How to build democracy with technology away from elections

There is a lot to be said for a British general election. It is brutally fast in delivering the people’s verdict. It uses technology that everyone can understand and is impossible to hack remotely. And in returning to Rick Wakeman’s prog-rock classic, the BBC has given it back its theme music.

But elections alone are a pretty thin form of democracy. Those who shifted from Labour to vote Conservative did so because of Jeremy Corbyn, because of the party’s far-left manifesto, because of Brexit, because they like Boris Johnson or a mix of these and others. The reasons will come out in surveys and interviews, but aren’t a formal part of the results and the government can ignore them. Continue reading “How to build democracy with technology away from elections”

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”

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.

Why ‘soak the rich’ might not be the way to win Wandsworth

Labour was hoping that yesterday’s local elections would see it unseating the Conservatives in the London borough of Wandsworth, held by the Conservatives since 1978, along with perhaps Kensington and Chelsea and the City of Westminster. But the Conservatives have held all three.

For my data journalism e-book Britdata I worked out that one-tenth of the UK’s total gross value added economic output is generated in the workplaces in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Northumberland. The same proportion is generated by the workplaces of just five London council areas: Camden, City of London, Lambeth, Tower Hamlets and City of Westminster. Continue reading “Why ‘soak the rich’ might not be the way to win Wandsworth”

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”