In a zoo, animals, for the most part, are kept in separate enclosures. Some are big, some are small, some are aggressive carnivores, some are gentle (or at least appear to be). Different diets, sleep habits, space and health vulnerabilities mean separation is key. Most zoo animals have their own zoo keeper, someone to look after their needs.
What can be learnt from a zoo in terms of data management? I have a temptation to give files the names ‘temp’, ‘test’ or ’junk’ (especially when I am doing development work). 30 minutes later this data is useless. How can I use my data if
- I have no idea what it is?
- I have no idea how it was created?
If I make a file called ‘temp’, and if it produced the desired result I could run the process again, this time naming the file something meaningful and deleting the old file. Sometimes, locks on databases or on files create another barrier, but the key to good data management is to not be lazy and break through these barriers.
Insights for ArcGIS highlighted in May at the ESRI UK user conference
are going to take massive strides to resolving this problem. Insighst will self-document so you can review what caused you to get your result. Self-documenting GIS software will be incredibly valuable, at least then I will know what the data is and how I created it.
Today I create a folder called ztest where I dump all my ‘test’ and ‘temp’ files. I resolve to delete the contents of this folder daily. Best practice for me is to have a project folder with a data folder contained within. The data folder should contain properly named files (plus metadata), with supporting documentation, I review this frequently.
So, the analogy of data management being like a zoo is not too far off the mark. Keep it in designated places, label it well and revisit regularly to ensure a quality product making me the zoo keeper of my data.
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