The world is split, riven, and – as we so often observe from the three outposts of the Small Data Forum – like never before. Milk or tea in first? Red sauce or brown sauce on a sausage sandwich? And is it still acceptable to say “Happy New Year” after Blue Monday (the third Monday in January and officially the most depressing day of the year, which this year was also your correspondent’s birthday)?
We three podders from Plague Island seem to be in the “Aye” camp for the third of these modern dilemmas, particularly as this – episode 65 – is our first digital emission of 2023. The year in which things can only get better, as Thomas notes, doubtless inspired by the work of D:Ream.
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.
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.
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).
For understandable reasons, the last four, regular monthly episodes of the Small Data Forum podcast have been focused – almost to the point of obsession – on coronavirus. From the uncertain first fumblings of life under lockdown, through escalating mortality and morbidity, and on to a fundamental lack of trust in the competence of blustering, blond, male, right-wing leaders … the last four episodes have had it all.
Some have said that this podcast was made for events like the pandemic, scrutinising as we do the uses and abuses of data big and small in politics, business, and public life. There’s been plenty of that about of late.
So, with lockdown restrictions being lifted all around the world – and Government advice completely ignored on the beaches of Bournemouth in the mini-U.K. heatwave last week, leading Dorset police to declare the overcrowding “a major incident” – our focus in this episode was much more catholic.
Indeed, with Facebook, GDPR, and brand safety the dominant topics, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d fallen through a wormhole in the space-time continuum and teleported back to 2018.