Hospitals, Human Development, Censorship, More: Sunday Buzz, November 22nd, 2015


The Agency for Healthcare Research And Quality has created a national database of hospital readmissions. “The Nationwide Readmissions Database (NRD) is part of a family of databases and software tools developed for the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP). The NRD is a unique and powerful database designed to support various types of analyses of national readmission rates for all payers and the uninsured. This database addresses a large gap in health care data – the lack of nationally representative information on hospital readmissions for all ages. Unweighted, the NRD contains data from approximately 14 million discharges each year. Weighted, it estimates roughly 36 million discharges.” There are going to be a couple of Webinars on using the database in December: brief announcement here.

Now available: The Historical Index of Human Development. “The Historical Index of Human Development (HIHD) covers up to 157 countries from the mid-19th century – before large-scale improvements in health helped by the diffusion of the germ theory of disease (Preston 1975, Riley 2001) and in primary education (Benavot and Riddle 1988) began – to 2007, the eve of the Great Recession (Prados de la Escosura 2016) In the new website, a dynamic graphic presentation is available for the aggregate historical index of human development (HIHD) and each of its dimensions across world regions. Each country’s human development index and its dimensions, including their contribution to the aggregate index, can also be viewed and accessed separately.”

Researchers have developed a new plug-in designed to bypass government censorship of the Web. “The Chinese government’s ‘Great Firewall’ blocks many foreign websites, such as news sources and social networks. The best-established tools to evade that kind of censorship, such as the anonymity network Tor or encrypted VPN connections, can make browsing slow and are actively targeted by the government. Tests of the new browser plug-in, called CacheBrowser, from inside China show that it provides an effective solution that doesn’t slow browsing so much, says Amir Houmansadr, an assistant professor at UMass Amherst.”

New-to-me, and man do I love the Internet: a database that tracks pigeon activity in movies and television. “Did you know that way back in season one of Game of Thrones, at exactly the 55-minute mark of episode 9, Arya Stark looks up at the sky and sees a flock of wild pigeons? Did you also note that 57 minutes and 20 seconds into the 1999 film The Matrix, a group of pigeons with only average training fly through the scene only to be completely ignored by all the characters?”


Google has made some changes to Google+.

Snapchat lenses are now available for 99 cents. “There are currently 29 lenses in the store, and it looks like many of them are ones we’ve already been able to use for free, including the rainbow vomit face, wrinkled old age filter, the crying eyes, the gossip tabloid overlay and the pink heart eyes.”

Oh, this is wonderful. Google has apparently cleaned up its search URLs. Before they looked like hashbrowns and you had to selective editing if you wanted to pass them on. “Back in 2012, a guy went through over 75 different URL parameters you might find in the Google search URL. Now, there is virtually two that I can see.”

It looks like Facebook might let you search individual Facebook profiles in the future. This is great news. Facebook’s search features have always been fairly puny, and as more and more content lands there (or worse, originates and circulates there) it’s harder to find it.


I don’t usually post SEO-type stuff, but this is deep and well done: using Pinterest for keyword research. (This would also be an excellent way to build your search “vocabulary” if you’re researching a topic that lends itself well to Pinterest.)


TechRepublic has a substantial article on IFTTT and its co-founder and CEO, Linden Tibbets. “There are many steps ahead for IFTTT. The developer platform is still in private beta, so eventually it’ll be open. On a broader level, they want to be something of a connective tissue for the Internet of Things. He sees it as a time when everything is becoming a service, and a platform like IFTTT could be a place for developers to register their service and build on top of it.”

Motley Fool: Twitter don’t want to talk about its bots. “Twitter is so desperate for MAU [Monthly Active Users] growth that it classifies automated software, like Apple’s Shared Links feature on Safari, as “active users.” In the past, Shared Links automatically aggregated links from followed Twitter accounts onto a bookmark-like page, and Twitter counted every automatic update as an ‘active’ user. But after the iOS 8 update, Shared Links only updated the links whenever it was manually opened. In response, Twitter blamed the iDevice maker for its loss of 4 million ‘MAUs’ during the fourth quarter of 2014.”


Research: Twitter is a useful data firehose. “…scientists are finding that Twitter data—especially when combined with other real-time data streams like environmental sensors or data from fitness apps—also have the potential to provide early warnings about chronic disease, emergencies, adverse drug reactions, or even safety problems like prescription drug misuse.” Good morning, Internet…

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