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back to article Entire London 2012 Olympics' cultural events database held on Excel

The London 2012 Olympics is set be a humanoid spectacle of the like never witnessed by the world's population before. Or something. But disturbing information has reached us at Vulture Central that reveals the organisation's entire cultural events database is stored in *gasp* Excel. A job vacancy currently advertised on the …

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Angel

Time to update the CV

Out goes "Experience with Excel"

In comes "Experience of managing a large and complex databases"

Now I just have to find suitable replacements for "has used an e-mail account that has recieved more than one message" and "has created multiple Word documents".

Maybe "managed global e-mail system" as I have received e-mails from other coutries and "implemented and managed document management system"...

Angel because my CV never contained any lies before....

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Headmaster

Sir

"received e-mails from other coutries"

I believe your course details on spell-checking should be available in your inbox by now :)

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Maybe

they were, but were logged as "Coarse details" and have thus been held in abeyance awaiting something more refined...

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experience of managing a large and complex database

and no mention of backup and recovery.

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Happy

Not really surprised

Haven't we all seen things like that in a lot of companies - management by Excel? Worst case complete copy&paste effort, without even understanding formuals in cells (or even macros...).

My personal biggest joke: I advised to move to a database for sth like 250.000 records stored in Excel. Same company, different country, asked a consultant to solve a similar problem. He developed a new Excel sheet, which took the domain expert six weeks to understand how to fill in his data.

Me thinks, the problem is that some people really think Microsoft sells management solution. And some managers think: IT = Word + Excel.

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Stop

And some managers think: IT = Word + Excel.

Nonsense. How on earth could you manage anything without Powerpoint?

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Coat

IT = Excel + Word

or "EW".

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Alien

as nyelvmark said no powerpoint?

as nyelvmark said no powerpoint?

90% of management emails would be unviewable!!

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Boffin

Non story

"little old Excel"? Well, it's a tried, tested, well-understood and well-supported solution. Unlike the crap that an average developer is going to knock up in, say, Oracle.

Is the Reg becoming more like the Sun every day, or was it always this way?

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Devil

Tried and Tested????

Excel itself is tried and tested, and has very few bugs.

But the user created functional parts in an Excel based application are usually hideously bug ridden, undocumented and unscaleable. Excel's strength is also the biggest problem: All in one place you have data entry, the data repository, all the functional logic and the output presentation. If a major spreadsheet is treated like proper software development, and subject to verifiable and repeatable unit and integration testing then it will function well.

If, however, you hire an individual Excel jockey and set her/him to work with no functional specification, or data schema, then you will likely get something where you simply don't know if the output is right or wrong.

The problem isn't with Excel per se, it's with the lack of validation and control around the development of complex software within the Excel framework.

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FAIL

Re: Tried and Tested????

The question marks are indeed apposite, I would only ask why there are so few. Excel is basically not tested as proven by abysmal implementation of statistical features. Despite repeated reports of the problems, Microsoft has done little or nothing to correct them. This raises the question of whether other aspects of the software are similarly afflicted.

If you need convincing, here are some article with in depth testing of Excel:

1. http://www.stats.ox.ac.uk/~ripley/RSS2002.pdf

2. Knüsel, L. (1998) On the accuracy of statistical distributions in Microsoft Excel 1997 Computational Statistics & Data Analysis 26 (3) 375-377

3. McCullough, B.D. & Wilson, B. (2002) On the accuracy of statistical procedures in Microsoft Excel 2000 and Excel XP Computational Statistics & Data Analysis 40 (4) 713-721

4. Burns, P. (2009) Spreadsheet addiction Retrieved from http://www.burns-

stat.com/pages/Tutor/spreadsheet addiction.html, 21 June 2009

5. Goldwater, E. (2007) Using Excel for Statistical Data Analysis - Caveats Retrieved from http://www-unix.oit.umass.edu/ evagold/excel.html 27 June 2009

6. McCullough, B.D. & Wilson, B. (2005) On the accuracy of statistical procedures in Microsoft Excel 2003 Computational Statistics & Data Analysis 49 (4) 1244-1252

7. Keeling, K.B. & Pavur, R.J. (2007) A comparative study of the reliability of nine statistical software packages Computational Statistics & Data Analysis 51 (8) 3811-3831

8. McCullough, B.D. & Heiser, D.A. (2008) On the accuracy of statistical procedures in Microsoft Excel 2007 Computational Statistics & Data Analysis 52 (10) 4570-4578

9. Yalta, A.T. (2008) On the accuracy of statistical distributions in Microsoft Excel 2007 Computational Statistics & Data Analysis 52 (10) 4579-4586

10. McCullough, B.D. (2008) Microsoft Excel's `Not The Wichmann-Hill' random number generators Computational Statistics & Data Analysis 52 (10) 4587-4593

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Anonymous Coward

How is that extensive list relevant?

I highly doubt they are doing any sort of statistical analysis on these events' data.

And you know, Access was developed for exactly this purpose, if we're at M$ tools.

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@Non story

Your posting is tongue-in-cheek, innit? God, I hope so.

Biggest problem with using Excel to store data is that... you can copy it, modify it, email it. Pretty soon you have little bits of data floating everywhere, loving hand-entered without a clue as to which file is right and as to your data integrity. Business rules? Who cares, this is entered by hand so you can be as creative as you need to be.

I know this because Excel's part of my company's culture. We have data entry into special spreadsheets that have to be retyped in by hand because their format doesn't sense to a program. We have legacy reports that can't be automated because, well, it took someone 3 days to type them in "just so" in Excel.

Then the people whose IQ stretch just a wee tad above the Excel db crowd's have the ready-made solution to these problems...

Let's move to Access!

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Trollface

Hooray!

Hooray for Microsoft Abscess!

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@Tom Gregory

Ok I agree on a whole, but please do NOT use references that are up to a decade iout of date.

"accuracy of statistical procedures in Microsoft Excel 2000 and Excel XP "

Just rewind to that era....

"However, I question the company's ability to sell into a tight consumer market right now at the iPod's current price."

See how relevant they are?

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RE: How is that extensive list relevant?

No, Access was developed to allow something to fit on the desktop of a single person, and store some basic data with a nice little data entry/reporting tool built in.

If you're going to store data running a multi-million pound event, then I think SQL Server if you're using MS tools...

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Joke

Hmmm

Surely they could have sprung for a Pro version of Office and used a proper database like Access...

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I was going to say...

it could be worse, they could have been using Access but you beat me to it!

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Facepalm

My word. Could the Olympics Committee really not afford a SQL server licence?

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WTF?

Afford?

Why would they have to afford an SQL licence?

There are plenty of SQL Servers that are are available under a free license that would be quite up to the job

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Happy

Bonus

The OpenOffice Base (front end for HSQL) has very fancy features, and any day you can piss Larry E. off is a good one.

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Anonymous Coward

SQL Server

Yes, but they're not as simple to use as SQL Server which has a UI that's basically like Access for grown ups.

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FAIL

Why would they?

Why would they and why should they? They could afford as many MySQL licences as they wanted, and still have change for the bus home.

Taxpayers' money should never be spent on proprietary software where Open Source alternatives exist -- it's money down the toilet. Even if they end up spending more tweaking an Open Source product than they would have spent on a proprietary alternative, at least the investment in Open Source generates a return.

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Its only...

SQL Lite anyone? (ok better then VBA granted. Same principal, only the tables are cute tabs!). Be happy that they aren't sending it to AAPL thanks to bugs in their delete() function. Give it to Child Services, I hear they are great keepers of data. Im sure its stored on a Flash Drive to "take off site" for "backup" purposes. Perfect for their security practices!

how long before this is floating around the forums?

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It's an Administrator position,

so the management of the database won't actually go beyond a little bit of data entry. Chances are it's nothing more than a mailing list of important persons.

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Very speculative

Excel is a pretty powerful tool. It allows for Data Sources - which connect to real databases. Just because Excel is being used says nothing about how the data is stored.

Excel's analytics tools like PowerPivot and Reporting Services make for enterprise class analytics used by some of the largest companies in the world.

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Pint

Re: Very speculative

Thanks for regurgitating the first few slides of your "Introduction to Excel" course!

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Re

Heeey someone who knows PowerPivot. I'm just learning it. No one else in the Fortune500 top 75 firm I work at seems to have heard of it. Looks like it will be pretty awesome to joint report from access and sql.

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Trollface

"Some of the largest companies of the world". So what?

Some of the largest companies in the world were/are doomed. Enron, Andersen Consulting, Lehman Bros, Nokia, etc. And a sledgehammer is a "powerful tool", which doesnt mean it's the right one.

Sheesh, why do I argue with a droid? As if a human ever would write or say "enterprise class analytics". [I suppose a trekkie might, speaking of Oracle implementations onboard. But the point stands.]

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Anonymous Coward

Before we design the solution...

... what's the scope of the problem?

There may only be a few hundred events. The database may have a user-base of one. So, for all we know, this is the right solution.

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Devil

Even with a userbase of one

- which, frankly, is highly improbable - Excel is not up to coping with "a few hundred events". Excel databases max out fairly quickly. This leads to data loss, and even total system crashes. Not pretty.

Yes, I have seen this. Yes, I had warned the company that their database was too big and had too many users to be entrusted to Excel. No, they didn't listen: what do women know about real IT?

Bwahahahasnrk. Would you like some cress to go with that egg on your face, sir?

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Userbase of one?

Then a shoebox with index cards would be cheaper and far more robust.

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Paris Hilton

Even with a userbase of one

The Olympics is being run by women!

Oh no , I won't say what I think, as it may upset them and make them cry..

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Even with a userbase of one

Wow.

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Anonymous Coward

The key word is "cultural"

The najority of non-sporting Olympic events will be attempts to relieve the taxpayer of cash while incorporating maximum advertising for the sponsors and the Olympic committee. These will be well-managed on state-of-the-art software by professionals with years of experience.

The remaining cultural events will be getting some token displays of multiculturalism and some eels and mash in the East End and could be organised on the back of a fag packet (remember: Smoking Kills).

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Competitive salary

Lemme guess, 10000 people apply for the job, half of them receive "competitive salary" paycheques in advance but no-one actually knows who got the job, then a month before the event 4999 people receive demands to pay back the salary because - it turns out - it wasn't them.

I do like the competitive spirit though, it is in keeping with the games.

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Mushroom

What the fuck?

Given you know nothing of the complexity of the dataset, you're making a lot of assumptions.

And if you've not used excel to store more than a thousand prices of data (for example which would be required for anything over 4 years daily price data) then you've really not used it.

No I wouldn't use Excel to store a large amount of relational data, which changes often. But this sounds like a list of things that are going to happen. Why construct a whole crap load of infrastructure to maintain a SQL backend for such a simple dataset, in fact I'll wager if they did you'd be moaning about the extortionate cost for an internal database that's only used by 2-3 people.

It really makes me wonder...

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Mushroom

Big bother? Not really.

A college kid could knockout a basic SQL based solution over a weekend.

When you are talking about people "adult" enough to be managing databases, the 'horrible complexity' of real database solutions is really not that much of a problem. Like anything else in tech, you need to understand things on a deeper level than just the GUI.

Someone else mentioned disaster recovery. This is a fine example of the "deeper understanding" problem.

Competent people really should not be afraid of something that doesn't come from Microsoft.

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Headmaster

point made but

prices of data?

even I'm not the Liz Dexic

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A team of people using the speadsheet?

that should be fun.

Are you in the spreadsheet?No.

Are you in the spreadsheet?No.

Are you in the spreadsheet?No.

Are you in the spreadsheet?Yes. Get out I want to make a change.

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Anonymous Coward

Eh?

It tells you who else has a sheet open when you open it...

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Boffin

@Niall 1

You are aware that you can enable concurrent use of Excelsheets? Its conflict resolution can be slight clunky, but it does work well enough if people sharing the excelsheet don't work on exactly the same cell.

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@Niall 1

More like:

Are you in the spreadsheet? Oh yes, you are, I can use the share and track changes features to be in at the same time and review your changes, thanks.

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kind of

at my company (the company I work for - sadly I don't own it), each computer has the same identity, which is the name of the company (or at least what the company was called when we got the computers, the name has changed twice since then), so it's not too useful to see "xxxx Consulting is in this file"

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Pint

Well...

You're assuming they aren't all logging in to the same account.

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Slightly clunky

That's like saying Stephen Hawking is slightly handicapped.

If it's a small spreadsheet, and only two people are using it: fine. Even then, you'll lose input fairly regularly due to conflicts.

A simple database is far safer. If they want to log activities through Outlook, they can always use Access, it's not that bad.

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Ha!

You work in my office!

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Facepalm

Re: A team of people using the speadsheet?

It's OK, they'll collaborate in SharePoint. How long have they got again?

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Happy

Ah, that explains...

... the ticket fiasco :)

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