SmallDataForum’s Diamond Jubilee

Honi soit qui mal y pense …

After seven years of vigorous podnostication, the SmallDataForum reaches its diamond anniversary. Or semi-sesquicentennial (‘half one hundred and fifty’) as Sam (of course!) informs us. Seventy-five episodes of wondering and pondering about the strange times we live in, with absolutely no end in sight.

Our almost hour-long Zoomwag starts with the battle of the micro-messaging platforms: X vs Threads, Twitter vs Meta, Elon vs Mark – the digital cage fight over the monetizable part of the networked world. Tech maven and serial early adopter and experimenter-user Neville explains it all with exemplary breadth and depth.

Social anti-social media

“Mega instant network” Threads is actually part of Instagram and should thus be called Instagram Threads. Neville highlights benefits – it’s so easy to attract an audience, just follow all your Insta friends – as well as costs:  if you decide to uninstall it, it will also uninstall Instagram.

We hear about Threads’ instant success, with more than 150m downloads and over 100m active users within days (though the latest news is that half of the early users have since left again).

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Flushable, unflushable, or lingering round the U-bend?

We start episode 74 of the Small Data Forum podcast – or “1 AB” as Thomas christens it; the first after B*ris – in what many are calling “the era past peak podcast”.

Things haven’t worked out as well for our medium of choice as Spotify predicted and gambled, and that includes the platform’s not-so-conscious uncoupling from the Sussexes. But we – like the relentless grind of British politics – carry on regardless.

Thomas recalls the halcyon days when democracy meant the executive, legislature, and judiciary: three, interlocking, interdependent branches that worked with checks and balances, each branch (or arm) keeping the other in its proper place.

In banana republics (like the US and UK), this breaks down when – usually – the army takes over; what was termed Gleichschaltung or a system of coordination or total control in Nazi Germany. There have been more than shades of this under the Johnson and Trump regimes from 2016 onwards.

The terrible two

Sam surveys the carnage in British politics in the past month.

Since we three last met, the House of Commons Privileges Committee has published its findings into the Partygate affair. Getting wind of a pre-publication draft, Johnson clearly saw the writing was on the wall for his political career inside Westminster, pronounced the Committee (and the report) a “witch-hunt”, and resigned as an MP.

He’d have been out on his ear when the report was published – recommending a 90-day suspension, triggering a Recall Petition and a by-election in his Uxbridge constituency – so rather than be pushed, he jumped. His pre-publication Trumpian rhetoric added to the severity of the punishment, and yet still Johnson didn’t care.

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Trolley problems

Back in the grey drizzle of a late March Friday morning in the UK, the three Podnosticators of the SmallDataForum convene to take another sideways look at ‘events, dear boy, events’ (something Harold Macmillan apparently never said).

For once, and in spite of recent headline-grabbing incidents, we give relatively short shrift to the unflushable turds of politics on either side of the Atlantic – though Sam briefly reminds us of the two blonde bombshell’s travails – one with the UK parliament’s privileges committee, the other with a Manhattan grand jury.

Perhaps by SDF 72, there will have been some flushing. Though we’re not holding our breath.

In the meantime, we focus our attention on three themes:

  1. The “sic transit gloria – quo vadis” of the Tory party
  2. The UK government’s WORLD LEADING AI plans
  3. The BBC post causa Gary Lineker

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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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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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