Start Up No.1286: the exit metric for coronavirus, YouTube ad rates plummet, the trouble with ‘immunoprivilege’, pollsters rejoice!, and more


Use your imagination: what sort of home furnishing could you turn a smaller one of these into? Answer below. CC-licensed photo by Ian Abbott on Flickr.

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A selection of 10 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

The metric we need to manage COVID-19 • systrom

Kevin Systrom (you know, the Instagram guy):

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As we socially distance and isolate, R [the ratio of infected people to people newly infected] plummets. Because the value changes so rapidly, epidemiologists have argued that the only true way to combat COVID19 is to understand and manage by Rt [the value of R over time].

I agree, and I’d go further: we not only need to know Rt, we need to know local Rt. New York’s epidemic is vastly different than California’s and using a single number to describe them both is not useful. Knowing the local Rt allows us to manage the pandemic effectively.

States have had a variety of lockdown strategies, but there’s very little understanding of which have worked and which need to go further. Some states like California have been locked down for weeks, while others like Iowa and Nebraska continue to balk at taking action as cases rise. Being able to compare local Rts between different areas and/or watch how Rt changes in one place can help us measure how effective local policies are at slowing the spread of the virus.

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He then goes on to provide estimates for Rt for multiple states; the implication seems to be that for many, it’s below the crucial figure of 1. But calculating it depends a great deal on testing, which varies so much that the estimate for Rt swings wildly too.

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Where you can buy used airplane windows, lights, seats, coffeemakers, bathrooms and other parts • Core77

Rain Noe:

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In 2005, Derk-Jan van Heerden was an aerospace engineering student at TU Delft. That year he wrote his Master’s thesis on the subject of “What happens to decommissioned airplanes?”

After graduating, van Heerden got a job with KLM’s Engineering and Maintenance division, where he managed the disassembly of a Boeing 747. He didn’t last long; after just five months, van Heerden had learned enough to start his own company, Aircraft End-of-Life Solutions…

…While their main business is reselling operational parts to the aircraft industry, “We receive many requests from people who want to buy aircraft parts for decoration,” the company writes. As a result, they’ve begun holding periodic sales and auctions open to anyone. You can buy wheels, lights, landing gear, ovens, coffeemakers, business class seats, the bathrooms, you name it.

“We love to see how creative people can be with aircraft components,” they write. “Did you ever try to make a photo frame out of an airplane window? Or a bar from an engine inlet? What is the coolest thing you have ever made of aircraft parts? Ours is this coffee table.”

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Brilliant. And here’s the Excel spreadsheet of their parts and prices. Coffee table glass extra.
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As YouTube traffic soars, YouTubers say pay is plummeting • OneZero

Chris Stokel-Walker:

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Newspapers, websites, and TV channels have all been decimated by the coronavirus. And YouTubers are also feeling the pinch.

While boredom-inducing stay-at-home orders may be good for YouTube channel traffic, increasing by 15%, according to the New York Times, YouTubers say that the rates companies pay to advertise on their videos are dropping significantly. That means that despite increased audiences, some YouTubers are making less money.

Carlos Pacheco, a former media buyer turned YouTube adviser, says that across 180 YouTube channels he works with — which have a total of nearly 68 million subscribers worldwide across a range of different interests — advertising rates have tanked by an average of nearly 50% since the start of February.

“Everyone is pausing their campaigns on YouTube,” Pacheco says.

Data from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), an advertising industry body, suggests that one in four media buyers and brands have paused all advertising for the first half of 2020, and a further 46% have adjusted their spending downwards. Three-quarters say the coronavirus will be more damaging for the ad industry than the 2008–09 financial crisis. That means fewer ads for Big Macs on TV and in newspapers, but it also means advertisers are less likely to compete for the pre-roll ads that usher you toward your next YouTube video.

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Which implies that people won’t be going for subscriptions to avoid the ads, either. Lose-lose for YouTube.
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Gardaí suspect masts set on fire deliberately in Co Donegal • Irish Times

Stephen Maguire:

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Gardaí said pieces of coal were found at the scenes of the fires.
“We do suspect the fires were started deliberately,” a garda source said. “Traces of coal were found near the control boxes beside the masts.”

Forensic examinations of the scenes were carried on Monday and the results of tests are being awaited.

A spokesman for Eir said the masts were used to provide 3G and 4G internet.

“They were designed to improve indoor coverage, including at Letterkenny Hospital,” he said.
A conspiracy theory linking 5G technology to the spread of coronavirus has spread on social media in recent weeks. However, international radiation experts have repeatedly made clear that the new high-speed telephone system does not pose a risk to humans, while pointing out that the coronavirus has spread widely in many countries without any 5G coverage, such as Iran.

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Ofcom data shows that the EMF emissions are about 1% of the maximum recommended level. But stupid is widespread: some masts in Holland were burnt too.
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The dangerous history of immunoprivilege • The New York Times

Kathryn Olivarius recalls how yellow fever created a two-tier state in the southern US in the mid-19th century:

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immunity was more than a product of epidemiological luck. In the context of the Deep South, it was wielded as a weapon. From the start, wealthy white New Orleanians made sure that while mosquitoes were equal-opportunity vectors, yellow fever would be anything but colorblind. Pro-slavery theorists used yellow fever to argue that racial slavery was natural, even humanitarian, because it allowed whites to socially distance themselves; they could stay at home, in relative safety, if black people were forced to labor and trade on their behalf. In 1853, the “Weekly Delta” newspaper claimed, ludicrously, that three-quarters of all deaths from yellow fever were among abolitionists.

Black people, with limited access to health care, were of course as scared of yellow fever as anyone else. But those enslaved people who’d acquired immunity increased their monetary value to their owners by up to 50 percent. In essence, black people’s immunity became white people’s capital.

Yellow fever did not make the South into a slave society, but it widened the divide between rich and poor. High mortality, it turns out, was economically profitable for New Orleans’s most powerful citizens because yellow fever kept wage workers insecure, and so unable to bargain effectively. It’s no surprise, then, that city politicians proved unwilling to spend tax money on sanitation and quarantine efforts, and instead argued that the best solution to yellow fever was, paradoxically, more yellow fever. The burden was on the working classes to get acclimated, not on the rich and powerful to invest in safety net infrastructure.

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Something tells me we’re going to see history repeat itself with coronavirus, immunity and the deep divisions in the US.
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Beijing Diary: the Great Wall of coronavirus data • Nikkei Asian Review

Tetsushi Takahashi:

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Badaling [part of the Great Wall] had been closed for two months to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but it reopened on March 24. Tickets must be purchased online in advance, and entries will be stopped if the number of visitors exceeds about 30% of normal levels. Last summer, up to 65,000 visitors passed through per day; now the limit is around 20,000.

Usually, the place is so packed you cannot move. So this might be an ideal time for a leisurely visit.

I saw a middle-aged woman making a video call on her smartphone. “You should visit here now!” she said. “You can get in without waiting in line.”

Still, hordes of people do form here and there — especially at Beibalou, the highest point in Badaling, and Haohanshi, a popular photography spot. A worrying thought crossed my mind: What if these crowds included a coronavirus carrier? I wondered if the Chinese authorities shared this concern.

Then I remembered that, upon entering, I had been asked to show my smartphone with the Health Kit service screen.

One registers for this through the WeChat mobile messaging app, by providing a face photo and personal identification number. Using big data, the service detects whether registered individuals have had contact with anyone known to be infected, and tracks infected people leaving Beijing. When I entered my passport number and picture, I promptly received an all-clear message.

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Brave new strange new world.
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Pollsters find unexpected boon: Americans stuck at home willing to talk • The Hill

Jonathan Easley and Reid Wilson:

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Lonely Americans trapped in their homes because of the coronavirus outbreak are answering their phones to talk to political pollsters in big numbers, a reversal of fortunes for an industry that has recently struggled to connect with people.

The Hill interviewed more than a half-dozen of the nation’s top political pollsters, and all of them said the same thing: People are locked indoors. They’re bored. And they’re far more likely to answer the phone when an unidentified number blazes across their cell phone screens.

Public Policy Polling director Tom Jensen said he bought a list that normally assures him of 500 respondents. He booked 1,000 interviews in no time flat.

Suffolk University polling director David Paleologos said the response rate for some of his surveys is three times what it normally is.

OnMessage pollster Wes Anderson told The Hill that in a typical call, the goal is to complete the survey in 20 minutes or less because you start losing people after 13 minutes on the phone. At the moment, respondents are hanging on the line for 30 minutes or more.

“Our response rates are through the roof now that we have a captive audience,” said John Anzalone, the chief pollster for former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign. “Everyone is home and people want to talk.”

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Silver linings, baby, silver linings. I wonder if this will mean that the polling information is more accurate this year, though.
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How coronavirus will blow up the 2020 campaign • POLITICO

Jeff Greenfield:

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The impact of a well-crafted convention, hammering home key arguments, can leave voters with a positive impression of a party, and can make a difference even before the main event of a nominee’s acceptance speech. (Think Bill Clinton making the case for Obama’s re-election in 2012.) As for the acceptance speech, they have made a real difference to charismatically challenged nominees like George H.W. Bush in 1988 and Al Gore in 2000. It’s exactly the kind of setting Joe Biden needs… and one that a virtual convention would not provide. So what to do?

Based on the optics alone, the worst idea would be to stage some “safe” version of a gathering, like having a few hundred party insiders space themselves six feet apart in an arena. As anyone who’s ever worked advance will tell you, there’s nothing more deflating than an event staged in a mostly empty hall.

Longtime Republican operatives Mike Murphy suggests that campaigns forget the old model and try something radically new. “I’d call Hollywood and say, ‘We need a great 90 minute movie … and start thinking about this now,’ ” he said. “Hollywood people know how to do this better than political hacks.”

Robert Shrum, who helped shape Democratic campaigns from Ed Kennedy to Al Gore, has a different notion: “If I was with the Biden campaign I’d work long and hard at shaping an acceptance speech that’s more of a ‘fireside chat.’ I’d forget about shaping sound bites and go for a narrative and a logical consistency. You have to deliver them in a conversational way. And I think Biden can pull this off. One of the things that people think is a weakness is a strength. He’s reassuring, not a revolutionary.”

Whatever the campaign might come up with—Hollywood dazzle or calm reassurance—one key question is what the broadcast networks will cover. Over the years, they’ve featured less and less convention coverage, jointly broadcasting only the last night of the convention, with the nominee’s speech. Will they agree to run, say, a two-hour film instead? A pre-recorded speech?

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This is going to be a very weird campaign indeed.
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Work-at-home causes one-third surge in demand for notebooks and tablets across Europe • IDC

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Initial feedback on the first quarter across Europe suggests a spike of a third or so in year-on-year demand for notebook computers and tablets, as COVID-19 lockdowns have led companies to equip employees to work at home and students set themselves up to study remotely.

“This has led to many retailers and distributors in Western Europe running out of stock,” said Malini Paul, research manager at IDC EMEA. “Disruption to the supply chain in China following the lockdown in Wuhan over the Chinese New Year cut deliveries into the European market by approximately 15%–20% in the first quarter. More than 90% of the portable PCs and tablets imported into Europe are manufactured and assembled in China.”

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China CPI up 4.3% in March 2020; pork more than doubles • China Internet Watch

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In March, prices of Food, Tobacco, and Liquor went up by 13.6% year-on-year, affecting nearly 4.10 percentage points increase in the CPI.

• Livestock meat price up by 78.0% affecting nearly 3.44 percentage points increase in the CPI (the price of pork was up by 116.4% affecting nearly 2.79 percentage points increase in the CPI);

• The price of aquatic products rose by 2.8% affecting nearly 0.05 percentage point increase in the CPI

•The price of eggs went up by 1.9% affecting the CPI up by about 0.01 percentage point

• Fresh fruit and vegetable prices dropped by 6.1 and 0.1% affecting the CPI down by 0.12 percentage point in total.

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Food prices up by 18.3%. That’s the one to watch: if that trend is sustained for any length of time, things begin to look bad.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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