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The XY problem

Jesper de Jong
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Joined: Aug 16, 2005
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  10

Today I learned a new term: the XY problem.

It happens on the forums here regularly. What it means is that you have some problem X, and you try to solve it with the wrong solution Y. You then start asking questions about solution Y, instead of explaining that your real problem is X.


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fred rosenberger
lowercase baba
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Joined: Oct 02, 2003
Posts: 10916
    
  12

I'm so glad there is finally a name for it. I see it all the time here...and it is extremely frustrating to spend a significant amount of time helping someone with their 'Y' issue, only to find out hours later that their question was really about X.


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Bear Bibeault
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  65

Sounds like a FAQ entry in the making....


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Campbell Ritchie
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 13, 2005
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  16
Sounds like a feminist term to me
Bear Bibeault
Author and ninkuma
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  65

Campbell Ritchie wrote:Sounds like a feminist term to me

Case in point; when I saw the topic title, I was sure that this was going to be a "Men are from Mars..." type of post.
Pat Farrell
Rancher

Joined: Aug 11, 2007
Posts: 4637
    
    5

Campbell Ritchie wrote:Sounds like a feminist term to me

Women are X cross and men are Y wise?

That was very un-PC 45 years ago when I was taught it in biology class, and the term PC hadn't been invented yet.
Paul Clapham
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Joined: Oct 14, 2005
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    8

It's not in Wikipedia yet. When I looked for "xy" in Wikipedia I was led down the garden path to a page which mentioned its use in a Romanization of the Hmong language (in which Romanization "Hmong" is spelled "Hmoob")... but that didn't seem to be particularly relevant.
Bear Bibeault
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  65

Pat Farrell wrote:
Campbell Ritchie wrote:Sounds like a feminist term to me

Women are X cross and men are Y wise?


Men are XY, women are XX.
Mike Simmons
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Joined: Mar 05, 2008
Posts: 2969
    
    9
Bear Bibeault wrote:Sounds like a FAQ entry in the making....

Or a Stack Overflow entry!

Oh, wait...
Randall Twede
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Joined: Oct 21, 2000
Posts: 4339
    
    2

i must admit that at first it looked like the post read "the problem with men"


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Jesper de Jong
Java Cowboy
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Joined: Aug 16, 2005
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  10

Here are some more descriptions of the problem:

XY Problem (perlmonks)
XyProblem (Greg's Wiki)
Arun Kumarr
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 16, 2005
Posts: 513

But isn't finding out part of the solution. Here is a cross post from my facebook.

But, first the topology.
I live in chennai:
1. "Little Mount" to "Velachery" (5.6kms).
2. "Velachery" to Checkers hotel in "Saidapet" (5 kms)
3. "Little Mount" to checkers hotel in "Saidapet" (less than 1 km).
---------
Yesterday, early morning my bus broke down near little mount.
I got down and started walking with others and a van stopped by and asked how do I get to Velachery.
Everyone started giving directions, one said take the Adyar route and an U-turn, another said take the one way and go straight.
I asked him, why do you want to go to Velachery. He said, I will go to Velachery from there take a straight road and go to Saidapet.
By the time, I dint want to ask him what confusion he underwent early morning, I smiled and asked him where do you want to go in Saidapet. He said, near checkers hotel.
I said you are already there and go straight and on the left is checkers hotel.

The funniest part was one of the guys who got down from the bus had to go to Velachery and he got into the van telling the driver that he will show him the route. He later got down learning the confusion.
I saw the look on his face: There are some things money can't buy.
------------


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John Jai
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Joined: May 31, 2011
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Arun Kumarr wrote:But isn't finding out part of the solution. Here is a cross post from my facebook.

I thought you accidentally cross posted in this thread - instead of here - http://www.coderanch.com/t/565979/md/do-you-people-identifying-cross
Jesper de Jong
Java Cowboy
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Joined: Aug 16, 2005
Posts: 13875
    
  10

Arun, that's a good example of the XY problem in real life. It would have been so much easier if they had just said they wanted to go to the Checkers hotel.

It's so simple. You want to do X, then ask about how to do X, instead of guessing that you need to do Y and asking about that and not tell that what you really want to do is X.
Arun Kumarr
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 16, 2005
Posts: 513

Yesterday, I spoke to an architect and he was mentioning that in the project which he worked for, he had done some performance fixes and now the business flow is getting executed faster. However he also mentioned, this exercise has surfaced a bug, which had been lying unnoticed because of the previous performance problems.

Now, I wonder, if we have name (like XY problem) for this kind of dormant bugs? Ideally not dormant but active and unnoticed because it was clouded by some other bug/issue.
I remember having a name for this, I somehow couldn't recollect it.
Bear Bibeault
Author and ninkuma
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  65

Stealth bug
Arun Kumarr
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 16, 2005
Posts: 513

Bear Bibeault wrote:Stealth bug


May be we can use it for some other bug, but this one was not in stealth mode. It was active and contributing.
Jayesh A Lalwani
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Joined: Jan 17, 2008
Posts: 2052
    
  22

I call these bugs "Dormant bugs"
Arun Kumarr
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 16, 2005
Posts: 513

Jayesh A Lalwani wrote:I call these bugs "Dormant bugs"

Not dormant either. They were active.
While doing some read I came across another kind of bug, Heisenbug
Bear Bibeault
Author and ninkuma
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  65

Dormant until...
Jayesh A Lalwani
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Joined: Jan 17, 2008
Posts: 2052
    
  22

Arun Kumarr wrote:
Jayesh A Lalwani wrote:I call these bugs "Dormant bugs"

Not dormant either. They were active.

Well dormant implies that they were dormant before but are active now. You wouldn't know about dormant bugs that aren't active.


While doing some read I came across another kind of bug, Heisenbug


I don't know whether there is a a term for it:- There are some bugs that become worse when you try to analyze them. Most frequently appear when you are looking at performance problems. "Lets see.. I'll add log statements to find out why this piece of code that is executed 10K times takes 10ms instead of 1 ms.. Oh crap now it takes 100ms"
Bear Bibeault
Author and ninkuma
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  65

Bear Bibeault wrote:Sounds like a FAQ entry in the making....

Over a year later, the FAQ Entry has been created.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://aspose.com/file-tools
 
subject: The XY problem
 
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