Archive for February, 2016

February 29, 2016

Brokered Convention

rnc 2016

trump by Christoph Niemann

Political parties in the US hold conventions to select the party’s nominee for President, as well as to adopt a statement of party principles and goals known as the ‘platform.’ Since the 1970s, voting has for the most part been perfunctory; the selection of the major parties’ nominees have rarely been in doubt, so a single ballot has always been sufficient.

If there is no single candidate receiving a majority of delegates at the end of the primary season, a scenario called a brokered convention results, where a candidate is selected either at or near the convention, through political horse-trading and lesser candidates compelling their delegates to vote for one of the front runners. The closest to a brokered convention in recent years was at the 1976 Republican National Convention, when neither Gerald Ford nor Ronald Reagan received enough votes in the primary to lock up the nomination. Since then, candidates have received enough momentum to reach a majority through pledged and bound delegates before the date of the convention.

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February 28, 2016

The Design of Everyday Things



The Design of Everyday Things‘ is a 1988 book by cognitive scientist and usability engineer Donald Norman on design’s role in enabling communication been objects and their users, and how to optimize that conduit to make the experience more effective. One of the main premises of the book is that although people are often keen to blame themselves when objects appear to malfunction, it is not the fault of the user but rather the lack of intuitive guidance that should be present in the design. In the book, Norman introduced the term ‘affordance’ as it applied to design, defining it as things that afford the opportunity for an organism to perform an action.

For example, a knob affords twisting, and perhaps pushing, while a cord affords pulling. 20th century American psychologist James J. Gibson originally coined the term ‘affordance’ to describe changes made to one’s environment to make them more usable, such as carving stairs into a steep hill. Norman also popularized the term ‘user-centered design’ to describe design based on the needs of the user, leaving aside what he deemed secondary issues like aesthetics. User-centered design involves simplifying the structure of tasks, making things visible, getting the mapping right, exploiting the powers of constraint, designing for error, and explaining affordances.

February 27, 2016

Psychological Pricing

99 cents


Psychological pricing (also known as ‘price ending’ and ‘charm pricing’) is a pricing/marketing strategy based on the theory that certain prices have a psychological impact. Consumers tend to perceive ‘odd prices’ as being significantly lower than they actually are, mentally rounding to the next lowest monetary unit. Thus, prices such as $1.99 are associated with spending $1 rather than $2. Now that many customers are used to odd pricing, some restaurants and high-end retailers psychologically-price in even numbers in an attempt to reinforce their brand image of quality and sophistication.

In a traditional cash transaction, fractional pricing imposes tangible costs on the vendor (printing fractional prices), the cashier (producing awkward change) and the customer (stowing the change). These factors have become less relevant with the increased use of checks, credit and debit cards and other forms of currency-free exchange; also, the addition of sales tax makes the pre-tax price less relevant to the amount of change (although in Europe the sales tax is generally included in the shelf price).

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February 26, 2016

Vomit Comet

reduced gravity

parabolic flight

A reduced-gravity aircraft is a type of fixed-wing aircraft that provides brief near-weightless environments for training astronauts, conducting research and making gravity-free movie shots. Versions of such airplanes, officially nicknamed ‘Weightless Wonders,’ were operated by the NASA Reduced Gravity Research Program.

The aircraft gives its occupants the sensation of weightlessness by following an elliptic flight path relative to the center of the Earth. While following this path, the aircraft and its payload are in free fall at certain points of its flight path. The aircraft is used in this way to demonstrate to astronauts what it is like to orbit the Earth. There are 25 seconds of weightlessness out of 65 seconds of flight in each parabola. The airplane typically flies about 40–60 parabolic maneuvers. In about two thirds of the passengers, these flights produce nausea due to airsickness, giving the plane its nickname ‘vomit comet.

February 25, 2016


disconnected by Joe Morse

Swatting is the act of deceiving an emergency service into dispatching a police response based on the false report of an ongoing critical incident. The term derives from SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics), a heavily armored police unit. Swatting has been associated with online harassment campaigns, and episodes range from the deployment of bomb squads and evacuations of schools and businesses, to a single fabricated police report meant to discredit an individual as a prank or personal vendetta.

The action of swatting – linked to the action of ‘doxxing’ (obtaining the address and details of an individual) – has been described as terrorism due to its potential to cause disruption, waste the time of emergency services, divert attention from real emergencies and possibly cause injuries and psychological harm to persons targeted. The act of making false reports to emergency services is punishable by prison sentences in the US and is a crime in many other countries.

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February 24, 2016



Microdosing is a technique for studying the behavior of drugs in humans through the administration of doses so low (‘sub-therapeutic’) they are unlikely to produce whole-body effects, but high enough to allow the cellular response to be studied. This allows the observation of a drug’s pharmacokinetics with a low risk of side effects. This is called a ‘Phase 0 study’ and is usually conducted before clinical Phase I to predict whether a drug is viable for the next phase of testing. Human microdosing aims to reduce the resources spent on non-viable drugs and the amount of testing done on animals.

Psychedelic drugs are also sometimes used at sub-therapeutic doses for non-hallucinogenic effects. For example, LSD at one tenth the normal dose has been reported to have antidepressant properties and is said to aid in problem solving.


February 23, 2016

Pepper’s Ghost

haunted mansion

Dircksian Phantasmagoria

Pepper’s ghost is an illusion technique used in theater, amusement parks, museums, television, and concerts. It is named after John Henry Pepper, a scientist who popularized the effect in a famed demonstration in 1862. It has a long history, dating into the 16th century, and remains widely performed today.

Notable examples of the illusion are the ‘Girl-to-Gorilla’ trick found in old carnival sideshows and the appearance of ‘ghosts’ at the ‘Haunted Mansion’ at Disneyland. Teleprompters are a modern implementation of Pepper’s ghost. They reflect a speech or script and are commonly used for live broadcasts such as news programs. Examples of concert illusions based on Pepper’s ghost are the appearance of Tupac Shakur onstage with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg at the 2012 Coachella Music and Arts Festival and Michael Jackson at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards.

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February 21, 2016


Merman by Sean Naylor

In scholastic philosophy, quiddity [kwid-i-tee] was another term for the essence of an object, literally ‘what it is’ or its ‘whatness.’ The term derives from the Latin word ‘quidditas,’ meaning ‘what it was to be (a given thing),’ which was used by the medieval scholastics as a literal translation of the equivalent term in Aristotle’s Greek. It describes properties that a particular substance (e.g. a person) shares with others of its kind. The question ‘what (quid) is it?’ asks for a general description by way of commonality.

Quiddity was often contrasted by the scholastic philosophers with the ‘haecceity’ or ‘thisness’ of an item, which was supposed to be a positive characteristic of an individual that caused them to be this individual, and no other. It is used in this sense in British poet George Herbert’s eponymous poem, ‘Quiddity.’ In law, the term is used to refer to a quibble or academic point. An example can be seen in Hamlet’s graveside speech: ‘Where be his quiddities now, his quillets, his cases, his tenures’ says Hamlet, referring to a lawyer’s quiddities.

February 20, 2016

Brand Management

Generic trademark

In marketing, brand management is the analysis and planning on how a brand is perceived in the market, with the goal of developing a good relationship with the target market. Tangible elements of brand management include the product itself (i.e. the look, price, packaging). Intangible elements include the experience that the consumer has had with the brand, and also their relationship with it. A brand manager would oversee all of these things. The modern discipline of brand management is considered to have been started by a famous memo at Procter & Gamble by Neil H. McElroy.

Marketing scholar Molly Hislop defined branding as ‘the process of creating a relationship or a connection between a company’s product and emotional perception of the customer for the purpose of generating segregation among competition and building loyalty among customers.’ It is a fulfillment in customer expectations and consistent customer satisfaction. Brand management aims to create an emotional connection between products, companies and their customers and constituents. Brand managers create strategies to convert a suspect to prospect; prospect to buyer; buyer to customer and customer to brand advocates.

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February 19, 2016

Inbound Marketing


content is king

Inbound marketing is promoting a company through blogs, podcasts, video, eBooks, electronic newsletters, whitepapers, SEO (search engine optimization), physical products, social media marketing, and other forms of content marketing which serve to attract customers through the different stages of the purchase funnel. In contrast, buying attention (marketing stunts), cold-calling, direct paper mail, radio, TV advertisements, sales flyers, spam, telemarketing, and traditional advertising are considered ‘outbound marketing.’

Inbound marketing refers to marketing activities that bring visitors in, rather than marketers having to go out to get prospects’ attention. Inbound marketing earns the attention of customers, makes the company easy to be found, and draws customers to the website by producing interesting content. Many companies are now realizing that their technical documentation, often considered a ‘necessary evil,’ is authoritative, trustworthy content that can be their most effective inbound marketing channel, generating more than half of overall site traffic and over half of lead generation.

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February 18, 2016

Earned Media


hump day

Earned media refers to publicity gained through promotional efforts other than advertising, as opposed to ‘paid media,’ which refers to publicity gained through advertising. There are many types of media available to online marketers and fit into the broad categories. Owned media is defined as communication channels that are within one’s control, such as websites, blogs, or email.  Paid media refers mostly to traditional advertising. Earned media, on the other hand, is generated when content receives recognition and a following outside of traditional paid advertising, through communication channels such as social media and word of mouth.

A Nielsen study in 2013 found that earned media (also described in the report as ‘word-of-mouth’) is the most trusted source of information in all countries it surveyed worldwide. It also found that earned media is the channel most likely to stimulate the consumer to action. Other authorities make the distinction between online and offline earned media / word-of-mouth, and have shown that offline word-of-mouth has been found to be more effective than online word-of-mouth.

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February 17, 2016

History of Marketing

Customer Purchase Funnel


The study of the history of marketing as an academic field emerged only recently with the publication of ‘The History of Marketing Thought’ by Robert Bartels in 1976. Broadly defined marketing is any activity that connects producers with consumers, which was previously considered a subtopic of economics. Wroe Alderson’s book, ‘Marketing Behavior and Executive Action’ (1957) is also considered a break-point in the history of marketing thought. After Alderson, marketing began to incorporate other fields of knowledge besides economics, notably behavioral science, developing into a multidisciplinary field.

Marketing historian Jagdish Shethhave identified three schools of marketing: Managerial (systematized marketing emerged during the late 1950s and became arguably the predominant and most influential school of thought in the field), Consumer/Buyer Behavior (the use of behavioral science to market goods and services was popularized in the second half of the twentieth century), and Social Exchange (recently, ‘exchange’ has been forwarded as the fundamental concept of marketing).

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