SQL Foo | Count within a case statement

Just the other day I was asked to help a peer solve an SQL problem they were having; they were trying to count within a case statement which was proving to be problematic. They had several columns within the query, most using an analytical function to find the sum, min or max of various fields – but there was one instance where she needed to count the number of occurrences of a situation, a situation that required several other fields to determine, and without adding those other fields to the GROUP BY would break the logic.

Counting like a ninja with SQL.
Like a ninja, count within a case statement.

How to count within a case statement?

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Interview Question | How to find all duplicates in a table?

One of my favorite interview questions is to hand the candidate a marker and ask them to write out how to find all duplicates in a table. This should be straightforward and weeds out anyone who struggles with SQL; and even if they don’t struggle with SQL, this will be a good way to gauge where they’re at. But, it doesn’t stop there!

I’ve since evolved a little since I posted this and would like to hone my focus of this post to a clearer target: Look For Ridiculous instead.

After they successfully give an answer, typically one involving grouping by the business key having a count greater than one, which I’ll show in the first example below, that is a go-to correct response to this question. But, I throw them a curve ball, I’ll say “Great! Show me another way.” Then, I ask for another, and another, and another… with great power comes great responsibility being the interviewer is nefariously fun!

How to find all duplicates in a table.
How to find all duplicates in a table.

So, let’s take a look at some ways on how to find all duplicates in a table by exploring all the ways that I’ve come up with. Here’s our test data we’ll be working with, which has 2 sets of duplicates:

The goal is to learn how to find all the duplicates in a table and return only 2 rows of data, ie: that have more than one identical row, even though there are 5 rows of duplicates (three dupes of one row and two of another).

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Distinct Vs Group By: Which is really better?

Let’s chat about the distinct vs group by clause: I often see the misuse of GROUP BY with no aggregates when a DISTINCT would suffice. However, I more often see the misuse of a DISTINCT when a GROUP BY is more practical. I wanted to talk about some, maybe not-so-obvious, reasons to use one over the other. I won’t go into what the functional differences are, but more so the practical differences.

But first, is there really a technological difference between using DISTINCT vs a GROUP BY (sans aggregates, of course)? The quick answer is that it depends on the system, there could be differences between the optimizer on one of the many DBMS out there. However, in my tests, the likely more accurate answer is simply, No.

These two queries not only produce the exact same result set, they produce the exact same query plans too. To see for yourself, take a look here. (Tested on SQL Server, Oracle, and Teradata)

Query plan of distinct vs group by
Query plan showing the similarities between a distinct and a group by clause.

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