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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I'm all about rules of thumb

I recently stumbled across an addictive site called 'Rules of Thumb' which has become a bit of an obsession over here at chez treppenwitz.

Simply put, if you can think of any basic rule you use for estimating something, making decisions or predicting results... it is probably there (or should be).  Not only that, but the site is organized into handy categories so you can find helpful (and occasionally not-so-helpful) rules relating to nearly any subject.

For example let's say my lovely wife Zahava, who is a graphic designer, wants to see what rules of thumb exist for her field of expertise.  She would scroll through the main rules collection and then click on 'Design'.  In the blink of an eye she would see a list of all the current rules of thumb related to the design world.

Since Zahava knows a thing or two about that realm, she can also rate any rule on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being 'total B.S.' and 10 being 'Torah from Sinai') so that future supplicants will have a better sense of how far to trust a given rule.  This is an important feature of the site since there is no guarantee that someone posting a rule has the slightest idea what they're talking about.  It is for this reason that newly posted rules don't get moved to the main collection if they score less than 5 out of 10 on the first 10 reviews.

Some of the rules are meant to be funny or tongue-in-cheek such as this one from the 'Parachuting' section:

"If your parachute doesn't open at the normal opening altitude (2,500 feet), you've got the rest of your life to solve the problem - all 15 seconds of it."

While others are genuinely informative (such as this one from the same section):

"On the average jump, figure on six or seven seconds of freefall time for every thousand feet of falling."

It's incredibly fun scrolling through all the topics... even the oddball ones like farming, mathematics and yes, parachuting... to find out neat factoids and rules.  New rules of thumb are always being posted and rated so be prepared to add this site to your regular surfing routine.

But don't take my word for it... check it out for yourself.

And as always, don't thank me... I'm a giver.

Hat tip: Book of Joe


Posted by David Bogner on January 22, 2008 | Permalink


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oh i like it.

also a graphic designer... there are lots of rules for us.

Posted by: Sarah | Jan 22, 2008 12:59:58 PM

That's a great site. Very addictive indeed. I put it up there with
Check that one out also. Great laughs.


Posted by: Sarah | Jan 22, 2008 1:33:22 PM

Why do we put suits in garment bags and garments in suitcases?


Posted by: a. | Jan 22, 2008 3:23:41 PM

A Rule of Thumb from my current trip to Israel is:

The number of sets of clean underwear corresponds to the number of days minus one that you have before you see a washing machine again:-)

Posted by: Noa | Jan 22, 2008 4:23:24 PM

Consider me surfing, later this evening. But... wandering atopic...

"even the oddball ones like farming, **mathematics** and yes, parachuting"?

why you gotta be that way, man? ;o/

Posted by: Wry Mouth | Jan 22, 2008 4:48:58 PM

Damn, sucked me in too. Well, I suppose that some of the information there will save my life or help me make more money at some point.

Posted by: Jack | Jan 22, 2008 6:00:45 PM

Based on my look at their astronomy section, I'm kind of dubious about the worth of the ratings. Almost every one of the 13 rules has a rating near 5, even ones that are much stronger than just "rules of thumb". For example, the moon really is half a degree across yet the rule is rated exactly 5. Why?

I'd give the rating system a 3.

Posted by: The Observer | Jan 22, 2008 7:03:29 PM

Do you know where the expression "rule of thumb" originated? Under British common law, a man was allowed to strike his wife with a wooden switch that was no thicker than his thumb. (This was meant to protect women from severe harm, believe it or not.) This law came to be known as "the rule of thumb".

Posted by: SuperRaizy | Jan 23, 2008 5:19:05 AM

Actually, we find that rule of thumb very handy around our house, still!

Oops. TMI?

Posted by: Wry Mouth | Jan 23, 2008 5:26:35 AM

Sarah... Don't forget to rate them.

Sarah... Oh no, not another site to rob me of sleep! :-)

a. ... Probably for the same reason that flammable and inflammable mean the same thing.

Noa... Sounds about right. :-)

Wry Mouth... Sorry, you're right... that was unfair. Mathematics is not an oddball topic. It is the practitioners of that dark art that are the oddballs. :-)

Jack... Or it might win you a bet. Nah, who are we kidding?

The Observer... Most non-experts are wary of giving a rating over 5 or 6. Truth be told, most rules of thumb are somewhat inexact... even ones like the one you cited. They are inexact because of the way they are used (i.e. using the eye to judge).

SuperRaizy... That is an urban legend. But don't trust me... do a google search or simply check the Oxford English Dictionary.

Wry Mouth... I'm guessing your wife doesn't follow this site. :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jan 24, 2008 4:13:34 PM

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