Why schemas and not code?

Adrian Howard adrianh at quietstars.com
Thu Jun 29 15:22:06 BST 2006

On 26 Jun 2006, at 10:02, Ovid wrote:
> This brings me to the question I can't figure out:  why is it that  
> otherwise competent programmers who admit that their code is a mess  
> fail to see that their databases might be also?  Since they can  
> describe virtually nothing about relational theory, one might  
> assume (incorrectly) that they might realize they have a weakness  
> there.

I think it's down to three issues:

First doing databases "right" - relational theory yada yada - is a  
substantially different way of thinking about data than many people  
are used to. Like trying to convince an OO fanatic of the advantages  
of functional programming (or vice versa) - changing paradigms is  
hard. Until you can flick that switch in your head and look at things  
from a different perspective you can't actually see why the database  
is a mess.

Second - the depressing approach many programmers seem to have of  
wanting to specialise themselves into oblivion... "I'm a programmer.  
No I'm a Perl programmer. No I'm a Perl 5 programmer. No I'm a Perl 5  
programmer writing web applications. No I'm a Perl 5 programmer  
writing web applications with TT2 and Class::DBI. Why should I need  
to learn about customers/usability/databases/whatever to do my job.  
It's not going to make me  a better Perl 5 programmer".

Third is the attitude of some (or on a bad day "many") of the people  
on the database side who seem determined to alienate any potential  
converts by treating anybody who can't recite The Word According To  
Date backwards while drinking a glass of water as incompetent fools  
who are not fit to /think/ about using a database. The worst of the  
database crowd are like the worst of the Lisp/Smalltalk/FP/Agile  
crowds. They don't seem to want to communicate or educate. They just  
want to rant about how much better their way is.

Date's last book is a case in point. To me it came off as preaching  
to the converted. I can't imagine somebody who isn't already of  
Date's POV getting anything out of this book. Worse - to me anyway -  
it comes off as just a tad... well... whiny. There's a whiff of "Oh  
why can't the poor fools see" in the chapters I read.

That's not to say it's a bad book - it isn't. It's just not a book  
that's going to convince anybody who isn't already convinced.


Adrian (feeling particularly cynical about the world this afternoon  

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