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Friday, February 20

The school for bastards

Apparently both Derek Draper and 'Mandy' are now following me on Twitter. Although which possible username 'Mandy' is using might lead to a libel case ...

More on Draperesque blogosphere situations - We can't stop! Youse a blogging star babe! Someone should greenlight a sitcom based on your antics! Jazz hands, Derek! - courtesy Matt Wardman: Muggings in the Blogosphere.

Following an extended attempt by the "management of Labour List", to bully various people to behave as instructed, including a campaign intended to discredit Guido Fawkes and by extension the Message Space political advertising network, fire was then directed by "persons never firmly identified in public" at the Labour Home website and the editor Alex Hilton reported receiving threatening phone calls.

Has Labour been hiring former bouncers à la Avigdor Lieberman? Or are they just lawyers?
The alleged threats to close down websites, whoever they came from (!), and to undermine the livelihoods of targeted people, were on a par with the dodgiest manoeuvres I have seen in the blogosphere since I started this site - which are a small number of attempts to get people into trouble with their employers; taking political arguments offline to do personal damage is beyond the pale.
In 1999 I set up a website for some Aborigines who wanted to protest the building of a bridge over their sacred site (imagine a proposal to convert Ely Cathedral into a hotel). Some developers, who obviously went to the same school for bastards as monsieur Draper, closed two sites down via legal threats before I finally found a home which would not be intimidated. Needless to say they were Greenies.

It never ends.

Thursday, February 19

Where to find good cheap images

I posted a question a while back as I was using the ultra-cheap Fotolia as a stock photo source but noticed how limited - and American - its model range was.

Thanks to Jean Thornhill for this great list of alternatives:

One note from me was:
Here's a local enthusiast's site for local buildings ... which we negotiated an arrangement with, just adding a simple credit and link. Actually has some aerial shots as well which have proved very useful.
Other respondees found similar local websites.

And other sources include and

From behind the curtain...

Wizard-of-Oz stylee (and who's the monkees? anyone?) ...

S'about the new Director of Digital Engagement (salary £81,000 – £160,000) and changing their job description.

Job descr talks about depts 'switching' to digital engagement, surely this should complement not replace traditional engagement?
Tom Watson MP.

Oh, and PSF is behind-the-firewall - but influential :} (Obviously) Oh, and surprised (not really) to see no comment whatsoever from political blogosphere, Tories or LibDems.

Oh and why isn't Tom pushing to get John Suffolk sacked?



Just started with this Firefox plugin and already finding it extremely useful. For anyone spending most of their day infront of a browser it looks like an essential.

When egov is glacial

Never mind the joys of social media, egov still has numerous extreme basics to get right ...

GC Weekly has another telling tale about the state of Whitehall run IT:

The Department for Work and Pensions is covertly supporting Royal Mail and the Northern Irish economy, Loose Wires can reveal.

A colleague's brother recently signed on for Jobseeker's Allowance for the first time. Attending Jobcentre Plus as instructed, he was asked to fill in forms to apply for the allowance, housing benefits and help with council tax.

He surprised the staff by asking if he could fill out forms on the spot - the expectation was that he would post them back. He was then told the forms would be posted to Belfast. Someone there might contact him - by post - for further information. That office would then contact his local authority - by post - regarding benefits.

The council concerned has since written, referring throughout the letter to the jobseeker's brother as Mr Dave (colleague's first name changed to protect the innocent). As the Jobcentre staffer misspelt the applicant's occupation after having checked how it was spelt - and he is not a xylophonist - this was not a big surprise.

Tomorrow, our brave jobseeker will return (after more than a fortnight) to find out what progress they have made. This news will have presumably been chiselled on a stone tablet by someone in the Falkland Islands.
And this is the same department doing interesting and good innovation via DirectGov (which they're responsible for).

I've been in a jobcentre and they've got touchscreens with jobs on, had them for years. Why in 2009 aren't applicants filling out forms on computers in jobcentres? ... for example ...

Music: It's like that

Another genius mash-up

HT: Andy Sullivan

This is why I often dislike middle-class animal rightists

Some very telling comments attached to this like Americans who give charity to animals but not humans. I've seen these sort of people locally .....

Designing out racism

One of the issues which I wrote about during the US election campaign was the meme, constantly repeated in the BBC's reporting, of the 'Bradley effect'. This is when people say they will but actually don't vote for the black candidate.

One of the odd issues with this is that in the campaign for California Governor in 1982, which this 'effect' is named after, race wasn't a factor (or at least a trivial one). The reason black candidate Tom Bradley lost was because a supposedly 'anti-gun' proposition turned out larger numbers than expected of rural and small town voters.

That sort of 'wedge' issue has been used elsewhere to bring out the vote, most notably the Republicans who used gay marriage propositions in this way in 2000 and 2004.

In a presentation at the TED conference, the baseball statistician cum political pollster guru Nate Silver of, who most accurately predicted the US election result, elaborated on the question of race in the elections using the presidential outcomes to draw out social and design implications.

He started off by talking about quite how big of a win Obama had.

Electoral maps between 2004 and 2008 show a profound shift towards blue, or liberal, voting. But there’s a block of states - centered on Arkansas, and roughly following the Appalachians - which voted more strongly against Obama than they did against Clinton. And in Louisiana, roughly 1 in 5 white voters told pollsters that race had been a factor in choosing not to vote for Obama - that compares to roughly 4% in states like New York and California.

This made no difference overall because these are less populated states with less national electoral weight.

There's little evidence of race deciding US elections recently and Silver has statistically dismantled its role.

But Silver turns these stats inside out to ask if racism is predictable.

He looked for relationships between independent variables and racism as an electoral factor and found a strong correlation - low education levels correlate closely with racial-based voting. Highly rural states also showed this pattern, though it’s less dramatic than the educational pattern.

The General Social Survey, asks “Does anyone of the opposite race live in your neighborhood?” And, the answers to this are stratified upon density: In the city, yes. In the suburbs, mainly yes. In rural areas, not nearly as much.

He looked at political affiliation - there are more Republicans in monoracial neighborhoods, but it’s not a dramatic difference. Similarly, there’s not much difference in opinion regarding affirmative action. But a question about interracial marriage gets dramatically different results in monoracial neighborhoods - people in these neighborhoods are twice as likely to support a law banning interracial marriage.

What he gleans from this is that if something is predictable then it is designable.

The goal is to facilitate interaction with people of other races. For example a university-based mixing program, sending students from NYU to the University of Arkansas as a form of cultural exchange.

More dramatically Silver suggested that you need to try to create interracial neighborhoods, to reengineer cities.

Cities designed in the 1970s and 80s might actually have helped America become more conservative under Reagan, he suggested.

He thinks that urban design is hugely important to achieving integration: grids vs the windy streets in many parts of suburbia, where grids are better. At the end of the day, he said cul de sacs lead to conservatives.

This idea also relates to a point made by the new black Attorney General, Eric Holder:
In a speech to Justice Department employees marking Black History Month, Holder said the workplace is largely integrated but Americans still self-segregate on the weekends and in their private lives.

Even when people mix at the workplace or afterwork social events, Holder argued, many Americans in their free time are still segregated inside what he called "race-protected cocoons."

"Saturdays and Sundays, America in the year 2009 does not in some ways differ significantly from the country that existed almost 50 years ago. This is truly sad," said Holder.
Although racism in the UK has a very different history I wonder if mapping answers to “does anyone of the opposite race live in your neighborhood?” correlates to BNP voting?

Wednesday, February 18

Music: Joaquin Phoenix: The Letterman Remix

Damn. This is sooo funk-eee.

Music: R'n'B does climate change

I love this.

Actually has decent lyrics. Lots to laugh at but lots to admire too.

'Sucessful online politics needs community organisers'

So much 'stuff' in the Guardian's interview with Thomas Gensemer of Blue State Digital (Obama campaign) that it's virtually a transcription.

Nothing new on the ideas front (for there - for here there are stacks) but all put extremely well (Gensemer's a great salesman). Such as his criticism of the way British parties are currently approaching new media.

"They have focused too much on gimmicks and what they can sell to the press," he says. "Now Labour MPs are using Twitter, but the political capital that went into getting a couple of MPs to Twitter probably wasn't worth it. Prescott's petition on the bankers has 15,000 signatures, but what are they asking people to do? You could have asked for different things that would create a greater sense of engagement. None of this is a technology challenge; it's an organisational challenge, being willing to communicate with people."
And this point, about whether it woz the web wot won it, which continually gets lost:
"It comes back to the fact that we elected a president who used to be a community organiser, and that's a very different mentality from other campaigns".

Tuesday, February 17

Finally, a UK blogosphere political viral

Unfortunately (IMO) it's this one:

'Downfall'? Yawn. Done. To. Death.

The one I posted earlier addressing the subject is much funnier.

In case you're wondering what this is about (and who'd blame you), this is about Derek 'Dolly' Draper, noted NuLabour guru, attempting to 'do' blogging and failing. Despite the Guardian comparing his efforts to the USA's #1 blog, Huffington Post.

And, most notably, Draper being (humiliatingly) out-classed online by John Prescott. Which is saying something. (Prescott has more entertainment value and, as I noted, for one thing, the required humility).

Hence, 'Draper's Downfall' — this rather 'inhouse', pedestrian viral — 'tis all over the UK political blogosphere, as there's nothing like the storm in the proverbial teacup. However it's a very rare UK sourced viral — which says volumes about the actual weakness of said blogosphere.

If you want to see just how laughably weak UK viral vid is check LabourList's excruciating attempts at spoofing the Camerooons.

Transparency. Leadership.

Much talk in the UK about how government can be made more 'transparent'. Frankly? I'm yet to be convinced of much real follow through on this subject with new fangled digital techniques, exciting as they may be.

But if you want an example of how to lead in this, here it is:

When have you ever heard a UK politician talk like this?

Family Guy Spoofs Christian Bale

Oh my. That was quick.

Sortof safe for work.

NSFW: Cursebird

One more thing you can do with Twitter.

HT: Ingrid