“You’re only as accurate as your database.”
Over at LawCulture, Jennifer Mnookin relates an interesting instance of being misquoted due to database error. In today’s blog-fed world, this is a serious concern.
At my other blog, Times and Seasons — which is over two years old — we’ve migrated from one software platform to another, not once but twice. Somewhere in the process of the second migration, a few of the old entries had their author designations jumbled. I thought that I had fixed them all, but it turns out that some errors still existed; a few weeks back, I got this e-mail from a sharp-eyed reader:
“I was reading an old post that is attributed to Russell Arben Fox, but all the commenters are addressing you as the author. I’m wondering if there is a data error that has crept into the database.”
I went back and fixed the authorship on that particular post — I wouldn’t want to knowingly saddle Russell with the burden of being tied to my own barely-coherent thoughts, particularly on hot-button topics like why I dislike Dale. That post is now correctly attributed; I haven’t done more, though, although it’s quite possible (probable, even) that other misattributed posts still exist.
Why haven’t I done more? Because I’m not really a computer person (though I pretend to be one); because checking all of the posts would be a lot of work; because real life intervenes, and blogging doesn’t put food on the table.
I still have the old Moveable Type database, though. I tell myself that one of these days — when I have a moment between revising my article (revisions due Tuesday!) and prepping my classes and preparing the budget for my conference and making nice with a friend who I inadvertently offended and playing with my kids and occassionally even catching a movie — I’m going to go back to the old database, compare authorship, and fix any misattributed posts. But right now, that particular project is so far off the front burner, it’s not even in the kitchen.
I can sympathize with Mnookin’s plight — she’s quite correct that one is only as accurate as one’s database. But as the administrator of an almost-certainly imperfect database myself, I can also understand how such errors creep in, and sometimes stay in.