Metrics and the mystery of bricked windows

For reasons unknown to me, part of the windows were bricked shut. It seemed like it had been a common hobby for people at some point of history.

Last week I took a trip to the city of Bath near London. It was a nice countryside drive after an awesome series of testing workshops in the London Tester Gathering.

I had seen similar windows before in France but had just dismissed the notion back then. It was on that trip to Bath when the mystery of these spooky looking windows unravelled for me.

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As it turns out, the trend was set in motion in England, France, Ireland and Scotland after King William III set a new tax law in 1696. The law was designed to impose tax relative to the prosperity of the taxpayer.

It was assumed that the prosperity could reliably be measured by the size of the homes people lived in. Rich people lived in bigger homes and could therefore pay more tax.

Easiest way to measure prosperity of course was to count how many windows each one had. So the window tax was invented

It takes no genius to invent ways to pay less tax in this setting. People quickly learned to brick their windows shut. Less windows meant less tax.

And then of course there were the few who wanted to show off by building even more windows to their homes.

It makes no difference what kind of metrics we choose to use. People have always been good at playing games.

It’s not a question of how reliable your metrics are.

The real question is: Which games are already played with them?

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