Category Archives: What I’ve Seen

None of us know the whole story… *ever*

But that doesn’t stop us believing that we do.

My twitter stream this morning is full of bile, shock, disgust, fear, misanthropy and argument about a young man who’s been arrested for trolling the diver Tom Daley and the loss of Twitter access by Guy Adams of the Independent for having a go at NBC about their Olympic coverage.  On the one hand the abuser of a popular sportsman is hounded by the mob, on the other, Twitter itself is seen as the bad guy for limiting freedom of speech when asked to by a business partner.

At least that’s what I saw.  You may see it differently – but I recognise that that statement itself is subject to my own biases, framing and prior decisions about how the world is and how human beings operate within it.

There was a piece yesterday from Mark Earls on the futility of trying to change people’s minds with information and argument:

“We only see what we expect to see, distrust and discount the witnesses who present what we don’t want and devalue their evidence if they turn out to be from the other side.”

There’s nothing we can do about this [imho] it’s just the way [I believe] the world works.  The other side of it is that it’s easy to say something that inadvertently presses someone’s buttons and sends them into a disturbed state.  I see it everyday in all my relationships where tension and arguments arise, with even those people I love the most and with whom I think I share most common ground.  Somebody will, in the course of an ordinary conversation, say or do something that doesn’t fit with my view of how people should be and immediately I label it “totally inappropriate” and suddenly “I can’t believe they just said/did that!”  If I don’t pause at that point and think “Oh, that’s an interesting reaction, Lloyd” then retaliation is likely to follow and we can end up spiralling into pretty yucky stuff.

But when it happens on a global network between people who don’t know each other or care particularly about each other, it can get really nasty and the law needs to get involved (either the law of the land or the Twitter Terms of Use).

I think the things to remember are these:

1. When you direct something critical to another user on a social platform like Twitter, especially if that user is a person in the public eye or a corporation, it’s possible that you’ll be ignored but you may also be mobbed.  Be aware that you’re not just dealing with another person, you’re potentially also up against their friends, colleagues, business partners, fans, pretty much anyone who has experienced grief after the death of someone close to them *and* their unconscious reactions that may turn you literally into the spawn of Satan in their eyes.  The interaction with them might draw behaviours out of you that you’d rather not have displayed in public, which may turn out to be illegal when expressed on the internet and may result in real-life physical consequences for you, your friends, colleagues… etc.

2. Twitter is a privately owned company with its own vision, priorities and agenda. Value to the company, their shareholders, and by extension those with whom they have strategic and commercial alliances, will always trump the needs of an individual non-paying user.  They are not a nationalised industry, or piece of public infrastructure, no matter how much we wish they were.  If we want a public utility like that, we’ll have to build it and pay for it ourselves.

Control again

I got an e-mail today saying:

“I am part of the web development team for XXXX where we are constantly trying to improve the http://www.XXXXX.com site’s user experience. Part of this improvement involves meeting our users’ expectations when they are referred to XXXXX.com from other websites. To achieve this we are trying to ensure that all inbound links to our site point to a page that is relevant and useful to the visitor and that the link has anchor text that accurately describes the page it is linking to.

On this page of your site http://perfectpath.co.uk/XXXX you have a link to XXXXX.com. To help us improve the usability of our site it would be greatly appreciated if you could change the link so that it has the following anchor text and links to the following page.”

No.

This is my blog. If you don’t understand that as an answer, then you’re not qualified to be in any web development team imho.

There are two parts to it:

1. My – I write it and keep it tidy. I write whenever and whatever I like. I update things if I think there’s some value in doing so. I don’t work for you just because I linked to your site. Content on my site doesn’t get updated just because you decide to reorganise your site. If you break your own links or are engaging in some SEO shenanigans, it’s really not my problem.

2. Blog – the web is not an extension of your content management system, it’s a place where I write on the internet, for myself and for people I know. I didn’t link to you for your benefit, I linked to you because I thought it might be useful to my readers at that time. I’m highly dubious that anyone will look at that post very much, the value to people who read this blog has deteriorated over time anyway. Yes there are interesting things in my archives, but my post linking to you isn’t one of them, it was just a “Here’s what I did today” post.

I can’t say much more without going into details that would reveal who the e-mail came from. Gah!

Facebook misuse of “via”

This has been bothering me for a while but I only really understood it when I just used it (Life Lesson #348).

Facebook has a kind of retweeting function so if you see something that someone else has linked to and you want to share it, the person whose feed you saw it in gets some automatic credit. Good.

I’ve only seen it so far in other people’s streams as Monkey McNutz via Chicken Crazoffsky: OMG this video makes me pee in my pants!

When both parties are a friend of mine then it can be confusing (if you don’t know the form). Who saw it first? Who’s refacebooking whom?

Then I saw it a few times where Monkey McNutz was clearly retweeting people who aren’t in my friends list people I’ve never heard of like Duckface Dibble.

So here’s the problem: I read “Monkey McNutz via Chicken Crazoffsky: OMG! ” as “Monkey says, by way of Chicken … OMG etc.” which doesn’t really make sense. It’s like Monkey is using Chicken as a ventriloquists dummy – whereas actually it’s the other way round. This message is coming to you from Chicken via Monkey (cos you might not know Chicken at all)

I think it’s something about the placement of the via clause – if it were at the end of the link (or whatever is being shared) then it would make sense, because it’s more obviously an attribution – but having it in the Name field drives me McNutz.

See? You don’t see, do you, it’s just me, isn’t it…? sorry.

macro works too

I’ve asked a number of people to write recommendations for me on linked-in – it’s been a(nother) humbling experience to see myself as others see me.

This snip from Dave Briggs has grabbed a few folks’ attention:

“Lloyd has the bravery to make himself and his life an integral part of his work. He literally lives and breathes this stuff. If I had lots of money, I would give a pile of it to Lloyd to just carry on being him. You should, too.”

So if you’ve avoided micropatronage so far because it’s just not big enough, listen to Dave ;)

You can see my linked-in profile here

Let’s Fix the World! A 21st Century Parlour Game

Here’s a game that’s become popular among those of my acquaintance in recent years.

“Let’s do something to fix the world!” requires 3 or more players. Otherwise it risks descending into “Two boring gits mouthing off in the pub.” 20-30 folk make for a really good game.

The players are gathered out of business hours in a conference suite of a leading company or a government department. In the foyer, they are given mineral water, orange juice (occasionally cranberry), tea and coffee. Sometimes there are peanuts and kettle crisps. Gamesmasters who introduce alcohol at this stage are asking for trouble. The players are left to mingle. Most huddle in corners with their old pals. One or two, not knowing the etiquette, pursue other players around the room trying to press business cards into their hands while describing their highly valuable services.

After this warm-up period, the players are led into a meeting room which may contain tables and chairs arranged cabaret style or just chairs randomly scattered or, in the Owen variation, there may be little or no furniture at all.

The gamesmaster/mistress announces the theme for the evening, the “Big Question of the Night” or BQN (once hilariously, but mistakenly referred to as “the bacon” – ie “If we can please just get back to the bacon”). If any mild excitement has already emerged s/he will dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd by reading the contents of a long and detailed Powerpoint presentation. The theme is usually a confusingly worded question. Those devising the BQN should ensure that it covers a very wide subject area – it needs to be BIG, man, really BIIIIG. Squash out any specificity and introduce as much ambiguity in the question as possible. To add spice you may wish to declare that supposedly well-defined and well-understood terms are up for re-definition in this context.

Players are now grouped by a method of the gamesmasters choice, though “Boys v Girls” and distinctions based on social class or ethnic background are generally frowned upon in today’s politically correct dystopia. Don’t worry, the socially capable can get on with anyone and those who look a bit lost can be shepherded up into a “Nerds” group.

Now the “conversation” starts. There are a number of recognised opening gambits: “There’s nothing new under the sun”, “We must firmly lay the blame at the feet of the last government”, “I’m alright, Jack” etc. are played as a dummy to make sure that any new players don’t have a clue about what’s really going on. Then the real play starts. Players take it in turns to offer their solution to the BQN.

You may find the following observations on play to be useful:

1. If you are there to sell a commercial service that might at a stretch be a solution to the BQN, you must not refer to that service by name, nor may you reveal (except in a whispered aside to a trusted co-player) to the group this happy coincidence.

2. If you know or suspect that a co-player is trying to sell such a service, it’s considered bad form to declare this outright. However, you might make some knowing remark which makes your co-player blanch while the rest of the team remain unaware.

3. Wherever possible your contributions should refer to solutions that stress certainty, incentivisation, efficiency, driving out redundancy and duplication and the well-known fact that all human-based systems tend toward equillibrium. Phrases such as “it’s human nature”, “survival of the fittest”, “no pain, no gain” are all splendid signs that the game is going well.

4. Points are available for telling a story you once read in a book. With a bonus if you manage to get the title of the book and the name of the author completely wrong. Extra bonus if you actually heard the author speak but still get her name wrong.

5. Points are sometimes awarded for inventive use of diversionary tactics such as arguing definitions, restating the important differences between the public and private sectors, drawing pyramid-shaped diagrams on the back of a napkin. However, most conoisseurs will recognise these as the hallmark of the newcomer or amateur.

6. At the discretion of the gamesmaster, a “plenary” session may follow where those players with inflated egos get to repeat everything they said and ignore what the rest of their group offered. If these people are particularly self-important, you may wish to provide “scribes” to make a glowing record of their wise words on flipchart paper. Then it’s off down the pub.

Disciplinary notes:
1. People who try to point out that this is just a stupid game that we play and it never gets us anywhere except salving our consciences, and it’s always the same old faces and god, what are we doing here? may be pronounced “A Bore” and sent to the corner to think about their wicked ways (mostly though they are simply ignored).

2. Anyone trying to start a real human conversation based on individual, personal experience, that isn’t about selling anything, or making people look wrong, or making ourselves look good is given one chance to try again and a withering look of pity. If they start up again they will be escorted from the premises immediately.

The winner is anyone with a vested interest in their little bit of the world staying exactly the same as it is, thank you very much.

Some Questions on the Volcanic Ash

“Volcanic ash can be dangerous for aircraft, causing damage, reducing visibility, and potentially clogging engines” and so there are currently no flights over the UK and much of Northern Europe.

At 8.20 tonight the NATS site said ” restrictions will remain in place in UK controlled airspace until 1300 (UK time) tomorrow, Friday 16 April, at the earliest.” and “at 0230 (UK time) tomorrow we will advise the arrangements that will be in place through to 1800 (UK time) tomorrow. However be aware that the situation cannot be said to be improving with any certainty as the forecast affected area appears to be closing in from east to west.”

As I walked through London I overheard conversations between worried tourists and businesspeople, but also jovial banter about people stuck on holiday in the south of France.

First question then is for the vulcanologists and meteorologists:

“How long will the cloud of ash stay over the UK?”

Answer is of course “We don’t know, no really, we don’t” – it depends both on the length of the eruption (it’s still going on) and on the weather conditions.

So it could be over in a few more hours. Or it could go on for months (!) Thor Thordarsson is quoted on BBC news as saying: “If the eruption has a face change and starts to produce lava… then we might be in for a much longer haul, an eruption that might last for months or even years, with a quiet period in between intermittent explosions.”

Prof Bill McGuire, professor at the Aon Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre is quoted in the same article: “it is worth noting that the last eruption of Eyjafjallajoekull lasted more than 12 months.”

That was 1821-1823 though – no jet engines to damage.

So more questions, this time for economists. In the case where the eruption continues for months:

1. What is the daily economic effect of a total ban on airtravel in the UK? (I normally hate these big numbers bandied around, but if we can do it for snow hitting London, we can make an estimate for this) What are the costs? Missed meetings, people just not being in the right place at the right time, delayed delivery of cargo etc.

2. How about that for those countries that are currently affected by the cloud?

3. How long can airlines stay in business in the face of no air travel? Are we talking days, weeks or months? When might we expect the first call for a government bail-out?

4. Which are more vulnerable to a prolonged ban, airlines or the airports?

5. Which other businesses in the air travel value chain will be seriously affected – who is highly dependent and already economically weak?

6. Who’s going to make a killing, other than Eurostar? or (gulp) the ferries?

Note: these questions are not all mine, they have came up in conversation with fine Tuttle people in the course of this evening.

Suburban Station Slashers

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Two things I notice about this group of posters at Epsom station:

1. The common use of Black, Red & White both between the dark fiction titles but also with an exhibition about Victoria & Albert – does this tell us anything about our attitude to Victorian times?

2. Why are these books so popular with suburban rail passengers? Or at least why are suburban rail passengers routinely targeted by the publishers of these books? What does it mean that large numbers of people pouring into London every morning have just spent half an hour immersed in blood, slashing, and psychopathic torture?