Have you ever thought of changing your name to “Blank Null”? Would you still have to pay taxes? Could you even get a job? How many report writers and ETL cleansers would classify you as bad data and toss you out like yesterday’s trash?
Let’s not even get started on the firestorm that would be started if a woman had her age classified as NaN. Andy Warren humorously outlines his new name from a mailing list gone wrong in his SQL Server Central article They Call Me Andy NULL.
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.
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.
There are numerous stories about humans trying to account for bad data and bad data cleansing from vanity plates like “NO PLATE”, “NO TAG”, and “XXXXXXX” swamping there owners in unrelated fees to those trying to get around the systems of the day.
All this reminds me of Little Bobby Tables:
Have you been the target of some humorous data cleansing attempt?
Let us know in the comments below.