Re: Help with Relational Database Terminology

Subject: Re: Help with Relational Database Terminology
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Thu, 9 May 1996 15:50:00 EST

At 12:48 PM 5/9/96 +0000, you wrote:

>O.K., here are my questions. Anyone been through this
>before and have advise for me? What kind of terms did
>you use and how were they received? What worked and
>what did not?

>I will take any info I can get on how to write about
>relational databases.

>Also, if you know a good book that puts relational
>databases into layman's terms, I'd love to know about

>Thanks in advance!!


Melonie, a relational database isn't any different from the user's
perspective than a flat database is, unless the user is a database designer
or has some other access to things "behind the curtains." In the absence of
that access, I'd go by the interface, not by the structure of the DB. If the
user is simply a data entry clerk, then I'd definitely focus entirely on the
interface and forget all about the database jargon.

Yes, developers will talk about "rows and columns" and other esoterica, but
you'll probably be using the old terms "fields and records." In fact, you
might even have to reduce the jargon further and talk about, oh, "name
slots" or some such. It all depends on whether or not the users are presumed
to understand "fields and records." We try to tailor our language to the
user, and not vice versa.

The trickier thing is to keep peace with the technogeeks. They simply have
to understand that our job is to mediate between geeks and frightened small
creatures. Use technospeak with them and write for little old ladies. If
this is your first project, you may be up against it trying to face them
down. But perservere. It pays off eventually.

My suggestion for a book is to pay a visit to the closest and biggest
bookstore you can find with a computer section. Look for the section on
databases and browse, browse, browse. The reason I counsel this, rather than
recommending a book, is that one person's clear prose is another's muddy
stream. I like to check out the texts for myself.

Tim Altom
Vice President, Simply Written, Inc.
317.899.5882 (voice) 317.899.5987 (fax)
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