October 08, 2018

Interesting Things on the Internet: October 8th 2018

  • Launching the Trust & Technology Initiative. A good primer on the dangers of not caring about how we trust technology
  • If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism, Then What’s the Point of Capitalism? I'm not sure, but in our finer moments you can see glimpses of this post-capitalist world in the DoES Liverpool community, in the pursuit of ideas rather than money. And I suppose a lot of it comes down to a community managing the commons for the good of its members.
  • Second System Syndrome. Nice. A name for something I've long noticed (and perpetually resisted) in software teams: the desire to throw everything away and start from scratch. Actually, it occurs to me that's a similar urge to the pattern for grand masterplanning in the built environment. It's the wrong answer there too.
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October 01, 2018

Interesting Things on the Internet: October 1st 2018

  • The Myth of the Ethical Shopper. Turns out our ethics and principles might need us to do more than just buy things.
  • If Software Is Eating the World, What Will Come Out the Other End? "The world is still real. Software hasn’t eaten it as much as bound it in a spell, temporarily I hope, while we figure out what comes next."
  • Preparing a conference talk. Good explanation of how to prep a talk. I don't follow this completely, blurring the work out the narrative and the write the slides parts, but the general principles are all sound.
  • Corbyn Now. "Corbyn’s critics[...], not the electorate, are unwilling to tolerate any serious challenge to a political status quo which is extreme when judged by the same comparisons – to history, to other nations, to public opinion – that show how moderate Corbynism is. The neoliberal character of the status quo doesn’t reflect a public consensus, and it hasn’t for a long time: for example, no opinion poll since the mid-1980s has shown popular support for public sector privatisation."
  • Reading Adam's latest essay on smart cities, Shaping Cities contribution, “Of Systems and Purposes: Emergent technology for the skeptical urbanist”, I realised that my mantra of "judge us (and others) on what we do, not what we say" is a people equivalent of Stafford Beer's "the purpose of a system is what it does"
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September 17, 2018

Interesting Things on the Internet: September 17th 2018

And I've enthused about this to a bunch of people now, so I should definitely share it here...

Eyeo 2018 - Nathaniel Raymond from Eyeo Festival on Vimeo.

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September 16, 2018

Ignore the Innovators

How do we encourage engineers to get better at talking about their work, and to talk about it more often? How do we improve the public's ability to spot the difference between the blaggers and those who have a clue?

It's something that exercises me far more than it probably should. I think it comes from a general belief that all of us should take an active role in our society, that we should engage with the dark matter of policy and politics, and generally try to help others understand what we know so that we can all make progress.

Mostly I need to get better at ignoring it and focusing on my own work, and talking about my own work. Ignore the innovation theatre, the performative industry that exists to soak up all of the money we're investing as a country into things that purport to make life better but mostly just chase buzzwords and spend their time talking themselves up.

This article, Delusions of Grandeur, sums it up nicely.

At some point I'll make the time to write up the dataset analysis example that I developed as part of Ross Dalziel's course on data tools for artists. It analyzed some work that looks from a distance like the organisations involved are fulfilling their remit and moving the UK forward, but if you look any closer, soon dissolves into pointless busywork. Not that those organsiations are special, I'm sure you could build similar critiques of the Catapult centres or Innovate UK or...

I think the problem is that they're all tasked with the wrong thing: the pursuit of "innovation". It's ridiculously difficult to separate what might be truly innovative with what is just a crazy idea, even for the experts. And these organisations rarely attract the experts, because they're generally busy exploring the edges of their field, rather than casting around for quango jobs where they can't win.

Judging projects solely by whether or not they appear innovative favours things that are full of buzzwords and which promise easy wins. Scientists show how this one neat trick will save the world...

Where's the catapult centre for finding who's already solved the problem and doing the hard work to adopt it? We could make a good start by ignoring anyone and everyone who uses the word "innovation".

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September 03, 2018

Interesting Things on the Internet: September 3rd 2018

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August 20, 2018

Interesting Things on the Internet: August 20th 2018

  • “Sponsored” by my husband: Why it’s a problem that writers never talk about where their money comes from. Not just writers.
  • Institutional memory and reverse smuggling. Tales about how companies (fail to) capture knowledge.
  • See No Evil. How do we make supply chains more transparent when they're deliberately making their constituent parts into black boxes? Slowly and deliberately.
  • The bluffocracy: how Britain ended up being run by eloquent chancers. We need to start holding people to account, and to judge people on what they do rather than what they say. It's hard, but something I've been trying to do for a decade now. As the saying goes round here, "we're called do epic shit, not talk about epic shit".
  • My Favorite Sayings. Programmer-focused, but good. "Sooner or later people learn the truth and figure out that the person never admits when they don't know. When this happens the person loses all credibility: no-one can tell whether the person is speaking from authority or making something up, so it isn't safe to trust anything they say. " And we should heed the "Coherent systems are inherently unstable" when we try to build governance systems that span the globe. Space for experiments and new-ways-of-doing-things to bubble up are vital.
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July 30, 2018

Interesting Things on the Internet: July 30th 2018

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July 23, 2018

Interesting Things on the Internet: July 23rd 2018

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July 09, 2018

Interesting Things on the Internet: July 9th 2018

  • The Hidden Cost of Touchscreens. Hopefully we can start to recognise that there's value in tactile, no-need-to-look interfaces.
  • After the Fall. John Lanchester on fine form about the decade since the financial crash and how life has gotten worse for not the people who caused it. "How it’s been working out here in the UK is the longest period of declining real incomes in recorded economic history. ‘Recorded economic history’ means as far back as current techniques can reach, which is back to the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Worse than the decades that followed the Napoleonic Wars, worse than the crises that followed them, worse than the financial crises that inspired Marx, worse than the Depression, worse than both world wars."
  • James Hansen’s 1988 climate predictions have proved to be remarkably accurate. We need to be ramping up our efforts to tackle climate change.
  • 5 July 1948: A chance and a challenge. Matt lays out a vision for the NHS that I heartily endorse. Turns out it's roughly the same one it started with.
  • Been Down So Long It Looks Like Debt to Me.
  • Complicating the Narratives. Complexity and nuance in our writing could provide some of the answer to how we can de-polarise the national debate. That's why I like blogging over Twitter (et al) - it encourages longer, more thought-through pieces (when they're not snippets like most of my blogging here of late...)
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July 02, 2018

Interesting Things on the Internet: July 2nd 2018

For some scrolling text over the sound of morse code, I wasn't expecting this recreation of the Titanic's comms to be so haunting (and harrowing)

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