Build Less (DB Design Version)

37Signals, the company behind few highly successful web-based applications, has published a book about their business building experience. Knowing that the company is both successful and has an unconventional business development philosophy, I decided to browse a bit.

One of the essays that caught my attention is “Build Less”. The idea is that instead of having more features than the competition (or more employees or whatever), you should strive to have less. To avoid any sense of irony – the essay is very short 🙂

One of the suggestions I would add to the essay is:
“Keep less data”

Keeping a lot of data is a pain. Indexing, partitioning, tuning, backup and recovery – everything is more painful when you have terabytes instead of gigabytes. And when it comes to cleaning data out, it always causes endless debates on how long to keep the data (3 month? 7 years?) and different life-cycle options (move to “old data” system? archiving? how to purge? What is the process?).

What’s more, a lot of the time customers would really prefer we won’t keep the data. Maybe its privacy concerns (when we keep a lot of search history) or difficulty in generating meaningful reports or just plain confusion caused by all those old projects floating around.

Google taught us that all the data should be stored forever. But perhaps your business can win by keeping less data.


7 Comments on “Build Less (DB Design Version)”

  1. In most situations I did encounter, the application just been build, and nobody did think of archiving. The need for archiving most of the time came ‘evolutionary’: the amount of data started to cripple performance.

  2. Narendra says:

    Reminds me of
    Seems “Oleksandr Alesinskyy” from that thread works for 37Signals

  3. prodlife says:

    Wow! You found a thread on data purging, complete with someone from 37signals arguing with Tom on how data is purged.

    Thats just great 🙂

  4. prodlife says:


    Yes, my post was inspired by the 37Signals essay and a year of work on an archival project.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s