The Tell-Tale Data

It is a dark and stormy night in the data center.  The constant humming of hard drives is mimicking the sound of a hard rain falling in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it is checked by a violent gust of conditioned air sweeping through the seemingly endless aisles of empty cubicles, rattling along desktops, fiercely agitating the flickering glow from flat panel monitors that are struggling against the darkness.

Tonight, amid this foreboding gloom with only my thoughts for company, I race to complete the production implementation of the Dystopian Automated Transactional Analysis (DATA) system.  Nervous, very, very dreadfully nervous I have been, and am, but why will you say that I am mad?  Observe how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

Eighteen months ago, I was ordered by executive management to implement the DATA system.  The vendor's salesperson was an oddly charming fellow named Machiavelli, who had the eye of a vulture — a pale blue eye, with a film over it.  Whenever this eye fell upon me, my blood ran cold. 

Machiavelli assured us all that DATA's seamlessly integrated Magic Beans software would migrate and consolidate all of our organization's information, clairvoyantly detecting and correcting our existing data quality problems, and once DATA was implemented into production, Magic Beans would prevent all future data quality problems from happening.

As soon as a source was absorbed into DATA, Magic Beans automatically did us the favor of freeing up disk space by deleting all traces of the source, somehow even including our off-site archives.  DATA would then become our only system of record, truly our Single Version of the Truth.

It is impossible to say when doubt first entered my brain, but once conceived, it haunted me day and night.  Whenever I thought about it, my blood ran cold — as cold as when that vulture eye was gazing upon me — very gradually, I made up my mind to simply load DATA and rid myself of my doubt forever.

Now this is the point where you will fancy me quite mad.  But madmen know nothing.  You should have seen how wisely I proceeded — with what caution — with what foresight — with what Zen-like tranquility, I went to work! 

I was never happier than I was these past eighteen months while I simply followed the vendor's instructions step by step and loaded DATA!  Would a madman have been so wise as this?  I think not.

Tomorrow morning, DATA goes live.  I can imagine how wonderful that will be.  I will be sitting at my desk, grinning wildly, deliriously happy with a job well done.  DATA will be loaded, data quality will trouble me no more.

It is now four o'clock in the morning, but still it is as dark as midnight.  But as bright as the coming dawn, I can now see three strange men as they gather around my desk. 

Apparently, a shriek had been heard from the business analysts and subject matter experts as soon as they started using DATA.  Suspicions had been aroused, complaints had been lodged, and they (now identifying themselves as auditors) had been called in by a regulatory agency to investigate.

I smile — for what have I to fear?  I welcome these fine gentlemen.  I give them a guided tour of DATA using its remarkably intuitive user interface.  I urge them audit — audit well.  They seemed satisfied.  My manner has convinced them.  I am singularly at ease.  They sit, and while I answer cheerily, they chat away about trivial things.  But before long, I feel myself growing pale and wish them gone.

My head aches and I hear a ringing in my ears, but still they sit and chat.  The ringing becomes more distinct.  I talk more freely, to get rid of the feeling, but it continues and gains volume — until I find that this noise is not within my ears.

No doubt I now grow very pale — but I talk more fluently, and with a heightened voice.  Yet the sound increases — and what can I do?  It is a low, dull, quick sound.  I gasp for breath — and yet the auditors hear it not. 

I talk more quickly — more vehemently — but the noise steadily increases.  I arise, and argue about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations — but the noise steadily increases.  Why will they not be gone?  I pace the floor back and forth, with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the unrelenting observations of the auditors — but the noise steadily increases.

What could I do?  I raved — I ranted — I raged!  I swung my chair and smashed my computer with it — but the noise rises over all of my attempts to silence it.  It grows louder — louder — louder!  And still the auditors chat pleasantly, and smile.  Is it really possible they can not hear it?  Is it really possible they did not notice me smashing my computer?

They hear! — they suspect! — they know! — they are making a mockery of my horror! — this I thought, and this I think.  But anything is better than this agony!  Anything is more tolerable than this derision!  I can not bear their hypocritical smiles any longer!  I feel that I must scream or die! — and now — again! — the noise!  Louder!  Louder!!  LOUDER!!!


“DATA!” I finally shriek.  “DATA has no quality!  NO DATA QUALITY!!!  What have I done?  What — Have — I — Done?!?”


With a sudden jolt, I awaken at my desk, with my old friend Edgar shaking me by the shoulders. 

“Hey, wake up!  Executive management wants us in the conference room in five minutes.  Apparently, there is a vendor here today pitching a new system called DATA using software called Magic Beans...” 

“...and the salesperson has this weird eye...”