iTunes, outer joins and the ubiquity of data


Although I have fancied myself an Apple guy over the last two years, two applications kept one of my toes in the PC pool: my accounting application and my iTunes library. I'm happy to say that that's no longer the case: I recently made the final jump from the PC to the Mac. In this post, I'll explain the data ramifications of the move.

As I was migrating iTunes, I tried to follow the best instructions that I could find. Doing so would allow me to preserve my metadata: play counts, dates added, and the like. Still, I wanted to ensure that all of my music on Computer A made its way to Computer B.

Now, in the past when I needed to compare music libraries (like when I bought a new PC), I would create a simple Excel spreadsheet. I would then create a custom primary key for each library, typically concatenating song name, artist, album and song length. You may be asking if this is overkill. After all, how many different versions of Rush's "Tom Sawyer" can one person own? Answer: An unhealthy number.

I'd then throw the data into Access and run a simple query with an outer join on the two datasets. I would then see which of my 10,000 songs were missing. If all went well, that query would return the null set. I could proceed with confidence.

The latest version of iTunes essentially does that for me. That is, if you use a wireless network, you can see the contents of each iTunes library in your house, even if it exists on a different machine. You can then see which songs are in Library A but not Library B - and vice-versa.

Simon Says: Data is Everywhere

The point of this little yarn is that data is everywhere. You might not realize that you're effectively running a query when comparing two iTunes libraries, but you are. The tools have become easier, especially in consumer-facing applications.

If you're manually manipulating or comparing a large amount of data, stop. Someone else probably had a similar issue and figured out a way to save a great deal of time.


What say you?

Tags Apple Rush

About Author

Phil Simon

Author, Speaker, and Professor

Phil Simon is a keynote speaker and recognized technology expert. He is the award-winning author of eight management books, most recently Analytics: The Agile Way. His ninth will be Slack For Dummies (April, 2020, Wiley) He consults organizations on matters related to strategy, data, analytics, and technology. His contributions have appeared in The Harvard Business Review, CNN, Wired, The New York Times, and many other sites. He teaches information systems and analytics at Arizona State University's W. P. Carey School of Business.

Leave A Reply

Back to Top