I saw this little bit of news from the UK this morning. Background: there appeared to be a sudden terrifying surge in COVID cases in the UK this last weekend. The Spectator (the British version, not the American one) had this sort-of-consoling update:
An Excel-lent mess
First, the good news. The second wave of Covid-19 didn’t roar into a vast tsunami over the weekend, with cases tripling. The bad news is that the reason so many new cases have belatedly been added to the tally is that a ‘technical glitch’ lost 16,000 of them from the system. And the even worse news is that the ‘technical glitch’ was in fact the contact tracing network using an Excel spreadsheet as a database (for the technologically-challenged, this is not how you should run a database). The missing cases fell off because the spreadsheet ran out of rows.
Guess how we used to keep track of the EFL, before Dave saved us? That’s right: a super-complicated, nested set of Excel spreadsheets.
I asked John once to check my spreadsheets to see if they were ok. He did. He was very polite. He said something like “it’s unnecessarily complicated” but he thought it should probably work for our purposes.
I have to admit the non-Christlike part of me felt its own surge of pride this morning noticing that the entire UK public health system couldn’t do any better than little ol’ me did 17 1/2 years ago when I was designing our original data tracking system.
John probably would have warned them about Excel’s limited number of rows — a fact I hadn’t known about until now.
Now excuse me while I go do penance for my smugness.