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Attribute Value Attributes, Fuzzy Sets, & Color-coded Data

From: Dawn M. Wolthuis <dwolt_at_tincat-group.com>
Date: Mon, 19 Apr 2004 17:33:50 -0500
Message-ID: <c61k4k$868$1@news.netins.net>


Among the questions I have recorded from my recent database research is one about the attributes of attribute values.

Is there any provision in relational or other database theory that incorporates attributes about attribute values without treating these identically to other attributes? An example would be something like "age of value in the database" or "person who last updated this information" or "time/date stamp for when data was last maintained". Similarly, if one were to store fuzzy data, where there is a numer between 0 & 1 included with a value that declares the fuzziness of the data (which could be used for datasets where we want to record the likelihood of accuracy in the data, for example), then the fuzzy set number could be seen as an attribute of a particular value.

I'm guessing that there are some long lists of possible attributes of this nature. I have only ever seen such data placed into a data model as if it were yet another part of a proposition, rather than data about the proposition.

So, the proposition becomes:

John Doe ordered a pizza on 10JAN04 and his last name was updated last by Martha Stewart on 12NOV02 while the date was updated last by Bob Dylan on 10JAN04 at 6:30PM etc

rather than the simpler:
John Doe ordered pizza on 10JAN04

Is there any database theory that does not treat the attributes of attribute values as if they were the same as attributes about the main subject?

And a follow-on question -- since attributes about attribute values are not about the key, the whole key, and nothing but the key (being about just one value), once you add in any such attributes, what is the standard way of modeling this data? Do you just ignore traditional normalization, figuring that instead of having the attribute "LastName" you have a tuple of (LastName, Fuzziness, LastUpdatedDate, ...) or do you consider the "primary" attribute to be a relation-valued attribnute or what?

Feel free to point me to resources on this -- I've searched a bit, but not among the most academic papers -- I'm looking for something immediately useful to the average DBA who is addressing data of this nature. What would be a common way to handle?

I added "Color-coded Data" in the subject because ever since the company newsletter at my employer in 1985 had an article that talked about the company's "4-color database" (the IBM terminals used had 4 colors), I've thought it would be cool to have color-coded data. Color is a nice way to provide information about various data values without having to list it out separately. For example, a data element shown to the user as "red" might mean it hasn't been updated in 20 years, while one in green might have been recently added or updated information. Color would just added to a presentation of the data simply by interpreting an attribute of an attribute value, of course. It is an example where one might want to add such an attribute for every attribute value stored in the database (which would be awful to do if the database does not provide that as a feature and I haven't seen any that do as yet -- are there such?)

Your thoughts? --dawn Received on Mon Apr 19 2004 - 17:33:50 CDT

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