Subject Re: SQL Standard (was Circular Foreign Key Dependencies)
--- In IB-Architect@y..., Jim Starkey <jas@n...> wrote:
> At 11:57 AM 3/24/01 -0500, Ann W. Harrison wrote:
> >At 10:32 AM 3/24/2001 -0500, Jim Starkey wrote:
> >> But then
> >>I'm too cheap to buy a copy of the standard. Exactly why
> >>a standard is protected like a classified document is a
> >>different question.
> >
> >Because even standards committees can't live on air.
> >
> This is a little off topic, but let's bat it around a bit
> anyway.
> Let's compare the SQL standard to the Internet standards (which
> generally preceded it) and the Java standard (which followed it).

<description of Internet and Java walking-on-water snipped>

> Now look at the SQL standard. <...>

> <...> SQL [is]intended to let vendors claim standard's compliance
> which protecting their market share with non-interoperable
> implementations and a high barrier to entry.

Could be ... or could be, perhaps, that people who buy products aren't
being sufficiently critical when they accept vendors' claims of
conformance. Caveat emptor?

I don't like the SQL standard, but probably for some different reasons
than yours.
Besides being impossible to read (and getting worse, not better), and
being developed by an old boys' network, and all that, one thing that
drives me NUTS is that people who use SQL every day to build
applications still have no idea what "conforming to the SQL standard"
means (*), and then get themselves into all kinds of trouble because
of it. I hate seeing that.

It's not their fault, I don't think, because nobody would expect
[either the Spanish Inquisition or] the bizarre rules that let
products that support totally incompatible features and behaviours
claim conformance to the same standard ... but it's been that way for
years, through many scars and lessons learned, and nothing has

(* In fact, it sounds like it means a lot, but actually means almost
nothing these days ... especially with the demise of the independent
organizations, such as NIST, that used to test conformance and publish
results on the web for all to see. And the rules for SQL99
conformance are ... [sputter sputter] ... But I digress ...)

The goal of the SQL standard was, historically, application
portability. That's why the standard includes specification of the
Flagger thing -- to let users identify (or even prevent) use
of non-standard features, features that may vary in behaviour from
vendor to vendor, features from higher levels of conformance, etc.
etc. within their applications.

[Put your hand up now if you're thinking "what Flagger thing?".

"An SQL Flagger is an implementation-provided facility <...> intended
to assist SQL programmers in producing SQL language that is both
portable and interoperable among different conforming
SQL-implementations operating under different levels of this
International Standard."

Anyway, I could continue, but I think it's time for the little pink
pills. :-)

> "Because even standards committees can't live on air."
> Ridiculous! What are their expenses? The members have
> their salaries and travel paid by their organizations.
> Postage? Maybe they could figure out e-mail and the web.
> Meeting sites? Maybe some the member organizations have
> conference rooms.

They have, and they do ... the costs of developing the various
standards (meeting facilities, travel costs, document distribution,
etc.) are largely covered by some combination of the member
organizations (i.e. the national standards bodies, such as ANSI, BSI,
etc.), and the companies and govts and universities etc. that employ
the individuals who participate.

However, that does not cover the basic distribution costs of the
finished standards -- printing, inventory, etc. etc. Those are
incurred by ISO itself, and recovered using a "user fee" model.

Anyway, that's the model. (And yes, they do use email and the web
during development of standards, and ISO itself is moving in that
direction for distribution of finished standards ... but PAINFULLY
slowly, in my opinion. Some of the reasons are legal -- based on the
rules of the various countries regarding national standards, etc. etc.
For example, even though the SQL committee works largely using email
and all that, paper copies of every single proposal, or review
comment, or ballot, or niggly change or meeting agenda ... have to be
sent (or used to, even as recently as a couple years ago) to many
countries ... if the paper copy wasn't sent, it's as if it never
existed. Anyway, neither here nor there ... and not a problem I'm
going to solve, that's for sure.)

Excerpts from the ISO FAQ (

"Who pays for ISO?
ISO's national members pay subscriptions that meet the operational
cost of ISO's Central Secretariat. The dues paid by each member
are in proportion to the country's GNP and trade figures. Another
source of revenue is the sale of standards, which covers 30% of the
budget. However, the operations of the central office represent only
about one fifth of the cost of the system's operation. The main costs
are borne by the organizations which manage the specific projects
or loan experts to participate in the technical work. These
organizations are, in effect, subsidizing the technical work by paying
the travel costs of the experts and allowing them time to work on
their ISO assignments.


Why aren't ISO standards free?
ISO standards cost money to develop, publish and distribute.
Someone has to pay. The current system whereby users are
requested to pay for the standards they use, not only sustains the
development process but also, very importantly, ensures that the
balance of independent vs. government, private vs. public interests
can be maintained."

I didn't write it, I'm just passing it along ...

> This is absurd. A living, accessible standard is an important
> precondition for technology evolution -- if we can't agree
> on the foundation, how can up build the upper stories?

And, I'd add "while still encouraging innovation at the foundation