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Professor Hugh Bin-Haad.

Steve Jones isn't usually the wild man of publishing, but on April 1st, a strangely anarchic spirit breaks loose. Having plotted a number of April Fool jokes in SQL Server Central, he egged us on to join in the fun. The result was The Concept of Cardinal Reciprocity-A Primer by Professor Hugh Bin-Haad

Red-Gate's offices are full of people who spent a long time in the educational mill, and generally popped their heads out of the top. It has given them a healthy distaste for 'academic' writing, and a hatred for unclear prose that is designed to mask the writers confusion. One can really only take a few years of having to trawl through such stuff before the patience snaps permanently.

It therefore was only a few milliseconds after Steve's reminder, on March 31st, of tomorrow's date that we had the plan mapped out.

Andrew Clarke, Simple-Talk's editor, had contributed to SQL Data Generator, a simple routine that spewed out as much plausible obscure academic prose and IT Systems-speak as one would possibly want. It is called the Waffle Generator. It is used for filling database with plausible text in large TEXT or VARCHAR(MAX) fields. Quick as a flash, it had disgorged an entire article on Database Relational theory. It was as if the gods had joined in, as we had to alter only ten words, and add an introduction, and it was complete.

The next thing to do was to create a writer. It is traditional to give the game away very clearly with an April Fools' joke. We had therefore to create someone with a very silly name. Hugh Bin-Haad.  We felt that it had a rather middle-eastern ring to it, so we found an old portrait of an Iraqi artist declaiming on the iniquities of the Hussain regime. (I believe the name Bin Haad is Qatari) The article, we felt, was extraordinarily academic in style, so the rest of the Bio was quickly filled out. It isn't a portrait based on any one person but I admit that I closed my eyes and remembered a rather pompous but good-natured acquaintance who loved his role as the member of an ANSI committee (Quite which I can't remember- I think it was something to do with encryption).

We have learned to rather like Professor Hugh Bin-Haad. I think that most people who read the article saw, and appreciated,  the joke. There is a serious message behind that humour though: we should have a low tolerance of anything we have to read that wastes our time and energy by being deliberately obscure, for purposes of self-aggrandisement. This article was a simple exercise in creating random phrases. The IT industry is rotten with pompous verbiage that must be ridiculed. The English language isn't adopted by the global IT industry because it is beautiful; only because it is the de-facto means of communicating technical ideas internationally; We must respect the needs of those who use English as a second language as part of their work. For that reason, technical writing in English  must be crystal-clear and simple. That's our mission, and that's why we call it Simple-Talk.

Comments

Posted by Steve Jones on 5 April 2009

Phil,

Thanks for helping out. That was a good one to add to the April Fools joke.

Posted by Bruce W Cassidy on 8 April 2009

It was a great joke.  :D

Posted by Wesley Brown on 11 April 2009

I sent the article in question to a friend of mine who has a doctorate in physics but who does a lot of work with SQL Server, I told him it was the best academic treatment I had ever read on SQL Server and he bought it hook, line and sinker ;) Thanks for a great prank I'm sure I'll get a lot of traction out of over the years.

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