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Significant Digits For Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015

You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the telling numbers tucked inside the news.

4 designs

New Zealand is entertaining the idea of changing up its flag. The government received 10,000 design submissions, but only four remain in the running. Three of them feature a silver fern, which today I learned is a treasured symbol of New Zealand iconography. The flags will go before a popular referendum in November using the delightful ranked-preference voting methodology. The winner of that contest will go head to head with the current flag in a second referendum in March. This is probably the single greatest event in vexillology in years. [New Zealand Herald]

11.3 percent

While women own 36.2 percent of businesses, women-owned firms make only 11.3 percent of the revenue, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census data. A similar disparity exists for minority-owned businesses. [Pew Research Center]

16.6 percent

Percentage of the U.S. advertising market that will be spent on mobile digital ads in 2015, up 59 percent over last year. Spending on mobile ads is expected to surpass desktop and print advertising this year. [Wall Street Journal]


Facebook’s new anti-spam algorithm was built in the programming language Haskell. This probably means nothing to you, but Haskell is the 23rd most commonly used language on GitHub, which is to say it’s pretty uncommon. Calling Haskell “esoteric” isn’t exactly right, but it’s a pretty deep cut on the programming language front. The main reason for the selection is that Haskell is good at running multiple functions simultaneously, useful for Facebook in fighting lots and lots of spam across billions of messages. [Wired]


Comcast, ever innovating, is trying out a new $30 fee that will allow Florida customers to surpass an arbitrary 300 GB monthly data usage limit. This isn’t some scheme to reduce the load on Comcast’s network: The company said the current cap is business-related, not technical. [Ars Technica]

44 percent

Percentage of Americans who believe prostitution should be legal, according to a YouGov poll released Tuesday. About 50 percent of Democrats compared to 34 percent of Republicans support legalizing the world’s oldest profession. [YouGov]

102 courts

U.S. Tennis has been eclipsed in recent years by other countries, but the solution of “throw a bunch of money at the problem until it’s fixed” has actually gone pretty well. Team USA is opening a $60 million training facility in Florida with 102 courts, a substantial upgrade from the eight courts at its current facility. [The New York Times]


Wikipedia axed 381 editor accounts believed to have accepted pay in exchange for editing articles to promote customers. [Motherboard]

14,300 restaurants

CNBC broke the greatest story of my lifetime yesterday with the announcement that McDonald’s franchisees voted to serve all-day breakfast. The change will occur at about 14,300 restaurants. Please alert Donald Trump that his run for the presidency has been an unmitigated success — we have made America truly great again. The change goes into effect Oct. 6. [CNBC]


The News Guild, a union that has traditionally focused on newspaper employees, is investing $500,000 in an effort to unionize digital newsrooms. Recently, employees of Gawker and Vice Media have voted to join the rival union Writers Guild of America-East. [Politico Media]

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Walt Hickey was FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer.