Schadenfreude squared in the land of Big Tech’s woes

The 17th century French moralist François de La Rochefoucald observed in his Maximes: “In the misfortunes of our dearest friends we always find something not wholly displeasing unto us.”

So there was more than just the tang of sweet Schadenfreude in the air during the recording of the latest episode – 63, no less – of the Small Data Forum podcast.

For some of our dearest friends from the past six years of our data-ish ramblechats put in an appearance, like the cast of a mash-up musical all jostling for attention and approbation in light of their latest misdemeanours.

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Movin’ on up, you’re movin’ on out

Given our combined decades of experience in the wider media business, it’s no surprise that this post-party conference edition of the SmallDataForum takes a close look at politicians’ media performances.

And boy is there a lot to look at.

Front and centre, of course, is the new Prime Minister and her serial car crash interviews. Neville asks serious questions about the buffering Trussbot’s media advisers. It shouldn’t come to anybody’s surprise that Jason Stein, her Director of Comms, was a media advisor to Prince Andrew until THAT Newsnight interview with now News Agent Emily Maitlis.

Despite this being fat bear week as Sam informs us, our focus is more on fat cats and those that feed and breed them. So we delve straight into the cesspit of Conservative party politics, where Sam detects a distinct whiff of the mid-Nineties, that case study of Tory self-destruction where things could only get better under fresh-faced New Labour leader, Tony Blair.

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The lingering whiff of sulphur in the air

(Please note that this episode was recorded – and these show notes were written – on Thursday 8 September, before the announcement of the death of Queen Elizabeth II.)

The first Small Data Forum of the @TrussLiz era sees the podcast team convene IRL on the morning of 8 September for the first time in aeons – and in a professional, West End Studio, to boot.

Nothing to do with the fourth Prime Minister (not to mention fifth Chelski manager) since our ‘umble podcast started crackling over the digital airwaves. More to do with a desire to get together IRL more often post-COVID, as well as a heart-felt yearning to “up” production values, as decent as Zoom may be. Plus an opportunity for a post-pod lunch at our favourite Italian haunt, Olivelli on the Cut.

All trussed up and no place to go

With a new Prime Minister in place, Thomas asks who fancies prognosticating on the latest incumbent of Number 10. Sam leaps in. He’s concerned about the far right, ideologically-driven agenda of Truss et al. While memes in recent days – from #ThickLizzy to #NotMyPM may be variously misogynistic and laser-focused – Sam pinpoints the Truss administration as “continuity Johnson”.

Ironically for a new team replacing de Pfeffel’s hated, ADHD-raddled regime, Sam believes Truss made a profound mis-step with her first two speeches, one to Tory Central, the other to the waiting world. Both at the Gathering of the Tories and outside #10, Truss first name-checked BoJo and all the “amazing” things he achieved, from a bungled Brexshit to “the fastest COVID vaccine rollout” (until – very soon – it wasn’t).

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What happens when enough really is enough?

Inflation! Energy crisis! Cost of living! Inequality! Strikes! A government out of its depth and out of touch. And that’s just 1978 …

The latest episode of the SmallDataForum podcast opens with Thomas comparing the not-so-good old days of the Winter of Discontent in Britain with the dry bleak hot summer of 2022. Ah, 1978: when Margaret Thatcher was not yet Prime Minister, and the average CEO of a UK FTSE 100 company earned 11 times that of the average full-time worker (Equality Trust report).

Fast forward to today when political weathervane Mary Elizabeth Truss, erstwhile anti-monarchist Liberal Democrat, committed Remainer and serial Maggie cosplayer, is given a 95% chance to be the new Prime Minister by 5 September. The median CEO / worker ratio is now well above 100 to 1.

While wistfully recalling the rubbish heaps triggered by a general strike in ‘78/’79, Neville cites a long list of present societal afflictions that the UK’s “zombie government” is unable to address, from inflation to climate change impact, energy bills to raw sewage dumped on beaches. Now, as then, there is plenty of anger and a strong sense that we’ve had it, that enough is enough.

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Bye bye Alex

As I am typing up the show notes for our latest podcast, news has come in that former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has been assassinated during a campaign event. A sad, sinister reminder that contrary to what the soon former prime minister of the UK would have us believe, it’s not all a laugh and a half.

As if we needed reminding. The murder of Sir David Amess was only nine months ago,  and Jo Cox was killed just before the Brexit Referendum, in June 2016. Culture wars and wedge politics will only ever make things worse.

Even The Spectator is now pushing back against the growing Trumpification of political discourse in the UK. But that was never an issue for the P.T. Barnum of British politics and his confederacy of dunces, as Sam generously labels Her Majesty’s continuously thinning Government.

But the times they are about to be a-changin: together with a majority of – not just the Westminster commentariat but – the great British public, the SmallDataForum punditariat on Friday rejoiced in the news that finally, FINALLY, the Shagamemnon (thanks Marina Hyde) of Downing Street, the tousled blonde cherub, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, announced his resignation on 7 July as leader of the UK’s Conservative Party.

He remains Prime Minister until a new party leader is voted on by Conservative MPs and party members.

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