Friday, December 2, 2016

52 things I learned in 2016

My first full year working at Fluxx on a series of fascinating projects and learning about...
  1. Call Me Baby is a call centre for cybercriminals who need a human voice as part of a scam. They charge $10 for each call in English, and $12 for calls in German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Polish. [Brian Krebs]
  2. Google’s advertising tools can track real-world shop visits. If a customer sees an ad then visits the relevant store a few days later, that conversion will appear in Google Adwords. Customers are tracked via (anonymised) Google Maps data. They’ve been doing this since 2014. [Matt Lawson]
  3. In a mixed-gender group, when women talk 25% of the time or less, it’s seen as being “equally balanced”. If women talk 25–50% of the time, they’re seen as “dominating the conversation” [Caitlin Moran]
  4. In July, 800,000 volunteers planted 49 million trees in Uttar Pradesh, India. [Brian Clark Howard]
  5. Forty per cent of adults (aged 16 to 60) in OECD countries can’t use a computer well enough to delete an email. [Jakob Nielsen]
  6. A Japanese insurance company is offering policies that cover social media backlash. [Tyler Cowen]
  7. Abu Dhabi numberplate “1” sold for Dh31m (£6.8m) in November. However, the cheque bounced, and the buyer was arrested. [Asma Samir and Tom Crampton]
  8. Australian musicians have performed with a synthesiser controlled by a petri dish of live human neurons: “The neurons were fed dopamine before the gig and went ballistic. The interaction with the drummer was very tight. The drum hits are processed into triggers and sent to the neurons.” [Andrew Finch and Guy Ben-Ary]
  9. Less than 20% of Tencent’s (the creator of WeChat) revenues come from advertising, compared to over 95% for Facebook. [Connie Chan]
  10. Opendoor is a controversial startup with this simple offer: “We’ll buy your home for market price, based off an algorithm, within 72 hours.” [Real Estate Pundit]
  11. There are six million iPhones in Iran, despite them being banned by both the Iranian government and international sanctions. [Christopher Schroeder]
  12. Pork scratchings are good for you. [Michael Ruhlman]
  13. The percentage of older Americans with dementia has fallen by almost 25% since 2000. In other words, a million fewer people had dementia in 2012 than we’d have expected in 2000. [Sharon Begley]
  14. A Californian company called Skinny Mirror sells mirrors that make you look thinner. When installed in the changing rooms of clothes shops, they can increase sales by 18%. [Kim Bhasin]
  15. “Bangladesh was hit by a massive cyclone in May. Half a million people were evacuated, and thanks to early warning systems and shelters, only 23 people died. Cyclone deaths in the country have fallen by 98 percent since the systems were developed following a 1991 cyclone in which 140,000 people died.” The system involves 2,500 huge concrete cyclone shelters that are also used as schools. [Charles Kenny + watch this video about the Indian version of the shelters]
  16. In Hong Kong, you can buy a $15,000 device called an IMSI Catcher which harvests the mobile phone numbers of everyone walking past, collecting up to 1,200 numbers a minute. [Ben Bryant]
by Tom Whitwell, Fluxx |  Read more:
Image: carving apples at a Blenheim Forge workshop in April.