Facebook, GDPR, brand safety – suddenly it’s 2018 all over again

Happy New Year 2018

For understandable reasons, the last four, regular monthly episodes of the Small Data Forum podcast have been focused – almost to the point of obsession – on coronavirus. From the uncertain first fumblings of life under lockdown, through escalating mortality and morbidity, and on to a fundamental lack of trust in the competence of blustering, blond, male, right-wing leaders … the last four episodes have had it all.

Some have said that this podcast was made for events like the pandemic, scrutinising as we do the uses and abuses of data big and small in politics, business, and public life. There’s been plenty of that about of late.

So, with lockdown restrictions being lifted all around the world – and Government advice completely ignored on the beaches of Bournemouth in the mini-U.K. heatwave last week, leading Dorset police to declare the overcrowding “a major incident” – our focus in this episode was much more catholic.

Indeed, with Facebook, GDPR, and brand safety the dominant topics, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d fallen through a wormhole in the space-time continuum and teleported back to 2018.

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A very curious mind indeed

As the world appears to become “curiouser and curiouser”, we could all do with some instructions as to how to make more sense of what is happening, connect dots, draw conclusions and make good – if not better – decisions.

Thankfully, SmallDataForum co-founder and regular co-presenter Sam Knowles has written the book that has those instructions, and much more. In How To Be Insightful, Sam combines the experience of a career helping organizations communicate better with his training as a classicist and a doctorate in psychology to tell the story how insights work. As a true data storyteller, he does so with plenty of evidence.

Published a few weeks ago, the book is Sam’s second – although as he’ll explain, Narrative by Numbers is in many ways the prequel – and so the SmallDataForum convened for its first ever Book Special to discuss with the author how learning to apply his STEP Prism of InsightTM helps us get to that “profound and deep understanding of a person, a thing, a situation, or an issue that we can use to help us advance…the very definition of insight.”

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From Woodstock to Nudgestock

Apparently 2020 is what you get when you put together 1918, 1929 and 1968. With just over 40% done, it’s a bit early to say. Or is it?

Pandemic – tick. Global recession – about to hit. Political turbulence and social unrest – we’re only getting started. At least 1968 was followed by the year of moon landing, and Woodstock.

Fifty years and a bit on, we’ve just had the first private company sending astronauts into orbit (though not quite with e-rockets; Elon needs to work on that). And the next Woodstock is likely to be a smorgasbord of Zoomed home gigs.

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We would have recorded you a shorter podcast …

Colonel Tom

It is said that French mathematician Blaise Pascal, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, and Winston Churchill all said: “I would have written you a shorter letter, I just didn’t have the time.” They may all have originated that sentiment, some may have quoted others, or all the attributions could be faulty. How to know? How to sift through the unmediated annals of citation history?

A similar predicament faced we three hosts of the Small Data Forum podcast as we gathered for our latest – and thirty-fifth – instalment of this semi-structured ramble-chat through the uses and abuses of data big and SMALL in politics, business, and public life.

Like so many of our fellow workers in the knowledge economy, we three musketeers had all been working from home for the past six weeks of lockdown U.K. (though we all had plentiful WFH experience before the pandemic). And like so many organisations, we have been forced to pivot our focus and output.

For a podcast obsessed with Trump and Brexit, Facebook and Cambridge Analytica since our foundation back in May 2016, we now talk about little else than the consequences, data, and language of COVID-19.

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“If broadband goes down, we’re all screwed”

perspective

For all the disruption that the lockdown has brought to the nation (if not the world), for the cast of the SmallDataForum, little has changed in the way we work: most of our 34 episodes were recorded “in the Zoom where it happens” (with a bit of Whereby here and there).

Sam is still delivering training on data storytelling and insightful thinking, just now with participants on screen.

Neville has been commuting the few meters to the home office for years, and I’m not at all missing the occasional trips to a London WeWork office – video calls do the job just as well.

And isn’t the fall of WeWork and the rise of Zoom (ignoring security and privacy issue for the moment) just the metaphor for our times …

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