Tax discs, books, interviews, money – where paper beats digital

Neophilia is a condition where the sufferer believes that newer things beat older ones. It’s quite common among technologists who make their livings introducing new things. This can bias them against older technologies – such as that miracle of resilience, portability and usability, paper.

For Computer Weekly, I looked at some specific areas where paper can outperform digital. George Osborne’s cancellation of paper tax discs appears to be costing the country tens of millions of pounds a year. Take-up of e-books has stalled, with the proportion of Americans reading paper books actually rising. Oxfam deliberately uses paper for some sensitive interviews and in places where people are worried about government surveillance. Continue reading “Tax discs, books, interviews, money – where paper beats digital”

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”

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”

Updated version of Britdata just published

A new version of my e-book Britdata is available here (£9.99) and on Leanpub (US$11.99 plus VAT). I have updated it with the recently-released population estimates from the Office for National Statistics, as well as information on how GDPR affects subject access requests.

Whether on Leanpub or direct, buyers automatically get updated versions when they come out – I have just sent this new edition to those who had already purchased it – and it comes with a 45-day money-back guarantee. To give you an idea, you can read the introduction here and the list of contents here.