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Gap and Island Analysis

Ed Pollack covers a topic of importance for database developers:

Within a data set, an island of data is any ordered sequence where each row is in close proximity to the rows around it. For some data types and analysis, “close proximity” will mean consecutive. Dates, integers, and letters of the alphabet can be ordered sequentially where two adjacent values will not be able to have additional values in between them.

For example, there are no dates between October 23rd and October 24th. Similarly, there are no integers between 17 and 18 and no English letters between E and F. For these examples, an island of data could be defined as a sequence of consecutive values. A gap can be defined as a sequence of missing values.

There are a lot of difficult problems which gap & island analysis makes much easier by pivoting the way you think about the problem.

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