We’re 50!

It’s been a long time coming, this in-person get-together of the three SmallDataForagers (I assume that’s what you call someone moderating a forum?) to celebrate our Golden Jubilee.

1,955 days, in fact, since our fateful first encounter in the now sadly defunct Hospital Club in Soho. And nearly 650 days since our last Olivelli feast, just before Christmas 2019, when the world was a different, less pandemic place.

That is of course all small fry compared with the 5,788 days that Angela Merkel has held the office of German Bundeskanzler. More of her and German politics later.   

So, a long time coming, and well worth the wait: great company, inspiring conversations – the three of us don’t just have now 50 SDF episodes to reminisce over, but also a shared professional history of one time (Sam, Thomas) and other (Neville) working in the London office of what is now Real Chemistry, a power house of digital analytics alchemy driven business insights in life sciences.

As rebranding is such a thing, and in light of our professional interests (not least Sam’s second book), perhaps we should start calling ourselves the SmallDataBigInsightsForum?

Demonstrating resilient continuity in the face of pandemic disruption, we also reconvened at the Picturehouse Central members bar high above Piccadilly for one of those rare occasions, a live in-person podcast recording.

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Veni, vidi, vaxi

As Thomas is making his usual round of introductions for this, the forty-ninth episode of the Small Data Forum podcast, he comments on Sam’s status as a published author. “Published author you too!” booms Sam, celebrating Thomas’ first-ever, peer-reviewed, academic article, written with his doctoral supervisor – and recent SDF interview guest – Darren Lilleker.

For at the very start of this month, the esteemed Journal of Public Affairs saw fit to publish “The challenges of providing certainty in the face of wicked problems: Analysing the UK government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic”, a very on-message, on-podcast, rather-more-academic-than-we-usually-are critical analysis of how the Johnson Junta has managed with the ‘wicked problem’ (technical term) of Covid.

Thomas summarises the arguments in the paper, of how Her Majesty’s Government’s response to the threat of the pandemic “has not been all that pretty”. After all the puffed-up, Cummings-laden rhetoric of the December 2019 election campaign which was supposed to be all about ‘getting Brexit done’ (“campaigning in poetry” to purloin Mario Cuomo’s phrase), Johnson’s cabinet of political pygmies has struggled to live up to the challenge of “governing in prose”.

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SDF Interview: Anne Hardy, CISO at Talend, on regulation vs self-regulation for Big Tech

Anne Hardy

Like (slow) buses, you wait for years for interviews to turn up on the SmallDataForum podcast, and two turn up within but five months of each other.

With Thomas taking the first plunge with his doctoral supervisor, Darren Lilleker, back in March, it was Sam’s turns to become inquisitor with Anne Hardy, Chief Information Security Officer at US-French data security firm, Talend (lovely animation on the homepage).

Our conversation focused on the necessary balance between regulation and self-regulation of Big Tech. After some spectacular failures of anything approaching good governance – from Facebook and Cambridge Analytica to the Trump and Brexit campaigns, familiar topics to aficionados of this podcast – the tide is turning on consumer privacy and the uses and abuses of personally identifiable information (PII data).

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It did not come home

Saka and Southgate

Two Englishmen and a German talk about football… With SDF episode no. 48 being recorded sandwiched between the 1966 World Cup win (20,187 days ago, assuming Sam’s calculation is correct) and the 2021 final of the Euros (2.5 days ahead at the time of recording), we couldn’t possibly avoid the topic.

It was by no means the only topic though, and we started our latest Zoom outing by bashfully listing recent achievements, from Sam’s quadruple haul at the Communicate Magazine’s Internal Communication and Engagement Awards – read all about it here,

At least Sam’s a winner

to my co-guest-editorship of ESSACHESS Journal of Communication on the future of all things PR and comms, together with the truly fabulous Ana Adi,

Great food for thought about PR in this free journal, edited by Dr Ana Adi and Thomas Stoeckle

to without a doubt the most impressive achievement: Neville’s loss of over two stone in weight in eleven weeks (check out the Zoom video!), thanks to the NOOM programme, behaviour and mindset change, and a copious dose of strong will.

On health and behaviour change, Sam briefly mentioned the de Pfeffel government’s weight loss campaign post Alex’s brush with the cold hand of COVID: sunk without a trace, like so many test & trace and other emergency billions.

We did talk vaccination, from the US vaccination programme hitting a bit of a red wall (and no it’s not the same as in the UK, more like the opposite), where, via Tortoise Media, Sam tells us that anti-vaxxing Trumplanders are now blocking the way to nationwide herd immunity. Who would have thought…

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Oh-oh-oh, your pants are on fire

Johnson Brexit lies

During the Matrix Churchill affair – a conflict of interest and bit of political skulduggery so tepid compared with what’s happened in the intervening 20 years – the Tory MP Alan Clark conceded that he had been “economical with the actualité” in answer to Parliamentary questions.

Lying about arms export licences to Iraq seems almost innocent compared to the stodge we’re served up daily by our demagogic masters in the fibbing 2020s. Even if Clark was branded by his wife as a “total Ess-Aitch-One-Tee” in a puff-piece documentary in the 1990s, not least for his endless affairs that were satirised by Private Eye as “discussions about Uganda”.

We start our examination of the uses and abuses of data big and small with a focus on politics in the latest outing of the Small Data Forum podcast, episode 47.

Sam is inspired by the writing and the message in comedian Stewart Lee’s tragedy vehicle, his weekly Observer byline. In a recent column picking through the ashes of Labour’s shambolic performance in British local elections, Lee takes aim at Prime Minister Johnson’s record as one of the worst – and most transparent – liars in British political history.

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