databases as people think – dabble DB

I was just looking at Enrico Bertini‘s blog Visuale for the first time for ages. In particular at his December entry on DabbleDB & Magic/Replace. Dabble DB allows web-based databases and in some ways sits in similar ground with Freebase, Swivel or even Google docs spreadsheet, all ways to share data of different forms on/through the web.

The USP for Dabble DB amongst other online data sharing apps, is that it appears to really be a complete database solution online … and its USB amongst conventional databses is the way they seem to have really thought about real use.  This focus on real use by ordinary users includes dynamically altering the structure of the data as you gradually understand it more.  The model they have is that you start with plain table data from a spreadsheet or other document and gradually add structure as opposed to the “first analyse and then enter” model of traditional DBs.

As I read Enrico’s blog I remembered that he had mailed me about the ‘magic/replace‘ feature ages ago.  This lets you tidy up  data during import (but apparently not data already imported … wonder why?), using a ‘by example’ approach and is a really nice example of all that ‘programming by example‘ and related work that was so hot 15 years ago eventually finding its way into real products.

The downside to Dabble DB is that editing is via forms only … it is often so much easier to enter data in a spreadsheet view, the API is quite limited, and while they have a ‘Dabble DB Commons‘ for public data (rather like Swivel), there is no directory or other way to see what people have put up 🙁

I was particularly hoping the API was better as it would have been nice to link it into my web version of Query-by-Browsing. or even integrate with the Query-through-Drilldown approach for constructing complex table joins that Damon Oram implemented more recently.

In general, while the DB and (many) UI features are strong it is not really looking outwards to creating shared linked data (in the broadest sense of the term, not just pure SemWeb world linked data), … so still room there for the absolute killer shared data app!

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