A while back Friendfeed posted a blog post explaining how they changed from storing data in MySQL columns to serializing data and just storing it inside TEXT/BLOB columns. It seems that since then, the technique has gotten more popular with Ruby gems now around to do this for you automatically.
So when is it a good idea to use this technique?
If the application really is schema-less and has a lot of optional parameters that do not appear in every record, serializing the data in one column can be a better idea than having many extra columns that are NULL. The restriction on this, would be that searching on these columns now becomes more difficult. A good example of this optional nature of data is user preferences - you only really need to store the settings that differ from …[Read more]