Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Meme-tag: 3 reasons why

Posted by Dave Bath on 2008-02-14

This post is a response to Legal Eagle’s "your it" here, asking for three good reasons why I blog.  I’ll try to avoid overlap with comments by others in this meme-tag game, as many of their drivers are found inside me as well.

  1. Cultural tradition and history:  The modern blog has similiarities to two traditional literary forms: the journal and the letter.  Excellent examples of the former would include the "Meditations" of Marcus Aurelius (a notable) to the Diary of Anne Frank (an ordinary person), while examples of the latter would include the correspondence of Cicero (who always kept a copy of the letters he wrote) to Atticus and others.  These forms can inspire, but even mundane notes by the most average people are important resources to historians, e.g.
    • Manning Clark’s "Sources", with letters from diggers and squatters.
    • The papyri from the towns of the artisans working in the Valley of the Kings, with "Valentine’s Cards", records of industrial disputes (strikes because the supply of mascara stopped.

    In the electronic age with magnetic and optical storage barely reliable in the short term, redunancy of storage and at least some persistence for these traditional forms is the only way of ensuring that future historians can get an accurate picture of the times.  Without blogs, looking at official records only, the breadth of views, and the percentage of people who held those views, could not be discovered.

  2. Well-backed up diary:  The purposes of a private journal as far as the individual author and family members are provided by the blogging medium, although made much more permanent and easily distributed with dispersed families when the robust backup procedures by service providers such as Google and WordPress are available.
  3. Advocacy/Information Exchange/Social Change:  I’ve actually been "blogging" since the usenet days before the web was invented, contributing to moderated newsgroups such as comp.sources.unix, regularly answering ad hoc questions on languages such as C and sh, and maintaining a personalized FAQ-with-attitude for Oracle database ( issues (since webbified and archived here with a typical page (on database design hints and diatribes) here  Such information sharing with a wide audience (although back in the old days it was predominantly among mil, edu, gov and large com types) was important then, helping foster openness and exerting pressure that is leading to the possibility of greater citizen engagement via eDemocracy.  A moderately influential article on this was written by Chin Chee Kai of the National Computer Board of Singapore in 1992 Why Are Resources Free On The Internet? which explores the motivations of people like myself (you’ll see me mentioned a couple of times), and my notes about this paper here.

So, who will I tag?


  • Excerpts showing an example of the "bloggish" attitude in a page on Database Design is included here for convenience.

    (A parody)
    Normalize your data. If you must denormalize your data, do so AFTER normalizing and have damn good reasons for doing it.
    To normalize, or not to normalize; that is the question:
    Whether ’tis nobler in design to suffer the slings and
    arrows of waiting project leaders, or use packages against a sea
    of redundancies, and by encapsulation, control them.
    To hang, to crash — No more, and by a crash I say we end
    The heartache and the thousand natural locks that databases are
    heir to, ’tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.

    (A polemic)
    Business Model First
    Get the business model and requirements done first. This should not involve ANY data modelling.
    Here is the difficult part: getting the business types to agree on what they want, and stick to it. Given that most of the droids who want new systems have a cargo-cult mentality to software, believing that somehow software (and analysts) are psychic and will magically do what they want, they have no idea how much effort it takes to develop an accurate business model/spec – and sure as hell they don’t want to pay for it. (At least not now. They much prefer the expense to show up as bug reports and fixes – it looks like you caused the problem not them. But the company will pay in the long run.)
    People forget the basic rule of computers: GIGO. Garbage in, garbage out. And most business requirements reflect this amnesia. Just because a spec weighs in at 50 kilgrams does not mean it is any good.


One Response to “Meme-tag: 3 reasons why”

  1. Hi Dave,

    Its up:

    I’m letting you know as trackbacks from my blog don’t register for some reason.


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