Talk:The poems of John Godfrey Saxe/The Blind Men and the Elephant

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The Blindmen and the Elephant[edit]

A fascinating children's story based on a folk tale dating back at least two-thousand years offers direct insight into what happens when an encompassing view is not taken in studying a problem. In this tale there are six men who, though very knowledgeable, are blind. Together they encounter an elephant and each gives his analysis of the creature. Their interpretations are based on the particular part of the elephant they happen to touch.

The first blind man touches the sturdy side and declares the elephant to be very much like a wall.

The second blind man felt the elephant's sharp tusk and declared the elephant to be like a great spear.

The third blind man grasped at the squirming trunk and, with postive authority, announced that elephants are certainly like snakes.

The fourth blind man slid his hands along the elephant's broad knee and said that clearly an elephant can be best described as a tree.

Now the fifth blind man examined the elephant's waving ear, and was convinced that the elephant was some sort of fan.

And the last, the sixth blind man grabbing at the elephant's swinging tail declared to all around that an elephant is absolutely like a rope.

Each is partly right since they have made contact with one major part of the whole. However, they are all wrong because in their blindness they failed to comprehend the creature in its entirety. Too often in information systems work, the limited perspectives (particular blindnesses) of the individuals making a study lead to similar failures in perception.

These failures result in developing computer capabilities that do not meet the needs of users. Perhaps an all too common example within a corporation could be exemplified when the vice-president of accounting (often the tail that wags the elephant!) makes the decisions regarding the information systems needed, without serious consideration and vision of the needs of the engineering, manufacturing, sales, and other departments that actually generate the value and revenue of the organization. In an elegant way, this children's story clearly illustrates the need for comprehensive study prior to the implementation of an information system in a company. So, as is often the case with "stories" of enduring interest, they contain the seeds of wisdom acquired by a culture through centuries of practical experience.

If you would like to relive your childhood memory of first hearing this tale, (it is here on Wiki) or share it with your children, a well-illustrated version is John Godfrey Saxe's The Blind Men and the Elephant (McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1963). The children's section of most public libraries will have Saxe's or another version of this valuable insight for the information-systems designer.

Albert Turner — Software engineer


From Talk:Five Blind Men and an Elephant[edit]

Added a link because I just learned this is in The Book of Eris too.

Public Domain[edit]

http://discordia.loveshade.org/apocrypha/elephant.html. It says there "In the true Discordian tradition, use this story for free--just please credit the author, Reverend Loveshade. Otherwise you will be turned into a Chairman Mao button." Binky The WonderSkull 07:14, 8 February 2007 (UTC)

Speedy deletion for what?[edit]

This article was just listed as a candidate for speedy deletion. The reason given was "never published outside the internet" and the claim was made that this was a valid reason as listed on "Wikisource:Deletion_policy."

First, "never published outside the Internet" is not listed as a reason for speedy deletion under Wikisource policy. I believe that in itself is sufficient to determine this is not a candidate.

Second, several major news sources (such as Yahoo!) do not generally publish news outside the Internet, and authors such as Stephen King have published books only available through the Internet. Being available only on the Internet is not sufficient cause to declare a work invaluable.

Third, many pieces listed on Wikisource are only available online or were only published in a single collection for decades.

Fourth, this particular story, which is less than 15 years old, occurs in several collections as listed, and is available both as online text (on the Internet) and in collections by several print publishers. It was also the subject of a commentary by a candidate for the U. S. Senate.

Fifth, the person who is calling for this has shown continual opposition to the author of this work. I can gives sources for this, but am loath to move a Wikipedia edit war to Wikisource, even though the person who is calling for this has already done so. Binky The WonderSkull 05:07, 8 April 2007 (UTC)

Texts on Wikisource must be published in a verifiable and peer-reviewed form (usually print), except for a few exceptions which don't apply here (see the inclusion policy). Feel free to add a specific printed edition, such as John Godfrey Saxe's The Blindmen and the Elephant. —{admin} Pathoschild 00:46:15, 09 April 2007 (UTC)
Our inclusion policy is simple. It needs to have been published in a form that we consider acceptable; in cases like this where the publishing isnt clear, it is up to the contributor to provide image scans of the printed edition, and also evidence that the published work is not self-published -- I suggest you first verify that the work is in WorldCat. John Vandenberg (chat) 07:53, 25 January 2008 (UTC)
WTF? Even my highschool textbook had this thing. How can its publication status possibly be a matter of dispute? unsigned comment by 59.93.195.64 (talk) .