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How do you spot an amateur?
September 18, 2012 1:17 PM   Subscribe

How do you spot an amateur in your trade, profession, or hobby? Specifically, what are some examples of things that people without experience do, while attempting what you do or know well, because they don't know any better that make their lack of experience obvious?

For an idea of what I'd like, I was inspired to ask this question by this quote from the the main article in the excellent Teller post today,
"It's actually Penn who best explains the power of magical restraint in his autobiography, God, No! Penn was once a student at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College in Florida. There, he learned a way to distinguish professional clowns from amateurs: the red makeup around their mouth. A professional clown stops his makeup at his top lip. He won't paint where his mustache might be, because he knows that too much makeup actually obscures his expression rather than enhances it. Amateur clowns assume that more makeup equals more expression, and they paint from the bottom of their nose to the point of their chin. Professional clowns refer to this phenomenon as the "busted asshole."
What are some examples from what you do? Bonus points for tells that an outsider can distinguish.
posted by Blasdelb to Society & Culture (266 answers total) 352 users marked this as a favorite
 
Chin vibrato for singers.
posted by jph at 1:22 PM on September 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


Hitting a vein to make it "appear" in phlebotomy. It's utter amateur nonsense, frequently done by professionals. If you ever see someone do it, and you don't have great veins, or it's your child, stop them immediately. They WILL fail.
posted by taff at 1:25 PM on September 18, 2012 [14 favorites]


And by hitting, I mean tapping or lightly slapping with their hand.
posted by taff at 1:26 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


An inexperienced writer of fiction is more likely to try to avoid using the word "said" too much, and sometimes will even go so far as to try to use synonyms, because they took to heart the advice they were given in high school and haven't been writing and/or reading enough to understand that the word is basically invisible.

A classic radio rookie mistake is to address the listener in the plural. Radio is an intimate medium and it gets drilled into your head that you should talk as if you're addressing a single person.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:26 PM on September 18, 2012 [39 favorites]


As an engineer, it's all about the numbers. If someone is not familiar with a certain field, they just won't know the numbers. What's a typical number? What are the standard numbers? Here's an example from the movies. The Michael Keaton character obviously doesn't know anything about wiring, based on his response.

How does an outsider know? Well, that's part of the point, isn't it? It's not readily apparent to an outsider.
posted by Doohickie at 1:27 PM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


There's a vocabulary and level of understanding that is missing from people at work that try to stick their noses into the engineering work. The armchair engineers (mostly contracts people and program managers) try to affect design decisions with inane questions at program reviews that belie their lack of understanding. My favorite from a recent meeting - "How do you know your analysis is correct?" Well, it's because there are standard ways of doing things and we know how to double check our math. I'm not giving you a lecture on finite element modeling in the middle of a program review.

"Amateur" pilots (and here I use the scare quotes because I really mean less experienced pilots, whether they fly for hire or not) tend to do a couple of things to point out their inexperience. The biggest (and most dangerous) is making up for the lack of hours with a bravado that manifests itself by not following checklists, not doing preflights - basically not doing the common sense, rote procedures that keep people safe. They ignore them in favor of more seat-of-the-pants flying that ends up with a smoking crater somewhere. Alternatively, in the air you can always tell who the student pilots are because they sound very, very, unconfident on the radio, stuttering, often they don't know their own call sign because they switch between planes so often. Also, you'll hear the flight instructor cut in to finish the radio call coherently.
posted by backseatpilot at 1:28 PM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Kind of lame, but - not using keyboard shortcuts and hotkeys. This applies pretty generally to any job that entails the frequent use of a piece of software (common examples: Excel, Photoshop, text editors/IDEs, AutoCAD etc).

When playing pool - how you chalk your cue tip. Real pool players wipe the surface of chalk cube over the tip instead of grinding it in. A real pool player's home/personal chalk cube will have a weird wavy wear pattern instead of the hole drilled through the center you see at most bars and pool halls. Two reasons for this - it's easier to ensure thorough chalk coverage on the tip by wiping, and it keeps the chalk cube usable for much longer. This is especially true because if you drill straight down, the "walls" of the hole will get chalk on the cue's white ferrule and stain it.
posted by hot soup at 1:32 PM on September 18, 2012 [18 favorites]


In mechanical engineering, when an "amateur" sees something that is broken and wants to repair it, they will over-brace the area where the break occurred. A lot of times, this just moves the area of highest stress to another place, and it breaks there.

A trained engineer will look at the whole system.
posted by Quonab at 1:33 PM on September 18, 2012 [12 favorites]


A rookie software tester will test only the "happy paths," or the most obvious routes through the application, not knowing that it's typically the roads less travelled (the "bad user" scenario, error handling, etc). where you find the bugs.
posted by Currer Belfry at 1:35 PM on September 18, 2012 [15 favorites]


Seconding "said" in writing. There are other phrases I notice (although I'm no professional writer, I've seen enough college kids' writing), like "and then I proceeded to walk down the street." "She proceeded to tell me..."
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 1:36 PM on September 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


In photography, "tunnel vision" where the photographer is so intent on looking at the subject that they pay no attention to the rest of the frame, resulting in photos that have the subject too far away, or cluttered by superfluous surroundings, or with distracting backgrounds.

In graphic design, using too many typefaces or other competing elements.
posted by The Deej at 1:40 PM on September 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


In information security, people throw "cryptography" around like it's a magic fix for everything. In reality, it's a lot like the USPS -- it'll get to the destination without tampering, but any thief knows it's a lot easier to steal something out of your mailbox. The processes and system architecture surrounding cryptography is often far more important than using a key that won't be broken for a bazillion years.
posted by bfranklin at 1:40 PM on September 18, 2012 [12 favorites]


I can tell when someone has had experience being around blind people. If a blind person needs to be led somewhere, the experienced person will offer their arm for the person to hold onto, and then they will both start walking. The inexperienced person will grab the blind person and start pulling him/her along.
posted by Melismata at 1:40 PM on September 18, 2012 [12 favorites]


The word you're looking for is, "shibboleth."
posted by rhizome at 1:40 PM on September 18, 2012 [19 favorites]


They want to live in the period of history that they are studying. Most historians I know and have worked with know their period very thoroughly and are extremely well-versed in their area of expertises but have no desire whatsoever to live in the period they study.

In my limited experience, the amatuer historian has a close personal tie with the area they are studying and tend not to examine the area critically. Granted, I've known a number of Civil War/Southern historians that are descended from soldiers or slave owners, but it's rarely something one is proud of if you've studied the history objectively.
posted by teleri025 at 1:43 PM on September 18, 2012 [12 favorites]


Drawing or painting from your wrist. You use your entire arm, rotating from the shoulder and elbow, or you get carpal tunnel. This comes out very clearly on larger canvasses, but also applies to detail work: if you have enough motor-control you NEVER need to bend your wrist.
posted by Leucistic Cuttlefish at 1:45 PM on September 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


I could go on all day about amateur programmers, so I'll just pick one big one: professionals recognize where and how the problem at hand corresponds to problems with well-known approaches, knows to look for an existing solution, and is able to make an informed choice when there are several possibilities.
posted by Zed at 1:46 PM on September 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


Parents of young children: the ones with purpose-made diaper bags, it's their first. The ones with well-used backpacks are on their third or fourth youngun.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:46 PM on September 18, 2012 [17 favorites]


New firefighters actually want to run into the burning building.
posted by WidgetAlley at 1:47 PM on September 18, 2012 [12 favorites]


I can tell you are a beginner pool player by your shot selection, how often you chalk up the tip, your bridge, your butt elevation, how hard you hit the cue ball, where the cue ball goes after you hit it and most of all, your reaction after a miss.
posted by any major dude at 1:47 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


The rookie coach almost invariably:
  • talks too much
  • won't trust athletes to be busy without hand holding
  • plans sets, not training outcomes
  • fixates on small joints ignoring posture
  • intervenes too much, too often and too early

posted by mce at 1:49 PM on September 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


Oh, also, on downhill mountain biking: People who are newer to it tend to use the handlebars to steer the bike as opposed to leaning, shifting their weight, that sort of thing. A wipeout or two will usually divest them of this error.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:51 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Documentary filmmakers who use YouTube as a source.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:52 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Man, for me it's people that aren't familiar with the use of hand tools. They often want to jump right in and help but it all too often ends with extra work for me in coming behind them and redoing what they've done or them messing something up and causing extra work for everyone.

You can usually tell them by the blood or blisters they end up wearing as badges of honor or shame, depending on the disposition of the person in question.

This post may sound a bit aloof and condescending, really it's not. I'm the first person to advocate for hand tools over power tools and in learning how to use them and work 'smarter, not harder' but it's often tiring trying to explain to someone who thinks a rake or a pitchfork or, god forbit, a hoe is something they can just pickup and use having never touched one before. Not to mention seeing someone who thinks he's the bomb split his palm open with a toolbox handsaw on the first stroke... Not fun for anyone. Of course, people that listen are a pleasure to work with.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:53 PM on September 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


Software developer here. Although software development styles can vary significantly, and everybody in the field is constantly learning and probably has some amateur traits, there are a few traits that amateur/bad developers frequently manifest:
  • Preferring to write something from scratch rather than using off-the-shelf solutions
  • Preferring to RE-write some project they've inherited rather than try to understand it
  • Not testing their assumptions

posted by Vorteks at 1:53 PM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


In pharmacy, the ability to read staggeringly bad handwriting like this.
posted by selfmedicating at 1:56 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Labview programmers who use the film strip.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 1:56 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I mean INability. Oops.
posted by selfmedicating at 1:58 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


See this a lot in level design, but probably happens elsewhere: attempting to create, as one's first work, your 'best' idea, dooming it to failure, really
posted by MangyCarface at 1:58 PM on September 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


Oh, and if you're looking for a sign of amateur software that any outsider can recognize, I'd say the biggest one is "requires Internet Explorer".
posted by Vorteks at 1:58 PM on September 18, 2012 [15 favorites]


The rookie elementary/high school teacher will try to be friends with their students.
posted by NoraCharles at 1:58 PM on September 18, 2012 [11 favorites]


Also, catalogers don't rely on an ISBN as a unique and individual identifier for a book. We know they get recycled and reused all the time. Author name, title, combined with date of publication, and page count is a much, much more reliable of figuring out which record matches which book. Or an OCLC number.
posted by teleri025 at 2:00 PM on September 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


Beginning slam poets invariably mention spines, ribcages, or pomegranates. They also tend to cry on stage. Every time.
posted by karminai at 2:00 PM on September 18, 2012 [39 favorites]


Amateur classical musicians are often (but not always!) poor sight-readers, don't know their scales, and have trouble tuning or adjusting their instruments. Their instruments are often student models and in poor repair. They use the stock mouthpiece and the cheapest reeds or bow. As a result, they don't sound great. Professionals or advanced students can make even a cheap instrument sound pretty decent. Also, amateurs have trouble following conductors.
posted by Red Desk at 2:00 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


New cooks will often start to cook without having read the whole recipe, or will not read and integrate all the components of a recipe. This often leads to late realizations of missing ingredients, or late realizations of time consuming steps (what do you mean the phyllo has to thaw overnight? I didn't realize the cookie dough has to chill for six hours).

New cooks will believe the recipe when it says to caramelize onions for 5 or 10 minutes (when it really takes 40-50 minutes), and other recipe fictions.

New cooks will make inappropriate ingredient choices (when the recipe just says "potato" and they don't know which variety to pick) or won't know when it's ok to make substitutions and when it's not (you can put vanilla extract in cookies but don't try to put it in creme brulee, soy milk is good in lots of things, but won't thicken the same way cow's mil will).

Meat is often overcooked, especially chicken and pork.
posted by arcticwoman at 2:01 PM on September 18, 2012 [31 favorites]


Inexperienced garment designers have bad armscyes and sleeve caps. You can draft them off of formulas and get something that more or less works, but it takes judgement to make them fit *really* well, and more still to be able to refine the cap shape to work better with this fabric or that patterning—in every size. A sloppy armscye (sleeve seam falling off the shoulder or too tight and binding) is always a mark of an inexperienced (or lazy) designer.
posted by peachfuzz at 2:01 PM on September 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


The very first day on a stage lighting tech crew, you'll probably say "bulb" instead of "lamp" and pronounce Fresnel as "frez-nel" instead of "fruh-nel"
posted by sawdustbear at 2:02 PM on September 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


I can always tell in government when I'm dealing with someone who's new to working in the public sector.

- You have laws/regulations/policies/etc to adhere to, and not knowing those documents inside and out is a recipe for disaster
- Assuming they know best and forging ahead without speaking to or getting the buy in of senior management
- Vague, unclear writing full of adjectives. Government writing is not supposed to convey an opinion on policy.

And among the political staff:
- Don't you know who I am/who I work for? Yes, I do, and you're not him. Get off your high horse.
- Demanding perks and extra treats like 16 tickets to something you're only allowed 2 of.
- Loudly talking about the latest file to come into your office while at lunch with friends. In your attempt to impress, you just violated your security clearance, fuckwad.
posted by LN at 2:03 PM on September 18, 2012 [34 favorites]


The inexperienced PR person says, "Why don't we just let the executives/engineers/other people who should never be exposed to public view talk for THEMSELVES instead of filtering everything?"
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:04 PM on September 18, 2012 [22 favorites]


Rookie film archivists/restorers/projectionists using a flatbed winder will nearly always wind the film slowly because they feel more in control. However, you have to be confident and moderately speedy in order to achieve an even tension. Too slow and the wind will be loose and likely have ridges, too fast and it can snap.
posted by dumdidumdum at 2:06 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Inexperienced programmers are bad at writing comments. They will write lengthy treatises on a function that prints a sentence and little to nothing on a function that makes a lot of assumptions about the system it's being used on.
posted by rhythm and booze at 2:08 PM on September 18, 2012 [11 favorites]


Using the on-camera flash is a pretty obvious sign of an amateur photographer. The lens is another signifier- amateurs use the kit lenses, which are big plastic zoom lenses. Not to say a professional wouldn't use these. But they usually don't.
A cheap tripod. Not using a tripod when shooting, even in bright daylight. Shooting in bright daylight, also.
posted by aabbbiee at 2:10 PM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Programmers who want to roll their own solution without looking for existing libraries/frameworks/whatever first, or who get emotionally invested in the tools they're using and not the end result. I think "wants to re-invent the wheel/doesn't know that the wheel exists" is actually a pretty common mistake across all fields. Also, long comments but bad class/function names.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 2:11 PM on September 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


A bad/inexperienced director will try to literally tell the actors what to do ("No, say it more like this!"), rather than asking questions or giving guidance about how their character feels.

This a) turns actors into automatons unable to actually become the character and b) lets them know they're on their own because they're stuck with a bad director.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:11 PM on September 18, 2012 [25 favorites]


Source control management, issue tracking and automated testing are the barest of bare minimums for professional software development. People who don't use those things 100% of the time are amateurs, whatever it says on their business card.
posted by mhoye at 2:12 PM on September 18, 2012 [12 favorites]


Since road cyclists are the snobbiest of the snobs, they've devoted an entire artform to identifying and mocking clueless amateurs, who are either deemed "freds" or "poseurs". The criteria for determining this are endless and ever-changing and are sometimes contradictory, but generally include:
Dressing like Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France while on a casual ride (full team uniform, top of the line bike with pro-team paint scheme, etc)
Dressing not enough like Lance Armstrong (not wearing lycra shorts, wearing a T-shirt instead of a plain-colored or freebie biking jersey)
Riding on deep-section aero rims at all times
Showing up to a group ride with aero bars on your bike
Not having a sufficient drop from your seat height to your handlebar height

Basically, there's a certain breed of road cyclists that considers everyone that is trying too hard or not trying hard enough to be rank amateurs.
posted by hot soup at 2:16 PM on September 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Inexperienced bands spend tons of time on stage not playing music. Take forever to get on stage and tune, muddle around for an extra few seconds between songs, and then when they're done they have no urgency to get off stage for the next band. They also tend to have a very optimistic view of how much the sound guy can do for them.
posted by dfan at 2:17 PM on September 18, 2012 [25 favorites]


In microbiology, someone who is inexperienced at pipetting will try to do it one-handed. Those who've been at it for a while will generally use their other hand (or just a finger) as a brace to steady the tip, both because it's often pretty fiddly work and because we usually have been drinking a lot of coffee and have shaky hands.
posted by Scientist at 2:17 PM on September 18, 2012 [12 favorites]


Inexperienced chess players say "check".
posted by dfan at 2:18 PM on September 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Heard this one on an old home improvement podcast: an amateur will trim a door frame with the molding flush with the casing. Pros leave a reveal of 1/4" or so.

An inexperienced machinist doesn't automatically know the decimal equivalents of fractions. Pros know them down the 32nd and beyond.

Note: I am totally an amateur
posted by echo target at 2:24 PM on September 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Inexperienced project managers will faff around with gantt charts, making endless adjustments, asking endless questions and not actually manage the project. Once they are satisfied with their gantt chart as a thing of beauty they will attempt to stick to it at all costs while the project goes on around them.
posted by mattoxic at 2:27 PM on September 18, 2012 [41 favorites]


Inexperienced handbell ringers often bob their heads with the beat, and their ringing motion lacks overall fluidity. They tend to ring the bell by making a linear motion with their arm and tipping the bell forward with their wrist as if they were trying to dump something out of it. An experienced bell ringer will ring the bell in a smooth circular motion using the whole arm, keeping the bell mostly upright and tipping it forward just slightly at the right point in the circle to make the clapper hit the casting. Of course, this depends on the size of the bell. Larger ones require a bigger circle due to inertia and the distance between the clapper's resting position and the casting, while smaller ones can be rung much more easily with a wrist flick, but the circular motion is still important across the board for visual appeal. Speaking of which, for notes which are rung and then held for a long time, an inexperienced ringer tends to ring the bell and then hold still. An experienced ringer will keep the bell moving slowly, even if it means repeating circles without re-striking, simply for visual appeal.
posted by Nothlit at 2:27 PM on September 18, 2012 [12 favorites]


For singers, not singing into the mic. Amateurs often sing inches over the top of the mic or, conversely, into the bottom of a mice pointed directly up. The correct technique is to aim the center of the top of the mic directly at your mouth. The distance between the mic and your mouth varies depending on what you're doing and how hot the mic is, but there are also ways to screw that aspect up.
posted by prefpara at 2:27 PM on September 18, 2012


Amateur foreign language teachers will define a word by using either (a) much more complicated words: "Coin, y'know, legal tender... currency of the realm... you know" or (b) using homey-sounding (and, to foreign learners, opaque) terms: "Benjamins, greenbacks, squid, cabbage, dead presidents... you know!"

(I've been on both sides of that one, and it's painfully easy to spot when you're not the perpetrator)
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 2:28 PM on September 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


into the bottom of a mice pointed directly up

Oops. However, singing into a mouse bottom is also revealing of one's lack of expertise.
posted by prefpara at 2:29 PM on September 18, 2012 [43 favorites]


I can confirm the machinist knowing the decimal<>fractions conversions. My father was a machinist for 25-30 years and this was one of his favorite skills to show off with.
posted by mmascolino at 2:32 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


No idea if this counts as a hobby or as a profession but since I do it several hours a day I think I have some expertise in the field of babywearing (=carrying small children in something other than your arms). Inexperienced babywearers
- use BabyBjorns or other 'crotch danglers' that don't support the baby's knees/thighs and are hard on the back
- use front facing carries, sometimes even in carriers like the Ergo that are not built for this
- use bag/pouch type carriers that have baby cradled horizontally - these are really unsafe
- have babies dangling around at bellybutton height or lower, instead of high and tight at chest level
- lean backwards, forwards or sideways, away from the child, to balance out a too loose carry. This is a sign for an unergonomic carry that probably won't work for the parent because it leads to back/hip/shoulder pain. Experienced wearers have good, straight posture because baby's center of gravity is close to their own.
posted by The Toad at 2:33 PM on September 18, 2012 [20 favorites]


Experienced mechanics don't have to test fit the wrench to get the correct one, they just pick up the one they need.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 2:35 PM on September 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


I've had more than one rookie teacher tell me he has all of his lesson plans written out for the entire year on day one.
posted by katie at 2:37 PM on September 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


Inexperienced stagehands lack awareness of the jobsite and how their work effects other departments and other people working around them. A HUGE part of this is never looking up--much of our work happens overhead, and most people are completely unaware of what's above them nearly all of the time.
posted by mollymayhem at 2:38 PM on September 18, 2012


Optimism. In most fields, I'd bet, but certainly in computational biology and in the software industry.

The most optimistic person in the room is usually the least experienced, unless they're faking being the most optimistic in order to inspire others.
posted by gurple at 2:38 PM on September 18, 2012 [15 favorites]


Rebooting a server (Windows might not count, I don't really know) to solve a problem is usually a good indicator that a system administrator doesn't understand what he's dealing with. That's not to say there aren't perfectly good reasons to reboot occasionally, or that there aren't specific issues that will require a reboot to fix, or that it's always necessarily worth the effort to understand the problem when a reboot will probably fix it. But in my experience, about 80% of the time someone suggests rebooting a server, it's because they don't know how to resolve the actual issue.
posted by makeitso at 2:41 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


It looks like the Mefi Engineering contingent has been thoroughly represented :)

Specifically in government contracting, an inexperienced program manager will not get early buy-in from all the ancillary government agencies involved in a project (say, the fire chief for building construction, or quality assurance for DoD equipment maintenance support). Inexperienced program managers who want to seem experienced will sometimes scoff at the notion that those agencies need early buy-in at all (only to complain that their project is now hopelessly behind schedule because the local OSHA rep is objecting to some aspect of their project).
posted by muddgirl at 2:51 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


An inexperienced crew loading or unloading a lorry or ship will carry items from the start to finish point, squeezing past the other loading crew (often having to stop and wait) and then walking back to the start point.

A line of people passing cargo from hand-to-hand is far quicker and easier, at most you just have to walk a few steps to meet the next person.
posted by Lanark at 2:52 PM on September 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Inexperienced forum mods go to great lengths to avoid public apologies or admissions of error, in the belief that doing either would undercut their authority. The reverse is generally true.

Also, an inexperienced community manager, when trying to build a "positive" community, will often outlaw (and delete) "negative" posts or comments. This just amplifies the negative sentiment - a pro will institute a process for people to express those sentiments so that they don't spill over into the general pool.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:54 PM on September 18, 2012 [37 favorites]


New/bad/inexperienced World of Warcraft players will turn with the keyboard, which is much slower than turning with the mouse and looks decidedly different in-game, and also back-peddle instead of strafe. There's a host of other things, but those two are immediately visually obvious and the source of a lot of derisive jokes/humor amongst serious PVP players.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 2:55 PM on September 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh another famous one about movie directors is taking a poll of the crew when they don't know what to do.

Q: How many first-time directors does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: I don't know, what do you guys think?


Which is not to say more experienced directors know everything, but they tend to ask for advice in private, or else just take a guess.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:00 PM on September 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


Inexperienced litigators: asking compound or implicitly compound questions at deposition or at trial ("Why did you do X?" before asking "Did you do X?"); on a similar note, asking a trial witness a question you do not already have an answer to through documents or deposition testimony.
posted by sallybrown at 3:00 PM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Inexperienced litigators tell the client a case is a slam dunk. Experience litigators look at a slam dunk and tell the client, "It's 60-40, depending on the judge; we feel pretty good about it ... but you can never tell."

(Inexperienced clients hire the guy who tells them it's a slam dunk. Experienced clients roll their eyes and sigh in exasperation at their lawyer always prevaricating, but they know it's a good sign when an attorney is considering multiple outcomes and isn't overconfident.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:01 PM on September 18, 2012 [12 favorites]


Inexperienced drivers in snow will often slow down or (god forbid) stop when they get to a snow drift in the road. Worst thing to do. You've got to maintain speed or even increase speed so you don't get stuck!
posted by Eicats at 3:04 PM on September 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


In writing:
- Trying to make the reader think you are clever rather than trying to just get the job done.
- Excessive use of GRE-level vocab words where a simpler word would do fine.
- On the other hand, excessively choosing simpler but less expressive words when a bigger word is needed.
- Responding to criticism by saying "But this story is based on my dad, and it has very special meaning to me, so I cannot change this minor detail that totally ruins the story."
- Somebody dies in every one of your stories.
- Trying to write like Lydia Davis.
- Getting defensive in workshop, trying to argue that certain feedback given is not valid or misunderstands the story or whatever.
posted by deathpanels at 3:10 PM on September 18, 2012 [17 favorites]


Wearing a white bra under a white shirt = amateur performance of femininity.
posted by prefpara at 3:10 PM on September 18, 2012 [34 favorites]


Amateur anime translators will often strictly adhere to use of Japanese honorifics, almost as an overcompensation for a childhood of bad dubbed cartoons. So, instead of Doctor Bob, you'll get Bob-sensei, even though he's a medical practitioner and sensei is perfectly translatable in almost all settings. Don't get me started on -senpai.

If they've never worked on a live-action show before, they'll translate every single hai and ahno, and every person on-screen will come off as rambling and overwrought. Use of ellipses will be utterly rampant.

Line lengths will be much too long and the timing will be too tight to the audio. Japanese words that have multiple different accepted english spellings will never be consistent through a single episode of something.

New-to-pro translators will think they either don't need an editor, or they will be working in-tandem with an editor and constantly able to rework their script. When they think they do need an editor they'll think an editor only needs half an hour to do a 24 minute show, because they think editor = QC. Translators who are editing for another translator think that they won't need QC. QC will think that they don't actually have to pay attention to internal consistency.

I could go on.
posted by Mizu at 3:11 PM on September 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


More on inexperienced lawyers! I'm a corporate lawyer who works on deals, so this is for non-litigators: they make a big stink over deal terms that are totally standard, send documents back full of meaningless changes to wording and punctuation instead of just focusing on important issues, and write contracts that are 20 pages long when they could be 5 pages.
posted by chickenmagazine at 3:12 PM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you see someone running in place at a stoplight, they're almost certainly a rookie.
posted by ftm at 3:17 PM on September 18, 2012 [15 favorites]


Therapists who try desperately to refrain from asking "why questions" because they find them 'judgmental.' Sometimes "why did you do that" just sounds a lot less awkward than "what were the reasons that caused you to do that?" That said, I'm still a total amateur myself.
posted by namesarehard at 3:18 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Newbie graphic artists tend to try squeezing in way too much info, in too many fonts AND too many colors. Got a three-inch-tall ad with 20 lines of print, each line a separate font (and font size!) with multiple colors per line? Beginner. They'll also do stuff like put white or yellow type on a pale background, or, in the case of an email I got last week: white writing on a yellow background block for the head; then a purple block with words in blue, green, magenta, dark purple AND lavender; followed by the most important data in dark blue on a black background..... and all of it switching back and forth between twelve fonts (yes, I counted!).

Theater projectionists: slow and uncoordinated..... like a professional dancer doing Swan Lake for the 5000th time, you do it smooth, steady and fast --- it's all about repetition and muscle memory and doing it right without stopping to think 'now what? NOW what?' Ditto for diagnosing the thousand and one things that can go wrong: it's understanding & correcting the problem at once, without following some kind of flowchart of 'if x = n, then y=z'. Then again, that's pretty much true for any professional, isn't it?
posted by easily confused at 3:18 PM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


A singer who is trying to appear impressive but doesn't have the chops will often wreck sustained notes with complicated fills and runs, in which every note is out of tune. Or they will wait until a piece is nearly worked up before saying "I dunno, guys, this is a little high for me, can we do it in G-flat?" (Or they will have no idea what key they are in at all.) They will lag behind the beat, rather than landing on the leading edge, leading to the piece getting slower and slower. They will stop their voice or take a breath in the middle of a big interval leap, rather than gathering steam to connect the two notes.

In the classical world, they will run out of breath on sustained phrases, or fall flat on sustained notes. They'll spread and push to get high notes, and get breathy on low ones. They'll have a vibrato so wide that it obscures whatever actual note they may be singing.

Outside of classical, they'll claim to know the song when all they know is the first verse and the chorus. They won't be able to negotiate the key change for the bridge. They'll give their all in the first two numbers, and wind up hoarse and sucking tea by the end. They'll sing from the neck and the throat, rather than the diaphragm, leading to tension in the neck that looks like this. (That's Chris Cornell, who is definitely an experienced singer, but he also wrecked his voice doing that.) Or they may plain and simple have no idea when to come in, and forget the words when they do.
posted by KathrynT at 3:19 PM on September 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


Lots of programming ones come to mind, but the biggest:
A good programmer is inherently suspicious that her code doesn't work properly, even when it has been tested, and will go to great lengths to make it break. She expects bugs, though she doesn't know where they are hiding. A poor programmer is confident in his designs and doesn't expect any issues.
I hear this all the time at work – "yeah, we still need to run some tests, but –" and then they move on to the next thing they're going to do. Like running the tests isn't likely to turn up any problems, so it's not worth devoting a full sentence to it.
posted by deathpanels at 3:19 PM on September 18, 2012 [29 favorites]


Amateur scientists think their experiments will work the first time. Experienced scientists are glad to have a 20% success rate.

Amateur scientists think you spend all your time at the bench doing the experiment. Experienced scientists spend the majority of their time doing lit review, analyzing data, writing grants, writing papers, reviewing papers, and trying to massage their recalcitrant collaborators. Primary investigators end up just having their minions do the work.

Amateur scientists see values change and declare their theory proven. Experienced scientists use statistics to show that there was a significant change and it wasn't just dumb chance (and those who don't really should).

Amateur molecular biologists will hold their freaking micropipette sideways or, worse, upside down (I'm looking at you, Avatar). Experienced scientists know you might as well just burn $400 in the parking lot if you do that.
posted by Mercaptan at 3:21 PM on September 18, 2012 [30 favorites]


Things that beginners at Magic: the Gathering usually do:

- They overvalue life in the early game, both their's and their opponents's. This causes them to waste cards and delay their board development.
- Once both players have creatures in play, they play too passively in the combat step and miss safe attacks and good trades. A beginner vs. beginner match at a tournament frequently ends up with two vast armies staring at each other, neither daring to attack. This is far less common in matches between strong players, because strong players are far more aggressive and willing to trade off creatures.
- They tend to use removal and combat tricks on the first target that comes along, rather than waiting for a genuine threat.
- They don't play enough lands in their decks and then complain about how unlucky they were when they don't draw enough.
- They are scared stiff of mulliganning any hand and often keep ones that do nothing whatsoever (and then complain about how unlucky they were).
posted by Urtylug at 3:21 PM on September 18, 2012 [12 favorites]


Wow, I am amazed none of the other mefi librarians have piped up. In public service, answering the question the patron just said instead of using a proper reference interview to find out their actual need and then finding appropriate resources.

Bonus level - if you have done it long enough (and you get the same question/demographic of patrons) you can hear the patron's verbalized question, do the reference interview in your mind and then ask the patron if foo meets their needs. That always amazes the brand new colleagues (how did you read their mind!!)
posted by saucysault at 3:22 PM on September 18, 2012 [17 favorites]


Amateur beer drinkers try to put all the beer in their mouth in the first hour.
posted by deathpanels at 3:24 PM on September 18, 2012 [23 favorites]


If a nanny tells you "I love my job, I'm just like one of the family!!!" she is either brand new, profoundly lucky, or in complete denial.

To put it another way, healthy boundaries are key to a good nanny-family relationship, but a lot of new nannies think closer = better. It does not.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:26 PM on September 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Race car drivers:
They're never, ever, fit enough.
They do everything in the car quickly (fast hand movements, sudden gearshifts) - it feels rushed.
They always ALWAYS think that changing the car is the answer - just like the F1 guys do, right? Must be the same for me! It rarely is the cause of a handling issue in an amateur (see below). If an amateur set the car up, it's likely it is both the driver AND the car.
They look at apexes rather than through them.
They don't know there is someone behind them or (often) can't lap at the same pace if you talk to them on the radio.

if you're in for a track ride with a race driver and they seem rushed, then they're an amateur. If the driver looks like he's bored and relaxed and all of a sudden you're at the start finish line - that's a pro. Then you realise that he was 2 seconds faster than the first guy, but this one was talking to you about his lunch/holiday/fun day out the whole way around rather than grinding his jaw and puffing.

Engineers/mechanics
They arrive at the track and work on the car. Before going on track.
They spend all their time on go faster mods/set ups/tweaks that earn 0.05 of a second. Then their cars break down because they didn't spend enough time on basic prep.
Related: If the car is fast, they leave the track relatively early in the evening. The car will break down tomorrow or won't be as fast and they won't know why.
Related: They spend 4 hours on the set up patch fine-tuning something to microns and then can't replicate that set up when they return to the track because their build and prep procedures aren't consistent. Doesn't matter how accurately you set one thing up if the thing connecting it to the car is loose/bent/changing.

In summary, they either don't spend enough time at the track working on the car, or spend the time they are there working on the wrong thing.
Their cars are never clean underneath the bodywork. This shows they don't spend enough time on prep (see above).
They try to talk to the other teams about set up/drivers about line. That's just 'not done' unless it is your friend.
posted by Brockles at 3:26 PM on September 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


To add to articwoman's points about cooking which I agree with:

Inexperienced cooks tend to stick to a recipe to an obsessive degree, measuring each 1/4th tsp of cinnamon and 1/8th tsp of cumin. Experienced cooks know when it's ok to take creative liberties and when proportions should be followed exactly. Most things in cooking (but not baking) can be tweaked quite a bit.

Experienced cooks also tend to follow fewer recipes in general and instead have certain basic techniques that they have down, which can then be improvised on. They're good at tasting as they go, and figuring out what flavor element is missing (a touch of acid can brighten many dishes that taste meh before).

Inexperienced cooks also tend to be overcautious when cooking meats (as mentioned by articwoman) leading to overcooked meat. Also they tend to undersalt.
posted by peacheater at 3:27 PM on September 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


(Still on Magic: the Gathering)

One other beginner-flag is people who use instant-speed effects during their main phase when there is no good reason to do so. Unless there is a good reason to do otherwise, you use effects like that at the last possible moment.
posted by Urtylug at 3:27 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


People who are not experienced at following arboreal primates try to follow them from directly underneath while staring straight up through their binoculars. It's much, much easier to follow from a little further away. Generally, you have a clearer line of sight from farther away because you're not trying to look directly through the canopy, and you can keep better track of them and see when they leave.

Also, it's much easier on your neck if you're looking at an angle rather than tipping your head straight back. You can also tell how practiced someone is at using binoculars. You can keep track of whatever you're watching by lifting the binoculars up to your face while keeping your eyes on what's being watched, rather than moving your eyes to the binoculars, then trying to find it again.

People often forget that monkeys moving through trees is NOISY. People who aren't experienced at following them will look for physical monkeys, and often listen for calls, but don't spend much time listening for, or watching for, rustling leaves. If they're moving quickly but trying to move quietly - maybe there's a predator, maybe they're trying to get away from another group - they're definitely not going to calling, and you might miss them.

And, when at the zoo, I can tell that 98% of people there have never taken a basic anthropology class because they tell their children "Look at the monkey!" while looking at something that is clearly an ape (hint: does it have a tail? It is almost definitely a monkey, unless it is a mandrill or certain kinds of macaques, who have very short tails that can be easy to miss).
posted by ChuraChura at 3:29 PM on September 18, 2012 [15 favorites]


Amateur video editors have a few tells:

1. Overuse of built in graphic effects. The abundance of wiggling / on fire / sparkling text on screen is a certain sign that a new version of Final Cut Pro is out.

2. Over cutting. Particularly with regard to music, too many shots forced together.

3. Breaking the 180 rule. Basic idea of maintaining the direction of characters on screen relative to the camera - in a conversation one character is looking left, the other is looking right. You can break this rule for disjointed effect, or with reestablishing shots, but that often is not the case.

4. More for shooting, but poor audio. You can cover a less than stellar video look with solid audio. The most amazing shot will suffer because of on camera mic.
posted by shinynewnick at 3:32 PM on September 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


Electronic music production: Using nothing but presets, especially without altering them or warping the sound with effects and filters. Relying on sample packs that everyone and their dog has ("Funky House Producer" by Loopmasters? Really?). Thinking that a track is finished after 45 minutes to an hour of work. Myopic preference for one DAW (i.e.: Why do you even have X? Y is ALL YOU'LL EVER NEED.) or plugin.

Guilty (on all counts), but improving.
posted by phoebus at 3:36 PM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


One tell-tale sign that a graphic designer is new to the field is leaving the double spaces before each sentence that most people still put in their documents. The properly-sized space for the beginning of a sentence is automatically inserted before the beginning of each sentence in programs like InDesign and Word. Double spaces are a leftover from typewriter days.
posted by Foam Pants at 3:40 PM on September 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


Inexperienced (or just bad) editors will introduce mistakes.
posted by scratch at 3:41 PM on September 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


In population health statistics: calling something measured at one point in time a rate.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 3:44 PM on September 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


Inexperienced organizers are optimistic rather than trusting the numbers. They believe that if 50 people say "yes" to a meeting 50 will show - even if last time (and every time before) it was 25. They're especially optimistic about the people they've had conversations with - that the person who flaked twice before will actually show this time, they just have a good feeling. Because of their optimism and good feelings they skip steps in the rap that are designed to test commitment. These steps in the conversation feel bad to do because they invite confrontation and disappointment, so the inexperienced organizer trusts their "good feeling" and skips them.

Inexperienced organizers come back to the office late (without filling out contact sheets yet) because their last conversation took an hour, and they come back with too many contacts rated as undecided - they think it's good because it's not a no, but it's bad because we have to go back. More experienced organizers push to a firm yes or no.

Inexperienced organizers have an amazingly empathetic and persuasive conversation and then can't remember where the person said they worked or what shift. It takes a lot of experience to manage conversational input and output at once. They forget to get contact information.

We have a lot of turnover.
posted by crabintheocean at 3:46 PM on September 18, 2012 [22 favorites]


Not exclusive to amateur painters, but largely indicative of amateurs, hobbyists, and technician hacks is signing your painting conspicuously on the front. Since about 1980.

I'm no pro, but I definitely tend to win. I've got to call bullshit on this:

Real pool players wipe the surface of chalk cube over the tip instead of grinding it in. A real pool player's home/personal chalk cube will have a weird wavy wear pattern instead of the hole drilled through the center you see at most bars and pool halls.

I guess this must be in reference to dressing your tip carefully when you're sitting or before a game, but while you're shooting you use the crater. At the very beginning on the left hand side of this video you see Jeanette Lee chalk her cue with the rock n' rotate method I see almost everyone use... except she's not about to shoot! It's true you don't grind it in, but your personal chalk fits your tip's shape usually. The specific method is mostly arbitrary as long as they do it the same way every time.

Amateur pool players get mad when they miss. Some of them always hit the ball way too hard. They don't chalk in between every shot. They scoop jump shots without knowing it's illegal. They don't want to use the bridge. They don't ever play safety shots.

That said, I've definitely been bested by people who violate some or all of these supposed basics. There are plenty of codgers who rocket the ball into every pocket without chalking their flat tip once, but might run the table on you. So, yeah.
posted by cmoj at 3:50 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Amateur internet searchers start with Google and then read through what Google gives them to decide what to click on to answer their question. They may type natural language questions. They almost always use many more words to find a thing than they require. So searching for "What day is columbus day in 2012?" as opposed to "columbus day 2012" which will get you the same thing. Only matters if you're doing hundreds of searches a day which amateurs usually aren't.

Advanced internet searchers don't always start with Google, but if they do start with Google they usually use the results list to form a better query and may do this two or three times before they even click on any of the results. They also use a lot more limiters a lot more readily and skim results lists much more quickly than observers think makes sense.

Also what saucysault said about the reference interview.

Amateur Vermonters pay for syrup, wear new boots in April (mud season), walk with firewood instead of throwing it where it needs to go and drive on their side of the road, even in the winter (when the pros drive down the middle unless someone is coming)
posted by jessamyn at 3:51 PM on September 18, 2012 [33 favorites]


Artisan Baking: Amateur or hobbyist bread bakers tend to ignore the art of the craft and depend too much the science of water temperature, dough temperature and fermentation time; they rely on raw numbers. Conversely, very casual bakers tend to ignore the science of the craft and wait for a dough to double in volume after making it with lukewarm water mixing it for 10-15 minutes, they don't understand that there is a science to bread along with all fermented foods.

At my bakery we monitor and record an incredible amount of information for each dough: Flour analysis data from our milling companies (that sounds fancy, but it's only two companies and the data is published on the internet), water and flour temperature to the 1/10th degree, room temp, proofer/chiller temp, mixing times to 30 sec increments, fermentation times and proofing times to the minute, oven temp, flour weights to the 1/10 lb, salt weights to the gram, sourdough fermentation level, etc. This is all for what is essentially low volume production, with 4-6 people working per day. All that data will get you a perfect dough on a perfect day.

There is never a perfect dough or perfect day. You have to account for your unknowns; your building, environment, HVAC system, human error, equipment error, plain old losing track of time, etc. Most importantly you have to take in all of your daily data, account for your uknowns, and then having developed an extra sense for your unknown unkowns you put your hand on some dough, squeeze it and make a judgement call on when to shape or bake it.

Summary: Amateurs depend too much on what they feel about a dough or don't depend enough on what they feel about a dough.
posted by Science! at 3:52 PM on September 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


The removable screw-like part is called a bit, not a drill.
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:53 PM on September 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


People who don't know much about the U.S. intelligence community mistakenly say "CIA agent" to refer to a CIA officer. Government employees who work at CIA are officers; an agent is a human source.

Also, many CIA people don't say "the CIA," just "CIA."
posted by woot at 3:54 PM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


They blunder in trying to answer a question on their own that they are not qualified to answer rather than admitting they are not sure and seeking help. That drives me crazy.
posted by Dansaman at 4:03 PM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


beginning musicians have an inordinate amount of focus on the gear or software used to make a particular sound or track. seasoned musicians will use almost any thing, old or new (one of my favorite examples is dubstep producer Rusko only using Sony's Acid v 3.0 on Windows... so good).
posted by raihan_ at 4:03 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


As am amateur myself...

An amateur beekeeper will always obsessively check every single frame in a hive when doing a hive inspection. A more experienced beekeeper can spot the telltale signs that say they need to look more carefully at the hive, and in the absence of those signs they will close up the hive and move on, which makes the bees less angry.

An amateur will also hold a frame parallel to the ground (like in that photo), rather than horizontally or vertically. On a hot day this can result in the comb falling right out of the frame.

An amateur will get stung by a bee and immediately screech, drop their shit, and flee, only returning once they've extracted the stinger and smoked the sting site (which blocks the pheromones that say "other bees, attack here"). A pro will get stung, go "ah!", and remove the stinger and smoke the sting within seconds, without leaving the hive. They also know to use their hive tools to scrape the stinger out, rather than trying to tweeze it out, because squeezing the stinger just pumps more venom into the wound.

Also, experienced beekeepers delight in picking up handfulls of bees with their bare hands in order to freak amateurs out.
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:07 PM on September 18, 2012 [12 favorites]


This is a tough one for the medical field, because most of the mistakes that inexperienced doctors (like interns) make are just because of lack of knowledge or skills that they need to gain during residency training.

However, I think I can come up with a few items that I have noticed, especially after spending a few years working with residents, and especially in the area of narcotic use. Inexperienced doctors:

- Take everything the patient says at face value, never consider that the patient might be lying to them, don't consider other evidence on history or physical exam that would be a clue to a more experienced clinician that a patient is lying or not telling the whole truth (i.e. "well, he told me someone stole his oxycodone, so I'm writing him a refill").

A slightly more sophisticated giveaway would be not using the patient's affect/reaction/physical findings to judge the appropriate response - for example, giving a patient a large dose of narcotics because they rated their pain 10/10, even though they said "10/10" in a bored voice while texting someone on their cell phone, or they had to be shaken awake from sleep to respond "10/10", with pinpoint pupils and a slowed respiratory rate (in a more damning example).

- Don't know the tricks they can use on physical exam to determine if a patient is lying, such as distracting them by asking questions while doing the abdominal exam, or pushing on the abdomen with the stethoscope while 'listening to bowel sounds' to see if you elicit the same response. Or if the person may be faking being unresponsive/having 'arm paralysis', you can hold their hand up above their face and let it fall, see if the hand hits the face or not....

Note that the examples above could be turned around to identify inexperienced drug seekers or malingerers.

- Give the textbook dose of Narcan (an opiate overdose antidote) to a drowsy narcotic abuser, which will cause them to get very angry, vomit on you, tear out their IV, jump out of bed and run out the door (and a few minutes later, they go comatose again, outside the hospital when the Narcan wears off). The experienced doc gives just enough Narcan to keep them breathing but asleep.

A few other random items on inexperienced doctors, they:
- Fail to recognize the telltale signs of a person having a pseudoseizure. There are certainly things you can do to distinguish a real seizure from a pseudoseizure on exam, but after you've seen plenty of both, you can tell the difference with little more than a glance.
- Get distracted by an obvious physical finding and fail to consider something more subtle, for example, neglecting to consider serious intracranial traumatic injury while distracted by a large scalp laceration or because they smell strongly of alcohol and their altered mental status might be "just being drunk".
- Bother to argue with a patient with borderline personality disorder.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 4:07 PM on September 18, 2012 [18 favorites]


I work in communications Generally inexperienced people:

a) Assume all employees/audiences have the same communication preferences they do

b) Write comms that are too long, and edit far more than necessary

and the real tell:

c) don't respect the importance of a good subject line in an email.
posted by smoke at 4:09 PM on September 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


New artists don't plan out their compositions well. They like to skew it (amateur photographers really enjoy taking photos at like a 45 degree angle to the horizon line) or smack-dab center it. They also seem to enjoy oval compositions.

They will pick a much smaller paintbrush to start out with than advanced painters will. They will not sketch enough (or at all), and instead change the orientation or scale of the drawing midway through. They may sketch in dark pencil directly on their canvas and then have to fight the graphite bleeding through the paint. They will paint a shiny black mug all black and then try to add highlights on top instead of leaving room for the highlights all along. They won't know what to do with backgrounds so try to sell you raw canvas as being edgy.

They are literal with color and also hate to mix it (often because they don't understand how to make the colors they want), so they end up with a fire hydrant that is just red and grass that is just green and a sky that is just blue. These are often straight-out-the-tube colors. More advanced painters mix colors, limit their use of black and white, and apply color theory to their work.

They will focus on the tiniest detail of one object for hours while not addressing the large swath of background or foreground table. Since they focus on one object at at time, they often don't see larger proportion issues amongst objects. They have a really hard time with perspective and try to avoid dealing with it. They don't know the basic vocabulary so you'll think they're on the same page when you've been discussing value the whole time and they think you've been discussing hue.

They also usually don't highly value craft. Advanced artists will take great pains to cut out a perfect square if that's what they want; new artists will cut one that has several other score lines on it and is missing a nick off the corner.

They only know a handful of artists, none of them contemporary. Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Pollock, Monet. They know the names of more but can't call images to mind.

They sell their work for a pittance.
posted by vegartanipla at 4:13 PM on September 18, 2012 [11 favorites]


Seconding teleri025 in terms of historians. My other litmus test on historians is if they focus solely on dates and names as a judgement of knowledge.

For philosophers, it is nearly always in terms of who they name drop and how they use those names. If they quote anything by Nietzsche or Marx from any of the common bad translations, or worse, quotes that neither of them actually said, or cannot tell me what the rest of the "God is dead" sentence actually is, it is a huge red flag. Ditto on if they cannot summarize any arguments out of whomever they just quoted.

The other common one for philosophers is anyone that falls into what I call "Freshman Nihilism" - they want nothing to be true, and everything to mean nothing at all, simply because they love to argue, frustrate, and or seem edgy to others.
posted by strixus at 4:13 PM on September 18, 2012 [17 favorites]


Yeah, Sigourney Weaver with that pipette in Avatar. More generally put any random person in my lab and get them interacting with the basic equipment and I can tell how experienced they are (it helps that I've trained a lot of people). There are a lot of tricks like not tipping the pipette that just have to be taught and also a certain ease that comes with familiarity.

And I almost always pipette one handed, as do many of my colleagues. Do things often enough and you learn to be fast and accurate without crutches.
posted by shelleycat at 4:24 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Software engineers who create bugs that are too short or too long. A bug should have what was expected, what was observed and enough details to reproduce it.
posted by mdoar at 4:26 PM on September 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh, when I say 'my lab' I mean any basic biology/biochemistry lab really. I've worked in quite a number of them and they're generally pretty similar.
posted by shelleycat at 4:26 PM on September 18, 2012


I can tell someone is an amateur production artist (and graphic designer) by looking at their InDesign files and seeing that they double return for space after a paragraph rather than using the "space after" setting; not using character/paragraph styles for long documents; using a hard return instead of a soft return when doing forced line breaks; not knowing when to use an en-dash or em-dash instead of a hyphen, and anything that takes much longer to do incorrectly than just do right. (#1 pet peeve is when someone doesn't know the "indent to here" command, which is insanely useful. Amateurs make two text boxes to make something like a hanging quotation mark—one for the quotation mark, one for the text to be indented.)

There are so many things that aren't necessarily graphic design skills but fall under production artist skills, but I tend to think good graphic designers need to understand not just good design principles—like not leaving a widow (single word) at the end of a sentence or not using too many typefaces, especially when they don't contrast well—but knowing how to use the tools of your trade efficiently as well. An amateur designer might use Photoshop for everything because that's a well known program and pretty accessible, but Photoshop is specific to certain tasks. So not knowing enough to know what tools or file format to use, or knowing if your web design can be feasibly programmed or viewed across multiple platforms or even using Helvetica for all your designs because you don't know any alternatives is amateur and usually costs in wasted time and a subpar design.
posted by thesocietyfor at 4:33 PM on September 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Many newer roller skaters (quad style, not inline) will skate with their feet too far apart -- it gives them a feeling of stability, but also robs them of the power of a full stride. My theory is that it's out of fear of face planting due to locking up your own wheels and face planting, which is actually hard to do if you're striding with both feet alternately.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 4:39 PM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


On the hobby side of things:

In crochet, moreso than knitting I've found, blocking is vital to the finished work. Blocking means wetting the fibers in some way, pinning it out in the shape you actually want it to be, and allowing it to dry. That process makes the fibers of your yarn relax and then tighten up, further knotting together your work and letting many of the stitches that naturally have a spiral curl to them flatten out. It's kind of a pain, though, because you must be patient, and you must have a large flat surface on which you can stick pins, and different types of yarn benefit from different blocking techniques.

So in somebody new to crochet or who doesn't care about their final results much, their crochet will be very springy, any lacework will be super tight, not "open" like a blocked piece. Things made of primarily single crochet (or double, if you're using UK terminology) will curl up on the edges like mad. A new but blocked piece will already be slightly fuzzy and soft, depending on the fiber. But a new and unblocked piece will often feel quite slick and the uneveness of any of the work will be more apparent.

The thing is that a new crocheter will be so psyched about how quickly their piece worked up and pleased to give it to the recipient or wear it or whatever, that they will forget about blocking. It removes the instant gratification part of crochet. It's only after you've been doing it a while that you really absorb the long-term benefits and consider it just as important as the actual crocheting part.
posted by Mizu at 5:07 PM on September 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


Their soldering iron is set to max. Or worse! They don't even have a temperature controlled soldering iron.
posted by nickerbocker at 5:18 PM on September 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Not just a Full Metal Jacket cliche - in the military, anyone referring to a rifle as a gun doesn't really know what they are doing. Similarly for other terms of art...
posted by prentiz at 5:20 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Inexperienced mathematicians think they will eventually feel like experienced mathematicians.
posted by escabeche at 5:52 PM on September 18, 2012 [22 favorites]


Okay, the pipetting thing does depend on what you are doing. I went and set up a PCR right after I wrote my comment and I noticed that a good third of my pipettes were one-handed. Still, an experienced technician will sometimes set down whatever they have in their off hand and put a finger under the barrel to take the shake out of the tip. It's one thing if you're aliquoting 200uL of bacterial culture from a flask onto some petri dishes, quite another if you're loading 20uL of PCR product with only 2uL of loading buffer in it into a 30-well gel whose wells will only hold 25uL on a good day, and you need to fill all the wells and you have to be sure that nothing washes out and gets mixed up between them.

If I could, I would amend my answer to say that an experienced micro- or molecular biology tech will have a whole repertoire of pipetting techniques and tricks, whereas someone who hasn't used one very much will just kind of grab the thing and flail around with it. They won't be able to keep the tip off the sides of the container, they will suck up liquid too fast and get bubbles in their tip or pull fluid into the pipette's barrel, they will have a hard time making the transition from the first stop to the second when dispensing liquid and will leave liquid in the tip or blow bubbles into whatever they're working with. An experienced technician won't necessarily use two hands every time, but they will if they need to. Heck, I've seen people use two hands and their face when trying to do something particularly tricky. I've done it myself, actually.
posted by Scientist at 5:52 PM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


An amateur economist is constantly finding ways to fit the theories they've learned to the data they have. Often, this involves ignoring inconvenient data or adjusting the way you've calculated your results to achieve the intended result.

An experienced economist generally speaks to the data and tests a variety of potential factors for causation and correlation, and even if he has conclusive evidence, uses words like "could be related" to explain their theory. They'll also often be unpopular within organizations as they bring unintended results to the table and defend them wholeheartedly.

Also, an amateur economist generally speaks over their audience, unable to get out of the technical language and into plain speak. Experienced economists understand PR and the political game and know how to get from technical know-how to sound bite.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 5:55 PM on September 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


New homebrewers tend to be interested in cloning beers and don't have the willingness to give beer time.

People who are new to racing try to go fast, rather than trying to learn the mechanics (find the right line, brake/shift points, etc) to maintain speed.
posted by caphector at 5:59 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh and on a different note: inexperienced bicycle commuters are afraid of the cars on the road and will put themselves in danger because they overcompensate for the percieved danger of being clipped by an overtaking driver. They'll ride up against a line of parked cars instead of claiming a space that allows them to avoid an unexpectedly-flung-open door. In a narrow spot they'll allow themselves to be squeezed up against the shoulder or wall or edge of the bridge or what have you, rather than getting out in the middle and slowing down traffic for a second if that's what it takes to ensure their safety. They'll sometimes even ride on the sidewalk.

Also inexperienced bicycle commuters will tend to take the shortest route between their starting point and destination, just as if they were in a car, and will suffer for it. More experienced riders know that it's often worth adding an extra mile to the commute if it means that they can trade a patch of busy, potholed pavement with lots of traffic lights for a smooth, uninterrupted stretch of sparsely-traveled road with a good bike lane.

They'll also tend to ride in the wrong gear. They might ride in too high a gear for their speed and have to mash at the pedals which is tiring and bad for the joints. Or they might ride in too low a gear and will do that frantic pedalpedalpedal-coast!-pedalpedalpedal-coast! thing because they have to pedal too fast to get up to a good speed in the gear they are in. A more experienced cyclist will find a good gear that lets them pedal at a comfortable cadence and a satisfactory speed and will try to just find a good groove there and stay in it.

You can totally pick up on this stuff when you're out riding around.
posted by Scientist at 6:02 PM on September 18, 2012 [24 favorites]


In the live music world:

When it's the drummer's turn with the FOH engineer during sound check, thinking THIS IS MY CHANCE TO SHOW OFF!

Inappropriately busy drum fills.

Noodling on the guitar between songs. Or any time, at all, really.

If you're the opener, playing longer than your allotted time and eating into the headliner's time.

Wrapping cables around your arm. That's a good way of getting out of that duty, though.
posted by emelenjr at 6:44 PM on September 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


When hiring carpenters, I'd ask to see their tools, which often meant a trip to the trunk of their car or the back of their van or pickup. It's not always a tell but pretty nearly always; if they keep their tools in good order there's a good chance that they'll be a useful hand. You'll absolutely know within a day in any case, you can either give them to a hand you trust to work with and get input from them or even just line them out on building a wall or whatever the hell is it you're building. You'll know in a day, max, it can't be hidden if they don't know what they're about.

Another common way is to have them build a stool or small work bench -- this is if you're working in wood, not metal studs, not commercial carpentry -- and see what they build. You don't want them to bang together some rickety crap but also you don't need them to build the Sistine chapel, just build it straight and true and solid and useful and you're hired.

Most anyone can become a good carpenter, given the time and experience. But the best carpenters can just "see," same as good programmers -- they just see the most direct line, they get to the heart of the problem, the task at hand; the best carpenter I ever worked with, a guy named Jess, I'm convinced he'd have been a programming god, had he ever had the chance to turn his hand to it. He had that clarity of vision, he never had to push, it all just fell into place, he could always just see five steps ahead, resolve anything that'd gotten side-footed.
posted by dancestoblue at 6:52 PM on September 18, 2012 [13 favorites]


I'm an editor, not a designer, but a lot of the things I end up correcting are technically design things. I know a layout is by a novice designer when someone:

• Typed in spaces at the beginning of each graf, rather than using the indent setting
• Turned on hyphenation, but left the default settings—it's better not to use it at all
• Used optical margin alignment on their layout when it's turned off everywhere else
• Added a whole text box to right-align something—that's why we have flush spaces
• Tracked down to -25 or 94% to make something fit, rather than asking us to edit it
• Tracked out to 10 or 20 or 104% to stretch, rather than asking us to add a bit to it
• Made font soup using all possible fonts within a family and a half-dozen others, too
• More subtly, stuck to just a few font variants, but inconsistently applied treatments
• Didn't notice that the leading was all over the place and/or one box was off baseline
• Went with the "Light" font in light text on a dark background, tracked to -20 at 96%
posted by limeonaire at 6:53 PM on September 18, 2012 [20 favorites]


See also: My list of 100 résumé mistakes, many of which were made by would-be designers.
posted by limeonaire at 6:55 PM on September 18, 2012 [23 favorites]


Speaking as someone who has had a fair share of student teachers...

* trying to cram too much into one lesson
* overreacting to student misbehaviour
* praising too often/too much
* not being able to fill dead air i.e. "the last 10 minutes of class"
* being wishy-washy and indecisive
* and as noted above, being too friendly with the kids

The binder full of carefuly typed and laminated lesson plans is also a dead give away. As is the constant worry about whether curriculum is being followed. It never gets followed and you'll never have enough time to do it all...quality, not quantity, folks!
posted by The Hyacinth Girl at 6:56 PM on September 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


New teachers will wear ties when it's not required by the dress code.

New teachers will remind kids that they "just learned this" or "should know this" if another teacher is in the room and the kids are having trouble, when the better play is to refocus the lesson and get the kids to talk about what they're having trouble with, or phrase things as, "Who can help us out with..." or "Who remembers how to..."

Experienced teachers monitor and adjust in response to questions, new teachers say, "I wish we could get to that but we have a lot to get through today."
posted by alphanerd at 7:05 PM on September 18, 2012 [13 favorites]


Beginning longform improvisers:

* Change their emotions. They'll start off angry or sad and then be happy or, worse, neutral by the end. It usually comes from being afraid that the interesting emotion they chose at the outset isn't funny; in reality, a scene usually becomes funnier the more the improviser commits to and heightens that emotion. That emotion grounds all your choices from a single point in space and makes you a more relatable character.

* Are afraid to be silent on stage. Audiences are more patient than they think.

* Are afraid to play themselves. Will often make a big move two lines into the scene just because neither person on stage is weird yet instead of trusting that two people having a conversation will naturally find something unusual.

* Play high-status characters who are generically bad at something. A shorter name for this is "bad-doctor scenes" where you play a doctor who's bad at being a doctor. A person who is generically bad at being a doctor is funny for one or two moves and is not funny because it's not genuinely unusual -- crazy is different from unusual. A person who is bad at being a doctor because he's afraid of rejection -- that's interesting and is a game can be played anywhere: a teacher, a dad, a bus driver.

* Argue. Realize they're arguing, panic, and start arguing even more. The key to not arguing is to accept any accusation levied at you and then justify. "You told me to" as a response to "You killed my dog" is an argument and boring for audiences to see and a form of negation (Why would someone who told you to kill his dog then come back to accuse of doing so?). "I did, I killed your dog because blah blah blah" heads off the argument and introduces your character viewpoint, and possibly a game.

* Let scenes go on too long without editing. They don't know yet that most scenes go on for too long; it's rare that a scene is edited too early. If you're wondering about when it's time to edit, it's time to edit.

* Don't see their friends' shows. Improv is a community as much as it's an artform. The improvisers that get asked to do shows are the ones that everybody knows and likes, the ones that have supported others on their way up.

* Do every scene like this: two people standing up, facing each other, talking, not really moving. As soon as the initial conversation reaches a pause, there's an awkward silence because they don't know where they are or what they're doing. Experienced improvisers will almost instinctively establish who, what, where; when their initial conversation dies down, they'll play the reality of the scene (buying a car, tutoring homework, etc.)

* Drive poorly. Driving without a foot on a pedal. Turning the wheel way too often.

* Make finger guns instead of the actual hand gesture you would make while holding a gun. Make finger phones instead of the actual hand gesture you would make while holding a phone.

* Do scenes about rape. It's impossible to make rape funny except to play it extremely extremely real or extremely extremely absurd, both of which are probably not what's happening.

* Get overwhelmed with all these rules and advice, most of which are contradictory, some of which are self-contradictory. As they should. Improv a weird brain muscle. With time and practice, they'll internalize all the rules and find their own rules and philosophy and hopefully not forget that it's in the end a bunch of your friends and you goofing around on stage.
posted by shadytrees at 7:17 PM on September 18, 2012 [44 favorites]


sawdustbear: "The very first day on a stage lighting tech crew, you'll probably say "bulb" instead of "lamp" and pronounce Fresnel as "frez-nel" instead of "fruh-nel"

Be careful on this one. Outside of professional circles in big cities, there's surprisingly little cross-pollination between lighting crews, and some legitimate linguistic differences that you have to contend with.

I've worked on a lot of lighting crews, and on each new one, at some point, I invariably get written off as an idiot because I use a different word for something, tie a different kind of knot, etc.

In many cases, said person writing me off is demonstrably wrong, and has been working in the same theatre for a long time. Technically, he's less of an amateur than I am, although the theatre world can be crazy insular backstage. (The lamp vs. bulb thing just pisses me off, though, because everyone knows what you mean, and the world would be so much better with less judgmental snark in it.)

I guess I could rephrase this differently: Backstage theatre amateurs have very little respect for the fact that others approach the craft differently.
posted by schmod at 7:28 PM on September 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


When drawing blood or placing IV's, if the patient is wearing short sleeves it's a good idea to place the tourniquet over the sleeve. This is to prevent the sleeve from falling over the tourniquet and obscuring it from view, which would make it easier to forget to take it off. Invariably, whenever I am teaching someone how to draw blood, they will try to undo it and put in under the sleeve.

New nurses are often afraid to tell the patient what to do. They don't want to be pushy with someone who is sick. Sometimes the patient needs a good push to get them to take steps that will help them heal. Sometimes you just have to say, "No, you're not going to spend all day in bed. Let's get up and get moving."
posted by brevator at 7:32 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


People who judge others based on their accents.
posted by schmod at 7:35 PM on September 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


A few things from the cultural programming/nonprofit leadership arena:

In historic house programming, newbies offer a handful of ideas they think are groundbreaking: "How about an upstairs-downstairs tour, you know, about the servants and slaves! How about a kids' eye view tour!" These ideas are not bad, but they aren't new and don't represent the cutting edge.

When building a new web resource presenting historic content, collections archives, photos, etc, designing and building said resource without ever once doing an end-user interview, needs assessment, or user experience observation.

Classic newbie mistake: running a new event or project, and trying to/expecting to do everything on your own, and exhausting yourself and barely pulling the whole thing out in the process. Experienced people plan and delegate.

When you want to work with a new community, interest sector, ethnic group, etc, and you are not a member of said group yourself, thinking that you will design the perfect program that they will be interested in and magically attracted to. That never happens, because you have no idea how to plan and run an event they will come to, and they don't know who the hell you are or why they would go. Experienced people reach out to opinion leaders and connectors who are already in that sector, and co-plan something with them.

Getting overambitious is a rookie mistake.

Getting deeply mired down in "process" and discussion and the endless need to talk and rehash and be heard and consult and review is a rookie mistake. Leadership is about defining a crisp process that helps people contribute usefully and then move toward a decision with minimal hemming and hawing.

On a panel or in a public Q&A, not cutting people off when they start to ramble and repeat themselves.
posted by Miko at 7:36 PM on September 18, 2012 [19 favorites]


In programming, two things that will immediately jump out are inconsistent coding style and short, indescriptive variable names. Professional will use var names to create self-documenting code.

Some other things are not writing modular code when it can be easily made more modular; using globals instead of whatever scoping mechanisms a language should use, inconsistent comments, obvious comments, not enough comments, comments not updated when code changed; sloppy logic like having more if/else clauses than needed, variables that are not used or set to a different value before they're used for the first time; functions that are too long; a lot of boiler plate, copy pasted code.

Another quick tell is not using basic idioms for a given language, the kind of idioms that you should pick up in a matter of days / weeks if you know what to look for.

Very often it will only take 10-20 seconds to spot a sign of amaterish-ness, if it's there, it will be all over the place.
posted by rainy at 8:05 PM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


People who have never before written a business letter or grant proposal think that using an "eye-catching" typeface or font color is a great way to get their project funded. They also think they are terribly original when they use Papyrus to denote the worldliness of their asian-influenced organization.

i hate them so much.

Also, people very new to the world of private philanthropy all seem to think that donors are far more motivated by the kindness of their hearts than they are by the importance of tax write-offs.
posted by elizardbits at 8:20 PM on September 18, 2012 [11 favorites]


People who have never used a fountain pen before tend to use it upside-down (the concave part of the pen nib, or the plastic feed under the nib, should be down towards the paper.) They also press too hard.
posted by blnkfrnk at 8:26 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wireless networking: Someone puts up a network, whether indoors or outdoors, 802.11 based or anything else without doing a detailed spectrum analysis first. You can tell a lot by asking what sort of spectrum analysis hardware and software tools a person proposes to use for a survey before bidding/deploying a network.
posted by thewalrus at 8:31 PM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


In farming, the big tell is movement. Not necessarily speed, but in seeing the several steps to a task and figuring out/knowing how to complete them all in the least number of physical steps.

Like mucking a pen out- the experienced person will stack all the soiled bedding right outside the pen and then push it into the gutter/drop, knowing they'll have to sweep afterwards anyway; the less experienced person will walk each forkful over to the drop. There are a bunch of these, most of which I can't recall at the moment.

Beyond that, it's about handling materials and tools effectively. Knowing the most effective way to use different types of tools, and which are most appropriate for a situation. Like...

-knowing that you need to use forward and upward momentum/force to get a full load on your shovel

-knowing to sink a wide-tined pitchfork into the bedding below your manure so you have bedding to support the manure (which will otherwise fall out)

-knowing how to open a grain bag.

-just plain old knowing how to sweep with a push broom.

And a dozen other things.

Also, constantly messing with/adjusting things to "improve" them is a real neophyte move, particularly with animal feed and care. Animals like consistency, and by changing things slightly every time you work with them, you're making them less healthy (even if your constant "improvements" are intended to help them). Honestly, you can do all sorts of weird things with your animals, but so long as you're consistently weird they'll be healthier than if you're constantly changing things to pursue some ideal of "perfection".

There are other things, but these come most strongly to mind.
posted by Cracky at 8:39 PM on September 18, 2012 [15 favorites]


I would argue that experienced scientists do pipette one handed because they are uncapping and recapping vials with the other hand. Try to unscrew the lid of a very small jare with your thumb and index finger while the other three fingers hold the jar itself, then move it out of the way, then put it back to see what I mean.

Inexperienced scientists feel the need to change pipette tips more than they need to. You can start with your blank and dispense your entire standard curve with one tip and any carryover you have will be a fraction of the inherent error of the pipette itself. Similarly, you don't need to change tips during a 1:1 serial dilution unless you get bubbles during the mixing phase.

In hand tool woodworking, you can tell someone is inexperienced by how much their arms do (or fail to do the work) and how much they try to brute force their tools rather that "letting the saw do the work" or angling a plane to get a slicing type of cut.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:45 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Newer roller derby skaters will wear tutus and fishnets and makeup to practice.
posted by Lucinda at 8:55 PM on September 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


I did find myself using pipettes two-handed when loading gels.
posted by Mercaptan at 8:58 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Inexperienced writers use too many words.
posted by lalala1234 at 9:04 PM on September 18, 2012 [15 favorites]


Inexperienced researchers think they can reason their way out of running a control.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:06 PM on September 18, 2012 [11 favorites]


Amateurs (whether or not they have a pipette in the other hand) take that cap off the reagent bottle and put it down on the bench right side up, getting the chemical onto the bench. Oh the acid burns!
posted by janell at 9:16 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Inexperienced DBA's use the default settings for stuff like recovery model, file size and location, log size, growth, and location, and tempdb setup. I know because I used to be one. (Also the thing that lucinda said about noob roller people wearing fishnets to practice.)
posted by capnsue at 9:18 PM on September 18, 2012


Inexperienced jugglers have a weird little stutter pause in their 3-ball cascade. Throw-catch ... pause ... throw-catch ... pause ...

Experienced jugglers have roughly equal time between throw-catch and catch-throw.
posted by pmb at 9:23 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


People not familiar with archiving or search taxonomy suggest the most generic search terms, ones that would return many, many results. Argh.
posted by Occula at 9:26 PM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh, I should have mentioned:

Inexperienced teachers of "experiential learning" will step in as soon as a student is doing a sub-par job, and suggest a better tool or technique.

Experienced ones will set clear standards (for both quality of work, and timeliness) and leave students to figure it out/struggle.

Because students will feel more empowered for figuring it out for themselves (rather than completing the task), and because even if they don't figure it out/only struggle, there is still learning happening.

That struggling, and learning that "this isn't as easy/simple as I assumed" is a more positive outcome than merely completing a task.

Yes, even with 10-year-olds.
posted by Cracky at 9:26 PM on September 18, 2012 [17 favorites]


An inexperienced reference librarian:
-doesn't know the print reference collection and possibly doesn't know where the print indexes are (or what assignments the indexes are kept around for)
-doesn't know how to hand off a question to the next person at shift change
-doesn't know how to handle the mentally ill
-doesn't know that patrons don't know what a ref librarian does
-doesn't remember the exact name of that one database that only gets used once a year
-doesn't know how to get hooked into the professional development cycle (free webinars, grants, conferences, etc.)

An outside/complete amateur:
-thinks everything is online--or at least the important stuff
-doesn't know what an index is, actually
-doesn't think to hand off a question to someone more expert. Ever.
-doesn't think the mentally ill come to the library
-doesn't know what a ref librarian does--but thinks they know
-doesn't realize how many databases exist
-doesn't realize how educated a librarian is
posted by librarylis at 9:27 PM on September 18, 2012 [13 favorites]


Inexperienced advocates on municipal issues tend to think the problem is that the staff and politicians and their plans are stupid or corrupt, and that the solution involves saying so. Experienced ones know that problems can lie in policy, assumptions, legitimate balancing of interests, funding sources, and so on -- and that in any case, those accusations don't get you very far.

Inexperienced minute-takers at a meeting will try to write down everything that was said.
posted by parudox at 9:38 PM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Amateurs (whether or not they have a pipette in the other hand) take that cap off the reagent bottle and put it down on the bench right side up, getting the chemical onto the bench. Oh the acid burns! (janell)

This assumes an open bench, I think, and maybe also not biology. For BSL-2 work in a hood, I was taught---well, I was taught not to set the cap down, but if I had to set the cap down I was supposed to set it down right side up so no dust would fall onto the side that would be exposed to the flask later on. It's okay for the rim to touch the bench because that was UV-irradiated and then wiped down with alcohol before I started. Also, depending on the protocol it might have a sterile diaper laid down over it.
posted by d. z. wang at 9:43 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Inexperienced researchers think they can reason their way out of running a control.

It's surprising how common this is even with supposedly senior people. And then you kick their asses in peer review.

Inexperienced scientists often make the mistake of trusting their gut. Takes a few papers to knock that out of them too.
posted by bonehead at 9:45 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Actually, at least in cell culture, there's a curious cyclical pattern here: rank amateurs will pour things inside a hood because they don't know any better; after a few contaminations, they'll learn to use micropipettes and/or the Pipetteman (sp?), and to change tips appropriately; and meanwhile the PI will pour half the time and pipette the rest with the same dinky little rubber bulb pipettor he was issued before you were born.
posted by d. z. wang at 9:49 PM on September 18, 2012


Something my instructors tell me in EMT school is, the new guys will only touch the (rolling) stretchers with their hands, which often leads to them taking both hands off at once and letting the patient roll away. Good EMTs belly up against the side rails and stick their feet in front of the wheels and do whatever else it takes to keep the stretcher under control.
posted by d. z. wang at 9:54 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


the amateur theater director:

-Does not use the theater space and staging to express the relationships within the text--the actors often end up clumped downstage or circling a couch.

-gives line readings to the actors instead of interpretations of the moment/character

-overly focuses on stage effects or beautiful choreography at the expense of storytelling

-has no sense of pacing or rhythm thoughout the evening--all the scenes begin and end without dramatic arcs.

-Works from an exclusively psychological standpoint

-has a "method" of directing

-uses transitions only to clear the stage or set-up the next scene rather than opportunities to continue the journey of the characters

-Considers designers to be craftspeople, and does not encourage their input. Most amateur directors expect the designers to design and build the set/costumes/hang lighting.

-Thinks that staging and storytelling problems can be fixed with "lighting" or "projections."

-Is more interested in "being in charge" than facilitating a group of people to tell a story.

-shows off his knowledge in rehearsal, and tries to control discussions to only focus on one interpretation of the text, rather than listening to the actors and gauging their engagement with the material.
posted by geryon at 9:55 PM on September 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


Oh, here's a mistake I made as a teacher which is apparently very common among inexperienced teachers: assuming the students understand something because they're supposed to understand it by this age/grade/prerequisite. I blew like six classroom hours once convinced I was completely failing to teach some kids to program. Later someone pulled me aside and said, "All your examples use math. Did you ever check whether these kids actually understand the math?" I said, "They're sophomores in high school and I haven't done anything more complicated than division!" And then I asked one of them whether six was divisible by two. He said, "Um."
posted by d. z. wang at 9:59 PM on September 18, 2012 [13 favorites]


Amateur burglars search a set of drawers from the top down, so they have to close each one to see into the next. Professionals start at the bottom and leave then open, which is faster and quieter.
posted by nicwolff at 10:58 PM on September 18, 2012 [59 favorites]


Vintage analog synth repair amateurs:

Tune using a meter instead of by ear.
Think they can mark the position of a trimmer to get it back exactly where it was (especially if it's a multi-turn trimmer).
Don't take pictures of circuit boards & wiring before taking things apart (schematics and diagrams can only help so much!).
Attempt modifications without knowing the theory behind the modification.
Don't check their soldering work before putting the circuit board back into the synth.
Move the soldering iron to the solder instead of the other way around.
Use products like Deoxit which end up causing much more harm than good.
posted by luckynerd at 11:15 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


In film editing, only a rookie puts any weight behind the phrase "The cut is locked."

Also, not understanding framing charts and/or downplaying their importance is a pretty big flag that it's someone's first rodeo.

It's a growing trend to "fix it in post" instead of taking the time to shoot things properly in the first place, so that's not really so much a sign that someone is a rookie or an amateur as it is a sign that they are lazy and possibly dumb.
posted by dogwalker at 12:24 AM on September 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Political campaigns:

- Overestimate the importance of things like yard signs and sign-holding.
- Think that facebook and twitter have replaced phonebanking and door-knocking (they have not).
- For some reason, newbie volunteers often think that what we need is people to drive folks to the polls. This is absurdly common and it always baffles me. In urban or suburban areas, this is rarely needed.
- An over-reliance on whatever political trend is currently getting a lot of coverage in publications like the NY Times or on liberal blogs. For instance, the idea of "framing" in 2005 or consumer data targeting in 2007.
- People who have worked on more than one or two campaigns tend to be pretty unflappable in common scenarios like an unbalanced person walking into an office, or running out of paper in the printer right before a door-knocking event. People with less experience tend to get flustered much more easily.
- Young people looking for their first job in politics usually imagine themselves getting coffee for David Axelrod and think this means they'd be "paying their dues." Of course, the most common entry level job is as a field organizer (or increasingly, field "fellow") which involves a lot of direct voter contact. I blame Aaron Sorkin for this misconception.

Advocacy work:

- Tend to put tactics before strategy, ie "we should have a sit-in" rather than "what kind of event should we have to meet these specific goals?" or "we need a blog!" instead of "what is the best way to get our message out to the groups we are trying to reach?"
- A tendency to try to do everything oneself rather than finding people to work with them, which rapidly leads to burnout.
- Generally, volunteer activists tend to be more idealistic and less willing to compromise.
- Agree with the previous commenter that less-experienced advocates tend to be more cynical about corruption and, generally, decision-makers' motivations.
- Ironically, much more likely to talk like policy wonks.
posted by lunasol at 1:09 AM on September 19, 2012 [26 favorites]


In any profession involving fieldwork, you can tell inexperienced fieldworkers by their disregard for basic safety principles and lack of common-sense in the field environment. This is completely different to the frustration that experienced fieldworkers feel when faced with excessive OH&S (Occupational Health and Safety) regulations and/or paperwork. The inexperienced fieldworker will be imprudent and will generally lark about with no concept of the risks present in their environment. Specific examples I have encountered include:

1) Yelling/ making loud exclamations over something minor. Often students or newbies will yell when they get bitten by an ant or a fly buzzes them. In environments where there are venomous snakes and spiders or other threats (e.g. crocodiles, burnt environments where unexpected tree-falls may occur etc etc), this is a HUGE no-no. A yell is indicative of something seriously (life-threateningly) wrong occurring, and experienced fieldworkers will interpret this as a warning of danger or a cry for help.

2) Not following established safety protocols. For example, not wearing protective clothing (including sturdy shoes), not taking care to keep hydrated, not keeping warm/ cool to the best of your ability etc.

3) Being unaware of your surroundings. For example, being unaware of changes in terrain, weather, tides or road conditions. This can also include being unaware of the location of your colleagues. Some of the worst fieldworkers injure their colleagues (e.g. by giving them concussions, pushing them, exposing them to other risks) because they don't have any spatial awareness of themselves or others.
posted by Alice Russel-Wallace at 1:18 AM on September 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


"It's okay for the rim to touch the bench because that was UV-irradiated and then wiped down with alcohol before I started. Also, depending on the protocol it might have a sterile diaper laid down over it."

I hate to say it, but inexperienced lab researchers will trust the weak UV lamp in their hood that is almost a meter away from the surface their working on or unflamed ethanol to do a damn thing beyond keeping surface contaminants from aresolizing.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:18 AM on September 19, 2012


Oh also, re. inexperienced fieldworkers:

4) Disregard for safety protocols such as use of an EPRB, Sat Phone, devices such as the SPOT tracker or scheduled call ins using mobile or landline phones. If something has gone wrong, you're much better off if folks know where you are, or when you went missing. I've known inexperienced fieldworkers who think it is no big deal to miss a scheduled call-in. Similarly, there are some situations where you just shouldn't work alone - in general fieldwork should be a group activity.
posted by Alice Russel-Wallace at 1:25 AM on September 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


For architectural history, amateurs will always go inside a building first to see what it looks like. If you really want to understand a structure, you always begin with the exterior
posted by venividivici at 1:27 AM on September 19, 2012


Musicians:

Practice. Most amateurs play through things over and over again until they get them right (or, more often, until they can keep going despite making the same mistakes). Pros will focus quickly on the bits where the problems are, and just practice those, properly. The end result is often that a) professionals end up putting in much less time to learn things, and b) you end up with amateurs who can play it right, and professionals who don't play it wrong.

Also, when reading, professionals tend to mark parts meticulously. Amateurs tend to rely much more on memory.
posted by monkey closet at 1:37 AM on September 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


Inexperienced alpine skiers are easy to spot, visually or audibly. They wear one-pieces and have these annoying two way-radios they are constantly yelling at to find their family. Also, pizza, not french fries.
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:48 AM on September 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here are some easily observable tells for amateur photographers. They ...

... think the zoom lens is a proper substitute for walking to get the right framing.
... plan shots through the viewfinder rather than their eyes before lifting the camera.
... always shoot from head-height, never considering other POV
... take just one shot of any scene, assuming they planned and executed perfectly
... put a single camera on a strap around their neck.

That last one is interesting -- pros don't like straps unless they have two or more cameras on the go. Single camera pros don't bother with straps; they keep the camera in the bag, which is on its own strap; a strap on the camera would just get in the way. Multi-camera pros are probably shooting a wedding or a sporting event where there's no time to change lenses, in which case the cameras will be on straps (or, in a more recent innovation, in a belt hook).
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:54 AM on September 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


My other answer to this question is one I posted over here (nutshell: biological variation, people underestimate it). I posted that comment three years ago (exactly!) and the observation it still holds true for me now.

There may be other answers in that thread of interest to you too. It's more focussed on conversation than doing though, and I've found the examples in this thread really interesting (and it's pretty clear I'm an amateur at all kinds of things!)
posted by shelleycat at 5:00 AM on September 19, 2012


Amateur knitters:

- don't learn how to seam and weave in ends neatly. It's dull work, but a smooth neat join vs a big lumpy seam is so much more professional.

- make excuses not to make a tension square (a test that their knitting will make the right-sized garment). This is why we end up with dad's new sweater only fitting the dog. EVERYONE has done this...

- don't soak and stretch/reshape their finished item to even out the stitches (block it).

- are less aware of the properties of different fibres (eg, blue-faced leicester sheep wool vs angora vs silk vs acrylic blends)

- are too hung up on the crochet vs knitting war ;) The hooker and the sticker should be friends!


Inexperienced proofreaders:

- don't learn the correct marks for inserting, deleting, transposing, etc, or think that the marks they learned in journalism classes are the only correct ones

- believe that being grammatically RIGHT!!! is more important than communicating

- argue about the house style guide, especially right before publication

- don't check the stuff that's on every page (running headings, page numbers, etc)

- try to edit extensively (a sure sign of someone who really wants to be a writer instead)

- discover a new titbit about grammar, and let it become their hobby-horse (eg who/whom, split infinitives)

- sneer at 'Americanisms'
posted by NoiselessPenguin at 5:35 AM on September 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


Newby programmers think regular expressions are intimidating and avoid using them if there is an alternative.

Amateur programmers think regular expressions are awesome and use them everywhere.

Experienced programmers think regular expressions are intimidating and avoid using them if there is an alternative.

I think this could be a fun subset of this question: behaviors where beginners and experts get it right, but amateurs, or intermediate practitioners, get it wrong.
posted by gilrain at 5:53 AM on September 19, 2012 [17 favorites]


Dang, Lucinda beat me to my favourite roller derby amateur. Speaking from experience, I can spot a freshmeat by the way they delicately glide off the track during hitting drills, to unconsciously avoid the hit.

(My special talent. And ask me about skating in tiger-print hotpants!

It is awesome.)


In the world of object conservation, I am lucky enough to have had a major news story about an amateur.

Students/new conservators think they should adhere precisely to suggested numbers for treatments, length of treatments, etc., rather than actually noticing how the object is responding or what it may need, and understanding the chemistry and function of various treatments. They often think that more chemicals must equal better. They are convinced that every artefact will wind up in a museum display case someday. They have no concept of a budget.

Also, going along with the historian amateurs...students or brand-new graduands are often openly, overly, vocally excited about working with very old objects. (I do mostly archaeological conservation, but adjust for pretty/important/etc.) The public shares this excitement, usually because ZOMG!!!! YOU ARE TOUCHING SOMETHING THAT IS FIVE HUNDRED YEARS OLD. I don't want to say that professionals are jaded, but I think you gain the capability to recognise and honour the object's age and information potential, but also just get the hell on with your work.

The world of tall ships are full of this. You can always tell someone's first time sailing because they are not asleep every spare moment that they can grab. Also, showing up to night watches not having slept for a few hours beforehand in their clothes then quickly slugged down a cup of coffee. (Also, whining at your watch leader when they politely ask you to take a 2 hour deckwatch in the middle of the night while at anchor. That might be less 'amateurs' than 'people who get on my tits', though.)
posted by kalimac at 5:54 AM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


As an antiques dealer, I've noticed:

Amateur collectors collect items for their (perceived) value and not because of their love of/interest in/appreciation of the object(s). (e.g. 50% of all beanie baby collectors. )

Amateur collectors rely too much on collector books/price guides to determine value; those books go out of date a month before they are published, but collectors hold onto to those values like they are a holy grail for years and years.

Amateur collectors do not question attribution when purchasing. A piece can display few attributes consistent with the genuine collectible, but if a seller has labeled it as X, amateur collectors will talk themselves into believing a fake, a reproduction, or something by another creator is what they want it to be even if all signs point otherwise.

Amateur collectors don't know what the fakes, forgeries, fantasy items, methods or mislabeling, and commonly misidentified items are in their collecting area - or sometimes have any idea that these wrong'uns are out there.
posted by julen at 5:55 AM on September 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


General childcare, either with nannies or parents: they don't realize how much children vary. This is a big one.

When do they start using the potty? When do they start talking? How much do they sleep? What sippy cups are best? What bottles are best? What equipment will I need? Etc.

The correct answer to the vast majority of questions about child development and behavior is "it depends", because there is so much variation even within normal (and a decent percentage of children aren't normal!)

Anyone who has a definitive and certain answer to these kinds of questions doesn't have much experience with children. That doesn't mean they don't have children. The worst offenders are people with experience with one child who don't talk to other parents much, or assume that other parents are doin' it wrong.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:02 AM on September 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


Oh, and when it comes to Logistics / Supply Chain Management - the amateur is anyone who claims that its all relatively straight forward. Or that its a clean business (in that case, they're either amateur and still gullible, or very experienced and culpable).
posted by allkindsoftime at 6:06 AM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


First: just noting that "too much" is a very common theme in these answers. Amateurs tend to overdo because they don't know what "just right" is.

This is definitely true for rock climbing. Two most common signs of an amateur climber:

1. Too much gear, often of the wrong type.
2. Too much movement, resulting from indecision over what the right movement is.
posted by that's candlepin at 6:06 AM on September 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Inexperienced radiation surveyors will try to watch the digital display at the same time as looking at what they're scanning instead of just listening to the click rate and keeping their eyes on where they're waving their probe.
posted by hazyjane at 6:18 AM on September 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


An amatuer ceramicist will lean in towrd the kiln peep to check the progress of their cones (they also will tend to have singed eyelashes), pros will stay far away and blow into the peep hole. The cold air will make the cones darken breifly and make them much easier to see.

Newbies will also tend to disparage safety equipment when mixing glazes. A pro knows that several of the common ingredients are quite nasty and will wear the full bunny suit (tyvek suit, organics resperator, saftey glasses), without complaint, if available.

A new potter will constantly adjust the speed of their wheel, most of the pros will change it three times: one speed to center, one speed to throw and one speed to finish.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 6:28 AM on September 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


New administrative assistants order too much salad. No one takes salad; everyone takes at least one cookie (most times, two cookies).

Amateur cooks spend $$$ on pots and pans and never enough time on technique and buying good ingredients.

Amateur book illustrators think about their art only and don't think about where the type and the gutter will go.
posted by hmo at 6:34 AM on September 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


In fiction, amateur-but-competent writers will usually be fine on a sentence or scene level, but their stories will have no overall integrity. Character arcs will be absent; pacing non-existent. This is usually especially seen in protagonists, who are often used as passive cameras to "film" the setting rather than their motivations and desires shaping what's described and what isn't. Amateur writers will often only have the first dozen or so pages critiqued (because it's what they could cover in their critique group, or because they won a contest online) so those pages will be far more polished than the rest.

The exception is among MFA writers, who often never lose the scene-over-story focus; in fact, in some programs it's specifically encouraged. But for wanna-be commercial writers, lack of persistent character motivation and flat, drawn-out plotting are much better tells than "said bookisms," in my experience.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:38 AM on September 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


Amateur booksellers will tell customers a book is in the store without having a copy in their hand. They will also quote the shipping times the company gives and give other specifics instead of giving vague experience-based answers.
posted by drezdn at 6:41 AM on September 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Starter parents will try to go through doors stroller-first when they have to hold it open themselves.

People just getting started in electronics will tend to have solder joints that either use way too little solder, or way too much. They'll also tend to leave more of the leads on from components.
posted by drezdn at 6:44 AM on September 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


In road cycling there are several indicators of not having much experience:

* A "chain tattoo" on your right calf because you don't know how to mount a bike without brushing against the chain
* A filthy chain/drive chain because you didn't know you are supposed to wipe away the excess lubricant after applying it. That residual lube just attracts dirt and gunks up your drive chain.
* You pedal in squares instead of circles. It is hard to see, but the person hasn't developed a smooth pedal stroke.
* You hit the brakes often among a group. Experienced cyclists will just raise their upper body profile (or slightly move out of the draft) to create more wind drag to decelerate for small changes in pace.
* When the novice stands up on the pedals they momentarily push backward, thereby creating a drop-kick for the person behind them and endanger the group. Basically this cease in motion makes their rear wheel come backward about a few inches. Experienced cyclists pedal into the standing position and keep the momentum steady.
* In an alternating pace line the novice thinks the front position is their chance to belt out a hard effort instead of maintaining the steady pace. They create gaps and cause frustration.
* There are some exceptions, but generally upper body movement (particularly rocking sideways back and forth) indicates that the person may not be experienced or fit enough for the pace of the ride.
* Someone who never uses the drop handlebars or rarely changes hand position will tend to complain about numb hands for this reason.
* They shift to easier gears once the current gear becomes sub-optimal. Experienced cyclists use the gear they will need in the following moments, not the one they want right now.
* They cross their chain at extreme angles (big cog front, small cog back) and have no idea they are doing it. This reduces the range of shifting options and is a frequent cause of dropping (disconnecting) the chain from the front ring on an uphill section.
* They look back at their rear cassette to find out what gear they are in. Experienced cyclists remember or generally know by feel what gear they are using.
* They drink from the water bottle while momentarily stopped (stop sign or intersection). The experienced may do this, but generally they have been hydrating and eating while riding. Similarly, minor clothing changes (removing a vest, jacket, arm warmers) is done while riding among the experienced.
* They lay a bike upside down on the pavement to attach a wheel or lube a chain.
posted by dgran at 6:45 AM on September 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


This assumes an open bench, I think, and maybe also not biology. For BSL-2 work in a hood, I was taught---well, I was taught not to set the cap down, but if I had to set the cap down I was supposed to set it down right side up so no dust would fall onto the side that would be exposed to the flask later on. It's okay for the rim to touch the bench because that was UV-irradiated and then wiped down with alcohol before I started. Also, depending on the protocol it might have a sterile diaper laid down over it.

I thought you were supposed to empty out what you needed from the supply into an intermediate container and put your supply back asap, so the supply doesn't get contaminated.
posted by gjc at 6:55 AM on September 19, 2012


When teaching non-technical people ("Newbies") how to use their computers or how to use a particular program, Nerds who are amateurs to this sport make a few errors which seem to generally fall into one theme: too much, too fast.

They will try to pre-emptively answer every possible question on the topic. They will show the Newbie all of the knobs and dials and how to dig into the settings "just in case". They will show the Newbie lots of customizations and tips that solve little annoyances that have bothered the Nerd in the past. Who, after all, can run Firefox without at least 5 plugins? And you're running IE? Let's change that immediately, even though it doesn't answer this particular email question. They will assume that the Newbie is like them and wants to know everything at once, or at least that they will want to know how to find out the answer.

99% of the time, this causes the Newbie brain to shut down in terror. In the worst cases, the question is never asked again because the Newbie has concluded that they are "not good at computers." This leads to the dreaded Oh I Just Get My Nerd Friend To Do That For Me syndrome. Most Newbies do not think about their computers like Nerds do. They were already terrified to ask the question, and they need us to be gentle with them.

The experienced Computer Helper will teach the bare minimum that is needed to accomplish the task of the day. It will be shown slowly, and ideally the task will performed by the newbie with step-by-step instruction by the teacher. Let go of the mouse! This is painfully slow for the teacher. It is still fast and intimidating for the Newbie. They will struggle to follow your instructions, and the experienced teacher will let them struggle a bit rather than jumping in to optimize their process (a.k.a. over-complicating things). She will step in only when a question is asked or when the Newbie's frustration tempts them to give up. She will sit patiently as they type their whole username despite the auto-fill option. She will not correct them when they double-click on links. She may cringe a bit on the inside, but will smile encouragingly on the outside.

The experienced teacher knows how to set the bar low enough that the Newbie has a sense of accomplishment and is not daunted. She aims to solve the immediate problem in a way that leaves the Newbie feeling proud of themselves. She knows to raise the bar a little bit when the Newbie comes back with a more nuanced question, and counts this new question as a sign of great success.
posted by heatherann at 7:27 AM on September 19, 2012 [47 favorites]


Software analysts / Business analysts:

1. Amateur analysts will schedule a single information-gathering meeting with stakeholders or end-users and plan to schedule a follow up later “if needed.” Professionals know that the follow-up is needed 90% of the time, and if you end up not needing a follow-up and you can just cancel that meeting. For a large project, an amateur will schedule a couple of meetings with stakeholders or end-users. A professional will schedule weekly or biweekly meetings for the duration of the project, knowing that these can always be canceled.

Basically, the amateur will be overly respectful of users' time early on, while a professional knows it will save everyone time and effort later on if we get it as-right-as-possible the first time. When a project is kicking off, you can spot the pros because they’re thinking and planning months ahead while the amateurs are thinking 2-3 weeks into the future.

2. When planning timelines, amateur analysts will give a best-case timeline for design, build, and testing because it makes their managers and project managers happy. An experienced analyst will give a realistic estimate, possibly with a little leeway for the inevitable issues that will come up. The exact timeline varies by project, but you can spot the amateur when their timeline will only work if nothing goes wrong and all the assumptions were correct on day 1.

On a related note, an amateur project manager who doesn’t like the longer realistic time estimate will ignore the realistic estimate and create their own best-case scenario. An experience project manager who doesn’t like the estimate will negotiate with the analyst to come up with a timeline that works for everyone.

3. An amateur analyst will schedule time for: 1) Design 2) build and 3) QA. Experienced analysts will schedule time for 1) Design 2) design review with end users 3) build 4) QA 5) rebuild based on issues found in QA and 6) retesting after rebuild to make sure rebuild worked and didn’t break anything else.

4. Somewhat similar to the librarian example: ”answering the question the patron just said instead of using a proper reference interview to find out their actual need and then finding appropriate resources”. An amatuer analyst takes end users at their word and produces exactly what the end users designed, no matter how poorly it fits their needs. A pro asks probing question to understand the actual need, then designs a system that meets that need, even if it’s not the system the end users would have chosen. (basically, amateurs don’t understand this truth: users know what their needs are, but they don’t necessarily know what system will best meet those needs)
posted by Tehhund at 7:31 AM on September 19, 2012 [21 favorites]


I think this could be a fun subset of this question: behaviors where beginners and experts get it right, but amateurs, or intermediate practitioners, get it wrong.

I think most of these answers are examples of this. A good proportion of the answers are style masquerading as rules. Cargo-culting and mimicking the behaviors of professionals, when all the professionals were doing was saving effort/time. There is also the conceit of mistaking competence with experience with professional. They are three different dimensions. Being a professional guarantees nothing, except that they got paid.

Equipment is a good example of this. In pretty much all fields. Experienced people can do their thing with almost any tool, and the only reason they have more/better tools is because they save time, are more comfortable to use all day, or last longer.
posted by gjc at 7:33 AM on September 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


99% of the time, this causes the Newbie brain to shut down in terror. In the worst cases, the question is never asked again because the Newbie has concluded that they are "not good at computers." This leads to the dreaded Oh I Just Get My Nerd Friend To Do That For Me syndrome. Most Newbies do not think about their computers like Nerds do. They were already terrified to ask the question, and they need us to be gentle with them.

This also leads to false-expert syndrome. The people who do the things you outline, and then assume that because nobody ever asked them about it again, they did a good job.

"I loaded Slackware on my grandmother's computer and she never called me for computer help again! Windows sucks!" When in reality, grandma hasn't ever turned the thing on again, and borrows her neighbor's computer.

In other words, non-amateurs check their work constantly, because it is easy to mistake one signal for another.
posted by gjc at 7:37 AM on September 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


In my experience newbie/amateur programmers are much more likely to be stubbornly adherent to a particular language, framework, or pattern... either the environment they learned to program in, or whatever the hot new trend is.

Experienced programmers may have their favorites and areas of expertise, but they won't hesitate or complain about using something else if it's a better tool for the job.

-----

In stock photos or tv/film scenes featuring guitarists, you can instantly spot the people who have never touched one in their lives, because they do this maddening grip with the right hand hand flat against the instrument, below or behind the strings and the left hand arbitrarily grabbing the neck.
posted by usonian at 7:49 AM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Amateurs in proposal pricing do not verify their resulting costs because the formulas are correct and therefore there is no way anything could be wrong.

Pros will cross cut the final dollars so many different ways that your head will spin, and they can find a single incorrect bill rate among hundreds.
posted by skrozidile at 7:54 AM on September 19, 2012


Inexperienced composers write music that is outside of an instrument's range or other limitation (like giving insufficient time needed to change pedals to a harp, or asking a trumpet to play a high A pianissimo). A really amateur composer will become defensive when confronted by players about poor writing for their instrument, to the point of implying (or even stating outright) that the performer is too timid or incompetent to get it right.

Inexperienced composers either have too few or too many criticisms for groups rehearsing their pieces. They also will bring only one copy of the score for their own rehearsal notes (when there will probably be other interested musicians there), or (worse) forget to bring a copy of the score at all. An inexperienced composer will interrupt rehearsal to give advice directly to the performers, rather than meeting privately with the conductor (although sometimes the performers or conductor will the composer to do this, in which case it's fine).

The scores of inexperienced composers tend to be undernotated in terms of expression and dynamic markings. Those who use notation software will have overlooked typos and mistakes such as markings out of place or missing rests. Their scores will have either way too few or way too many rehearsal numbers, and will be an awkward size for the conductor to make page turns (horizontally-oriented 8 X 14 pages, for example).

Finally, inexperienced composers will invent their own symbols for special notations and extended instrumental techniques, rather than researching to learn what common notations already exist. They will use an excessive number of expressive text directions in English ("with fire," "frantic," "calmly, but a little sad," "Piercing like being stabbed in the ear with an icicle") rather than using standard terms for tempo and expression in Italian.
posted by daisystomper at 7:57 AM on September 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


[I have done, and sometimes still do, all these things, by the way.]
posted by daisystomper at 7:57 AM on September 19, 2012


Amateur photographers use a monopod while using a 80-200mm lens (or size equivalent).
posted by girlmightlive at 8:06 AM on September 19, 2012


Inexperienced runners often start out too fast and then can't finish the run.

I also don't personally know any serious runners who wear Nikes. *ducks*

Many inexperienced yogis may try off the bat to get to what the pose is "supposed" to look like or gauge themselves by how close their neighbor is to touching his or her [palms to the ground, chin to shin, etc].

Both of these just might be examples of competitive personalities.
posted by Pax at 8:36 AM on September 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Amateur bra fitters use a measuring tape and handle the customer. Experience bra fitters are able to determine bra and cup size visually.
posted by Dragonness at 8:38 AM on September 19, 2012


I think gjc's observation is dead on -

As an example, here's another science one - experienced analytical chemists know when things have to be done precisely and will milk every bit of precision out of their tools (only approaching numbers on the pipette from above to reduce the effect of backlash in the micrometer, not getting fingerprints on the bottoms of their microtiter plates and cuvettes, etc.) Beginners will try to measure everything super accurately but since you're running your samples against a standard curve anyway, (and you did some robustness testing during method development...right?) it probably doesn't matter if your diluent is 200 millimolar sodium chloride or 210 mM sodium chloride. Using a volumetric flask that is accurate to >0.1% is just dandy if you need to be accurate to >0.1% but unless it just came out of a 400° oven glassware is never really clean and if I'm trying to measure some low level impurity, I'll take the sterile, endotoxin free plasticware every time and if I'm off by 5%, who cares.

Oh, and good biochemists know when and when not to use polypropylene, PET and polystyrene. Beginners find that all their samples are clean, but that they're not getting spike recovery.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:49 AM on September 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


People who are new to spinning (making yarn by hand, I mean) are very concerned with the evenness of their yarn, how closely it resembles commercial yarn, and how soft it is in the skein. They worry about wasting fiber (like the sheep aren't growing more right now), but are reluctant to buy extra for samples, and want to know exactly how much wool it takes to knit Thing X, or "what can I do with four ounces?"

People who are generally inexperienced in working with yarn and fiber are afraid they're going to felt everything just by washing it. LOL no.
posted by clavicle at 9:10 AM on September 19, 2012


I second the answers about soldering.

As for my pipetting technique, I do everything one-handed except for loading gels. That I do two-handed. You can spot the newbie pipetters by the way they slam the pipet down on the tip in the tip box two or three times to pick it up.
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 9:16 AM on September 19, 2012


OK, I'm converting to orthodox judaism and inexperienced Jews...
1.) Read one law in some book and think it's The Only Way To Do It
2.) Try to do too many extra things or think they have to do it all at once (e.g. drinking only cholov yisrael, which is dairy products made under Jewish supervision, or wearing the most conservative clothes even if no one else in the community does)....Stop listening to secular music and possibly even reading secular books, maybe even stop talking to their old secular friends
3.) Come to the synagogue the earliest and leave the latest
4.) Try to gratuitously explain to everyone the "significance" of everything (e.g. "Did you know that Jews are like a light to the nations? Here's why!!") Or worse, seriously playing up stereotypes, which is a pretty big beef of mine (e.g. "Sorry I'm late, I'm on Jewish Time! Ha ha!")
5.) Use a lot of extra phrases and capitalize it all weird so it's extra noticeable (e.g. BE"H or BeEzrat HaShem instead of plain old be"h or b'ezras hashem, which means "with God's help")
6.) If they were raised Christian or in the Bible Belt, inexperienced Jews might subconsciously still be thinking of Jewish theology in a Christian context. It's tough cause you don't know you're doing this until someone points it out. Like, for instance, they might read stories in the Torah as being more about "submission" than....um..."not submission"
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 9:34 AM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Magicians (exceptions to the following are made when used deliberately for comedy)

Saying "For my next trick..." Just do it.

Saying "My hands (pocket, this box, etc) are empty!" Once you state the (supposedly) obvious, it invites suspicion.

Mentioning that something is ordinary or unprepared. Again, this just invites suspicion. That looks like a normal handkerchief to me, but now that you say it's ordinary, I have my doubts.

Bad timing: either rushing the effect so that people can't appreciate it, or going so slowly that people lose interest. If you want to make a coin vanish, we must see that you have one coin in your otherwise empty hands. Just a second's pause is all it takes, but it has to register. An inexperienced performer will rush into the trick before you even have a proper lay of the land. The audience is more confused than fooled.
posted by The Deej at 9:40 AM on September 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


I hate to say it, but inexperienced lab researchers will trust the weak UV lamp in their hood that is almost a meter away from the surface their working on or unflamed ethanol to do a damn thing beyond keeping surface contaminants from aresolizing. (Blasdelb)

Ha! Guilty as charged. I forgot that on the internet, nobody knows that you're the new guy. So do you set your caps down right side up or upside down?
posted by d. z. wang at 9:42 AM on September 19, 2012


Beginner guitar players play A with their fingers uncrossed, and play G using their index fingers.

People new to cameras with lenses you have to focus turn the lens using their right hand coming in from above. People with more experience focus with the right hand coming in from below, for stability.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:48 AM on September 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Amateur Dance Dance Revolution players stomp hard on every arrow. They lift their knees to waist height and slam them down. They leap into the air before hitting two arrows at once. Amateur In The Groove players play the songs with handplants over and over again and make giant physical movements with lots of flourish to hit them and get tired very quickly.
posted by tehloki at 9:50 AM on September 19, 2012


You can always tell Chicago newbies from folks who have been here for a while by their coats. If you're wearing a parka (or god forbid, a parka with lift tickets hanging off the zipper), you're either just visiting or it's your first winter here.

To survive (and also look good doing it), you need a coat that actually covers your butt. And it ideally will be made of wool to cut the wind and wet.
posted by phunniemee at 9:54 AM on September 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Inexperienced units will attempt to control a location by sitting on it, rather than controlling observation points that overlook the location, the approaches to the location, or fighting positions that can fire on the location.

Inexperienced patrols take roads and obvious trails. If there is no compelling reason to walk where it is expected, don't.

Inexperienced patrols walk on top of ridges. Inexperienced patrols prefer 'straight-shot' bearings over difficult terrain instead of following the contours of the land. Inexperienced patrols move too quickly, bunch up, or spread too far to effectively support each other.

Amateur defenders don't keep a reserve force to plug gaps in their lines. Amateur defenders don't position their fighting pits for overlapping fire. Amateur defenders don't enforce noise and light discipline at night.

Amateur attackers don't study the terrain before making probing attacks. Amateur attackers attack the entry control point or gate. Amateur attackers use one method of attack. Amateur attackers don't realize that firing at night immediately gives away their position due to muzzle flash, and they need to move as soon as they are done. Amateur attackers don't observe the enemy's camp routine.

Amateur paintballers use the '1/3 left, 1/3 right, 1/3 middle' strategy. Amateur paintballers don't advance under fire, or coordinate covering fire. Amateur paintballers don't work angles when turning corners. Amateur paintballers conserve their ammo, and don't like to move and shoot at the same time.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:14 AM on September 19, 2012 [15 favorites]


In my experience, inexperienced biologists ALWAYS initially make the mistake of not writing out their recipes/experiments/plans properly. I have taught at least 5 or 6 people to do PCR and cloning and 100% of them assume at first that they don't need to write down the recipe for the mastermix, or they don't need to mark down how many tubes they've added buffer to, or they don't need to remember which tube of enzyme they used, etc. EVERYBODY has a moment when they get distracted for a split second while setting up a complex reaction and then they suddenly have no idea whether they've added reagent x to type y or not. It's incredibly annoying, and once you realize that it WILL happen to you, no matter how experienced you are, you start writing things down.

Also, I can't tell you how many people don't write down the results of failed experiments. Later, they can't remember why it didn't work and then they have to fail all over again to discover what the problem was.
posted by Cygnet at 10:17 AM on September 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Another parenting one:

New parents of multiples who don't get the babies on the same schedule from the start.

(I recognize that hardly any parents are going to be parents of multiples TWICE, so it's really a "live and learn" thing.)
posted by pyjammy at 10:31 AM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Amateur scientists, when using a benchtop centrifuge to spin down eppendorf tubes with caps that need to remain open (e.g., mini-preps), just stick the tubes in there and hit start. Snap, snap, snap go their tube caps as they're ripped off the tube walls. Experienced scientists know you have to stick that shit in horizontally, with the open cap facing against the direction the rotor spins.

Amateur scientists also make all sorts of conclusions regarding the meaningfulness of their data, when they never bothered including proper controls.

Amateur scientists that have to ear tag mice often are perplexed by why the mice have ripped out their ear tags days/weeks later. Experienced animal handlers never see this problem.
posted by corn_bread at 10:38 AM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Inexperienced scientists/engineers tend to speak in absolutes. Eventually someone will eviscerate them over this and they will stop. I know this from experience.
posted by Quack at 10:38 AM on September 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


(and for the record, I pipet using one hand to hold and one hand to steady)
posted by corn_bread at 10:38 AM on September 19, 2012


When conducting an interview, an amateur journalist will be quick to ask the next question when the interviewee is done talking. If you leave a stretch of uncomfortable silence after the person has answered your question, they tend to want to fill it in. This is when they are more likely to either provide new and interesting information, and/or give better, less clinical soundbites.

On the other hand, a seasoned journalist shouldn't be afraid to interrupt and divert the flow of the conversation when the interviewee is clearly just spouting prepackaged, party line nonsense.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 10:51 AM on September 19, 2012 [15 favorites]


Hikers who dispose of their trash bags in mountain refuges instead of bringing the garbage back to the city / valley.
posted by OrangeCat at 11:03 AM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


shouting at animals is pretty amateurish. I've never seen any farrier nor vet nor dog educator shouting at an animal.
posted by OrangeCat at 11:32 AM on September 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


People new to cameras with lenses you have to focus turn the lens using their right hand coming in from above. People with more experience focus with the right hand coming in from below, for stability.

(I think you mean left hand.)

But yes, and whenever there is a scene in a movie where there's a press conference or other gathering of "photographers" you can tell who has never handled a single lens reflex camera before. They hold the camera with both hands on the body of the camera, not touching the lens at all, or hold the camera body with the right hand and only hold the lens between a thumb and finger of the left hand as they pretend to focus, or, as said above, come down from the top. In reality (especially with a long lens) the weight of the camera and lens should rest in the palm of the left hand, allowing zooming and/or focusing without changing positions. Since most people use autofocus on their cameras, you still need to hold the lens for zooming and stability.

Related: next time you see a press conference scene, watch for the "photographers" with the big "potato-masher" flash units. You will see at least a few who hold the flash with their left hand, thumb behind the head of the flash. This is so they can trigger the flash by pushing the test button on the back of the flash instead of firing the camera shutter.
posted by The Deej at 11:37 AM on September 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Beginning students in life drawing classes tend to narrowly focus on one little part of the drawing rather than measuring out the whole thing and getting the basic forms down.
posted by The Whelk at 12:00 PM on September 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Soreness afterwards has no correlation on how effective the workout is.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:20 PM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


For the record, in tissue culture, I was taught to set my caps upside-down, facing upwards. This is only a good idea if you have excellent sterile technique and you set up the hood so you never pass your hands or arms over the caps. Also, when you pipette anything sterile in the hood, it should ALWAYS be held at an angle so your hand is never directly above it. If you absolutely, 100% trust the surface inside the hood, I guess then fine, put your caps rightside-up, facing down, but generally speaking hoods have boxes of autoclaved Pasteur pipettes, tips, strainers, etc., and they may have had media splattered on them at some point, so I never trust the surface to be totally clean. No contamination yet!

Also, a biologist friend of mine kept getting yeast contamination until she realized she really couldn't do any baking in the days before doing cell isolations. Yeast would get stuck to her skin and somehow make it in to the media, despite gloves, EtOH and a lab coat.
posted by Cygnet at 12:21 PM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Inexperienced calculator users:

Hit the AC button several times every time they use it.

Do not know about the ANS button, the pi button, or the x2. (Some models even an x3 button!)

Do not know about the EXP (or EE, depending on brand) button, and instead enter × 10 ^ every time. Or know about the EXP button, but enter 107 as 10 EXP 7 instead of 1 EXP 7.

Do not grasp the concept of significant figures, so they enter 2.00 as 2.00, not 2. Or copy out every last digit in the answer onto their paper.

Do not notice the signs that their calculator may be in Radians mode instead of Degrees mode, or vice versa. Are the answers obviously too larger or too small? Is the answer a negative number when taking SIN 60? If they notice the problem, the often do not how to change their calculator from Radians to Degrees mode, or vice versa.

Do not know the order of operations for their calculator model (Does your calculator think 5 EXP 7 ^ 2 is 2.5 ×1015 or 5 × 1049?) so they omit necessary parentheses, resulting in errors. Or do not know the order of operations for their model so they enclose expressions in unnecessary parentheses, wasting time. Or do not know order of operations or how to use parenthesis, and so copy out numbers on to their papers, doing simple arithmetic laboriously one calculation at a time.
posted by BrashTech at 1:00 PM on September 19, 2012


> I think you mean left hand

Indeed I did.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:09 PM on September 19, 2012


Inexperienced bosses:

Try to make the people they're managing like them, and try too hard to be friends.

Micromanage, yell, or especially yell at people in front of others.

Fail to have difficult conversations until situations are out of hand.

Think it's easy or fun to hire someone, or fire someone.
posted by faustessa at 1:44 PM on September 19, 2012 [19 favorites]


experienced scientists can eject their pipet tips and hit the trash can.

amateur scientists can't write a protocol.
amateur scientists can do one thing at a time; contrast with experienced scientists who can usually do 2-3 things at a time.
posted by sciencegeek at 2:34 PM on September 19, 2012


Everything emelenjr said about live music, plus not watching your bandmates. Things come up that didn't happen in rehearsal and everyone needs to be on the same page.
posted by invitapriore at 4:05 PM on September 19, 2012


Electrician:

Amateur electricians are sloppy; run wire every which way and assume because something is new it'll work properly. They also invariably make staples too tight.

Professionals keep stuff neat; wire runs are straight and mostly at 90 degree angles and they test/verify installations and repairs.
posted by Mitheral at 5:01 PM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Psychotherapy: Use of "Schizoid" to mean sort of schizophrenic. Use of "Subconscious" where they should be using "Unconscious."
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:37 PM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Inexperienced cellists don't put enough pressure on the bow, making it skitter and screech. Also, looking at your left hand position (or having markers on the neck) is a pretty surefire sign.
posted by Sebmojo at 7:12 PM on September 19, 2012


Oh, and classic newbie mistake when using a stethoscope- having the ear pieces angled toward the back of your head. The ear pieces should angle toward your nose, that's the way your ear canals go. It will greatly improve your ability to auscultate.

Also, using big words like "auscultate" when "listen" will suffice.
posted by brevator at 7:28 PM on September 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


Backpacking/hiking: n00bs bring/wear cotton clothing or socks, and things like a fresh cotton tshirt for every day of a hike. They also bring jeans. Their gear is shiny, clean, and new.

More experienced hikers wear wool or polypro everything, and their gear is beat up. Many will wear lighter shoes (trailrunning sneakers with gaiters rather than heavy hiking boots) and use trekking poles for stability instead.

There's a caveat here though about the really old, super pro hikers. I've been passed before hiking up the Bonds by a 60-something couple wearing jeans and cotton tshirts. I've also been passed going uphill in the Dolomite by an Italian couple wearing their Sunday best and smoking as they hiked.

For chainsawyers, cutting from the wrong side of a log and having it bind on them because they don't know how it will bind (generally, if the log is supported on two sides, cut from the bottom; if on one, cut from the top). Also the n00b will grab the saw with the longest bar, while a pro will grab one with a shorter bar but the largest powerheard. Also n00bs do not spend nearly enough time sharpening their saws, so their sawdust looks powdery while a pro's sharper saw will look like actual small chips of wood. When felling a tree, n00bs will spend 20% of their time looking at the tree and the ground around it and 80% cutting. Pro's do the opposite, spending time checking things out and then dropping the tree with a few quick cuts.

When chopping or splitting wood with an axe, n00bs try to do everything with their arms. Pros use the weight of the axe and their abs to generate power. When crosscut sawing, n00bs do not use their legs enough and do a lot with their arms. Pros use their legs more, but the main difference between me and JP Mercier (he's on the right) is how he can precisely control the downpressure to get the most out of the saw.
posted by Aizkolari at 5:27 AM on September 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


New small boat sailors look at their lines (but call them ropes instead of lines, halyards, or sheets) and the tiller. More experienced sailors look at the water/boats around them and the sails. Also n00bs are scared of capsizing but pros have done it enough times that they're not really worried about it.

New windsurfers keep their legs straight and get pulled over into the water by a gust of wind. Pros bend their knees as the wind picks up and just sit in to it so they can relax.
posted by Aizkolari at 6:17 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, this thread makes your realize that you will be a total and utter amataeur at far more things than you could ever hope to master.

I take comfort in the idea that somewherem there is an expert scientist leaving work and climbing into his lance armstrong tights and cycling home too close to parked cars, getting passed by the veteran cyclist in his freebie jersey who gets home to his screaming first born child and custom made diaper bag..
posted by cacofonie at 7:15 AM on September 20, 2012 [40 favorites]


Any doctor without grey hair who wears a tie in the hospital.
posted by cacofonie at 7:18 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


To follow up on en forme de poire's note on controls: You need to run controls when looking for answers to questions, whether it's your overall hypothesis or debugging a broken result. You can usually skip them when building something (i.e. cloning).

Also, professionals are more possessive of their reagents. Contamination can be a bitch to track down.

On preview: Place media caps face down on the bench to avoid contamination by air (dust falls down). Place media caps face up in the hood to avoid contamination by contact (airflow blows dust up). You have chances of contamination the opposite direction either way, but the likelihoods are reversed.
posted by maryr at 8:23 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, beginning baking mistake, especially in chocolate chip cookies: Yes, there is a huge difference between melting butter and softening it. Also, margarine and butter are not interchangeable. Also, imitation vanilla is not the same as the more expensive real vanilla.
posted by maryr at 8:25 AM on September 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


Using overly explicit or detailed language instead of the vernacular for the field. For instance, a sports writer that spelled out Runs Batted In and Earned Run Average instead of saying RBI or ERA, or felt the need to explain what they mean. That's a very elementary example that most people can relate to, but every specialty area has lingo that is known to the insiders but not obvious to an outsider. When a new outsider enters the field, they're more likely to use the proper names instead of the abbreviated slang everyone else uses.
posted by Doohickie at 10:40 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Inexperienced MeFites @ people and sign off in their comments. :)
posted by phunniemee at 11:15 AM on September 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


Experienced professionals (in any field) move very beautifully. It is a pleasure to watch them and be around them. They are not in a hurry, but work is getting done surprisingly fast and well.

Unexperienced dress makers/fashion designers don't know that tailors use iron almost as often as sewing machine .There is always ironing station in the shop, in constant use. Every new seam would be neatly ironed before proceeding to the next step in sewing .
posted by Oli D. at 12:19 PM on September 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


More video editing tips:

1) If the text on an TV ad runs off the screen (especially if it's 16:9 ratio!) it usually means the editor isn't checking their title safe zone or don't have a client monitor setup. Any editing program shows more video screen than what will be displayed during broadcast - a client monitor allows the editor/producer to see a close representation of what the spot will look like on broadcast. Title safe allows an HD spot to be center cut to 4:3 and still keep all important information.

2) Cannot easily stripe a tape with black for output on a tape deck. Pretty much a rite of passage in any post house (less so with digital delivery becoming the norm).

3) Never checking video levels for color safe/using the scope that is right next to you. Although, every editor gets caught with this occasionally.

4) Avid only. When it asks that the output is outside 30 FPS and aborts the output. Probably THE most confusing "error message" when all you need to do is remove a single frame of black from the timeline to fix it!
posted by packfan88c at 4:45 PM on September 20, 2012


Most of the common lab ones have already been mentioned (hi all you fellow science people!), but another random one for TC: pretty much every new student I've trained pulls the liquid up too fast their first few time using 1ml glass pipettes, soaking the filter. It's not really obvious that it'll be so much faster than the 5/10ml ones, and for many people a light hand takes time to develop.

Also nthing optimism or worse, assumption, that experiments will work (let alone show something interesting) - probably the most common sign that you're new to science.

(and to weigh in on the cap thing, in the hood caps should never be left off at all if you can help it - take it off, keep it facing down while you hold it and pipette with the other hand, and put it back on. If you have to take it off briefly, definitely cap facing up. And pouring in the hood is fine if you know for a fact that the container you're pouring from is sterile. Neither of these are necessarily signs of experience though, just of how you were trained)
posted by randomnity at 5:27 PM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Another parenting/babysitting/nannying/caregiving one!

People who aren't used to babies (and toddlers) tend to wait until they cry to feed them/put them to sleep. There are a lot of little signals that happen before they actually cry. Experienced caregivers also tend to keep a loose schedule in their head so they know when the baby is likely to be hungry/sleepy next so they can get the bottle heated up or start the naptime routine.

Also, a lot of new parents think that a hyper kid who is bouncing off the walls couldn't possibly be sleepy, but combined with a missed or late nap/bedtime it is a clear sign that the child is very sleep-deprived.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:32 PM on September 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


Just one observation about handling horses. An inexperienced horseman will take risks with ropes without even realising it, for example, winding that extra halter rope into a coil and carrying it with half the hand (the vanishing thumb half) inside the coil.
Just a little taste of bitter experience will teach most people to flatten and fold the rope so it can be held within the hand instead.
posted by Catch at 7:43 PM on September 20, 2012


Amateur parents park as close as they can to the store.

Pro parents park as close as they can to the cart corral.

Why, no, I was not taking my spawn to the grocery store today, why do you ask?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:05 PM on September 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


You can tell tourists on the French Riviera almost instantly: if they're not wearing a scarf or coat once it gets below 20°C (about 70°F), they're a tourist. Especially if they're wearing shorts. For instance, this morning it was 15°C (60°F) and I put on ankle boots, tights, a skirt, and a sweater over my top.

In Finland, you could tell tourists because they were the ones wearing trousers or long-sleeved tops when it was a balmy 15°C :) In winter they were identifiable by their inordinate layers once it got to -10°C and below, though it was easier just to listen for languages from European countries further south constantly repeating "it's cold!!!"

In Oregon we joked that you could tell non-Pacific Northwesterners by their umbrellas when it rained. Most, though admittedly not all, locals used rain hats or the hoods on their rain jackets. I weird out people on the Riviera when I do that. (I also save loads of time not having to navigate unmanageable crowds of umbrellas.)

In translation, amateurs translate word-for-word and keep the same sentence structures, even down to commas. (Many non-translator readers fall into the same trap, thinking they can judge a translation on how closely it "matches" the original according to visual, structural signs, and the two or three words they remember from high school language classes, sigh.) Experienced translators translate for meaning, which includes considerations such as the piece's context, knowledge of the author's country – Québécois French is not the same as French French is not the same as Belgian French – especially idioms, and the author's intent, as far as you can hope to know it. Amateur translators also, very often, do not know their native language well enough to actually write in it. You see this a lot with people who think that translating is "just" knowing how to use a dictionary; they think the reference work will do all the heavy lifting. Then they hide behind it when you critique their work. "But the dictionary sez...!!"
posted by fraula at 6:01 AM on September 21, 2012 [7 favorites]


Inexperienced lady runners often don't, um, support the girls as well as they should. This is both easy to spot and painful to watch. Lady runners who have been at it for a while know the value of a good sports bra.

When it comes to hills, runners who are new at it lean forward and look down at the ground. Staying upright and looking forward is psychologically harder when you're starting out ("The top of the hill is so far away") but it helps you keep a good, efficient form.

You'll sometimes see inexperienced road racers downing an energy gel right before a 5K, too.
posted by ann_disaster at 6:58 AM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Beginner whitewater kayakers tend to be all arms and no hips, even though their hips are going to be what get them out of trouble and carve their kayaks. They will often have weak paddles and cheap helmets. If they're learning to roll and start panicking, they will "carp" -- pull their heads out of the water too early -- which causes them to flip back underwater. They also won't use the force of the water to their advantage when it's taking them where they want to go.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:13 AM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


A bit more on lawyers:

Inexperienced litigators pitch a fit about everything. Stonewalling and playing hide the football are unproductive, even counter-productive, because they raise the temperature in the room and piss off the judge. Experienced litigators, even the aggressive, confrontational ones, go along and get along most of the time. If the other side is making an unreasonable demand, by all means object, but learn which things are important and try to limit your fuss to those.

Inexperienced litigators also don't know how to value a case or to handicap it for any weaknesses it may have. In the vast majority of tort cases, you can almost apply a formula to determine how much the case is worth. Thing is, even in the few cases that there's some question about that, the same formula will generally put you in the ballpark. This formula is based significantly on actual damages. If you show me medical bills totaling $20,000, odds are very, very low that a jury is going to award anywhere near $100,000 at trial, so an initial demand of half a million is just a non-starter. Similarly, there's no way the defendant is going to pay "full price" if there's a decent shot they'd get a better result at trial. You may want a million, but if your client is an idiot--and juries don't like idiots--you may just want to take that $300k and call it a day.

Similarly, inexperienced--and sometimes even experienced--litigators lose track of their causes of action and damage types. Not all kinds of damage are recoverable from all causes of action. Contract dispute? No emotional damages are allowed. Indemnification claim? Only recovery is injunctive, i.e., you get your debts paid, but you don't make any actual recovery beyond that. Consequential damages? Best be sure you've got a cause of action that permits them. Etc.
posted by valkyryn at 12:06 PM on September 21, 2012 [8 favorites]


Quonab In mechanical engineering, when an "amateur" sees something that is broken and wants to repair it, they will over-brace the area where the break occurred. A lot of times, this just moves the area of highest stress to another place, and it breaks there. A trained engineer will look at the whole system.

Reminds me of this answer about an "over bounded problem" and the art and science of mechanical engineering.
posted by mlis at 12:12 PM on September 21, 2012


From my time at a grocery store:

1) Bagging the items in exactly the order they come off the belt, rather than looking ahead to find something that will fill out the bag.

1a) Mixing items that should not be mixed (hot/cold/chemical/etc.) because they happen to be the right size/shape to fill out the bag.

2) Looking at each item to figure out where the barcode is located, and handling it several times to line it up for the scanner, rather than knowing where the barcode will be and picking it up in the correct orientation in the first place.

3) Not having any idea which items are sold out, which items will have more in the back, and when the next shipment will arrive.

4) Loading a car using one hand to handle the bags and one hand to hold the cart, rather than bracing the cart against your foot and using both hands. (We had a sloped parking lot.)
posted by yuwtze at 7:57 PM on September 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Amateur horse trainers tend to:

- Attribute a horse's misbehavior to naughtiness, stubbornness or maliciousness. In reality, most of the time it's either the rider's fault or the horse is in pain. I cannot emphasize this one enough.

- Use far more force than is necessary (with the whip, spurs, harsh bits or jerking on the bit, etc.) to attempt to "break" a horse's "bad attitude," often viewing the situation as a battle that needs to be won, and lay their egos on the line in fighting for it, as though coming out the victor makes them a better trainer. You're only teaching the horse to fight by spending two hours fighting with them. (And see above; it's likely the problem wasn't with the horse's attitude to begin with - but now he's probably in pain -and- confused -and- afraid!)

- Not set the horse up to succeed, and thus create their own problems. They'll pull a young horse out of the stable where she's stood for the past three days without exercise and hop on without giving her a longe first, and when she (predictably) starts running and spooking and getting excited, they'll fight with her (see above) and/or be somehow confused and exasperated at her "change of attitude."

- Be inflexible in their training sessions, and believe that the client is paying them for 1/2 hour of training per day, by golly, so they're going to ride for 1/2 hour per day. Horses don't know about hourly rates, and learn at their own pace. They have good days and bad days. Sometimes that means 5 minutes, sometimes it means 45.

- Use all manner of elaborate equipment, often designed to create a "head set" or other false construct. Yes, there are horses who benefit from Mikmar bits, from German martingales and from gags and chambons and draw reins. When I see you using one (or, horrifyingly, more than one) of those on EVERY horse you ride, I'm given to understand that you don't know what you're doing. Most horses if trained correctly will go perfectly well in a plain snaffle.

* Disclaimer: Some of this is specific to showjumping as opposed to other disciplines, yes. Much of it is general.
posted by po at 9:14 AM on September 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


Amateur history museum guides/interpreters/presenters:

1. Don't adjust their spiel to fit circumstances. They wil say the same spiel every single time, regardless of group demographics, size, how busy the museum is, how hot/cold it is, time of day, etc., etc.

1a. Don't read their audience, and in particular, can't tell when someone is interested and in what.

1b. Don't know when to shut up and let someone go.

2. Don't practice crowd control measures to make sure everyone can get into a room, make sure children can see, keep a long-winded visitor from monopolizing the conversation by graciously curtailing him, etc.

3. Don't understand sightlines and how they fit into the scene. They will stand in front of the most interesting artifacts, or they will stand in the part of the room where they can't see both the entrance and the exit, thereby losing their ability to verbally control guests entering and exiting the room.

4. Repeat horrible, god awful, cringe-inducing myths. "Everyone 200 years ago only lived until 50!" "Doorways were low because everyone was really short!" "Women cooking on hearths frequently caught on fire and burned to death!"

5. Don't realize history is an ongoing investigation that relies on modern interpretations of whatever happened to get documented or saved from that time. Therefore, they think whatever they read in the manual or however the exhibit is set up is exactly what happened/how it was/what it looked like. They don't know it's one big, incredibly informed guess.

6. Try to engage a group with a question, then quickly start prompting for answers when they don't get an immediately response. Most people—especially kids—need about 10 seconds to absorb the question and formulate a response. Also, adults are way more reticent to answer then kids, so asking polling questions of adults ("How many of you have seen a threshing machine before?") is a more comfortable way for them to engage.

7. Genuinely laugh at the same dumb jokes and comments visitors make because they haven't worked long enough to become utterly sick of these comments. (Working with the public at a museum has cured me of ever joking with front-line workers with whom I have very brief encounters, like grocery clerks or waitresses. I can't imagine how old the "there's no pricetag on this, so it must be free, right? Hardy-har-har!" or "Oh no, don't bring us the tab! You can keep it! Hardy-har-har!" gets.)

8. Tolerate rude guests because they haven't perfected the special parting we reserve for such oafs—the too bright "Thanks for visiting, have a nice day!" punctuated with the "f*** you" smile.
posted by Tall Telephone Pea at 10:05 AM on September 22, 2012 [13 favorites]


Hmm, amateur AskMeFi posters, like myself, might also be guilty of 1b.
posted by Tall Telephone Pea at 10:06 AM on September 22, 2012


Writers: trying to get a your story/novel/whatever copyrighted before you submit it for publication "in case an editor tries to steal it."
posted by nicebookrack at 11:25 AM on September 22, 2012


Teaching anything: an amateur doesn't figure out what the student hopes to accomplish. This leads to either taking too much time to get to the student's goal, or the student quits because you 'can't' teach them what they think they need. (this is true of knitting, where some students really want to crochet but don't have the vocabulary, or they want to make toys, not scarves. Literacy: some want to go all the way to GED, other learners want to pass a test for a promotion at work.)

Correlated with: not finding out what your student already knows or can do. So many students came in saying "I want to learn to knit." asking if they've ever knitted before is the incredibly not obvious first step. Refreshing a skill is different from starting at square one. Tutoring essay writing, when I was a new undergrad I was usually busy meeting with classmates about their papers. Why was I so popular? Because I understood what the professors wanted from us, and asked my peers the smaller questions that added up to making their C- papers into A material. They did all the writing, I just prodded them to it.

Also in teaching: trying to cover too much material is certainly bad, but so is trying to spend an entire hour on something that is solid. Either move on or review prior material. But don't make today's lesson end with 20 minutes of boring repetition.

Finally: connect the information to other parts of their lives. Strange instructions get compared to other strange instructions. English abbreviations a code that lets people know we belong to their club.
posted by bilabial at 12:44 PM on September 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


First time start-ups will spend all their bank on development and set none aside for marketing.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:20 PM on September 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Amateur screenwriters: as nicebookrack mentions, any use of the phrase "steal my idea".

Newbie PAs tend to be overly concerned with saving the production money. I guess this comes out of film school and reading/hearing stories about microbudget productions. This is a network TV series. Don't worry about doing this run on the subway to save gas money. We have a budget line for fuel.

Newbie Set PAs spend too much time listening to/dicking around on the walkie and not enough time paying attention to what is actually happening in front of them.
posted by Sara C. at 1:31 PM on September 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


not specific to any particular trade or profession, but for me one sure sign of an amateur is they keep you waiting. For some reason, their time is more important than yours.
posted by philip-random at 9:14 PM on September 23, 2012


"Inexperienced calculator users:


Do not know the order of operations for their calculator model (Does your calculator think 5 EXP 7 ^ 2 is 2.5 ×1015 or 5 × 1049?) so they omit necessary parentheses, resulting in errors."

I would not consider someone using parentheses on a calculator an "experienced" calculator user. An experienced calculator knows that these are not necessary.
Takes much too much time to type parentheses in a calculator...
posted by yoyo_nyc at 7:31 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Beginning teachers ask, "does everyone understand that?" You have to ask, "does anyone not understand that?" People won't volunteer that the answer to the first version is no.

Similarly, new teachers will say "any questions?" instead of "what questions do you have?" And new teachers will usually only wait a few seconds after asking, see no hands, and then say "great!" and move on. This communicates to the students that they should avoid asking questions, because you don't really want them. You have to wait much longer than you think you do to see if someone's hand will slowly drift up, and you usually have to say something like, "really? Everyone could take the test right now?" to prompt them.
posted by Ragged Richard at 4:09 PM on September 30, 2012 [24 favorites]


Novice parents (of young children, not babies) don't know about the booster seats in movie theaters.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:12 PM on September 30, 2012


This isn't universal, but classical musicians who count the passing measures during a rest/break vocally (even inaudibly under their breath) or visibly tap their feet, hands, etc. to the rhythm are, if not exactly considered amateurs, definitely looked down upon. Keeping time with your toes inside your shoes or your tongue inside your mouth is OK.
posted by wnissen at 7:11 AM on October 1, 2012


A rookie software tester will test only the "happy paths," or the most obvious routes through the application, not knowing that it's typically the roads less travelled (the "bad user" scenario, error handling, etc). where you find the bugs.

They will also, once they figure out the above, overtest edge cases and uncommon scenarios without first having done a risk analysis on whether or not it's worth doing.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:58 AM on October 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


In tennis - an beginner rotates his wrist, an amateur rotates his arm, a pro rotates his body.
posted by spec80 at 4:23 AM on October 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


An inexperienced grocery cashier will look up the PLU codes for produce. Furthermore they won't be able to visually identify things like varieties of apples, lettuce, and herbs.

An experienced one will know all the codes and punch them in through muscle memory. They'll also know whether they're scanning parsley or cilantro, etc.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:40 AM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am going to out-obscure all you fuckers!
An amateur captioner:
  • writes in all caps
  • thinks invariant bottom-centre positioning is OK
  • thinks the dash character they see on their keyboards is the only one in existence and works everywhere
  • thinks captions can be at most two lines long
There. I just described CaptionMax.
  • thinks scrollup captioning works everywhere, including on fictional narrative programming
  • does not understand that each new sentence in scrollup captioning must start on a new line
  • does not understand the exceptions to the preceding rule, as in successive sentence fragments (Mmm. Delicious)
  • basically does not notate sound effects
  • does not caption theme music
  • won’t use italics
There. I just described Canadian broadcasters’ in-house captioning departments (e.g., Shaw, CTV).
  • thinks real-time captioning is appropriate for any program at all, including old U.S. repeats that were captioned at least twice already all the way up to decades-old classic football and hockey games
  • thinks that rerunning an errantly-real-time-captioned show three hours later for the west-coast feed is just fine even though if the show ever was live, it sure isn’t anymore
  • thinks that once you hire a real-time-captioning house (shopping solely on price) you never need to talk to them again, leading to endless interview shows where not a single proper name or technical term is known in advance nor spelled right
  • thinks centred scollup captioning actually is a thing
There. I just described the rest of the Canadian broadcasting system.
  • is a female or a gay male in her or his mid-20s with an arts degree that’s useless in the job market (especially the entirely useless B.A. [Honours] English)
  • never watched captioning for even a second before taking the job
  • never actually wanted to be a captioner, and still doesn’t, and will leave the minute the job that Justin or Krystle always thought was their birthright finally pops up
  • can’t believe, simply cannot believe, their job really does entail spending all day captioning TV shows that are beneath their dignity
  • thinks they can just look up any old fact, resulting in endlessly misheard near-homonyms (“two couples” on Hell’s Kitchen when it’s actually “two covers”; “guide wires”)
    • a professional captioner, who grew up reading everything and learning the hard way and simply absorbing information, knows the facts cold already and has vast general knowledge

  • leaves out words they cannot decipher (including proper names like David Susskind, an actual example on an episode of Louie; HBO used to be prone to this)

  • doesn’t caption song lyrics because of a completely imaginary concern for copyright, despite 30 years’ practice without so much as a mutter of complaint

  • does not know they have to displace second and later captions that are identical or nearly identical to a first caption so you can actually register the fact the utterance was made more than once (cf. invariant-bottom-centre captions)

  • are so monolingual that even the simplest foreign-language phrases, all the way down to single words like merci, are rendered simply as [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] (see Inglorious Bastards for worst-case scenario)

  • cannot render a numerical range (“ten or eleven percent” is 10% or 11%; “anywhere from eight to ten thousand dollars” is anywhere from $8,000 to $10,000; “ten to fifteen million pounds of nuclear waste” is 10 million to 15 million pounds of nuclear waste)

  • cannot caption an extended quotation (open quote on all captions but last, which gets only an end quote)

  • does not know what a blinkrate is or why it has to be exactly 2, or how Vitac kind of got away with a value of 1 for many years

  • does not know when to caption a numeral instead of a word (the recurrent To reach an operator, press zero)

  • types a space before question mark or bang or inside brackets

  • doesn’t know that the italic trigger produces a visible space, hence no, you don’t need a wordspace before or after an italicized phrase

  • does not know what (who?) Vitac is, or the Caption Center, or Captions, Inc.

  • calls themself a caption “editor”

  • thinks respeaking actually works and is a smashing replacement for stenotypy

  • works in India or the Philippines but isn’t captioning for India or the Philippines
    • cutely deludes themself into thinking they really speak English when what they speak is second-language Indian or Philippine English on a very good day

  • doesn’t like TV, doesn’t watch TV, doesn’t own a TV (modulo the most proficient captioners, for whom the latter two can be true)

  • is British or Irish and thinks captioning is subtitling

  • doesn’t have the slightest idea how to caption a subtitled program
    • if British or Irish (or French-Canadian), argues the foregoing is a logical impossibility

  • thinks captioning is “straightforward”


posted by joeclark at 1:58 PM on October 10, 2012 [9 favorites]


Another radio one: people who do the least glamorous, non-creative jobs in radio - production, straight dubbing, etc. - will often put on headphones (which they don't strictly need unless they're live on the air) - and sit in front of a window facing outside. These are usually young (straight) guys who want to look like they're doing a show on the air, for the benefit of any hot young women walking by who might glance at them. Not really a secret - many of the guys will flat out tell you that's what they're doing :)

Since we're on the subject - anyone in radio who still refers to "disk jockeys." For those in the know, an on-air personality is always a jock.
posted by cartoonella at 11:18 AM on November 26, 2012


People who are inexperienced sexually, but not virgins, are inordinately interested in being "the best you've ever had." Those who have been around the block know there's no best, there are just different experiences of pleasure.
posted by lore at 12:50 PM on December 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Non-mathematicians think that math involves a lot of numbers. As an example, in getting a math degree I didn't use my fancy calculator after freshman year — except to verify my annual tax form.

They also tend to think that formulas are the most important part of a mathematical result. Mostly they are just notation, and a result takes the form of "If X, Y, and Z are true, then W is true." I think it's because the formulas are the most opaque part of the process, so people think it's the most important. It's kind of like thinking the multi-colored resistor codes are the most important part of a circuit. Yes, it's essential to get your resistor values correct, but the way you hook the components up is the heart of a circuit.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:29 AM on December 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


An inexperienced comic book writer crams the page with enough panels, visual elements and words to fill two. He or she might also begin a story with a TV-style slow zoom onto a scene where no one is doing much except brooding in the captions.
posted by Superfrankenstein at 8:33 PM on December 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Inexperienced hotel front desk staff will promise things they should not. The most troublesome one is connecting rooms, as there will invariably be someone in at least one half of every connecting pair who extends their stay further than planned.

They will either break hotel policies thinking it is no big deal after seeing a senior employee bend a rule just a bit, or they will be rigid to the point of irritating regular guests.

After quoting the standard price, they believe lines such as "I stay here all the time and it's only (unreasonably low price)" "Let me check with my spouse" and "I'll call you right back." The first can be verified. The second is usually a rejection but not always so. The last only happens when everyone else in the area is booked for a major event. Worse yet on rates, they will quote a discounted rate when a guests asks for the "best rate" as if it is a catch-all phrase.

If they make a reservation for more than two rooms, they will not get names ahead of time. If they check in a party of guests with more than two rooms reserved under only one name, they will not get names of the guests in each room. There will always be somebody calling from outside wanting to be transferred to a guest in the group and nobody will know which room the guest is in.

The worst thing about phone transfers is they will transfer to "Room 102" without asking for the guest's name. They may want the guest in 201, they may have the wrong hotel, or they may be running a scam claiming to be a front desk employee needing a credit card number for verification.

They fear lines and go too fast, especially if the phone rings. This invariably results in at least one guest suffering from some issue more frustrating than simply waiting in line for a few minutes.

They expect Mondays to be slow. This is rarely true as Mondays are when business travelers arrive.

They will suggest their favorite restaurants to guests who ask instead of tailoring their suggestion to the timid or adventurous.

New managers will usually underestimate the hours they need to be in the office. They will take every phone call that comes in for them as quickly as possible.

They won't quickly find someone on front desk who knows what they are doing and at least consider their advice.

They won't learn what groups come in every year and plan for it ahead of time.
posted by Saydur at 8:57 PM on December 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


An amateur plumber will tell the people upstream of the waste pipe they're working on, or even just let the management company tell them, not to flush at a certain time - rather than first turning off the water, then flushing the toilet themselves.

An amateur plumber will think, oh, it's just a trickle, I can still solder that. With a propane torch.

An amateur plumber will think that the water is brown because it leaked through walls and the ceiling.

An amateur plumber will trust the building super to do it properly. An amateur plumber will also think, well, the valve is pretty much closed, that's good enough.

In sailing:

Not-amateurs are always organizing the lines (ropes) around them all the time and always looking at the other boats around and the weather. Experienced sailors are also into foul weather gear before the rain. They've also reduced sail before the wind gets too gusty.

Experienced sailors also know that good habits (no fingers between line and winch, no thinking you're going to control a sheet (line (rope) attached to a sail)) only reduce the likelihood of chaos breaking out.

Also, experienced racing crews distribute their weight (get onto the windward rail (the side of the boat that faces the wind) without anyone telling them. Also very likely to move to the winches before the helmsman (guy steering) calls for a change of direction.
posted by From Bklyn at 7:48 AM on December 28, 2012


Amateur photographers try to act professional , professionals try to act like amateurs - have a look at terry richardson with his crummy yashica shooting for american apparel - or martin parr wearing jesus sandals in an effort to pose as a bumbling harmless tourist to get people off their guard. Or Weegie - so much of a shambling mess he was played by Joe Pesci : )
posted by sgt.serenity at 1:08 PM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


"So do you set your caps down right side up or upside down?"

Neither, ever, if I can at all help it. When they aren't on whatever it is that they close, I keep my caps firmly wedged between fingers I'm not using for anything else - touching only the outside.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:46 AM on February 6, 2013


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