Loving Data Isn’t Easy, But Worthwhile

    “Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. While you are headed to work, make sure you make plans to Love Your Data a little extra today.” – Karen Lopez, aka the datachick

    It’s Valentines Day, and I’ve been thinking about love. Specifically, I’ve been thinking that Hallmark can keep its too perfect, candy love, with its glitter and unyielding, shiny red hearts.

    I need a more rugged love. I mean the kind that doesn’t mind changing a dirty diaper after one too many blueberries. I’m talking about the love that does one more load of laundry, then stays up late to pack a school lunch. I need the love that sticks with me, even when I’m sick, stressed and just need to rage against the chaos.

    Where can I buy a box of that, because, frankly, that’s the kind of love I think we need more of in this tired world.

    That’s what was on my mind when I saw Lopez’s tweet.

    “Love your data” is Lopez’s motto, which is fitting, since she’s a data model expert and senior project manager/principal consultant at InfoAdvisors. But it’s also an incredibly improbable thing to suggest, which is probably why it’s so memorable.

    After seeing her first tweet and a follow-up tweet reminding us that love can be both a noun and a verb, I started to really question what it would mean to “love your data.”

    It would mean you take it seriously, of course. It would mean being steadfast and focused, even when it frustrates the hell out of you and everyone else is sick of talking about it. It would mean one more effort to explain a model to a business user, training one more data steward, and sitting through yet another governance meeting.

    It would mean sticking with the data, through cleansings and migrations, for richer or poorer, as it were.

    But most of all — and I suspect this time will soon come for data governance — it’ll mean staying the course and not being distracted by shiny new applications or trends.

    On her Pinterest Love Your Data board, Lopez saved a sign that reads, “Data lasts longer than code, treat it right.”

    Seeing that, I realized that applications are like those beautiful Valentines — flashy, new, alluring. It’s the tech equivalent of what C.S. Lewis called the Eros love. It’s so easy to fall in love with applications, and so easy to fall out of love with them. They come and go, and for the most part, that’s okay.

    But data — well, that’s the real thing. When you come down to it, the data we keep is the heart of what matters to a business or organization.

    And just like any relationship of substance and endurance, data needs the kind of love that’s willing to clean up messes and stick around when it’s tough.

    Is that too much to ask? Maybe. But too bad, because that’s what has to happen.

    So what do you do if you don’t love your data, asked Allen Kinsel on Twitter?

    Suck it up and get to work, anyway. Or, as Lopez more appropriately suggested, “Fake it like everyone else.”

    Have a Happy Valentine’s Day. Buy yourself some chocolate. You’ll need the sugar rush for that data governance meeting later.

    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson is a freelance writer specializing in technology and business issues, including integration, health care IT, cloud and Big Data.

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