The Civilian Datasmith – a live specimen.

A live specimen - not a datasmith but a related data consuming species: The PacMan

If you’ve been following my ramblings posts for any length of time you’ll have come across the term “civilian datasmith” quite a lot. For example, in my last two posts on DAX I’ve been looking at whether they’re likely to use PowerPivot’s DAX.

Professional datasmiths, like myself, will have little choice but to learn and adopt DAX if we intend to continue to service either the high-end Excel management information market or the general MS BI tools market, but will our civilian peers follow suit? I think many will, particularly those who are already comfortable with high-end “excel formula programming” or those who already have extensive SQL and/or data modelling experience. But who are these non-IT datasmiths?

Well, they’re very unlikely to have data anywhere in their job titles and often share their job titles with dataphobic colleagues. But you’ll know them, they’re usually the “go-to-guys/gals” for all sort of data analysis/integration/discovery tasks and they tend to favour making decisions based on hard facts rather than gut instinct. They’ve learned to make use of whatever data and whatever tools are at hand, while others complain about tools/systems not doing what they want or IT not reading their minds, datasmiths just get on with making things happen.

An example of a real live civilian datasmith in action is Richard Baxter of SEOGadget. I know Richard from Excel development work he’s commissioned from me, including this Google Adwords Excel Add-in that appears to have been all the rage at this year’s MozCon conference.

I was at first somewhat surprised that an SEO professional was  commissioning Excel add-ins, as the typical SEO tools tend to be web-based (usually by default I think,rather than by rational choice), but I soon realised I’d found yet another datasmith enabled profession (to add to the more typical accountants, engineers, sales & marketing managers etc.).

Richard’s a classic datasmith.  To see him in action  check out the slides of his well received MozCon presentation. Note how he sources data from multiple sources but uses Excel to merge and shape the data (one other tool I’d suggest he should check out would be my HAMMER, ideal when multiple tables need to be queried,merged, cross-joined etc.).

So if you’re an SEO pro (or indeed any data dependent professional) struggling with too much data, or worrying that decisions are been made based on too little data, check out the following:

  1. Microsoft Excel for SEO http://www.distilled.net/excel-for-seo/ not just for SEO types, an excellent run down on the Excel skills any would-be datasmith must have.
  2. See Richard’s Adwords Add-in for Excel, a good example of the sort of thing Excel can do through the power of custom-coded add-ins. (UPDATE: Here’s a video of the tool in action)
  3. Then check out HAMMER, my swiss-army-knife-like  datasmithing tool for those whose working lives revolve around  data tables (primarily an Excel add-in for use as an array formula, but can also be called from VBA and via the command-line (aka DOS box)) .



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