Open Thread: Harbingers of Business Doom

I can predict the potential success of a new TV series with a high degree of accuracy — the shows I like best seldom make it as far as a second season, if that. Virginia Postrel, at Bloomberg View, says “Big Data Knows You Like Losers“…

Most of the data captured about our everyday transactions isn’t very exciting. Take frequent shopper cards. When I visit the Ralphs supermarket website, it highlights sales on avocados and Hunt’s diced tomatoes. CVS calls my attention to deals on Glide dental floss and Neutrogena skin-care products. The stores know I buy these things because I’ve swiped my cards in exchange for discounts on previous purchases. This is just the kind of customer-specific record that expert salespeople at places like Neiman Marcus were keeping long before computers — and that small-town shopkeepers used to simply remember. It’s small data on a large scale.

But when you can compare all that information across millions of consumers and products and thousands of outlets, you enter the realm of big data, which can reveal previously unknown patterns. A new case in point: A paper forthcoming in the Journal of Marketing Research identifies a segment of customers, dubbed the “harbingers of failure,” with an uncanny knack for buying new products that were likely to flop…

They found that strong early sales — the traditional indicator of product success — in fact didn’t matter as much as who the early buyers were. And one startling finding was the emergence of an identifiable segment of customers more prone to buying new products destined to survive less than three years, as well as unpopular “very niche” existing products.

“Because these guys are so consistent in behavior, if you’re selling to a lot of them you’re really in trouble,” said Anderson, a marketing professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, in an interview…

Neither math nor marketing are included in my skill sets, but I have the suspicion this article falls into the “massage a large enough block of data with sufficient force, and you can prove anything category…






177 replies
  1. 1
    Tree With Water says:

    Good words about about leadership in the U.S. Armed Forces, then and now:

    http://marshallfoundation.org/.....RSHALL.pdf

  2. 2
    Marc says:

    I read one article which stated Target would know if a woman was expecting, based on her purchases – before she knew. I figure this is one of the things about data – when accumulated with enough individual points, it can identify the patterns towards which those data points become significant. Outliers will of course skew results, but a good statistician (who understands what the model is) can weed ’em out, or even point to them as why the overall model works.

    The scary thing isn’t the collection of the data, it is the way it can be used. Financial transactions using debit or credit cards create a trail. Put loyalty cards in the mix, and you have two sources of data on purchase patterns. But if someone eschews using the loyalty card and pays in cash, they could become suspect, since they are avoiding the usual tracking methods. Guilt by non-association, so to speak. Heck, some places swipe your Drivers License when you buy liquor to verify age. Lets see – State Issued ID, Credit/Debit Card, and Loyalty Card – right there is enough data in one transaction to get folks wearing tin foil hats to start muttering about ‘number of the beast’, or some such….

  3. 3
    Amir Khalid says:

    It must be frustrating to be a Harbinger of failure, ever and again to find oneself asking: I liked that product, why did they discontinue it?

  4. 4
    Betty Cracker says:

    I don’t think we’ve even begun to scratch the surface of how so-called big data is going to change our lives.

  5. 5
    Viva BrisVegas says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    It must be frustrating to be a Harbinger of failure

    Not at all. You would just consider yourself an arbiter of good taste.

    Which, as we know, is the rarest commodity of all.

  6. 6
    MattR says:

    @Amir Khalid: I think I may qualify when it comes to TV programs, at least when it comes to the major networks. If I love a new show, the odds of it being picked up for a second season are slim.

  7. 7
    redshirt says:

    @Betty Cracker: Sure we have. Imagine Amazon’s “recommended purchases” to the 10th degree. Combine existing shopping data with demographics plus locale and folks already can kind of guess your future.

    That will get refined and improved, but we’re already living that reality. It will just get far worse/more omnipresent.

  8. 8
    Tim in SF says:

    All I know is, those fuckers at Trader Joes took away my wasabi cashews a few years ago, and life has never been the same. They were supernally delicious. I still have dreams of them.

    They are absolutely unobtainable.

  9. 9
    Kathleen says:

    @Tim in SF: Yes. Aldi’s discontinued my favorite cookies a few months ago. I totally relate to what you’re saying.

  10. 10
    Kathleen says:

    @Amir Khalid: Harbinger of Failure would be a great name for an Indie/Prog group.

    Perhaps we cursed ones will have scarlet “HOF” tattooed on our foreheads and be shuttled off to FEMA camps.

  11. 11
  12. 12
    Marc says:

    @Kathleen: Maybe HOF is a superpower. Don’t need a radioactive spider, gamma radiation, or fish oil to get that special influence over what will make it to season two or still be on the shelf a year or two later. If everything was awesome, nothing would be good – it would just be average (compared to all the other awesome). Think of it as culling the heard, but unfortunately, the weak survive…

  13. 13
    redshirt says:

    So Big Data can harmonize your purchases, your social media, your email, your phone calls, and then place ads. Ads OF THE FUTURE might be 3D HOLOGRAPHIC ads that are GPS based on your location. Your location determined by the chip in your wrist/skull that is your phone and music player and control system, that also can read your thoughts, just like Apple-Amazon can read your thoughts.

    Big Data is already here. It’s now just a matter of watching it play out and control our lives.

  14. 14
    raven says:

    @redshirt: boogie boogie. The last thread is about pissing our pants about crime. The hell with that let’s freak out about COMPUTERS!!!!

  15. 15
    NotMax says:

    One thing have encountered here at least a half dozen times is finding a product I do like at the market or other stores and then suddenly it’s no longer there. Not that it is no longer being made, but that (this is absolutely true) when I ask the management, receive the following reply: “Yeah, we always had problems keeping enough of that in stock so we stopped selling it.”

    @Marc

    Personally, I always pay in cash at supermarkets and department stores. Did break down and get the so-called membership/loyalty cards, but they are assigned to a phony name. Exception is at Costco, which is under my actual name, and at which I pay by check.

    @Tim in SF

    Both Costco and Amazon sell wasabi cashews, among other venues.

  16. 16
    redshirt says:

    @raven: You’re right, computers are just a scary story kids tell themselves.

  17. 17
    David Koch says:

    Florida Poll: (July 18, 2015, to Tuesday, July 28, 2015)

    Trump 26
    ¡Bush! 20
    Walker 12
    Rubio 10
    Carson 5
    Cruz 4
    Kasich 4
    Baby Doc 3

    Trumpnado is poised to win the first 4 states: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida. If he does, he’s the nominee.

  18. 18
    Alex S. says:

    Fascinating. I have a feeling that “niche customers” actually make up the majority of all people, but the individual niches are too small. So whenever a company goes for maximum sales, they target the 40% of “mainstream customers”. I mean, it’s the same with politics. If non-voters were able to unite behind a single candidate, that one would often beat the mainstream candidates, but it never happens. I also think that this is why mainstream music becomes more boring each year. Corporate thinking in a shrinking market. The niche artists, of which there are millions and which we are promised to discover through the internet, get by with smaller concerts, internet releases, and very targeted merchandising.

  19. 19
    hidflect says:

    Which is why I eschew the bonus card system. In effect, I see it as me being penalized for not providing them with my data. The “discount” price is actually the normal price. I have to pay 2-5% over the odds. This is how it goes folks. How long before you’re penalized 20% for refusing to hand over your data? Or before you’re not allowed to buy at all without letting them into your personal life?

  20. 20
    Steeplejack (phone) says:

    @MattR:

    You should do the right thing and not watch any show until after it gets on a solid footing. Take one for the team.

    I presume you liked Backstrom and Battle Creek. I’m still smarting about those.

  21. 21
    redshirt says:

    @hidflect: As do I, but I’m also luckily in possession of several anonymous bonus cards for the stores I frequent so I get the savings without the identity loss. Also, CASH.

  22. 22
    MattF says:

    Interesting to note: the website that loads the most trackers when you go to it is Politico (no link!). According to this rather eye-opening post, news sites are the worst offenders. One may ask why news sites are so interested in analyzing your clicks… The answer, I guess, is the usual– if you can’t figure out what they’re selling, it’s you.

  23. 23
    raven says:

    @redshirt: as you type on a computer

  24. 24
    Schlemazel says:

    @David Koch:
    We have all been running along KNOWING Dump can’t possibly get the nod . . . what if he does? I believe he really doesn’t want the job that all this is ego stoking and brand recognition work . . . what if he believes he can actually do the job?

    I have no faith that American voters would not elect him, we reelected Boy Blunder after all. What a disaster that would be.

  25. 25
    redshirt says:

    @raven: Heavily redacted, friend.

  26. 26
    Steeplejack (phone) says:

    I had to be up (relatively) early this morning to pick up someone at the airport, so I went to bed early (for me) last night, so of course I woke up way too early. Good times. So I’ve been catching up on the threads and watching for the sun to come up.

    The housecat was delighted to get an early breakfast and has already gone back to sleep. Early start on her morning nap.

  27. 27
    redshirt says:

    @Steeplejack (phone): Sunrise is highly overrated.

  28. 28
    Schlemazel says:

    @raven:
    I have worked as an IT security consultant for 25 years at companies large & small as well as local, state & national government & I know exactly how secure my data is when in their hands. Not at all. “Not at all” is how secure your data is because even the ones that do a better job are not doing a good job and even a good job is not good enough to stop a determined attacker. Knowing that I still use my credit card online, I still enter data I know will be tracked. But then there is that nihilistic streak in me.

    I used to work with a security guy that opened his checking account with an bank in Iowa because it was the only one he could find that allowed him to open the account without giving them his Social Security number. It was inconvenient as hell for him (this was the 90s, before electronic payroll transfer) and ultimately he ws no safer than the rest of us. Thats the best analogy I can give you.

  29. 29
    Tommy says:

    I used to work in advertising. Big data. We kind of knew what you did and how you acted and could shape ads to hit you. It is just a fact that it is done.

  30. 30
    Steeplejack (phone) says:

    @redshirt:

    Kind of a gray muddle today. Not inspiring at all.

  31. 31
    Betty Cracker says:

    @redshirt: There may be some upside to data-driven destinies. Theoretically, hard data on every aspect of a person’s life and abilities should result in a true meritocracy. But I suspect the well-connected will still find a way to grease the skids.

  32. 32
    Steeplejack (phone) says:

    @Steeplejack (phone):

    But, since I’ll be out and about early, I’m shooting for breakfast at District Taco in Arlington. Silver lining!

  33. 33
    Schlemazel says:

    I maintain several sock puppets online, partly because I thought it might allow me more anonymity as a person but mostly because I did not want my personal opinions to impact potential consulting gigs. This goes as far as having a phony Facebook account but not one under my own name.

    It has worked as far as the consulting thing goes but not at all for the privacy thing. Google & facebook both know who my sockpuppets actually are & if they do everyone could.

    I read a story yesterday about privacy experts who wrote an app that takes your keyboard entries & randomizes the patterns of key press times & time to next key press because the big guys are gathering that info now & can recognize you by your typing patterns. This is not new, during WWII MI6 recognized people had a style for sending morse code & trained agents to send like a specific German spy before they would kidnap the spy. The replacement would “sound” exactly like the real spy.

  34. 34
    Gin & Tonic says:

    For anyone who wants to piss their pants some more, or who just wants to know actual facts from someone who actually knows what he’s talking about, I highly recommend Bruce Schneier’s book Data and Goliath. But it from Amazon, though, so they can tell the NSA you bought it and they can then implant listening devices in your fillings..

  35. 35
    Gin & Tonic says:

    For anyone who wants to piss their pants some more, or who just wants to know actual facts from someone who actually knows what he’s talking about, I highly recommend Bruce Schneier’s book Data and Goliath. But it from Amazon, though, so they can tell the NSA you bought it and they can then implant listening devices in your fillings..

  36. 36
    Gin & Tonic says:

    So, a duplicate, and I misspelled “buy”. Time for coffee.

  37. 37
    qwerty42 says:

    That “market basket analysis” is responsible for … what was it?… oh yeah … sales of diapers and beer were highly correlated. And it turns out there is a reason. Anyway, data mining is the dark side (lucrative) of statistics.

  38. 38
    PaulW says:

    Big Data? I’d buy that for a dollar!

  39. 39
    raven says:

    @redshirt: I’ve carried my camera every morning for 2 weeks on our sunrise walk. .nuthin.

  40. 40
    PaulW says:

    @David Koch:

    Never underestimate the Bushies’ abilities to rig Florida voting machines.

  41. 41
    redshirt says:

    @raven: Sunset is way better. For actual science reasons!

  42. 42
    NotMax says:

    @raven

    You’ll always have sunrise on Haleakala.

  43. 43
    redshirt says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    @redshirt: There may be some upside to data-driven destinies. Theoretically, hard data on every aspect of a person’s life and abilities should result in a true meritocracy. But I suspect the well-connected will still find a way to grease the skids.

    I hope a meritocracy is within our grasp but it seems unlikely.

    If anything, we’ve entered a Neo-Feudal age that is sorta scary.

  44. 44
    NotMax says:

    @redhshirt

    Serf’s up!

    :)

  45. 45
    Marc says:

    @Schlemazel: I’ve been reading some of the same stuff about keystrokes, so the saying “Nobody knows you’re a dog on the internet” probably isn’t true anymore. As for online security, I’ve seen all the stuff about encryption and passwords, but the same rule applies; “You’re only as secure as the weakest link”. Once your info is online, consider it out in the public domain.

    Longmire was axed by A&E ’cause it skewed too old, but Netflix picked it up for the fourth season, which comes out in September. It shouldn’t matter if all the HOF’s watch it, since they’ll release the season all at once – and Netflix is into eyeballs, not demographics (at least right now), so the more the merrier. I keep hoping they’ll do more seasons of Sense8, but it is such an unusual premise, I’m not sure enough eyes have watched it grant more seasons.

  46. 46
    redshirt says:

    @NotMax: Fukishima Kamacrazy.

  47. 47
    Botsplainer says:

    Easy to figure out who the big losers are – they were heralded by those who bought google Glass and the Apple watch.

  48. 48
    satby says:

    @Marc: Big Longmire fan here, and Veronica Mars… Yep, I’m a HOF. Just reupped Netflix to catch up on Longmire and watch other series like Grace and Frankie.

    I like the opportunity to have more niches thanks to data dicing. I always like the oddball stuff.

  49. 49
    satby says:

    @Botsplainer: LOL, the article said the HOFs skewed wealthier and more educated, so you’re probably right.

  50. 50
    NorthLeft12 says:

    I have that same impact on any specialty foods that I like. “Israeli Couscous” [it’s bigger than regular couscous]…bought it like clockwork for three years then……poof.

    Same for the same chain’s [Loblaws – President’s Choice] specialty pasta. Eggplant ravioli. Gone. Triangoli Porcini and Truffle stuffing. Vanished. Buffalo Mozzarella…….ahhhhh what the hell is wrong with them.
    They make something good, then stop it.
    I am also in mourning over a discontinued premade perogi that was stuffed with sauerkraut and mushrooms. Very close to how my Babcia [Grandmother] and Mother made them.

    I have found the couscous in a bulk food store [bought a literal ton of it, well, a couple of pounds] and I have found a couple of other types of perogi that are passable, so life goes on.

    That has been another edition of first world problems.

  51. 51
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @Amir Khalid: Thanks to pharmapacks I was able to pick up a lifetime supply of a product I really liked that got really discontinued. Phew.

    I must be one of those people. I have allergies and sensitivities and the environment is out to get me. Everything at CVS that works for me gets discontinued. Thank goodness for Paul Mitchell. I think that brand has staying power….

  52. 52
    Iowa Old Lady says:

    I have killed more restaurants than I like to think about. If I like them, they’re doomed.

  53. 53
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @Tim in SF: TJ’s discontinued corn pasta with no warning. Because if we had known, we would have bought a case. Major sads :(

  54. 54
    RSA says:

    Neither math nor marketing are included in my skill sets, but I have the suspicion this article falls into the “massage a large enough block of data with sufficient force, and you can prove anything“ category…

    I’m not a math or marketing person, but I do try to be careful about quantitative analysis and the implications. Here’s something interesting about this work: You might imagine that the set of harbingers of doom is small, that you have to search carefully for those people who consistently prefer products that go under. But that’s not the case–the tricky thing is separating harbingers from non-harbingers, because the harbingers constitute more that 50% of your customers. 56%, in Anderson et al.’s study.

  55. 55
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @redshirt:

    So Big Data can harmonize your purchases, your social media, your email, your phone calls, and then place ads.

    I’ll believe it when I see it. Every time technology changes I’ll get ads I’m really interested in for about two seconds–you know, small and local businesses, usually gourmet food, organizations I didn’t know about but am interested in, etc.

    In time it will all devolve to crap like mortgage scams/refis, car ads for SUVs, trucks, and luxury vehicles, ads for alcohol I can’t or won’t drink, prescription meds I don’t need, swiffers and other consumer products that I’ve already tried and have declared SUCK, and fucking chain delivery pizza.

    Because ADS are sold by BID and it will always devolve to scamscamscam on the cheap slots and Big Capitalism on the not-cheap slots. They will not advertise things I give a shit about. Just spew mental garbage at me 24/7.

    This is why people chuck their TVs and rant about Ralph Waldo Emerson and all that “snobby” stuff. You don’t just get sick of crummy, repetitive, over-edited programming, it’s the advertising cruft.

  56. 56
    MattF says:

    @Tim in SF: TJ’s is notorious for doing that. They had a kind of smoked salmon marinated in vinegar that disappeared, leaving me with a very specific and entirely unsatisifiable craving.

  57. 57
    Another Holocene Human says:

    Take car ads, I guess they think those things have an impact. I am looking at a Mazda2 which I did see a slick ad for once, but it wouldn’t even be on the list but for Consumer Reports because my first thought was Fiat 500. (Maintenance heavy. Ah, no.)

    I do lust after small cars but the vast majority of ads I see are big car ads and it doesn’t change my mind one bit. So much for their targeting. The only SUV ad that matters in my brain is “Canyonero!”

  58. 58
    bemused says:

    When I get coupons with my receipt at Target and a couple of other stores, why is it that so few of them are for products I regularly buy there? I leave those coupons I will never use at the counter. I can only speculate that the stores are trying to get me to buy a different brand of a similar product or they are pushing a product to customers in general.

  59. 59
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @NotMax: Yeah, some suppliers have problems scaling up. Scaling up is a totally different skillset than creating the awesome thing to begin with.

  60. 60
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @David Koch: These numbers are quite different to Iowa. But not surprising Florida GOP likes JEB and even Rubio.

    Surprised at numbers Walker is pulling, but he does has name rec here as the anti-union guy and there is a demo for that.

    Primary’s still half a year away. Anything could happen.

    The thought of JEB!’s people sweating their shitty numbers in Florida is quite amusant, bien sur.

  61. 61
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @PaulW: My county uses Scantron. Scantron can be manual counted, assuming the judge will allow that. (From reading BradBlog, I know some judges have not. Madness!)

  62. 62
    rikyrah says:

    Good Morning, Everyone :)

  63. 63
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @rikyrah: Late morning over here. I was up late last night spackling, for all the good it’ll do me with the ex-landlord and their horrible property management.

  64. 64
    Snarki, child of Loki says:

    I gotcher “Harbingers of Failure” right here.

    They’re called “Dubya voters”.

  65. 65
    RSA says:

    @bemused:

    I can only speculate that the stores are trying to get me to buy a different brand of a similar product or they are pushing a product to customers in general.

    Think Amazon recommendations. At least, that’s a reasonable guess, as you say.

  66. 66
    Pee Cee says:

    @NotMax:

    Not that it is no longer being made, but that (this is absolutely true) when I ask the management, receive the following reply: “Yeah, we always had problems keeping enough of that in stock so we stopped selling it.”

    I’ve had that happen to me at (of all places) Target. Apparently, they really don’t like it if a shelf is ever empty. No matter that it’s empty because the product sells out immediately.

  67. 67
    Pee Cee says:

    @bemused:

    When I get coupons with my receipt at Target and a couple of other stores, why is it that so few of them are for products I regularly buy there?

    The cynical reply is that you’re already buying the product there – why give you a discount? Your dollars are worth more to them than your goodwill. Same reason telcos like AT&T have decent prices for newcomers but never, ever any deals thereafter until the very moment you call to cancel.

  68. 68
    I'mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet says:

    @Marc: Yeah, Target can figure out when a woman is pregnant. But they seemingly can’t figure out that if I bought adult diapers for my elderly in-laws when they lived with us, or once bought tampons for my wife, that doesn’t mean that I need coupons for them for 10 years after the last purchase.

    Amazon is much better about suggesting things I “might be interested in” (they do have a much longer purchase history with me), and the half-life of the suggestion is much shorter, but even they can’t seem to recognize that sometimes people buy some type of item once and that’s it. I’m not going to buy a new TV or dehumidifier every 2 months, thanks. :-/

    I rarely use “loyalty cards” when I shop. Safeway lost my business because of the way they run their system around here – items on the shelf are often $1 more if you don’t use their loyalty card, but even with the “discount” the price is usually no bargain. No thanks. TJ’s is my usual grocery store for that (and other) reason(s).

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  69. 69

    The problem with Amazon is that they assume I’m always shopping for myself. But sometimes I’m buying a gift, or looking at a book a friend wrote, or checking out a book cover someone said was great or terrible. I spent some time in 2012 reading the reviews for Trapper binders they were hilarious on the topic of women.

    After something like that, I get bizarre stuff.

  70. 70
    Bex says:

    @Kathleen: Were they Benton’s maple leaf with maple-flavored stuffing?

  71. 71
    bemused says:

    @Pee Cee:

    Yes, I have that thought every time the cashier hands me a fistful of useless coupons and it pisses me off.

  72. 72
    Another Holocene Human says:

    So this is fascinating, on the front page of LGM today is a 1961 excerpt from National Review where they call for “Jews” to have forgiveness for perpetrators of Nazi terror.

    Funny how the oppressed group is always called on to “forgive”.

  73. 73
    Cervantes says:

    @Botsplainer:

    Who were heralded? (Not following.)

  74. 74
    kc says:

    @hidflect:

    Give ’em a phony name & pay with cash.

  75. 75
    MomSense says:

    @Another Holocene Human:

    Would you mind stopping by my house later today? I’ve got two (yes the little pupper did it again) walls that need drywall repair. If I were ever to write a Silence of the Lambs type book I would have a character do what the pup did to the walls. It’s completely maniacal looking–lots of puppy teeth sized scratchings obsessively ordered so the scratchings run in the same direction along the wall.

  76. 76
    Cervantes says:

    @Iowa Old Lady:

    The problem with Amazon is

    … a little more serious than that.

  77. 77
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @Iowa Old Lady: And this hasn’t changed since the early days. I remember a rant online in the late 1990s that just because I bought one book with lesbians in it doesn’t mean I want to get suggestions for GLBT erotica and sex toys tossed in my face every time I shop for two weeks.

  78. 78
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @MomSense: It’s really easy. I use the color coded drydex and my trusty thick steel chisel looking applicator. Sometimes you have to come back when it dries and reapply for bigger holes. What I am not skilled at is big hole patching. But little holes–if you can frost a cake, well, it’s easier than that.

  79. 79
    different-church-lady says:

    @PaulW:

    Big Data? I’d buy that for a dollar discount what I’m selling in order to get it!

  80. 80
    jafd says:

    A friend’s bank has ‘gift cards’ available for ‘free’ (ie, they’ll transfer $X from checking to gift card, no charge).

    He uses these for online purchases, thinking at least this will not give hackers access to his credit cards or checking accounts. Worth the trouble ?

  81. 81
    different-church-lady says:

    And corporations have all that information about you why?

  82. 82
    Belafon says:

    @different-church-lady:
    1. You agreed to give it to them if you got a rewards card.
    2. They can make better decisions about what to put in their stores.
    3. You can never have too much data. You can only not have enough ways to analyze it.

  83. 83
    Emma says:

    @NorthLeft12: the Israeli Couscous I buy is actually a pasta. It’s also called Pearl Couscous and you can find it in the pasta aisle. The best one I’ve found is Bob’s Red Mill and it’s all over the place in South Florida.

    P.S. And when it comes to TV shows, I’m not a Harbinger of Doom. I’m the Angel of Death.

  84. 84
    different-church-lady says:

    @jafd: Seems like a fairly prudent firewall against account theft.

    However, as it was explained to me by the nice woman who called me from the fraud agency, sometimes they “get” your number even when you’ve done nothing wrong or used your card with nobody shady. Apparently they will just run batches of numbers for minor purchases on the web, and when one goes through they then make a phoney physical plate with your number on it and go out on a buying spree. The computers at the agency picked up on it within an hour, but by that time somebody had already walked out of a CVS on the opposite coast with $800 worth of stuff, using a card with my number but someone elses name.

    No matter what system one devises, someone will figure out a way to beat it.

  85. 85
    different-church-lady says:

    @Belafon:
    1) DING!
    2) Or they can make lousy decisions you don’t like, because they’ve figured out you’re the grim reaper of product success.
    3) You can never have too much data, but you can sure as hell have too much noise, and a whole lot of people don’t understand the difference.

  86. 86
    MattF says:

    @Belafon: Oh, you can have too much data. ‘Trying to take a sip from a firehose’ is a pretty common situation.

  87. 87
    Amir Khalid says:

    Bobby Jindal: Vote for me! I’m just as stupid as Rick Perry!

  88. 88
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Emma: All couscous is pasta.

  89. 89
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Amir Khalid: Jindal quote from your link:

    “I’m a big believer that where you are legally allowed to be, you should be able to have your Second Amendment rights as well,” he said on CNN…

    I’ll believe that when big mouths like Perry and Jindal start allowing the public to carry guns into state capitol buildings. They don’t allow that because of the danger to their own precious hides. Hypocrites, the lot of them!

  90. 90
    ThresherK (of course it is) says:

    Hey, if I trusted the folks in charge of data, I’d use my real name here, or even one of them.

    Even in the non-big-data manner, this isn’t the 80s, where if you got a letter to the editor published, you bought a copy and a few family members and friends got it. Now a potential employer can tell who has the proverbial “Obama sticker in the parking lot, and doesn’t need to work there” (per the Texas entrepreneur who said this in 2008).

    I have a couple cookie wipe-out tools, but suggestions are always welcome. Specifically wanting someone to solve Google’s new two-step sign-in where you have to tell it every time to not remember you.

    And for every service I have there is at least one sockpuppet ID.

  91. 91
    Mack says:

    Suffered through Morning Joe while I had coffee. If you watched it, they featured a focus group (New Hampshire Republican voters) chiming in on why they liked Trump. Don’t. Watch. It. Seriously, I nearly broke down and cried after seeing it. THESE PEOPLE VOTE. Ought to scare the holy hell out of you.

  92. 92
    different-church-lady says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    “I’m a big believer that where you are legally allowed to be, you should be able to have your Second Amendment rights as well,”

    The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of cinema-goers.

  93. 93
    Belafon says:

    @different-church-lady: My masters degree was in Intelligent Systems, an one of the courses covered data mining (not the entire course, I wasn’t that interested in the topic). So, yeah, the challenge is determining what information you get out is valuable information that you didn’t know before and what is useless.

    A lot like looking at experiment results and deciding if it proves cold fusion or not.

  94. 94
    jake the antisosul soshulist says:

    @NotMax:

    I am totally stealing that.

  95. 95
    jake the antisosul soshulist says:

    @different-church-lady:

    “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of cinema-goers.”

    And the blood of poached lions and bears.

  96. 96
    Kathleen says:

    @Marc: Well, I have my own version of HOF with the Reds. Whenever I want them to win they lose. Badly. When I don’t give a crap, they start winning. I think I just need to totally ignore them (until they start winning and suck me in again, but that won’t be for another 20 years at the rate they’re going and I’ll be dead.)

  97. 97
    NorthLeft12 says:

    @Gin & Tonic: I knew that.

  98. 98
    different-church-lady says:

    @Belafon:

    …cold fusion…

    I heart me some Wikipedia. Punch in cold fusion and it branches off into “pathological science”.

    My personal suspicion is that most of qualities of our everyday interaction with the world are the results of the personal preferences of the decision makers behind a fig leaf of data that has been run through the filter of amateurs practicing pathological science on an everyday, dilettante level.

    Yeah, there are focus groups and studies and data, but in the end movies get made because some person at the studio liked the concept, and musicians lose their recording deals because someone got fired and the replacement didn’t like that guy’s music. In the end we’re all biological, and data is never going to address that with the kind of mythological accuracy we seem to be constantly pursuing.

    ETA: pathological science: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pathological_science

  99. 99
    Kathleen says:

    @redshirt: I’m a Fuel Point Whore, so I gladly brandish my Kroger card, load digital coupons, and strategize my shopping to make sure I take advantage of double fuel point weekends and double fuel point gift cards. Double Fuel Point events are “leveraged” with my “schedule shopping to maximize samples” strategy. It’s very complicated but it satisfies some gaping hole in my soul. #IINeedToGetALife.

  100. 100
    Belafon says:

    @different-church-lady: At the same time, humans are not really all that unique. Most of our decisions and choices tend to fall on a bell curve. I’ve always been amused when people think they are fighting against that, and are proving it instead.

  101. 101
    scav says:

    @Amir Khalid: The violence that some get O! so fussy about if witnessed on screen, no matter the context, is somehow an unproblematic byproduct of Liberty! when actually experienced in the seats.

  102. 102
    Kathleen says:

    @Pee Cee: Time Warner is the same way.

  103. 103
    Kathleen says:

    @Bex: No, they were the Cafe (can’t remember the rest of the name) chocolate covered wafers. They were in a green bag.

  104. 104
    Botsplainer says:

    @Kathleen:

    My youngest daughter keeps spending my good Kroger fuel points on $5 purchases at the pump.

  105. 105

    @bemused:

    When I get coupons with my receipt at Target and a couple of other stores, why is it that so few of them are for products I regularly buy there?

    Because they know they don’t need to do anything to get you to buy those. The coupons are a way of trying to bribe you into trying something new. They give you a discount the first time you buy in the hopes you’ll keep buying at full price once the coupon is gone.

  106. 106
    different-church-lady says:

    @Belafon: Yes, but when the middle of that curve is marked “sucky mediocrity” I don’t wind up all that impressed.

    At this point I operate on the assumption that the data is wrong and roughly 85% of people are below-average intelligence.

  107. 107
    Cervantes says:

    @different-church-lady:

    The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of cinema-goers.

    If only that would get us better movies.

  108. 108
    Cervantes says:

    @Mack:

    Ought to scare the holy hell out of you.

    Or at least scare us into helping the good guys win more elections!

    Or we could pick on the likes of Bernie Sanders for not knowing how Twitter works — that could help, too!

  109. 109
    Kathleen says:

    @Botsplainer: That violates my cardinal rule t I never using fuel points unless I’m filling up, and if gas prices are going up I wait until they go back to down to fill up. Can you tell I was raised Catholic?

  110. 110
    Kathleen says:

    Tensing just arraigned.Lots of media trucks when I ran by the court house this morning.

  111. 111
    different-church-lady says:

    @bemused: My suspicion would be that the coupons are based on arrangements with certain manufacturers. Human intuition would imply that if you buy Hunt’s ketchup a lot, then the merchant would give you a discount on that brand. But if the merchant doesn’t have a coupon deal with Hunt’s, then the algorithms just look for the closest match and spit out a coupon for any ketchup made by a manufacturer the merchant does have an arrangement with.

    Decisions that get made in corporate management sessions don’t make sense to the average Jane because they’re based on an entire set of circumstances that average Jane never interacts with. And you’d be astonished at just how capricious those decisions can be.

  112. 112
    bemused says:

    @Mack:

    I didn’t see the Joe show but think it must be the same thing I just watched at Bloomberg Politics. John Heilemann asked questions of the dozen in focus group. It was just mind-blowing.

    Q: How would you describe a Trump presidency?
    A: “Classy” said Cheryl.

  113. 113
    debbie says:

    @Kathleen:

    I’m a Fuel Point Whore, so I gladly brandish my Kroger card, load digital coupons, and strategize my shopping to make sure I take advantage of double fuel point weekends and double fuel point gift cards. Double Fuel Point events are “leveraged” with my “schedule shopping to maximize samples” strategy. It’s very complicated but it satisfies some gaping hole in my soul. #IINeedToGetALife.

    From what I’ve seen, it’s also practically a full-time job. More power to you, but I’ve got enough as it is just trying to remember what I’m supposed to eat or stay away from every week. ;-)

  114. 114
    Cervantes says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    I’ll believe that when big mouths like Perry and Jindal start allowing the public to carry guns into state capitol buildings.

    Or campaign rallies and the like, where they bravely avoid “First Amendment zones” without the slightest awareness of the travesty.

  115. 115
    bemused says:

    @different-church-lady:

    I just wonder how often that works…people using coupons for products they aren’t interested in and would never buy otherwise. I know I don’t. It tends to have the opposite effect on stubborn me. It’s the same with pharma ads. The more they advertise some new name med for a copycat med, the less likely I would want to take it even if a doctor prescribed it or the doctor would have to do a damn good job of convincing me to do so.

  116. 116
    Pee Cee says:

    @Kathleen:

    Agreed. Between AT&T and Time Warner, I have real trouble deciding who I hate most. They mostly use the same contempt-for-customer playbook.

  117. 117
    Mack says:

    @bemused: Yeah that’s the one. The “classy” line is the one that just floored me.

    It’s interesting, someone I respect made the point that part of the outrage over that idiot dentist shooting Cecil the lion was at least in part over class envy, that people were furious that this guy had the means and the time to fly half way around the world to indulge his sick fantasies.

    Not sure I buy that, I think people were just outraged that this poor animal was trotted out to be murdered by opportunistic guides. But I mention it because the people in the focus group equated Trumps money with success, and didn’t seem to begrudge him a single thing it could buy him.

  118. 118
    Kay says:

    I tink the reliance on data in public policy can be dangerous because they seize the number as if that’s the end of the story. I get it, I really do, dealing with complicated issues is hard and numbers look very solid and determinative. “Numbers don’t lie” except sometimes they do.

    Broken windows policing was based on data collection when it appeared. We were going to get rid of subjective decisions and the bias that is baked in by relying on science, and we didn’t have to do anything to change attitudes. We’d just neatly get around the human element if we collected enough data and made enough maps and called areas “hot spots” instead of “neighborhoods”. Broken windows policing quickly morphed into zero tolerance policing and the beautiful abstract idea crashed right into reality.

    The data fanatics are doing the same thing with public education and they will run into the same problems that occured with data-based policing. You cannot exclude the effect of human beings in public policy.

  119. 119

    @different-church-lady:
    The bigger problem for identity theft is that you’re trusting other people to hold your data. That means you wind up at the mercy of whichever business you’ve dealt with that has the worst security practices. Note that this doesn’t have to be electronic data, either. I had to deal with identity theft because the escrow company that handled my house purchase had their physical records burgled and somebody made off with my whole escrow file. It took them about a year to get around to doing anything with the data, but it was a right pain to deal with when it happened.

  120. 120
    different-church-lady says:

    @bemused: I guess what I’m getting at here is that they don’t actually care about your preferences. They only care that the deal they made with the ketchup company gets executed. And they care about selling more ketchup, but the process of a biological creature actual purchasing of ketchup is abstract in comparison to their moment-to-moment experience of making coupon deals with ketchup manufacturers and talking to the people who write the which-coupon-to-spit-out algorithms.

    Your obstinance isn’t an issue until someone writes an article about it a trade magazine, at which point it become a holy grail to be pursued by tweaking the algorithms. Which will probably result in you buying the same amount of ketchup you always did, a whole lot of middle managers having a justification for their jobs, and a whole lot of consultants having a justification for their fees.

  121. 121
    NotMax says:

    @NorthLeft12

    There are now 2 Safeways in town. One stocks Israeli couscous on the same shelves as the rice, the other in their miniscule kosher section. Go figure.

  122. 122
    Kay says:

    Mandatory minimums were orginally sold as equity-producing. We were going to collect data on crimes and sentencing and remove human discretion, with all the bias and mistakes and you know, actual thought, by reducing it all to a series of factors and coming up with “hard numbers” everyone could point to and feel good about. Even-steven! Problem solved!

  123. 123
    NotMax says:

    Anyone shopped at Sears lately? The registers spit out 4, 5 as many as 6 coupons. Clerks automatically grab them up to go directly to the trash can, but do ask “Want the coupons?” first. Apparently, judging by that behavior, the vast majority of customers pass them up (they’re good for only a week).

  124. 124
    Cervantes says:

    @NotMax:

    When it was introduced, it used to be called “Ben-Gurion’s rice.”

    Not that your grocer is aware.

  125. 125
    maurinsky says:

    I have a knack for falling for TV shows that get canceled early and movies that no one loves, which later become cult classics.

    Target once thought I was pregnant, not sure why. They were incorrect.

  126. 126
    Uncle Cosmo says:

    @Alex S.:

    I have a feeling that “niche customers” actually make up the majority of all people, but the individual niches are too small. So whenever a company goes for maximum sales, they target the 40% of “mainstream customers”.

    I’ve been trying to live low-carb for over a decade, which originally meant no cereal for breakfast. Not too long after I started that I came across Special K Protein Plus: 9g net carbs (minus fiber), 2g sugar per serving. And I liked the kinda-nutty taste. Poifick! Morning Salvation!!

    So a couple of years ago I walked down the cereal aisle & saw that the package had been redesigned. Uh-oh. I read (paraphrasing) “New! Improved! Better flavor!” Oh fuck. Finally I pulled a box down & read the Nutrition Facts*: 16g net carb, 7g sugar. In essence an entirely different product.

    By way of comparison:

    All-Bran: 13g net carbs, 6g sugar.
    American Breakfast High-Fiber Cereal (8 oz for $1 at Dollar Tree when available): 15g net carbs, 5g sugar.
    FiberOne 80 Chocolate (sweetened!!): 16g net carbs, 5g sugar.

    Any of these is superior to the new! improved! SpKPP.

    One wonders to what extent Kellogg’s counted on blind brand loyalty, i.e., no one bothering to read the details.

    AFAIK they didn’t even consider making the original product under another name in smaller batches for the “niche” market of low-carb dieters & diabetics. Only so much production capability, amirite? Gotta maximize those profits!!

    And in the process a product that was of real value to the QoL of a “niche” market goes away…

    * BTW, Thankew, Eebil Gummint, for forcing feed mfrs to list this stuff in a consistent & comparable format!

  127. 127
    shell says:

    @Another Holocene Human: I looked at Tom Cruz’ tome once at Amazons best seller list, out of curiosity. Ever since Ive been followed by his pasty mug all over the Internet.

  128. 128
    RaflW says:

    I feel like I have the kiss of death at Trader Joe’s. If I love a product, they are likely to discontinue it within mere months. Frustrates the heck out of me. TJs is unusual in that they have small stores and the turnover new products fast to keep shoppers interested. But they sure quit the things I like awfully often.

  129. 129
    NotMax says:

    BTW, whomsoever recommended the Swedish series Real Humans, thank you. So far finding it a good timekiller.

  130. 130
    shell says:

    And of course, commenting on a blog or message board seems to kill the board dead.

    BJ excepted, of course.

  131. 131
    Pee Cee says:

    @NotMax:

    Anyone shopped at Sears lately?

    No, no one has shopped at Sears lately. :)

    (If they’re still around in another five to ten years, I’ll be surprised.)

  132. 132
    Sherparick says:

    Interesting piece in Bloomberg on why Republicans, particularly Tea Party Republicans, like Trump. I note the affinity/tribal identification aspect of Trump’s appeal, he is “like us” an “shares our frustrations,” along with the warship of the rich. And of course hatred of the non-white (the current big dog whistle of building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico being the current biggest, loudest, dog whistle).

  133. 133
    J R in WV says:

    @Botsplainer:

    Ouch, so unhelpful!

    We usually get $1 off per gallon of hi-test for the VW.

    It seems to run OK whatever you put into it, but if it helps stave off technical problems of some kind, and since we’re getting a discount via our Krogers / Frys card, what they heck, right?

    I know the computer can change ignition timing etc to deal with engine knock (aka pre-detonation I think) but I don’t know the dangers in that adjustment as far as damage to the mechanical parts. I know I hate the sound of an older engine knocking, sounding like it’s about to explode!

    I don’t really care if Krogers knows what we like to eat. They kind of have to get a clue, we buy everything but seafood, bread and wine and liquor there.

  134. 134
    Kathleen says:

    @debbie: It certainly does see to take an inordinate amount of energy and time in my day. I think you spend your time more wisely! (-:

  135. 135
    the Conster says:

    @Mack:

    These are the people who would go to Atlantic City on vacation, think that the height of sophistication is a condo in Trump Tower, love Carnival Cruises because of the all you can eat buffets and the shows, think that since they’ve been to EPCOT they don’t have to go to Europe, and the only minority person they know is that nice boy their nephew is friends with, and the brown handyman who comes to fix shit, who they watch like a hawk from their bedroom window.

  136. 136

    @Kay:

    “Numbers don’t lie” except sometimes they do.

    Statistics may not lie, but plenty of liars like to use statistics. The big problem comes when they’re used to rationalize decisions for people who have already made up their minds rather than to decide between alternatives when they haven’t.

  137. 137
    Brandon says:

    In the early 80’s, my father purchased both a Sony Betamax and a Datsun 280Z. Later on he also bought a PT Cruiser. Clearly he fits the loser consumer profile and it is one of the reasons why I am a militant late adopter.

  138. 138
    Germy Shoemangler says:

    @Roger Moore: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

    Not sure who said this first.

  139. 139
    Mack says:

    @the Conster: I don’t disagree at all. It truly frightens me that these people may just represent nearly half of this country.

  140. 140
    MattF says:

    @Uncle Cosmo: Yeah, you/ve got to read the nutrition data. My favorite example is bottles of tomato sauce– Classico brand tomato sauces generally have no added sugar. All the others– watch out!

  141. 141
    Kathleen says:

    @Pee Cee: From what I’ve heard (ATT does not offer its internet/TV service here) ATT is the worst. At least I can get some help from Time Warner (even though I pay way too much).

    Did you ever see Amy Schumer’s sketch on calling Time Warner?

    http://www.cc.com/video-clips/.....le-company

    Brilliant.

  142. 142
    Germy Shoemangler says:

    @MattF: We bought store brand table salt. It contains sugar.
    (sucrose)

  143. 143
    NotMax says:

    @Pee Cee

    Mayhaps the exception, but the Sears store here is always crowded. Still my first choice when in need of tools.

    Landlady was in the market for a new riding mower (which only I use on her property), and the Craftsman model we went in and bought – after much internet comparison shopping on my part – is a delight to use and maintain and does a better job compared to the Troy-Bilt it replaced. No more experiencing hours of sympathetic vibrations in the arms after hours spent mowing.

  144. 144
    Germy Shoemangler says:

    @the Conster:

    These are the people who would go to Atlantic City on vacation, think that the height of sophistication is a condo in Trump Tower, love Carnival Cruises because of the all you can eat buffets and the shows, think that since they’ve been to EPCOT they don’t have to go to Europe

    And only go to buffet restaurants because they don’t want to talk to no damn waiter…

    (some of my own family members and in-laws)

  145. 145
    bemused says:

    @Mack:

    Saying a Trump presidency would be classy and the rest of the focus group’s answers just tells me all I need to know about these people. Just like I know exactly what a person flying a confederate flag is all about.

    I don’t buy the class envy of wealthy being able to do what Palmer could either. Most people including a sizable number of conservative hunters are legitimately appalled. Republicans don’t seem to be bothered by a wealthy, entitled candidate if he/she slavishly caters to their prejudices. They are envious but seem to think the wealth will rub off on them somehow. Trump would just as soon turn on his fans as he has attacked McCain, etc but they don’t seem to notice that they are just peons to him.

    Lie to me.
    Go ahead and lie to me.
    Oh and I’ll just try to pretend to make believe
    That everything, everything you’re telling me is true.

  146. 146
    Kathleen says:

    @Kay: I took a Quality course from Edward Deming when I worked for a large telecom company, and his approach to data with very simple. His favorite phrase was “just put pencil to paper”, but the other thing he stressed is the notion of “operational definition”. According to Deming, “nothing is more important for transaction of business than the use of operational definitions”, which he defines as putting a “comunicable meaning into a concept”. It is one that people can do business with, and the definition must have the same meaning to vendor as to purchaser, same meaning yesterday and today to production worker. Example:

    1. A specific test of a piece of material or an assembly.
    2. A criterion or criteria for judgment
    3. Decision: yes or no, the object or the material did or did not meet the criterion.

    I realize the measurements used in determining effective results of police procedures are different from manufacturing, but the underlying principle, clearly defining what it is you’re measuring in terms that all stakeholders understand, is the same. He also said that liberal arts disciplines do a much better job with this concept than business, science or engineering disciplines.

    I’m a process nerd but I highly recommend his book Out of the Crisis. While it may be dated in some ways, the simplicity of his analysis and recommendations is timeless and relevant.

  147. 147
    bemused says:

    @different-church-lady:

    It’s a good thing I didn’t go into advertising. I would have been really lousy at it.

  148. 148
    Kathleen says:

    @maurinsky: You think there might be a country song in there somewhere? I can relate, because I feel like an analog girl in a digital world on so many levels.

    If you write your song I promise I won’t listen to it. My HOF would automatically kick in and I wouldn’t want to do that to you.

  149. 149
    Elizabelle says:

    @Mack:

    It truly frightens me that these people may just represent nearly half of this country.

    Not nearly half the country, not even close, but a way disproportionate share of the voting public.

    That’s a problem, and Democratic-leaning voters have to get serious about voting early and more often, as Republicans do.

  150. 150
    Emma says:

    @Gin & Tonic: Couscous (/ˈkʊskʊs/ or /ˈkuːskuːs/; Berber: ⵙⴽⵙⵓ, seksu, Arabic: كسكس‎, kuskus or كسكسو kseksou) is a traditional Berber[2][3][4][5][6] dish of semolina (granules of durum wheat) which is cooked by steaming. It is traditionally served with a meat or vegetable stew spooned over it. Couscous is a staple food throughout the North African cuisines of Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania and Libya and to a lesser extent in the Middle East and Sicily. (wikipedia)

    Couscous is wheat; so is pasta. But couscous is not pasta. At least not how I define pasta. YMMV.

  151. 151
    Germy Shoemangler says:

    @Elizabelle: I’m looking forward to you live-balloon-juicing the GOP debates, if you’re up to it.

  152. 152
    Steeplejack says:

    @I’mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet:

    Safeway lost my business because of the way they run their system around here—items on the shelf are often $1 more if you don’t use their loyalty card, but even with the “discount” the price is usually no bargain.

    I have just started using Safeway again for some specific items. I discovered that a loyalty card that I had in the glove compartment, which I had taken to “fill out [the form] later,” got activated anyway, so I get the “club” discount, but for many items there is no club discount or, as you said, the “discount” just gets the price down to roughly what it is at my usual store, Shoppers (regional chain in NoVA-MD).

    I am very satisfied with Shoppers, but the Safeway is slightly closer, with less road traffic, and it does have a few things that Shoppers doesn’t, and it has better prices on some things, e.g., wine, for some reason, especially if you’re buying more than one bottle. And the fresh fruit/vegetables section seems better (maybe just bigger and better lighted). But Safeway has the housecat’s Fancy Feast wet food at 80 cents a can vs. 50-60 cents at Shoppers. So I’m still exploring what to get at which place.

    Shorter: I agree with you—Safeway’s “loyalty/discount” plan is no real bargain.

  153. 153
    NotMax says:

    @Kathleen

    IIRC, it was the scriptwriter/advertising man/public relations honcho Carroll Carroll who wrote a book during the primitive days of mass media (long out of print, no doubt) which included discussion of timeless precepts of marketing.

  154. 154
    Elizabelle says:

    @Germy Shoemangler: You’re a dear! I still need to write up the Bernie Sanders notes.

    Believe DougJ mentioned he might be in DC for the debates? That’s about the only thing that would make watching them palatable.

    Now we have to find a bar with wireless so we can drink and blog and point and laugh.

    PS: to DC Balloon Juicers: I’ll type up the email addies and get that out to you today or tomorrow so we can coordinate for dougJ’s visit.

    Still at the undisclosed location (now with improved internet – – yea!), but did bring the list…

  155. 155
    Emma says:

    @bemused: So what you’re saying is that in our universe Spock has a beard and Jack Harkness really died at the Game Station.

    Classy!?

  156. 156
    Germy Shoemangler says:

    @Elizabelle:

    I still need to write up the Bernie Sanders notes.

    Yesterday was the big Bernie Sanders event. One of his supporters told me he would make history. Is this hyperbole? I haven’t seen or heard much about it anywhere outside of his supporters…

  157. 157
    Steeplejack says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    Ditto for NRA conventions. Gun-free zone.

  158. 158
    NotMax says:

    @Germy Shoemangler

    Believe it was Maddow who mentioned that the total number of participants who R.S.V.P.-ed to attend locally from around the country topped 100,000.

  159. 159
    Steeplejack says:

    @bemused:

    My brother, a doctor, rages about those TV pharma ads. He says that if the drug is really any good it doesn’t need to be advertised on TV. Unless, of course, it’s a “treatment” for some recently made up discovered condition, e.g., “my eyes are dry,” or what’s that one I’ve seen recently for “blind people need to sync their circadian rhythms”? Is that really a thing? A big enough thing to need TV advertising?

    Well, it is a thing, apparently: Non-24. I apologize in advance to any blind Balloon Juice readers if I have offended them.

    ETA: Also, boner pills. Because doctors aren’t diagnosing and prescribing for that condition enough.

  160. 160
    Germy Shoemangler says:

    @Steeplejack: Many of the ads are for COPD medications and deep-vein thrombosis drugs. “Don’t stop taking this medication, or the rebound effect will kill you.”

    I predict, someday, we’ll stop hearing the long list of side-effects. Some republican somewhere will repeal that law, and it will no longer be mandatory to recite the harmful effects of the drugs.

  161. 161
    Elizabelle says:

    @Steeplejack: I know. Non-24 sounds so “manufactured.”

    I wish we had no broadcast pharma ads, and certainly no boner pill ads. Print ads are plenty.

    And aren’t those patients clamoring for the latest — never mind the cost or even if it’s appreciably better — the poster children for HOF? At least for keeping medical costs under control.

    My other complaint: the insufferable people who know their FICO scores and get their credit swagger on. What assholes to deal with.

  162. 162
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Emma:

    Couscous is a coarsely ground pasta made from semolina, a type of wheat.

    A staple of the North African Maghreb, couscous comes in instant and non-instant varieties.

    Like macaroni and spaghetti, couscous is made from semolina flour, but rather than mixing the semolina with a prescribed amount of water and/or egg into a dough, couscous is made by rubbing the semolina between moistened hands until the flour combines with just enough water to form hundreds of tiny grains. Obviously the process takes a light touch, lest the grains combine into a gooey mass, but once learned it is one of the simplest forms of making pasta and one that is practiced in villages all around the Mediterranean basin.

  163. 163
    Capri says:

    A pro- and an anti-store discount card person live in my household, so we have the big data discussion fairly often. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been brainwashed, but I don’t get the paranoia about this. So Amazon sends me emails suggesting books I might like. (I don’t believe they’d suggest buying a dildo simply because someone bought a LGBT book, but it makes a good story). I’ve not once bought one of their suggestions, but it doesn’t cause me pain to delete the email. Ditto to throw away coupons for goods I don’t use.
    At the and of the day I defend my use of store cards this way: When the black ‘copters finally come and we are all rounded up into the FEMA death camps, at least they’ll know which brand of yogurt I like.”

  164. 164
    Kathleen says:

    @NotMax: Up the Organization by Robert Townsend is another timless classic.

    https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&rlz=1C1SKPL_enUS446&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=up%20the%20organization

    I’d like to read that book. Is it from the early Bernays days?

  165. 165
    Mack says:

    @Elizabelle: Yes, that’s what I should have said. Still scary.

    Kathleen, maybe I missed the point of your post, I try to keep abreast but open threads require more concentration as the topics and replies are all over the map…but while I don’t have any affection for ATT as a company, I have to say that my experience has been pretty good. I had one their DSL thingies and it worked great, and now I have the UVERSE thru my phone line and with four of us accessing the internet at the same time, we rarely experience slow downs and never have we been without service. Of course, I have nothing to compare them to.

  166. 166
    Kathleen says:

    @Steeplejack: Now it’s “post menopausal” pills so women can better enjoy the guys with the boner pills.

  167. 167
    Kathleen says:

    @Elizabelle: Thank you! I HATE those FICO ads and the characters portrayed act like they just booed a gay veteran at a Tea Party Town Hall before they got to the store or dealership or bank branch.

  168. 168
    Germy Shoemangler says:

    Why all the reverse mortgage ads? Henry Winkler, Fred Thompson… and lately it seems like they’re aware of the negative information folks have gotten about reverse mortgages. Because the ads all start out with remarks like “clearing up all the misinformation” and “government-protected”

  169. 169
    Kathleen says:

    @Mack: I have affection for ATT as a company (man past and present friends work there) but have heard nothing but horror stories about its service (DSL particularly), but I’m glad your experience has been positive.

  170. 170
    mere mortal says:

    “massage a large enough block of data with sufficient force, and you can prove anything“

    I would go with a weather forecasting analogy. With a large enough block of data, you can begin to discern the effect of the butterfly.

    Practically, it means that you can find effects that you are confident are true, even when they are not large. Are there roving bands of losers giving products the kiss of death? No, but with enough data, perhaps you can often enough see the footprints of losers near the corpse of a failed product to be confident it’s not just a coincidence.

  171. 171
    Emma says:

    @Gin & Tonic: I did say “my definition of pasta.” More to the point, it’s not usually found in the pasta aisle, at least where I shop. Usually in “ethnic foods”.

  172. 172
    bemused says:

    @Steeplejack:

    Med ads shouldn’t have been allowed at all. They are advertised like laundry detergent but at least they have to list side effects. I can’t imagine who in the world is influenced by tv/radio ads enough to ask their doctors for them but it must work when the ads are so prevalent.

  173. 173
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Elizabelle: I read somewhere (maybe it was here, but I wouldn’t swear to it) that only two countries allow advertising for prescription drugs: the USA and New Zealand. Nowhere but in America have I ever seen prescription drugs advertised in non-medical media.

  174. 174
    Pie Happens (opiejeanne) says:

    @Amir Khalid: It’s a terrible idea. There is one drug that I haven’t figured out what it’s supposed to treat, maybe I’m not paying attention when the spiel starts, but they don’t repeat the condition during the ad and it’s a longish ad. However, I’m supposed to ask my doctor if it’s right for me?

    We always listen to the side effects and laugh because they are so outrageous we can’t make up anything worse, other than a possible head explosion.

    There is one drug that I see advertised now for COPD that was prescribed for me by a doctor for asthma when my doc was on vacation. My doctor looked at what I was taking and asked if I was using it, and I told her I hated the stuff and had set it aside until I talked to her. She said, “I don’t know why he prescribed that but don’t take it any more; the side-effects are terrible. Stick to what I prescribed.” Yes ma’am!

    A lot of what’s advertised here is a replacement for something that is long out of patent.

  175. 175
    Brachiator says:

    @Germy Shoemangler:

    I predict, someday, we’ll stop hearing the long list of side-effects. Some republican somewhere will repeal that law, and it will no longer be mandatory to recite the harmful effects of the drugs.

    The people who most love the side effects patter are the hucksters who push “natural” remedies that supposedly have no side effects at all.

    I have mixed feelings about this stuff. Maybe a better way to do this would be to have a generic line, “please be sure to discuss this medicine, including side effects, with your doctor.” If you don’t know the context and the relative risk of a side effect, you really don’t know much of anything about a medication. But some problems can be so potentially devastating that lots of advance warning might be appropriate.

  176. 176
    Elizabelle says:

    @Amir Khalid: I wonder if Pharma ads actually pay off more for the ad-makers, and the TV and print outlets that run them.

    Maybe they’re taking up the slack for all the advertising that moved to Craigslist etc.

  177. 177
    Repatriated says:

    @Elizabelle: They’re also a way to buy favor (or potentially extort, to put it another way) with broadcasters.

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