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Shopping & Technology: Not Always Common Sense

A round-up of some of the latest absurdities, weirdness and miscellanies to do with contemporary life.

1. In Jan 2012 Elinor Zuke was startled to be challenged over her age when she used a self scanner checkout at Sainsbury’s in Crawley, West Sussex.

It was a £1.19 pack of six basics teaspoons and the stock-keeping units (SKUs), which provide a unique identifier for every product on sale and recognised the spoons as a ‘knife’.

However, when Ms Zuke demanded why spoons had triggered an age verification alert she was told that ‘spoons could be drug paraphernalia’.

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2. Researchers at the University of Chicago surveyed people to find out about their everyday desires. They concluded that resisting the constant urge to check social network sites is harder than turning down an alcoholic drink or imbibing tobacco.

The conclusion was that Twitter and its fellow sites are highly addictive. They found that when people constantly resist temptation, it weakens the willpower, so urges are stronger, especially as a day wears on.

And what most people long for during a day is sleep and sex, but compared with social networking checking, those cravings are better resisted!

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3. A different survey, this time from ParentPort website (set up by the Advertising Standards Authority, the Press Complaints Commission and the Office of Communications, Ofcom) has discovered that only one in six parents understand the gadgets used by their children.

16% confessed to buying devices they themselves could not use. They also admitted that two thirds of children are allowed to watch films or play computer games that are unsuitable for their age.

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4. In yet another survey, American researchers discovered the startling news that two thirds of people receiving tweets found them boring. 66% of recipients did not not like updates on how someone was feeling or what they had for breakfast.

Just over a third of messages on Twitter were rated ‘worth reading’ and 25% were ‘dislikable’.

This survey went further than simply reporting findings and came up with 9 Tips for tweeting:

* don’t repeat links already repeated;

* contribute to a story, don’t just comment; keep it short (140 characters can be too many);

*don’t overdo hashtags and abbreviations;

* don’t tell everyone where you are all the time;

* don’t link to a photo or blog without saying why;

* don’t moan and whine;

* if you’re a celebrity, people want ‘professional insights, not what you like in a sandwich’.

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5. Fans of CCTV in our towns and cities who clamour that we must have ever more of them for crime fighting, have suffered something of a setback.

Police Magazine reported that on the Sussex force, a CCTV operator spotted a man looking suspicious and alerted the nearest officer, who was an enthusiastic plain clothes officer when allowed and asked him to follow the suspect.

The officer was directed by the CCTV man for 20 minutes of darting in and out of allies, like chasing shadows, before a sergeant entered the room and recognised the suspicious character as the very same plain clothes officer, who was not known to the cameraman.

The police officer had in fact been chasing himself via the CCTV camera directions!

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6. Just to show far personalised adverts are going, history was made on 13th February 2012 when ITV broadcast an advert at 7.15pm for Bakers dog food.

It was a send-up of The Italian Job and the key feature was that it carried high pitched sounds inaudible to the human ear but designed to make dogs look up at the screen, prick their ears or tilt their heads, all of which Bakers hope persuaded human owners that their dog was interested in that particular food.

Smart move or the first step on the slippery slope of subliminal advertising for all?

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7. After all the hype about persuading people to install  smart meters in their homes (even doing it compulsorily in new builds), now comes the panic that they are actually aiding the burglars.

If thieves can hack into the devices that send data from homes to energy supply companies, they can discover not just when people are not at home but what sort of equipment people use when they are.

The fear is that laptops and plasma televisions will be identified by usage, and even if a house is electronically/electrically alarmed will also be available to would-be thieves.

Whether the possibility (identified in the USA) of such breaches is enough to stop a nationwide programme of meters, or whether the reassurances from GCHQ that they are ensuring ‘customers’ data is properly protected at all times’ is sufficient, we’ll have to wait and see.

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And finally,
8. Dozens of viewers to the TV prog, Daybreak (and there are less than 700,000 of them in total, apparently) complained that the clock shown on screen was an hour behind.

They were all told to retune to Channel 3, as they were watching it on ITV+1.

As ever in the social world of technology related stories, you really couldn’t make it up!

Photo: Hwangxiheng