Web Excursions 2022-07-31
Fifteen miles from the seat of the Indian government, cows rummage for fruit peels and pigs wallow in stagnant water.
this spring’s heat wave, which continued into the summer, has been unprecedented in its severity, duration, and geographic expanse.
Across much of northern India, where more than a billion people live, temperatures have regularly soared past a hundred and ten degrees, and slightly lower temperatures have often combined with very high humidity—a dangerous combination.
On a particularly hot day in May, the high in Delhi hit a hundred and twenty-one, and overheated birds fell from the sky.
each day the temperature rises above ninety-five degrees in India, the annual mortality rate increases by three-quarters of a per cent. (In the United States, the rate increases by only .03 per cent.)
Still, when I opened the door, I was stunned by the three-dimensionality of the heat. The sun fried my skin but also somehow roasted me from within. I felt as if I’d swallowed a space heater.
“We are living,” Saira said. “But we are also dying.”
In the worst cases, the body desperately shunts blood to the extremities in an effort to release heat, in the process starving internal organs of oxygen and causing damage to the gut, liver, nerves, and blood vessels. This is heatstroke; up to two-thirds of cases are fatal.
Sharma’s task was made easier, she said, by the fact that so many patients had the same problems. Nearly half the people she saw had respiratory issues—such as asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema—which she attributed to the city’s punishing air pollution.
Inhalers, calamine lotion, oral rehydration salts—these three medications made up the bulk of her prescriptions.
“The A.C.s in cars can’t function at such high temperatures,” he said. “The cars become extremely hot. The other day, three passengers came in—one person vomiting, one person with fever, one person so weak he couldn’t move.”
A psychiatrist by training, Sindhu was especially troubled by a surge in psychological distress caused by the heat. “Patients with bipolar disorder, with schizophrenia—they are really struggling,” he said. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in its 2022 report, highlighted for the first time the dire mental-health effects of a warming planet: anxiety, grief, stress, post-traumatic stress disorder. In recent years, heat has been linked to a rise in suicides among Indian farmers, whose livelihoods have been imperilled.
But we should talk about the non-clinical aspects as well. People can’t concentrate at work. When they’re stopped at red lights, they’re ready to fight with each other. The high temperatures are causing irritation and aggression.
Streetcar cables melted, roads buckled, crops burned, and schools were closed.
“I feel sick,” he said. “On really hot days, I just keep vomiting. I think, O.K., I should at least put up an umbrella over my cart. But the stores behind us won’t let us. They say it blocks the view of their storefronts.”
Extreme maximum temperatures grab the headlines, but high minimum temperatures are perilous, too. Normally, the body cools off during sleep; hot nights disrupt that return to equilibrium, and heat deaths spike when nighttime temperatures fail to drop below eighty-five degrees—a regular occurrence for much of this spring in northern India.
On some station platforms, Indian Railways has added misting systems; the tiny water droplets absorb heat, reducing ambient temperatures by as much as thirteen degrees. (Misting is less effective in humid conditions.)
You can’t shut out climate change the way a gated community shuts out crime, litter, or traffic. It’s a delusion to think that we can harm the whole planet without suffering too much ourselves.
For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, higher temperatures also seem to cause more coughing, breathlessness, and sputum production among such patients.
In a nearby bed, a young girl lay sleeping. I traced the I.V. tubing from her arm up along the pole next to her. A bag of fluid hung at the top, dripping its contents one hydrating drop at a time. I thought about how a warmer planet would affect her ability to study, work, and live, and about how little time we have to change course. The dripping of the I.V. felt less like a remedy than a countdown.
Is Reels even working?
according to my reading of the data, it’s only working about half as well as Stories was two years after it launched.
Reels, on the other hand, only accounts for 20% of time spent—despite the fact that Instagram is pushing it a lot harder.
The only thing they did to get us to use Stories was put that little row of circles at the top of our feeds.
But now they’re actually sprinkling Reels directly inside our feeds so they’re impossible to ignore.
Why is Reels neither a hit nor a total flop?
Reels isn’t just a different format for the same kind of content people already share on Instagram.
which matched what people already wanted from Instagram (photos and videos from people you know),
Reels/TikToks are created for and by randos.
The whole point is that anyone might see it, so you should make it entertaining even if they don’t know you.
Relationships are secondary.
With these types of videos, the whole point is the “for you” page which shows you content by anyone.
This is the key design decision that made people create content differently, and allowed the TikTok algorithm to be so effective: it had a lot of broadly entertaining stuff to choose from.
The one big format thing that matters is the music and reusable sounds,
because when you have unfamiliar people in most of the videos you see, it helps to balance that with familiar audio.
This is also why memes, challenges, viral dances, and trends of all sort flourish on TikTok: they create familiarity, which it pays to piggyback off of.
Instagram’s network is structured completely differently, and the content people share on it is a function of that.
But besides the whole “network structure” thing, another reason the Stories clone worked so much better than Reels is the simple fact that TikTok is way bigger,
and it’s much harder for Reels to get someone to switch than it is to get people interested in the format if they’ve never seen it before.
Once TikTok pervades a community, Reels is seen within that group as low status, and has anti network effects.
why didn’t it totally flop?
Instagram is a huge app and almost anything they put in front of people will work to some extent
So why is Instagram pushing Reels so hard?
Zuckerberg knows better than almost anyone else just how delicate an art it is to build a network around a content format.
Just because you get the format right doesn’t mean you get to own the most important network.
Will the whole thing blow up in their face?
Facebook has become a sort of scapegoat that attracts all the attention in that conversation.
a few years ago they were all focused on “meaningful interactions with friends and family” and “building real communities”—
then TikTok came along and they were like “actually nevermind.”
It seems as though they are lost;
trapped between reacting to perceived existential threats and overwhelming public criticism.
Back in 2020, as we were all locked down and forced to do everything online, we got very excited about ecommerce penetration.
for retail and ecommerce, it looks like a lot of that growth was temporary, and we’re reverting to the trend line.
percentage of what?
total retail sales have been far from stable, and so as the denominator has swung around, so has the e-commerce penetration.
US ecommerce has, in fact remained at the new higher level - for now - but there has been a surge in physical (and, of course, inflation has suddenly shot up to 10% or so).
You can see this more dramatically in the UK,
which had a much bigger lockdown and hence much bigger swings in the denominator and in the penetration.
The penetration percentage has spiked all over the place.
Equally interesting is the question of which ‘retail’ number we should use as the denominator in the first place.
we tend to look at online penetration of something like ‘addressable retail’,
which typically excludes gas stations, car dealers and car repair and car parts.
In the US statistics, ‘retail’ also excludes bars and restaurants.
Channeling Groucho Marx, ‘this is the chart, and if you don’t like it, I’ve got others’.
one could argue that ‘addressable retail’ is becoming less and less useful over time.
sales journeys that start online and finish offline and vice versa.
around half of US restaurant spending has been ‘off-prem’ (collection and delivery) since before the internet
it might be more helpful to stop talking about what is or is not ‘addressable’ and just talk about different logistics models
what fits Amazon’s commodity, packetised logistics model, and what needs something else?
Eventually, of course, talking about online sales will be like talking about ‘car-based sales’ -
it won’t be a segment, just another channel,
that’s part of every business, and it won’t be ‘tech’, just retailing.