How to explain data architecture to a teenager

Yesterday I attended the initial awareness session of the “Full Scale” Data Architects. We had an open discussion on what it is, could be or should be.

One of the questions raised during that session and afterwards on LinkedIn was how to explain what we – data architects – do.

Although data architecture and architecture (in construction) have many differences, I still see an analogy.

When asked what I do, I also make that analogy. It doesn’t cover it completely of course but it is often enough for the first introduction.

I design “something”, make the blueprint and lay the foundation.

And that while taking into account all wishes, (legal) requirements, environmental factors, durability, change and – although in data architecture we try as much as possible to be technology-independent – available “building material”. It’s basically finding the right balance as Ronald Damhof put it.

In practice the architect may also be the contractor that takes the lead in the construction. This can be an incentive for some but not for others1.

But I always keep an eye – or delegate it – that the construction is according to plan. When necessary I even change the plan (due to external changes, available building materials).

I should therefore have an overview and be part of a whole team that I can trust.

And I shouldn’t make it more complex than strictly necessary, certainly not when I try to explain it to someone else.

Of course it can definitely help if you have ever constructed things yourself – and I did -, but mainly from the point of view of the problems you can run into. Otherwise you risk that you start with a technical bias (yes, it does happen to me occasionally).

  1. Another question was how to make data architecture attractive to teenagers so that they will study it, if there were any real studies about it.

ERwin data modeller plug-in MODGEN for DataVault generation

Thanks to George McGeachie my attention was drawn to the following article on the blog of Erwin, a well known data modelling tool.

The article is about DataVault in general and how a data modelling tools like Erwin can help.

More interesting is the fact that the German company heureka e-Business GmbH has written a plug-in for Erwin called MODGEN that is able to generate a DataVault model from another data model.

I will certainly contact them and see if they do their webcast again on whether a recorded version is available or offline viewing.

Who knows this is one step further in automating DataVault.

My 2 cents on DataVault standards (evolution)

My 2 cents on DataVault standards (evolution)

Generating #datavault models & Issues to address | Accelerated Business Intelligence

Generating #datavault models & Issues to address | Accelerated Business Intelligence

Scheduling OmniFocus Tasks in Fantastical 2 … for iOS!

In my daily job as a BI consultant I need to plan my work and I’m using OmniFocus for that. In fact it is my trusted system for all my projects, not only work related ones.

I allocate blocks of time in my favorite calendar app Fantastical 2 to work on the tasks (or next actions) that I’ve stored in OmniFocus.

Sven Fechner wrote a great post how you can schedule OmniFocus tasks in Fantastical by dragging and dropping when working on your Mac.

I found out that this works perfectly. Strangely the results are quite different when you use the Mac OS sharing extensions. When you select a task in OmniFocus and share it using the extension “Add to Fantastical”, the result is bad to say the least.

As I don’t always have my Mac at hand, I was wondering if I could achieve the same on my iPhone or iPad. This turned out to be quite an adventure.

In OmniFocus for iOS you can share a task as well but this only seems to work well when you mail that task, as you can see below.

It is possible that other apps are listed when you share a task from OmniFocus, such as Trello for example. However, when you share to Trello, you’ll notice that the name of the card remains empty and is not filled in with the OmniFocus task name. In the animation below I filled in a name myself and then looked in Trello what had happened. As you see, the OmniFocus task is included as an attachment in Trello with the obscure name “FocusAction.ofaction”.

After opening that file in a plain text editor, it turns out to be an Apple property list (or plist) file.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "">
<plist version="1.0">
            <string>Write blog post about scheduling OmniFocus Tasks in Fantastical 2 … for iOS!</string>

If your OmniFocus tasks contains a defer (<key>start</key>) and/or due date, additional keys and strings will be present.

While you may be able to parse this using Drafts, I took a different approach and used Workflow instead. In my workflow I use the name of the OmniFocus task as the name of the event to be used in Fantastical. If a defer (or start) date is present, the workflow will ask you if you want to use that date as the event date in Fantastical. Unfortunately Workflow doesn’t provide a means (or at least I couldn’t find it) to show you a list of available calendars, so you will need to type that in manually in a prompt.

Finally, the event gets created in Fantastical and you edit it further there. The notes field of the event contains a link back to your original OmniFocus task (which will open OmniFocus with that task). This is obtained through the <key>uuid</key>.

You can find the workflow here.

WhereScape Test Drive hosted by Systemation

Today I attended the WhereScape Test Drive that was hosted by Systemation, which recently became a WhereScape partner.

The day started with a keynote by Ronald Damhof, who talked about the push/pull point and his data quadrant. More information about this can be found on his blog.

After that Rob Mellor and especially Frederic Naessens from WhereScape gave details about the product (3D and RED) and did the test drive. In this test drive, you work together with one more attendee and have to partially build a dimensional model in a scrum like matter. I had done this before so it wasn’t that difficult for me.

As it is only a test drive that doesn’t even take all day, you only get an impression of WhereScape RED. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s a kind of teaser really.

I wish however that the cases would have evolved more from the previous test drive I had done. You click, drag and drop but are missing a bit what you’re really doing and why. This is partly due to the time constraints of course. But it would have been nice if there was a clear link between Ronald’s presentation and how WhereScape could fit in. To me, it’s obvious that it fits in quadrant I and a little bit in II as well. To my understanding, it is not particularly useful for the other quadrants.

In all, WhereScape is a product that can be very useful but won’t fill in everything. That doesn’t matter because you can still complement it with other tools.

I think Systemation did a good job with the hosting of this relatively small event and am sure they will host even bigger events in the future. A more in depth demo of the possibilities of WhereScape and of its “shortcomings” would be nice…

I want to thank Martin Wallenburg of Systemation for the invitation to attend this test drive.

More info about Systemation can be found here. More info on WhereScape is here.

PS. I’m not affiliated with any of the fore mentioned parties, nor am I paid or sponsored for this post.

How to get back classic Evernote note links on a Mac

Recently Evernote changed the way note links work. Or at least I think they did.

Where previously they followed the evernote://… URL scheme, they now use an https://… URL scheme. And for some reason I can’t get them to open in the desktop app.

I found out that this could be set in the Evernote webclipper settings, but that setting seems to have disappeared as well in at least the Safari version.

Thanks to Frank Meeuwssen there seems to be another possibility to get the note link in the old format that does open in the desktop app. By right clicking on a note and holding down the alt/option key, the context menu changes from “Copy Note Link” to “Copy Classic Note Link”.

However, this only seems to work with the right click context menu and not from the main menu. I want to set a shortcut for copying those classic note link and I couldn’t figure out how to do that with the system wide keyboard shortcut settings (they only seems to work for main menu settings, not for context menus but maybe I’m wrong here).

But I found a workaround. When using AppleScript to tell Evernote to create a note link, you get the classic URL scheme that opens in the desktop app.

When combining this AppleScript with my preferred app launcher Alfred, you can create a nice workflow that allows you to set an application specific (Evernote) hotkey that gets you a classic note link and puts it on the clipboard. This works as well when selecting multiple notes at once in Evernote. Each note link is separated by a line feed.

Feel free to download the Alfred workflow [here.](