June 17, 2016
This evening I spent a fantastic time at the latest Folken event. It was a great mix of all ages, races, genders having a robust yet civil barney about money, grass-roots organisations, independent businesses and value. It was a panel discussion - of which I was a member - but it was free-flowing between us and the audience, and there was a full-on section in the middle where we didn't get a word in as an impassioned and eloquent debate went on between a few members of the audience.
None of it is at a scale where it will change the world right now, but I came away with a growing sense of a sense of possibility, of a gathering momentum in the city. Groups like DoES Liverpool, Homebaked Anfield, Granby 4 Streets, Friends of the Flyover... with Folken helping to amplify it and providing some of the making connections that I talked about earlier in the year.
Then I got back home and looked at twitter. It wasn't immediately clear what was going on - my feed was a strange mix of travel chaos and talk about an MP. As I worked out what had been going on in the rest of the country, this tweet from my friend Jenny summed things up perfectly:
I don't recognise Britain right now, but I know we are better than this x— Jenny Harris (@Jennyjetharris) June 16, 2016
I've been trying to ignore the referendum debate - I'll be voting, but both sides campaigning seem to be engaged only in scaremongering and negative tactics. Neither side has any view on how voting for them would make things better, just that voting for the opposing side would make things worse. Richard Cable does a good job of explaining what they should have done, but sadly our political class are too busy trying to focus-group their way to clinging to power.
That said, the vote leave campaign is playing a particularly nasty, racist tune. Charlie Stross lays it out better than I can.
That's not the sort of country that I want. I had hoped that we'd muddle through in that seemingly very British way where we don't seem to veer too extremely in any direction, but I'm scared that that won't be the case.
I know that it's hard to remain open and welcoming to others when you're fearful for your job, for getting by; yet I also believe that we need to do just that, in spite of our fears, for the best route to a better society.
I'm not going to cede my country to the nationalist extremists, just as I don't think we should be quitting Europe just because improving it looks like it might be a bit hard.
The world is in a mess, and we need to sort it out. Yet it's not the immigrants, nor those on benefits, who are the cause of the problems. It's the bankers and the elites shuffling things round their tax havens. It's all mis-direction to stop from holding them to account, and now it's resulted in the murder of an innocent woman.
June 06, 2016
Interesting Things on the Internet: June 6th 2016
- On Failure. "failure is not good. But failure is okay. And to that point, we need to make failure okay."
- The CIO Problem, Part 1 (and then Part 2). Lots of wisdom on bringing local council, etc. services into the modern age. One highlight: "[you need to understand that] That’s not innovation. That’s just how tech works today."
- About the GDS Women’s group. "The Women’s group is for everyone, irrespective of gender, who cares about having an equal and diverse workplace – but that’s not a snappy and concise name for a group. So we're calling it the Women's group." Good to see initiatives like this share what they've tried, and how that's helped.
- On the Left. Like Tim Bray, I'm not a political expert, but I agree with pretty much all he lays out in that blog post. "I think the “conventional wisdom” which sustains the current finance-centric rentier economy is thought wise by fewer and fewer. I think the path from here to something saner will have messy and ugly parts. But I’m increasingly sure that our current path, as a society and species, is unsustainable."
- "Lighthouses... just stand there shining." Astounding, touching, harrowing to read letter from a rape victim that she read to her rapist. I long for a culture where this didn't need to exist.
May 23, 2016
Interesting Things on the Internet: May 23rd 2016
- Recipe for disaster. Some background to the creation of the BBC's online recipe database and thoughts about how/why the BBC is failing to help society debate/frame such non-commercial endeavours.
- Redefining capitalism. Some interesting thoughts on how better to define growth and new directions for something better than capitalism.
- ANA. Lovely, if rather dystopic, short film about the robot future.
- Jane Jacobs: City Limits. (Link to) An interesting film of urbanist Jane Jacobs and accompanying thoughts on how it translates to modern day. (Jane Jacobs previously on this blog)
- Jane Jacobs: Godmother of the American City. And another, great interview with Jane Jacobs. "There is a sameness—this is one of the things that is boring people, this sameness. This sameness has economic implications. You don’t get new products and services out of sameness. Now, the Americans haven’t gotten dumbed down all of the sudden so that only a few people who can decide on new products for change are the only ones with brains. But it means that somehow there isn’t opportunity for these thousands flowers to bloom anymore."
- How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds — from a Magician and Google’s Design Ethicist. Beware the dark patterns of design.
- Guide to Computing. Computers used to be so colourful! Did the designers stop offering us anything adventurous or did we all start only buying what-are-perceive-as-inoffensive options and bring this upon ourselves?
- Thoughts about decoupling PGP and email clients. Good to see someone fixing existing systems rather than deciding the only way is to build yet-another-competing-silo because it's easier. Looking forward to being a user of the system Paul builds.
- Eye Spy, a Year of Tracking. Great to see the BBC work on privacy, etc. "No-one in the UK should be speculatively accumulating raw data, particularly without notifying people they are doing it."
May 02, 2016
Interesting Things on the Internet: May 2nd 2016
- Email Isn’t The Thing You’re Bad At "You do not need a smartwatch to tell you exactly how many messages you are never going to reply to."
- How the Hillsborough inquest jury ruled on the 14 key questions. I don't have any stories to relate, but as a Liverpool FC fan - and particularly since being back living in the city - this has been part of the background of how life is for my entire adult life. I was 14 when the disaster happened. The extent of the cover-up and smear campaign is disgraceful.
April 18, 2016
Interesting Things on the Internet: April 18th 2016
- Paying Your Own Way (Or Not). Tom Steinberg talks about whether money is the only useful measuring stick. For tech, in this case, but see also all of the assorted "ROI" justifications for the arts, city investment, etc. When do we start demanding that the bankers and accountants justify their existence in terms that the rest of us feel are important (hint: those terms won't be ones that can be reduced to a single number either...)
- The divide. Looks interesting... and is playing at FACT at the end of May...
- Modern anti-spam and E2E crypto. In-depth look at the issues surrounding spam email and how to counter it. And how to balance that with the scope for privacy invasion that be-able-to-read-email-to-check-for-spam introduces...
- Why Are America's Most Innovative Companies Still Stuck in 1950s Suburbia? Good exploration of what's wrong with big out-of-town company campuses.
- Story of cities #21: Olivetti tries to build the ideal 'human city' for its workers. In contrast with the previous link, a look at the work Olivetti did to situate their company in Ivrea mid-C20th. It was arguably moulding the city to suit the company, but I remember a really interesting exhibition I visited when I lived in Turin (but never got round to blogging, sadly) that explained lots of the social/improving-society thinking tied up with those experiments and work. Arguably the main problem was that Olivetti dominated Ivrea (from a percentage of people working there perspective) and so the fortunes of the town and the company ended up too closely intertwined (which is fine as long as the company is doing well...).
- Hacking Rambert. Leila Johnston doing an excellent job of documenting what she got up to as a technologist-in-residence, and more importantly asking questions about technology and its relationship with/to the arts.
- When U.S. air force discovered the flaw of averages. Or a warning from history about blind belief in "big data"
April 11, 2016
Interesting Things on the Internet: April 11th 2016
- OMATA: A Modern Mechanical Design Approach. Lovely article about OMATA's beautiful GPS bike speedometer. I especially like the term modern mechanical. It sums up nicely the sort of products I'm aiming for with MCQN Ltd.
- What It’s Like to Get a National-Security Letter. A behind-the-scenes look at the usually-shrouded-in-secrecy process of responding to a request for information from the US security services.
- Design Facts. An interesting collection of facts about design (as you'd possibly expect :-)
- Saul Alinsky, community organizing and rules for radicals. Interesting article about an interesting person. Will have to seek out some of his books.
- ‘The Finkbeiner Test’. Good set of tests/rules to follow when writing about scientists (who happen to be women).
March 28, 2016
Interesting Things on the Internet: March 28th 2016
- Hardening my Development Machine. A secure system is like the horizon - always further away when you think you've got there. But there's lots of value in chasing after it, so it's good to see Paul sharing how he's moved on with it.
- what Thomas Hardy taught me. An excellent piece on education reform or efforts to "fix" education, and how they miss the point.
March 21, 2016
Interesting Things on the Internet: March 21st 2016
- Man 2 Man Meet Man Panel - “Male Speaker”. Nice policy to encourage fewer all-male speaker tracks.
- Cameron, Corbyn, The City and Steampunk. The main article linked at the top is a good read, but the comments thread is (as you'd expect from MeFi) engaging too.
- Use the words normal people would use. Wise words from Giles, on how to write for companies.
- No Motive. Heh, my bank balance suffers for it, but as last Friday's performance at Liverpool Acoustic Festival testifies, there's still plenty of doing stuff for the hell of it around here.
- Weeks 167-169. Tom, eloquent as ever in capturing a nebulous concept or feeling or whatever, on the importance of carrying on.
- From Adam Smith to Duncan Smith. Text of Paul Mason's speech to the Adam Smith Business School. Interesting thoughts on how we de-financialise the economy and encourage more development in the open source and collaborative economy(NOT the gig economy that masquerades as that)
March 14, 2016
Interesting Things on the Internet: March 14th 2016
- Corbynism and Its Futures. Long interesting explanation and exploration of the state of the political left in the UK. If it's right in its assertion that "elections are almost entirely decided by the votes of a few hundred thousand swing voters in marginal constituencies", then is that an opportunity to focus attention for civic tech and/or new Internet-age institutions to help improve democracy?
- In solidarity with Library Genesis and Sci-Hub. Charging so much for access to academic publishing in the modern age is ridiculous.
- Design as Participation. Excellent proposal for how design should evolve, from Kevin Slavin.
February 29, 2016
Interesting Things on the Internet: February 29th 2016
- Framing. An interest post (with interesting comments too!) on company values and culture.
- South Florida and Sea Level: The Case of Miami Beach. "Who’s going to be the Robert Moses of sea level rise?" Thought-provoking stuff from Eric Rodenbeck.
- Sex & Startups. Lots of good ideas here - I expect “the tyranny of the quantifiable” and "mundane businesses" to be entering my lexicon.