Commentary & Analysis
Around the Web: Shopping for Preferences – Ancient Gripes – The Kids Are Offline – Chinese Typewriters – Earnings Reports: A Modest Proposal – The E-Horse – This Week in Printing History
The world’s oldest customer complaint was etched in clay. A modern twist on the old “spend a penny.” Today’s teens are not as wired as we thought. Twice-yearly earnings reports? The case for daily earnings reports. Researchers use 3D-printed boxes to help search for new antibiotics. All that and more in WhatTheyThink's weekly miscellany.
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: August 31, 2018
What Shoppers Care About
We came across this interesting study on shopper preferences. Packaging and the Digital Shopper: Meeting Expectations in Food & Beveragewas conducted by Mintel, a market intelligence agency on behalf of several Danaher companies, including Esko and X-Rite. It places particular focus on issues around packaging. An interesting read!
Mess o’ Potamia
For some reason, we always expect that when archaeologists unearth old, inscribed tablets or other artifacts, they will be texts having great historical heft or significance. However, that is not always the case. The Rosetta Stone, for example, is basically a press release.
And now, a 3,800-year-old Babylonian tablet from the ancient Sumerian city-state of Ur in Mesopotamia turns out to have even more prosaic content, despite its historical significance: it is the world’s oldest customer complaint.
In the clay tablet, a man named Nanni whined to merchant Ea-nasir about how he was delivered the wrong grade of [copper] ore. “How have you treated me for that copper?” he wrote. “You have withheld my money bag from me in enemy territory; it is now up to you to restore [my money] to me in full.”
Quartz rightfully points out that “the amount of effort required to make it gets across the magnitude of Nanni’s grievance.”
Wait until Nanni discovers Twitter.
“Excuse Me, I Have to Sign Up for the App”
In 19th-century London, coin-operated public lavatories were introduced, whence the phrase “spend a penny” which means to “use the restroom.” The phrase, which used to be literal, is little more than a quaint euphemism today (more in the U.K. than in the U.S.). Maybe our new urological euphemism will be “sign up for the app” (as in, “Excuse me, I have to sign up for the app”).
i'm in san francisco, the city where I can't use the restroom as it requires me to sign up for an app with a US phone number pic.twitter.com/VmegM2k2uc— juan in sf ???? (@juanbuis) August 28, 2018
The Kids Are Alright
We inevitably associate social media with kids, teens in particular. (You know, these kids today with their Hula Hoops and their smartphones...) Well, as always, we paint today’s kids—just like everyone else—with a rather broad and not always accurate brush. Via the Guardian:
For 17-year-old Mary Amanuel, from London, it happened in Tesco. “We were in year 7,” she remembers, “and my friend had made an Instagram account. As we were buying stuff, she was counting the amounts of likes she’d got on a post. ‘Oooh, 40 likes. 42 likes.’ I just thought: ‘This is ridiculous.’”
It is widely believed that young people are hopelessly devoted to social media. Teenagers, according to this stereotype, tweet, gram, Snap and scroll. But for every young person hunched over a screen, there are others for whom social media no longer holds such an allure. These teens are turning their backs on the technology – and there are more of them than you might think.
There is hope for the future of humanity after all—well, at least in the U.K.
One 2017 survey of British schoolchildren found that 63% would be happy if social media had never been invented. Another survey of 9,000 internet users from the research firm Ampere Analysis found that people aged 18-24 had significantly changed their attitudes towards social media in the past two years. Whereas 66% of this demographic agreed with the statement “social media is important to me” in 2016, only 57% make this claim in 2018. As young people increasingly reject social media, older generations increasingly embrace it: among the 45-plus age bracket, the proportion who value social media has increased from 23% to 28% in the past year, according to Ampere’s data.
Just Their Type
Your weekly dose of QI interestingness.
In the 1950s, Chinese typists simplified their typewriters by organising characters in natural-language clusters — grouping terms that tended to appear together in sentences. It is often cited as an early example of predictive text. (Image: MoRsE) pic.twitter.com/PNwgAf9BTJ— Quite Interesting (@qikipedia) August 29, 2018
Daily Earnings Reports?
Recently, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett suggested eliminating quarterly earnings reports as a way to end “corporate short-termism.” Others have suggested that earnings reports should be thus be delivered less frequently, like twice-yearly. Barry Ritholtz, the co-founder and chief investment officer of Ritholtz Wealth Management, and owner of the excellent Big Picture blog, has a better idea: daily earnings reports:
more frequent reporting makes the data less significant.In the real world, human behavior emphasizes what occurs less often — meaning doing something less frequently gives it an even greater significance than something that becomes routine or common.
That is the difference between a New Year’s Eve celebration and a married couple’s weekly date night.
Twice a year earnings reporting will make the event so momentous, with such focus on it that any company that misses analysts’ forecast will find their stock price shellacked. The twice-yearly focus on making the per-share number will become overwhelmingly intense.
This is counterproductive.
My proposal: report earnings monthly, with the goal of eventually moving to a near real-time, daily, fundamental update. Technology is improving to the point where business intelligence software and big data analyses will make this automated. Indeed, some companies already do much of this internally.
Once financial reporting becomes daily, the short-term earnings obsession will all but disappear. In its place will be a focus on broader profit trends and deeper analytics.
Giddy-Up, with the Emphasis on “Giddy”
Forget electric cars. We want an electric horse.
Steve Bacque, aka the Crazy Cranford Cowboy, is [a] Texan and he did indeed make himself an electric horse. Four golf cart batteries power his not-street-legal e-horse, which he calls "Charger."
Or maybe a robotic raptor instead.
3D Printing Aids the Search for New Antibiotics
From Science Daily:
A group of researchers has designed and built specialized hardware for their research using an in-house 3-D printer. The new lab instrument is capable of collecting massive amounts of data that will help these researchers in their quest to discover new antibiotics.
The Printed Fluorescence Imaging Box -- or PFIbox, for short -- is capable of collecting massive amounts of data that will help researchers in the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research in their quest to discover new antibiotics.
The box allows scientists to analyze more than 6,000 samples of bacteria at a time.
The tool uses LED lights to excite fluorescent proteins found in bacteria. It then wirelessly sends data to researchers studying how cells respond to antibiotics over time.
The PFIbox's nine structural parts can be 3D printed in about a day, snap together in minutes, and cost about $200.
"3D printing is allowing us to create tools and instrumentation that simply don't exist yet," says infectious disease researcher Eric Brown, who led the work on the project, along with Shawn French and Brittney Coutts. "Here, we have designed and built an absolutely cutting-edge lab instrument for about $200. It's simply game-changing for our work to discover new antibiotics."
This Week in Printing, Publishing, and Media History
August 28, 1845: The first issue of Scientific American magazine is published.
August 29, 1831: Michael Faraday discovers electromagnetic induction.
August 29, 1997: Netflix is launched as an internet DVD rental service.
August 30, 1909: Burgess Shale fossils are discovered by Charles Doolittle Walcott, which would serve as the subject for one of the best science books ever written: Stephen Jay Gould’s Wonderful Life.
August 30, 1797: Mary Shelley, English novelist (Frankenstein) and playwright, born.
August 30, 1956: Comedian, actor, producer, and screenwriter Frank Conniff (“TV’s Frank” from Mystery Science Theater 3000), born.
August 31, 1895: German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin patents his navigable balloon. It went over like a...well, actually it went over rather well (for a bit).
August 31, 1897: Thomas Edison patents the Kinetoscope, the first movie projector.
August 31, 1944: English illustrator Roger Dean born. (We shall play our old Yes records in tribute.)
September 1, 1878: Emma Nutt becomes the world’s first female telephone operator when she is recruited by Alexander Graham Bell to the Boston Telephone Dispatch Company. (Appropriately, Lily Tomlin was born on this same day in 1939. The over-50-year-olds out there will get the connection.)
September 2, 1963: The CBS Evening Newsbecomes U.S. network television's first half-hour weeknight news broadcast, when the show is lengthened from 15 to 30 minutes.
And that’s the way it was.