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Your Frame of Reference

July 8, 2013

sql_cat_logo_smIs a database snapshot in SQL Server update-able? Most of us would say no, but I ran across a blog from the Microsoft SQLCAT team that proposes a method of issuing an insert, update, or delete statement in a database snapshot context. You can read the article for the details, and we could argue if this is really allowing a snapshot to be read/write, but that’s not what I noticed as I read this.

This is a very creative way of approaching a problem. It changes the frame of reference slightly so that we rethink what the customer is trying to accomplish instead of what the technology limitations are. There might be more elegant, or more easily maintained solutions, but I found this to be creative, and perhaps useful, approach for solving a certain domain of problems.

I think quite often we get caught in viewing problems in terms of our frame of reference, or in terms of common technology implentations without thinking through the problem from the customer’s frame of reference and working on an effective solution. That’s our job most of the time: being effective as we solve problems. If we view all problems within the narrow range of our past solutions, we are relying on our experience, but that may prevent us from building applications that work better than our past work, go beyond what our customers want and get them excited about using the end result.

However it’s a balance. I’ve seen hacked solutions that didn’t perform well, or didn’t scale and ended up causing problems for years. Looking at the problem from the customer’s viewpoint needs to be tempered with the requirement of building a solution that performs well and fits within the framework of the environment. Ultimately I think the way to get better at building applications (and databases) is to increase your knowledge and experience. Learn more about other people’s solutions, and engage with the rest of the community to sanity check your approach.  Learning new techniques that have worked for others, and experimenting in your environment to build better software over time.

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