How to not lose your mind when auditing data: Part II

This article is the second part of a series (I didn’t know I was going to write a Part II, yet, here we are :man_shrugging:). Read the first part here.

TL,DR: The original macros in the audit-helper package were super helpful in making sure you don’t introduce regressions when refactoring SQL. Now, we have new macros that help identify the problematic column when a regression is introduced.

Auditing data: no longer my least favorite task in analytics

In my previous article, I shared how our audit-helper package can be used to help confirm that two queries that should give you the same results are actually giving you the same results. Essentially, that you haven’t introduced a regression.

I’ve been using it pretty heavily while migrating some legacy ETL code into dbt, and then refactoring it to make it follow our coding conventions, all while checking I’m doing a “like for like” replacement. And it’s been going great!

If you find yourself refactoring SQL, you should definitely give this package a go.

Until it suddenly was my least favorite task again

Unfortunately, there have been a few cases lately where I have introduced regressions to my SQL. Now I needed to dive into why my records weren’t matching up.

Problem 1: Mismatching column types

During a recent model migration, I went to run my validation query to compare my old relation to my new one, and I got this back:

[Amazon](500310) Invalid operation: UNION types character varying and bigint cannot be matched;

Cool cool cool.


So one of my columns in my old relation is a character varying, whereas the new one is a bigint. But which column?!

The relation I was moving over to dbt was pretty wide (~40 columns), so I didn’t want to inspect this by visually checking the results if I were to select * from my relation. Instead, I chose to query information_schema.columns to compare the column types, and check the the output of that query:

with a_cols as (
    from information_schema.columns
    where table_schema = 'old_etl_schema'
      and table_name = 'fct_orders'

b_cols as (
    from information_schema.columns
    where table_schema = 'dbt_claire'
      and table_name = 'fct_orders'

    a_cols.ordinal_position as a_ordinal_position,
    b_cols.ordinal_position as b_ordinal_position,
    a_cols.data_type as a_data_type,
    b_cols.data_type as b_data_type
from a_cols
full outer join b_cols using (column_name)
order by a_ordinal_position, b_ordinal_position

:point_up: :face_with_monocle: Oooh, the rare full outer join spotted in the wild!

(If you aren’t on Redshift skip this paragraph. If you are, my condolences…)

But it turns out that one of my relations is a late binding view, and Redshift doesn’t store late binding view columns in the the information schema. If I wanted to get the column types from this early binding view, I either had to:

  • switch it to being an early-binding view, or
  • instead query pg_get_late_binding_view_cols() (docs)


I went with the latter, because fortunately, @drew has already done all the hard work to write this query in dbt (let’s face it, he’s the real MVP).

(OK if you aren’t on Redshift, you can come back now, we hope you enjoyed whatever party you got to go to during that part, we’re all jealous!)

And then because I never want to solve this problem again, and I don’t want anyone else to have to either, I packaged it up in a macro and added it to audit-helper.

{% set old_etl_relation=adapter.get_relation(
) -%}

{% set dbt_relation=ref('fct_orders') %}

{{ audit_helper.compare_relation_columns(
) }}

The compiled query helped me quickly find my offending columns:

column_name a_ordinal_position b_ordinal_position a_data_type b_data_type
order_id 1 1 integer integer
customer_id 2 2 character varying bigint

Once I found that customer_id was the issue, I was able to cast it to the correct data type, and run my compare_relations query.

Problem 2: Lots of rows that don’t match

So once I could run my comparison query, it turned out that my records did not match up across my two relations. In fact, almost 5k of my records didn’t match:

in_a in_b count
true true 35 657
true false 4 805
false true 4 774

image image

With almost 5k records, and 40 columns, this wasn’t going to be something I could (read: wanted to) debug by hand.

The solution? A macro ofc! I wrote a macro where, for a given primary key (used to match records), and for a given column, it would tell me whether the values matched across two relations. Here’s the SQL for comparing the status column:

with a_query as (
    select * from old_etl_schema.fct_orders

b_query as (
    select * from dbt_claire.fct_orders

joined as (
        a_query.status as a_query_value,
        b_query.status as b_query_value,
          when a_query.status = b_query.status
            then '✅: perfect match'
        end as match_status
    from a_query
    full outer join b_query using (order_id)

final as (
        count(*) as count_records
    from joined
    group by 1

select * from final

:point_up: :face_with_monocle: Another full outer join! So cool! And is that an emoji in a query output? I’ve gone too far. Someone save me from myself, please.

Again, to save myself from ever writing this again, and so others don’t have to either, I’ve added it to audit-helper.

{% set old_etl_relation_query %}
    select * from old_etl_schema.fct_orders
{% endset %}

{% set new_etl_relation_query %}
    select * from {{ ref('fct_orders') }}
{% endset %}

{% set audit_query = audit_helper.compare_column_values(
) %}

Then, to make my debugging really extra, I iterated through the columns of my relation, and printed the results to the command line. Here are the highlights:

From here, I could quickly tell that it was my status column was causing a lot of issues, and could debug my SQL accordingly. (The full instructions for this usage are here)

:tada: Announcing audit-helper v0.0.3 :tada:

These new macros, compare_relation_columns and compare_column_values are now in the latest release of audit helper. If you’re new to dbt packages, check out the docs.