Yeah, Those Strawberries #FailFriday

Apr 6, 2012   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Data, Data Modeling, DLBlog, Fun, Professional Development, Snark  //  3 Comments

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As I called for last week, this is my #failfriday blog post.  I’ve made so many mistakes, it was difficult to pick one.  There was the time I did a quick spellcheck of a letter to a key client and managed to change his name to Murderer, as in Dear Murderer.  Those were good times.  Then there was the time I generated and printed about 1000 graphs for evidence in a court case and managed to screw up the last data point on every single one of them.  This was an instance of an off-by-one error.  So they all had to be redone on a pen plotter.  That takes days….and lots of pens.

Of course, I’ve had many of the #fails that most people shared on Twitter: Running a script or command in the wrong location, usually the wrong server or directory, and wiping out data that had not been backed up.  I have a feeling this is a requirement to become a professional: this fail changes you for the rest of your career.

I decided to pick a trivial fail, but one that showed the dangers of being a data architect.

Strawberry Fields Forever

 Strawberry (Photo credit: Wikipedia)In Ottawa I lived near a strawberry farm.  How wonderful it was to have fresh strawberries, picked minutes before, for several weeks.  One night I was driving back from the city and stopped by the farm to see if they had any for sale.  I remember I was wearing a suit, heels, the whole business chick outfit. Not really strawberry picking attire.  So I was on a mission to get berries that had been picked by other people.  You could buy strawberries two different ways:

  • Pick Your Own:  Basically the farm gave you trays and you picked your own and paid the cheapest rate.  Because carrying trays was hard work, people would fill the trays, then bring them to sales hut to hold them.  Then the pickers paid for all of  them at once.
  • Already Picked: Local kids would pick the berries and bring them to the sales hut and get paid for picking them.  Buyers like me paid a premium for having the hard part done for us already.  However, if you got there late in the day, like I did, the chance of finding these was rare.

So this was my plan: buy a flat of “already picked” berries.  That was my category, remember.  Not “Pick Your Own” but “Already Picked”.  See, I was thinking like a data architect.  Those were 2 subtypes of STRAWBERRY: ALREADY PICKED STRAWBERRY and PICK YOUR OWN STRAWBERRY.

So I waltzed up in my blue power suit, looked at the shelves in the sales hut and saw many flats of berries and asked the bored teenage sales girl “Are those strawberries already picked?”

Are those strawberries already picked?

….I’ll let you guess what happened next.  If you picked “laughter, eye rolling and general snickering”, you’d be spot on.  See, it turns out that the sales girl didn’t live in a land of data architecture, where everything is categorized, sorted and taxonomized to the 9th degree.  She lived in the real world, that place where strawberries are either still on a plant or not. 

I  learned my lesson that day.  Data architects sound funny outside their normal habitat, those whiteboard-shrouded conference rooms where data is managed.  And sometimes we sound really silly in the real world.  We need to remember that.

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