BLAST FROM THE PAST

November 4, 1924
Nellie Tayloe Ross is elected governor of Wyoming, becoming the first female governor in U.S. history.
November 5, 1872
Suffragist Susan B. Anthony casts a presidential-election ballot in Rochester, NY—a “crime” for which she will later be arrested, tried, and fined $100
November 11, 1930
Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard receive U.S. patent number 1781541 for the Einstein refrigerator, which has no moving parts and requires only a source of heat to cool its contents.
November 12, 1990
CERN researcher Tim Berners-Lee distributes WorldWideWeb: Proposal for a HyperText Project, outlining what will become the Web (which he and colleague Robert Cailliau will demonstrate on the following month, on Christmas Day). (See www.w3.org/Proposal.) November 18, 1865
Mark Twain publishes “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” in the New York Saturday Press, launching his national reputation.
November 19, 1863
Abraham Lincoln delivers the Gettysburg Address.

You Are What You Post

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin, University of Washington, and the Seattle Children’s Research Institute have quantified the intuitive: People who post lots of pictures on Facebook showing themselves drunk are more likely—more than four times more likely, in fact—to be problem drinkers. The study, published online at the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine (tinyurl.com/3mx59sc) surveyed 227 undergraduates. It also found that students whose pages showed “intoxication/problem drinking” scored 64% higher on the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test than students whose pages showed less intense or no images of alcohol use. Though it’s tempting to file the results under “Duh,” the study does open the door to using social media as quick screens for young people who might be at risk. S

Santa’s Mobile Helpers

Despite retailers’ attempts during the past few holiday seasons to make mobile offerings more readily available to shoppers, consumers have remained largely resistant to making purchases via smartphones and tablets. Although many did use their mobiles to browse for gifts in 2010, only a very small percentage of users actually intended to buy. The rest were just window-shopping. But there is reason to believe that this year could be different. A PayPal survey of smartphone and tablet owners forecasts a 50% increase in mobile purchases this holiday season. And to what do retailers owe this surge in “couch commerce,” as PayPal dubbed it? A large increase in both smartphone and tablet users, more than likely. But tablets might be the larger influence of the two. Browsing on a larger screen is more comfortable for consumers, and more comfort means more purchases. Mobile shopping also appears to correlate with early shopping. As consumers begin to shop not only from the comfort of their homes but also from stores, restaurants and other places of business, they plan to start shopping earlier this year than previous years. An August GoogleAdMob survey indicated that almost half of smartphone shoppers were more likely to begin shopping before Black Friday than any other group. There might also be evidence to suggest that m-shoppers are willing to spend more than traditional shoppers, since they tend to be more affluent. Regardless, the number of smartphone and tablet users is growing quickly. A BDO USA survey of retail CFOs discovered that 54% planned to invest more in mobile commerce next year and that 49% expected more than 10% growth from this channel in 2011, up 5 percentage points from last year. —Lauren Genovisi

GETTING READY FOR 2012

As we gird ourselves for the coming Presidential election year, PM360 spotlights potential sources of perspective on the impending contests.

BEFORE APPROVING THAT MESSAGE

If 2012 is anything like the last handful of elections, the general viewing public can expect a healthy onslaught of campaign ads to pepper their nighttime television viewing. Of course, Presidential hopefuls spend exorbitant amounts of money on these ads, finding them to be very effective tools to espouse their message and to disparage their opponents, but how effective are they really? New studies by political scientists suggest they’re not as influential as one might think. Evidence suggests that campaign ads might be effective for unknown candidates, but candidates with existing reputations might do better to spend their hard-raised dollars on something else. Once voters have been informed about a given candidate, their opinions have already been formed, so ads will do little to persuade them. That’s why challengers do better with ads than incumbents do. In 2012, then, ads for Obama and his Republican challenger won’t have much effect on the Presidential outcome, but that may not be the case for Congressional races. Furthermore, the content of the ads matters a lot less than their volume. In both 2000 and 2008 Presidential campaigns, the winner vastly outspent his opponent. This might be something to look out for in 2012. The shelf-life of campaign ads is apparently short, however—no more than a week. Then opinion polls swing back to their pre-ad levels. In other words, campaigns may be wasting millions of dollars in early advertising, since the effects of ads running today will dissipate long before the election. (On the other hand, strategists have suggested that President Clinton’s early advertising was his key to victory in 1992, though there is little objective evidence.) —L.G.

CARE TO WAGER?

Too bad Nostradamus isn’t around for this innovation; he could have made a fortune predicting political winners and economic windfalls. But surely, there are plenty living who’d like to take advantage. InTrade is a platform where users make predictions by buying and selling shares on the outcome of hundreds of real-world events. The events are always defined as a yes/no proposition, and the markets are based on probabilities. Users buy and sell shares in the market based on their predictions, and good guesses bring real world profits. Wager on almost anything, from the outcome of political elections and winners at the Academy Awards to the stock market values. And it’s as simple as playing black/red or odd/even in roulette. Once you choose the market event you want to play, you either buy shares, if you predict the market event will happen, or sell shares if you predict it won’t happen. (InTrade markets reportedly predicted the exact Electoral College totals in both the 2004 and 2008 elections—something no other poll or prognosticator managed.) InTrade is an exchange, just like the New York or London stock exchanges. When you buy shares, you are buying them from other InTrade members. And when you sell shares, another member of the exchange is buying them from you. So how big are the returns? When the outcome of an event becomes known, the market will settle at either zero or $10, depending on the result. Your profits will depend on the price you paid for the shares, which will always be somewhere in between zero and $10. This may turn nightly news viewing into a different kind of event for gamblers, who no longer have to hang out at race tracks, casinos or off-track betting centers to satisfy their itch. —L.G.

What Grows Now

The American marketplace has often responded with enthusiasm to products that reduce the dignity of politicians running for office. Remember 2008’s Chia Pet caricatures of the candidates? This year, however, something other than sprouts is growing on the candidates’ faces—big, honking noses. And instead of slinging the product in pharmacies and newsstands, this innovation comes through a digital channel: Lori Williams and Tableau Software have created the Washington Post Fact Checker’s Pinocchio Tracker for the 2012 campaign. The program checks the candidate’s current statements against those made previously to deliver a consistency rating, generating a Pinocchio check wherever a discrepancy is detected. And along with each candidate’s rating, a link is posted that leads the user to the relevant article. Hovering over a candidate’s name will prod the tracker to also calculate the average number of Pinocchio’s a politician has received. The tracker will be updated at the end of every week, so the user will be supplied with up-to-the-minute reportage on every Pinocchio-inflected moment of the upcoming campaign. Looks like an opportunity for biased reporting? Maybe, although that remains to be seen. Conservatives may be pleased to see that President Obama has been graded far more than any other candidate, though most ratings are on the lower end of the scale. However, this may have less to do with any political bent of the software than with the size of the politician’s staff for vetting his statements. For example, it may not be coincidental that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has an average rating similar to Obama’s as well as a comparably sized research staff. So who fares poorly on the Pinocchio tracker? It may be too early to say, but candidates who tend towards off-the-cuff remarks—such as Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.)—seem to end up with far more Pinocchio’s. —L.G.

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