Re: Another view on analysis and ER

From: Bob Badour <>
Date: Wed, 05 Dec 2007 11:27:03 -0400
Message-ID: <4756c349$0$5259$>

Jon Heggland wrote:

> Quoth David Cressey:

>>Here's a website I stmbled across:
>>Note that, at the start of the introduction,  the author says that analysis
>>is the most important part of any project.  That's rather different from the
>>impression I've gotten in response to my topic on "what is analysis".

> Well, that depends on what analysis is. It seems this guy thinks it's
> the same as data modeling, which in turn is the same as developing a
> graphical representation of the client's needs and processes. Is it?
> Furthermore, you could interpret Marshall's and my response as "we don't
> do analysis, we just start coding", but I don't think that's what we
> mean. Myself, I'm skeptical of presenting analysis as a very separate,
> distinct kind of activity, defined by the kinds of artifacts it
> produces, i.e. "pretty pictures" to use Bob's term.
> But I digress. This was what I meant to respond to:
>>By the way,  I don't like the author's dialect of ER.  In particular,  his
>>topic on "resolving many-to-many relationships"  is,  I believe extraneous
>>to ER.  His reification of a "watering"  reminds me of the term "association
>>entity"  that someone wrote in reposnse to me a few days ago.
>>In analysis,  there is nothing to resolve in a many-to-many relationship.
>>You only have to resolve it when you are designing relational tables  or

> Both yes and no. Reifying relationships can be helpful, but /not/
> because "Many-to-many relationships cannot be directly converted into
> database tables and relationships". The point is rather to make it
> easier to discover their properties---their attributes, mainly, but
> potentially also other things, e.g. constraints. When I discover a
> many-to-many-relationship, I usually make it a box, with a name, and ask
> if there is anything else we want to be able to say about this thing.
> Often, there is. If there isn't, I can demote it to a line again.
> This mainly applies to many-to-many-relationships, because business
> rules / attributes / constraints regarding a one-to-many-relationship
> are often better relegated to the entity on the many-side (though not
> always, of course). It has little to do with the implementation (or
> design?) of many-to-many-relationships in relational databases.
> Some might argue that reifying relationships is unnecessary, since
> relationships in "good" E/R dialects can have attributes. What, then, is
> the difference between an entity and a relationship? The best answer I
> can think of is that an entity is identified by itself, while a
> relationship is identified by its entities. But what if something has
> more than one way of identification (i.e. multiple keys)? This is where
> classic E/R breaks down for me. A "relationship" may be identified by
> its entities, but also by (say) just one of its entities in combination
> with a subset of its attributes. And/or perhaps a subset of its
> attributes, disregarding any entities. Is it then a relationship, a weak
> entity, or an entity?

The difference between entity and relationship is neither more nor less than psychological prejudice or bias. The distinction is entirely imagined.

> This is turning into a rant against the classic(?) E/R notation, but
> here goes anyway. I think it's a bad idea that more than one kind of
> thing can have attributes. I think it's a bad idea that there are two
> (or more) different ways of indicating how something is identified.
> Relationship diamonds are required for non-binary relationships, but are
> just clutter for binary ones---bad idea.
> Fortunately, there is (at least) one E/R dialect that resolves all these
> issues, and in so doing, even makes the distinction between entities and
> relationships far less important.
> Apropos this distinction: As to whether marriage is a relationship or an
> entity, you said that one should listen to the subject matter experts. I
> have never had such an expert say to me, "No, that's not a relationship,
> that's an entity!" or vice versa. Have you?

Most SMEs just agree when they look at a pretty picture because they don't want to look stupid for not understanding the notation. NIAM's formalized english works so much better because when an SME disagrees with a statement, the SME speaks up. They immediately say: "No, that's wrong." or "No, that's not always right." Received on Wed Dec 05 2007 - 16:27:03 CET

Original text of this message