by Dave Cross

I'm constantly amazed by the lack of knowledge shown by some "experts" in various fields. A good example recently appeared on a mailing list for freelance consultants that I read. Someone posted a question how they could update all data in database table to ensure that all the values were in upper case. One (seriously!) suggested solution was:

Export to CSV, open in excel, make them uppercase & import back

Although, this expert did go on to admit:

I'm not sure if excel has that functionality, but I guess it does

Luckily, other people had already pointed out the obvious SQL solution before this got to the list.

It scares me that people are charging money for work that is obviously so completely outside their area of expertise.


2006-03-22 04:57:43
I've been a software engineer for over 25 years now, working mostly on real time embedded projects.

I long ago came to the conclusion that very few people actually, genuinely, truly know what they are doing. There is no such thing as an expert. Some people know more than others; that's all.

I wouldn't dare say where I personally come in this scale; that's for the other people I work with to form their own opinions about. But I have worked with some very clever and knowledgeable people in my time. I have, however, worked with far more people who are (how shall I put it?) less knowledgeable and, quite frankly, not very skilled.

As for getting away with charging for this lack of knowledge (and let's face it, it's a high paid industry). Well, who'd hiring them? Other people... who also don't know what they are doing :-)

2006-03-22 05:08:49
At the place where I work we once hired an Oracle consultant who was supposedly an expert on Unix/Linux installations. At the end of the first day, on which he seemingly had been working hard on installing Oracle on one of our Debian machines, he exclaimed "Why won't the graphical installer show up on my display??". "Here", I said, "let me take a look. export DISPLAY=''" and up came the graphical installer on his display. I expected a costly consultant who was touted as being "an expert on Oracle on Linux" to know basic stuff like that.

Ah yes, I was quite naive in my younger years. :)

2006-03-22 06:43:45
Luckily, I only made the mistake of not specifying that I wasn't an expert once on Slashdot. After being taken out of context, I've always made sure to clarify to people what I do and do not know. While I don't defend your case of a freelance Excel Guru, I suppose these kinds of experts exist in nearly any field of work and not just technology. Ask most anybody about the last home-repair job they had done and they shall tell you the same.

Just out of curiosity, what would be the 'best' solution for that? I've never actually encountered that problem before, and I always like getting peoples' best solutions as a sort of mental notebook.

Dave Cross
2006-03-22 06:48:51

The point of my story (which isn't perhaps as clear as it could have been) is that the original user had the data in a database table, not an Excel spreadsheet. There was no reason for Excel to get involved at all. The "obvious" solution is to run a simple SQL command on the table - something like:

update the_table set the_col = upper(the_col);

2006-03-22 09:23:27
Working in the military, it always amazes me to see how little the "professionals" nearing retirement actually know. I feel I have more knowledge, simply by virtue of reading things on the Internet. They are so tied into the past when they were first taught their trade in a military school, they don't bother to see what's happening nowadays because they "know it all".

I won't deny that they may have more wisdom, but their rote "yes-man" attitude because "that's the way we've always done it" irritates me to no end.

2006-03-22 10:17:02
If you know how to sell your self in the market ,your technical expertise became less important. I met several real pro without a contract and many low qualified
engineer with big portfolio. The fist rely only on tecnology knowledge the seconds are also open to the market and rely on meeting, speech, social and commercial activities.
2006-03-22 21:21:47
maxpaz: Makes you wary of a technologist that sells himself too hard.
Stefan Scholl
2006-03-23 10:51:51
Like most of the O'Reilly authors of PHP books? :-)
2006-03-24 05:43:40
That is so crazy my mind just refuses to admit it was a real suggestion!
2006-03-27 18:47:50
Reminds me of a manager I once heard of that sat in front of an Excel spreadsheet with a calculator filling in values rather than having Excel calculate them for him.
2006-03-29 09:02:58

I got the idea that Excel should have nothing to do with a database (unless it was part of the application), but my point was that I see these 'experts' in any profession- not simply technology. We just notice the talk-the-talk tech professionals because that's (likely) our field of work as well. I even work for someone who refuses to accept the idea that orphan pages on a site and keyword stuffing doesn't help Google indexing/rank. But that's irrelevant, because as far as the boss is concerned NOBODY matters but Google...

...It's bad enough to see them. It's worse to work with them. The worst is working for them.