Where we discuss a crazy aviator, BongBong and a pigeon …

In another case of the speed of news catching out the SmallDataForum’s best-laid arguments, Neville’s, Sam’s, and my combined Musk-whispering was rendered somewhat outdated by the announcement – just hours after our podcast recording – that enigmatic Elon has put his Twitter purchase on hold because … oh never mind the stated reasons.

Actually, it wasn’t our exploring Musk’s motivations that had become outmoded, it was merely the factual base of our musings. Will he, won’t he buy Twitter? Will he, won’t he lose billions over the deal?

Musky musings

Will he, won’t he instate rules and regulations that draw the line really only at whether speech has been performed by an actual human (you’re fine, and if you say something that’s “illegal or destructive to the world”, you face temporary suspension, because free speech is a more holy principle than protecting against the impacts of hate speech, ostensibly), or a bot (in which case Elon really doesn’t want you, and in fact will retract his offer if he feels he is being outbotted).

Borrowed from the Seattle Times

The free speech issue is one of many highlighted by Neville in his characteristically well informative and well judged blog post. Neville also points us to an Axios piece listing everything Elon Musk wants to change about Twitter (surely another news item that would benefit from hourly updates), as well as challenges surrounding the commercials of the bid: a triple whammy of Twitter’s market cap dropping $9bn below Elon’s offer, Tesla’s share price down by a third from April Fool’s Day, and the Bitcoin crash impact on Tesla’s investment position.

So maybe, just maybe, Musk’s stated bot problem is a bit of a sock puppet. The Washington Post at least thinks that won’t get him out of the deal.  

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Propaganda 3.0: the end of free media (but definitely not of history)

Maria Ovsyannikova protest

Taking its cue from professional media commentators, the SmallDataForum kicks off with Thomas quoting Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, who is better known by his nom de class struggle, Lenin: “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”

Unprecedent times, anyone?

Sam is reminded of the times of Soviet openness and reconstruction, Michail Gorbatschow’s Glasnost and Perestroika initiatives of the late 1980s, ‘when it all began’ – laid out with great insight in this four-part series of The Rest is History podcast.  

To which Thomas adds some on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand perspective: Francis Fukuyama’s famously misunderstood End of History essay, versus the insight of US Army educators that a permanent pulling back of the Iron Curtain will reveal a stage beset by increasing volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, which gave us VUCA – a sort of cat nip for business school educators.  

Credit: https://www.charlesleon.uk/blog/vuca2232020

With the benefit of hindsight, declaring the end of history turned out to be as premature as the description of our ever-modern world as VUCA was prescient. Brexit, Trump, COVID, war in Ukraine – it doesn’t get more VUCA than that.

Or so we hope.

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Metaverse, Omniverse, diverse, averse, perverse? 

Tired of partygate, the SmallDataForum takes measure of the mess surrounding Meta, where user numbers declined for the first time ever, followed by a rather dramatic share price dip, and Peter Thiel announcing that he would be leaving the Facebook board “to pursue Trump agenda”.

Oh well.

However, news of Meta’s impending demise would be awfully premature, as Sam reminds us.

Meta’s Valentine’s share price.

For all our Schadenfreude at Meta losing several hundred billion (!) $$$ in market value – at present, their share price is down a cool 35% from the beginning of the year, suffering the ignominy to temporarily drop behind Nvidia on the list of largest US companies – the attention capitalist behemoths Alphabet, Amazon, and Meta now hold a share of 46% of global ad spend, as opposed to 33% pre-pandemic in figures released by the World Advertising Research Center (WARC).

And yes, that’s total as in everything, not just digital…

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Big Dog, Novax and the Andrew formerly known as Prince: lessons in entitlement

Big Dog, the Andrew formerly known as Prince (as per the cracking headline in the Irish Daily Star) and NoVaxx DjoCovid walk into a bar… Sadly, that’s not how we started our latest podcast on the uses and abuses of entitlement – oops, I meant data big and small in politics, business and public life.

Neville kicks us off our recording on Friday 14th by outlining the Politico perspective of possible scenarios regarding the future of Big Dog (although that label, uncovered by The Independent, wasn’t public knowledge by the time of our recording, what with events eventuating so fast and unpredictably these days).

The upshot: degrees of likelihood of survival pour Le Grand Chien.

Since recording, Operation Red Meat has been added as the tactical ops part to Operation SBD. You’d be forgiven for thinking this was the unedited plot of some third-rate D-Day / Nam / Iraq / Afghanistan war spoof script, when in fact it is the real-life UK government panto in all its glory. No it wasn’t a work event. Oh yes it was. Boo hiss Beeb. We don’t know yet what the Transformation Scene will bring, but Dishy Rishi and The Truss are leading contenders.

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From metaverse to pyroverse. Caution: this episode contains strong language

Recorded just a week after Facebook’s rebranding announcement, this latest episode of the SmallDataForum podcast is less about “Greeks bearing gifts”, and more about the Greek and other connotations of Meta, the new company brand bringing together all of Facebook’s apps and technologies for the leap into the metaverse – although this wouldn’t be the first time Facebook’s commercial strategy is being likened to a Trojan Horse.

In keeping with the Classic Greek theme, and the various meanings of meta – some of which appeared to have been overlooked by the rebranding strategists, such as the word meaning death in Hebrew – I share my thoughts on Facebook’s After/Underworld cast, with Mark Zuckerberg as Hades, Nick Clegg as Cerberus, and Sheryl Sandberg – well I’m undecided between Hecate and Persephone. Much to the amusement of classicist Sam, whose knowledge of the Odyssey and the Book of the Dead is a lot more profound, than mine.

Mark Zuckerberg as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, courtesy of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Walt Disney, and Ingram Pinn in the Financial Times

For Sam, this is less about mythology, and more about good old crookery: a classic misdirection strategy by “pound shop table magician” Mark Zuckerberg to make Facebook’s manifold legacy problems disappear down the magician’s hat. Kevin Roose at the New York Times calls it Mark Zuckerberg’s Escape Hatch, to rebrand himself as “above-it-all-futurist … a visionary technologist rather than a destroyer of democracy.”

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