Stories
Slash Boxes
Comments
NOTE: use Perl; is on undef hiatus. You can read content, but you can't post it. More info will be forthcoming forthcomingly.

All the Perl that's Practical to Extract and Report

use Perl Log In

Log In

[ Create a new account ]

Thursday October 19, 2006
12:59 PM

Boring interview questions, interesting answers

[ #31360 ]

Mark Jason Dominus talks about the stock set of questions that Powell's Bookstore asks authors for mini-interviews on their website (Marks's answers).

In his "Universe of Discourse" entry on the subject, he talks about the question "Which country do you believe currently leads the world in science and technology? In ten years?", to which he ends his answer with a very interesting comment:

Sometimes I have to have dinner with predictors. It never goes well. Two years ago at OSCON I was invited to dinner with Google. I ended up sitting at a whole table of those people. Last year I was invited again. I said no thanks.

Despite whatever you make of that answer, even if the question may have been boring, it seems to me that Mark has a lot to say in response.

This reminds me of something Robert McNamara, the former U.S. Defense Secretary, said (and I think the current Secretary Rumsfeld may have quoted it too) something like this:

Answer the question you wished you were asked, not the one you were.

That's exactly the tact I took when I answered the same questions for Powell's. I come out sounding like quite the Luddite.

There are, I've read, three major groups of people in economies: producers, consumers, and critics. All three of those have different interests. Although a Producer might write a book, the Consumers interested in it aren't at all like the Producer in personal interests. Both Mark and I (as well as many of the other interviewees) beg off the question about video games, but I have a feeling that question is there because the average age of video-gamers is in the low-thirties (so says many sources this month). That Consumer segment has the money, and that's what they want to read about. Being a Producer means satisfying the Consumer, so being interviewed is really just another performance rather than a peek into a Producer's actual life.

Or, something like that.

The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.
 Full
 Abbreviated
 Hidden
More | Login | Reply
Loading... please wait.
  • That McNamara quote got me thinking.

    There are several reasons for answering a different question than you've been given. Off the top of my head:

    • The question you've been given is boring, and you'd rather give a related answer about something more interesting. (This is what it looks like you're talking about.)
    • The question makes assumptions you disagree with [perl.org] and so you must dispute those assumptions in order to give a meaningful answer.
    • The person asking the question is attempting to solve a problem, and