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26 August 2019

We have assiduously avoided giving advice throughout our career. On the other hand, you won't find the magic phrases "It Depends" or "Your Mileage May Vary" spicing the thousands of articles at Photo Corners. We simply report our experience. Make of it what you will.

Bad Advice. Captured at f8, 1/500 second and ISO 200 on an Olympus E-PL1 with an Olympus 12-100mm f4 Pro lens at 70mm and processed in Adobe Camera Raw.

So when we were walking along the waterfront the other day and saw this peculiar advice posted prominently, we thought it was a sign.

Indeed it was exactly that.

We tried to figure out what this particularly placard was trying to say so emphatically.

It was, we noticed, posted on a gate blocking the entrance to a pier. It was not blocking any exit. Properly it should have said, "Unsafe Area. Do Not Enter." If it had, we would have passed by without removing our lens cap.

But it seemed to say, "Stay Where You Are in the Unsafe Area." Which, obviously, is bad advice. Especially since you would be sweating in the midday sun alongside a stinky dumpster.

Of course, the meaning would be different if the gate were open and the sign advising workers about to leave the facility to rejoin the world at large. "Stick around, it's not safe out there," makes a certain amount of sense.

The day doesn't go by without bad advice being promulgated worldwide. The attraction eludes us. Not just bad information but bad advice. What to do, that is, about the situation described by the bad information.

Nipping the bad information in the bud is part of the survival strategy we employ (but make of it what you will). We have a friend who practices this art by asking, "But how do you know that?" when someone makes a declarative statement without footnotes.

It can turn a serious speech into a comedy routine. Usually the speaker has no idea what they're talking about. Big hat, no cattle. Our friend's request for evidence either elicits some horror of a source or the observation that some fantastical apparition is "obvious."

Data never comes into it.

And yet data is what underlies any good advice. It's why mileage may vary. Not because it's yours but because your routes may restrict you within a 15 mile city street radius or, alternately, launch over-an-hour highway commute.

We don't know what the hazard is that the sign in our photo is warning us about. Or, for that matter, which side of the fence an aggressive watch dog might inhabit.

But we're sure that bad advice is always an unsafe area to be avoided at all costs.

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