A non-partisan, neutral perspective supporting diversity in the color of water

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Colors of Data

The Rainbow Water Coalition is famous for its careful and thorough inventory of the colors of water. Past postings also documented the many colors of waste and the colors of carbon. And now we are learning about the many colors of data. This posting is not to be confused with Rainbow Data, the website design firm or Rainbow Data Systems, the concept of Rainbow storage which "...claims to use geometrical shapes such as triangles, circles and squares of various colors to store a large amount of data on ordinary paper or plastic surfaces", or the colors of data described in the Venn Diagram of Data Science.

How do the colors of data relate to the colors of water? This posting was inspried by this article that describes the importance of *grey* data in the search for *clearwater*. Grey data includes those many reports, tabulations, etc. of information that remains in paper form, and does not undergo the *rigors* of the *peer-review* process. As a former consultant in the engineering industry, I can attest to the incredible value of grey data in my work. Folks in the academies and government turn their noses up to the *grey* data, but few of them realize that those of us who worked for the private sector did not need to publish, nor did our clients necessarily want us to publish, our reports or share the data widely. There were many reasons for this position, most focusing on how the information may be used by conflict beneficiaries, sometimes against the very parties who paid for the data to be collected in the first place.

Black data - simply data in its purest form.  Consider, for example, the *black box* - a device, system or object which can be viewed solely in terms of its input, output and transfer characteristics without any knowledge of its internal workings. Flight data recorders are the proverbial storage sites for black data stored in black boxes.

White data - The opposite of black data are the *peer-reviewed* data used to develop *white* papers, those handy authoritative reports or guides that help solve a problem. White papers are used to educate readers and help people make decisions, and are often requested and used in politics, policy, business, and technical fields. In commercial use, the term has also come to refer to documents used by businesses as a marketing or sales tool. Policy makers frequently request white papers from universities or academic personnel to inform policy developments. Not to be confused with the randomness of White Noise.

Blue data - data on a hard disk drive related to *Big Blue* the common reference to IBM. Sometimes blue data is the information such as weather forecasts, farmers' planting dates, and tide tables, containing tabular information in a particular field or fields often arranged according to the calendar, value of cars and other arcane items, as well as blue books for individual US states, citation guides for the legal field, or the data regurgitated in those dreaded books during a final exam.

Red data - data on the World Conservation Union's comprehensive list of endangered species.

Green data - data in which mechanical, lighting, electrical and computer systems are designed for maximum energy efficiency and minimum environmental impact.

Yellow data - Japanese company designed to communicate the Japanese soul and reverence for nature. No, I did not make this up.

Purple data - hard to track data, but apparently related to *purple prose* or exaggerated data. Or these wonderful *bits* of data.

Solving problems, regardless of whether they focus on waste, carbon, water, or data require the integration of a diverse portfolio of resources. Support diversity in all forms. 

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