Pandemic Tuttle on Zoom

We did the first one of these this morning.  I’m up for doing it weekly.  Will do a better invite next time.  At the peak we had 16 or 17 people.  It still felt manageable.

And Brian broke us the news of the Prime Minister’s infection while we were live.

But Facebook won’t allow me to post the contents of the chat window because something in there goes against Community Guidelines (I think it was a particularly crufty URL from Brian).  Anyway, that’s why I still have a blog.

These things were said:

09:59:03 From Brian Condon : Suggest we use the chat as well for people who want to speak.
09:59:19 From Brian Condon : Chat back channel
10:03:26 From Caron – @pcmcreative : Hi Brian, a back channel is an excellent idea. I approve.
10:09:51 From Brian Condon : Yes – like David Brin.
10:11:32 From Brian Condon :
10:15:25 From Brian Condon : Very wise.
10:17:29 From Brian Condon :
10:27:00 From Brian Condon : Anybody used VOIP cards?
10:29:31 From Lloyd Davis : do mute if you’re not talking to avoid grabbing focus
10:29:40 From Brian Condon : Hi Andy Broomfield!
10:29:46 From Andy Broomfield : Hi
10:29:54 From Brian Condon : Nice to see you!
10:30:21 From Andy Broomfield : I can’t hear anything, but nice to see everyone
10:31:21 From Andy Broomfield : Ok, I can hear people now.
10:32:04 From Benjamin Ellis : Lovely to see everyone – I have to hop off!
10:37:58 From Jon Husband : The physical-distanced version of the casseroles period in 2012 in Quebec .. people marching through the streets banging pots and pans for a month .. obviously not feasible now
10:38:03 From Tall Man with Glasses : Feel free to add a song 🙂
10:38:13 From Jon Husband : Re: #clapforcarers
10:38:27 From Al Robertson : Spem in Alium, Thomas Tallis –
10:39:13 From Jon Husband : The cannabis stores here in Québec are experiencing a significant surge in demand .. and have an excellent delivery service to boot
10:42:07 From William :
10:47:34 From Dd Davies :
10:47:53 From Andy Broomfield : Hi Anke
10:48:13 From Brian Condon : Hi Anke!
10:48:31 From Caron – @pcmcreative : If anyone wants to talk to me about pivoting to digital with a mind to extending back into the physical when the time comes. Book a call.
10:49:07 From Dd Davies : link above is to images of my statue of liberty built from construction timber. I then do a performance piece whereby I dismantle it. It is called When Things Come Apart.
10:56:13 From Caron – @pcmcreative : Dd I love the photo with the rainbow. Solid construction, nice. Thanks for sharing.
11:01:39 From Tall Man with Glasses : Not sure if there are any classic sci-fi/LEGO fans out there, but I’ve made a model of Dewey from Silent Running and submitted it to the LEGO Ideas platform. Any shares or votes would be greatly appreciated –
11:02:35 From Andy Broomfield : Generator brighton is having a virtual code hack thing in April
11:04:02 From William : Peter Woolbridge at Liverpool – But if you add me on LinkedIn I’ll connect you.
11:04:09 From William : William Wardlaw Rogers.
11:06:07 From Dougald Hine : I’m going to have to head off now, folks – lovely to see you all!
11:08:13 From Caron – @pcmcreative : Free for the next 4 months –
11:08:18 From Tall Man with Glasses : I’d love to see that 🙂
11:08:22 From Lloyd Davis : Contribute to the running of this ridiculousness –
11:08:43 From Brian Condon :

11:09:41 From Anke : I’m off, great to see you all
11:09:48 From Lloyd Davis : thanks anke 🙂
11:10:04 From Andy Broomfield : Bye Anke, nice to see you
11:10:12 From Brian Condon : Bye Anke!
11:11:30 From William : Perhaps if you can post the saved chat file on the FB group – that’d be useful.
11:12:09 From William :
11:12:48 From William :
11:14:28 From Bushra Burge : great idea
11:16:28 From Dd Davies : Tim Ferriss – well worth looking into what he has to say about pretty much anything.
11:24:46 From Brian Condon :
11:28:52 From Bushra Burge : I have to go
11:28:57 From Bushra Burge : sooooo good
11:29:01 From Bushra Burge : to hang out
11:29:03 From Lloyd Davis : bye bushes, thanks for coming
11:29:08 From Lloyd Davis : bushra
11:29:12 From Lloyd Davis : x
11:29:30 From Bushra Burge : happens all the time lloud
11:29:56 From Lloyd Davis : yeah i get lloyd a lot
11:30:10 From Lloyd Davis : haha autocorrect

On Toilet Paper


I’ve seen a few people on FB asking “Why on earth are people hoarding toilet paper?” or else “Why are people panic-buying toilet paper?”.  My intention here is not to put these people down, but to try to unpick what I think is going on here.

In Facebook bubble world, the hot-takes in response to these questions are mostly “people are selfish and only think of themselves” or “people are stupid and only do what they’re told by the media”.  In other words “other people” (it’s always someone else of course, nobody’s owning up to wheeling out 100 toilet rolls themself) are the problem and they’re simply conforming to the types that we already hold dear.

The other possible reason I can see is “because everyone else is”.  This is the herd mentality and it’s a little different from “because the media told them to”.  It’s hard for any of us (assuming we’ve money in our pocket) to resist taking a packet of toilet rolls whether we need it or not if we happen to see that the shelves are emptying.  Arguably talking about it on Facebook in these terms is driving more unneeded purchases because we’ve all seen that everyone else is “panic buying” and we need to get in there ourselves.

We don’t know, by the way that anyone is either “panic buying” or “hoarding” – these are phrases that we use freely though to explain why things aren’t on the shelves.  I think the likely scenario is much calmer.  People are doing their normal shopping, heading for the bathroom supplies aisle and picking up an extra hand soap and a larger than normal pack of toilet paper, no panic or hoarding involved, just a shift in the pattern of demand.

I think all of these explanations are part of the picture, but not the whole thing.  Some people are stupid, some people do behave extremely selfishly, unconscious purchasing happens all the time to all sorts of people – some people, for example, have all sorts of worries and feelings and habitually salve those feelings by buying stuff they don’t want and don’t need.  We all know (and, at times, can be) those people.

Isn’t it interesting though that we look first to blame individuals and try to discern why they are behaving badly?

Another way of responding to the empty toilet paper shelves is to ask “Is toilet paper just that supermarket product which is the most sensitive to fluctuations in demand?  Is there something in the system of toilet paper supply that means that if people buy just a little more than usual, shops run out of it more quickly than anything else?”

All of which reminds me of a campaign a couple of years ago that involved buying up toilet paper to highlight the fragility of the supply chain with the idea that this would show us all how dangerous a no-deal Brexit would be.  (Found it: Bog Roll Buy Up)

So is toilet paper the top of the list?  Is there a list?  A league table of products in order of their sensitivity to demand?  And if there is such a list what’s next?  Initial ranting on Facebook, at least in the Guildford area, would suggest it might be pasta (though I’m suspicious of the screengrab illustrating this post which reports that Tesco has run out of pasta completely.

It’s doubtless more complex than this – ie there will be products that are more sensitive to different kinds of crisis but I’d like to know if someone routinely does this kind of research so that we don’t have to construct it experientially as the latest wave of apocalyptic disaster unfolds.  If we have a good list we can measure the level of disaster by which shelves are empty. “Oh you think this is bad, I remember one time, you couldn’t even get tinned tomatoes for love nor money!”

In the meantime, please stay safe, don’t get into fights over tissue paper and please wash your hands, especially if you’ve run short of toilet paper and are having to “substitute”.