Database Usability

Just as I was digesting Jeff Naughton’s presentation at DB/IR day, a colleague at Endeca emailed me the keynote that H. V. Jagadish (University of Michigan) presented at SIGMOD ’07 on making database systems usable. He enumerates the familiar pain points of today’s database systems: confusing schemas, too many choices to make, unexpected–and unexplained–system behavior, and too high a cost for initial creation. He proposes “systems that reflect the user’s model of the data, rather than forcing the data to fit a particular model.”

As with Jeff’s presentation, the main take-away here is a framework (though both he and Jeff have taken initial steps to address the problems they describe). As a practitioner, I’m most encouraged by the fact that database researchers, like information retrieval researchers, are increasingly recognizing the importance of users.

By Daniel Tunkelang

High-Class Consultant.