Numlock News: August 13, 2018

By Walt Hickey

Cleaning Crew Crows

A new cleaning crew was brought in at the Puy du Fou park in France comprised of 6 crows who have been trained to pick up litter and cigarette butts. Every time one of the highly intelligent birds deposits a piece of litter in a box, a piece of bird food comes out. I get the motivation here, but I will point out that the use of highly intelligent bird-like animals in a theme park environment was tested once before and, according to the 1993 documentary “Jurassic Park,” it did not go great.

Agence France Presse

Water Cooler Talk

The social network Blind allows employees to talk anonymously about their company in private channels, and it is a massive success in Silicon Valley. It has over 2 million users, with tens of thousands of users at Microsoft, Amazon and Google, it has a major international footprint — at South Korean companies with more than 200 employees, half of all employees use the service in a month — but it’s the engagement numbers that are truly wild. A typical monthly active user logs in 3 to 4 times per day and spends 35 minutes using the app. When Uber was imploding, at its height Uber employees were spending nearly 3 hours a day on the service.

John Chen, TechCrunch

Fossil Fuel Dollars

The Democratic National Committee voted 30-2 to apparently roll back a unanimous pledge to prohibit donations from PACs tied to fossil fuel companies. The new resolution says the party apparatus will take money from “employers’ political action committees.” Oil and gas companies spent $7.6 million on Democratic races in 2016 compared to $53.7 million on Republicans.

Alexander C. Kaufman, HuffPost

Thanks so much to the paid subscribers to Numlock News who make this possible. This past Sunday, they read all about how grooming beaches can wipe out ecosystems that beach goers would otherwise love to keep around.

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The U.S. budget deficit through the first 10 months of this fiscal year is $684 billion, up 20.8 percent from the same period last year. Projections have the deficit up 33.7 percent at the end of the year.

CBS, The Associated Press

Fake Views

As long as people derive self-worth from YouTube views, there’s gonna be people selling fake YouTube views. One site — Devumi — made over $1.2 million selling 196 million fake video views over the course of three years. YouTube said it works to keep fake views below 1 percent of views per day, and given its billions of video views that’s still on the order of tens of millions.

Michael H. Keller, The New York Times

School Security

In the 1999-2000 school year, 19 percent of public schools had security cameras. After a generation of students scarred by school shootings, that figure was up to 81 percent by the 2015-16 school year. This has been a financial windfall for the security industry: it costs about $170,000 to $540,000 to get a high school outfitted in the latest security suite.

Mark Keierleber, The Atlantic


A new study sought to find out how many livery cabs a city truly needs. This is a thorny question that has been at the heart of the debate around services like Lyft and Uber’s roles in cities. Prior to the arrival of ride sharing apps, New York had 13,637 taxi licenses, Chicago has 6,904, Boston had 1,825, Philly had 1,600 and San Francisco had 1,700. These were fairly (though not entirely) arbitrary figures. A new analysis of 1.5 million trips in Austin, Texas finds that the optimal balance of cars on the road and passengers requesting those rides occurs when drivers average 3.4 trip requests an hour, which means 30 drivers for every 100 trip requests.

Emily Badger, The New York Times

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Previous Sunday special editions: Beaches · Bubbles · NYC Trash · Fish Wars · Women’s Jeans · Video Stores