Rationality Quotes May 2012

Tags like "stupid," "bad at __", "sloppy," and so on, are ways of saying "You're performing badly and I don't know why." Once you move it to "you're performing badly because you have the wrong fingerings," or "you're performing badly because you don't understand what a limit is," it's no longer a vague personal failing but a causal necessity. Anyone who never understood limits will flunk calculus. It's not you, it's the bug.

-celandine13 (Hat-tip to Frank Adamek. In addition, the linked artic... (read more)

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I've been trying to change my impulse to think "this person is an idiot!" into "this person is a noob," because the term still kinda has that slightly useful predictive meaning that suggests incompetence, but it also contains the idea that they have the potential to get better, rather than being inherently incompetent.

19fubarobfusco8yAnother quote from the same piece, just before that para: I really, really like this. Thanks for posting it! To elucidate the "bug model" a bit, consider "bugs" not in a single piece of software, but in a system. The following is drawn from my professional experience [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D%C3%A9formation_professionnelle] as a sysadmin for large-scale web applications, but I've tried to make it clear [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illusion_of_transparency]: Suppose that you have a web server; or better yet, a cluster of servers. It's providing some application to users — maybe a wiki, a forum, or a game. Most of the time when a query comes in from a user's browser, the server gives a good response. However, sometimes it gives a bad response — maybe it's unusually slow, or it times out, or it gives an error or an incomplete page instead of what the user was looking for. It turns out that if you want to fix these sorts of problems, considering them merely to be "flakiness" and stopping there is not enough. You have to actually find out where the errors are coming from. "Flaky web server" is an aggregate property, not a simple one; specifically, it is the sum of all the different sources of error, slowness, and other badness — the disk contention; the database queries against un-indexed tables; the slowly failing NIC [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network_interface_controller]; the excess load from the web spider that's copying the main page ten times a second looking for updates; the design choice of retrying failed transactions repeatedly, thus causing overload to make itself worse. There is some fact of the matter about which error sources are causing more failures than others, too. If 1% of failed queries are caused by a failing NIC, but 90% are caused by transactions timing out due to slow database queries to an overloaded MySQL instance, then swapping the NIC out is not going to help much. And two flaky websites may be flaky for completely unrelated r
-1tgb8yGreat article. One thing: I don't know much about Knewton, but it seems like it could address this - at least in some cases - and possibly better than teachers. Knewton and programs like it can keep track of success rates at the individual problem level, rather than the test or semester level. Such data could be used to identify the 'bugs' the author speaks of. All Knewton needs is knowledge of common 'bugs' and what problems they make students get wrong. This article also recalls to mind http://lesswrong.com/lw/6ww/when_programs_have_to_work_lessons_from_nasa/ [NASA software development practices], specifically the part where problems are considered to be the fault of the system, not of the people involved and are treated by changing the system, not by criticizing the people.

Rationality Quotes May 2012

by OpenThreadGuy 1 min read1st May 2012705 comments


Here's the new thread for posting quotes, with the usual rules:

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