Tip of the Day: Consult subject matter experts before removing existing attributes

It begins

Welcome to the first “Tip of the Day” on Get Spatial. This series will be used to capture particular events that stick out at me during the course of a workday. These tips could range from map design to database development, or data conversion to business practices. Each tip will be presented and then followed with more detailed background and explanation.

Today’s tip

Always consult subject matter experts prior to removing or combining attributes


This tip comes along, as many things often do, when I realize I’ve made a mistake. I’m in the process of data conversion, moving from one storage format to another, and implementing a data schema at the same time. As part of this process, I moved a particular layer and converted the attributes that were being maintained in the new schema. A couple months pass, and a request comes in for a map with a utility layer symbolized by a particular attribute. As I’m asking where this might be found, my coworker states that it used to be included as an attribute on that layer, in the not so distant past.
Fortunately, I have old layers archived, and was able to find the attribute.
The takeaway from this is that when you are moving to a defined data schema, or, when you are first defining it, you must speak with your subject matter experts about any attributes that you don’t recognize. What seems random, or meaningless to you, may in fact be something they use everyday. Even more, it may be something that is difficult, if not impossible, to recreate once lost.
Let me know in the comments of situations where you have dismissed an attribute that came back to haunt you.

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