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Re^5: XY Problem

by wrog (Friar)
on Dec 27, 2014 at 10:31 UTC ( #1111450=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??


in reply to Re^4: XY Problem
in thread XY Problem

I certainly won't try to claim all XY problems have this form, but it does seem to account for a lot of them.

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Re^6: XY Problem
by jdporter (Canon) on Dec 28, 2014 at 16:57 UTC

    Yeah.... no. See all my quotes above. None of them describe the situation you're talking about.

      Actually, the first three of your quotes (at least) are very much the situation I'm talking about.

      But I'm guessing there's some semantic hairsplitting going on here that I'm not sure is worth trying to track down.

        I think that the disagreement is mainly because "XY Problem" is specifically something that happens after the situation your quote describes.

        1. I wanted to do X.
        2. I decided to use Y for that.
        3. That just lead to another problem.
        4. I finally gave up and decided to ask for help.
        5. I tell y'all all about Y and my problem with it.
        6. I don't even mention X.

        Only the last two items are "XY Problem". That those are reasonable even likely subsequent states after the first three doesn't really make the first three (your quote) equivalent with the last two ("XY Proplem"). Especially as the last one can easily not happen and yet the last one is really the crux of "XY Problem".

        Though, having laid that out, I can see how the first three seem even more likely to be precursors to the last two. In fact, at the moment, I can't think of how your get to the last two without having gone through the first three. That still doesn't make them equivalent. But I do see a stronger connection between them then I previously had.

        - tye        

        I am primarily appealing in this ... debate ... to history. Until you/someone decided that the ol' "Now I Have Two Problems" (NYHTP) scenario should be classified as The XY Problem, no one ever called it that.

        I think you're getting confused by the fact that both scenarios (XY Problem as defined here, and your NYHTP) could be described using X's and Y's. It's true that the same pair of (X,Y) could occur in either scenario, but that doesn't mean the two scenarios are equivalent. For example, someone might ask for help with "parsing nested matching delimiters using regexes", when what they really want to do is parse XML. This would be an example of the XY Problem, even though it involved the inappropriate choice of regexes as a tool.

        I shall define both in the simplest, plainest way I can, and then it should be clear how they are not the same at all.

        XY Problem:
        An engineer has a problem (X), and wants to get help with it. She decides to ask for help with a different problem (Y), because she believes that obtaining a solution for Y will somehow aid her in developing her own solution for X. She has (perhaps unintentionally) hidden her real problem behind a proxy problem.
        NYHTP:
        An engineer has a problem (X), and decides that a certain tool* (Y) will be useful in developing a solution for X. But Y comes with its own "problems" -- difficulty of learning, using, etc., whatever that might entail. She has compounded her engineering problem through the choice of a certain tool.

        Do you see the differences? I can count three or four without even trying.

        * "tool" in the broadest sense, of course.

        I reckon we are the only monastery ever to have a dungeon stuffed with 16,000 zombies.
      Some people, when they have a problem with X say, "I know! I'll use Y..." Now they have two problems.

      So somebody has a problem with X, decide they want to use Y, and have a second problem with that. The quote ends there, but obviously there might have been a direct solution to X or a solution Z that is better suited and/or easier to implement which they wouldn't have had a problem with, giving one problem to solve instead of two. Aside from the humorous aspect, the quote clearly implies one should consider solutions to X that are different from Y.

      So how does that not describe an XY Problem? Is the "you didn't tell us about X" really such an important part of the concept?

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