WEDNEDSDAY EVENING: Robots As Demographic
Didn’t see this one coming. We’ve all heard of peoplQWe paying for followers on Twitter, or “likes” on Facebook, but that always seems a little more about branding and reputatin than actual, tangible profit.
Some web publishers are not paying for cheap robots to give their sites hits, which they can then sell to advertisers as potential customers.
In this case, the publisher paid $10,000 to $35,000 for the cheapest possible traffic, which companies domiciled outside the United States could provide for about $0.002 per visit. Then, they turned around and sold those visits for between $0.0025 and $0.004 through advertising networks, which act as clearinghouses for bulk advertising buys across the web.
If they maxed out every day, buying the most traffic possible and selling it at the highest price, they’d make $2.1 million a month without ever creating anything that a human might want to look at.
It’s something akin to fraud, if not fraud itself. I’d expect to see more on this, potentially from major media outlets.
WEDSNESDAY MORNING: Prison Design Handbook
Over the years, the Department of Justice has developed best practices on how to design your jail. Lo’ and behold, that handbook is on the Internet.
The pictures are significantly less interesting than one would hope, but there are a few gems buried in the report. One piece of advice:
Carry a tape measure with you for a day and measure spaces that you occupy at home and at work. Also measure the size of furniture. Then, when the architect draws a 120-square foot office or a 500-square foot day- room, you will have a better idea of whether the size is too small, too large, or just right.
Of course. Think about what your home might be like as a prison.
Two videos. Two bad ass tree houses. In the second, Horace Burgess builds the Noah’s Ark of tree houses.
TUESDAY MORNING: Subtle Changes Beget Subtle Changes (VRA)
When the Supreme Court invalidated Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act earlier this year, nine different states (mostly in the South) that had previously required federal clearance for changing their election laws were now free to make changes at-will.
It didn’t take long for those changes to manifest in one small community in Texas. In this audio slideshow from SCOTUS Blog, we hear how the town of Pasadena has changed it’s city council voting system from having 8 members elected from different neighborhoods, to having 6 members elected from different neighborhoods, and 2 members elected “at large,” or city-wide.
It seems subtle, but it’s the kind of change that could lead to less minority representation on city government. It’s the kind of change Section 4 was ostensibly preventing.
(Hiatus Note: Hiatus is over. More regular posts from here on out.)
THURSDAY MORNING: Medical Marijuana May Help Kids Who Have Seizures
Apparently medicinal marijuana is pretty useful in lessening the effects of seizures. And apparently this is a really good thing for children, who are not a demographic I’ve ever really considered benefiting from medicinal marijuana.
This story is about an Arizona lawsuit aiming to make extracts of marijuana legal for medicinal use:
Arizona’s statute has no age restrictions; patients under 18 can use medical marijuana as long as a parent or legal guardian is told of its potential risks and is in charge of buying and administering it, among other requirements.
But the Maricopa County attorney, Bill Montgomery, has said that patients can be criminally prosecuted for using extracts and other products that do not meet the definition of “cannabis” under the state’s criminal code, which treats resin extracted from marijuana as an illegal narcotic. The couple lists Mr. Montgomery, Gov. Jan Brewer and Will Humble, the director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, as defendants in its lawsuit.
The FDA just approved studies on the marijuana compound cannabidiol, the first of their kind. Researchers think it might quiet parts of the brain responsible for seizures.
MONDAY EVENING: Ride Accidents
The night after I went to the North Carolina State Fair, an accident on a ride called The Vortex left 5 people injured. Three of those people are still in the hospital.
I was reminded of the self-proclaimed (and what I assume actually is) most comprehensive collection of ride accident information on the web, RideAccidents.com.
Consider it an encyclopedia of terror in disguise.
THURSDAY EVENING: Twitter’s Going On A Road Trip
Twitter is about to go public. Estimates place the company’s worth at about $15 billion. A large portion of the worth will be bought up by corporate investors. Which brings us to what sounds like the funnest tradition in finance; The road show.
The road show is a time-honored tradition of IPOs and one of the last steps before a company begins trading on the public markets. Typically, the CEO—in Twitter’s case, Dick Costolo—and a few other executives are joined by representatives from the company’s underwriting banks. They make presentations, based on information in the IPO filing, to hedge funds, mutual funds, private equity firms, and other institutional investors.
Quartz has a schedule for Twitter’s road show. Halloween in Boston sounds nice, right?
THURSDAY MORNING: Polio Outbreak In Syria
And now for the most upsetting news of the week… Preventable diseases are making a strong comeback in war-torn Syria and other part of the Middle East.
Part of this (at least in Syria) has to do with nearly half of the country’s hospitals being closed down or destroyed because of the violence. In the region more generally, part of the outbreak links back to a cultural fear of Western-led immunization programs. The source of that fear? The CIA attempt to secretly draw blood samples from Osama Bin Laden’s children. From Foreign Policy:
When the CIA scheme was reported in July 2011 by the Guardian, it spurred outcry from public health leaders (myself included) regarding the peril posed by linking the agency’s efforts to already politically sensitive vaccination campaigns. Horribly, the backlash unfolded as we had predicted. Today, polio is spreading in Somalia and Pakistan in areas where Taliban and other Islamist extremist groups have managed to contort the entire CIA/hepatitis saga: Collusion in immunization efforts is, they claim, tantamount to supporting the CIA, U.S. drone attacks, and a laundry list of other perceived American sins against Islam. Never mind that the polio vaccine is oral, no needles are used, and the Afridi/CIA scheme was all about those needles — the “Big Lie” has spread. To date, extremists in Pakistan have waged countless attacks on polio immunization workers — most of them, unpaid female volunteers — and their security details, killing at least 20 of them since December 2012, and injuring many more in bomb, knifing, and gun assaults.
Captain Phillips and the Drivers of Piracy in East Africa and Somalia
Haven’t seen Captain Phillips. Probably wont. But this Brookings Institute rundown on the current stat of East African piracy is a real nail-biter!
The number of successful pirate hijackings has dropped since November 2011 when over 40 successful attacks were recorded for that month alone. In comparison, in 2012 there were only 15 successful attacks off the East African coast, according to UN figures. The drop has been attributed to increased private armed security on the part of commercial vessels and anti-piracy taskforces from foreign governments, which have been supported by enforced prosecution of hijackers. Maritime law before 2011 did not allow armed security on commercial vessels, but the International Maritime Organization has since added it to its guidance on best management practices for piracy for high risk areas.
Of course, the ransoms have gotten much higher on those hijackings that do still occur (up from $1 million to as much as $5 million). But it seems like the communities that had been supporting piracy as an occupation are getting less tolerant as they see little trickle down from the activity.