Blast from the Past

Jan. 4, 1885 Dr. William W. Grant of Davenport, IA, performs history’s first successful appendectomy, on 22- year-old Mary Gartside.

Jan 15, 2001 Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger launch Wikipedia as a collaborative online reference. The name, of course, combines the Hawaiian “wiki” (quick) with encyclopedia. By July 2011, it is perhaps the world’s most-used reference tool, with 20 million articles in 282 languages, used by hundreds of millions of people.

January 17, 1929 Popeye the Sailor debuts in King Features’ Thimble Theater comic strip, created by Elzie Crisler Segar. January 19, 1915 French inventor Georges Claude (1870-1960) wins a U.S. patent on neon-tube lighting (first demonstrated at the 1910 Paris Motor Show). Claude Neon Lights will enjoy a near monopoly into the 1930s, introducing neon signs to the United States in 1923 by selling two $1,250 “Packard” signs to Earle Anthony’s Los Angeles car dealership.

January 22, 1984 Apple runs its legendary “1984” television commercial, promoting the newly introduced Macintosh computer, during the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII. This is essentially the only time it will appear. (The agency, Chiat/Day, had aired it just once before, in December 1983, at about 1 a.m. in Twin Falls, ID, right before station KMVT signed off for the night—making the spot eligible for 1984 awards.) Ridley Scott directs the commercial, which does win Clio Awards in 1984…and in 2007 is voted the best Super Bowl spot ever.

January 23, 1849 Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) earns her MD from Geneva Medical College in New York State, becoming America’s first female physician. The college reportedly accepts her only after putting her admission to a student vote. The British-born Blackwell has to return to Europe to continue her training. She ultimately returns to the U.S. and in 1853 helps found the New York Dispensary for Poor Women and Children (now New York Downtown Hospital).


In an article and slideshow on, Sarah Kessler uses eye-tracking studies to parse readers’ approaches to Facebook brand pages. Among her take-home messages: wall-coverings rule (visitors “almost always saw the wall first” and images on the wall get the most attention). Brand-page designers should carefully consider profile-photo selection: only 57% of the visitors to Coke’s brand page even looked at the wasp-waisted bottle in the upper-left corner, but 90% of visitors zeroed in on Skittles’ profile portrait. (Read all about it at

Despite the publicity Facebook’s new Timeline feature generated in its official launch, it is not yet an option for brand pages, reports Robert Hof in Forbes’ ( And no introduction date has been announced…though competitive pressures from both Google+ and Twitter (which recently introduced brand presences of their own) will likely spur Facebook to make the service available to marketers sooner rather than later. (In another part of the forest, a Mashable poll monitored users’ responses to Timeline: 24% loved it, 17% thought it would take some getting used to, 9% were indifferent, 23% wanted the old format back, and 10% said they hated it enough to quit.)

Meanwhile, Website Magazine’s “Big List of Social Media Sites” ( offers intriguing insights into the relative size and growth of more than forty social media and sharing sites— from the “Big 5” (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Tumblr) to specialized forums like (for educators, of course). There’s a comparative tally of monthly unique visitors, tracked from November 2010 through November 2011, courtesy of Compete projects its data for the U.S. only, based on data from a panel of about 2 million American consumers. The numbers won’t exactly match the social sites’ own claims—but they do provide a snapshot of the U.S. market.

The “Big List” credits Facebook with 163 million unique U.S. visitors in November 2011, up from 134 million in January 2011 (a 21% increase). Twitter shows 38 million unique visitors (up from 28 million, almost 36% growth); LinkedIn (25 million, up from 16 million, for 56% growth); the new Google+, 14 million (in five months); and Tumblr, 17 million (up from 10 million, for a 70% surge). —D.M.

Visual attention map of Skittles’ Facebook page. Users viewed wall item with photo first, followed by title-block, status bar, profile picture (which features a “Rainbro” product user, rather than a product shot, and got unusually high user attention), right-hand “friends” column, and finally the product shot in the left column. (Web-cam eye-tracking study by EyeTrackShop)



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