Browsing articles from "November, 2010"

First Rule of Branding: Grab it!

Nov 19, 2010   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Professional Development, Social Networking  //  1 Comment

The MidnightDBAs (or is it just Jen?) have declared today as an Un-SQL Friday.  Nope, this isn’t a NoSQL Friday post, but a “not about SQL” Friday post.

Your mission: To write about branding. We have spoken to a LOT of people in the past two weeks about branding, often specifically about our brand, and the thoughts they are a-churnin.  Your blog should reflect however that word strikes you – whether it’s in personal/professional branding, software branding, our brand, product brands, or whatever.

We recently switched our branding back to “love your data” and away from “adding value to your information resources”.  We still think our former tagline is true, but Love Your Data is much more fun and still reinforces the need to take good care of your data.

So I was going to write about the value of brand, or how to protect your brand when I realized that the First Rule of Branding is to go reserve (grab) that brand, or the closest you can to it.  I’m @datachick on Twitter not because I think having a made-up Twitter ID is fun or cool, but because having a common name like “Lopez” means that every form of my name that I could come up with was already taken.  Not all of the combinations are being used, but they are already snatched up by people who may not ever use them. But because they were registered, they aren’t available to me.

I have a similar issue on Facebook.  My Facebook id is “lopezk” That’s closer to something real, but still not instantly recognizable, memorable or conversation friendly.

Now with LinkedIn I was an early adopter and I was also paying attention when the call for setting up your own personal link was announced and I managed to snag “karenlopez

Heck, even on the Xbox Live system I thought for sure I could get some form of my name or Datachick, but even all the easy to remember forms for Datachick were already taken. So there I’m “DatachickXbox”.  Just like I’m my own gaming device.

On our own discussion lists I was also able to set up an ID of “karenlopez“, but that’s because I was the first user on the system.

KarenAvatarLargeSo you can see what’s happened: I have several brands or IDs for myself scattered all over the Internet.  I can sometimes relate them to my brand by using the same avatar or the same logo or just to put them up together on one slide.  But I really wish that I could have my same brand everywhere.  By having a common name and joining late, I missed out on having a common brand for me personally.

In fact, on Twitter there are two other people who probably weren’t happy to find out that Datachick was already taken, so they came up with Datachix1 and Datachix2.  Now the brand is even further diluted and confusing.

So don’t wait to grab those brands where you can.  Even if you name is one of only two people with that name on the planet.  You never know when that other guy is going to grab “your” brand.

How To Have Fun In Seattle Without Even Attending SQLPASS

Nov 18, 2010   //   by Rob Drysdale   //   Blog, Fun, Professional Development, Travel  //  4 Comments

Seattle Public Market

As I posted previously, I went to Seattle last week with Karen for the PASS Summit (SQLPASS).  While I didn’t attend PASS, I thought it would be a great time to relax, see Seattle and catch up with a number of people that we know.  Little did I know that we would be on-the-go the entire time so I didn’t have time to relax.  Aside from the sessions at PASS there were so many "after-hour" events around it that we didn’t have a lot of free time.  Looking back on it, we were busy every single night that we were there except for the Friday night that we arrived.

We did our normal thing of shopping and spending some time in Fry’s and I did get a chance to see some things in Seattle, but we spent a lot of time meeting up with people.  It was nice to catch up with old friends, meet people in person that we talk to via Twitter and meet others we hadn’t ever talked to before.  I have to say that the SQL community is a great bunch of people and we had a lot of fun.

Gas WorksWhile Karen can tell you all about the Summit and how much she enjoyed speaking at and attending it, I can say that Seattle is an amazing city with many things to see and do.  A few highlights for me were Pike’s Place Market, the Seattle Public Library, the Science Fiction Museum and Gas Works Park.  The transit system is easy to use and will get you around the city with ease.  In fact, the buses are free in the downtown core.  And we both loved the food in Seattle.  It is so vegan and veggie friendly that it’s hard not to get a decent meal there.

On the negative side, it rains A LOT in Seattle.  We did see the sun for a couple of days, but there were rainy days to put up with.  And I wish that the PASS Summit would set up some kind of program for spouses or guests of attendees.  We’ve attended a lot of other conferences and most of them have this type of program to allow travel partners to attend the social events and exhibits at the conference.  We know that the Summit did offer a pass for the exhibits only, but at $300 it’s price prohibitive for most.  For travel partners and spouses it would be better at $50 or $75.

MountainsAnd now that we’re back from Seattle we still haven’t had much time to relax.  We attended a SharePoint Saturday event the day after getting home and we’re attending a SQL Saturday event this weekend in NYC. Maybe I’ll get some time to relax in 2011.

Looking for Social Networking Success Stories

Nov 18, 2010   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Social Networking, Speaking  //  No Comments

LoveYourDataChickNoAvatarGrayScale I’m working on a presentation…actually adding to a current one… about how effective use of social networking can help you in your career or life in general. In fairness, I’m also looking for any downsides to those things, too. 

By social networking I mean Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, blogging, bulletin boards, web forums, mailing lists or other online networking / communications areas.

If you would like to share (anonymously or not) a brief story you can leave it in the comments or e-mail them to me at .

Please let me know if you’d prefer your story to be anonymous.

If you have gained anything / lost something from social networking, I want to hear about it.

Agloves: Great Gift for the Twitter Addicted

Nov 17, 2010   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Reviews, Travel  //  5 Comments

Last year while waiting for the Olympic Torch to pass by I was wearing my patriotic Vancouver 2010 giant red mittens.  There was a sea of these red mittens lining the street and it was wonderful…until I had to take my mittens off to to use my phone to capture pictures or to tweet. The windchill that day was about –20 and I was seriously in danger of getting frost bite.

While shopping one day I found a pair of gloves that I thought were the solution.  I called these my “Twitter gloves” even though I think they were called ‘texting gloves”. They were regular gloves that you could fold back the index finger and thumb from, but this still meant that my fingers were exposed to the elements. 

My friend Bryan snapped a pic of these gloves in action in Chicago when I was working there.  Those tips actually fold back and button down, but that was a pain, so I just left them flying out.  These gloves were cheap: I think I found them at Target.

Foldback fingers Twitter Gloves.

Now I was only in danger of frostbite for 4 out of 10 digits.


image I recently ordered 3 pairs of Agloves from  These sliver-thread-infused gloves let you use touch screen devices without having to remove your gloves, use fingerless gloves, or use the foldback gloves like the ones above.  Get the name?  Agloves – with Ag being the symbol for silver.

I’ve just now tried them on two devices, my iPhone and iPad.  They actually work, although I have to press a bit harder than I’m used to.  It’s only slightly more, so I don’t believe it’s going to be a problem.  Hitting the right keys in portrait mode on my iPhone took a little bit more concentration, but again, it won’t be a problem.

Agloves in use

Using Agloves iPhone

These gloves work with capacitive touch screens due to the silver threads, which you can see clearly in the iPhone photo above.  They are soft.  The attached tag says they are Made in the US and of the following materials:

60% Polyester

29% Nylon

7% Silver nylon

3% Spandex

1% Acrylic

One of the things I did not like about my previous gloves is that they were 100% Acrylic, which I don’t like the feel of. 

There are currently two sizes available. I have small hands, so I ordered the S/M version and I got a M/L size for Rob. Both seem to fit, but I get better accuracy out of the S/M, with goes along with their recommendation that these have a snug fit.

Agloves are washable; in fact, they claim that washing them make them work better.  They feel warm to wear, unlike my previous set of acrylic gloves.  I hope to post a future review when I’ve done more field testing.  I’m thinking my trip to NYC coming up might be the perfect field test.

My other targeted use is for running.  I use running apps like MapMyRun, Nike+, etc. and when I have running gloves on it’s difficult to use the book controls, runner controls, or even to get a time/distance update from these apps.  And since theses gloves are made with runner-friendly materials (Anything But Cotton), they will work well.

Agloves offers a very generous return period of 90 days in case they don’t work for you.  The current price of these gloves is a very affordable $17.99 USD.  I’m betting these will be in high demand for the upcoming gift season; I recommend you order now.

Oh, and I also wanted to thank the folks at Aglove for having very, very reasonable shipping rates to Canada.  We are nice people, but we hate being ripped off for postage and handling.

You’re Doing it Wrong: Generalizations about Generalizations

Nov 17, 2010   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Data, Data Modeling  //  3 Comments

I have a couple of presentations where I describe how generalized data modeling can offer both benefits and unacceptable costs.  In my Data Modeling Contentious Issues presentation, the one where we vote via sticky notes, we debate the trade-offs of generalization in a data model and database design.  In 5 Classic Data Modeling Mistakes, I talk about over-generalization.

Over the last 20 some years (and there’s more “some” there than ever before), I’ve noticed a trend towards more generalizalized data models.  The means that instead of having a box for almost every noun in our business, we have concepts that have categories.  Drawing examples from the ARTS Data Model, instead of having entities for:

  • Purchase Order
  • Shipping Notice
  • Receipt
  • Invoice
  • etc

…we have one entity for InventoryControlDocument that has a DocumentType instance of Purchase order, Shipping Notice, Receipt, Invoice, etc.

See what we did there?  We took metadata that was on the diagram as separate boxes and turned them into rows in a table in the database.  This is brilliant, in some form, because it means when the business comes up with a new type of document we don’t have to create a new entity and a new table to represent that new concept.  We just add a row to the DocumentType table and we’re done.  Well, not exactly…we probably still have to update code to process that new type…and maybe add a new user interface for that…and determine what attributes of InventoryControlDocument apply to that document type so that the code can enforce the business rules.

Ah! See what we did there this time?  We moved responsibility for managing data integrity from the data architect to the coders.  Sometimes that’s great and sometimes, well, it just doesn’t happen.

So my primary reason to raise generalization as an issue is that sometimes data architects apply these patterns but don’t bother to apply the governance of those rules to the resulting systems.  Just because you engineered a requirement from a table to a row does not mean it is no longer your responsibility.  I’ve even seen architects become so enamoured with moving the work from their plate to another’s that they have generalized the heck out of everything while leaving the data quality responsibility up to someone else.  That someone else typically is not measured or compensated for data integrity, either.

Alec Sharp has written a few blog posts on Generalizations. These posts have some great examples of his 5 Ways to Go Wrong with Generalisation.   I especially like his use of the term literalism since I never seem to get the word specificity out when I’m speaking. I recommend you check out his 5 reasons, since I agree with all of them.

1 – Failure to generalize, a.k.a. literalism

2 – Generalizing too much

3 – Generalizing too soon

4 – Confusing subtypes with roles, states, or other multi-valued characteristics

5 – Applying subtyping to the wrong entity.

By the way, Len Silverston and Paul Agnew talk about levels of generalization in their The Data Model Resource Book, Vol 3: Universal Patterns for Data Modeling book.  Generalization isn’t just a yes/no question.  Every data model structure you architect has a level of generalization.

I’m wondering how many of you who have used a higher level of generalization and what you’ve done to ensure that the metadata you transformed into data still has integrity?  Leave your recommendations in the comments.

Gift Me Baby One More Time: A Nifty Idea

Nov 17, 2010   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Fun, Reviews  //  1 Comment

A few weeks ago I was tweeting about my regular use of GoToMeeting.  Nearly all my projects for the last few years have been with geographically dispersed teams and being able to collaborate on documents, models and other artefacts in real time has been a vast improvement over conference calls where someone says “at the bottom of page 42”…”oh, you’ve printed on A4? I don’t know what page it would be then”…etc.

So the folks at GoToMeeting noticed that I tend to talk about tweet about their product, so they sent me a gift via (twitgift on Twitter).  What was unique about this gift was that they just sent it to my Twitter ID, @datachick, instead of ordering something to be sent to my address.  Their order sent a tweet to me that they had sent me a gift and twitgift contacted me also via Twitter to ask for my contact information so that they could send the gift to me. 

Tweet Gift Notice

Tweet Accepted gift

 Tweet Shipping Notice

In fact, the mailing label had just @datachick on it.

Tweet Shipping Label @datachickThe first obstacle for me for claiming my gift was that right now twitgift only ships to US addresses. I could have directed the gift to another address (regifting FTW!), but I really wanted to see how this all worked out.  So I provided the address of our friends Yanni and John and the delivered it to me when we were in Seattle for SQLPASS. Did I tell you what great friends they are?

In the tradition of unboxing blog posts, I bring you the twitgift…

Outside box

Packed in cotton balls, playing up the clouds/birds theme.  There was also confetti and stickers.  A gift within a gift…

Inside Box The inner box contained chocolate chip cookies, wrapped two by two.

Gift goodies cookies, confetti, stickersCookies and stickers, again, FTW.

As of the time of this writing, offers only the cookies as a gift, but they are hoping to expand to other merchant items. Their FAQ also says that they hope to expand to other countries soon.

I did not and do not receive any compensation for this post…other than the gift from GoToMeeting.  I chose to write about this post as a thank you for the thank you gift* to help a new Twitter-related service that I believe has a great idea.  I guess technically I did get something, but not for writing this post.  Got it?

If I ever do write a sponsored tweet or blog post, I will definitely let you know, right up front.

Do you have Twitter friends you’d like to send an affordable gift to?  Now you know how to do that without the creepy “where do you live” question to someone you only know through Twitter.

* I’m told that giving a thank you for a thank you means you (a metathankyou) end up in an infinite loop, so I won’t do that. But thanks….

Creating an ERwin Data Modeler Template

Nov 16, 2010   //   by admin   //   Blog, Data, Data Modeling  //  3 Comments

You probably have some default settings or shop standards (Yes, I have standards!) for your ERwin data models.  A time saving method for ensuring that you don’t have to set those defaults for every model file is to create a data model template, then use that when you create a new model.

The steps for creating and using a template:

  1. Open ERwin Data Modeler with a blank model (choose the type: Logical, Physical, or Logical/Physical)
  2. Set your defaults, create standard objects like domains or UDTs or UDPs – anything you’d like to appear or be enforced in future data models that make use of this template.
  3. Save the model as a template:

    Save As TemplateNotice that I’ve chosen to use underscores in the template file name.  ERwin seems to force the name to all upper case, so spaces or underscores will be needed to make the file name readable when you go to open again.  The file will be saved with a special extension, .erwin_tmpl .  This tells ERwin it is a template file.

    Once you have saved this, it will be available on the FILE, NEW menu option for use when you create new models:image 

  4. Once you have this open, you’ll need to remember to do an immediate FILE, SAVE AS… to save it as a regular .erwin file.

At this point you have created an ERwin template file and used it to create a model that will have the reusable objects you want to share as well as enforce some standards.


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