Scientific Honesty

I love these! Apparently some scientists have been making “secret confessions” on twitter under the hashtag “#overlyhonestmethods“. Someone combined these with labphotos, and 22 Words has a collection. Some favorites:

I’m trying to think of some good admissions from my own profession of archivism. Sort of “overly honest scope & content notes”:

  • “Collection is of negligible historic value, but will be preserved indefinitely because the donor was an egomaniac who gave us a lot of money.”
  • “Folder labeled ‘Correspondence, 1983-1984′ contains letters to various mistresses. Mentioning this to the creator’s widow would be a breach of archival ethics.”
  • “Entire collection was accessioned in order to obtain one single item. You can safely ignore the rest.”
  • “Collection is described only to the box level, because there are some things so tedious you can’t force even work-study students to do them.”
  • “Creator kept full copies of magazines in which his interviews appeared – including Hustler and Screw. If folders are missing from the ‘Publications’ series, check the head archivist’s office and don’t ask questions.”

What are some “overly honest methods” from your profession?

  • Len

    “We don’t document our code. If it was hard to write it should be hard to understand.”

    “I don’t understand how this piece of code works, but it worked fine in the program I stole it from.” [Note that this was actually in some code that I maintained (but didn't write) many tears ago.]

  • Michael

    “Ewald parameters were chosen primarily to match those used in the example.”

    “Simulation was run for only 50 ns because we wanted it to finish before a researcher left for vacation.”

    “Non-bond energy was calculated using the Gaussian 2009 quantum dynamics suite. Ring distances and and angles were calculated using a hacked-together awk script.”

  • UrsaMinor

    “The project manager has flip-flopped three times already on how this calculation should work. We’ll probably flip-flop again, so I’m just going to comment out the old code instead of deleting it so the next poor sucker to work on this function won’t have to go through the same thing I did. Neither one gives the correct answer. For the record, the procedure that gives the correct answer for all input cases is X, which, for some reason, is not even on the table.”

    - a comment that I left in the code base one day during a moment of brutal honesty. I’m wondering if the problem ever got fixed after I left.

    • Yoav

      I would say the chance of that is slightly lower then Michelle Bachmann making sense.

    • Lurker111

      Some decades ago, in the world of mainframes and punch cards, I was assigned to enter a retirements contribution table into a program that managed automated contributions. The table was to be entered as-was from a printed pamphlet. A formula was specifically NOT to be used.

      Unfortunately, this would have required our keypuncher to key about 1500 cards of COBOL FILLER statements, and I needed that lady’s good graces for stuff I needed on a regular basis.

      So I wrote a quickie routine, based on an obvious formula, to generate the FILLER statements and had them punched out by the computer. Then, I wrapped the table level-01 and the redefinition around them and inserted the cards into the program logic.

      I ALSO added a page’s worth of commentary about what formula to use should enlightenment ever come to this particular subdepartment of MIS.

      Some months later, I discovered that the page of commentary had been totally removed.

      As a PS, it’s of note that the generated table did not match the printed table in several places. Guess which figures were wrong.

  • Kevin R. Cross

    “Discount was not given because customer was annoying.”

  • http://www.everydayintheparkwithgeorge.com/ Matt Eggler

    “Our CEO’s decision was described as ‘bold and insightful’ in the shareholder’s newsletter and employee update, but he really did because all the other CEOs are doing it.”

  • Highlander

    That “server failure” the other day was just me rebooting the server during business hours because I didn’t feel like interupting my evening to log in and reboot after hours.
    That WAN failure a month or so ago was me applying a bad config to the router by accident and had nothing to do with the telco’s network. If the telco didn’t have so damn many problems, I might not have gotten away with it though, so it’s really their fault.

  • The Other Weirdo

    I love these, especially the last, but what does “accessioned” mean?

    • VorJack

      what does “accessioned” mean?

      Basically just “acquired”. There’s a formal process of signing agreements with the donor and assigning the collection a reference number. This has certain legal meanings, but it basically boils down to a transfer of ownership.

      The last one is particularly funny to me because of who it involved. The person who got tapped to sort out the collection was a genial but still conservative fundamentalist. He’s the guy I mentioned way back when.

      He was absolutely mortified to be working with these magazines. He look at them just enough to get a date and title, then slip them in a folder. He’d take the whole collection and go sit in a far corner and hope that nobody saw him.

      Naturally I made a point of going over the say hello every time he pulled out a lurid magazine. “How’s it going – hey, what’s that you’re working on?” He’d turn beet red.

      It’s possible that I’m an asshole.

      • The Other Weirdo

        Oh, but what a fun asshole you are. :) Did you remind him that all his sacrifice is for science?

  • DMG

    We had two functions to map to the left and right trigger buttons of the controller. I arbitrarily put the friends list on the right trigger, because as Rebecca Black sings, “my friend is by my right”

    I would feel more remorseful about this, except that Valve did the same thing a few months later when they released Big Picture. I wonder if they had the same reasoning…


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