An Analogy is like a Tree….

For years, I’ve been trying to express how everything ties into everything else. A big part of understanding any given thing is relating that thing to other things like it. So, a big part of learning is analogy.

This is been on my mind lately because I’ve been listening to some podcasts regularly, and been surprised at how much what they’re saying ties into what I do. The Nerdist podcast talks about life in LA and being a stand up comic , and that still relates to me…to databases and teaching and work. Same with Paul and Storm… talking about travel and food and being musicians.

Of course there’s a basic principle – that we’re all human, and so we think about and react to disparate experiences similarly. But it’s so ubiquitous…  Chess is like Kenpo. Kenpo is like databases. Databases are like screenplays. Which are like wine. Which are like relationships. Which is like jobhunting. And on and on and on.  The trick is knowing the subject matter well enough to know which patterns apply.

In line with the theme of this post, I don’t necessarily have a single point. But I do have a few observances:

You can’t go wrong by pursuing your interests (always excepting obsession).

– Ask Grant Fritchey (GFritchey), Mladen Prajdic (mladenprajdic), and Sean McCown (MidnightDBA) about what martial arts has taught them about troubleshooting.

– Ask Jes Borland (grrl_geek), Allen Kinsel (sqlinsaneo), and Steve Jones (way0utwest) what running has taught them about persistence.

– Ask Steve Smith (SteveSmithSQL) and Gary (wnylibrarian) about database concepts in libraries. And so on…

Part of the value in teaching and mentoring is being able to tailor analogies to your specific audience. This is a limitation of books: It’s aimed at a wide enough audience that you can’t say “Oh, you’re into flying light aircraft? Then let me tell you how DMVs are like the altimiter…”

So tell me about your non-database experience that’s tied into your SQL work! 

Happy days,
Jen McCown

3 thoughts on “An Analogy is like a Tree….”

  1. I came to SQL Server and Windows programming from a journalism and tech writing background. This provided a good foundation in many ways: learning and applying proper syntax is second nature; I instinctively think in terms of what is to be conveyed; asking questions and getting all the “what if” points comes naturally. Writing also provided a mindset for planning structure, since coding can be much like composing a long technical document or other work.

    Thanks for the good post.

  2. This is so true – my training was as an Architect (bricks and steel, not software). Though it can be hard to explain how, it was a perfect education to work in software. I think there were three major ideas hammered into me in the Architecture studio that have helped my work since:

    1. Don’t be sentimental about your ideas. Rather, be *absolutely ruthless* about your ideas. We had to stand up in front of “juries” and present designs, and often got cut to shreds. In retrospect, that was great. If you get all attached to some pet thing you’ve created, you are probably missing out on the better idea that is also out there, right around the corner. Do not be afraid to wad up your first drawing and toss it in the rubbish.

    2. Design is never done – there are an infinite number of solutions to a problem, an infinite number of workable solutions, a large number of good solutions, maybe many excellent solutions. The mistake many people make is giving up too soon in the process. Keep revising. Don’t be satisfied.

    3. Elegance matters. There is a difference between designing something and merely cobbling together a fix. A designed software solution has logic, elegance, sense. It will make sense to other people, it will last, and it is less likely to annoy everyone faced with using or maintaining it later. In that way, it’s much like a good building.

  3. For me it’s all about my “frame of mind”. I can do a better job in databases than in other areas, for example in object oriented programming. I realized this late in my life, maybe because I was not lucky enough to find a mentor. By the way, Sean, mentoring is not dead…
    It really matters to be an educated person, someone who is able to take what’s good in some other domains of knowledge and who puts this knowledge to a good use.

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