Tag Archives: Linkonomicon

More than One Way to Vaccinate a Cat

No, this isn’t about cat vaccinations, but you should make sure all your pets’ shots are up to date, too. It is what we like to call, in the business, word play (technically, the term is “god-awful, hacky word play”).

With the focus placed on vaccinations by the measles screwing with Disneyland, there has been a lot of pessimistic coverage of the research showing that there is not a single, magic bullet, public service message (out of an exhaustive set of four options) that will convince everyone to vaccinate.

Over at Science News, Bethany Brookshire has an excellent post discussing the many ways to persuade people to vaccinate and why certain strategies are more likely to work for some, but not for others.

Research has begun to examine why people fear vaccines, and what can be done about it…But in all of the research, one thing is clear: There is not a single, foolproof way to convey that the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the harms.

-Bethany Brookshire at Science News

In the conclusion, Bethany raises the critical point that our public health approaches to vacccination have actually been pretty effective. Vaccination rates remain high, even if they have slumped a bit recently.

We may be at the limits of what can be achieved through public service messaging and need to focus on one-on-one interactions, while keeping the public pro-vaccination message strong.

Luckily, parents who adamantly refuse to vaccinate are in the minority. Unluckily, as the Disneyland outbreak shows, that tiny minority is still needed to keep infectious diseases from rising again. “The reality is that most people do get vaccinated, “Wilson says. “Maybe it’s 90 percent, but you need 95 or 100 percent. It’s challenging to get 100 percent of the population to agree to something. It’s not that there’s a disastrous failure of messaging. It’s that the threshold for success is so high.”

-Bethany Brookshire at Science News

Having been in many men’s restrooms, I can state confidently that we are doing a better job on vaccination than we are on hand washing.

…the bell trolls for thee

According to a purported, internal Twitter memo obtained by The Verge, Twitter’s CEO Dick Costolo is taking personal responsibility for their poor record of dealing with abusive behavior on their platform – behavior that makes Twitter, as well as other online spaces, unwelcoming to non-white, non-cis-male individuals. Costolo wants this reputation to change and will, apparently, be putting serious resources behind this effort. Twitter is finally recognizing the need to combat online abuse and trolls, not that this is the right thing to do, but because it is costing them valuable users.

We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we’ve sucked at it for years. It’s no secret and the rest of the world talks about it every day. We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day.

I’m frankly ashamed of how poorly we’ve dealt with this issue during my tenure as CEO. It’s absurd.
-Nitasha Tiku & Casey Newton quoting Twitter CEO Dick Costolo from what is, reportedly, a Twitter internal memo

For those of us interested in having online spaces be venues for debate, discussion, and promotion of equality, the prospect of robust tools built into the platform and taken seriously by Twitter is potentially a huge step forward.

HT: Alex Medina

And the Title II goes to…

According to multiple reports and his own opinion piece in Wired, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is ready to propose rules to protect Net Neutrality by extending Title II utility status to broadband. Wheeler wrote in Wired:

Originally, I believed that the FCC could assure internet openness through a determination of “commercial reasonableness” under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. While a recent court decision seemed to draw a roadmap for using this approach, I became concerned that this relatively new concept might, down the road, be interpreted to mean what is reasonable for commercial interests, not consumers.

That is why I am proposing that the FCC use its Title II authority to implement and enforce open internet protections.

This appears to be a victory for the grassroots activism that has been fighting the large telecom lobbyists. The full details of his proposal are not yet available. So, we shall have to wait and hope that today’s optimism is well founded in the fine print of a 300+ page document.

Wanted: Leadership

In the wake of Chris Christie and Rand Paul pandering to the anti-vaccine crowd using bankrupt personal liberty rhetoric (coherent libertarian ideology requires one to admit that externalities* exist), Sarah Despres, former Congressional staffer, connects Congress’ abdication of leadership on the vital health initiative of vaccinations for political expediency to the current revival of measles as something parents have to fear:

Few legislators were prepared to stand up for science…As for the others, the antivaccine evidence presented might have been shaky, but the science is complicated. And most members of Congress — on the committee and off — did not feel comfortable opposing the advocates and parents armed with heartbreaking stories of children whose autism seemed to come on just after they received their routine immunizations.
-Sarah Despres in Politico Magazine

*The economic version of the basic concept parents not named Ron Paul teach their children that their actions affect other people and that you are responsible for the effects of those actions.

P-Value Interpretation

If all else fails, use “significant at p>0.05 level” and hope no one notices.
-xkcd by Randall Munroe

I can’t say that I ever thought about doing this, but I can admit feeling enormous stress proofreading for “less than” signs pointing the wrong direction – an anxiety that may have been justified on more than one occassion.

xkcd by Randall Munroe (CC BY-NC 2.5)