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You know how we ordinary FileMaker folks are always wondering how come the ones who know what they're doing know what they're doing, in particular regarding relationships and data modeling in general? We're always looking for examples, manuals, tutorials, how-to guides, and in this regard, the FM books stay at a rather basic level and use practically the same example. Well, a couple months ago while looking at various FM books, I stumbled across a book recommendation (I forgot from which book: FM Developer's Reference or FM Bible or another?): The Data Model Resource Book. There are three volumes, and the one I've been looking at is Volume 3: Universal Patterns for Data Modeling by Len Silverston and Paul Agnew. It's such a neat book that I wanted it to share it for those who've been looking for exactly this without knowing where to find it.

 

This book abstracts patterns for data modeling and divides them into four different levels, from more specific models to more generalized. It shows how the pattern works, why it's necessary, what it's good for, and what its weaknesses are. For me, it helps to clarify thinking when I ask myself "Should I make this into one table or two and how should these be related"? With both generalized diagrams and accompanying real-world examples, you can see the workings and effects of each pattern. I'm on chapter 3 right now: Using Roles (about contextual role patterns, as opposed to the declarative role patterns of chapter 1). Other chapters are about recursive patterns, classification patterns, status patterns, contact mechanism patterns, business rule patterns and more.

 

For me, it's slow reading and it takes a lot more concentration that my day-to-day work, but it's very clearly written, and if I take the time to understand the sentence I'm reading, see how the diagram illustrates it, then I understand. I had been looking for something helpful like this for quite some time now, and so far everything else I've found except this series has used a lot of mathematical symbols and language. They've been the kind of books I open and realize I won't understand even with effort. Most have been in German, but some in English. A good number have been using SQL to illustrate. This book, however, has no math, no concrete database program examples (no SQL); rather it uses ERDs, and a lot of the notation feels happily familiar from the FM relationship graph.

 

The page layout of this book is also a relief to my eyeballs. If this matters to you, don't accidentally get the "international version" from India, which has bad paper so you see both sides of the paper on one side. I am not sure if there is a European international version, too. The normal version is from North America.

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