Accept that you can be stupid!

February 29th, 2016 | Categories: programming, RSE, walking randomly | Tags:

I sometimes give a talk on basic research software engineering called ‘Is your research correct?’ (slides here). Near the beginning of this talk I refer to what I’ve modestly named ‘Croucher’s Law’


Croucher’s law has a corollary:


The idea is that once you accept this aspect of yourself, you can start to adopt working practices to mitigate against it. In the context of programming, it includes things such as automation, version control, adopting testing and so on.

For me, this isn’t just a law for programming — it’s a law that can be applied to every aspect of life. Unlike my parents, for example, I automate the payment of my bills by using direct debit because I know I’ll eventually forget to pay something otherwise.

The genesis of Croucher’s law demonstrate’s its truth. While sat in a talk given by Jos Martin of The Mathworks, he suddenly stopped and said ‘Mike. We need to talk about Croucher’s law!’ before moving to his next slide which had the title ‘Martin’s Law’. It was very similar to ‘mine’ and it turns out that I had seen his talk years before and had subconsciously ripped him off!

The fact that I had forgotten this demonstrates to me that Croucher’s law is the stronger result :)

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  1. Barry R
    February 29th, 2016 at 16:03
    Reply | Quote | #1

    Well it should be called Croucher’s Law because of Stigler’s Law:'s_law_of_eponymy

  2. Jonathan B
    March 3rd, 2016 at 17:11
    Reply | Quote | #2

    I love those slides :-)

    I suspect there’s an ‘optimal rate of mistakes’ when it comes to efficiency. Obviously many many mistakes is inefficient. But too much effort mitigating against mistakes can be inefficient too, especially if those mistakes aren’t catastrophic.

    Also I think there’s a lot we can learn from mistakes, mostly how to recover from them skilfully.

    And now I’ll go looking for the page I wanted on the NAG toolbox before being distracted……..