Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Missing Roy, a true (data load) story

Roy is missing. Before I tell you the curious case of the missing Roy, let me explain what I mean by data load. If you are a software professional, you would have guessed it already. Before making big changes to an existing computer applications or rolling out new computer application, there is a phase in the project where data is loaded. These data are essential to the users to perform transactions. In some parlance, this is also called static data. If you examine the word closely, it is a misnomer. It is static when compared to the data related to transactions. In these parlance, the latter is also called dynamic data.

Now that I have established my technical prowess, let's get back to the Roy. The missing Roy was reported by my new acquaintance at work. We both started on this new project around the same time. Until recently, we didn't get a chance to have a tête-à-tête. His name ends with Kumar and he is from Patna. In my limited world experience, the two things go hand-in-hand. I have a lot of friends whose names end in Kumar and they are from Bihar. So it came as a surprise when he said he was a Bengali whose dad shifted to Patna for work. In fact, this is also surprising for me for I have only heard of people moving from Bihar to W Bengal.

While I was digesting this piece of information, my colleague volunteered more information to clear the air. "My name does not end in Kumar. It ends in Roy. So my name should ideally end in Kumar Roy", he said. With this statement, I realized we are not talking about an ideal situation here. So what happened to Roy? When did Roy go missing? He has an explanation to it. When he appeared for the board exams (which I assumed is our infamous Std X), Bihar was computerizing their educational institutions. Remember the data load part I was referring in the first paragraph. There was a data load to put all the information related to the students into system these institutions were using. That is when the Roy go missing.

The data load program truncated many of the names while loading into the system. As a result, a lot of people lost the last part of their name. My friend never bothered to correct this piece of information. That is the story of the missing Roy. Now I have a word for all software professionals involved in such projects. Whatever you are loading into systems is important for some one if not for you. So make sure you do the right thing. If you do not do the right thing, people can lose something valuable as was the case with Roy in my tale. Name is important. It is not easy to live with a half name or even a no-name!

Tags: Musings,Work,Data Load,Roy,Project



  1. The thousands of people who lost part of their name or had their names changed without their consent as they immigrated to Canada and the United States would thank you for this post. At that time the people recording names were either ignorant or mistaken. Today we can still blame human error, but there is no longer any excuse for losing part of someone's name.

    1. I have heard of this too. What was the place in NY (or is it NJ) where immigrants had to wait for registration? During those times, it was mainly because of our lack of comprehension of what the other person was saying because of language barriers. These days, it is computer error which is actually caused again by humans.


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