Monthly Archives: May 2015

Chicago PUG with Bruce

Last Wednesday we had our Chicago Postgres User Group, and this time it was something special – Bruce Momjan  presented a talk “YeSQL: Battling the NoSQL Hype Cycle with Postgres”.

This happened to be a perfect timing, since earlier the same day a person from Riak presented a talk “Riak: When Relational Isn’t Right”. During this presentation I’ve received lots of question on my Slack from other database developers, and for all of them I’ve replied the same thing: wait till 6-30 PM.

Bruce started his presentations by explaining what he means by the “hype cycle”, which is – same as when a child is awaiting the Christmas present, it raises the hype expectations of how life will be perfect when she will get this present, and how very soon after a big day comes a disillusion, which is followed by way calmer “I can make some use out of it” attitude.

As an example Bruce mentioned the CASE Tools, which were very popular in the early 90s, to the point that may programmers and database developers actually believed that their professions will become obsolete very soon. Which, as we know, didn’t happen.

Then he proceeded with listing the problems which NoSQL systems are trying to solve and explained, which DBMS features have to be sacrificed to achieve these goals (to which I commented, that since these features aare basically the characteristics of the DBMS, that means, that we are using something else, not DMBS:)). And then for the rest of the talk Bruce gave us an overview of which of those features are successfully implemented in Postgres with little if any compromising of the important DBMS features.

Overall I think it was a great talk, and I know that most of the PUG members left the room very encouraged. And I wish more people, who are not the database developer would attend!

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What women want – why I first liked, and then disliked this article

I saw this article in one of many LinkedIn emails I am receiving weekly, so most likely at least a half of my readers already saw it last week. There are no groundbreaking news in the article; I guess it caught my attention exactly because it repeats all these things we hear about so often…

The name of the article is “6 things women want at work”, and it starts for the statement with which I agree whole-heartedly:

What do women want at work? The same things every worker wants: fair pay and the ability to work on projects and solutions that fuel their passion and allow them to make a difference — not just in the workplace, but in the world at large.

If you ask me, I’d say – that’s it. Women are people. They want, what everybody else want. But the article goes on over the same familiar list:

  • equal pay
  • flexibility and paid leave
  • role models and mentors
  • recognition and representation
  • opportunities for advancement
  • meaningful work

Out of this list probably only the first item is “gender-specific” – the payment gap is not even close be being gone. But let’s look at the other “5 things”.

Flexibility – why only women would want flexible hours? I think it’s just plain wrong. Flexible hours benefit both men and women, and in my company I can see, that when men have this flexibility, they tend to be more involved in the lives of their children. And it’s not only about having a “work from home” policy on place, but also having this culture – that it’s not something extraordinary, that the fathers stay at home with sick children, or come to work later to attend events at kids schools. I can’t remember how many times I’ve heard something like – I am going to work from home tomorrow: my daughter is sick, and my wife has an important meeting.

Role models and mentors – again, why this should be gender-specific? I mean, I get it, women need to have role models specifically because too many people are ready to explain that “you can’t have it all”. But at the same time I feel that an example presented in the article – having the company website which features people of different race, gender and ethnicity should be (and is) appealing to male and female alike. As I’ve being repeatedly saying, I believe it’s very important to foster a gender-blind environment – for everybody.

The next two things: recognition and opportunities for advancement aren’t gender-specific either. As much as women often get overlooked in recognition (due to the gender bias), the real problem is, that people are often not recognized enough in general. And I hear more often from male that from female, that they do not understand what is their career path…

As for the last item in this list – meaningful work, I have some comments regardless of gender. Here is a quote:

One of our partner companies did a test recently where they let internal employees ‘freelance’ within the company; to choose which projects they wanted to work on. They were skeptical at first,” Ames says, thinking surely the employees would work fewer hours and be less productive when given more freedom. Instead, she says, the results were just the opposite.

“The employees worked longer hours and were much more engaged and passionate about their work, and the work was done quickly and with an efficient use of resources,” says Ames. That approach can maximize all your available talent, not just women.

Here I have a problem with associating “productive” with “long hours”, because I do not think this is correlated, and I do not like when people judge somebody’s productivity by the number of hours they spend on the project. But besides this, the final word – not just women – says it’s all.

… Isn’t it like I am trying to say that “women are people”?!

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ICDE 2015 – Application papers

Since it have being already more than 3 weeks after the conference, and I still didn’t tell about everything I wanted to tell, I’ve made an executive decision to write one single post about the Application session I’ve attended, instead of writing a separate post about each of the papers. Otherwise it will never be completed!

The first one (and which I really liked) was the paper called “Understanding Computer Usage Evolution” by Dave Anastasiu and others from the University of Minnesota. This research was sponsored by Intel, and the basic idea was to track which percentage of the time a computer is in use is allocated for checking emails, watching movies, playing games, shopping, etc. The typical usages are considered “usage patterns” and then the typical evolutions of these patterns over time are analyzed

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 4.20.00 PM

I’ve asked what is the purpose of this research, and the answer was – for targeted marketing, which makes sense. I was thinking, it would be a good idea to analyze how is the usage pattern different for one user between different devices.

The poster is here.

The next one I really liked was the paper called “Fine-Grained Controversy Detection in Wikipedia” by Siarhei Bykau and others. Unfortunately, there is no poster available at the website, but in a nutshell, this research was focused on the issue of the wikipedia pages, which are updated very frequently, and thereby their contents id most likely controversial. Since many people heavily rely on the Wiki as a source of truth, the idea is – to find the way to identify such pages and to mark them accordingly.

And the last one was called “SHAHED: A MapReduce-based System for Querying and Visualizing Spatio-temporal Satellite Data”. The poster is here.

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ICDE 2015 – Bi-temporal indexes paper

I wanted to mention one more paper from the research track of the ICDE 2015, which I liked a lot. The title of the paper is “Bi-temporal Timeline Index: A Data Structure for Processing Queries on Bi-temporal Data” by Martin Kaufmann, Peter M. Fischer, Norman May, Chang Ge, Anil K. Goel and Donald Kossmann.

The poster for this presentation is here.

This paper addresses the question of two-dimensional time and how we can efficiently query the two-time-dimensional tables. The interesting thing about this topic is, that it’s not new at all – from the first works of Snodgrass on the temporal databases it was very clear the time should be two-dimensional. People may call these dimensions differently, but the general idea is, that we have a “validity time” or “application time” – the time when a specific value is “valid”, and the “system time” which only goes in one direction, and which indicates when a specific value was modified (or was active) in the system. Yet, although the necessity for supporting a two-dimensional time is obvious, there is very little of support for this feature in any of the existing systems.

The most typical queries we want to support are the queries like “how did this customer’s data looked at this specific time?”, and the solution proposed in this paper actually provides an efficient way to answer these kinds of questions.

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 4.07.26 PM

 

The “checkpoints” – the slices of the state of data at the specific system times are created, and then the system time increments allow to “move” from this snapshot to the specific time defined in a query.

The testing results for the temporal aggregation and temporal joins look really good!

 

 

 

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Michael Stonebreaker’s paper and presentation

I was planning to be done with all the posts about ICDE 2015 last weeks, but then life came my way, and I didn’t write any new posts for quite a while. Moving on…

One on the important events on of the conference was a ceremony of “10 Years most influential paper” award. This year it was given to Michael Stonebreaker and Ugur Cetintemel for the “One Size Fits All”: An Idea Whose Time Has Come and Gone – the paper presented at ICDE 2005

The paper can be found here.

Stonebreaker himself didn’t come to Seoul, but he recorded a video presentation, which can be viewed here (just FYI – very slow!), and after this presentation was played, he answered several questions from the audience via Skype.

To be honest, I have very mixed feelings about this presentation (not like Stonebreaker would care :)). I understand, that one might need to be controversial to attract the public attention to some issues, but I feel like he uses some terms incorrectly (or, let’s say, in non-conventional way). During his presentation he was saying that if 10 years ago it was “not one size fits all”, now “one size fits nothing”, and then he says, that what he means – that “traditional relational databases” are not good for anything in the modern world.

The question I have – what exactly is meant by “traditional”? I think, the database is either relational, or not relational :). If you listen closely to what he means, you will figure out, that by “traditional” databases he means big companies, whom he call “elephants”, i.e. Oracle and MS SQL Server, and DB2.

I disagree, when he says that the “column storage dbs” are something different, or that in-memory dbs are something different. In both of those (and many other cases) the theoretical foundation of the databases in question are still the same – they are relational in their nature. I think, that this fact actually proves, how versatile the RDBMS’s can be, and how may different “families” of them can exist.

Also, when he says, for example, the queue-based systems are so much faster than the “traditional” databases, I also feel that I’ve been cheated on – he does not tell, how the data is persisted, he does not elaborate, how the systems deal with complexity, and most importantly – even if writing is indeed faster – how the search is? Is it faster, or the same, or “nobody bothered to measure”? (I sincerely hope it’s not the latter case, though!). But in any case, I would like to hear about this kind of comparison.

For those of you who never came across this paper I highly recommend to read it. As my husband pointed it out, “the most influential” does not mean it is right, it means, that people talked a lot about it – and we should learn from it, whether we agree or disagree.

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