Professor Hugh Bin-Haad.

Phil Factor, 2009-04-03

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.

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