Stossel on Regulations

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

A recent John Stossel column about his attempt to open a lemonade stand "by the book" in New York City just about has to be read to be believed:

Here's some of what one has to do:
-- Register as sole proprietor with the County Clerk's Office (must be done in person)
-- Apply to the IRS for an Employer Identification Number.
-- Complete 15-hr Food Protection Course!
-- After the course, register for an exam that takes 1 hour. You must score 70 percent to pass. (Sample question: "What toxins are associated with the puffer fish?") If you pass, allow three to five weeks for delivery of Food Protection Certificate.
-- Register for sales tax Certificate of Authority
-- Apply for a Temporary Food Service Establishment Permit. Must bring copies of the previous documents and completed forms to the Consumer Affairs Licensing Center.
Since the whole process  would have taken over two months, Stossel sold lemonade anyway, although he was sure to place a legally-required fire extinguisher on the table when he did.

-- CAV

--- In Other News ---

As part of a slide show explaining what a "search bubble" is -- something the folks at DuckDuckGo make a point of not placing its users into -- there is a headline from The Onion that aptly skewers the problem with tailor-made searches: "Area Woman Prefers to Get Same Advice from as Many People as Possible". So-called "personalized search" too easily slips into "baked-in confirmation bias",  and, at least the way it is being done now, I'd call it a bug, and not a feature.

A tech writer, reacting to the computing world apparently having to re-learn lessons already learned and forgotten in the past, discusses some innovative software from the 1970s and then utters the same thought I have often had regarding countless modern user interfaces: "The user is expected to learn all these widgets and how to use them and what they mean (intuitive my ass) and then whenever they need to do something they just do it repeatedly."

Heh! A blogger does an image search for iPad case and concludes, "Dude, It's a Laptop You Want, not an iPad". The writer notes: "Basically, people want cases that (a) prop the screen up and (b) have a keyboard. The thing is, we already have a gadget that does these two things. It's called a laptop."


Steve D said...

"The user is expected to learn all these widgets and how to use them and what they mean (intuitive my ass) and then whenever they need to do something they just do it repeatedly."

Sigh...The trouble is, I spend all my time these days learning new software, new databases etc, often to use them only once or twice. By the time I have figured them out, something new arrives and I start the process all over again. I remember once spending about an hour trying to find a simple command (I think it was ‘select all’) in a new version of a graphing software. It had been moved to a place the programmer must have thought was a slightly more convenient (but I thought less intuitive) spot which once I started using frequently might have saved me as much as a couple seconds each time.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Gus,

The page on DuckDuckGo was illuminating. I'm gonna try some comparison searches and see but I'm glad to add something different to the search repertoire.

c. andrew

Anonymous said...

Also, Gus,
Though not relevant to this post, I ran across this about submariners and their progeny. I don't know if the causal explanation holds water but epidemologically there seems to be something going on.

c. andrew

Gus Van Horn said...


The problem is compounded by "Roach Hotel" business models that take advantage of the fact that many users are clueless about how to (really) use computers. With some of these companies it's almost as if the companies switch things around to makes sure their customers never really learn.


Regarding DuckDuckGo, another commenter recommended it to me after I expressed annoyance at Google for breaking its search algorithm by aping Facebook.

Regarding girl progeny for submariners: Heh! (And yikes: this made me realize that I've been out for nearly twenty years now.


Jim May said...

OMG, I'm living that nightmare now by learning Maya 2012. I'm a well-established VFX artist, and few of the concepts are new (mainly those developed in the past two years, or in areas I've not dealt with in depth before, such as character rigging), but just figuring out where everything is, and the basic paradigm by which they "relate" the user to the data, is just frustrating as hell.

UI and software design are both crying out for a dose of OBjectivist epistemology. I know this. I'm just not the one to do it.

Gus Van Horn said...

I'd say design in general needs a dose. It is hardly unusual for me to wonder whether the people who design things have actually tried to use them.