OpenRefine: a Cinderella Story but for Data

This post is part of a series for Love Data Week, which takes place February 14-18 2022.

Written by Dena Strong

Ever wish you could call on a fairy godmother who could wave a magic wand and make all your data problems disappear? Luckily for us at the University of Illinois, we can call on Senior Information Design Specialist Dena Strong. Dena can solve data problems so fast it seems downright magical. For Love Data Week 2022, check out Dena’s story about OpenRefine, the data tool she loves beyond all reason:

“I once had a consultation with a person who presented me with two Excel files and a data cleaning dilemma that he estimated was going to take him 200 hours of manual labor to repair. It took me 15 minutes of conversation to understand what he needed to do with the files to get them clean and integrated – and then it took me 5 minutes in OpenRefine to do the data cleaning and teach him how to do the same so he could do it again whenever he wanted. The other 199.6 hours of his time went to more productive uses. He and I have both been OpenRefine cheerleaders ever since. When I did a Caffeine Break session about it, an attendee said it was the most useful 45 minutes of training he’d ever had.”

As of the time of this writing, none of Dena’s datasets have turned back into pumpkins.

Headshot of DenaDena Strong (MLIS) is a member of the Web Hosting team at Technology Services; she also serves as a liaison with the Research Data Service at the Library. With 20 years of experience in usability, accessibility, information architecture, and workflows, Dena enjoys collaborating and consulting with people across campus. She’s also been spotted studying six languages, reproducing Heian-era Japanese dye techniques, and occasionally burning Kool-aid in search of new fabric colors.

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