You're an odd one, Mr. Grinch
Posted by aogWednesday, 10 January 2007 at 12:34 TrackBack Ping URL

Of course, I hardly need more evidence that I am (to be kind) “idiosyncratic”, but the new security question idea that’s been going around online financial websites is really driving it home. So many of the questions are ones that I simply don’t have referents or answers for. For instance, I have never had a pet animal, so that entire class of questions (“dog’s name”, “favorite animal”, etc.) is right out. Most “favorite” questions don’t work for me because either the genre is not of sufficient interest to have thought of a favorite (e.g, music or movies), or I have a set of favored instances of which I can’t really pick a favorite (e.g., books). It is actually a challenge to find a set of questions out of the offered choices to which I would give consistent answers. For at least one, I had to print out the page with the questions and answers because I doubted I could remember them. If only they had good questions, like “what currently feasible megascale engineering project would you most like to build?” or “what is your favorite weblog?”.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
Brit Wednesday, 10 January 2007 at 13:49

Never mind, at least you’ve got a sense of humour.

That’s the second time in recent days you’ve made me laugh aloud.

(The first was the one about the mud).

Peter Burnet Thursday, 11 January 2007 at 10:31

Not to second guess your charming eccentricity, AOG, but your problem may be just boring old residual sanity. I am fascinated by how computers have caused so many people to think subliminally that they are one, or at least live inside one, and to try and reduce so much of daily life to a kind of software progamme. More and more forms from government, business and everywhere else want only ticked-boxed answers to too many more questions that they possibly need. Obviously this is often because of computers, but everybody does it more and more even when it’s not.

About seven years ago, they revised the whole family law procedure here in Ontario. Whereas forms used to be generated in text by lawyers, there are now a bewildering number of pre-set forms demanding yes/no or “which of the above” answers that never give the flavour of the case you are trying to explain. The funny thing is that they are not inputed into any computers—they are just filed in hard copy and handed to the judge as they have always been, but the judge then has to be de-educated out of the distortions.

I’m always telling my colleagues it is yet another example of the end of civilization as we know it, but they just spill beer on me.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 11 January 2007 at 12:04

Mr. Burnet;

You actually touch on a deep issue there. A competing theory for the profileration of forms is the desire for security by the New Class. Security is not just protection from physical harm, but predictability1. The forms provide the New Class with the illusion of control and stability as in a well ordered machine / computer. Everything’s the same, mapped on to a fixed set of data points, resulting in mental security (i.e., lack of surprise). I see your point about automation but I think it’s not a new fad but a historical rhyme2.

1 Hence the unavoidable liberty / security trade off, one of the issues on which OJ is quite insightful. He may over emphasize it a bit, but it is a fundamental issue in the structure of societies.

2 “History doesn’t repeat, but it rhymes”.

cjm Thursday, 11 January 2007 at 16:00

packers and mappers

Jeff Guinn Friday, 12 January 2007 at 15:51

For instance, I have never had a pet animal, so that entire class of questions (“dog’s name”, “favorite animal”, etc.) is right out.


If you remembered your Greek classics, the obvious answer to “dog’s name” is Nodog.

Peter Burnet Saturday, 13 January 2007 at 04:46

Here is an interesting take on what the tick-box mentality is doing to professional recruitment. (Free registration required)

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