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Database Limits and Possibilities


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#1 velox

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Posted 20 January 2015 - 10:14 PM

Hi everyone, I quite obviously have a question about databases. 

 

To give you the pertinent information: I am a creative person, college student, wannabe entrepreneur and big dreamer. I take inspiration and lessons anywhere and anytime. This has led to a bunch of information in a variety of formats. It might be word documents, handwritten papers and notes, recordings in .mp3 or .wav formats, videos, photos, articles, etc. You get the point.

 

I find the disorganization not only disconcerting and overwhelming but completely lacking in functionality. It's hard to keep track of everything for each project and to avoid redundancies. I want to sit down and finally compile each of these pertinent pieces of information into categories that I can apply "tags" to based on the multiple subjects it applies to, date, or any other parameters, so that when I want to access the information I can pull it up quickly and easily. For many of these things, they are almost like inspiration boards with all kinds of information, photos, etc. And some of these pieces of information have several purposes and apply to several projects... which is why I want to be able to apply tags to them.

 

Someone suggested to me once to get versed in databases and database software. Now, I am personally not very computer literate, but I am 100% willing to learn it if it proves to be what I want. Whenever I went to look into this, though, each database seems ideal for quantitative data, and not so much qualitative data. Also, it always seems to be something you enter in the form of letters of the alphabet or numerics like a spreadsheet and that appeared to me at first glance to be the extent of it.

 

That is why I am here to ask about databases. Is any of what I want to do possible with a database software? Or is there another program or process entirely that I need to consider? Ordinarily, I'd do a little research on a search engine myself, but I have been having trouble putting into succinct words what I am envisioning. Any help on this matter would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance. :)



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#2 gpence

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Posted 27 January 2015 - 11:04 AM

Hi Velox,

 

A database may be the way to go, but it may not...

 

First, let me backup and say there are 2 popular types of databases available today -- Relational and NOSQL databases. Relational databases have been around for decades. MS Access, MS SQL Server, Oracle, PostgreSQL, MySQL, and IBM DB2 are examples of relational databases. The concept is pretty simple. There are numerous tables of data which are "related" to each other via key (or indexed) values. You can think of this in a business example: a company has a customer with several shipping and billing locations. You would have 1 table with the Customer Name a unique Account number (the Key Value). Then you would have a separate tables with all of the addresses, each as a separate row (or entry), and each would be related by the Account Number. That way we can search for a customer (and find the Account number in the result) then associate all of the mailing addresses with that specific customer. Typically, we use a Structured Query Language (SQL) to create, access and query the data in a relational database.The problem with the Relational databases design is that, as data grows bigger, the efficiency of the table structure becomes less and less. A structure that is great for 1,000 or 10,000 customers may become slow and unreliable with 100,000,000 records. (this is called a scalability problem)

 

As a result, NOSQL databases were developed in the last 10-15 years. NOSQL stands for Not Only SQL, meaning you can access these databases using other languages such as java. Whereas Relational Databases are design around the content of the data (you noticed we talked about account numbers and addresses in my example, and HOW they are related was secondary). In NOSQL, the structure is more important than the data itself (or I should say the focus is on the structure rather than the data). Design of a NOSQL is more like this: "We have X number of 'nodes' and we need to find the fastest way to access any node at any time."  A 'node' of data may be a video (think YouTube), a photo (think PhotoBucket) or a consumer product (think Amazon). The key here is the storage and retrieval speed, not the actual content. MongoDB is probably the undeniable leader of NOSQL, but there are dozens of players in the field. As we have moved into the era of Big Data, NoSQL has become the leading technology in big business.

 

Now, having been long-winded, I would strongly suggest that you DO NOT NEED a NOSQL database for the amount of content you will be retrieving, therefore either you want a relational database, or some other storage and retrieval option. There is another option which you have not considered in your question -- a wiki (think Wikipedia). I use the ZIM Desktop Wiki for many of the things you describe -- taking notes, storing spreadsheets, PDFs and some photos. If you are comfortable with some simple HTML tags, then you will be able to create and use a wiki. You can create instant links between data by using wiki notation, or you can simply create parent and child pages like you would in a typical web site. I think this would be more intuitive than a tag-based system, although you can certainly apply tags to your data using ZIM. Hope this helps...

 

For more info, try  http://zim-wiki.org/index.html






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