Friday, July 21, 2017

Words I Don’t Use, Part 1: “Methodology”

Today, I will begin a brief sequence of blog posts that I’ll call “Words I Don’t Use.” I hope you’ll have some fun with it, and maybe find a thought or two worth considering.

The first word I’ll discuss is methodology. Yes. I made a shirt about it.

Approximately 100% of the time in the [mostly non-scientific] Oracle world that I live in, when people say “methodology,” they’re using it in the form that American Heritage describes as a pretentious substitute for “method.” But methodology is not the same as method. Methods are processes. Sequences of steps. Methodology is the scientific study of methods.

I like this article called “Method versus Methodology” by Peter Klein, which cites the same American Heritage Dictionary passage that I quoted on page 358 of Optimizing Oracle Performance.


John Flack said...

Got me thinking about the name of the Oracle Application Development Framework Enterprise Methodology Group (aka ADF EMG) that I moderate. I am hoping that our name uses the word "Methodology" correctly, and not pretentiously. The group is devoted to how you decide what methods to use for an ADF project, but not on the methods themselves. In fact, if you ask a question that begins with the words "How do I", I am very likely to send you to a more appropriate forum for how to do specific things with the framework - like the OTN forum.

Connor McDonald said...

For me, I have a fairly simple interpretation. The moment any process, method, [insert term here] gets the "illustrious" label of "methodology" then it has either crossed the point, or is at the very cusp of failure.

Because it is at the moment that people become enslaved by it rather than empowered by it. The mindset goes from

The "Shopping Method" means take the car to the shop, or walk, or the bus - whichever mode of transport makes sense.

The "Shopping Methodology" means take the car exclusively, because I'm ISO accredited in Shopping Methodology v1.0, which only supports the car.


Joel Garry said...

Thanks for this, I never realized I was recommending your methods incorrectly. But I never wanted to use "method" instead, because it seemed to me some people would misinterpret that as some object oriented thing. What should I call your way, without specific brand names?

Cary Millsap said...

@Joel, without using the brand "Method R", I'd probably go descriptive, like "approach that has you account for every microsecond of the execution of a given (targeted) program, and then determine if any of that duration is wasteful." It's the optimization method where you ask and answer the four simple questions How long? Why? What if...? and What else?

Cary Millsap said...

@John, I think you're using the word correctly in the case you describe.

Cary Millsap said...

@Connor, (-:

Mark W. Farnham said...

So I'm generally in Cary's camp and have been forever to use "method" for ways of making things work well.

The interesting bit is that I happen to think that Cary is also an actual methodologist.

I reserve "methodology" for the activity of studying methods. Which Cary sometimes does, for example in the analysis of the pros and cons of the waterfall method versus the agile method.

I will claim that I used both methodology and method in a boringly accurate way in this post.

I very rarely do also engage in methodology while I always cringe when someone calls a method a methodology.