North East DB / IR Day

Last Friday, I had the privilege to attend the Spring 2008 North East DB/IR Day, hosted by Columbia University:

The North East DB/IR Day brings together database and information retrieval researchers and students from both academic and research institutions in the Northeastern United States. The DB/IR Day is a semi-annual workshop that features an exciting technical program as well as informal discussion. The DB/IR Day provides a regular forum for presenting diverse viewpoints on database systems and information retrieval, addressing current topics as well as promoting information exchange among researchers.

The event lived up to its promise, and I was impressed with the quality of student posters. But my favorite part of the event was the keynote by Jeff Naughton entitled “Extracting Problems for Database and IR Researchers.”

Jeff characterized the traditional philosophy of the database community as guaranteeing perfect outputs is the inputs are perfect. He argues that what we need more of today are databases that expect imperfection, and try to help.

To summarize his talk:

  • Provide support for “learn schema as you go.”
  • Develop techniques to explain inconsistency and let users reason about it.
  • Expect errors, provide tools for users to understand/debug them.
  • View task as helping user discover what they want in large space of potential queries.

It is encouraging to see such a prominent database researcher advocating this vision, especially since it aligns so well with the technology we are developing at Endeca.

By Daniel Tunkelang

High-Class Consultant.

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