Judge not one area by performance in another?

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2006/11/27 07:10 -05:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2006/11/27/1159508.aspx

So I was kind of re-reading DeMille's The General's Daughter yesterday.

I think the book goes best if you keep in mind Madeleine Stowe as Sara Sunhill and forget about John Travolta as Paul Brenner. The movie is kind of a distraction, otherwise. Plus Simon West took out everything beyond the romantic tension between the two characters, putting it all in the past. I know that movies cannot be 100% accurate to books, but I do hate when they take out whole plotlines. 

I had really only read the book once before, but it was kind of vacation so I was relaxing with cheap fiction. So sue me.

Anyway, there was a part near the beginning that distracted me....

As she spoke, a slide projection screen behind her flashed images of ancient battles taken from old prints and paintings. I recognized "The Rape of the Sabines," by Da Bologna, which is one of the few classical paintings I can name. Sometimes I wonder about myself.

Distracted me why, you might ask?

Well, it's not like I have a degree in art history or anything, but I could have sworn that the Da Bologna associated with "The Rape of the Sabines" was a sculptor, not a painter. Wasn't he?

I stopped reading and went to the browser for a quick look.

Yep, sure enough Giovanni Da Bologna did indeed sculpt, not paint, The Rape of the Sabine Women. Several others, from Poussin to Rubens to David to Picasso had painted it, but Giambologna had sculpted it.


My first thought, the one that distracted me, was similar to the characters -- the fact that I had remembered enough about the reference to be distracted? Sometimes I wonder about myself, too.

I got over that quickly (since I actually remember a whole bunch of other art, too) and then started wondering about the book. I took a lot of the little details in the book about the Army and about the CID as being somewhat accurate though I have no direct knowledge of such things. But now I wondered -- finding a mistake in a small unrelated and arguably insignificant piece I did know something about had cast the whole book into a small bit of doubt.

Maybe it was meant to do this, some sort of statement about Warrant Officer Paul Brenner, about the kind of person who had never been to Italy to actually see Giovanni Da Bologna's work but who ad seen pictures of it and remembered them.

But that seemed awfully subtle, so maybe it was just a mistake.

Or maybe DeMille, a Vietnam veteran himself, had made the same error.

And how bad of a mistake was it, really? It is a powerful work of art even in a photograph.

This got me thinking about how often we do subconsciously (or sometimes even consciously) judge the work that people do that we do not understand by how they refer to the work that we do.

Internationalization is (interestingly enough) one area where I consciously don't do this, because there are plenty of software developers who I have a ton of respect for who can do really well in so many areas but who will easily make rookie mistakes in this particular area. I'd probably judge everybody in a negative light if I were unable to avoid this snap judgment.

It made me wonder about how often that snap judgment may be the wrong thing to do -- perhaps we need to not be so quick to assume that it is time to flip on the bozo bit about all areas just because someone makes a mistake in a particular one. It seems silly to judge someone for making a mistake related to someone's knowledge of art (a subject about which I myself actually know very little anyway) when I don't do the same thing about a subject I know a lot more about.

I mean, it seems almost ironic that the more qualified one is to judge something, the less likely they are to actually judge it, right?

So I decided to go back and read the book. Which seemed much like I remembered it.

And then I decided to try to consciously avoid that particular form of snap judgment in the future, when I could. Everyone deserves the chance to not be dismissed so easily, right? :-)


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Mihai on 27 Nov 2006 1:39 PM:

<<I mean, it seems almost ironic that the more qualified one is to judge something, the less likely they are to actually judge it, right?>>

One of my ideas about the evolution of someone's knowledge might explain some of this.

Stage 1: something looks really complicated ("you mean, you deal with Japanese, and Arabic, and all that? Wow!")

Stage 2: you learn something, then is all easy ("yeah, we translated our stuff into Japanese, was easier than I thought, just externalize the strings, be Unicode, and call it a day")

Stage 3: you learn more and you figure out things are not so easy after all ("surrogates, combining characters, complex shaping, sorting, user/ui/system/custom locales, man, this is a hand-full")

Stage 4: enlightment. All is easy again, is just flowing. There is no need of architecture (because it is natural, like breathing), or C++ templates are easy (because you wrote the book on them :-). The only mistake you can here is to forget that is not really easy, and preach "no need for architecture", or to classify ppl as dumb because they don't "grok" such "basic" things :-)

If you are at stage 2 with art+reading, it is easy to do snap judgments ("how can he do such a basic mistake").

At stage 3 (or 4, if you did not forget is difficult)  you get to be more understanding with "rookie mistakes".

Ok, just a theory :-)

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