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Hanlon's Razor

“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

Dammit, I thought I'd invented that.  I've been claiming this as the Fallacy of Presumed Competence for years.

It's a very useful concept, though, especially when you tend to wonder about motives of the evil minions in boardrooms and public office.

Monday, July 19, 2004

I have an addendum to Hanlon's Razor, which I find helpful in understanding the behaviour of telecom companies, managers[1], and the like: "Never attribute to benevolence that which can be adequately explained by stupidity".

[1] Actually, my current boss is very clueful. (And no, he doesn't read JoS, so I actually mean that.) Other people's, on the other hand ... :-)

Gareth McCaughan
Monday, July 19, 2004

Well, Hanlon's Razor is one of those cute witticisms that is fun to toss into an argument.  But think about it, people - in relation to actions by large, successful corporate entities.

An organization doesn't get to be hugely successful and dominate its market by being run by incompetant fools.  In general, they are run by exceptionaly cleaver folks, using an excellent understanding of their markets, their competitors, and how to maximise their position.

Even if that "cleaverness" is how to use governments to their advantage, with lobbyists, graft and corruption, and so on.

The people running Microsoft are not stupid.  No one can grow from a bunch of scruffy geeks working in someones's basement or garage into the huge profit machine they are in 25 or so years.

I am sure Microsoft knows exactly why the bought Lookout, what plans they have for it, and how they expect this acquisition to improve their market position and profitability.

Ken Ray
Monday, July 19, 2004

What I'd like to hear, though, is a list of reasons why NOT to just integrate the thing into Outlook immediately.  They had to know they could buy this, so why not integrate it, then buy it, then release the new product like the next day?  That would be sweet!
I am sure there's a reason, I just want to hear how insanely complicated the reason is.

Monday, July 19, 2004

>> Even if that "cleaverness" is how to use governments to their advantage, with lobbyists, graft and corruption, and so on.

"cleaverness" - does that mean "incisively brilliant"? Hanlon's Razor meets Occam's!

Monday, July 19, 2004

Mmm, cutting humor...

Monday, July 19, 2004

My experience is that while organisations don't get to be hugely successful by being run by incompetant fools, it is how they get to stay huge. 

Once your that big, you don't even have to be successful anymore, you just have to sit you flabby arse on any of the competition, Vogon style.

Ged Byrne
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

I believe that it was originally written by Robert A Heinlein, but the person who spread it around mispelled RAH's name. Which goes to show that stupidity is constant in the universe.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

This is more generally known here in Blighty as the  "cock-up theory of history"

Freddie boy
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Ahhh... most likely spoken by Lazarus Long...


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

The guy was called Hanlon. He wrote it in answer to a competition for a book containing variants on Murphy's law.

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

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