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Re: proposal: Preference SQL

From: Kevin Walker <skywalkereast(at)hotmail(dot)com>
To: Jan Urbański <j(dot)urbanski(at)students(dot)mimuw(dot)edu(dot)pl>
Cc: <srb(at)cuci(dot)nl>, <pgsql-hackers(at)postgresql(dot)org>
Subject: Re: proposal: Preference SQL
Date: 2008-05-31 15:52:42
Message-ID: BAY110-W51E3C530058E58B357A1BBABB90@phx.gbl (view raw, whole thread or download thread mbox)
Lists: pgsql-hackers

;-)  ... agree with your points.  Note I wasn't trying to duplicate the full functionality of the preferences clause.  ...just pointing out that the example presented could be duplicated with standard SQL with the result being both ugly and confusing.  

My intent was show that the syntax you proposed was easier to read and more flexible. 


> Date: Sat, 31 May 2008 16:53:54 +0200
> From: j(dot)urbanski(at)students(dot)mimuw(dot)edu(dot)pl
> To: skywalkereast(at)hotmail(dot)com
> CC: srb(at)cuci(dot)nl; pgsql-hackers(at)postgresql(dot)org
> Subject: Re: [HACKERS] proposal: Preference SQL
> Kevin Walker wrote:
> > Yes, the preference clause can be rewritten using standard SQL.  The syntax to duplicate the example result set is listed below.  The syntax is not very flexible or easy to read.   
> > 
> > select id 
> > from computer
> > where (main_memory = (select max(main_memory) 
> >                       from computer)
> >        and cpu_speed = (select max(cpu_speed) 
> >                         from computer
> >                         where cpu_speed < (select max(cpu_speed) from computer)))
> >    or (cpu_speed = (select max(cpu_speed) 
> >                         from computer)
> >        and   main_memory = (select max(main_memory) 
> >                         from computer
> >                          where main_memory < (select max(main_memory) from computer)))
> Well, that's not 100% correct, but the idea is something like this. In 
> particular, if you'd have only one entry in the table, then this query 
> would not return any rows, which would be wrong. Also, if you had a 
> computer that has larger main memory and a faster CPU than any other 
> copmuter, it should be returned as the result, but the above query would 
> fail to do that.
> The point is not rewriting that particular preference query into a 
> standard query. The point is whether it's worth having an automated 
> mechanism for executing arbitrary preference queries with complex 
> preferences (again: the syntax is richer, I didn't want to go into any 
> detail about it before getting some feedback).
> Let me give you a more sophisticated example.
> You have a webpage that sells used cars. You have your typical search 
> form with car make, colour, engine power and so on. Normally, you would 
> make the search form input fields correspond to SQL WHERE clauses. So, 
> if I want a white Honda with a 180 hp engine and about 40k kilometers of 
> mileage I enter these parameters and hit the submit button. Now imagine 
> I don't get any results for my search. That could mean that you have no 
> Honda cars in stock, but it can also mean that you have my perfect Honda 
> at a bargain price, it's only that it's black. Or maybe you have a 
> Honda, but it has a 160 hp engine? Or is it just that the one perfect 
> Honda you have has a mileage of just over 41k km, and that's why I 
> didnt' get it in my result set? People seldom want a perfect match when 
> they are searching for something. They want the best match, they can 
> get. So, if I wanted to get a Honda with a decent engine and my 
> favourite color is white, I'd say:
> SELECT * FROM cars WHERE make = 'Honda' PREFERRING (power = '180' AND 
> mileage AROUND 40000) CASCADE color = 'white';
> Remember, that an AND in a preference clause constructs a partial order. 
> The query says: I equally prefer having a 180 hp engine and having a car 
> that has a mileage of 40k km. Tha CASCADE clause intrudoces a less 
> important preference. It means that the color is not as important to me 
> as power and mileage, but if I had a choice I'd take the white one.
> I'd strongly recommend skimming through the paper I mentioned in my 
> first email, it explains stuff much better than I do.
> Preference SQL in Postgres could, as I see it, become one of the 
> distinct features that no other widespread database system has and that 
> could potentially be massively useful for online shops, social networks, 
> etc. - you name it.
> After hearing Bruce's keynote at PGCon and how Postgres now should be 
> aiming at more that just catching up with the big guys I just thought: 
> well, that's one neat feature that none of them has, that's useful, 
> that's kind of sexy *and* I could get my degree out of it.
> Cheers,
> Jan
> -- 
> Jan Urbanski
> GPG key ID: E583D7D2
> ouden estin

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