Sunday, August 14, 2022


(First published in 2006)

Note: "Then & Now" (T&N) is a new version of the old "Oldies but Goodies" (OBG) series. To demonstrate the superiority of a sound theoretical foundation relative to the industry's fad-driven "cookbook" practices, as well as the evolution/progress of RDM, I am re-visiting my 2000-06 debunkings, bringing them up to my with my knowledge and understanding of today. This will enable you to judge how well my arguments have held up and appreciate the increasing gap between scientific progress and the industry’s stagnation, if not outright regress.

(Nothing to add on re-publication.)

There is massive ignorance in data management, but the vociferous kind (VI) is the purview of a special breed that is characterized by one or more of the following:

1. Lack of knowledge and understanding of, and appreciation for data fundamentals in general and relational concepts, principles and methods in particular.
2. Unwillingness to let it stand in the way of pronouncing extensively on the subject.
3. Inability and/or unwillingness to respond to evidence of ignorance and/or to reason.
4. Lack of interest — often admitted — in truth and correctness.
5. Focus on self promotion and appeasement of the industry by riding fads, or telling (uninformed) audiences what they want to hear.

The combination of 1 and 2 characterizes the Unskilled and Unaware of It,  2 is the vociferous part. Frankfurt defined 4 as bullshit. 5 is just self-aggrandizing.


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.




07/03 Relations, Database Relations and Tables (SMS)

- 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).

- 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 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 AllAnalytics columns no longer work. I re-published only the 2017 columns @dbdebunk, and within them links to sources external to AllAnalytics may or may not work.

I deleted my Facebook account. You can follow me @DBDdebunk on Twitter: will link to new posts to this site, as well as To Laugh or Cry? and What's Wrong with This Picture? posts, and my exchanges on LinkedIn.

VI would not be much of a problem in a properly educated industry (and society); indeed, it would hardly occur, let alone be tolerated. But the destruction of education has resulted in an industry devoid of foundation knowledge, driven by fads and operating in "cookbook mode". "Don't bother with theoretical stuff", "use the right tool for the job", recipes that obviate knowledge acquisition  and reasoning and so on, are good indicators of VI.
VI is not in the public interest and must be exposed. Yet watch any online exchange polluted by VI  — which these days means practically all exchanges (see my LinkedIn posts, for example) — and you’ll encounter complaints of such exposure as "insults" and personal "attacks", with complete disregard for evidence and reasoning backing them up.  Systematic technical and logical debunking of misconceptions is not mistreatment. Many VI exhibitors cannot even understand the flaws (often bordering on the absurd) in their pronouncements even after they are pointed out to them again and again.

The question is how much time and effort should the knowledgeable spend engaging VIs who (often by their own admission) are neither interested in foundation knowledge , nor capable of basic reasoning, yet insist on a vocal online presence: Is there any limit to how much nonsense should be engaged before the VI conclusion is explicitly stated? If it is well-reasoned and supported with evidence such a conclusion is not an insult, but a fact to which an unsuspecting public must be alerted. Many seem to think there are no limits whatsoever, despite "diarrheic" replies aimed at wearing the VI exposer down. To them everything is just personal opinions or preferences, anything is acceptable, regardless of how ignorant, stupid, or irresponsible. But democracy and freedom is for the political, not technical sphere (and it is in the former that it is increasingly lacking, due, in fact, to the same educational failure).

Online communities offer the following advice on handling the phenomenon known as trolling:

"When you try to reason with a troll, he wins. When you insult a troll, he wins. When you scream at a troll, he wins. The only thing that trolls can't handle is being ignored."

Now, VI is not the same as "trollness", but any competent, reasoning professional — a fast disappearing breed — who has ever engaged it cannot help identifying with that advice; at some point she/he discovers, as I did a long time ago, that it is a lost cause. The problem is, however, that VI may win even when it is ignored and the public loses. If not countered, VI cannot, in the absence of proper education, be recognized as such, and appears reasonable. Hence a dilemma: on the one hand, engaging VI is a lost cause, resulting in enhanced, but undeserved publicity for its exhibitors, while ignoring it leaves the average practitioner vulnerable, the lack of counter-arguments creating the impression that there aren’t any.

There is no way around calling a spade a spade. Alerting the public explicitly to VI (while avoiding getting mired in its morass) is much more important than any offense taken by those who, by disregarding knowledge and reason as prerequisites for public arguments, forfeit their right to be respectfully engaged.

Here’s some examples of VI whose systematic and active exhibitors deserve induction in the Hall (if you don’t know who or why, education on data fundamentals is in order).

Parts Explosion with Repeated Subtrees
Monash Balderdash
Dawn Wolthuis’ “Proof”
Why all the max length constraints?
Storing derived and derivable data
When “Foul” Is All They’ve Got
The Myth of Data Integrity
Scott Ambler and His Strawman
The OverRelational Manifesto
Concept Oriented Programming
Gardner to DBAs, BI Vendors: Reinvent Yourselves

No comments:

Post a Comment

View My Stats