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Hunting an elephant in the 90's


Hunt elephants by going to Africa, throwing out everything that is not an elephant, and catching one of whatever is left.

Experienced Mathematicians

Will attempt to prove the existence of at least one unique elephant before proceeding to step 1 as a subordinate exercise.

Professors of Mathematics

will prove the existence of at least one unique elephant and then leave the detection and capture of an actual elephant as an exercise for their graduate students.

Computer Scientists

Hunt elephants by exercising Algorithm A:
  1. Go to Africa.
  2. Start at the Cape of Good Hope.
  3. Work northward in an orderly manner, traversing the continent alternately east and west.
  4. During each traverse pass:
    1. Catch each animal seen.
    2. Compare each animal caught to a known elephant.
    3. Stop when a match is detected.

Experienced Computer Programmers

Modify Algorithm A by placing a known elephant in Cairo to ensure that the algorithm will terminate.

Assembly Language Programmers

Prefer to execute Algorithm A on their hands and knees.

Datbase administrators

Do not need to go out and capture elephants when they can retrieve them simply with an ad hoc query:



Hunt elephants by going to Africa, catching grey animals at random, and stopping when any one of them weighs within plus or minus 15 percent of any previously observed elephant.

System Intergation Engineers

Are not so concerned with hunting elephants as with creating a seamless interface between the elephants and their environment.


Don't hunt elephants, but they believe that if elephants are paid enough, they will hunt themselves.


Hunt the first animal they see N times and call it an elephant.


Don't hunt elephants, and many have never hunted anything at all, but they can be hired by the hour to advise those people who do.

Operations Research Consultants

Can also measure the correlation of hat size and bullet colour to the efficiency of elephant-hunting strategies, if someone else will only identify the elephants.


Don't hunt elephants, but they will share the elephants you catch with the people who voted for them.


Don't hunt elephants, but they do follow the herds around arguing about who owns the droppings.

Software lawiers

Will claim that they own an entire herd based on the look and feel of one dropping.

Vice Presidents of Engineering, Research & Development

Try hard to hunt elephants, but their staffs are designed to prevent it. When the vice president does get to hunt elephants, the staff will try to ensure that all possible elephants are completely prehunted before the vice president sees them. If the vice president does see a non-pre-hunted elephant, (in other words, a live one) the staff will:
1. Compliment the vice president's keen eyesight
2. Enlarge itself to prevent any recurrence

Senior Managers

Set broad elephant-hunting policy based on the assumption that elephants are just like field mice, but with deeper voices.

Quality Assurance Inspectors

Ignore the elephants and look for mistakes the other hunters made when they were packing the jeep.

Sales People

Don't hunt elephants but spend their time selling elephants they haven't caught, for delivery two days before the season opens.

Software sales People

Ship the first thing they catch and write up an invoice for an elephant.

Hardware Sales People

Catch rabbits, paint them grey, and sell them as desktop elephants.

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Jeudi, 13 juin 2024