ChittahChattah Quickies
By Steve Portigal at 8:05 am, Wednesday December 19 2012

Give And Take: How The Rule Of Reciprocation Binds Us [NPR] – While “you can’t control other people” is a constant life lessons, it’s interesting to consider what science teaches about how we can influence and induce behaviors in others.

Kunz was a sociologist at Brigham Young University. Earlier that year he’d decided to do an experiment to see what would happen if he sent Christmas cards to total strangers. And so he went out and collected directories for some nearby towns and picked out around 600 names. “I started out at a random number and then skipped so many and got to the next one,” he says. To these 600 strangers, Kunz sent his Christmas greetings: handwritten notes or a card with a photo of him and his family. And then Kunz waited to see what would happen. About five days later, responses started filtering back – slowly at first and then more, until eventually they were coming 12, 15 at a time. Eventually Kunz got more than 200 replies. “I was really surprised by how many responses there were,” he says. “And I was surprised by the number of letters that were written, some of them three, four pages long…We got cards for maybe 15 years,” he says.

Tapping citizen-scientists for a novel gut check [SF Chron] – While we always come up with new methods to get people involved in data collecting for research, this was something I hadn’t really thought of before. By the way, the notion of the microbiome is a fascinating one that seems to be continually gaining traction. Although we haven’t had the guts (if you will) to actually do it, we declared we would stop using “ecosystem” in client presentations and start talking about “microbiomes.”

Now for a fee – $69 and up – and a stool sample, the curious can find out just what’s living in their intestines and take part in one of the hottest new fields in science. The American Gut Project, aims to enroll 10,000 people – and a bunch of their dogs and cats too – from around the country. uBiome, separately aims to enroll nearly 2,000 people from anywhere in the world. Scott Jackisch, a computer consultant in Oakland, Calif., ran across American Gut while exploring the science behind different diets, and signed up last week. He’s read with fascination earlier microbiome research: “Most of the genetic matter in what we consider ourselves is not human, and that’s crazy. I wanted to learn about that.” Testing a single stool sample costs $99 in that project, but he picked a three-sample deal for $260 to compare his own bacterial makeup after eating various foods. “I want to be extra, extra well,” said Jackisch, 42. Differing gut microbes may be the reason “there’s no one magic bullet of diet that people can eat and be healthy.”

“We don’t just want people that have a gut-ache. We want couch potatoes. We want babies. We want vegans. We want athletes. We want anybody and everybody because we need that complete diversity,” added American Gut co-founder Jeff Leach, an anthropologist.

White points mean prizes for safe driving in Dubai [The National] – Is our preference for carrot or stick culturally constructed? Schemes that give students rewards for good grades are often seen as “bribery” and decried for encouraging the wrong thing. Yet inverting our punishment-based driving-record approach seems so kindly. I suppose its efficacy needs to be proven, whether in Dubai or Dubuque.

Motorists who go the longest period without a traffic violation will be given priority in a new police system that rewards good driving with prizes, including a car. Under the white points system, drivers of vehicles registered in Dubai are awarded a point for each month without traffic offences or Salik toll-road fines. Drivers who go 12 months without any violations will be eligible for prizes worth a minimum of Dh500 each. Dubai Police say there will be between 250 to 500 prizes. The head of Dubai Police traffic department, Maj Gen Mohammed Saif Al Zaffin, said today that if there were more good drivers than prizes then those with the longest standing clean sheets would be given priority. “We have a specific budget for the prizes so there might need to be a selection process based on the number of people who will be eligible for a prize as part of the scheme,” Maj Gen Al Zaffin said.

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2 Responses to “ChittahChattah Quickies”

    Ah, the microbiome! Happy holidays to Portigal and friends – keep the Quickies coming. They never fail to give me something to think about, or make me laugh. Or both!

    Comment by Julie 12.20.12 @ 9:08 am


      Thanks, Julie! Appreciate the encouragement and I hope you have a fantastic holiday!

      The stool-sample research reminded me of some conversation we had about fingernail clippings and research – maybe a fingernail clipper was the participant incentive? Anyway, just the co-mingling of user research transactions and body functions.

      If the URL is any indicator, this is Quickies #827. Is that possible?

      Comment by Steve Portigal 12.20.12 @ 9:19 am