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Re: Any new thoughts on OTLT (One True Lookup Table)

From: Laconic2 <laconic2_at_comcast.net>
Date: Thu, 1 Apr 2004 07:30:35 -0500
Message-ID: <yMCdndU_L9ralvHdRVn-hA@comcast.com>

> For example in a library a book can mean conceptual book as as
> described by a writer / title, or a book can mean a physical really
> existing book. (writer / title / copie number).
> If the question is asked how many books thos the library hold, the
> answer can be the total number of books or the number
> off different titles. Often the question and the answer are not
> explicit of what number is actually represented.

Ben,

Your answer is very thought provoking, and I find it difficult to answer "laconically".
I should have chosen a different name. But then, I chose the name before I knew what I was getting into (chuckle).

Of course you are right. If data is to be shared without causing confusion, there has to be a common understanding of the meaning (not necessarily the "function") of the data, not just a common understanding of the structure and the naming conventions. What I challenge is what I think is your implicit assertion that such a common understanding is impossible between the developer and the subject matter expert.

It doesn't agree with my practical experience. I don't represent the theorists in this forum. I've worked for years with business users who always express the same yearning: if only you techies would stop giving me reports, and forms and screens, and web pages, and start giving me data! Then I could load it into my desktop and turn it into useful information myself! Of course there are pitfalls in trying meet that yearning, but that's too long to go into here.

Let me just turn to the example you pose, about the library.

A man walks into the library and asks the attendant behind the counter, "How many books are there in this library?" The potential confusion you outlined already exists, and it has nothing to do with the technology used to store the information. Unless the librarian is somewhat pedantic, which some are, he or she is going to make an assumption about what the stanger intended by the question, and answer accordingly.

Many librarians might actually answer "There are about 36,000 catalog entries, but that doesn't count books where we have more than one copy." And there are many strangers who would walk away thinking, "Typical librarian. You ask a simple question, and you get a complicated answer."

All this is inherent in the nature of data, or information, and not in the specifics of database technology. The interface here was oral language, over the counter. Natural language is a "technology" that's been around for some twenty thousand years.

Now, if a programmer who is ignorant of the subject matter is forced to design a database before learning the subject matter, and the data is to be used later by a person with in depth knowledge of the subject matter, and some understanding of business data, then there's going to be trouble. What the user is forced to learn in order make use of the data is a consequence of the developer's ignorance, and not a consequence of the developer's knowledge. That is tough sledding.

We need a place to store persistent, encapsulated data that is not easily understood, outside the capsule. But why do we insist on calling such a thing a "database"? Why don't we call it something else, like an "object oriented time capsule"? Received on Thu Apr 01 2004 - 06:30:35 CST

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