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Hacking Database Design

Jul 14, 2015   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Data Modeling, Database, Database Design, DLBlog, Fun, Snark, WTF  //  4 Comments


I get asked to help teams increase the performance of their database (hint: indexes, query tuning and correct datatypes, in that order)  or to help the scale it out for increasing workloads.  But when I open it up to take a look, I see something that looks more like this meme.

All those cheats, workarounds and tricks they’ve used are going to make the engine optimizers work harder, make the tuning of queries that much harder and in the end it’s going to cost so much more to make it “go faster” or “go web scale”.

Where are the nail clippers in your data models and databases?

The Discussion Groups are Closing

Frequent postersI’ve been posting about this for the last few years and I’ve finally carved out some time during my staycation to decommission our discussion group servers.  This is long overdue, I know.  But like any caring ListMistress, it’s been hard to say “it’s time”. It’s about 5 years past time, actually.

I know that some of you have expressed an interested in having me just continue to host these with no updates.  But the technology the WebBoard software runs on is too old and out of support to do so.  While there have been several physical servers over the years (starting with just mailing list software running on a PC in my basement), the vendor of the most recent software has been out of business for more than seven years.  The software was running last on Windows 2003 and SQL Server 2000.  And while I could likely install the software on an updated server, the installation process for this application requires a call home to a mothership that has long left the universe. So that’s not an option.  There are also other considerations in that the original vendor took no steps to make the software very security-mindful and that has always bothered me.

The server (and database) I’m decommissioning today was put into production in 1998.  Clinton was having a bad year, the International Space Station was just being built and InfoAdvisors had been incorporated for about a year.

Looking Back

I wish I had time to sort through some of our posts to see what the most fun, debatable or encouraging ones were.  But what I do remember is that we built a community of data professionals who worked to make sure that everyone else working in the data field had the right resources to be successful.  I will keep my database backup around and might spend some time rooting through it to find some gems.  If you have some memories you’d like to share, please do so in the comments below.

we built a community of data professionals who worked to make sure that everyone else working in the data field had the right resources to be successful.

Many of you were just lurkers, reading the content, occasionally asking for help (printing with ERwin, getting macros to work in ER/Studio, figuring out what the heck a conceptual model is, etc.)  But some of you did wonderful things by answering so many posts and providing user-to-user support to help others get stuff done (image shows some of our most frequent posters).  And some of you came for the debate. You know who you are.


I thought I’d share some stats with you about our community. Not all of these were data boards, but since our non-data ones were trivial, I’m not going to bother filtering out. While we’ve archived a great deal of content over the decades. And, again, this is data active on the server right now, not over the entire life of our communities.

Registered Users:  10,175

Boards: 15

Forums: 126

Messages: 326,013

Attachments: 2,086


These also were adjusted over the years, but we hosted communities for:

Casewise Corporate Modeler

Data Modeling (various boards)




IT Methods

Other Data Modeling Tools (various boards)

Platinum Repository


Rational/InfoSphere Data Architect


Visible Analyst

Zachman Framework


Unlike almost all other online communities, we actively moderated every post to our boards.  That means that a human being read every post to ensure it was on topic and not spam.  We could have not have done that without the help of our volunteer moderators:

Rick Davis

Rob Drysdale

Scot Fearnside

Garry Gramm

Jeremy Janzen

Carol Lehn

Ray McGlew

Fran Palmeri

Karel Vetrovsky

Many of us are still active on other boards and social media.  You should reach out to them and say thanks.  They made this all happen.

What’s Next?

I looked at web-based discussion software for my blog.  I may still install some, but they all miss the feature that I really want – Email and web-based discussions, all integrated.  The other issue is that there are now so many places on the web with data-focused discussions that I’m not sure standing up another one will add much value.

Here are some of the places you can go to get some data modeling community vibes:

There are also the usual internet locations of LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.  But most of these are, let’s be candid, full of spam.  I can’t really recommend any single source there.

I’m also still the moderator of dm-discuss on Yahoo Groups.  I suggest you join that group if you are looking for vendor-independent discussions about data management and modeling.

Thank you!

I ran the infrastructure for these online communities, but you, readers and sometimes posters, delivered the content, which was the most important part. I’m hanging up my ListMistress tiara and using my Twitter to influence IT professionals to love their data now.   I encourage you to find some non-data oriented communities and start influencing them to think about data, too.  Then join some of the data ones and start helping each other, too. 

I’m still here, still loving data.  It’s just the server that is moving to a farm where it can play with other servers.  I hope to see you in one these other communities.

So Long, and Thanks for All the Data

ListMistress (ret.)

Karen’s Rules for Being Lazy

Jun 1, 2015   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Data Modeling, DLBlog, Project Management  //  No Comments



My Dataversity Heart of Data Modeling webinar this month was titled The Best Data Modeler is a Lazy Data Modeler.

In this presentation I discuss tips for automating more of the mindless tasks in data modeling (printing, publishing, complex by rote naming of objects and more).  My rules for when to automate a task:

  • Don’t spend time doing things that a computer is faster and better at
  • Automation is your friend
  • Don’t try to automate everything at once
  • Don’t try to rebuild an entire data modeling tool in a script
  • Focus modeling time on mindful things, not mindless ones
  • If you’ve automated it, you must ask vendors to make it a feature in their tool

Check out the recording when it goes live this week.  And if you have examples of automation that we didn’t cover, let me know.  I’d love to talk about them (and use them in my own data modeling activities).

Follow Live: Data Field Day 1

May 13, 2015   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Data, DLBlog, Events  //  1 Comment

Data Field Day One logo


This week I’m part of an exciting tour of northern California tech companies who focus on data technologies.  During these visits, you can watch via a live stream right here.  Watch for the stream to start later today at 1:30PM PDT.

For more information about the event, you can check out

There will be 8 other delegates joining me in these meetings.  We’ll hear non-sales pitch presentations from the technical staff of these companies and get to ask questions.

Of course we have a hashtag #DFD1, so you can follow there.  Even ask some questions.




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So get registered, take two modules or more, and tell me what film you see with your winnings.

Lose Data Model Errors with This One Weird Trick

Apr 30, 2015   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog  //  No Comments


What could that datatype possible mean?

Read my blog post on an ER/Studio secret over on Embarcadero’s Community site and find out.

Your Master Data is a Graph: Are You Ready? Whitepaper, Webinar

Apr 27, 2015   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Data, Data Modeling, Database, Events, NoSQL, Speaking  //  1 Comment

Neo4j White Paper: Your Master Data Is a Graph: Are You Ready?I recently wrote a whitepaper, sponsored by Neo4j, on how your master data (think cross-application data like CUSTOMER, PRODUCT, ORGANIZATION, etc.) is much more valuable to your organization if you can leverage the relationships between the data.  You might think that relational databases are all about relationships, but they aren’t.  The relational in relational database comes from the fact that data is a relation (a table-like structure of columns and rows).

The best thing we have for describing relationships in a relational database is a foreign key (FK).  An FK is a constraint between two tables.  In a relational database, FKs enforce integrity between exactly two tables.  But in the real world, relationships are more than constraints.  They are implied, inferred and, maybe even just plausible.  That’s not a constraint; that’s a relationship.  And these relationships often exist because they span multiple tables.  Think about CUSTOMERs that are related because they live at ADDRESSes near each other, they have TRANSACTIONs at the same RETAIL STORE and they buy the same PRODUCTs and SERVICEs.  That’s a specific relationship, one that has nothing to do with foreign keys.

You can download my whitepaper at

Note that while Neo Technology sponsored this paper, they had no editorial control over its content.


This week I’m also doing a webinar about some of the content of the paper.  Kamile Nixon of Neo Technology will join me in this discussion.  You can register at

I think this one will be a lot of fun. Kamile and I have worked together on many things over the years. She and I share the same sort of sense of humour. You have been warned.


Webinar: Your Master Data is a Graph: Are You Ready?

Thursday, April 30 at 09:00 PDT | 18:00 CEST


As you tackle your ongoing Master Data Management challenges, it’s important to keep a few things in mind: Hierarchies don’t really exist Relational isn’t about relationships Foreign keys aren’t relationships, but constraints It’s crazy, isn’t it?

Join Master Data Management expert Karen Lopez and Neo Technology’s Kami Nixon as they discuss today’s MDM requirements and explore the companies that are getting MDM right.

In this webinar, you will learn:

  • Why hierarchies aren’t real
  • How to choose the right technology for the stories your data wants to tell, so your business can use data in ways it couldn’t do before
  • Why relationships are just as important as the things they relate
  • What foreign keys really do to your architecture
  • How companies like Cisco and Polyvore use graphs to get real business value from Master Data

Karen LopezKaren Lopez, Data Evangelist, InfoAdvisors

Karen Lopez has more than 20 years of data architecture and database design experience. She specializes in the practical application of design approaches, balancing development time frames with the need to deliver solutions that will support business agility and data quality needs. Known for her practical and sometimes snarky views on the data world, Karen works to find the right tools for the job, even if it means learning something new. She wants you to love your data.


Kami NixonKami Nixon, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Neo Technology

A recipient of the 2012 “Graphie”, Kamille was a fan of Neo4j for several years before she happily joined the team. Kamille has helped several successful database companies (DataStax, Comindware and Embarcadero Technologies) to identify and execute on market trends so they could pull ahead of the pack. Her efforts have led to doubled vertical bookings, increases by 30% to 100% in year-over-year revenue, and several awards. In addition to the Graphie, Kamille has received several other commendations, including co-authoring with Karen Lopez story #5 in Information Management’s Top 10 for 2011, and Best Investigative Journalism in a national competition.


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