Five for Friday (14/7/2017)

Another Friday, another fistful of linkitude.

  1. Digital Workplace Leader – a fun looking job going at Thanet District Council. “The digital workplace leader will be an experienced professional who leads the effort to create a work environment that exploits digital trends and encourages digital dexterity through the adroit use of technology. The goal is to improve employee agility and engagement so that Thanet District Council can profit from changing business models and improved workforce effectiveness in order to achieve its organisational goals.” If you get it, good luck in getting all that done in the year the job lasts for (!).
  2. ‘I don’t know how to use a computer!’: the stories of our most dangerous public servants – this story from Leah Lockhart got a lot of Twitter attention and rightly so. Hard not to laugh at this stuff at times, but of course it is in fact a complete disgrace. Wearing your ignorance as a badge of honour is never cool.
  3. Publishers and the pursuit of the past – there’s nowt so tedious than the future of journalism discussion, but Ben Thompson at least brings in some strategic thinking about business models and incentives that’s worth digging into.
  4. A networked organisation – Cassie Robinson is on fire at the moment – I feel like she should be given her own slot here every week. Here she articulates what it means to be a networked organisation  – and how that differs from the activity ‘networking’.
  5. Building a digital culture in DWP – another nice list of things that digital cultures look and feel like, this time by Jon Osborn. I do like “less process, more progress” and might start saying it on regular occasions, irregardless of context.

As always, these have mostly all been tweeted during the week, and you can find everything I’ve found interesting and bookmarked here.

Link roundup

I find this stuff so you don’t have to:

What I’ve been reading

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

You can find all my bookmarks on Pinboard.

Bookmarks for December 12th through December 30th

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.

Oh dear, Andrew Marr…

I don’t tend to respond to this sort of thing, but this one pressed several of my buttons.

The so-called “citizen journalists” will never offer a real replacement to newspapers and television news, he told Cheltenham Literature Festival.

He said: “Most citizen journalism strikes me as nothing to do with journalism at all.

A lot of bloggers seem to be socially inadequate, pimpled, single, slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower-nosed, young men sitting in their mother’s basements and ranting. They are very angry people.”


First point – the irony of Marr insulting people due to the appearance of physical features attached to their heads is hard to ignore.

Second – I’m no particular fan of journalism as a profession, especially given all the bleating about it that goes on in the mainstream media. Journalists write stuff down. There really isn’t that much that’s special about it. Lots of people can do it, and they are doing so. Get over it.

Thirdly, bloggers are angry ranters, are they? Has Marr read any of the columns that appear in newspapers every day of the week? Is he entirely unaware of the filth peddled by the likes of Jan Moir on a regular basis?

Finally, and the bit that really gets my goat: the lazy assumption that people who like computers are weird, scabby losers that hang out in their bedrooms all day long. I’ve said it before, but the fact that wearing ignorance of technology as a badge of honour is still acceptable these days is a disgrace, and it’s the sort of tosh that Marr is trotting out here that only encourages it.

“Angry rant” over.

Bookmarks for March 30th through April 5th

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

  • The Collapse of Complex Business Models « Clay Shirky – Awesome stuff from Shirky.
  •   Reflecting on my MSc research by Michele Ide-Smith – "By researching the attitudes and perceptions of authorities and citizens I hope to gain a better understanding of perceived barriers, threats and opportunities of using social media for community engagement"
  • Cinch – "Cinch is a free and easy way to create and share audio, text and photo updates using your phone or computer. Cinch enables you to capture and report on your experiences in a way that simple text just can't do. Using a simple interface, you can make and broadcast your content creations through Facebook, Twitter, and more."
  • The State of the Internet Operating System – O’Reilly Radar – "Ask yourself for a moment, what is the operating system of a Google or Bing search? What is the operating system of a mobile phone call? What is the operating system of maps and directions on your phone? What is the operating system of a tweet?"
  • Penval’s Digital Inclusion Manifesto – Well done Paul Nash. This is what the digital inclusion debate needs – proper, thought through ideas. Genuinely constructive contributions. Not just people bleating about the problems.
  • tecosystems » Forking, The Future of Open Source, and Github – Is the future of open source going to be based on communities such as Apache and Eclipse or will it be based on companies that sell open source? Neither.
  • Dr Dennis Kimbro & his views on recruitment – Really interesting and thought provoking piece on talent management, and attitudes to it, in local government.
  • In quest of simplicty – "We expect IT to be complex and costly, but the lesson of the past 5 years in IT – where we’ve seen the consumerization of enterprise IT (“enterprise” is often a coy way of saying “this has to be complex and expensive – no questions!”) – is that IT can be both simple and cheap."
  • Law and social media – dull but important – "Social media throws up issues of privacy and identity which are far more complex when you have a complete record of someone’s time online and a also a need to balance the personal with the professional roles of an individual. "
  • Powerful petitions with real teeth set to bite – "Local people can now demand their councils take action on underperforming schools and hospitals, drink disorder, anti-social behaviour and other concerns under new rules giving real power to local petitions, announced Communities Secretary John Denham today."

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.

Moronic reporting of non issues

Take a look at this story, excitingly titled on the BBC News site “Council Twitter users face rebuke“.

Councillors in Cornwall could face being reported to the authority’s standards committee for using social networking sites.

The trouble is, no they’re not.

Later in the article:

It follows claims that a number of councillors used Twitter during a meeting and mocked other members.

If a councillor is found to breach the code of conduct for inappropriate comments, they could be suspended.

So this is about councillors saying naughty things, and not about them using Twitter, or whatever.

Another example of the easy fixation on technology as being the story, when it isn’t. The story is behaviour: people and the relationships they have with others.

We really don’t need anymore Twitter scare stories, it isn’t productive and it helps nobody.

Theo Tait on Gordon Burn

Nice, longish essay in the LRB this issue, by Theo Tait on Gordon Burn’s Born Yesterday which I have written about now and again.

A more unified and organised book would have excluded many of Born Yesterday’s highlights: the brilliant description, for example, of Kate Middleton being hit simultaneously by a paparazzi ambush and a hailstorm, outside Tesco Local on the King’s Road: ‘It was like Kate Middleton’s appearance on the street was the cue for special effects to turn the rain machine on, for the music to be brought up high and the smokers, taciturn and sullen to that point, to become animated into a jostling crowd scene.’ Quoting selectively doesn’t do justice to a bravura five-page passage that works by its accretion of big ideas and weird local detail. The writing is often relentless and incantatory, but it is also sharp-eyed and full of vivid particularity. Here is David Beckham appealing on TV for information about Madeleine, ‘holding up a picture captioned with the single word desaparecida’: ‘the broad diamond-encrusted ring, the buffed pearl-cuticled nails, the big fuck-off watch’. It’s good to see the British novel, or whatever Born Yesterday is, showing a bit of experimental swagger. From time to time, I even found myself excitedly wondering whether Gordon Burn hadn’t written a sort of Waste Land for the rolling news era.

Flat Earth News

Flat Earth NewsI am currently reading Flat Earth News by Nick Davies, which focuses on journalism and news and how the profession is failing in its duty to protect and disseminate the truth. This isn’t, Davies claims, because of a some moral failing on the part of journalists, nor out of commercial pressure, or indeed interference from proprietors. Instead, Davies points the finger at the way in which stories are promulgated across the media as a result of a lack of fact checking and a desire to cover breaking news regardless of whether or not it is actually verifiable.

The first example Davies provides is that of the millennium bug. Before the turn of the century, significant numbers of column inches were dedicated to describing the disasters and calamities that would befall society if nothing were done about it. But in truth, the actual number of systems affected by the bug were minimal:

…the problem would only occur in computers which had internal clocks (most desktop computers do, but most ’embedded’ systems, on which big organisations rely, don’t), but only if those clocks calculated time by using a calendar rather than by simply measuring the gap between two dates, and only if those calendars used only two digits to register the years, rather than four, and only if the computer was being used for programs which had to calculate time across the boundary between 1999 and 2000.

Needless to say, there weren’t many such systems around, and at the dawn of the new millennium, there were no planes falling from the sky, nor riots destroying our streets. The story had spread because the actual likely dangers were exaggerated by the various sources that the journalists were relying on, and those sources were not necessarily acting in a malicious way. Firstly, the IT security experts exaggerated the risk so that people would listen to them and take the issue seriously. From this, parties with an interest in the issue added to the noise: office managers seeking upgrades to their systems used the millennium bug as an excuse; governments overreacted so a not to appear as taking the nation’s security lightly. Then the third wave of opinion started to be voiced: those who had no clue what they were talking about at all.

This cacophony is self perpetuating, until some point where the truth becomes self-evident, and in this case that point was 1 January 2000, when nothing happened. Davies gives other examples too: the rumours around Bill Clinton in the 1990s, and the furore surrounding the prescription of heroin by British doctors. In the latter case, this can be seen to have had some serious consequences for society.

I’m interested in seeing what Davies comes up with in terms of explanations as to why journalists appear to be so compliant with this. Reviews of the book mentioned issues such as the demands of time and resources leading to a over-reliance on wire copy and a reluctance to fact-check. The rolling 24/7 news agenda must have some bearing on this with news TV channels demanding constant big stories and breaking updates and this is also true now of print journalists who provide content for news websites as well as for the print editions.

Does the use of social media tools by citizen journalists help or hinder the journalist profession in it’s pursuit of the truth? In many ways the influence is a negative one – bloggers have no requirement to meet any kind of professional standards and can publish more or less what they like – there is no Blogging Complaints Commission for example. This means that stories can get some air before they reach the traditional news media, giving them a life that they might not otherwise have got.

But that’s just one side of the coin. Citizen journalists can also get the truth out quicker, even when the mainstream media is pushing a different line. And while the authors of blogs might not necessarily always write the truth, it’s far harder for the majority of folk to falsify photographic or video social reporting (ok, so there is always Photoshop, and the equivalents for video editing, but the numbers of people who can produce convincing falsification are few and far between).

I mentioned in a previous post that perhaps a role for the professional journalist in the networked society might be in turning the fragments produced by the social reporters, the citizen journalists, into cohesive wholes, by taking a perspective a bit wider than the folk in the street with their camera phones who are providing the building blocks of the truth that in turn provide the journalists with the authenticity their stories need.

There is a Flat Earth News site with further information, extracts etc. It runs on Drupal!

Update: Just found this Guardian podcast featuring an interview with Davies. Well worth a listen.

BBC blogging

Interesting re-post of an article that appeared in the BBC’s in-house magazine Ariel by Rory Cellan-Jones on the issues around the launch of the various blogs written by BBC journalists:

It strikes me the initial concerns were twofold – that nobody would be interested in our blogs so they would be a waste of a correspondent’s effort, and that they would threaten our impartiality. But the blogs have attracted plenty of readers – Robert Peston’s Peston’s Picks gets a million page views a month – and they’ve done that without descending to the opinionated, loudmouthed knockabout which was previously seen as the prerequisite for success in this arena.

What blogging does allow a broadcaster to do is to cover stories that would never make it onto the airwaves, and, in my case, to engage with a different and very knowledgeable audience. Mind you, that’s bound to be a minority audience and the danger is they become a distraction from the job of reaching the mass of licence-fee payers. Alf Hermida suggests that the BBC bloggers need to do even more to have a conversation with these people – I think there are risks in getting too involved.

Are these issues peculiar to the BBC, I wonder, or indeed peculiar to journalism?