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They Call Me Andy Null

By Andy Warren,

Today we have a guest editorial as Steve is out of town.

There’s no doubt that working in the world of data and databases gives one a unique perspective on many things, a perspective that is often difficult to explain to those who aren’t well versed in the dark arts of data. For example, lately I’ve been getting mail (the kind that requires a stamp) addressed to “Andy Null”.

When the first one arrived I have to admit to looking at it with disdain. What knucklehead converted a null to “Null”? But disdain didn’t last long, as I smiled about the vendor buying a list that had been cleaned and standardized, and no doubt marketed as having no nulls. Then I started thinking about the data team at said vendor trying to clean up the dirty data and soon I’m picturing a data version of who’s on first:

Marketing: Please move the nulls from the list.

Data: I did

Marketing: I still see nulls

Data: No, we always filter out nulls

Marketing: I STILL see nulls

Data: Oh, I see what you’re talking about. Those aren’t NULLs.

Marketing: What?

Data: I’ll just convert the Nulls to NULLs and then you won’t see them again.

Marketing: Go away.

So now I’m a member of the Null family. Nulls propagate (truly, I have 2 children). I suppose the whole Null family will be removed from the list(s) soon enough, though we’ll probably live on in the database forever since the last name column cannot be null (wait, it is!).

Sadly I didn’t do this on purpose. But in this age of personal branding, maybe it’s worth some thought. It’s hard to imagine a judge objecting to the request. What would be the impact? Would I still have to pay taxes if the IRS doesn’t handle nulls? Or perhaps I’d be unemployable because HR wouldn’t be able to enter me into their system?

Only a data geek could have this much fun with a piece or two of junk email.

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