Thursday, May 11, 2006

What young Americans know (or don't know) of the world

Recently, National Geographic completed a survey of young Americans (between the ages of 18-24), that assess their knowledge of geography and culture. Here are some of the results:
  • 63% cannot find Iraq on a map of the Middle East (despite the fact that America is fighting a war there)
  • 75% cannot find Indonesia on a map.
  • 75% do not know that a majority of Indonesia's population is Muslim (making it the largest Muslim country in the world)
  • 74% believe English is the most commonly spoken native language in the world(It is not. The right answer is Mandarin)
  • 50% cannot identify state of NY on a map (even though it is the third most populous state in the union, after California and Texas).
  • 75% cannot find Iran or Israel on a map.
  • 88% cannot find Afghanistan on a map of Asia. (Hard to believe!!)
  • 70% cannot find North Korea on a map.
  • 48% say Muslims are in the majority in India.
For Indians like me who have been in the US for some time now, this is not surprising. Americans are notoriously ignorant about the outside world. In fact awareness about India has only recently started increasing, after outsourcing gained main stream coverage by the media.

Outgoing links:
PDF: National Geographic Survey

Friday, May 05, 2006

Management Lies

A skill that I've acquired working (as a software engineer) in corporate America, is recognizing when I am being lied to, especially by the members of the "management". It is something that I think everyone should have. So I have decided to share my knowledge. Here are the top 5 lies that I'’ve heard over and over again and I am sure you must have heard too!

5: "Your input is valuable to us"
No, it no. What is valuable to them is to have you think that!

4: "The future is bright."
Actually this is not a complete lie. It is partly true. Having worked at a startup, I realized that while it was a dead end job for me, the future was bright from the people in management who had a huge personal stake in the company.

3: "Our people are the best."
If you give your boss truth serum before this talk you would hear him say "Our people are the best amongst the people desperate enough to work here at the meager salary we were willing to offer"

2: "We'll review your performance in 6 months."
I personally fell for this one when I was negotiating my salary for my first job. The 6 months never came.

And the top lie, ladies and gentlemen (drum-rolls in the background)

1: "Employees are our most valuable asset."

They should be, but they are not. The only time they treated that way is on their last week at work, when management needs them to transfer their knowledge to another employee.

On a side note:
You know as a software engineer you are a valuable asset to the company when you have..
"a quiet private office, a great computer, unlimited beverages, an ambient temperature between 68 and 72 degrees (F), no glare on the screen, a chair that's so comfortable you don't feel it, an administrator that brings them(you) their mail and orders manuals and books, a system administrator who makes the Internet as available as oxygen, a tester to find the bugs they (you) just can't see, a graphic designer to make their (your) screens beautiful.."

Outgoing links:
Truth Serum: On Wikipedia
Development Abstraction Layer

Thursday, May 04, 2006

User choice?

Internet Explorer 7, set to come out this summer is the first upgrade to the browser in 5 years. Amongst many new features that will be part of the new version, there is a small search box in the upper right corner of the browser. What it does is it allows the user to start a search directly, without having to go to a web site of a search engine. On typing a search query and hitting enter, the user is directly taken to a web page of the search engine containing the results. Unless set otherwise, this search box is set to use Microsoft'’s MSN search.

This move as per Google, benefits Microsoft tremendously. Google says that about 30-50 percent of all the web search originate from that little search box. They also say that it limit user choice as not many people are savvy enough to be able to change the default search engine.

In the past few months Google has:
  1. Heavily promoted Google Toolbar, which also has a small search box. The default search engine it uses is Google.
  2. Heavily promoted Firefox, which also has a small search box. The default search engine it uses is Google.
  3. Paid $ 1 billion to Dell computers, for having them install a Googlized web browser on the computers they ship.
  4. And let's not forget about Safari, where Google is the default search engine and it's very hard for normal people to change that.