“52 things I learned in 2019” – A summary of a fantastically interesting list:

 
#9 Placebos are so effective that placebo placebos work: A pain cream with no active ingredients worked even when not used by the patient. Just owning the cream was enough to reduce pain. [Victoria Wai-lanYeung]
 
#27 Spotify pays by the song. Two three minute songs are twice as profitable as one six minute song. So songs are getting shorter. [Dan Kopf]
 
#41 Disco, a Japanese high tech manufacturing company, has introduced an internal billing and payment system, where every cost is charged back to workers. Renting a conference room costs $100. “People really cut back on useless meetings,” says one staffer. [Yuji Nakamura & Yuki Furukawa] -> Haha!!! Useless meetings are the harbinger of the apocalypse.
 
#33 According to WaterAid research, women spend 97 billion hours a year looking for a safe place to go to the loo. That equals 46 million working years, which is the same workforce as Germany, the fourth largest economy in the world. [Caroline Criado Perez via Tanya Gold]
 
#42 A man who bought the personalised number plate NULL has received over $12,000 of parking fines, because the system records ‘NULL’ when no numberplate has been recorded. [Jack Morse]
 
#29 Three million students at US schools don’t have the internet at home. [Michael Melia & co] -> Why Trevor is so passionate about internet delivery. Such a critical problem…
 
#3 Emojis are starting to appear in evidence in court cases, and lawyers are worried: “When emoji symbols are strung together, we don’t have a reliable way of interpreting their meaning.” (In 2017, an Israeli judge had to decide if one emoji-filled message constituted a verbal contract) [Eric Goldman]
 
#4 Harbinger customers are customers who buy products that tend to fail. They group together, forming harbinger zip codes. If households in those zip codes buy a product, it is likely to fail. If they back a political candidate, they are likely to lose the election. [Simester, Tucker & Yang]
 
#7 At least three private companies have fallen victim to ‘deep fake’ audio fraud. In each case, a computerised voice clone of the company CEO “called a senior financial officer to request an urgent money transfer.” [Kaveh Waddell, Jennifer A. Kingson]
 
#15 People hate asking sensitive questions. However, it turns out that people don’t hate being asked sensitive questions. So talking around difficult questions in research interviews is a waste of time and money. [Hart, VanEpps, Schweitzer]
 
#18 Mechanical devices to cheat your phone pedometer (for health insurance fraud or vanity) are now all over AliExpress. [Matthew Brennan]
 
#19 In 2017 Google and Facebook lost $100 million between them to one scammer who sent them fake invoices. [Jeff John Roberts] [found by TomBot*]
 
#20 Teenagers with acne get higher marks, are more likely to complete college and, if female, eventually get paid more than people without teenage acne. [Hugo M. Mialon & Erik T. Nesson]
 
#32 In 2018, the Nigerian government spent more on subsidies for petrol than on health, education, or defence. [Andrew S Nevin]
 
#36 At least half of the effort of most AI projects goes on data labelling, and that’s often done in rural Indian villages. [Anand Murali]
 
#44 Some blind people can understand speech that is almost three times faster than the fastest speech sighted people can understand. They can use speech synthesisers set at at 800 words per minute (conversational speech is 120–150 wpm). Research suggests that a section of the brain that normally responds to light is re-mapped in blind people to process sound. [Austin Hicks & R Douglas Fields]
 
#46 SDAM (Severely Deficient Autobiographical Memory) is a rare syndrome where otherwise healthy, high-functioning people are unable to remember events from their own life. There is also an exhausting syndrome called Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory, where people can remember precise details about every single day of their life. [Palumbo & Alain]
 
#50 Six reluctant Chinese hitmen who hired each other to carry out a murder went to jail when their outsourcing scheme collapsed. [Eric Cheung] – explained more in the Planet Money podcast “WHITWELL: So this one is a guy hired a hitman to kill somebody else. That hitman said, I’m not doing that. He gave half the money to somebody else. He said, I’m not doing that. He gave half the money to someone else. Went all the way down the chain. The last guy was getting paid so little money, he said, this isn’t worth my while to do it. He went back to the victim and told him what had happened and said, we should split the money. Instead, the victim called the police, and all six of them went to prison.”
 
#52 Asking ‘What questions do you have for me?’ can be dramatically more effective than ‘Any questions?’ at the end of a talk. (Many more good tips in this thread. [Jacqueline Antonovich]
 
And also covered by Planet Money podcast episode:

The “Fox for Fiver” Campaign

Terry FoxThe Bank of Canada is changing the $5 bill and is asking whom Canadians think should be on the new bill. It has been suggested it be Terry Fox and I agree. Read more about the “Fox for Fiver” campaign here:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/terry-fox-5-bill-1.5465956

Canadians can support the campaign by submitting a nomination for Terry Fox here by March 11, 2020:

https://www.bankofcanada.ca/banknotes/banknoteable-5/

Nailed it: On why “How I retired at 35” stories are extremely irritating…

“All of these early retirement articles are the same. They all say things like, “Make it a goal”, “Track your expenses”, “Establish a system.” Blah. Blah. Blah. But none of these things are the actual reason for how they retired early. Because the actual reason is either (1) earning a high income or (2) having an absurdly low level of spending, or both.”
….
As a public service, the article includes more realistic headlines for retiring early, “Wanna retire at 27? Marry rich” and “Foregoing Procreation, Living Like a Hermit, and 4 Other Ways to Retire in Your 30s”.”
 

End Plastic Waste

To end plastic waste simply make fossil fuel plastic more expensive than recycling plastic. QED

No more plastic bag bans, no more plastic garbage everywhere, reduce or eliminate plastic in our food chain, improve impoverished nations, etc. There are a lot of advantages.

Total cost to consumers on a soda bottle is a quarter of a cent to half a cent.

Full TED talk here “A radical plan to end plastic waste”:

Add your name to the #NOPLASTICWASTE petition:

A Poorly Understood Challenge of Building Rural Internet in First World Countries

Passive Infrastructure Tower

We all want more internet in more places. A logical person would assume that the stage is set to make this happen. Well, it’s not. As an internet builder myself, I can say yes, funding is an issue but that a bigger issue is there is no market to help build the internet. What do I mean?

I’ll use an analogy because it simplifies things and takes the industry specific terminology off the table. We want to build a house. We have nails but where do we find the wood? There is no equivalent of a home hardware store to go to. Instead what we have are wood piles placed all over the country sitting unused. How do we find the wood piles? Who owns them? What kind of lumber is it specifically? (2×4? 2×6? Length? etc.)

Most first world governments do supply funding but it is typically for building more of these hidden wood piles.

What exactly are these “wood piles”? They are “passive infrastructure” needed to build the internet. Things like towers and cables (like fiber). And this infrastructure is shareable; meaning they are more like a 40-story office tower than a single-family home. The nails are active infrastructure like radio and cable transceivers which are readily available. But where do you install these things if you don’t have any passive infrastructure to install them on? That is the challenge of rural internet builders.

There is TONS of empty infrastructure across the nation but it is hard to find, figure out who owns it and then to strike a deal in which to share it. Canada has a partial database of passive infrastructure for towers called “Spectrum Direct” but adding information about the towers is an afterthought. That is, it’s intended use is to track wireless (spectrum) licenses and only collects data on where the radio is as an afterthought. This doesn’t track any unlicensed wireless or “free” wireless (which would you use?). Which means it doesn’t have data on towers for 10s of thousands of towers. Further, the database doesn’t validate the passive infrastructure information and does not indicate ownership. 

Sure, we could drive around aimlessly in rural Canada but not all infrastructure is located along roads. And even if you do find something, often times the infrastructure is physically unmarked with ownership information.

I’ve located a partial commercial database, but again, it doesn’t capture everything and plus, it costs money. Consumers and businesses do not want to spend a lot of money on internet, so there isn’t a lot of money to pay for extras like this when building rural internet.

USA has a bit better database but it only tracks towers above 100’, nothing about smaller infrastructure, private infrastructure or accessing cable. So I’ve come to the conclusion that the situation is similar in most first world countries (with 2nd and 3rd just having bigger problems to solve).  

What we need is a marketplace for passive infrastructure and policy to make sure everyone registers. Like a “rentfaster” site for building the internet.

Some sort of sharing policy that would apply to private passive infrastructure would also be nice but I’d settle for a marketplace. Beggars can’t be choosers.

NPR “The Indicator”: How Temperature Affects Workplace Productivity

Men like it cold, women like it hot – it’s a zero sum game. At 80F (27C) women get a 10% productivity boost while men lose 3%. Men prefer high 60s (20/21C).

The ideal temperature for 50% male/female office? 75F (24C)

AHHH!!! SAVE US ALL! (men) In a 75F office, men will be dressing in tank tops and mini skirts.

“The Battle For The Office Thermostat” https://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=730438603&fbclid=IwAR0072qm0VvmXNQdssnH1X2V_HVB_0OhGDjE4UkrJFGdqiS35wNSXvkoMx4

The Gender Pay Gap Explained

Gender Pay Gap

Education and Experience explained only 8% of the gender pay gap according to the “Progress on the Gender Pay Gap 2019” study. Occupational differences, e.g. the career that was chosen, explains 56%. Not “who you know” or specifically targeting women. “I think what’s important to recognize there is that women and men don’t randomly sort into occupations, partly because of influences early on: what kind of jobs get taught to people as being a male job or a female job. And some jobs, frankly, just aren’t friendly to family lifestyles.”

The kind of jobs with a large part-time pay gap are generally in areas where it’s harder to divide up hours and be flexible. Any job where relationships need to be maintained with clients are especially bad; e.g. careers in sales, lawyer, banker, etc. There are jobs that pay a part-time premium and these tend to be jobs where it’s easy for people to swap shifts or work as a team. E.g. Nursing, waiters/waitresses

“When an occupation pays less money per hour to its part-time workers than to its full-time ones, it’s known as the part-time penalty. That penalty tends to be higher when occupations have less flexible hours. Here’s the catch: the jobs that tend to be more flexible — and ones that many women and mothers gravitate towards — pay less.”

So how can the gap be reduced? “…[E]ither men would also have to increasingly choose those flexible occupations or the rigid, inflexible occupations would have to become less rigid and inflexible so that women and mothers could join them, perhaps by, you know, embracing more of a team approach at work.”

Sources:

“Where The Gender Pay Gap Is Widest”

https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2019/04/29/718389455/where-the-gender-pay-gap-is-widest

“Progress On The Gender Pay Gap 2019” study

https://www.glassdoor.com/research/studies/gender-pay-gap-2019/

Source: “Jobs Friday: The Part-Time Penalty”

https://www.npr.org/2019/05/03/720122267/jobs-friday-the-part-time-penalty

How to write Productive Emails

Writing a Productive Email

Considering how much office workers use email it’s appalling how bad we are at it. Luckily there is a resolution and it doesn’t take more than a couple minutes to review the productivity tips and start writing emails effectively.

Starting by writing an appropriate subject line will immediately improve the productivity of all your recipients. Keep it to 3-4 words and make sure it describes the content in a unique way. More here: http://www.asianefficiency.com/email-management/productive-email-subject-lines/

For the email body, as long as it’s appropriate to your subject, keep it to between 50-125 words, use a 3rd grade reading level and do not include more than 3 questions.

Always consider the intended audience and adjust TO:/CC: lines. Consider if “reply-all” is appropriate and if changing audiences, consider if the subject needs to be modified in order to take the conversation in a new direction (thus avoiding the “grouped conversations” stack).

If your email is attempting to “hook” your audience – e.g. to get information, sell/market something or get an invoice paid, consider sending it in early in the morning or during lunch rather than mid-morning and afternoons. More here: https://blog.boomerangapp.com/2016/02/7-tips-for-getting-more-responses-to-your-emails-with-data/

Thinking that instant messages and shared calendars are going to be the answer to productivity challenges? I encourage the reader to reconsider: https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2018/08/21/640596144/why-people-cant-get-work-done-at-work