I heard this word a few weeks ago, and I've been trying to remember what it was. I've searched through Google and can't seem to find it. I'm sure that the word begins with 'H' and describes a process or solution that may not necessarily be optimized but also doesn't necessarily require it. I.E. crude

The word I am looking for describes a technique that is practical to reaching a short term goal. The context I heard this in related to machine learning and chat bots. For example, if a customer called an insurance company and had an accident, the bot would ask a simple set of questions to determine whether to route the caller to a low or high impact assessment.

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

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    There's 'hash', but that definitely has a negative connotation. Have you checked a thesaurus for synonyms of jury-rig, the answers provided by @vth, etc? – John Feltz Aug 8 at 14:28
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    @DukeLuke Welcome to EL&U, but please see the guidance on single-word-requests. The more context you can provide, the better. For example, what is an example of the situation you describe? The two words that immediately come to my mind are given by vth, but you dismiss them without explanation. As it stands, therefore, the question is not likely to be helpful to future visitors; it's a guessing game or the answer to a crossword. – choster Aug 8 at 14:30
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    @DukeLuke yes I had seen that, which is why I didn't answer, but commented instead. I just thought I would share my opinion that I feel 'sufficient' has connotations of being crude, and would probably suffice if you were unable to find the precise word you are looking for. Apologies if I frustrated you by not answering your exact question. – Benjamin Aug 8 at 19:46
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    @DukeLuke - Don't use your question to explain why you posted/accepted an answer. If you need to provide that sort of commentary, put it in a comment on the answer. – AndyT Aug 9 at 14:23
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    Even after edits, the question does not match your accepted answer. – R.. Aug 11 at 1:01

12 Answers 12

Perhaps you are looking for a hack ?

2.1 A piece of computer code providing a quick or inelegant solution to a particular problem.

"this hack doesn't work on machines that have a firewall"

Life hack

: a usually simple and clever tip or technique for accomplishing some familiar task more easily and efficiently

"Life hacks," as they are known, are all about eliminating life's manifold frustrations in simple and deliciously clever ways. The best involve tricks that are free, efficient and stunningly obvious in retrospect, deploying household items (like the humble toilet roll) for purposes beyond their wildest aspirations. —Michael Koziol"

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    Although this wasn't it, great answer! The word was heuristics – DukeLuke Aug 8 at 19:21
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    @DukeLuke, well I went with starts with an “H” :) – bookmanu Aug 8 at 19:28

bodge, as per Wikitionary:

Noun: A clumsy or inelegant job, usually a temporary repair; a patch, a repair.

A prime example of this word in use can be seen in this video by Tom Scott.

There's also the word kludge:

A kludge or kluge (/klʌdʒ, kluːdʒ/) is a workaround or quick-and-dirty solution that is clumsy, inelegant, inefficient, difficult to extend and hard to maintain.

  • This is a great answer! Unfortunately it's not the word I'm looking for. – DukeLuke Aug 8 at 14:20
  • I've edited my post to add another word that could potentially be the answer. – VTH Aug 8 at 14:24
  • I think the key here is that the solution is sufficient and doesn't require further development and/or analysis, but could still be considered rudimentary – DukeLuke Aug 8 at 14:26
  • You could've just cited the title for the definition of kluge. – Mazura Aug 9 at 15:00
up vote 22 down vote accepted

The answer sprung on me after a few hours.

Heuristic technique, or heuristics.

From Wikipedia:

A heuristic technique, often called simply a heuristic, is any approach to problem solving, learning, or discovery that employs a practical method, not guaranteed to be optimal, perfect, logical, or rational, but instead sufficient for reaching an immediate goal. Where finding an optimal solution is impossible or impractical, heuristic methods can be used to speed up the process of finding a satisfactory solution.


I understand that the original question wasn’t the exact definition of heuristic, but it is applicable to certain applications of it. For example, availability heuristics, where an individual bases a conclusion on recent events that come to mind.

I’ll use an example I found online. I live in Maine and am planning a trip to Florida during the cold winter months. I’m determining whether or not I want to fly and make my round trip fast and convenient or if I want to drive my car. I recall that last week I read there was a plane clash that killed 50 passengers, so I conclude it’s not safe to fly and I decide to drive.

The former example is both sufficient and unsophisticated. Driving to Florida from Maine will suffice for my trip, but my assumption that it’s safer isn’t sound. Data shows that in 2015 those in the U.S. who drove had a 1 in 114 chance of dying versus 1 in 9,821 for air travel.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Aug 12 at 12:26

I'm not sure this fits with your added example of use, but I would have said "a pragmatic solution".

Pragmatic:

practical as opposed to idealistic

In computing, that would be called a "naive solution" (or the naive solution). In another post, someone describes a naive algorithm as almost exactly what you are describing:

A Naive algorithm is usually the most obvious solution when one is asked a problem. It may not be a smart algorithm but will probably get the job done (...eventually.)

Notably, this phrase doesn't imply that the solution is bad. Just that there may be a more sophisticated solution.

  • Don't knock it, in many cases the KISS principle would apply. There's often a lot to be said for Keep It Simple, Safe (or Stupid) if you're being less polite. – BoldBen Aug 9 at 10:18
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    @BoldBen KISS is "keeep it simple, stupid". Why? Because it has no connotation of safety. It CAN be the safer solution, but it also may not. (In programming, KISS would imply paying less attention to unlikely "edge cases", such as when the input data is much larger than what you are expecting.) – piojo Aug 10 at 2:08
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    I've always taken the "stupid" part to be directed at the person who has a tendency to over-complicate the solution leading to extra potential points of failure and difficulties with maintenance. Obviously a solution needs enough complexity to be reliable, effective and safe but the level of complexity needs to reflect the nature of the task and the environment. Maximum complexity is very rarely, if ever, optimal. – BoldBen Aug 10 at 15:05

Are you by any chance thinking of ad hoc? It seems to fit your definition of "practical to reaching a short term goal" fairly well.

Ad hoc:

for the particular end or case at hand without consideration of wider application

With the understanding that the desired term has already been found in "heuristic", I'll still venture another H-word for the Googlers out there :)

Honest effort - an effort which is "in good faith" or "showing fairness and sincerity; straightforward; free from deceit." However, while I cannot find any official definition of this, I feel in common usage it has a more complex meaning.

That meaning that I understand for it, is as an unsophisticated good-faith attempt which falls shy of perfection.

"while this first cake is an honest effort, the second cake wins the prize." - this doesn't imply that the first cake is a bad cake, it doesn't say it's a failure, it's just not a best-in-show cake. It's still a tasty, good-looking cake, though.

Quotes I've found include:

It was an honest effort, but the team ended up apologizing, sort of. [Wizards apologize if Black History Month tribute 'missed the mark']

-- Washington Post, Feb 3 2016

It was an honest effort, but a mistake nevertheless. His attempt to handle Rosecrans with gentleness backfired.

-- Halleck: Lincoln's Chief of Staff by Stephen E Ambrose, 1996

The exempt counties are reliably Republican outposts, so currying favour with constituents is a likelier explanation than outright racial animus. “It was an honest effort to recognise that across the state there are variations in the ability to get jobs.[...]"

-- The Economist, May 17 2018

His first mixtape, "The Purple Tape," surfaced in 2012, when he was 18. Looking back, he realizes its limitations. "I thought I was ready, but it was really immature," he says. "I was talking about cool stuff other teenagers were doing. It was very vain. It was an honest effort, and true to everything I was doing at 17, 18. But it's definitely night and day between then and now." -- Joey Purp, Chicago Tribune Aug 8 2018

We were begged not to punish the State of Idaho for a mistake, if it was a mistake, in regard to its own organization; for it is said they made an “honest effort” to comply with the law

-- Congressional Record, 1892

This usage seems to fit both with the "not optimal" current phrasing, and with the "not sophisticated" previous phrasing of this question, tough of course the meaning is far removed and more negative from that of heuristic.

Heuristic typically implies "industry standard rule of thumb"-type competence.

An honest effort instead implies "giving it your best shot and getting close", often with implications of failure-through-inexperience.

"Heuristics" are actually a scientific process but match your description after the "EDIT". A "hack" has the implication of being something not intended in that manner. A "kludge" is something that just happens to work but may fall apart any time and/or looks seriously out of place.

For your description of the term before the first "EDIT", I'd use "expedient" instead. That describes a low-effort convenient solution that isn't actually out of place.

Jugaad (Financial Times, Lexicon)

Jugaad means thinking in a frugal way and being flexible, which, in turn, requires the innovator or entrepreneur to adapt quickly to often unforeseen situations and uncertain circumstances in an intelligent way.

Intelligence in this context "isn’t about seeking sophistication or perfection by over-engineering products, but rather about developing a ‘good-enough’ solution that gets the job done".

Note the wording in the second para.

See also:
jugaad on ODO
Winging it (Cachero et al., BBC Culture)

And not to miss at all (seriously):
Images

Another descriptive adjective would be haphazard (as in a haphazard solution) which MW defines as

marked by lack of plan, order, or direction

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

Heavy-handed

Clumsy

With the entry for clumsy:

1 a : lacking dexterity, nimbleness, or grace (clumsy fingers)

b : lacking tact or subtlety (a clumsy joke)

2 : awkward or inefficient in use or construction : unwieldy (a clumsy contraption)

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

  • I'm not sure what context to provide. OP asked, "I'm sure that the word begins with 'H' and describes a process or solution that may not necessarily be optimized." I provided the word/phrase "heavy-handed," and the (chained) definition, "awkward or inefficient in use or construction." I would think that OP's question provides the context, does it not? I'm also an infrequent visitor of the site, so my apologies if I've missed something. Please help me understand. – Chuck Aug 14 at 13:47

Almost every other answer to this question assumes lack of sophistication in a solution to be a negative trait. Therefore, I will offer an alternative:

Elegant (Oxford English Dictionary):

  1. Graceful and stylish in appearance or manner.

‘she will look elegant in black’ ‘an elegant, comfortable house’

  1. (of a scientific theory or solution to a problem) pleasingly ingenious and simple.

‘the grand unified theory is compact and elegant in mathematical terms’

protected by tchrist Aug 11 at 4:32

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