MAY 5, 2011 9:56am ET

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The Dichotomy Paradox, Data Quality and Zero Defects


As Joseph Mazur explains in “Zeno’s Paradox,” the ancient Greek philosopher Zeno constructed a series of logical paradoxes to prove that motion is impossible, which today remain on the cutting edge of our investigations into the fabric of space and time.

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Comments (5)
I'm of the opinion that there are no perfectionist's working in data quality so there is no need for concern. The metrics used in data quality themselves are inexact. The business cases for data quality contain abstract terms such as fitness for use good enough pursuit of excellence customer satisfaction data as an asset and other marketing blather. The data quality published results are subject to "adjustments" to make them appear entertaining on the dashboards so as to ensure continued employment or engagement.

If only there were some perfectionists among us we might expose the fallacies of data quality. Data quality is a myth. It's not the data that's defective it's the policies and processes. But those policies and process are "sacred cows" and questioning them can result in banishment.

Data quality practices have become motionless because they have reached the limits of the fallacies on which the practices were constructed. If an organization is using "incorrect" data that has been shown to be incorrect is that a data quality issue? There are numerous examples of this across many industries. Yet these are not addressed in any of the data quality literature. Systemically bad data is of greater impact to businesses and the economy but we are told fixing data in our miniature worlds is sufficient. The impact is minimal while the egregious data quality errors continue. Out approach to data quality is simplistic and myopic. We need some perfectionists to come out and expose these fallacies.

I don't hear requests for zero defects in data. A data value that contains zero defects doesn't exist. It has been relegated to a black hole never to be seen. It is the absence of everything all knowledge meaning and life therefore striving for zero defect data could be harmful to the universe and I suggest we not experiment with this phenomena. It could result in a singularity.

Posted by Richard O | Friday, May 06 2011 at 10:54AM ET
"Zero defects" even in manufacturing is just a slogan because as you say one would have to perform an infinite number of quality control steps to insure this.

A truer statement would be "the probability of a defect is acceptably small". Then it is up to the business to define "acceptably small" based on cost (the cost of meeting that quality goal minus the cost when a defect ocurrs).

That does not mean thopugh that the business could not say "we do not want a defect to occur in 100 years" - they could - but at least then you can define the steps required and the cost of achieving this.

Posted by Martin L | Friday, May 06 2011 at 11:03AM ET
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