Monthly Archives: June 2010

There are only three types of programmers in the world…

..and they are:

  1. Programmers who want to write an operating system
  2. Programmers who want to write a compiler
  3. Programmers who want to write a database

It’s not that every programmer ever actually works on one of these, just that every programmer seems to dream of doing one of these things. It’s the primary reason why things like Linux exist. Yes, open source, blah, blah, blah, OS choices, blah, blah, blah, evil Microsoft, blah, blah, blah. But I would bet my bottom dollar that 9 out of 10 of the people donating their valuable time to the Linux project do so not because they want an alternative to Windows but because they always dreamed of being OS hackers. It’s also why there are so many damn programming languages out there, all the people who sit around dreaming of being, I don’t know, James Gosling or something.

(I think with the advent of the Internet, it’s likely that there’s now a fourth kind of programmer who wants to write websites, but I’m not totally sure about that yet.)

The interesting thing about these categories is that the Venn diagram tends, in my experience, to be pretty distinct-most “data” guys aren’t also “language” guys, and most “language” guys aren’t also “OS” guys, and so on. My theory is that it’s like the parable of the blind men and the elephant: although we all grapple with basically the same set of problems, each kind of programmer grapples with a different aspect of it.

The blind men and the elephant

I say all this because although I started out working in databases, it’s clear to me that I’ve always been a “language” guy. In college, I did so-so in the OS course and never touched a database course (I’m not even sure they were offered), but my compiler course netted me a special letter of commendation from the professor (the only one I ever got). Anyway, now I’m back in the “data” world as an even more confirmed “language” guy and the most interesting thing is how many of the problems are the same, but the way they’re conceptualized, handled, or even talked about, are different from what I’ve been used to working on programming languages. It’s kind of. refreshing to see things in a different light. More on that soon.

“Fixing” T-SQL

In a comment to my previous post, Rich asked

Does this mean you’re the person to fix T-SQL programmability?

I honestly don’t know the answer to that question because, coming from the outside, I’m not sure about everything that’s wrong with T-SQL. I’d love to hear more from anyone who’s got an opinion (and any pointers to complaints around the web would be welcome as well). You can also feel free to use my contact form to talk to me directly. I can’t promise I can do anything at this point, but I’m looking to learn.

What I can do is offer two thoughts about why I chose to move over to the T-SQL team:

  1. Even though I’ve been interfacing with SQL Server for nearly 20 years in one capacity or another, I only know a surface amount about it-basically, some standard SQL and that’s about it. A lot of the reason for that is because T-SQL always seemed, well, a little arcane from the outside. I sort of got the basics of querying, but beyond that I never felt I really had the time to figure things because they looked. complicated. Some of that, I’m sure, is just the usual “people look strange when you’re a stranger,” but I have always wondered what might be done to make SQL Server and T-SQL a little more approachable.
  2. Along those lines, one recurring situation that I’ve found with SQL Server (both personally and observing others) is that the perceived impenetrability of T-SQL causes people to waste the wonderful opportunity to leverage the power of the server and instead use up precious time sucking data down to the client just to do a bit of processing that could easily have been done as a part of the query. The question comes to mind: what could we do to enable people to more easily capitalize on the server resources that are available to them, and how can T-SQL play a part in that?

So that’s what my hopes are, we’ll just have to see how it plays out.