Shiny Things

It’s not uncommon for fads or “shiny things” to rise to the top.  In my work in cave rescue for example, there’s a lot of really cool equipment that comes out every year.  And often a particular piece or type of equipment will grab peoples attention and folks will start to use it all over the place. A good example of this are various “rope grabs” such as a Rescucender. Suddenly everyone is teaching, “Oh, you should use this tool, it’s so much better.” In part people fall into the trap of thinking it’s better because it’s newer.

Another example are ascending systems.  For climbing ropes in caves there are Frogs, Ropewalkers, Texas and more.  They all have their advantages. And quite honestly, for the most part, they are far better than what they replaced, the traditional “3-knot” system.  Unfortunately, as an instructor I’ve come across a large number of experienced vertical cavers who have NO idea how to climb on a 3-knot system.

Rescucenders have their place and they had their peak of prominence. For awhile it seemed they were used and taught all over the place. A lot of teams I know are going back to focusing on a good old Pruisk Knot for a rope grab.  This of course is the most common knot used in 3-knot climbing systems.

In one case, the newer, better, shinier thing was found not necessarily to be all that better.  In the other case, the newer equipment really is better. But the basics shouldn’t be forgotten. You never know when you’ll need to fashion Prusik’s out of shoelaces.

I bring this up because of an article brought to my attention today by , discussing SQL vs. NoSQL. Many have told me that NoSQL will replace a traditional SQL RDBMS. Of course I was told the same thing about OODBMS and other database systems. So far many of the replacements have withered on the vine and are long gone.  Some still thrive in niche applications.  I don’t think NoSQL will wither and die; nor is it simply a small niche.  Yet neither will it completely replace SQL databases either.  Both have incredible powers and are very good at what they do.  Both I think are here to stay for the foreseeable future.

But don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have a data problem and assuming the newer solution, NoSQL is the better solution.  It might be.  It might not. If I have to climb rope, I’ll use the “newer” (it’s decades old now) technology of my Frog climbing system. If I need to put a rope-grab on a rope, I’ll almost certainly go back to the “older” (it’s all relative) technology of a Prusik knot.

The actual needs of the application drive the solution. Don’t allow the solution to drive the design.

A good rule of thumb is: Anytime anyone sets up a debate, especially about technology as an X vs. Y debate, they’re probably framing it wrong from the get-go. It’s rarely X xor Y, but almost always X and/or Y, or even possibly Z.

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