December 29, 2009

Posted by John

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The Balance of Convention and Innovation

Adam Wiggins just posted a few paragraphs by Tim Lind from his article titled Innovation in Database Technology. Rarely do I just post direct quotes here, but I really thought the paragraphs were insightful, so I’ll share them for those that haven’t had the pleasure yet.

That, is why we have really moved away from sql, it is not for any specific approach to scalability or data storage, but rather just the ability to free ourselves from the standardized ideas encapsulated in the standard query language.

I’m going to say it again, moving away from sql allows us to innovate. I’m sure no one will have ill feeling towards the notion of innovation, and standardization is almost the exact opposite, it is the crystallization of previous innovation, so of course it would be what we stand against.

We do not necessarily stand against any specific idea encapsulated by the sql standardization, rather we just choose to open ourselves up to investigating the elements of the system for the sake of making design decisions which provide innovative solutions.

You can’t innovate in a box of standards, thus the “think outside the box” saying. For whatever reason, I had not thought about the step back from SQL from this perspective.

Several people have asked me what issues I ran into switching to MongoDB. The biggest issue I ran into was freeing my mind from the standards and conventions that swaddled me in bed at night. Conventions and standards are great, but they do seem to be at odds with innovation.

We definitely do not want to be in a constant state of innovation, as I am sure that would lead to chaos. On the other hand, if we always stick to conventions and standards, we will never push forward. There has to be balance. After years of the same with regards to databases, it great to see the new ideas over the past year or so.

Thanks to Tim for the observations and Adam for putting them on my radar.


  1. I’d add the technologies should be open in order to avoid proprietary monopolization. I’m thinking of avoiding MS style innovation.

    Also, I couldn’t commit a client to supporting a non-standard technology. It could potentially be expensive if it becomes a dead end or few people know about it.

  2. That should be versus, not verse. Sorry to be a stickler ;)

  3. @kristianp – Thanks for the correction. Updated.

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