Saturday, June 21, 2003

Bad Practices: Analogies to the Real World

It's a common part of every network or computer related argument since the dawn of time (Jan 1, 1970), possibly earlier. What am I talking about?

Bad analogies. Used mostly as ill-constructed attempts to prop up one side of an argument that revolves mostly around an opinion rather than a fact. Examples include:

  • comparing someone port scanning to someone wandering through town, rattling doorknobs to see if they're unlocked
  • any argument that treats bandwidth as a conservable resource
  • almost any justification for or against illegally copying software
  • almost any justification for extremely harsh cyber-laws (Don't believe me? Do a little research on allowable punishments.)
  • any altruistic reason for doing anything on the web

What set me off this week was overhearing two people argue the pros and cons of what is known as "responsible reporting". For some, it's a "good thing" (tm). For others, it's a "bad thing" (tm). What started that argument was an article about the topic which somehow gave the impression that a 30-day waiting period has been commonplace sine that same dawn of time. (total bullshit (tm))

I have my own opinions on the issue which I'll post separately. But please, if you ARE going to use analogies to support your opinions, please, please, please don't argue within earshot of me (or near my inbox)!