Sorry, I hit the send button too soon.
On 3/12/2011 8:32 AM, John Bottoms wrote:
> I have always been amazed at how much of technical work is
> done orally. I have been on $b+ projects in which the design
> specifications were "explained".
That is an unfortunate truth, which requires strong management
discipline to overcome. But better tools can help. My basic
principle is very simple:
The best way to get people to be virtuous is
to make virtue the path of least resistance.
For example, if we can provide tools that gather the documentation
during the implementation, we can ensure that they are always in sync.
That is why controlled natural languages for *output* can often be
far more important than CNLs for
On 3/12/2011 9:54 AM, David Eddy wrote:
> Core truth: "If it isn't written down, it didn't happen."
> Corollary: How you got to the answer is far more important than
> the actual answer.
Both statements have some truth in them, but the amount of qualification
Re Ramanujan: It was a slip of the typing when I said that he was
always right. He did make occasional errors.
But the basic point is that there are many people like that, who are
highly skilled at what they do, but they can't explain what they do.
It would be foolish to waste their talents.
In fact, Ramanujan's talents were almost wasted. Some of his early
teachers couldn't understand what he was doing, but some recognized
his extraordinary talent. They managed to get him a scholarship
to the university. In mathematics, R. was by far the best
and he was more brilliant than his teachers. His math scores were
too high to measure.
But R. failed his other subjects in which he had no interest, and he
lost his scholarship. As a result, he had to work as a clerk while
taking some part-time studies -- and mostly his own thoughts
without anybody to discuss them with.
If the system had been more flexible, he might have had the training
that could enable him to explain himself more clearly.
Summary: Different people have different talents, and we need
flexible systems that can benefit from a wide variety of skills.
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