Ratha (papertygre) wrote,

Emergent rigidity

In the early days of the web, someone got the idea that they should indicate the required fields of their form with a star. Somehow that convention got so entrenched that you now regularly see forms where practically every field has a star. Like this one: https://www.evernote.com/Registration.action. Personally, I think the default on paper forms is for people to assume a field is required, so it might have made more sense to mark the optional fields? And certainly nowadays, in a form like this Evernote registration, that would be better? But today the required-star is the rule, and I'm not sure if it's because the people who make the forms no longer think it's "right" without doing it that way, or if it's because they think users would be uncomfortable if it weren't that way, or maybe both.

A lot of Chinese and Indian restaurants have very uniform menus. With the exception of upscale or fusion type places, you can kind of expect to go into a Chinese restaurant and find Moo Shu Pork, Mongolian Beef, and General Tsao's Chicken. And you can expect Moo Shu to have cabbage in it and be served with a sweet sauce and thin pancakes. I'm sure traditional Chinese cuisine is as varied and nuanced as traditional American cuisine (when I went over to a friend's house as a kid, the American Chop Suey was always quite different than the way my mom made it). Yet, some early Chinese restaurant pioneers set up an original menu template, and ever since, there has been an expectation that new Chinese restaurants would follow that template. It's like the modern phenomenon of the chain restaurant -- which many people bemoan -- but, it happened organically. (Unless there is a secret Chinese restaurant bureau somewhere that coordinates it all.)

Five to ten years ago, I would get political solicitation letters in the mail and marvel that they were done up in a monospace typewriter font, with underlining and highlighting for emphasis. To me this was meant to suggest that the letter had been cobbled together in someone's basement on a typewriter, photocopied and highlighted by hand, and then mailed out; my interpretation was that this format was supposed to evoke the freshness and energy of a rebel underground, with cutting edge information disseminated through a critical network that you had been fortunate enough to get in on, and which needs your donation to survive! Yet, five or ten years ago, monospace typewriters were long dead and gone. In fact, these letters in the mail frequently had curly quotes and took advantage of boldface on their monospace text. So this anachronism had become a deliberate affect, but what was it trying to communicate anymore, except the fact that it was a political solicitation letter (because that was now the way political solicitation letters were supposed to look)? And today, I am still getting these types of letters... in email! People are making solicitation letters that look just like some grass roots memo from the 80's, and sending them in email. As far as I can tell, the only possible effect of using this format now is that people will not read it because they know from the font that it's a solicitation.
Autopilot is a powerful force.


I feel the need to add: SINKS. So often, bathroom sinks have these tiny little stubby faucets that you can barely get your hands under because you are running into the back of the sink basin. I once read, but can no longer find any references for, the idea that this was originally done because the main use case for sinks was to fill them up with water in order to wash your hair or your underwear or whatever. Thus, you didn't need to get under the faucet at all, and on the contrary, if the faucet were too big, you'd hit your head on it. Today, 95% of the time we just rinse stuff under the running faucet, so having a stubby little neck on it is just a nuisance, and if it were really an issue, we have the technology now to make the faucets rotate out of the way like they do in the kitchen!

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