Go Back   Home > Forums > Blogs > jan.didden

Rating: 3 votes, 5.00 average.

Don't be such a scientist!

Posted 15th June 2010 at 04:21 PM by jan.didden
Updated 15th June 2010 at 04:25 PM by jan.didden

I didn't get it. There are gifted design engineers on this forum. They get involved in threads. BUT, in most cases, eventually an 'issue' develops and the engineering guy gets binned or banned or asks to be banned. Why why why? Happened to me a few times. Not that I got banned, thank Ohm, but I got close to leaving because I too got enough of it.
Of what?
Let me explain. Most engineering types like to explain things, to tell others with less experience and knowledge what they are doing wrong and how they can do it better. They inundate you with facts, figures, links to engineering papers etc, and expect that the other guy flows over with gratitude. But, funny enough, it doesn't happen that way. The 'other guy' gets pissed off from being corrected all the time. Hell, he didn't come here for that, he came to have fun, discuss his hobby and his latest creation.

[flashback] At the time Al Gore's An inconvenient Truth came out, the same director (!) also made Too hot not to handle. Both on the issue of Global Warming. Do you remember that other movie? Neither did I. Did you know that Al's flick, which is basically a spiced-up PowerPoint presentation, boxed $50million? What made these movies so different? THNTH was 100% accurate, had all the right figures and simulations. It was also boring. AIT has been shown to have some errors in a few places (although accurate in a general sense). Some of the graphs were 'enhanced' to let the trend stand out better. But it was NOT boring, because it appealed not just to the brain, but to the heart, to the gut, and Al's sex appeal (it's the eye of the beholder, of course).

[regular programming] Randy Olson is a guy who left a tenured position (the pot of gold for any academic person) to go to Hollywood. A scientist turned communicator. His short movie A flock of Dodo's earned him praise because it was a scientific movie that got to the heart, the gut etc. It may seem prepostrous to compare this forum with a succesful movie maker, but we can all learn a lot here, especially we the engineering types.
If you, as an engineer, want to explain why this newby has his cascodes wrong, you are in the same business as Hollywood. You are telling a story that you hope will stick and have an effect. So far, Hollywood is much, much better at it.
Facts are important. Engineering is important; none of our audio marvels would exist without solid engineering. Errors should be avoided. BUT, if the story you tell is boring, you're wasting your time. And as soon as you find out you're wasting your time, you get frustrated, angry, you clash with the members and the mods and you've lost.

Tell the engineering story from the heart, from the guts. Tell your own crooked path to learning, making mistakes, the joy of doing it right. By all means, be sure to get the facts straight. But don't be boring, don't be such a scientist!

Randy Olson, "Don't be such a scientist - Talking substance in an age of Style". Buy it.
Posted in Uncategorized
Views 9708 Comments 28
Total Comments 28


  1. Old Comment
    Workhorse's Avatar
    Jan i enjoy your threads and agree with what you stated.
    Posted 1st July 2010 at 11:01 AM by Workhorse Workhorse is offline
  2. Old Comment
    More of us need to read this blog.
    Posted 18th July 2010 at 05:40 PM by gootee gootee is offline
    Updated 18th July 2010 at 05:45 PM by gootee
  3. Old Comment
    Zen Mod's Avatar
    nice topic ; but maybe complicated .... due to author's point of view - and that's pretty much necessary engineer's view

    I think that "problem" isn't induced primary because of practicing pure/simple/straightforward engineer's approach , but is more likely in much broader area - when someone wants to teach someone else ( giving him a hand , in fact ) , but dialog goes in a wrong way ;
    there can be many things as source of that misunderstood - lack of good will on "student's " side to embrace lecture , lack of professor's will to simplify lecture , clash of egos , simple fact that "student" simply isn't aware of tutor's pedigree ....
    in any case - first thing needed for successful on-line communication is pint of social intelligence on both sides , combined with awareness ( on both sides ) that communication is strictly on volunteer basis ......

    and - yes - I'm not an engineer
    Posted 3rd November 2010 at 08:05 PM by Zen Mod Zen Mod is offline
  4. Old Comment
    PMA's Avatar

    the main problem is to explain to amateurs, people from different fields but circuit design, and supported by marketing whitepaper pseudoscience.

    Posted 14th November 2010 at 03:53 PM by PMA PMA is offline
  5. Old Comment
    sofaspud's Avatar
    Browsing some blogs and came across this one.
    I'm simply a tech so I may be out of place here, but I notice something obvious to me at least. All of you want to approach the situation as an engineer. Now I know that is your comfort zone, and from the forums I know you are well-qualified. But there's a missing word on this entire page. That word is T-E-A-C-H-E-R. It was alluded to in one way or another, but I'm frankly surprised that it wasn't explicitly mentioned.
    But another thing is that this is simply diyAudio. Do-it-yourself audio, not just world-class audio. Not everyone wants their project engineered to the nth decimal place. You have to set aside your own audiophile and engineering inclinations. If someone wants to yank a 3" speaker from an old TV and mount it in a Quaker Oats cylinder, let them. Help them. Teach them. If they are motivated, they will learn. You never know; that person could grow to be the next Nelson Pass (well, he's a one and only, but you know what I mean). If you throw a bunch of jargon and numbers at them, they'll grow to be insurance salesmen. If you tell them they're wasting their time, they'll believe you and take up skateboarding instead.
    Thanks for reading. I hope I've made a worthy contribution to this blog.
    Posted 3rd May 2011 at 05:49 AM by sofaspud sofaspud is offline
  6. Old Comment
    Good stuff, sofaspud. I made some mistakes kind of like some of those you described, with my kids, and still regret them.

    This seems to be as good a place as any to make a practical work-related point to certain types of engineers (Let's just call them "the elitists".).

    Where I work now, which is a technically-oriented military base in the USA, I was once hanging out with a bunch of people, back when I was new, there, and we were all relaxing, on break, and enjoying trading snippets of conversation and good-natured heckling. One of them asked what my job was. When I said I was an engineer, I immediately noticed that most of their guards were raised, and I sensed that a wall had come up between me and the rest of them. I quickly asked, in an unconcealed way, of the guy I had walked in with, who had already become a sort-of mentor to me, and a very good friend, "Is that a bad thing?". He simply and levelly said that most of the crowd there were technicians, not engineers, and that they typically did not like the engineers. When I innocently asked "Why not?", he explained that many of the engineers there generally openly treated the technicians as if they were inferior, and gave some specific examples of such rudenesses, which were apparently already well-known, in great detail, to all of the others who were present. Having been self-employed for the previous twenty-four years and thus not having been exposed to such a culture, I spouted the only thing I knew about it, which seemed obvious to me anyway, and quickly told him/them the story of how, when I was an engineering student at Purdue in the 1970s, several of my professors had said things like, "When you get out into the real world as a working engineer, there will be these people called "technicians". Try to make sure that they are your best friends and that you treat them very respectfully and that you listen very carefully to everything they tell you, because they will always know more about what you are supposed to be working on than you will and they will be worth their weight in gold, and without them you will probably fail.". And I said that it had always seemed quite obvious to me that that was good advice. Suddenly I sensed that I was liked, again, and felt comfortable, and since that day I have always tried to implement my professors' advice. And that has always worked out well for all involved. And it doesn't only apply to technicians. It also applies to women, for example. ;-)

    And you have again proved their point, with your excellent post. We shouldn't pre-judge. Many people have very valuable things to contribute, if we will only let them, and not discourage them.


    Tom Gootee
    Posted 24th August 2011 at 05:16 AM by gootee gootee is offline
    Updated 24th August 2011 at 05:26 AM by gootee
  7. Old Comment
    As an engineer, I'd like to add that communication between one engineer and another is usually not a problem. Engineers typically just look at the information you present and not how you present it. Communication between an engineer and a normal person can indeed be problematic.

    About making mistakes in engineering: I surely make them, as do all my colleagues and all engineers from other companies I've ever met. Engineering is just to complicated to always do it flawlessly. The positive side of it is that every mistake is a chance to learn.
    Posted 10th September 2011 at 04:28 PM by MarcelvdG MarcelvdG is offline
  8. Old Comment
    wlowes's Avatar

    Excellent topic - thanks Jan for open dialogue on it

    Important to note that people are wired differently. The wiring that leads one person to be an engineer and successful in his field comes with it certain traits. Same for non engineer.

    Both can benefit from learning tolerance for and appreciation for each other's innate strengths.

    As a non engineer I seek and appreciate the scientific process, discipline and precision that the engineer brings to the subject. I am sometimes put off by the the dismissive nature that sometimes accompanies these skills. Dismissing the subjective or in fact the non engineer as of no value can result in unproductive exchange. We can and do learn from each other and this forum is an excellent opportunity for both to practice tolerance and appreciation for members of the species who look the same but have wiring optimized for different functions. Each with something to contribute.
    Posted 4th November 2012 at 05:04 PM by wlowes wlowes is offline

New To Site? Need Help?
Copyright 1999-2017 diyAudio