Sunday, May 15, 2005

Crimes Against Logic, Part II

First, I would like to go on record that the Server Concepts Manual is an excellent manual. It is the single most important book to read in the Oracle documentation set. I meant no harm to its standing in my last writing at all. It just doesn’t read like the book I’m talking about. It is, well, a little dry compared to Crimes Against Logic.

Well, the dream of reading the entire book evaporated last night as I got tied up in an indexing simulation that ran longer than I anticipated (only because it was interesting enough to keep my attention). So I only read a little more of Crimes Against Logic. It is meeting my prior expectations – I’m a little more than halfway through it in only two sittings (in a field before my daughters soccer game, where they kicked butt of course and a little last night out on the porch).

I picked up the second read at a section entitled ‘Tis Evident. Oh wow, this was good. It starts with:

Some things are said only when false. The popular sign “Authentic Olde English Pub,” is one of them. … “It goes without sayihng” is almost as bad. What goes without saying goes without saying. If you feel the need to mention that something goes without saying it probably doesn’t.

But my favorite paragraph to date (getting pretty detailed, had a favorite chapter yesterday) is this:

You should be similarly suspicious when someone tells you that his opinion is self evident or obvious. If it is obvious, why would he feel the need to point out that it is? Its obviousness will do its own work. And if it is not really obvious, than his claiming it is probably means he is trying to obscure the fact that he has no evidence at all

So, ‘Tis Evident met and exceeded all expectations. The next chapter, entitled simply “Shut Up!” was likewise relevant. Has anyone ever shut you up (or have you seen someone shut up) because you were not expert in that field? For example – if you see some really bad art hanging on the wall and say “that is really bad art” – but you yourself are not an artist and in fact could not do better yourself, are you allowed to criticize it? Of course – but many times, the person receiving the criticism will say “yeah, but you cannot do better yourself so shut up”. That response does not address the fact that the art is ugly. How many times does this come up in our world – “you haven’t invented a better technology so you are not qualified to criticize our technology”. I resolve, after reading this chapter, to never use the oft quoted “That is the pot calling the kettle black”.

It continued on to “Shut Up – You’re Boring”. I get this one myself, the concept is “you are so predictable, you keep saying the same thing over and over, it is boring and therefore we will ignore it”. Think about bind variables (I knew I couldn’t write for long without mentioning them). I have a 2 hour-long session on All About Binds. It is one of my favorite presentations now. But it is so predictable of my to do that isn’t it. I will keep saying over and over the same stuff (until something changes or some new facts come to light and changes what needs be said). And I do get the “you would say that wouldn’t you” response – but that does not refute the facts.

I found the “Shut Up” chapter to be pointing in two directions – I’ve both done it and been the recipient of it. I’m sure we all have, but I’ll be watching that more in the future (from both sides – imagine how damaging to someone in a discussion it would be to have it pointed out that “yes, it might be boring and I might say it all of the time – but hey, it is true and unless you have some facts to rebut it maybe you better be the one shutting up”)

And then, “Empty Words”. Phrase things in such obscure, made up (sometimes), screwy terminology that it sounds really smart but means absolutely nothing. I loved the one example – a consulting quote:

Benchmarked against best-in-class peers, intellectual capital leverage reveals significant upward potential moving forward.

Translated that means simply:

Companies like yours make better use of their employees’ knowledge than you do.

The sub section in this chapter “Weasel Words” was great. Never say another in absolutes and you can never absolutely be wrong (or right). But then he closed with “Quotation marks” (my foible). I use them too often (on the list of things to stop) to denote sarcasm. For example:

That “test” you performed does not show what you intended. Your assertion that it does is “not smart” on your part.

Now, read it without the quotes:

That test you performed does not show what you intended. Your assertion that it does is not smart on your part.

I don’t know if you can see the difference, but I do. With the quotes it reads more like “That so called test that was not a test you performed…. Your assertion that it does is just about the silliest thing you could say”. I have to watch the air quotes sometimes (I find I frequently go back and remove about 50% of them after writing a somewhat impassioned response, then after cooling off a bit, get rid of another 50% of the remaining 50%).

The next chapter looks very promising – Inconsistency. I might be able to get through the book tonight (depends on how far I get on my own writing) but tonight – Inconsistency, and Equivocation for sure. And I’m really glad that David from Southampton, England pointed this one out.



Blogger Doug Porter said....

Sounds like a great read. I'll definitely be picking up a copy. A book that I really enjoyed that opened my eyes to how things are sold to us using tricks of psychology is: Influence: Science and Practice by Robert Cialdini. I highly recommend checking it out.

Sun May 15, 01:54:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Rachel said....

No fair! My "to read" bookshelf is actually a 7 foot tall bookcase that's completely filled and now you've gone and given me another book I absolutely have to read. (and no, I don't mean the Server Concepts manual)

Sigh... my bill is gonna grow again

truly -- thanks, it sounds like a fun read.

Sun May 15, 07:25:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Tom Best said....

I love this stuff. Along the same lines, I've always thought a good TV show would be one where a moderator plays a commercial, and then breaks it down piece by piece - showing how the advertiser was trying to influence us with words, pictures, and actions that have nothing to do with whether their product is something one should buy. I note that stuff all the time, and started pointing things out to my kids. "Did you notice that, though that doll was for 6 year old girls, they had 12 year olds playing with it? That's to impress you because you look up to older girls and want to be like them". Try to get someone to buy advertising for it, though.

I think advertising and marketing organizations are the biggest perpetrators of crimes against logic.

Sun May 15, 09:26:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

I think advertising and marketing

You do know that I'm in sales don't you :)

Sun May 15, 09:40:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Ajay said....

I think advertising and marketing organizations are the biggest perpetrators of crimes against logic.

Would this be a good time to review the Motive Fallacy? :-)

Sun May 15, 10:38:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Simon said....

Tom mentioned saying same thing over and over again, binds, but how much do people see them not used in todays applications? Various people keep saying the same thing (Tom, Jonathan Lewis, Lex de Haan etc.) but has the brainwash already worked or am I just having bad luck since most of the applications I see use prepared statements? :)

Mon May 16, 01:53:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

Tom mentioned saying same thing over and over again

I see literal SQL *constantly*. It is still a huge problem, not only from performance, memory and scalability -- but security (sql injection) as well.

Mon May 16, 07:09:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Alberto Dell'Era said....

I don’t know if you can see the difference. With the quotes it reads more like ...
Yes I can, huge difference - I would be surprised if someone didn't see the difference ... and it's the same in Italian ;)

Mon May 16, 07:21:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Connor McDonald said....

I see literal SQL *constantly*

One of the saddest things (me being an Oracle bigot and all), is that I daily see systems where they max out the CPU at (say) the 500 concurrent user mark, and there is *never* a thought toward "maybe its the app", its just held as "common knowledge" that all databases (including Oracle) have some mythical upper limit and they've just hit it...

When you point out that maybe the literal SQL could be factor, its then "well, Oracle should not have been like this...its their fault"

Spare me please...

Mon May 16, 09:28:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Scot from Jacksonville said....

Slightly off topic, but why is it that when I click on the "post a comment" link, to get to the page where I'm at right now typing in a comment, there are more comments shown than on the regular comments page?

For example, at this exact moment, there are only 8 comments on the main comments page for this article, but there are 9 (Connor's is the extra) on this post a comment page that also lists the comments?

Is there some sort of delay (of more than an hour?) in getting them from one comment page to another? Or is there a problem? Or am I seeing things?

Mon May 16, 10:42:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Scot from Jacksonville said....

Please disregard / delete my previous post, as it must have been something to do with my browser cache settings.

Mon May 16, 10:46:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Hi Tom,

ROT and acquiring knowledge : are you personally acquiring knowledge solely on solving tasks or do you gather knowledge also by reading books from start to end ? I tend to forget knowledge when reading books that's not needed daily ...

Wed May 18, 07:46:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

are you personally acquiring knowledge solely on solving tasks

depends on the type of book.

"Manuals" (sql reference, admin guide, etc.) I tend to retain the gist. So later I can say to myself "I remember reading about this....". I have 1.26 gig of Oracle doc on my laptop and I'm rarely without my laptop :)

For a book like this, while I might not remember all of the details -- I've the concepts (I know what to look for now). I'll refer to it from time to time for a razor sharp example or two, but mostly it was the concept I'll retain.

So, for the facts, I have to recheck the reference. For the concepts, I'lll retain those.

But unless I make use of them, I'll forget eventually. Guess it comes down to "use it or lose it".

Repetition is the key to success

Wed May 18, 07:52:00 AM EDT  


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