The Manhattan Way

“We prefer plain dealings and straightforward transactions in America. If you go to Egypt and, say, take a taxi somewhere, you become a part of the taxi driver’s life; he refuses to take your money because it would demean your friendship, he follows you around town, and weeps hot tears when you get in some other guy’s taxi. You end up meeting his kids at some point and have to devote all sorts of ingenuity to finding some way to compensate him without insulting his honor. It is exhausing. Sometimes you just want a simple Manhattan-style taxi ride. But in order to have an American-style setup, where you can just go out and hail a taxi and be on your way, there must exist a whole hidden apparatus of medallions, inspectors, commissions, and so forth — which is fine as long as taxis are cheap and you can always get one. When the system fails to work in some way, it is mysterious and infuriating and turns otherwise reasonable people into conspiracy theorists. But when the Egyptian system breaks down, it breaks down transparently. You can’t get a taxi, but your driver’s nephew will show up, on foot, to explain the problem and apologize.”

“Microsoft and Apple do things the Manhattan way, with vast complexity hidden behind a wall of interface. Linux does things the Egypt way, with vast complexity strewn about all over the landscape.”

– Neal Stephenson, “In the Beginning… was the Command Line.”

(my only thought upon reading this was: if by “Linux’s nephew explaining the problem and apologizing” you mean “Linux’s community calling you a moron and telling you to go figure it out yourself, you worthless f*ing mouthbreathing retard,” then it’s dead on.)

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