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Small Data Forum Podcast

How do you make Big Data less intimidating, more actionable and thus more valuable? That is the question at the heart of the Small Data Forum, an initiative by LexisNexis Business Insight Solutions to listen, learn, share and educate ourselves and others who grapple with the challenges of the information avalanche.
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Sep 22, 2020

As if proof was needed that new Netflix edu-docu The Social Dilemma is highly Marmite among (social) media cognoscenti, the SmallDataForum verdict is very much a score draw, from Sam’s firm thumbs-down to my approval and on to Neville’s not-seen-it-yet.

I share Sam’s take that there’s not much new to learn – certainly for topic obsessives like us – and I also agree that eminent voices such as Shoshana Zuboff’s and Jonathan Haidt’s seem overly muffled and perhaps squandered.

But then we’re not the primary target audience. Neither are new media commentators, such as the Verge’s Casey Newton, who feels that the film misunderstands social networks. If it gets the average Netflix user to reflect a bit more on what they do with social media (and social media with them), then that can’t be a bad thing.

Continue reading -> https://www.smalldataforum.com/ 

Aug 2, 2020

We haven’t quite “sent it packing” yet, however once COVID-19 has finally been “wrestled to the ground” – mid next year, perhaps; or, maybe never – clearly we will “bounce back stronger than ever before”, according to the strictly non-hyperbolic musings of Prime Minister Demonic Goings Boris Johnson.

Aftermath of World War I? World War II? Bibble babble, donnez-moi un break, mate, as the wily wordsmith would have it.

In his seminal 1995 paper on “Metaphor, Morality, and Politics, Or, Why Conservatives Have Left Liberals In the Dust”, cognitive linguist and philosopher George Lakoff explained that “While conservatives understand that all of their policies have a single unified origin, liberals understand their own political conceptual universe so badly that they still think of it in terms coalitions of interest.”

He concluded that “Liberals need to go beyond coalitions of interest groups to consciously construct a unified language and imagery to convey their worldview. This will not be easy, and they are thirty years behind.” Make that about 55 years by now.

Continue reading -> https://www.smalldataforum.com/

Jun 28, 2020

For understandable reasons, the last four, regular monthly episodes of the Small Data Forum podcast have been focused – almost to the point of obsession – on coronavirus. From the uncertain first fumblings of life under lockdown, through escalating mortality and morbidity, and on to a fundamental lack of trust in the competence of blustering, blond, male, right-wing leaders … the last four episodes have had it all.

Some have said that this podcast was made for events like the pandemic, scrutinising as we do the uses and abuses of data big and small in politics, business, and public life. There’s been plenty of that about of late.

So, with lockdown restrictions being lifted all around the world – and Government advice completely ignored on the beaches of Bournemouth in the mini-U.K. heatwave last week, leading Dorset police to declare the overcrowding “a major incident” – our focus in this episode was much more catholic. Indeed, with Facebook, GDPR, and brand safety the dominant topics, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d fallen through a wormhole in the space-time continuum and teleported back to 2018.

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Jun 14, 2020

As the world appears to become “curiouser and curiouser”, we could all do with some instructions as to how to make more sense of what is happening, connect dots, draw conclusions and make good – if not better – decisions.

Thankfully, SmallDataForum co-founder and regular co-presenter Sam Knowles has written the book that has those instructions, and much more. In How To Be Insightful, Sam combines the experience of a career helping organizations communicate better with his training as a classicist and a doctorate in psychology to tell the story how insights work. As a true data storyteller, he does so with plenty of evidence.

Published a few weeks ago, the book is Sam’s second – although as he’ll explain, Narrative by Numbers is in many ways the prequel – and so the SmallDataForum convened for its first ever Book Special to discuss with the author how learning to apply his STEP Prism of InsightTM helps us get to that “profound and deep understanding of a person, a thing, a situation, or an issue that we can use to help us advance...the very definition of insight.”

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May 31, 2020

Apparently 2020 is what you get when you put together 1918, 1929 and 1968. With just over 40% done, it’s a bit early to say. Or is it?

Pandemic – tick. Global recession – about to hit. Political turbulence and social unrest – we’re only getting started. At least 1968 was followed by the year of moon landing, and Woodstock.

Fifty years and a bit on, we’ve just had the first private company sending astronauts into orbit (though not quite with e-rockets; Elon needs to work on that). And the next Woodstock is likely to be a smorgasbord of Zoomed home gigs.

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May 3, 2020

It is said that French mathematician Blaise Pascal, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, and Winston Churchill all said: “I would have written you a shorter letter, I just didn’t have the time.” They may all have originated that sentiment, some may have quoted others, or all the attributions could be faulty. How to know? How to sift through the unmediated annals of citation history?

A similar predicament faced we three hosts of the Small Data Forum podcast as we gathered for our latest – and thirty-fifth – instalment of this semi-structured ramble-chat through the uses and abuses of data big and SMALL in politics, business, and public life.

Like so many of our fellow workers in the knowledge economy, we three musketeers had all been working from home for the past six weeks of lockdown U.K. (though we all had plentiful WFH experience before the pandemic). And like so many organisations, we have been forced to pivot our focus and output.

For a podcast obsessed with Trump and Brexit, Facebook and Cambridge Analytica since our foundation back in May 2016, we now talk about little else than the consequences, data, and language of COVID-19.

Continue reading -> https://www.smalldataforum.com/

 

Apr 8, 2020

For all the disruption that the lockdown has brought to the nation (if not the world), for the cast of the SmallDataForum, little has changed in the way we work: most of our 34 episodes were recorded “in the Zoom where it happens” (with a bit of Whereby here and there).

Sam is still delivering training on data storytelling and insightful thinking, just now with participants on screen.

Neville has been commuting the few meters to the home office for years, and I’m not at all missing the occasional trips to a London WeWork office – video calls do the job just as well.

And isn’t the fall of WeWork and the rise of Zoom (ignoring security and privacy issue for the moment) just the metaphor for our times …

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Mar 16, 2020

“If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequence”.

This little known sociological formula from the late 1920s, known as the Thomas Theorem after husband-and-wife research team William and Dorothy Thomas (I wish I could claim a level of ownership but no), helps us understand how and why the perception and interpretation of events determine the impact of such events in a media world.

And it’s not hard to see why there might be a problem when ‘situations’ arise from mis- and dis-information.

For almost four years now, the SmallDataForum has been mulling over, musing on and opining about the uses and abuses of data big and small in politics, business and public life – and with Brexit and Trump perma-themes on our show, mis- and dis-information have always been top of the bill.

No surprise, then, that our latest podcast – recorded in splendid self-isolation in our respective home offices – was largely about the misinfodemic of COVID-19.

Continue reading -> https://www.smalldataforum.com/

Feb 9, 2020

If historical analogies provide the measure of a man, then Downing Street henchman-in-chief, lead iconoclast and perpetual ideas recyclist “Classic Dom” Cummings is doing a spectacularly good job.

He has been likened to everyone in the “Who’s Who?” of strategy, warfare and statesmanship, from Sun Tzu, to “a cross between Macchiavelli and Rasputin”, alternatively “an amalgam of Thucydides and Stephen Hawking”, or “an unnerving cross between Robespierre and Dr Strangelove”, or in fact Thomas Cromwell to his boss’s Henry VIII.

As for Prime Minister Johnson, a recent Unherd profile depicts him as Janus, the god of time, transitions, beginnings and endings.

Our classicist-in-residence, Sam, will have particularly enjoyed the perspective of how young Boris got framed and primed in the “rhetorical world view”, laying the foundations of the fine specimen that all media social and traditional relay continuously: “He assumes a natural agility in changing orientations. He hits the street already street-wise. From birth, almost, he has dwelt not in a single value structure but in several. He is thus committed to no single construction of the world; much rather, to prevailing in the game at hand.”

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Dec 22, 2019

Five days after voting ended in the UK General Election, Thomas Stoeckle, Neville Hobson and Sam Knowles joined in live conversation recorded in London. We continue our conversation about the state of the UK informed somewhat by the outcome of #GE2019 where we have moved onward from the hung Parliament territory of the 2017 General Election to a government with a healthy majority.

Our wide-ranging discussion started with our assessment of the 2019 election outcome, our opinions on the catastrophic situation the Labour Party now finds itself in, who might success Jeremy Corbin and what the way forward for Labour might be to become electable.

We spent a little time picking over the entrails of the predictions we made for the election in episode 30 and looked ahead with further prediction for 2020.

Continue reading -> https://www.smalldataforum.com/

Nov 4, 2019

According to the Sunday Times, the pending General Election will be “the battle of the Svengalis” (paywall) – between Dominic Cummings and Seamus Milne.

Unsurprisingly, Brexit limbo and #GE2019 was THE theme for the SmallDataForum as we recorded episode 30 on All Hallows Day 2019, otherwise known as #NoBrexitDay.

And since the PM whisperer has so much more of a public profile than his equivalent for the leader of Her Majesty’s opposition, it was Dominic “Machiavelli” Cummings, rather than the invisible man (paywall) behind Jeremy Corbyn, who enjoyed our full attention. Or at least mine.

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Oct 6, 2019

When Rome teetered on the brink of democratic collapse in the first century BCE, as it prepared – unknowingly – to move from a form of notional democracy to imperial rule, three men came together to save the ever-expanding city state and advance their political careers.

Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus – the swashbuckler, the strategist, and the finance guy – effectively took power under emergency measures. Known collectively as the First Triumvirate, they made mistakes along the way, and were all – eventually – stabbed in either the front or the back.

And as we live today in extraordinary, turbulent times, I’m certain that the classicists’ classicist Mary Beard will be along with a BBC series to draw parallels soon.

There are two troubles with classical references and analogies, from both history and mythology.

The first is that two societies, 2,000 years apart, separated by the Dark Ages, Medieval Times, the Renaissance, and the four revolutions – from agricultural to industrial, technological to digital – are just quite literally incomparable.

The second is down to the current – at time of writing – incumbent of Number 10 Downing Street. Prime Minister Cummings – sorry Johnson – has a long track record of using classical allusions to spice up but ultimately bamboozle his public with his application of erudition.

Most recently, he compared himself to Prometheus, the demi-god who stole fire from the gods and gave it to man, but was punished for eternity by being lashed to a rock and having his liver pecked out by vultures.

Continue reading -> https://www.smalldataforum.com/

Jun 23, 2019

In England’s distant past, long before the spread of wealth and the explosive growth of the middle classes, holidays were a rarity. Overseas holidays were unheard of, except for those gilded few who’d grown fat on the Empire and took a ‘grand tour’ of Europe for months at a time, or else went off to add new lands to said Empire.The closest most workers got to any kind of holiday was being taken in a charabanc to the nearest seaside resort, where enforced fun would be had on piers stretching out into coastal waters.

One of the highlights of such a visit would be an end-of-the-pier show, where metropolitan idols would perform song-and-dance, music hall routines for the masses. The shows were often billed as Summertime Specials.

In the world of the Small Data Forum podcast, this latest episode – 28 already – is our equivalent of an end of the pier show, our very own Summertime Special. As regular listeners will know, Thomas, Neville, and Sam don’t meet together IRL all that often. But in a tradition stretching back – ooh – as long as last December, last week we three braved metaphorical thunder, lightning, and rain to meet again at our favourite pre-pod haunt, Olivelli in the Cut, Waterloo, London.

Suitably stoked by pizza, pasta, and a surprisingly modest couple of bottles of Nero d’Avola, we set about our task of looking at the uses and abuses of data big and small in business, politics, and public life. But for only the third time in the three years we’ve been recording the podcast, we did it in person.

Continue reading -> https://www.smalldataforum.com/

Apr 7, 2019

So this is the episode when the three stooges of the SmallDataForum were meant to reflect wistfully on what was Great Britain exiting Greater Europe.

The irony of recording this on April Fool’s Day wasn’t lost on us.

Brexit Fool’s day is every day, these days. Our resident classicist Sam even managed to squeeze in Juvenal’s Satire VI, and even though the reference was in regard to another April Fool’s – Facebook regulation, haha – Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes might just as well mean “who regulates the regulators?”

Ah – wouldn’t that be The Great British Electorate? Well, they have spoken, just over 1,000 days ago. And what they said, means what it means. Fool’s Day and any other day.

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Mar 3, 2019

"We can have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.“ So the famous US Supreme Court Justice and ‘crusader for social justice’ and breaker-upper of Gilded Age monopolies, Louis D. Brandeis is said to have said, perhaps sometimes in the early 1930s.

Today, perhaps the best-known neo-Brandeisian anti-trust advocate is Tim Wu, Columbia law professor, ‘father of net neutrality’ and author of a series of books likening today’s commercial excesses – in particular in the digital space – to the ‘Gilded Age’ of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In our latest discussion about Facebook, GDPR and general big tech regulation issues, Neville, Sam and I come down on different sides of the either-or debate of public vs business interest. Of course, it is not really an either-or debate. It’s a complex and convoluted, tangled web of interests and angles, and any claimant of simple solutions has likely got a degree from snake oil university.

Neville discusses an article in The Conversation by De Montford University professor Eerke Boiten, who advocates GDPR-based impact assessments to hold tech firms accountable, rather than letting them continue to ‘move fast and break things’.  Jeff Jarvis, CUNY journalism professor, takes a very different stance in his recent EU regulation critique Europe Against the Net.

Continue reading -> https://www.smalldataforum.com/

Jan 28, 2019

It’s our Silver Jubilee – 25 times SmallDataForum, and so much has happened since our first episode less than a fortnight before the EU Referendum. And yet here we are, Brexit still front and center and no one’s none the wiser.

When we started, our aim was to reflect on communicators’ needs

  • to increase the value of data,
  • to understand data and its insights to inform better business decisions,
  • to manage data from machines (data processing) and humans (turning Big Data into small, relevant, business-critical insight).

Little did we foresee how much our chosen field would be dominated by the narrative of Western democracy and society being undermined by the powers unleashed by social and digital media.

Yet here we are, with Neville discussing GDPR as the modern equivalent of the Feds nailing Al Capone for tax evasion.

Perhaps an update of The Untouchables will see Benedict Cumberbatch play DCMS Committee Chairman Damian Collins as a modern Eliot Ness. Or Christian Bale as EU Competition Commissioner Margarete Vestager, in the new tradition of the near-real-time biopic.

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Dec 23, 2018

The SmallDataForum celebrated its third Christmas with a highly calorific and somewhat alcoholic Italian lunch, followed by post-prandial musings about high- and low-lights of 2018, and some crystal ball gazing for 2019.

Our regular followers / listeners – or just about anybody with any interest in tech and communication – won’t be surprised by a list being topped by Facebook, and then some more Facebook. Followed by GDPR and other regulatory activities, mainly by the EU.

And of course we also touched on the topic that’s been with us from episode one, when it was called Brexit. These days, Brexitexit is beginning to sound more fitting.

Continue reading -> https://www.smalldataforum.com/

Nov 22, 2018

“The ever-present function of propaganda in modern life is in large measure attributable to the social disorganization which has been precipitated by the rapid advent of technological changes.”

This is not the latest comment on the perpetual missteps, mishaps and misuse of Facebook, but a quote from Harold D. Lasswell, eminent media scholar and creator of the eponymous and never-aging model and formula to determine media effects: who says what to whom in which channel with what effect?

Who said what to whom, and subsequent effects – that was also the theme of a multi-thousand-word investigative piece on Facebook and its executive team in the New York Times on 15th November.

Continue reading -> https://www.smalldataforum.com/

Oct 7, 2018

The latest episode of the Small Data Forum podcast sees the founding trio of Neville, Thomas, and Sam striding confidently into our early 20s. Who knew that the fledgling born at an event in Covent Garden’s fashionable London in May 2016 – pre-Brexit, pre-Trump, pre-Cambridge Analytica farce – would endure to its twenty-second episode.

We start our latest offering with a look at Facebook’s latest, topical woes: a technical vulnerability leading to a breach of security for at least 50m European users last month. And probably 40m more.

Thanks to a favourite topic of the SDF Podcast, Facebook were required to report the breach to the EU within 72 hours under new GDPR rules. Playing by the book, Facebook did so, contacting the Irish Data Protection Commission.

Continue reading -> https://www.smalldataforum.com/

Sep 4, 2018

Our latest podcast ended up being a tad longer than planned – clearly a sign of a lively, engaged discussion. In talking about various aspects of the attention economy, we managed to hold each other’s attention for a good 45 minutes.

Many ‘attention economists’ these days quote Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon and his observation that a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention. It is certainly a quote that has aged well, and one can only wonder what Simon would make of the world now, 47 years on from his famous statement.

Sam doesn't quite see the crisis of attention that brands often lament. But quality and controllability matter more than ever, and producers of content – especially the advertising and media industries – need to up their game to stay relevant. Users control their online experience through ad blockers and subscription services to filter out interruptive commercial communication.

Continue reading -> https://www.smalldataforum.com/

Jul 24, 2018

"If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" A modern version of this 18th century thought experiment by the philosopher and cleric George Berkeley might read: "If the EU fines a big tech firm billions of dollars, and no one has the power to enforce it, has it actually happened?"

A recent opinion piece on AdExchanger discussed the connection between Google’s $5bn antitrust fine, and the enforcement of fines for GDPR non-compliance. Europe is committed to taking a stand against corporations when it comes to privacy rights of consumers, intellectual property rights of content producers (although the planned law is controversial), and anti-competitive market positions.

Continue reading -> https://www.smalldataforum.com/

Jun 10, 2018

Thomas Stoeckle, Neville Hobson and Sam Knowles in conversation on big and small data.

In this episode, we discuss the immediate aftermath of GDPR following its enablement on May 25, 2018.

Continue reading -> https://www.smalldataforum.com/

May 8, 2018

Data, data everywhere, but ethics in short supply.

The latest episode of the Small Data Forum podcast follows the classic narrative arc of a three-act story. Beginning, middle, and end. The set-up, the confrontation, and the resolution. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis.

And although our wide-ranging discussion did run the risk of leaving all three co-hosts in the depths of despair, Neville Hobson, Thomas Stoeckle, and I end up hoping that the asteroid NASA predicts is hurtling towards earth can be diverted from its nihilistic path.

Continue reading -> https://www.smalldataforum.com/

Apr 2, 2018

The SmallDataForum convened in late March, and as for our big story, we had several candidates and angles on the same theme of the use and abuse of data.

Sam is now a newly published author of a book about how to tell powerful and purposeful stories with data, Narrative by Numbers. A very timely (and equally timeless) topic and title.

A recently published study in Science about the velocity and spread of true and false news online caught our attention. Tina McCorkindale, CEO of the Institute for Public Relations, did a great analysis with key takeaways for communicators.

Continue reading -> https://www.smalldataforum.com/

Feb 14, 2018

Yet again, the Three SDF Podcasteers Neville Hobson, Sam Knowles and Thomas Stoeckle tackle a range of related themes, from trust in society to clarity in corporate messages, global attitudes towards news, and Silicon Valley's growing number of critical voices.

The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer finds China and the US poles apart, with the US in last place, experiencing its largest drop in the survey's history, and China on top with the strongest gains among all 28 surveyed countries.

Now in its 18th year, the Barometer makes for an excellent chronicle of perceptions of trust around the world - and a time series that warrants more deep dive analyses, to glean insights, learn, and perhaps to lead to better informed decision-making.

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