This was just sent in from an unidentified reader. I do believe there is such a thing as being “too meta” but when shifts are so visibly pronounced, as they are here, it’s worth taking a moment to stop and think about.
Bitcoin, for those who aren’t aware, is a virtual currency that exists solely online (I have one previous discussion of it here). I’m not going to put up any links on its origins here because you can honestly just google it and find more than enough info, but the Wikipedia page gives a decent unbiased explanation.
And the operative word in that previous sentence is “unbiased”. Because there’s a rising political element to bitcoin that I really don’t want to get into, but to sum it up, there is a palpable libertarian bent to its propagation if you can sift through all the hype and speculation, good and bad, about its use.
Personally, I think it’s an interesting experiment and am wholly agnostic about its success or legitimacy, but love seeing regulators squirm at the implications of it. To borrow from former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the “unknown unknowns” here are nothing less than staggering.
Actually, here is an interesting profile of bitcoin’s user base for those of you already familiar with it.
And for those of you ready for the advanced class, this is a handy diagram:
There was a lot to admire and a lot to mock in last night’s noise riot in fairly equal parts. But amid all the spectacular excess that this annual contest has become, one element of it stood above everything and absolutely blew me away, and it was an advertisement of all things: Dodge’s farmer ad. I swear I am not being paid to pitch this, but I really have not been left so speechless in a very long time. The ad was apparently refashioned from a 1978 speech by the late radio broadcaster Paul Harvey, and it is poetry. Below, the ad that ran last night, followed by a previous visualization attributed to farms.com, and a transcript of the original speech.
Leave it to the World Bank to come up with this one:
In typically unwieldy fashion, this comes from the recently released, “eTransform Africa: The Transformational Use of Information and Communication Technologies in Africa.” The biggest news here seems to be that Africa’s mobile phone market, at 650 million subscribers, makes it bigger than either the United States or European Union. Put another way, the total number of mobile phones in Africa is estimated to have grown 40-fold since 2000.
“If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have said ‘a faster horse.'” — Henry Ford
“Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” — Henry Ford
Those are the quotes ringing through my head as I read Ebyline’s just-released report on how mobile and tablet technology is changing the editor’s role in journalism, or media, or new media, or content production or whatever we’re now calling it. Here’s something else I’m reminded of:
In all seriousness, lots of heady stuff in here for anyone invested, financially or intellectually, in the journalism racket. Some highlights:
Editors ranked the following factors as most important to the creation of successful content:
1. Original reporting
2. Depth or subject expertise
3. Exclusivity or scoop
4. Publication reputation
5. Presentation and headline
But these values are at odds with those same editors’ daily priorities, which are dictated by a hyper-competitive marketplace for audience, buzz and ad dollars.
That’s just one of the questions raised in this recent Slate article, in which the writer pays some dodgy outfits operating in the margins of the world wide web to direct a bunch of zombie twitter accounts to his name. Honestly, the entire story is kind of brilliant, so I’m having a hard time deciding the best thing to excerpt from it. How about this:
To figure out where my newly purchased followers were coming from, I called up Al Delgado, sole proprietor of the Brooklyn-based FanMeNow.com (not one of the sites I bought from, but the only one I could manage to get on the phone). Delgado explained that there are two different types of Twitter followers you can buy. “Targeted followers” are actual people who seem likely to be interested in the topics you tweet about. Marketing companies charge hefty fees to identify these compatible tweeps and then persuade them to follow you (by tweeting at them and through other means). Makes sense. But that’s not what I bought. Instead, I acquired fake “created accounts”—mass-produced zombies that do nothing but pad the numbers of your follower count.
Delgado told me he buys these fake accounts in bulk from suppliers in India. Techies on the subcontinent cook up all these nonexistent personas, making sure the accounts look just real enough to pass as nonrobots. In a typical day, Delgado says he fields 30-35 orders, most requesting between 1,000 and 5,000 zombie followers. “Sometimes someone will buy a million,” he says, “which costs $1,300. Some of these are people you’ve heard of. I mostly sell to musicians but also lots of models, comedians, and porn stars.”
Who knew that Twitter followers would become the new plastic surgery?
Perception beats truth, ladies and gentlemen. Always has, always will.
I don’t know how this has escaped me for so long, but apparently in June this year, Gallup and the Gates Foundation published a survey of 11 African nations that attempted to compare payment behavior across Sub-Saharan Africa.
There’s a lot of interesting data in here for those who want it. Here’s a sample:
I don’t know how I’ve missed this one for so long, but I was just directed to this rather unsettling video created by Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto. It tracks the 2,053 nuclear explosions which have taken place between 1945 and 1998, beginning with the Manhattan Project’s “Trinity” test near Los Alamos and concluding with Pakistan’s nuclear tests in May of 1998. This leaves out North Korea’s two alleged nuclear tests in this past decade (the legitimacy of both of which is not 100% clear). Each nation gets a blip and a flashing dot on the map whenever they detonate a nuclear weapon, with a running tally kept on the top and bottom bars of the screen. Particularly chilling is how quiet everything goes in the 1990s after the USSR breaks up.
Given what a complete exercise in brain cell annihilation U.S. politics becomes every four years, I’m trying my best to keep it out of this blog. But given my stated aim here of tracking which countries are advancing and which are falling back, the recent kerfuffle Mitt Romney raised in mischaracterizing Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel while “campaigning” in Israel warrants at least a comment.
It’s been years since I read that book so I’ve just spent some time reviewing who said what, when, in what context. Obviously this is potentially a very big topic that there is no way I’m going to adequately cover inside of 1,000 words here and now. But that aside, I’m reviewing the Silk Invest Frontier Markets report from last month, and particularly the notion that population, GDP and FDI help to better understand a country’s “true macro-economic identity.” Continue reading →
The mobile revolution is just getting started. That’s the big meta-takeaway to me from “Maximizing Mobile”, a World Bank report out today. There are many other headline-worthy revelations: global mobile penetration is at 75%, more individuals have multiple subscriptions, the developing world is more mobile than the developed world, and other big statements about how mobile technology is changing government, health care, the Arab Spring and a range of other things. But as someone who has been caught in the vortex of spotty connectivity more times than I care to count, the following chart ranking countries by connectivity speed has particularly significant meaning for me:
This is a chart I refashioned from the data in the report’s appendices, ranked in order of connectivity speed. Obviously one’s own experiences inform whatever you take away from this chart but I think it’s safe to say that if we believe that connectivity speed has anything to do with economic growth or prosperity, then it looks like the Ukraine and Slovenia are the places to be. And at the other end of the spectrum, someone clearly needs to figure out something for Indonesians since it looks like they’re using mobile phones for just about everything besides the kitchen washing.