JS-Kit/Echo comments for article at http://smallestminority.blogspot.com/2006/10/engineers-perspective.html (28 comments)

  Tentative mapping of comments to original article, corrections solicited.

jsid-1160756631-532939  Phelps at Fri, 13 Oct 2006 16:23:51 +0000

(As an iNTj) perfection comes when you achieve that balance. Or, as the plaque on my wall says, "Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but rather when there is nothing more to take away." Antoine de Saint-Exupery

We're also notorious for contingency plan upon contingency plan. Hell, most of my plans start out with an absurdly simply "Plan A" and then dozens of contingencies.

jsid-1160760306-532950  bud at Fri, 13 Oct 2006 17:25:06 +0000

I use to have a plaque on the wall of my productivity cube that condensed your "job description" to:

Pick 2.

I pointed to it in many a discussion with the PHM.

jsid-1160766149-532958  Purple Avenger at Fri, 13 Oct 2006 19:02:29 +0000

rather when there is nothing more to take away

I've spent a lot of time doing that. Years ago at IBM, back when software was distributed on diskettes rather than CD, diskette count in any particular product was a big deal. For the stuff I worked on, the estimated total manufacturing cost was $1M/diskette. 99% of the programmers didn't think it a big deal (spending OP's money I guess) but I did. I launched on a 1-man unofficial jihad to reduce the diskette count for the product which shipped on maybe 8 diskettes. I did it. Took a few months of examining every dusty corner of the system and getting others to make certain code changes, but I did it.

I've started dabbling with hacking Linux recently. Its a system RIPE for getting worked over by some INTJ personalities.

jsid-1160772784-532966  Chris Byrne at Fri, 13 Oct 2006 20:53:04 +0000

I'm a bit of an odd one (no surprise to folks who know me) in that I am either an INTJ or an ENTJ depending on my mood, and circumstances etc...

I am very publicly extroverted, but privately introverted, if that makes any sense. I am introverted by nature, and extroverted by education I guess, because when and where I grew up the extroversion was absolutely necessary, and it is so ingrained in me as to be second nature.

Other than that, it's a perfect description of who I am.

jsid-1160773071-532968  Chris Byrne at Fri, 13 Oct 2006 20:57:51 +0000

Oh, and posted on my office wall (when I have an office anyway) is this:

# I trust you completely – ONCE
# Trust your team completely – with all others; trust, but verify
# Life Comes First
# K.I.S.S.
# The “P”s
# Planning (SMESCS)
# Mission focus
# Be prepared
# Be creative
# No idea is a bad idea (but it may not be the RIGHT idea)
# Never say "That's impossible" to the guy who's actually doing it
# Take risks – but understand and MANAGE them
# Good is Enough; Good Enough Isn’t
# Be Aware of the Law of Unintended consequences
# Good intentions matter, but good results matter more
# Sometimes you have to make the “least bad” decision
# The Perfect is the enemy of the good

jsid-1160773448-532970  Anon at Fri, 13 Oct 2006 21:04:08 +0000

I also think the following provides useful insight into the engineering mind:

To an optimist, the glass is half full.
To a pessimist the glass is half empty.

To an engineer? The glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

jsid-1160773934-532972  Scott H at Fri, 13 Oct 2006 21:12:14 +0000

A friend of mine approached our active circuits teacher for partial credit after a test on a problem that he thought was mostly right. The teacher looked at the problem and then at my friend and said "the pilot died".

jsid-1160774609-532973  Ed at Fri, 13 Oct 2006 21:23:29 +0000

That certainly explains why most of us here see liberals as idiots. We compare our beliefs to reality and adjust our beliefs as necessary to match, thus we expect them to be "reasonable" when presented with the facts. Liberals compare their beliefs to reality and expect reality to adjust.

I also wonder if the INTJ personality type is also the one most likely to toss cursive writing in favor of something more legible, i.e. something that works better. :-)

jsid-1160775023-532975  Joe Huffman at Fri, 13 Oct 2006 21:30:23 +0000

Our son (and probably me, I forget my test results) is an INTJ. He sent my wife and I two links to help us (he sure isn't going to change!) deal with him better:


jsid-1160776227-532977  markm at Fri, 13 Oct 2006 21:50:27 +0000

I'm definitely INTJ, but I wonder how well a test that approximates four continuous values with one bit each can match the real world...

jsid-1160776299-532978  Joe Huffman at Fri, 13 Oct 2006 21:51:39 +0000

On "knowing". Very few people have any idea what it means to know something. When I ask, "Do you know how to determine truth from falsity?" They give me a blank look or if they are feeling cocky tell me, "Yes." When I then ask, "How do you do this?" They are lost. They have no clue. If they cannot determine truth from falsity then they have no way of determining right from wrong. And like my son James said in a speeche for his college communications class, "The majority of mankind doesn’t care for truth and so I don’t care for them."

Here are some clues for people that want to know how to know.

jsid-1160777813-532982  DJ at Fri, 13 Oct 2006 22:16:53 +0000

Yup, that's me. My wife is a clinical psychologist who made this diagnosis about 30 years ago. It still fits.

"Good enough" is an excuse for not trying for something better. If "good enough" was the standard of us all, then we'd all still be living in trees, which we would still think were "good enough", and the species would never have found caves to be "better". Thank Og the caveman engineer and his descendants for your standard of living.

My goals as an engineer were never to strive for "perfection", but to strive for "better". Sometimes looking a little further or trying something a little different producing results all out of proportion to the additional effort. But, I was never able to get anyone who wasn't like me to understand it.

jsid-1160780896-532986  Chris at Fri, 13 Oct 2006 23:08:16 +0000

How do you guys know what "type" you are? Is there an online test somewhere? I'm an EE by profession, and I'd kinda like to know. Might explain my unintentional celibacy.

jsid-1160789441-532999  DJ at Sat, 14 Oct 2006 01:30:41 +0000

Chris, you could marry a clinical psychologist. Intentionally.

I'm just sayin' ...

jsid-1160798140-533004  Kevin Baker at Sat, 14 Oct 2006 03:55:40 +0000


Try this test.

jsid-1160832551-533023  Dave Petterson at Sat, 14 Oct 2006 13:29:11 +0000

'Knowing, in your soul, that if you screw up your work you could be responsible for the injury or deaths of innocent people tends to make you look at "reality" in a way I think is different from the majority of the population. Engineering attracts those with a certain kind of personality, and repels others.'

This covers many more people than engineers. politicians, *spit*, policemen, doctors etc. I think that they choose their vocation and then the good ones make the leap you suggest. Not all engineers do, about 0.0000001% (rounded up) of politicians do and not all police and doctors do.

The principle is there but it's that final leap that makes the difference.

I read myself in that description as I also am that type as tested previously so I had a go at the test added above and it came up the same again. This is why I get all the troubleshooting jobs and jobs with -ve timescales which I enjoy and nobody else does whilst I hate politics and get satisfaction from a job well done. Oh and I continually lose brownie points for my non PC thinking.

jsid-1160845695-533037  Eric Wilner at Sat, 14 Oct 2006 17:08:15 +0000

Kipling sez:
So, when the buckled girder
Lets down the grinding span,
The blame of loss, or murder,
Is laid upon the man.
Not on the Stuff - the Man!

Being one of the more fallible sort of engineers, I tend to avoid working on things that can get people killed... and I insist that We Test Before We Ship (which works pretty well with electronic gizmos, not so well with bridges).
In the end, the client can always tell whether or not I've done my job right. If we pass their acceptance test, it's good - assuming their acceptance test is valid, of course. Sometimes I have to look over the acceptance test and point out things that aren't covered, and I usually end up spotting gaps or ambiguities in the spec. (Having these things reviewed by another set of eyeballs can be highly productive.)
As many have pointed out, being an engineer is not a choice; it's a combination of being born that way and then having the opportunity to learn the skills of the trade. Those who are born engineers but don't acquire the skills end up as tinkers and/or crackpots. I've met a few of those... lot of wasted talent there, though sometimes they end up creating fascinatingly weird art.
Every so often, I run across people with engineering titles who are more concerned with protecting their little empires than with getting the job done. To me, this just doesn't make sense - especially the time I was brought in to take a broken project off the hands of an overworked engineer who'd inherited it, in its broken state, from someone who was no longer with the company - but he got all uncooperative and insisted on defending his turf. Weird.
Oh, and those of us who have the Engineer nature shouldn't try to run businesses. It's frustrating enough expecting tax forms to make sense without having to deal with customers and suppliers. And just try to persuade an Engineer that doing the business paperwork is a higher priority at any given moment than solving technical problems!

jsid-1160846398-533039  Firehand at Sat, 14 Oct 2006 17:19:58 +0000

One thing that always gave me shivers when making a knife was "If somebody is stuck somewhere and their life depends on this thing holding up, will it do it?"

It's one thing to make someone a pretty that they'll use for show(though you still make it GOOD); you know the chances of it actually beeing NEEDED are very small. But a blade someone will carry camping or hunting, or to dangerous places in the world... You have to KNOW in your soul that it will hold up to any reasonable use. And some unreasonable. Which is why I wound up chopping limbs and cutting rope with a dirk or hunting knife, and making sure it can flex enough to lever the stump and anvil off the ground, and not break. Really, some of it has been almost insane levels of testing, but it made me sleep better.

jsid-1160847472-533040  Kevin Baker at Sat, 14 Oct 2006 17:37:52 +0000

Eric wrote: "Oh, and those of us who have the Engineer nature shouldn't try to run businesses. It's frustrating enough expecting tax forms to make sense without having to deal with customers and suppliers."

I've often thought that if we could just get rid of the customers and vendors, my job would be just about perfect!

jsid-1160874673-533067  triticale at Sun, 15 Oct 2006 01:11:13 +0000

Actually, if the glass is the optimum size it will be half full (or half empty if you prefer), on average during the time it is in use.

jsid-1160878089-533072  Chris at Sun, 15 Oct 2006 02:08:09 +0000

Huh? What is a clinical psychologist, anyway? Am I that far gone? Shit, I'm only 33.

jsid-1160878677-533074  Chris at Sun, 15 Oct 2006 02:17:57 +0000


Cool, Thanks. I'm an ISTJ. Now I have a slight bit more confidence in my ability to get me some girly action.

jsid-1160911951-533087  Homer at Sun, 15 Oct 2006 11:32:31 +0000

When in the initial stages of a household purchase or project, my ex-wife's favorite comment was "You gonna build a flow chart on this?"

She thought it was an insult; I always took it as a compliment, and it continually reminded me that comprehensive research, planning and testing cycles belong in any worthwhile endeavor.

jsid-1160922650-533097  DJ at Sun, 15 Oct 2006 14:30:50 +0000

Chris, the dictionary definition of a clinical psychologist is "a therapist who deals with mental and emotional disorders".

I didn't mean to suggest you needed such. Rather, I made a joke that perhaps such a person could tell you what kind of personality you had and you wouldn't need an online test to find out. To see the tongue-in-cheek nature of it, reference my comment just above yours in which I stated that I am married to one. And, we're both Electrical Engineers.

Now, given that you didn't get the joke, I dunno -- do you need one? (That's a joke, too ...)

jsid-1161010279-533178  Otter at Mon, 16 Oct 2006 14:51:19 +0000

Actually I noticed about a year ago (reading another blog) that a higher than expected number of INTJ's (me too) seem to exist in the blogsphere.

This might be an interesting study.


jsid-1161023545-533198  Jeff Dege at Mon, 16 Oct 2006 18:32:25 +0000

"I also wonder if the INTJ personality type is also the one most likely to toss cursive writing in favor of something more legible, i.e. something that works better."


jsid-1161024423-533202  Denise at Mon, 16 Oct 2006 18:47:03 +0000

I've had three Meyer-Briggs tests and each one came out INTJ. I took the online test mentioned above and there it was again.

I'm not an engineer. I'm an historian by training. I never could "do" math yet I became a pretty good computer programmer when a former job required me to manage several large databases (long story and I got thrown into the deep end by default). I taught myself SQL and other languages and wrote programs that were pratical yet elegant. I still dabble in programming including C++ and Java.

jsid-1161033660-533218  KCSteve at Mon, 16 Oct 2006 21:21:00 +0000

Gee what a surprise - another INTJ.

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