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Metal (Technical)

Arrogance, slashing Slashdot (and MySQL) and the end of America

Doing some research for an upcoming Tectonic article, I came across some writings by Fabian Pascal and Christopher J. Date. They are both well-known in the relational database world, and have been particularly harsh on MySQL, calling it ‘one of the worst SQL options‘. Written before MySQL even supported transactions, and while the developers were still saying things like foreign key constraints were unecessary, their criticisms were valid. MySQL is not the only DBMS they attack though – their main thrust of argument is that no DBMS implements the relational model correctly, nor does SQL. Opponents claim they are impractical theorists, but I believe their arguments are valid.

Both are highly experienced in their field, and their arguments are not refuted easily. They can get frustrated by the Slashdot level of debate and ignorance, as well as clashing with the culture of ‘getting things done’ that happens in the office coalfaces. Their abrupt responses can make them seem arrogant. But there’s a fine line between arrogance and having carefully considered all the options, being convinced you’re right. Someone who believes they are right can seem arrogant when they abruptly dismiss another’s view. But what differentiates the two positions for me is that the arrogant person is close-minded, and refuses to even consider that another could be right, while the other has considered the opposing argument, but come to the conclusion that they are right. Pascal puts it differently, perhaps conceding the arrogance charge, saying ‘Worse than arrogance is ignorant arrogance.’

I have always respected those who stand up for what they believe in, even if they turn out to be proven wrong. I believe not telling the other person why you think they are wrong is harmful, a dereliction of the duty to make sure truth prevails

Pascal has attempted to take on the Slashdot hordes. In 3 columns, Slashing a Slashdot Exchange, Part 1, Slashing a Slashdot Exchange, Part 2, Slashing a Slashdot Exchange, Part 3, he painstakingly shreds the opposing ‘arguments’.

Dealing with decades of this sort of thing has given Pascal a certain cynicism. I got a bit distracted and ended up reading a piece written in July entitled, Lenin, Trotsky and freedom from the tyranny of knowledge and reason , he concludes (and remember this was before Bush’s win) that the US is descending into fascism and theocracy.. A quote from Thomas Jefferson wraps things up nicely: “The end of democracy, and the defeat of the American Revolution will occur when government falls into the hands of the lending institutions and moneyed incorporations”.

In another piece, entitled The Myth of market-based education, he concludes “So it is with education: it ends when it falls into the hands of moneyed incorporations. It becomes training at best or, to put a stop to independent, critical thinking, indoctrination at worst”.

So if you’re in the mood for some intelligent reading (especially if you use or design database), I recommend perusing some of Pascal and Date’s work.