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Re: KISS and Occam's Razor

by tachyon (Chancellor)
on Dec 23, 2001 at 22:24 UTC ( #134079=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to KISS and Occam's Razor

Along similar lines, one of the more interesting things I have observed is that the less experienced a practitioner of any given art, the more likely they are to look for the rare and unusual explanations *first*. One point I constantly impress upon my students is "Common things occur commonly" often more amusingly surmised as "When you hear hoofbeats think horses not zebras".

The common, run of the mill, and obvious answer is usually the correct one. It's always fun when you have to track down a zebra though.....

Thanks for an amusing meditation.




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Re: KISS and Occam's Razor
by Dominus (Parson) on Dec 23, 2001 at 23:28 UTC
    Says tachyon:
    the less experienced a practitioner of any given art, the more likely they are to look for the rare and unusual explanations *first*.
    That seems obvious. Why are inexperienced practitioners more likely to look for unusual explanations? Because they don't know yet what the usual explanations are, of course.

    It seems to me that one of the most important forms of experience that people get is to learn which problems are common and which ones are rare. Sometimes beginners come to me with broken programs and ask what the problem is and I find it instantly. But when they ask me how they could have found the same problem themselves without asking for help, I don't have very good advice: I looked for that problem because I knew it was a common problem, and I knew it was a common problem because I had made the same mistake six times myself.

    I agree with your observation that beginners often look in the wrong places. But I don't think that advising them to look in the right places is very helpful. If they knew what the right place was, they wouldn't be beginners.

    Mark Dominus
    Perl Paraphernalia

      Of course what you say is correct that as you get more experienced you know where to look. Not only that you learn *how* to look. However even programming beginners should have learnt to look for say:

      • typos
      • missing semicolons
      • mismatched quotes
      • incorrectly paired curlies

      as these are probably the 4 most common errors. Ever had someone with a simple typo suggest some bizare theorem for the disfunctionality of their code? That was not really the point. It was simply an idle refletion on life the universe and everything.....and I always like the thought of hoofbeats and zebras....

      Perhaps the analogy is better with what I teach which is Emergency Medicine rather than coding.

      compliments of the season to you




      Very nicely stated. And so far this has been an enlightening meditation. Now, to go a bit further to your thoughts I ask; Isn't the teacher suppose to be a "right place" to search for the answer when the answer isn't obvious? :)

      _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
      - Jim
      Insert clever comment here...

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