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Webinar recap: Screwing up (and fixing) imports

There are three typical scenarios we see when an import goes wrong. Let’s quickly review those scenarios, how to fix them, and how to prevent them in the future.

Scenario 1 – Data from one column ended up in another. For example – the email addresses in your imports are showing up in the Phone field in your Salsa database.

The most common culprit here is the file type. Since Salsa doesn’t permit imports of Excel (.xls) files, you have to save in a plain-text format. Many spreadsheet programs will default to a Comma-Separated Values (CSV) file which can cause problems with imports in Salsa.

The problems arise when a comma appears within a data field, rather than as a delimiter. Because plain-text file format is, well, plain, Salsa can’t discern whether or not a comma is meant as a delimiter or as a punctuation mark. So the comma becomes an instruction for Salsa to skip to the next field, shifting all of your imported data to the next column.

The fix: The best option is dependent on whether you have a backup or not. If you do, you’ll want to import your backup (as a tab-delimited file, of course) to restore your database to its previous state, then make sure to save your import file in the tab-delimited format, then re-import.

If you don’t have a backup, the remedy will depend on what data got misplaced. If the email addresses from your import were correctly imported, then Salsa can use the email address field to deduplicate your other records , so you’ll only need to re-import your file (saved as a tab-delimited file).

If you don’t have a backup and your email address information did not get properly entered, your best bet is to email Salsa Support – support@salsalabs.com with a full explanation of the situation. Then read below to make sure that you’ve taken steps to prevent this in the future.

An ounce of prevention: As outlined above, the two best things you can do to prevent this are 1) make a back-up of your supporter list, and 2) save your import spreadsheet as a tab-delimited file.

You can read about how to create a back-up of your list using Salsa’s built-in reports here: http://www.salsalabs.com/blog/2010/04/salsa-weekly-highlight--built-in-reports
Look for the report titled “Export: supporter data and custom fields”.

You can learn how to save as a tab-delimited file here: Saving your import file.

Scenario 2 – Although your import file only had 30 rows of supporters, your import says that a total of 50 rows were affected.

This is a fairly benign type of import issue, but it’s annoying nonetheless. Spreadsheet programs can be kind of funky, and despite the observation that there are a limited number of records, accidental keystrokes in later rows or even spaces entered into a later row can cause some programs to count those as legitimate rows.

Then once you import your file into Salsa, there are a number of blank rows which aren’t useful at all.

The fix: It’s a pretty easy one. You’ll want to run a query with conditions for “Email is empty”, as well as any additional conditions you’d like to use to narrow the focus of your query (such as First and Last Name = is empty, and adding a group condition for the group you imported into).

Then on the query results tab, you’ll want to scroll to the Supporter Operations section and bulk delete the results.

An ounce of prevention: Given that the issue is hard to pin down to any one thing in particular, there are two broad methods for prevention – 1) once you’ve got your data finalized for import, manually select the last 10+ empty rows of your spreadsheet and delete them, and 2) double-check your file format – you never know what sorcery Excel has performed on your files!

Scenario 3 – You imported a file with new data to update your existing records, but after the import completed, your new data is nowhere to be found.

First off, don’t fret! This is a relatively simple fix as well, since it’s just a matter of setting the correct overwrite options on your import.

The fix: You’ll be re-importing your file just the same as the first, but reviewing your overwrite options to make sure that they are properly set. Make sure you’re familiar with those options here: "a href="http://www.salsalabs.com/learn/packages/supporter-management/manage-imports/import--step-2">Mange Imports.

An ounce of prevention: First, make sure you know what data you want to update BEFORE you import. Are you overwriting any existing data with what is in your import? Are you only wanting to update blank fields in the Salsa database?

Next, decide if there is data in your import that you don’t even need. If you only need to import one column/field from your import file, rather than all of them, then you can simply set all of the other fields to Ignore in the Field Matching section of the second import step.

Finally, let’s look at the best steps to follow towards a successful (yet recoverable) import:

  1. Make a back-up of your list before you import.
  2. Create a new import group so you can interact with everyone that was affected by the import.
  3. Save the correct file type – tab-delimited is the way to go; CSV should be avoided.
  4. Save a copy with one record as a test file. This way you’re only updating one record, rather than a hundred or a thousand.
  5. Do Import Step 1 – upload your test file.
  6. Review Import Step 2 – do field matching, add to group, skip lines, set your deduplication and overwrite options.
  7. Confirm success of test import by reviewing your new record.
  8. Repeat steps 5-7, using the full file (in place of the test file).
Topics: Supporter Management Salsa