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Hark, Is That a Pattern I See Before Me?

ACM News Service: Conceptual Data Modeling Patterns—Representation and Validation.  I am going nutty over design patterns.  I keep thinking that I know what they are (a bad starting premise).  What I keep running into leaves me baffled and a touch cranky.  I have to dig deeper into this to understand what is really going on here,  So this post is a marker for that and more to come as I puzzle my way through the pattern language about pattern language. 

I was hoping a view in terms of conceptual data modeling might provide the higher levels of abstraction that I find missing in other materials, so I seized on this Technews blurb and its discussion of Danesh Batra’s “Conceptual Data Modeling Patterns: Representation and Validation,” Journal of Database Management 16, 2 (April 2005), 84-106.  The intriguing part for me is that the abstract on the publisher’s site is well-crafted and interesting.  The Technews blurb, on the other hand, is salted with statements about patterns that inspire me to scream and throw things. 

Maybe the problem is that the names of the patterns, discussed in the blurb, don’t sound anywhere abstract enough in contrast with the publication abstract’s observation that “This paper teases out underlying structures that tend to occur frequently in these books and provides patterns at an abstract and more useful level of granularity.”

It could all be a matter of point-of-view and the question is, am I willing to spend the $18 USD that is required for downloading the paper.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I will look for an academic-student source first.

I’ve now looked at the paper and it is useful for my investigations:

  • I am not so sure about the heavy emphasis on cognitive-science observations about pattern-matching, so there is something for me to digest and learn from. 
  • I think the idea of empirically verifying patterns is quite interesting. 
  • There is good discussion of abstraction level and granularity, and something not directly addressed which is the meta-nature of patterns (except variations on patterns are promoted).
  • There’s also a challenge with regard to coverage by a set of patterns, and the ontological precepts that may involve. 
  • The patterns are fun, and the oft-repeated over-simplified recursion (e.g., bill-of-materials) pattern is identified here. 
  •  I now understand why the names reported in the blurb were disturbing, and this is exacerbated by using UML for the conceptual modeling.  I think this approach trips up the author, too, who seems to think that the generalization structure doesn’t apply to the relational model.  This relates to my concern that we too easily consider that patterns in information systems must be evident in a specific way, as when cutting fabric for a garment.
  • There’s a nice bibliography with earliest references in 1970 (E.F. Codd, of course) and 1972 (Newell & Simon on cognitive models).

Searching for the Paper: Well, Google Scholar lists it, but none of the academically-licensed services that I have available carry the Journal of Database Management.  I’m going to try the $18 option, not speant on, and see what this is about. 

The Idea Group Publisher site says they are providing a one-time view in a pop-up from which I may print the article.  I want an electronic copy so I can have it indexed and filed as dissertation-bibliography backup, and I think I can arrange that.  What concerns me is what happens if I trip on a firewall or browser privacy/security setting.  We’ll know momentarily.

Slightly Later: Well, it is just a PDF download.  Once I conditioned my software firewall to allow MIME-type integrated objects from this site, it was a matter of downloading rather than opening the file.  I wonder what has them assert that only a printable view will be provided.  Oh.  Mums the word.

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