the same building number with other companies and not to say when companies and households are in the same building. So this is a common party master data issue.

Address verification and geocoding is seen as important methods for achieving data quality improvement related to the top data quality pain all over being quality of party master data and aiming at getting a single customer view.

Multi-occupancy is a pain in the (you know) getting there.

My pain

I have had some personal experiences living at multi-occupancy addresses lately.

One and a half years ago I was living a painless life in single family house in a Copenhagen suburb.

Then I moved closer to downtown Copenhagen in a flat as mentioned in post Down the Street.

The tradition in Denmark is to send letters and make deliveries and register master data with a common format of units within a building and having separate mailboxes with flat ID and names for each flat. I have received most of my post since then and got all deliveries I’m aware of.

Then I moved to London in a flat. Here the flats in my building have numbers. But the postman delivers the letters in one batch in the street door, and there are no names on the doorbells in front of the door.

So now I sense I don’t get many letters and today I had to order the same stuff trice from, because I haven’t received the first two packages despite of their state of the art online accessible package tracking systems that tells me that delivery was successful.

Master data pains unresolved

Address reference data at building number level and related geocodes are becoming commonly available many places around these days.

But having reference data and real world aligned location and related party master data at the unit level is still a challenge most places. Therefore we are still struggling with using address verification and geocoding for single customer view where a given building number has more than a single occupancy.

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Geocoding from 100 Feet Under

I stumbled upon this image posted by Ellie K. on Google+

The title is World map of Flickr and Twitter locations and the legend is that red dots are locations of Flickr pictures, blue dots are locations of Twitter tweets and white dots are locations that have been posted to both.

You may be able to see your city following this link.

For example Copenhagen looks like this:

Here you have Copenhagen in Denmark to the left and Malmoe in Sweden to the right.

The strip between is the fixed link known as the Øresund Bridge.

However the connection isn’t entirely a bridge. If you look at a flyover picture you may think that there wasn’t money enough to finish the connection. Fortunately there was. The part closest to Copenhagen Airport is a 4 kilometer (2.5 miles) undersea tunnel.

So what puzzles me is the dots apparently representing Flickr uploads and tweets made from the tunnel. Are you able to upload to Flickr from down there? How are the tweets geocoded with that precision? My GPS never works when passing the tunnel.

(PS: I know you may geotag when back to surface)

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Some Flyover Information

My Follow Friday World Tour stop today was at some Flyover States, being states in the United States bicoastal people only see from above when flying over them going from coast to coast.

If I were to fly from (A) Copenhagen to (B) Los Angeles one should, by looking at a traditional flat world map, think that the flight also would pass over these inland states.

But the world isn’t flat. The shortest route for an east to west flight will tend to follow the so called great circle being a much more northerly swing.  

However, this isn’t the shortest route either. The polar route, being flying over the North Pole, is the shortcut in the real round world. Actually the Copenhagen (CPH) to Los Angeles (LAX) connection established in 1954 was the world’s first commercial polar route.

I find great analogies in looking at a map and solving data and information quality issues like in the post Sharing data is key to a single version of the truth which was a blog-bout with a UK guy and a Flyover guy.

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When a Cloudburst Hit

Some days ago Copenhagen was hit by the most powerful cloudburst ever measured here.

More powerful cloudbursts may be usual in warmer regions on the earth, but this one was very unusual at 55 degrees north.

Fortunately there was only material damage, but the material damage was very extensive. When you take a closer look you may divide the underground constructions into two categories.

The first category is facilities constructed with the immediate purpose of use in mind. Many of these facilities are still out of operation.

The second category is facilities constructed with the immediate purpose of use in mind but also designed to resist heavy pouring rain. These facilities kept working during the cloudburst. One example is the metro. If the metro was constructed for only the immediate purpose of use, being circling trains below ground, it would have been flooded within minutes, with the risk of lost lives and a standstill for months.

We have the same situation in data management. Things may seem just fine if data are fit for the immediate purpose of use. But when a sudden change in conditions hit, then you know about data quality.

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A pain in the …

When we move around in the traffic we may have different roles at different times. Sometimes I drive a car, sometimes I’m a pedestrian and sometimes I ride a bicycle. The traffic infrastructure tries to separate these roles by having roads for cars, sidewalks (pavements) for pedestrians and bicycle paths for bicycles. But in intersections these separations meets and creates cases of who’s to have the upper hand and sometimes all three constructions aren’t available, so pedestrians and bicycle riders may use a road made for cars.

I have just completed a short (kind of) holiday where we took our bicycles on a tour around parts of the Baltic Sea coast through four different countries: Denmark, Germany, Poland and Sweden. Our start and end was in Copenhagen, which is known for having extremely good conditions for bicycling coined by the term “Copenhagenization”.     

The quality and availability of bicycle paths varied a lot on the route. Sometimes you felt that the bicycle paths were constructed to make the life of bicycle riders as miserable as possible. When the bicycle path wasn’t there or was too bad we hit the road, which was extremely unpopular among the car drivers. Not at least German Mercedes drivers love their horns.

But I guess it’s nothing personal. When I drive my car I also think pedestrians and bicycle riders are a pain in the …

Such cases of not liking a role you have yourself at another time also applies to a lot of other situations in life. For example I’m not very excited about all the data quality checks and mandatory fields I have to deal with in the CRM system when I have sold a data quality tool or service. I see them as a pain in the …

And oh yes, after finishing the cycling tour I did have some pain…

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Don’t confuse me with facts of life

As humans we like to know about simple facts. As with weather forecasts we like to know exactly what temperature it’s going to be, if the sun will be shining or it’s going to be rain and sometimes also about the wind speed and direction relating to a given place and time in the future.

Meteorologists have struggled for ages to tell us about that. A traditional weather forecast will tell us the best guess for these few key indicators.

Many people today, including me, don’t really rely on the weather to do our work. But we may plan when to work, how to get to work and what to do besides work depending on the weather forecast.

So I usually study the weather forecast. Lately I have noticed that the Danish Meteorological Institute has experimented with how to visualize to the common people that the weather forecast is a best guess. So for example instead of having single colored blue plies indicating how much rain to expect, they now have the choice to have blue piles in different light or darker blue colors indicating the risk (or chance if you like) of rain.

Better data quality? I think so. Less confusing? I think not. It could be rain anytime. But it probably won’t.          


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How long is a Marathon?

Many large cities around the world have a yearly marathon event. Today it’s Copenhagen (and possibly other cities too).

The marathon distance today is 42,195 kilometers (if I use comma as decimal point) which resembles 26 miles and 385 yards or 26.22 miles (if I use a dot as decimal point).

So even if we today agree about the distance we might represent that distance in various ways. The distance has however varied during history as seen in the table with the length of the Olympic marathons.

What about real world alignment?

Well, if the Greek runner called Pheidippides (sometimes spelled Phidippides or Philippides) took the long but flat Southern route from Marathon to Athens it would have been around 42 kilometers. If he took the shorter but steeper Northern route it would only have been around 35 kilometers.

What about me? Oh, I’ll go for 42,195 kilometers – on the bike.   

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