More and more of our shopping these days is done online. Web commerce is booming, but some us are booing when the metadata describing the products we are shopping for is not easily discernible, causing us to spend a lot of time choosing which, if any, product to spend our money on.
For example, I recently tried to buy a shirt from an online retailer. First of all, I have to admit that I am not the most stylish dresser. I am a jeans and tee shirt kind of guy. So, all I wanted to do was buy a blue shirt, which I thought should be a quick and easy thing to do.
Unfortunately, blue was not an available option in the color drop-down box next to the picture of the shirt I wanted to buy. Instead, among the many choices were several bluish-sounding colors named midnight, sky, ocean and aqua. I was even more blue-fuddled when I clicked on the different color values and watched the picture of the shirt change to reflect my selection. Midnight was clearly the only dark blue option, but I really could not tell much of a difference among sky, ocean and aqua - other than they were all lighter than midnight.
This e-commerce encounter seemed eerily reminiscent of choosing between the red pill and blue pill, between the blissful ignorance of illusion (blue) and the sometimes painful truth of reality (red).
Paraphrasing Morpheus’s sales pitch to Neo in The Matrix:
“You take the blue pill — your online shopping ends, and you believe that you bought a blue shirt whether you bought a midnight, sky, ocean or aqua shirt.
You take the red pill — you stay in the World Wide Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember, all I’m offering is the truth — nothing more.”
Although I commonly criticize the concept, I understand the appeal of a single version of the truth. I didn’t want to take the red pill even if it truly offered me more choices. I wanted to take the blue pill because I wanted a single version of a blue shirt just to make my choice easier.
When discussing data quality and master data management with business users, you have to remember that each of them wears their own version of a blue shirt. This is why many discussions about defining a single version of the truth descend into a deep rabbit hole of debate, down where there is only midnight in a sky above an ocean of aqua, but no true blue.