A month ago I read a review of Dabble DB on Techcrunch and I was immediately intrigued by the concept of a collaborative, Web 2.0 database program. I’ve been using Microsoft Access to maintain assorted lists for years, and have also been involved in the development of a number of custom online databases.

These experiences have made me think there has got to be a better way to do this stuff.

So I was excited yesterday when I was given access to a Beta version of Dabble DB after being on the waiting list for awhile. Generally speaking, I love it. Below is a breakdown of things I like, things I think are missing, and additional functionality I’d like to see down the road.

Things I Like

(1) Collaboration. I can share the databases I create with friends and colleagues and update the database collaboratively online. This process is much better than working from an offline Access db that everyone forgets the location of, can’t access when on the road, etc. And it’s more flexible/easy to update than a custom online database.

(2) Simple Data Importation Process. You can import data simply by selecting and copying it onto your clipboard instead of uploading a CSV file. For me, this was a much easier process than the traditional “attach, upload, find mistakes, repeat” cycle most programs use for data importation.

(3) Easy data entry. Dabble DB automatically creates a simple data entry form that you use to enter your data. For most people this will be easier than entering data through Access, although I can see it being somewhat slower for big data entry projects.

(4) Filters > Queries. Dabble DB uses a filter system that is much easier to use than the query tools in Access. You just enter the keyword/value in a filter box and go from there.

(5) Column Editing Tools. When viewing data, you can simply click on a column header to sort or filter results by that column, or reconfigure the data type. It’s really simple and intuitive.

Things That Are Missing

By missing, I mean features in Microsoft Access that I find value in and don’t see on Dabble DB.

(1) Table Relationships. I don’t see a way to relate one table to another with a primary key. This is very useful for more complexes databases.

(2) Advanced Queries. If you are doing advanced queries in Access sometimes you have to abandon their query tool and write a manual SQL query (or beg a programmer to do it for you). Be interesting to a see a similar tool on Dabble DB for advanced users.

Update: In the post comments, Avi Bryant of Dabble DB pointed me to a video that shows how to establish relationships between tables. He also says I won’t need to use SQl queries in Dabble DB, because, it’s, well, logical. He also points out that I may be too stuck in my Access thinking process to see how to do it in Dabble DB. Cool. I need to play with it a bit to see if it does what I need, but it looks promising.

Things I’d Like to See

(1) Website Forms. It would be fantastic if Dabble DB would give you some HTML code you could stick on your website and have the responses dumped directly into Dabble DB. I know form creation tools exist already, but having onel tied to a program like Dabble DB is really what is needed.

(2) Data Publication. The system offers a variety of ways to export data. What I’d like to see is a better way for me to automatically publish my data from Dabble DB to a website (table view, XML, etc.).

I think Dabble DB is a great tool and I’m sure it will get even better over time. I’d encourage you to check it out if you need to collaboratively develop and update a database.

About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.