[Homeroast] Bottomless and feckless

sci scizen at gmail.com
Thu May 6 15:47:11 CDT 2010

RayO may have a low s/n value, but there's entertainment value and he gives
this list some flair.


Date: Thu, 6 May 2010 09:52:22 -0700
From: Samuel Goldberger <sgold at sphere.bz>
To: "A list to discuss home coffee roasting. There are rules for this
       list,   available at http://www.sweetmarias.com/maillistinfo.html"
       <homeroast at lists.sweetmariascoffee.com>
Subject: Re: [Homeroast] Bottomless and feckless
Message-ID: <68E0C971-D793-475F-B21F-86FE7FF84E48 at sphere.bz>
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There is an electrical engineering concept I find most useful in a variety
of contexts, called the "signal to noise ratio." It is used to measure the
efficiency of information transmission systems, especially audio and video
systems. But it can usefully be applied to language as well. The higher the
signal to noise ratio (also known as s/n) the more efficient the

To achieve a high s/n ratio in written communication, it's important to ask
oneself not just what do I want to say, but how well I say it? Did I choose
the right words? Is my sentence structure clear? Is what I am saying
logical? Is it true? Is someone else going to understand it? Ideally, one
also asks oneself, "Is what I am saying relevant to the conversation? Will
others be interested? Am I moving the discussion forward?"

We are often urged to "love the sinner and hate the sin." Whether hate is
the proper term is arguable. But it is fair in this case to point out that
the s/n ratio of many of Ray's communications is notably low. They often
give the sense of unedited expostulations, often of an uncomfortably
personal nature. They use peculiar language, are fraught with obscure
references, and require a great deal of work to understand; at the end of
the day, one often finds that there is relatively little content that's
relevant to the conversation. The shame of it is that Ray is clearly a
capable, creative person with an enormous array of experiences who loves
coffee and roasting. But because the s/n ratio is so low, he ends up doing
himself, and his readers, an injustice and causing unnecessary frustration.

So in the spirit of the bumper sticker "bark less, wag more," may I suggest:
"talk less, think more."
Samuel Goldberger, Ph.D.

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