There is No Such Thing as Stupid Questions?

This past week I had to attend something that no one ever looks forward to……work-related conference.

Ugh, those are the worst, huh? Eight hours of people just lecturing at you and you sit there daydreaming about what it would be like if you could fly, or shoot laser beams out of your eyes, or how much a human kidney would get in the black market.

And what made this one especially dull is that this conference was primarily about the mathematical underpinnings of statistical thought. OH NO!!!!!

But to be honest, as these things can go, this one was not so bad. Other than getting some sweet swag (IE: a coffee mug) and having a wonderful snack spread for the scheduled breaks, the instructors (for the most part) tried to put together a good presentation and gave us things that would could actually use in our jobs.

But there was this guy………………….

You know this guy. This guy shows up at every work convention, being his annoying self, getting in the way of the nature order of things. It is like introducing a new species in an ecosystem; he is a tiger in the rain forest.

He is the guy that………………asks all the questions.

Now on the surface this does not seem so bad. But as you well know from your own work conventions, he is far worse than some guy just asking questions. There is far more to it.

This guy isn’t just asking for clarity, he is making sure everyone there knows that he is fully engaged in the learning process, that he is a scholar and takes his information seriously. He needs to learn all the details that are being shown and if he misses one thing, he calls for the world to stop so he can catch up. This guy defies Copernicus and believes the earth revolves around him.

I think there is an underground factory where this guy is mass produced and sent around to all work conventions, just to piss us all off. And in this case, I got the deluxe model.

My guy was not just a constant question asker, he also arrived late. ARRIVED LATE?!?! What the hell is that all about. Seriously on Tuesday (the second part of a two day seminar), he waltzed in 90 minutes late, asked a question in less than 10 minutes, and….get this……didn’t even attend the first day. What the hell!?!?!

Oh wait….it gets worse……

He wasn’t even a stats guy. He was a clinician. What the fuck?!?! Why in the hell was a non-stats guy at a stats seminar? And to not come on time? And to not even attend the first day? And the not even know anything about stats?!?!?! No wonder he had so many questions.

And the questions he asked….oh my god!! It was so obvious he had no idea what was going on. For example, he said a technique we were learning about (called ‘Bayesian’ methods) seemed like it was non-parametric. Now to you that may mean nothing. And that’s OK, this stuff is a little esoteric and really not the point. The point is Bayesian methods are extremely parametric. In fact the entire method is based on parametric distributions and the like. In other words, he was so completely wrong it was insane. The entire message was utterly lost on him. It was like if he went to the Holocaust Museum and said ‘you know this Hitler guy seemed all right’.

Anyway, there is nothing wrong with asking a question, even multiple questions. But when you clearly don’t know anything and anything, don’t be that guy. Just sit tight, shut up, and slink out the back door during break.