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RE: Any articles/books that take relational theory and make it

From: Michael Milligan <>
Date: Wed, 19 Nov 2003 14:25:02 -0800
Message-ID: <>

As Date is want to say, "Theory is practical!" (Chapter One, Relational Database Writings 1991-1994).

IMHO, a lack of understanding of relational database theory leads directly to database designs so flawed that they can't possibly allow their application to accomplish their goals. If you don't think in terms of functional dependencies, if you don't know the trade-offs in using nulls, if you don't why you want to put some attributes in one entity and others in others, you'll be in trouble. Some people call all of this "theory". I see it as the "fundamental principles" that you'll be dead in the water without.

If you don't know what the "relational" in RDBMS means (nothing to do with foreign keys), you'll make a bunch of mistakes over and over, knowing something is wrong but not able to put your finger on what's wrong. Then you'll limp along with an unfixable application, held together with prayers, and not able to deliver performance or even the right data.

I've been doing this for 17 years and I've seen it happen more times than I like to remember. My suggestion, my strong suggestion, is to learn the theory to such an extent that you'll know why a model is good or why it's flawed. If you don't know what a good model is, how can you possibly create one?

Data modeling is hard work. There is no shortcut for it. There is also no shortcut for learning it. But you can learn from people who understand it well and can express it well, also. In my opinion, those names include C.J. Date, Hugh Darwen, Fabian Pascal, and a number of others.

HTH Michael Milligan
Oracle DBA
Ingenix, Inc.
2525 Lake Park Blvd.
Salt Lake City, Utah 84120
wrk 801-982-3081
mbl 801-628-6058

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Wednesday, November 19, 2003 2:35 PM To: Multiple recipients of list ORACLE-L

Agreed. And I think you'll admit it's better to be familiar with and aware of the theory, even if current db products don't live up to the model 100%, so you know to bring up the kinds of issues you mention in the first place. In that sense, I think the knowledge to be gained from Date, Darwen, Pascal, etc., can be very practical.

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Author: Michael Milligan

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