SIGIA-L Mail Archives Subscribe/Unsubscribe | Home

Printer-Friendly Version

SIGIA-L Mail Archives: Re: [Sigia-l] what are best practices (was OT: Library Thing)

Re: [Sigia-l] what are best practices (was OT: Library Thing)

From: Karl Fast (
Date: Tue Oct 04 2005 - 11:15:46 EDT

> > Best practices are guidelines. Heuristics. Rules of thumb.
> Best practices are emphatically NOT guidelines, heuristics, rules of
> thumb, etc.

Well then, my definition of best practices is different from yours.

But I think we each have valid perspectives, so long as you accept
our initial definition of what best practices are.

In my view, the problem is mostly with people. People would rather
interpret best practices as rules, which they blindly follow. I went
so far as to call people "lazy". That is, the document is not the
problem. The problem is how people interpret and apply the knowledge
in the document. So I defined best practices as guidelines distilled
from years of experience, and argued that people interpret them as
rules because it is easier than thinking about the issues.

In your view, the problem is mostly with the document. The best
practice document has so much power it prevents people from
thinking. You went so far as to call best practices "the enemy of
innovation and excellence." That is, the document is the problem and
people are mostly absolved of blame. So you defined best practices
as fixed and inviolable rules that people feel compelled to follow.
The nature of the document makes people unwilling or unable to break
free of these rules.

Our definitions are the main source of the disagreement. I defined
best practices as guidelines. You defined them as rules. These are
incompatible definitions. We could toss this around for years with
no resolution, so long as we cling to our definitions.

I have an illuminating story about the trouble with definitions.

Two philosophers each write a paper on a particularly thorny
subject. The legitimacy of capital punishment, for example, or the
trouble with best practices.

Both papers are well reasoned and make many excellent points, but
they arrive at fundamentally different conclusions.

A debate ensues. After a lot of vigorous intellectual posturing, the
essence of the debate is reached.

The first philosopher says, "You don't know what you're talking

The second philosopher says, "No, *you* don't know what *you're*
talking about!"

The debate goes back and forth, like children in a schoolyard.

Eventually, one of them says "Well, you may be right. But it all
depends on what you mean by 'know', 'talking', and 'about'."

Essentially, that is what's happening in this thread.

Karl Fast
When replying, please *trim your post* as much as possible.
*Plain text, please; NO Attachments
Searchable Archive at
IA 06 Summit.  Mark your calendar.  March 23-27, Vancouver, BC
Sigia-l mailing list -- post to:
Changes to subscription:

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.6 : Tue Oct 04 2005 - 14:07:15 EDT

Subscribe/Unsubscribe | Home