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Scott Berkun on detecting BS
Old 08-16-2006, 01:50 AM   #1
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Scott Berkun on detecting BS

"Everyone lies: it’s just a question of how, when and why. From the relationship saving “yes, you do look thin in those pants” to the improbable “your table will be ready in 5 minutes”, manipulating the truth is part of the human condition. Accept it now."

http://www.scottberkun.com/essays/essay53.htm

I'm also considering having our kid read this MSN article (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4072816/). It'll certainly make family life more interesting...

BTW Berkun is also looking for survey participants NLT this Friday (the 18th).
http://www.scottberkun.com/blog/?p=376
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Re: Scott Berkun on detecting BS
Old 08-16-2006, 06:19 AM   #2
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Re: Scott Berkun on detecting BS

This should be included the recommended reading list given those who post here asking for investing advice. While it won't necessarily improve their odds of achieving FIRE, it will sure come in handy while participating on this forum.

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Re: Scott Berkun on detecting BS
Old 08-16-2006, 07:31 AM   #3
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Re: Scott Berkun on detecting BS

"Especially in business and technology, jargon and obfuscation hide huge quantities of BS."

Wow, he hit my world on the head there!
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Re: Scott Berkun on detecting BS
Old 08-16-2006, 08:53 AM   #4
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Re: Scott Berkun on detecting BS

The article is a good lesson in critical thinking. I like the detection tools. When questioning a person's position, ask:

1. How do you know?

2. What is the counter-argument? They should know if they know their subject matter well.

I also like where the article says, if you don't understand something, don't assume you are missing something, assume they are.

I have some clients who tend to talk in lingo of their profession. I am always shamelessly quizzing them about what they mean.
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Re: Scott Berkun on detecting BS
Old 08-16-2006, 08:57 AM   #5
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Re: Scott Berkun on detecting BS

This guy is sharp. *Wouldn't a presidential press conference change with questions like: "How do you know that? *or "What is the counter-argument?" I love the counter-argument idea. *I think lawyers are taught to take the other side and walk through it. *It does make you think.
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Re: Scott Berkun on detecting BS
Old 08-16-2006, 09:17 AM   #6
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Re: Scott Berkun on detecting BS

Great essay.

It then raises he question of what to do if you conclude that someone is BSing. Like many of us on this board, I tend to read all the responses to questions that interest me and weed them out. Berkun's "tests" seem to be pretty intuitive round here-- we tend to jump on unsubstantiated claims, the inferred experience of the poster, the unwarranted hardened posturing on issues, etc.

Then, of course, you tend to maintain an internal inventory of who is trustworthy and who is not. Soon enough, you assume that if the source has been trustworthy thus far, they probably will be in the future. Probably not a bad heuristic, but it pays to keep vigilant in matters of importance -- caveat emptor, etc.

Back when evidence-based medicine was in its infancy, it was common for certain luminaries to periodically proclaim the "truth" of one controversial practice or another. One of the proverbs in reply to that was "The authority is not the evidence; evidence is the authority."

I'm sure every field has its equivalent mantra.
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Re: Scott Berkun on detecting BS
Old 08-16-2006, 09:38 AM   #7
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Re: Scott Berkun on detecting BS

Unfortunately, it's possible to be put in a position where you have little choice but to BS your way out. Once, in the halcyon days of the late 1990s, my management sold me to a client as an XYZ expert even though I was really in expert in two related areas and my knowledge of XYZ was flimsy at best. I read the manuals on my way to the client and then had to work like hell on site to educate myself to the point where I wouldn't screw up the project. It all worked out in the end, but it was not a pleasant experience

Another time I was working on site and wrapping up a very successful project in my area of expertise when the client requested help in a different area. My management saw an opportunity to extend my contract with the client (hey, free money!) and told them that I could do that job as well. Unfortunately, that was not an area that I was either knowledgeable in or interested in. I gave it my best short, but it was clearly not working out and I told my management that either they transfer me to another project or else. The worst part was that I couldn't explain to my client why things were not going well or why I was transferring. The place was run by a very nice guy, a retired four star general that I had quite a bit of respect for, and I hated to do this to him after all the good experiences we had together
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Re: Scott Berkun on detecting BS
Old 08-16-2006, 10:31 AM   #8
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Re: Scott Berkun on detecting BS

Good one. I bookmarked this one for more reading latter...unfortunately....the work world doenst want cynics....it is considered evil…
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Re: Scott Berkun on detecting BS
Old 08-16-2006, 10:39 AM   #9
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Re: Scott Berkun on detecting BS

Quote:
Originally Posted by Maddy the Turbo Beagle
unfortunately....the work world doenst want cynics....it is considered evil…
Well, it depends on who is doing the BSing and who is doing the debunking. One time I had to sit through a presentation given by a top manager at my company to a prospective client. I was 80% sure that he was BSing, but (a) I wasn't 100% sure since it wasn't my area and (b) I wasn't going to challenge him in front of the client. The client didn't see through the BS and awarded the contract to my company. Not surprisingly, the project ended in disaster, threats of litigation, etc, and the manager jumped ship as soon as it became clear that things were not going well.

On the other hand, if you are working with a client and help the client see through some other company's (or consultant's) BS, therefore saving the client time and money, then you are a hero.
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Re: Scott Berkun on detecting BS
Old 08-16-2006, 12:32 PM   #10
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Re: Scott Berkun on detecting BS

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rich_in_Tampa
It then raises he question of what to do if you conclude that someone is BSing. Like many of us on this board, I tend to read all the responses to questions that interest me and weed them out. Berkun's "tests" seem to be pretty intuitive round here-- we tend to jump on unsubstantiated claims, the inferred experience of the poster, the unwarranted hardened posturing on issues, etc.
I think this is quite optimistic. The number of folks here or anywhere else who have bothered to read and understand a broad compass of data- not just the summaries that have been canonized over the past few years- is very small. In any case, most of the data has been gathered and interpreted by interested parties. Plus even an honest researcher has the problem of presenting compelling conclusions from data with very high variance to people who want to believe a nicer story.

Quote:
Then, of course, you tend to maintain an internal inventory of who is trustworthy and who is not.
Social proof is the most frequent heuristic here, as it is most other places. See any controversy relating to valuation, etc. This board (and almost all writing about markets) is a voting machine, not a weighing machine.

Quote:
I'm sure every field has its equivalent mantra.

We haven't come that far. Our mantra is pre-enlightenment-- Rah Bogle! Rah Bernstein! I find it interesting that a group of people out there in internetland call themselves BogleHeads, just as another group in radioland call themselves DittoHeads. Well, IMO a Bogle head is a ditto head, he is just doing his copying in a different area.

Ha
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