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Data, Information and Auntie’s Christmas Letter

Data: A Poor Substitute for Information

The biggest barrier to the improvement of information in enterprises globally is that IT, Data Quality teams, etc. think that digital data equates to information. The fact is that digital data is merely a means of storingelements of data in a manner that enables them to be read and used by computers.

If the digital data is not stored in the correct structure, then it can never be reassembled into useful information, even if all of the data values are correct. Information is more than just data.

Auntie’s Christmas Letter

Whenever I come across this confusion between data and information, the story of Auntie’s Christmas Letter always pops to mind.  A friend of mine had an aunt who, in spite of her very advanced years, was a still a most adventurous spirit and regularly went on exotic adventures and treks to the remotest regions of the world.

THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN UPDATED AND MOVED TO http://jo-international.com/data-information-and-aunties-christmas-letter/


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3 Responses to “Data, Information and Auntie’s Christmas Letter”

  1. Maria Zarpani December 23, 2014 10:28 am #

    an excellent example! i really enjoyed it!

  2. Richard Ordowich December 20, 2014 1:11 pm #

    A great analogy!

    I would add that in order for data to become information the folks designing the data and those consuming the data need to be Data Literate.

    Data are words. To transform words (data) into information requires knowledge of syntax, semantics and pragmatics. Few developers and consumers of data understand Data Literacy. As a result we have practices such as data modeling, data quality and data governance that are ineffective yet popular.

    The problem is not the typewriter or the words on the page but the typists and the readers. Its not the business, IT or databases but the literary competency of the people creating and consuming data.

  3. Gary Palmer November 13, 2014 4:02 pm #

    Some good points compellingly illustrated.

    I have never heard it more concisely or completely expressed than by Peter G. W. Keen:

    “Data supply doesn’t create information. Information doesn’t automatically lead to knowledge. Knowledge doesn’t lead directly to action. Business action and impact are the goal.”

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