Transmuting Garbage In so you Don’t Get Garbage Out
In his book, Passages from the Life of a Philosopher, Charles Babbage wrote 'On two occasions I have been asked, "Pray, Mr Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?" ... I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.'
Garbage Lives On
Babbage, who lived in the 19th century, was the first computer inventor, though his designs were a far cry from the sophisticated technology we have today. But the concept of 'garbage in, garbage out', or GIGO in techno-jargon, still causes us problems that we need to overcome.
The phrase 'garbage in, garbage out' is believed to have been first coined in writing in the US press in 1963. It appeared in articles about the automation of the country's Internal Revenue Service on its first computers. It has always been necessary to clean data.
Throwing out the Garbage
We need to use data quality software to overcome human error. It's so easy to make a mistake when keying in new information. When you integrate a new data source, you can't expect it to adhere to your own internal standards about data. You need to employ master data management techniques, use merge purge software, deduplication software and so on, to make it consistent and accurate.
You can't be half hearted about data quality. Unless your data scrubbing activities are ongoing, the quality will slip. Dealing with the garbage at source can save hours of work trying to find out how things have gone wrong. Not to mention the damage that could be done if the garbage out wasn't initially recognised. What price the reputation of IT then?