Browsing articles from "December, 2010"

Travel Vest for Women Unboxing Video + Need Your Vote

Dec 31, 2010   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Fun  //  3 Comments

I’ve uploaded a video to YouTube of an unboxing video I made for a contest.  As is my usual style, it is full of snark and happy things…at the same time.

. You can help me win the contest by:

  1. Watching the short video I made
    A DataChick Christmas

  2. “Liking” the video on YouTube (You may need to double click on the video above to view it on YouTube)
    To LIKE the video you have to be on the YouTube page and click on the thumbs up button on the lower right of the video:



What’s the contest and prize? Scott Jordan, Founder of SCOTTEVEST, is running a video contest that ends on New Year’s Eve (that’s TODAY).  The prize is a beautiful SCOTTEVEST Leather XAE jacket that I want to win for my husband and business partner, Rob.


Isn’t it beautiful? Like my Travel Vest for Women, it has mucho pockets (20 in this jacket, 22 pockets in mine).  It even has a pocket for an iPad.  Look at that price, though…I would really like to win one for Rob.


I really appreciate your help in viewing and voting on the video.  I’m sure Rob would love to have this jacket…and when they come out with one for women, he’ll have to win one for me, too.

You Can Be … a Data Diva

Dec 30, 2010   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Data, Fun, WIT  //  2 Comments

I have mixed feelings about the whole Barbie phenomenon.  I had a talking Barbie growing up and I loved her and her friend Stacey.  But I don’t remember much about the way she dressed…perhaps because my Grandmother sewed much of the clothes I had for her.  Maybe I was shielded from the party-girl outfits that were available. 

I recently found this as an online game at


This is to promote Mattel’s recent Computer Engineer Barbie product.  What I find interesting is that they’ve focused on the data aspects of computing.  Most likely this is done only for the alliteration, but I do like getting early to girls about the importance of data.

I’m hoping that my friend @datadeva sees this, too.

Love Your Data.  Get your kids to love their data, too.

The Perfect Data Model, Gone to Hell (MI) Due to Bad Web Form Design

Dec 29, 2010   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Data, Data Modeling  //  7 Comments
Sample form rendered by Mozilla Firefox. (Clic...

Image via Wikipedia

I don’t normally work in the UX/UI design world, but I know enough from constantly filling out web forms that too many designs out there are destined for a special ring of data Hell.  If you’ve followed any of my web form rants on Twitter, you may have heard this before…but it should be repeated.  Seth Godin recently blogged about his frustrations with annoying web forms for data collection:

The problem with letting your web forms become annoying is that in terms of time spent interacting with your brand, they’re way up on the list. If someone is spending a minute or two or three or four cursing you out from their desk, it’s not going to be easily fixed with some clever advertising.

I realize that many web designers live in the US and hate the fact that they have to complicate their beautifully simple designs with all these weird non-US things like regions, postal codes, country lists, etc.  But if their organization does business with non-US customers or data, they need to realize that the design must support these wacky international requirements.  

One of my favourite resources for good web form design is a FREE eBook by Graham Rhind on names and addresses in web forms  Graham specializes in internationalization and address formats, so he is the go-to guy for these sorts of things.

It’s not just internationalization, though, that causes web form design to go all to Hell.

My pet peeve is referenced in Seth’s post: using drop downs to force a user to choose from a list of hundreds or thousands of values.  These are annoying because drop downs usually require acute mouse skills as well as waste time.  Developers love drop downs because they don’t have to do much data validation – if it’s in the list, it’s supposed to be good data.  However, optimizing a developer’s task isn’t always the the best for customers who have to use the form.   In fact, I’ve come to realize that the more we optimize development, the more we have to take from the end user.  It should not be that way, but I see it over and over again.

A typical frustration I’ll face is a form that collect address information.  It will have fields in the same order that we’d typically see a mailing label, something like:

  • Name
  • Address line one
  • Address line two
  • Apartment#
  • City
  • State
  • Other
  • ZIP
  • Country

…with State and Country being a drop down of all the US States and Country being a list from somewhere on the web of a list of countries.  There might be some magic in the country list that then causes the list of states to change based on the country select.  The problem is that as one fills out the fields from top to bottom, he hits the State field before the country field.  He has to jump down a few fields to find the right country, then jump back to the drop down.  If he is very fortunate, this change in country does not require a complete refresh of the form so his data might still be there…or it might not.

Or, the web designer might think that we foreigners should use the Other field to fill our foreign state or province.  They might also beef up their data quality be requiring a State in the drop down, even if it only contains US states.  We users won’t know until we try to submit the form.

When I use forms that require me to pick a US State, I usually go with OH or OR since they are “close” to my Province Code of ON.  Sometimes I pick Hell, Michigan because it’s just as good of a place as any if web form constraints force me to enter bad data.  I’ve always wondered, though, how that impacts analytics for that data.

My other peeve is when Birth Date must be filled in via a drop down.  First one must pick from a list of months, then a list of dates 1-31, then a list of Years going back to the ice age….or somewhere near my birth year.  There are much better ways for web designers to collect and validate data.  I’d love to see business management sit down and enter a couple hundred addresses into their web forms to decide whether the forms are “good enough”.

When users find annoying forms, they are more likely to enter bad data.  Don’t ask me how I know this…let’s just say that there are many records of me out there, happily describing my nice home in Michigan, where I celebrate my 13th birthday ever year, in my apartment number 0000, which also shares a ZIP code with a popular TV series from the 1990s

Love your data; don’t torment it in the hands of end users before it even gets to you.




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What Are We Doing? Why Are We Doing It? Will It Feel Better When We Stop?

Dec 29, 2010   //   by Rob Drysdale   //   Blog, Professional Development  //  9 Comments

These three little questions were on the board one day when we walked into our Signals and Systems class in our second year of university.  The class was all about applied mathematics related to control signals and systems and included some complex methods to solve the equations.  The concepts were tough and all of us struggled with it to the point that the average grade on the mid-term exam was 27%.  After the mid-term’s were graded, the professor started the next class with the three questions shown above.  His point was to get us to look at the big picture of what the class was about and why we were doing it and how it fit in with our courses overall.

imageOver the last little while I’ve seen a number of people talking about what they are working on right now, how busy they are, how much time they spend online, getting to Inbox Zero (yeah, as if I’ll ever get near that…) and a whole host of other things.  There are lots of theories and books including Getting Things Done, Priority Management, and First Things First.

These are all great for helping us get where we are going, but do we know where we are going?  In First Things First one of the key things is to actually come up with a plan and goals.  But I think we all slip up on this by doing the “Urgent – Important” and “Urgent – Not Important” things without putting aside any time for the big picture planning.  I know that it is too easy to let time slip away and continue to work on the daily/weekly/monthly things and go through life without a vision of where we want to be or the goals we want to achieve.

So here we are at the end of 2010 and as we think about the year and decade that is just ending, let’s look back at what we’ve done and achieved and how far we’ve come.  But don’t forget to look at what we want out of the next year, 5 years, 10 years and so on.  Then we can set the milestones that go with that and make sure that what we are doing is helping us to get where we want to be.  Otherwise we’ll be sitting here on December 29, 2011 wondering where the last year went….like I am on December 29, 2010.

Better Mobile, Social and Cloud Computing Skills = More Money

Dec 28, 2010   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Database, Professional Development, Social Networking  //  5 Comments

One of my resolutions for this past year was to work on my non-traditional database skills such as NoSQL and cloud computing/databases.  I am still at the research and discovery phase, but after reading this article, Paying top dollar for tech talent pays off,  I think I need to continue to commit time in these areas.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt explained why every one of his 16,000-plus employees just got a 10 percent raise. It was a salvo in the " war for talent," said one of the world’s most successful CEOs. And Google is still hiring hundreds of employees every week.


"Consumer-facing companies like Procter and Gamble, Ford and Coca-Cola have started hiring as well," noted Cournoyer, co-founder of venture capital firms Montreal Start Up and Real Ventures. He pointed out that just as these mega-enterprises need warehouse, sales and customer-service pros, they also need Web engineering talent to thrive in today’s market. That rings true in any industry these days.

I’m still waiting for my $3.5 million stock option to not leave a company. 


I’ve spent some time with Microsoft Azure and MongoDB, but I want to learn more about Hadoop and some other non-relational data stores.  Learning about these also means brushing up on my web development skills.  I’m hoping that my use of social networking and the addition of social features to our online presences will bring a better understanding to business problems that involve these solutions.

What I do understand is that if you are data architect working in the relational world you’ll still have a role to play for a very long time, no matter what recent articles are saying. However, if you want to be at the top of your game, a most relevant team member, a true enterprise data architect you won’t be able to rest on what you know about SQL Server, DB2, and Oracle alone.

The biggest issue I’ve had lately working with these emerging technologies have been that traditional data modeling tools aren’t yet supporting many newer data technologies. In fact, most don’t even support XML that well even though it has been around for a long time.  I want to tie conceptual and logical models to physical models of non-relational solutions without having to worry about importing or exporting meta data from tool to tool.

Do you think that the existing data modeling market will start supporting non-relational technologies? O r will we have to look for new tools for these? 

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Uploading Large Documents to SharePoint

Dec 22, 2010   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog  //  2 Comments

These are my recommend actions for uploading large-ish documents to SharePoint, since I get many support requests about this, usually late in the night when I’m not expected to be working.  I’m hoping that Dr. Google and Nurse Bing can help those people struggling with how to get their midnight-oil-generated documents uploaded.

SharePoint Document Library Upload Document If you are getting upload failures or timeouts when using a Document Library’s menu to upload a document, there are alternatives that may work out better for you.  However, whether or not you are able to use them is based on a few factors. First, the exact instructions are dependent on the version of SharePoint you are using.  The features I outline below are available in versions of SharePoint starting with 2003 (or WSS 3.0).  Second, they are dependent on how your installation of SharePoint is configured by the administrators.   So while there are no guarantees that these will work, they are certain worth trying.

The default maximum file size for SharePoint is 50MB.  If your document or file is larger than that, your administrator will have configure SharePoint to accept larger sized files.  You could, though, try these workarounds to get is uploaded

  1. Make multiple smaller files out of the larger file in order to get it uploaded while you wait on your administrator to adjust the configuration. 
  2. Zip the file, which depending on the format of the file, could significantly reduce the size of the file.

But you do have other options, again dependent on how your document library and SharePoint server are configured. 

Email the document to the Document Library

If the document library has been configured to receive mail, you can upload the document by just sending an e-mail to that library if that has been configured.  Note that each library will have a separate e-mail address so you’ll need to look it up.  Do so by clicking on Settings on the library toolbar, then choose Document Library Settings:


Document Library Settings

From there you’ll see basic information about the library:

Document Library Settings image

I’ve blurred out some of my information, but the e-mail address list will be a full e-mail address.  If you copy that from the list and put it in the TO: field of an e-mail, you can attach the file and send it to the document library.  Make sure that the file and the subject line of your e-mail are meaningful as they may be used in populating some of the fields in the library.

There are some gotchas with this method:

  1. Your e-mail server may be configured to restrict sending of documents over a certain size, so this e-mail method may not work.
  2. Just like blocked files in SharePoint, your e-mail services may block attachments with certain extensions.

Use the File Explorer Method

SharePoint also offers another method for getting files into a document library: using a file explorer interface.

To use this method, go to the document library and choose ACTIONS, then Open with Windows Explorer:

Actions Open with Windows Explorer image

You’ll need to use Internet Explorer for this option to show up. If you are using any other browser, you won’t see all those options, including the Open with Windows Explorer.

A normal explorer window will open and you can drag and drop your file into the library, just like you were copying a file between any other two folders.  You may first be promoted to supply your login again.

Don’t place the document in the Forms folder.


Drag and drop

Once that has completed, you’ll need to go back to the library and update the fields for that document.

Document Library

Special Note: You may also be having problems uploading a file if it has an extension that is blocked from being uploaded by the SharePoint Administrator.  It is common for certain file types to be restricted in order to reduce the risk to other SharePoint users.  None of the above techniques will work if the extension of the document has been blocked.

Connect to Outlook

There is another method of linking the SharePoint document library to Outlook, but I personally don’t like that method because every time I open Outlook I am promoted to log in.  This isn’t just for uploading, but for working with SharePoint items from within Outlook. You can set this up by going again to ACTIONS, then Connect to Outlook:



You will receive several prompts and warnings which you will need to agree to before finally being prompted by Outlook to configure the synchronization.  Since this blog post is only about uploading a document and not synching files between Outlook and SharePoint, I’ll point you to Microsoft’s information about Connect to Outlook.  It might be worth a try if the other methods still don’t work for you.

I hope one of these methods worked for you.  If you’ve found other methods, please leave them in the comments.

Finally, if you still aren’t able to get the file uploaded, it’s time to contact your SharePoint administrator.  She or he will need the following information:

  1. The size of the document.
  2. The format/file extension of the document
  3. The browser and version you are using
  4. The Operating System you are using (XP, Vista, Windows 7, Linux, etc.)
  5. The link to the document library you are trying to upload to
  6. The exact error message you are receiving (Screen shots are best)
  7. Description of your internet connection (wireless, cable, dial-up)
  8. User ID you used to log in to SharePoint
  9. The approximate date and time (with time zone) you were experiencing the issue

The more information you can provide, the faster someone can help you get the fi

SQLPASS Sessions Recordings are Here

Dec 20, 2010   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Database, Professional Development, Speaking  //  No Comments



I know what  I’ll be listening to over the next few weeks.  An early Christmas present, too.

If you weren’t able to attend the PASS Summit (or even if you did) you can order the DVD set of recordings, too.  You get PDF handouts of the slides and audio recordings of all the regular sessions.  I’m listening right now as I blog. 

I plan on first tackling all the database design-related sessions, then ones on performance tuning.  I also want to listen to the professional development session because there are some very successful professionals out there who took the time to share their thoughts on the non-technical side of being a data professional.


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