One of the things I like about the Americans is their insistence on using the right tools for the job. Take this post by Michael for example. It is “typically American” of him to wonder about why those workmen weren’t using better tools.
This is not to say that all Americans will do it or that no Indian will do it. But I know from personal experience that if I have to suggest some weird workaround to a client, an Indian client will accept it while an American client will not, except under a lot of protest. It is also true that Indians have much less appreciation of software usability than Americans.
I have many theories why this is so, all of them half-formed, so I haven’t made up my mind. It could be economics – designing stuff well is capital intensive. Why do it when adding two people will do the job? It could be culture – people don’t care, or think that it is not worth caring. It could be culture – designing things to make them easy to use requires, either that the designer actually uses the product, or that there is a feedback loop from the user to designer. In a hierarchical society, this loop is not closed. It could be structural – closing the feedback loop requires a well-designed organization. For example, designing sidewalks that people can actually walk on is an easy engineering problem, but a difficult political problem. The latter requires a well-designed government, which means taking the design problem one step higher.
Anyway, I will have more on that some other day. The reason I started off on this topic is to give an example of design which only an American could have thought of.
He was instrumental in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s winning the Democratic nomination in 1932. For his support of Roosevelt in 1932, Hague was rewarded with money for a massive medical center complex complete with a maternity hospital named after his mother, Margaret.
He has a widely-known reputation for corruption and bossism. As mayor, he enjoyed palatial homes, European vacations, and a private suite at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. His wealth has been estimated to have been over $10 million at the time of his death, although his City salary never exceeded $8,000 per year and he had no other legitimate source of income. His desk, which is still located in City Hall, has a specially designed lap drawer which could be pushed outward towards the person with whom he was meeting. This allowed his “guests” to discretely deliver bribes in the form of envelopes containing large amounts of cash.
The person referred to is Frank Hague, Mayor of Jersey city between 1917 and 1947