How to give well this Christmas: donate to super-efficient charities

Buying Christmas presents is always difficult. Tim Harford had some great advice in the Financial Times – his best tip was to “adopt a passive gift-buyer strategy”, by giving something you know the recipients can use, such as hard cash, along with time and attention.

There is another kind of Christmas giving where it makes sense to combine hard cash, time and attention: charitable donations. I wrote a piece for the Guardian in 2013 about charity evaluators and two British charities that they rated very highly, Against Malaria Foundation (AMF) and Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI). Continue reading “How to give well this Christmas: donate to super-efficient charities”

First steps in freelancing training at the NUJ – now Friday 9 February

Update: the new date for this course is Friday 9 February.

I will be delivering First steps in freelancing, a new one-day training course, at the National Union of Journalists in London. It aims to provide those who are just about to or just have moved to freelance journalism with what they need to know to get started successfully. Continue reading “First steps in freelancing training at the NUJ – now Friday 9 February”

Tech is not evil, despite the tobacco stains

2017 has seen a severe denting of the technology industry’s reputation. The last month alone has seen the New York Times comparing it to Big Tobacco, in a piece titled ‘How evil is tech?’; Facebook founder Sean Parker boasting about how the company exploits “a vulnerability in human psychology” to snare its users; and the Pope telling the faithful to put down their smartphones (both discussed by Andrew Sullivan, second item). Continue reading “Tech is not evil, despite the tobacco stains”

Could Amazon lose its flow?

Amazon has just reported sales of £36bn for July, August and September, more than a third higher than for those months in 2016. An article in The Times’ personal finance column on a tiny part of that amount may be interesting in assessing its future, however.

The writer had ordered a £550 mobile phone through a third-party seller on Amazon, and got a shampoo bottle in a box. Fraud can happen, but the expectation would be that the big company would sort it out fast. Not so; because she’d signed for its delivery, Amazon refused a refund until nagged by the paper. Continue reading “Could Amazon lose its flow?”

A Geek’s Guide to the hottest place in 20 parsecs

This week, The Register published a feature by me on the Culham Science Centre in southern Oxfordshire. This includes what staffer Guy Burroughes describes as “the hottest place in 20 parsecs”: the heart of the Joint European Torus, Culham’s biggest project and the world’s largest nuclear fusion tokamak, which at its hottest has reached 300 million degrees Celsius, many times hotter than the centre of the sun. (It’s rare to find a star this hot. 20 parsecs is about 65 light years, although it’s just possible that Mr Burroughes was getting in a Star Wars reference.) Continue reading “A Geek’s Guide to the hottest place in 20 parsecs”