“It’s been a funny old year,” muses Thomas as we three kings of the Small Data Forum podcast begin our last ramblechat of 2021, with Thomas sounding like a football manager trying to sum up the most bizarre of seasons.
Sam believes that Thomas’ question as to whether we should see this oddest of odd years as “Plus ça change …” (and so “… plus ç’est la même chose”) is spot on.
Accusations of a series of catered parties at Number 10 are becoming more tangible and less tittle-tattle by the day – parties hosted when London was under Tier 3 restrictions and “mingerlin’” was definitely verboten. Screenshots and grainy footage of canapés and revellers crawl out of the digital woodwork to add the fire of verity to the smoke of accusations.
Spokesperson after government PR flack is being hung out to dry, resign, and spend more time with their families. The lies are mounting up like yet another set of Covid mortality statistics, and the mud sticks to everyone but the leader himself.
For Neville, the PM is deploying Steve Jobs’ notorious “reality distortion field”, and if Johnson declares black is white or up is down, everyone around him is required either to agree or get out … preferably by the back door so that no waiting media can spot and snap them, adding to the evidence pile.
“It is beyond moronic.” Yes, this might well have been a quote by Gary Neville, Alan Shearer or some other righteously outraged standard bearer of the purity of – in particular – the original English version of European soccerball, in response to the announcement of that ill-fated, short-lived ‘thought’ experiment in the commercial optimisation of said soccerball, the European Super League.
More of that – in Sam’s sober analysis: “arrogant imperialist cultural misappropriation” – later.
In this case, the quote refers to a story that broke on the morning of St George’s day, last Friday 23rd April, just in time for the recording of our latest SmallDataForum episode.
It should really have been a narrative about a hero slaying a huge fire-breathing beast (ignoring the Hydra problem that my dear friend and SDF guest illustrator Christoph alludes to in our title image, the English version of his German football cartoon), but as it turned out – perhaps more in keeping with the storytelling potential of the context and cast – this one was about a chatty rat, featuring prominently the near-forgotten Ghost of Barnard Castle, Dominic Cummings.
Neville (not Gary, but Hobson) kicks off SDF46 by relaying the highlights of the chatty rat saga, which he informed us had even made headlines in the Knutsford Chronicle. That turned out to be the Knutsford Guardian, but all the same.
So this is the episode when the three stooges of the SmallDataForum were meant to reflect wistfully on what was Great Britain exiting Greater Europe.
The irony of recording this on April Fool’s Day wasn’t lost on us.
Brexit Fool’s day is every day, these days. Our resident classicist Sam even managed to squeeze in Juvenal’s Satire VI, and even though the reference was in regard to another April Fool’s – Facebook regulation, haha – Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes might just as well mean “who regulates the regulators?”
Ah – wouldn’t that be The Great British Electorate? Well, they have spoken, just over 1,000 days ago. And what they said, means what it means. Fool’s Day and any other day.
The latest episode of the Small Data Forum podcast sees the founding trio of Neville, Thomas, and me striding confidently into our early 20s. Who knew that the fledgling born at an event in Covent Garden’s fashionable London in May 2016 – pre-Brexit, pre-Trump, pre-Cambridge Analytica farce – would endure to its twenty-second episode.
We start our latest offering with a look at Facebook’s latest, topical woes: a technical vulnerability leading to a breach of security for at least 50m European users last month. And probably 40m more.
Thanks to a favourite topic of the SDF Podcast, Facebook were required to report the breach to the EU within 72 hours under new GDPR rules. Playing by the book, Facebook did so, contacting the Irish Data Protection Commission.
Our latest podcast ended up being a tad longer than planned – clearly a sign of a lively, engaged discussion. In talking about various aspects of the attention economy, we managed to hold each other’s attention for a good 45 minutes.
Many ‘attention economists’ these days quote Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon and his observation that a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention. It is certainly a quote that has aged well, and one can only wonder what Simon would make of the world now, 47 years on from his famous statement.
Sam doesn’t quite see the crisis of attention that brands often lament. But quality and controllability matter more than ever, and producers of content – especially the advertising and media industries – need to up their game to stay relevant. Users control their online experience through ad blockers and subscription services to filter out interruptive commercial communication.