The Christmas gift you deserve: freedom from Facebook

If you want to get yourself a present for Christmas, then how about extra free time with a side-order of serenity? Follow Jaron Lanier’s advice and cut down on social media. I’d add, start with Facebook.

Facebook has unappealing aspects common to many tech companies, such as aggressively (and legally) avoiding taxes. But when it comes to disrupting politics, by allowing who knows who to target voters with ads saying (until recently) who knows what, it has no equal. Continue reading “The Christmas gift you deserve: freedom from Facebook”

NUJ freelance training in 2019

The National Union of Journalists has announced 2019 dates for my day courses for freelancers, all running at NUJ headquarters at Headland House, Acton Street, 10 minutes’ walk from King’s Cross and St Pancras stations.

I am down to run First steps in freelancing, designed for new and recent converts to the freelance life, on Friday 22 March and Friday 11 October. It costs £60 for most NUJ members, £50 for student members and £110 for everyone else.

Winning and negotiating freelance work will run on Friday 5 April and Friday 25 October. It costs £70 for most NUJ members, £60 for student members and £130 if you are not a member. Continue reading “NUJ freelance training in 2019”

Aid organisations dodge cloud for technology that works

There were two reasons I wanted to write about software used by international aid organisations. The first reason was that there were lots of great projects to write about. Where commercial mappers failed, Missing Maps volunteers using OpenStreetMap and aerial images had 23,500 square kilometres of the Democratic Republic of the Congo hit by Ebola mapped in a fortnight, helping Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to tackle the outbreak.

The second reason was that aid organisations need technology that works in all environments. Among other things, this often means avoiding cloud computing. MSF physically flew its new maps to the Congo, first on paper then on a small server, to save bandwidth to its facilities there. Those with staff working mainly in the field, such as Oxfam and World Vision, make sure their software works offline. It demonstrates why cloud is not the answer everywhere, even if mobile coverage in Britain are usually better than in central Africa. Continue reading “Aid organisations dodge cloud for technology that works”

Blockchain: cut the cryptocurrencies and taste the tuna

Cryptocurrencies based on blockchain technology, such as bitcoin and ethereum, get a lot of hype. Some believe they are the future of finance, while other including savvy MPs on the Commons Treasury Committee and the Financial Times’ Alphaville blog (free registration required) take a more cynical view. Recent drops in the price of bitcoin suggest the latter have a point.

Like many technologies, blockchain – which creates a permanent, unalterable record of transactions – may prove to be of greater use in areas other than its original one. I have previously looked at its uses outside finance for Computer Weekly, but have now focused on how it can support food and drink supply chains. Continue reading “Blockchain: cut the cryptocurrencies and taste the tuna”

The profit-loss divide on a decade’s house prices

Land accounts for 51% of the UK’s total net worth of £10.2 trillion, far more than in France (42%) or Germany (26%). Most of this, £4.1 trillion, is the value of the land our homes are built on – the buildings are worth a further £1.8 trillion.

From 2009 to 2017, the Office for National Statistics reckons that land held by households has risen by a compound annual growth rate of 5.9%. But that disguises huge local differences. I compared the latest June 2018 data from the Land Registry’s House Price Index to that of a decade earlier, and found that in 42 of the UK’s 217 top-tier local authority areas house prices have actually fallen in cash terms over the decade. They are marked pink and red on this map.

Continue reading “The profit-loss divide on a decade’s house prices”