Friday, February 4, 2022

OBG: No Understanding without Foundation Knowledge Part 4: Debunking an Online Exchange 3



Note: To demonstrate the correctness and stability due to a sound theoretical foundation relative to the industry's fad-driven "cookbook" practices, I am re-publishing as "Oldies But Goodies" material from the old DBDebunk.com (2000-06), Judge for yourself how well my arguments hold up and whether the industry has progressed beyond the misconceptions those arguments were intended to dispel. I may revise, break into parts, and/or add comments and/or references. You can acquire foundation knowledge by checking out our POSTS, BOOKS, PAPERS, LINKS (or, even better, organize one of our on-site SEMINARS, which can be customized to specific needs).

A 2001 review of my third book triggered an exchange on SlashDot. This six-part series comprises my debunking at the time of both the review and the exchange in the chronological (slightly out of the)  order of the original publication.
Part 1: Clarifications on a Review of My Book Part 1 @DBDebunk.com
Part 2: Slashing a SlashDot Exchange Part 1 @DBAzine.com
Part 3: Slashing a SlashDot Exchange Part 2 @DBAzine.com
Part 4: Slashing a SlashDot Exchange Part 3 @DBAzine.com
Part 5: Slashing a SlashDot Exchange Part 4 @DBAzine.com
Part 6: Clarifications on a Review of My Book Part 2 @DBDebunk.com

“I did see your plea for help with funding Chris Date. Frankly, I think his approach is "dated", from what I could understand from talking to him at VLDB’99 in Edinburgh. We now live in a world of Agents, Semantic Web and XML. That is our main research focus here. Thus we would not be interested.”
--Sr. faculty, Academic Institution
“But within the context of the University of Washington, it would not be my classes where it would be appropriate to present that type of information [on fundamentals]. My classes are graduate level, highly technical and I don’t allow PowerPoint slides or any non-technical content.”
--Oracle practitioner, graduate teaching
“Recently, James H. Billington, the current Librarian of Congress, remarked that instead of a knowledge-based democracy, we may end up with an information-inundated democracy. I share his concern, so allow me to end with this simple wish. May, in spite of all distractions generated by technology, all of you succeed in turning information into knowledge, knowledge into understanding, and understanding into wisdom.”
--Edsger Dijkstra, Convocation Speech

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DBDebunk was maintained and kept free with the proceeds from my @AllAnalitics column. The site was discontinued in 2018. The content here is not available anywhere else, so if you deem it useful, particularly if you are a regular reader, please help upkeep it by purchasing publications, or donating. On-site seminars and consulting are available.Thank you.

LATEST POSTS

02/04 TYFK Nobody Understands What a Data Model Is

01/21 Read My Lips: If There's NULLs, It's Not Relational

01/16 OBG: No Understanding without Foundation Knowledge Part 3 -- Debunking an Online Exchange 3

01/08 OBG: No Understanding without Foundation Knowledge Part 3 -- Debunking an Online Exchange 2

02/08 Aded 2021 posts to POSTS page.

LATEST PUBLICATIONS (order from PAPERS and BOOKS pages)
- 08/19 Logical Symmetric Access, Data Sub-language, Kinds of Relations, Database Redundancy and Consistency, paper #2 in the new UNDERSTANDING THE REAL RDM series.
- 02/18 The Key to Relational Keys: A New Understanding, a new edition of paper #4 in the PRACTICAL DATABASE FOUNDATIONS series.
- 04/17 Interpretation and Representation of Database Relations, paper #1 in the new UNDERSTANDING THE REAL RDM series.
- 10/16 THE DBDEBUNK GUIDE TO MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT DATA FUNDAMENTALS, my latest book (reviewed by Craig Mullins, Todd Everett, Toon Koppelaars, Davide Mauri).

USING THIS SITE
- To work around Blogger limitations, the labels are mostly abbreviations or acronyms of the terms listed on the
FUNDAMENTALS page. For detailed instructions on how to understand and use the labels in conjunction with the that page, see the ABOUT page. The 2017 and 2016 posts, including earlier posts rewritten in 2017 were relabeled accordingly. As other older posts are rewritten, they will also be relabeled. For all other older posts use Blogger search.
- The links to my columns there no longer work. I moved only the 2017 columns to dbdebunk, within which only links to sources external to AllAnalytics may work or not.

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Slashing a SlashDot Exchange Part4

(first published @DBazine.com 2001)

In my last posts in this series I debunked the most egregious comments in a Slashdot.org exchange that reflectedd the ignorance of data fundamentals and inability to reason in the industry. I have reserved criticism of the most appalling level of discourse for this post. Most appalling, because it is by an academic, that is, somebody whose very responsibility is to correct this ignorance. If educators don’t know and appreciate foundation knowledge, how can we expect it from their students?

This is not the first time I raise the sad issue of academia renouncing its education function and turning itself into corporate job trainer, product certification platform for vendors -- what Dijkstra called "mayfly chaser" of industry’s marketing fads  (e.g. "Denormalization for Performance: Et Tu Academia?", "The Chasing of Mayflies: Reply to Riggs", "The Myth of Market-based Education, "More on the Myth of Market-based Education). On the consequences for industry practice -- and society in general see "Lenin, Trotsky, and Freedom from the Tyranny of Knowledge and Reason."

[What follows is a debunking of some comments @SlashDot by an academic who dismissed my industry criticism as useless "rants":]

"I didn’t say no one should point it out. Pointing it out is fine and good. Beating a dead horse is just annoying and useless. I’m an academic myself (not of sorts, a real academic), not a coder. I’ll point out problems in discussions in papers I write, but I don’t rant on and on endlessly about things like this.     Point out the problem. Then suggest feasible ways to move forward if you have one. Ranting on and on in a forum like this (which is going to consist of almost entirely end-users) that someone is incorrectly using the nuances of the word ‘relational’ (without properly explaining it in the first place in his rants!) is not just useless, but annoying. Just @%#*ing over and over doesn’t progress science. He likes to hear himself talk. That’s about it.”
I will remind the reader, in passing, that earlier in this series a journalist that interviewed me referred to SlashDot as a forum for "serious discussion of architectural issues". Is that something that end-users do? Be that as it may, what this "real academic" dismisses as "ranting" is our consistent demonstration of costly flaws in industry technologies, products and practices that he and his colleague mayfly chasers are in large part responsible for.

He complains that we do not "properly explain" what relational means, ignoring the dozens of books, articles and Web sites where we do nothing but this very thing, which he and his colleagues not only fail to do themselves, but also refuse to include in their curriculae. We shall shortly see the absurd justification for it, but consider: the RDM is the application of logic and mathematics to database management and, therefore, the first -- and as far as we know, the only -- placement of the field on a sound scientific basis. And yet this self-professed "real academic" finds that our efforts to prevent ignoring, dismissing, and corruption of that scientific foundation -- which should be his reason for being, not ours, lowly consultants that we are -- "do not progress science." If not, then what, pray, does? Apparently chasing mayflies, riding industry fads, which are utterly unscientific. Otherwise put: progress science by ignoring it. It’s his argument that’s useless, not ours.

“Sorry, but The Third Manifesto is almost a decade old. Nothing material has come of it. Academicians all over the world are working on the problem of finding a working relational system, and companies like Oracle and MS are throwing lots of money at it. Finding a working truly relational replacement for SQL is non trivial. A lot of very bright minds have taken on the task. One day I’m sure someone will come up with one. In the meantime, folks who are in the field already understand that SQL isn’t really relational. Beating the dead horse isn’t making anyone’s work progress any faster.”
Another fine reasoning example. Not only do some of today’s academics fail to produce or teach science to guide practitioners in their work -- allowing marketing fads to drive it -- but when somebody does produce such science and the industry fails to take advantage of it -- because practitioners are not properly educated to know and appreciate it -- they blame the science for being "too old" and of no value. Let us get this straight: a major foundation of science, logic and mathematics, which has withstood the test of time and practice for thousands of years is too old to be useful? Any wonder that the students of those who utter such drivel rely on vendor marketing instead of dismissing it out out of hand when they enter practice?

It is patently false that (a) "academicians all over the world are working on the problem of finding a working relational system" (b) "Oracle and Microsoft are throwing lots of money at it" (c) "folks in the field understand that SQL is not really relational." On what planet does he live? [What does current reality say about all that tremendous relational effort?]

As we demonstrated in our writings, it’s been impossible to get any university or academic interested in true relational technology in research or teaching; after all, it’s "old, obsolete, and useless" so we got to "move on". I dare him and his ilk to produce evidence of any work of theirs that is meaningful and relational in character. Indeed, efforts, such as The Third Manifesto and the TransRelational™ Model come from outside the academia and are either ignored or dismissed by it, who is too busy chasing XML and "object" mayflies, wasting efforts on trying to somehow post-hoc fit some science to industry fads.

Even when the industry intended to implement the relational model, it failed. They came up with SQL precisely because they did not know and understand not just the "nuances" of relational", but none of it. And how could they with teachers like him, who consider the application of logic old, obsolete and useless? (see “On DBMS Builders, MySQL and Innobase: Are They DBMSs, Let Alone Relational?", "Comments on an Interview with Jim Gray"). Without proper education, vendors are certainly not going to achieve much when they throw money at everything but relational technology and instead of science guiding them, they are drive it out of academia.
“Which is just one more stupid rant on his part. Yes, SQL is not really relational. Before @%#*ing and moaning about that fact over, and over, and over and over ad nauseum [sic], please suggest a working system which *IS* a true relational system that we can use instead. He can’t. There isn’t one that works. If there was, we would all transition to it in short order. But there’s not. He should stop the constant pissing and moaning about it, and going on and on how he is superior because he understands what ‘true’ relational stuff is, until he can damn well propose a WORKING alternative.”
More fine reasoning and language from somebody whose main asset should be his intellect. I will leave it to the reader to judge who is "moaning and pissing stupid" here. But I dare him to find more than a handful of older practitioners who know what relational means and that SQL is not relational.

How does he propose to get a working relational system, if he and his colleagues do no research and teaching on the subject? Not only that, but when others make that effort, they dismiss it as old and useless because it’s not implemented. Boggles the mind. We would like nothing better than not to have to rant" and we wouldn’t have to if academia did its proper job. It is not a matter of us being "superior", but rather the academia becoming increasingly inferior.

For the benefit of the reader, Dataphor by Alphora is a working implementation of the data language principles laid out in The Third Manifesto; Required Technologies is working on a true RDBMS based on the TransRelational™ implementation model; and we recently outlined a relational solution to the treatment of missing data in Practical Database Foundations paper #8, “The Final NULL in the Coffin”. What are his contributions, may we, again, ask? [the fad-driven, ignorant industry has driven all of these into the ground].

Let me once again quote Dijkstra, a real academic concerned with the intellectual degradation of academia:
“I am annoyed by two phenomena [in computer science] that both strike me as symptoms of immaturity. The one is the widespread sensitivity to fads and fashions, and the wholesale adoption of buzzwords and even buzznotes. Write a paper promising salvation, make it a 'structured' something or a 'virtual' something, or 'abstract', 'distributed' or 'higher-order' or 'applicative' and you can almost be certain of having started a new cult. The other one is the sensitivity to the market place, the unchallenged assumption that industrial products, just because they are there, become by their mere existence a topic worthy of scientific attention, no matter how grave the mistakes they embody. In the sixties the battle that was needed to prevent computing science from degenerating to ‘how to live with the 360 has been won, and ‘courses’ -- usually ‘in depth’!-- about MVS or what have you are now confined to the not so respectable subculture of the commercial training circuit. But now we hear that the advent of the microprocessors is going to revolutionize computing science! I don’t believe that, unless the chasing of mayflies is confused with doing research. A similar battle may be needed.”
--Proc.4th Int. Conf. on Software Engineering, 1979
It takes much more than what he displays to be a genuine academic. And increasingly there are fewer and fewer of those who possess it -- they are replaced with industry practitioners, perpetuating ignorance of foundations. No wonder they dismiss us for essentially doing their job.

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