Thursday, January 31, 2013

Site Update

If the industry spent 10% of its time and effort dedicated to deal with NULLs on understanding and implementing a theoretically sound missing data solution, it would have put a stop to the endless stream of exchanges like the one posted on the LAUGH/CRY? page, from which nothing is ever learned.

A link to an online discussion I participated was posted to the FP ONLINE page.

I have long deplored the "magic wand" fad-to-fad modus operandi of the IT industry: (a) an ad-hoc "new paradigm" that accumulates over time prohibitive problems prompts (b) an ad-hoc "new paradigm" to solve them that accumulates over time prohibitive problems which prompts (c) an ad-hoc... You get the idea. This is a systemic and business culture problem that no individual or organization alone can solve.

Consider the new Quote posted on the QUOTES page in this context.

In all the excitement about the Cloud little thought is given to its nefarious implications. Here's just one:
Genetic information stored anonymously in databases doesn't always stay that way, a new study revealed, prompting a debate on how much privacy participants in scientific research can expect in the Internet era.
--Researchers Identify Anonymous DNA Donors, Wall Street Journal.
The Cloud is a form of outsourcing. Letting others do the work seems attractive if one focuses on expediency and upfront dreams of savings in money and effort and ignores the negatives associated with long-term loss of control. In the context of poor foundation knowledge and ad-hoc tools and practices, loss of control will exacerbate those negatives and defeat the initial purpose.
The Boeing Debacle: Seven Lessons Every CEO Must Learn, Forbes.

Poor foundation knowledge can be addressed only by education. [O]nline courses [may be] inevitable, but that is likely to exacerbate the trend of substituting true education--intellectual development--with occupational training, rather than stop and/or reverse it.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Redirected to Update September 2016

This series was revised in September 2016 as a two part series starting at:
The Principle of Orthogonal Database Design Part I

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Site Update

A link to my latest All Analytics column was posted on the FP ONLINE page.

A new Quote was posted on the QUOTES page.

A new To Laugh or Cry? item was posted on the LAUGH/CRY? page. Here's a discussion of it. Of course, strictly speaking, our objection is to XML databases/DBMSs. But see if you can figure out what else is wrong with other claims made for it.


C. J. Date's new book VIEW UPDATING AND RELATIONAL THEORY was added to the recommended books widget on the Home page. Please support this site by ordering via it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Site Update

For various reasons I postponed the European tour to the October-December timeframe. Anybody interested in organizing a seminar or presentation, or can put me in touch with somebody who is, please email me. (This applies to the US too).

This week's Quote and Laugh or Cry? item (video) continue the saga of Erik's Meijer ACM article and the letter in response to it by David McGoveran and Chris Date (see Site Update 12/29/12).

Carl Hewitt (in the video) submitted his own letter, Relational Model Considered Obsolete, in response to David's and Date's, defending Meijer's argument. I substituted the link to it, as I could not drop anything from the letter. Here's a discussion of it.

David, who submitted the video, comments:
Carl Hewitt is pushing his trademarked "DirectLogic(TM)" which he asserts "tolerates inconsistency" (i.e., no law of the excluded middle, no proof by contradiction) which he asserts is essential for large systems (e.g., cloud computing). According to him, the relational model is based on logical consistency, so it must go. He asserts that we need a new kind of database built on his DirectLogic(TM) and Actors (his model of highly concurrent computing for which he is famous and which I admire). "Train software engineers to embrace inconsistency" he says! "We have to get over the fact that inconsistency is a bad word."

The esteemed Prof. Hewitt's complaints about the relational model demonstrates his astounding ignorance of it and his recklessness. Every bullet in his CACM letter (a) has nothing to do with, and (b) are not weaknesses of the relational model. (Frankly, it makes me now question my prior opinions of his Actor work. Was it just as bad as this and I simply did not notice?)

Those of us with knowledge of the relational model and real experience in data modeling know every well how to handle inconsistencies - without giving up on the goal of consistency where it is appropriate. Hewitt likes to point to contradictory opinions as an example of inconsistency to be tolerated. Or temporary inconsistencies. We can model these just fine using relational - in fact, trivially. And, by the way, Carl, systems based on the relational model do more with data provenance than any other data model in existence. How does "DirectLogic(TM)" - which "embraces contradictions" - even detect inconsistencies let alone resolve those that can and should be resolved? Is its data provenance contradictory too?

"Tolerating inconsistencies by designing the logic underlying your systems to permit it"? That's just insane! Anyone who has built a real-time control system (think defibrillator, aircraft flight control, nuclear power plant, or crane operations at a port) knows this. The suggestion that the financial industry (banks, trading systems, etc.) should ever permit inconsistent transactions is simply absurd. I sure don't want these people touching (let alone building) the systems I depend on for life, safety, money management, etc. If Hewitt, Meijer, et al are the new architects of cloud computing, then maybe the new name for cloud computing should be "#@!* in the sky" computing! Ever hear of GIGO, Carl?

I think by large systems Meijer and Hewitt think Google, Facebook, Twitter, Zynga and the like, but they really don't realize it. The damage from inconsistencies in their software causes little damage. They simply cater to the spreading delusion that emulating the software of these companies -- which already exhibit serious problems--they will be as successful as them, no matter what their business is and what is the value of data for it.
This is hardly surprising giving the increasingly blurred line between academia and industry.

Speaking of which, Toon Koppelaars writes:
Academia first created the problem, by advocating all logic be removed from the dbms-layer. And now they come up with research to fix that.
The paper could have been a one-liner: don't not use the dbms-layer.
This is such a profitable business that is SOP in the IT industry. The academia, which is increasingly just a branch of the industry, has caught up. To get funded for research with such results--it's good work if you can get it.

It's been a while since I predicted that we are going back to the apps+files days. Almost everything that's happening is some aspect of that.

An interesting and not unrelated LinkedIn discussion: Software Structural Erosion The Shame, The Heartbreak & The Cost. Which explains the following from a friend in response to my reluctance to upgrade to the latest Word version:
I can guarantee that you will hate the UI of the new version. It needs a huge screen to be usable. I like to work split screen as I have to do a lot of comparison between text and website which is why I have a 2560 x 1650 monster here. Word is just about usable in half of the screen but at my customers with slightly less screen real estate it's no longer possible. Resizing a GUI so that the toolbar works but text occupies only a third of  the screen says an awful lot about software development over the last ten years.
It's probably better for Dijkstra that he did not live to see all this, which he predicted.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Site Update

A new Quote of the Week, by two MIT professors, no less, was posted on the QUOTES page. If you believe the second paragraph, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. Read the whole article that puts the hype in perspective for a reality check.

Apropos which, more validation of the deterioration of education:

Don't Let Math Pull the Wool Over Your Eyes

A new To Laugh or Cry? item was posted on the LAUGH/CRY? page. A good example of howone becomes a database professional.

3.Sima Ilic (via email): 
I had the opportunity to play with SIRA_PRISE for the past month or so and it's a fantastic TRDBMS. In my opinion it deserves to be mentioned as a TRDBMS software on DBDebunk.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Integrity Is Not Only Referential

Many years ago I used this title for an article in which integrity meant something different: it was a critique of a vendor claim that its product was supporting referential integrity (RI), when in reality the enforcement was at the application level. I am reusing the title, but this time the meaning is strictly technical.

One of the online exchanges I participated in is Use of constraints on Db to improve data quality - good idea or better in the applications? initiated by the following question:
Can I ask whether people make use of the functionality provided by the database to ensure adequate data quality. Secondly do people apply this retrospectively as seems quite reasonable to me when a data problem is identified and the source data cleaned up - to do so could prevent future errors. There appears to be a tension between this sort of implementation and at least a perception of flexibility as database changes would be required should additional allowable values be required.