The old rules don’t apply

For once, it appears, the Small Data Forum three are ahead of the news.

So often in recent months and years, we’ve recorded an episode on a Friday morning and by the Sunday night before publication we’ve had to make rapid edits to the show notes because … a president has been impeached, a special adviser been sacked, or a new lockdown announced.

But today – today feels different. Is it because we were recording first thing on a Monday for next-day publication? Or is it because so much news had happened of late that we had the timing right for once? Time – of course – will tell.

On day 110 of Russia’s war on Ukraine – a topic that doesn’t delay us beyond a heartfelt appeal for the nonsense to stop – Thomas opens proceedings by reflecting on Prime Minister Johnson’s “victory” in his vote of (no) confidence handed to him by his own members of parliament.

Well, 211 MPs (59%) voted for the bloated bloviator, while 148 (41%) wanted to see the back of him. A smaller majority than that recorded by Johnson’s lame duck predecessor, Theresa May (a 63%-37% split), who was history less than six months on.

Indeed, according to fashion and style bible Tatler – a hapax legomenon in the annals of these show notes if ever there was one – it was May who was ‘the real winner’ of the vote, by virtue of turning up to the vote in a ball gown.

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Convolvulus, Coronavirus & the Thomas theorem, or when stuff gets real

“If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequence”.

This little known sociological formula from the late 1920s, known as the Thomas Theorem after husband-and-wife research team William and Dorothy Thomas (I wish I could claim a level of ownership but no), helps us understand how and why the perception and interpretation of events determine the impact of such events in a media world.

And it’s not hard to see why there might be a problem when ‘situations’ arise from mis- and dis-information.

For almost four years now, the SmallDataForum has been mulling over, musing on and opining about the uses and abuses of data big and small in politics, business and public life – and with Brexit and Trump perma-themes on our show, mis- and dis-information have always been top of the bill.

No surprise, then, that our latest podcast – recorded in splendid self-isolation in our respective home offices – was largely about the misinfodemic of COVID-19.

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Reining in tech: responsibility, regulation and education

Our Christmas episode was recorded under the auspices of Janus, the god of all things related to time. Now into the month named after him, the SmallDataForum reviews its predictions and looks at the year ahead:

Will Europe ‘take back control’, or will commercial pressures curb big tech’s enthusiasm? Will 2018 be the breakthrough year for chatbots and DPAs (digital personal assistants), both in business and personal use? How will continuous technological and economic transformations affect connections between people?

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Looking forward by looking back

Janus

As the Small Data Forum progresses through its early teenage years – our latest podcast is episode 14 already – regular co-hosts Thomas Stoeckle, Neville Hobson, and Sam Knowles are taking the opportunity to look forward by looking back.

Patients of our own medicine, you might say, we’re using the year end and what we’ve observed and learned in 2017 to enter the predictive analytics business.

We take our inspiration from Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, transitions, and time, after whom January is named. A sculpture of Janus appears at the top of this blog, from the Vatican Museum.

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08: The Facebook files, machine learning and fake news continue

Such is the nature of our continuously evolving subject matter, when we have completed a podcast, we often find that on key discussion points, there is already more, and breaking news.

Just days after recording our latest musings last week on the challenges and opportunities surrounding big-small data, with multiple references to Facebook and their attempts to counter fake news, the Guardian broke the story of the Facebook Files, based on more than 100 internal training manuals, spreadsheets and flowcharts outlining the rules and guidelines for what its two billion users can and can’t post on the site.

This will add to the global debate about the role and ethics of Facebook and other social media platforms in public discourse. And without a doubt it will be a key topic of future SDF podcasts.


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