Master Reference Data

Updated Post:

Having written the below post in 2012, organisations such as ISO have since addressed the needs of business/government through subscription services such as ISO’s Online Collections:

‘An online collection is a set of standards available online. With this product you are sure to always have the most up to date content. When you buy an online collection you pay for a yearly or a monthly subscription to the standards, which are available to read online via your library. This annual subscription service allows you to download the most recent, official lists of country codes and/or subdivisions not to mention formerly used codes in one convenient location. The collection contains the codes from Part 1, 2 and 3 of ISO 3166 in 3 formats: .XML, .CSV and .XLS for easy integration into your own systems. You will also be notified when changes are made so you can download the latest versions. In this way, you can be sure that your database is always using the most up-to-date information from an official and ISO-supported source.”

The original post on this point included below:

Even though it’s now the 21st Century and jetpacks are here, delivering consistent master reference data across organisational IT systems remains challenging.

While tools such as Informatica Data Quality and the Informatica Power Center Reference Table Manager go some way to helping centrally manage reference data, organisations such as Informatica haven’t yet taken the lead by providing international organisations with a central store of reliable reference data to connect to through web services or similar (let alone providing support for locked-down organisations to access such a central store, save through software patches). As at 2012, Informatica provides some reference data through Power Center, but hasn’t yet created a subscription service.

It’s a shame, as it would be an excellent business opportunity for Informatica, to advance their competition with organisations such as Royal Mail and Hopewiser in providing a centrally subscribable post office address file service cascadable to their customers, by providing bank branch details, international currencies, court details, and even basic country codes.

Similarly, the UK’s laudable http://data.gov.uk project, in relying on Big Society and dwindling government departments to populate and maintain data, has not yet delivered a central repository of cross-government reference data to which government organisations might connect and reduce the duplication of effort and inaccuracy present in their discrete organisations.

One quick win for UK government and business in any country, would be a central web service subscription to the United Nations’ 3-numeric country code. Many organisations today use their own out-dated in-house country codes developed before common standards became … common … while others use the ISO 3166-1 standard for which they pay a fee, which is derived in any case from the UN Statistics Division. The correct group to publish and maintain this would be the United Nations organisation itself, but for now they simply publish to their website at:

http://unstats.un.org/unsd/methods/m49/m49alpha.htm

In my opinion, the UN 3-numeric country code is preferable to other country codes by virtue of it being:

  • Free of charge
  • Numeric, and hence language script independent, and so more likely to ‘play well with international systems’ now and henceforth (script independence is cited as an advantage at the ISO site as follows ‘contrary to the Latin characters of the alphabetic codes, the numbers used in the numeric-3 code are also used in the Cyrillic, Japanese or Greek scripts’)
  • The source for the ISO country codes in any case

The competing country code sources are the ISO 3166-1 2-alpha country code, and 3-alpha and 3-numeric versions, for which organisations have to pay, and which are based on the United Nations source anyway (as per an extract from ISO’s previous site content in 2012, since removed – ‘New names and codes are added when the United Nations publish new names in either their Terminology Bulletin Country Names or in the Country and Region Codes for Statistical Use maintained by the United Nations Statistics Division. There is no other way of having new country names included in ISO 3166-1. So if a name is not on these lists it will not be incorporated into ISO 3166-1.’). To learn more about the ISO country codes visit their website at: http://www.iso.org/iso/home/store/catalogue_tc/catalogue_detail.htm?csnumber=63547

 

Music to Write Fiction By

A New York Times blog in their Arts Beat section, sadly discontinued since late 2010, was the Living with Music playlists shared by writers.

The archive of playlists is still interesting not only as a means of finding good music from authors with exceptional taste, but for writing tips, such as Janelle Brown‘s idea of creating playlists for characters in her fiction, an idea adopted for the protagonist, Quinn, in a work-in-progress, code-named Operation Magic Lantern.

I encountered the Living with Music playlists some time ago in a roundabout way while investigating an exceptional writer of chidren’s fiction, Daniel Handler, AKA Lemony Snicket. To celebrate Daniel Handler’s fiction I’ve replicated as much as possible* his Living with Music playlist (which warrants reading for his typically droll comments) using Grooveshark, selections which seem perfectly suited to writing original fiction:

 

* Notes: Ginger Folorunso Johnson’s Egyptian Bint Al Cha Cha track from Damon Albarn’s compilation seems to be corrupted on Groovshark’s servers at the moment (so the track skips, hopefully this will be fixed in future), I couldn’t obtain Morton Feldman’s ‘The Straits of Magellan’ so instead used ‘The Rothko Chapel’ because I <3 Rothko, and I couldn’t obtain World Standard’s ‘Good Red Road’, so instead used ‘My Well Chuned Banjo’, the only available piece by them.

 

Myers-Briggs Type Indicators

There are currently 7 billion humans living on this planet, a number which is now expected to grow to 9.2 billion by 2050 according to the latest United Nations’ medium projection. Thinking about the implications of that figure in relation to further atrocities committed fighting over scarce resources/poverty/extinction of other species/pollution, etc., should original thinkers and scientists fail to come up with solutions to solve the problems, is a post for another day… while today’s fluffy post is about character profiles.

While classifying all current 7 billion humans into one of 16 personality types may seem almost as absurd as reducing them into 12 astrological star signs (including ‘rising signs’) based on a date of birth. I find psychological personality typing, particularly the Myers-Briggs Type Indicators (MBTI), a broadly accurate short-hand way to better get to know interesting new people or beings who have conjured themselves into creation in fiction. The MBTI is based on Jungian archetypes, on which, Jung’s original texts make for fascinating reading.

The academic psychology community may find the similar Big Five Inventory (BFI) more acceptable, however I personally find the MBTI provides a simpler taxonomy for personality traits for both myself and others in real life and in writing.

If you’re interested in learning more about the MBTI do view/download the SlideShare-linked slides I created to share with my IT team, lolcat-ing photos of WivWuv‘s majestic Reko taken when ministering to his every whim –

 

 

Enterprise Architecture :: TOGAF9

According to The Open Group, ‘TOGAF is a proven enterprise architecture methodology and framework used by the world’s leading organizations to improve business efficiency… First developed in 1995, TOGAF was based on the US Department of Defense Technical Architecture Framework for Information Management (TAFIM)’.

For those to whom this is of interest, TOGAF9 contains much common sense guidance, albeit bulked out with consultant-ese language which would benefit from a dispassionate pruning.

To help clarify the material, I created a spreadsheet to track the various cycles and artefacts of the TOGAF9 Architecture Development Method. In case it’s useful for others undergoing certification this is attached here – [TOGAF9-ADM-Map]. All suggestions for addition/improvement welcomed!

My current organisation has developed its architecture repository in line with TOGAF9, for which I developed the data & information principles. The discipline of following the TOGAF9 structure has been beneficial however at present related material is secreted away in document libraries and is in danger of being neglected once organisational priorities and allocated resources shift, as ever.

 

 

Organisational Network Analysis and Enterprise Architecture

Tonight I was pleased to speak at an evening event at the British Computer Society’s Newcastle-Upon-Tyne & District Branch on a topic I find fascinating — organisational network analysis. A lovely audience and well organised event, I only hope my enthusiasm helped kindle interest in potential applications for organisational network analysis in others. The talk description and slides are self-explanatory, I’ve linked them below for anyone who finds the topic of interest.

Just as modern urban planning benefits from use of quantitative tools analysing traffic flows and roadway air dispersion models, perhaps modern enterprise architecture might benefit from similar use of quantitative tools to analyse data and information flow in an organisation for improved design? For a technology field, traditional enterprise architecture employs surprisingly limited use of technology to support its design, save for modelling software used to draw building blocks and models. The underpinning review of submitted requirements and proposed enterprise architecture is generally based on the knowledge and expertise of individuals.

Organisational Network Analysis (ONA) analyses connections/ties between and among individuals, groups, and organisations, termed the nodes. These slides provide an introduction to ONA, discussing current and potential applications for knowledge and content management, and enterprise architecture.

 

Don't fight forces, use them. – R. Buckminster Fuller