Don’t forget to vote on Thursday – did I tell you I’m a candidate?

Mon 23rd – Sun 29th April 2018

Yep guys it’s local election time on Thurs 3rd May. This is when we vote for the new councils in London. And I’m a candidate! 🙂 I’m standing for the Lib Dems in my home ward of Avonmore and Brook Green in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. I’m not expecting to win (be fab if I did) but it gives people the opportunity to vote for a anti-Brexit party with both the Tories and Labour committed to it.

Meanwhile, back to last week

Last week was clearly another one of two halves. First half was really busy with work including working on non-work days. Second half was about going off to Scunthorpe for my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday. Meanwhile the weather turned from the unseasonal burning heat of the previous weekend into a week of cool, grey, wet, windy weather. Don’t you just love the unpredictability of British weather? 🙁

Lots of work days

3 work days last week – Mon, Wed & Fri as planned. But also a couple of evenings (Tues & Wed) as well as all day Thurs for our annual staff conference. The latter can be taken as TOIL – Time Off In Lieu. I don’t think I have ever worked at an organisation (I think it’s just public sector that does this) where you get paid overtime for working over your contracted hours. The best I have ever had is TOIL. Key thing now is to identify a time when I am not too busy to take a day off work.

A good staff conference

progress being madeEvery year we have a day-long staff conference out of the office. This was probably my 8th one I think – TBH I have lost count. It happens with a different venue each year; basically one we can blag for free or at a very low price – an in-kind donation. 🙂

This year we were at Bounce in Farringdon which is a bar / club built around playing ping-pong which seems to be a very successful business model. I’m obviously not connected into young people sufficiently enough.

Dave is back

Previous staff conferences have sometimes felt a bit unnecessary as the organisation winds its way onwards. An annual event where we get together to review and think because it feels like we should.

This year was different. Following a big internal re-organisation with people coming and going, it was ideal to have an event about people getting to know each other with their new roles and to find out about the direction of travel of the organisation overall as well as its various departments. A day away from work though I continually sneaked looks at my mobile – it’s in my nature. I find it hard to concentrate on just one thing at once.

Unexpected catch-up with a former colleague

Great as well that afterwards I went for a coffee and bumped into my lovely former colleague Rebecca. She looked so well and so chilled. I think having a career break is doing the world of good for her. She’s exploring consultancy and thinking about ideas for the future. Plus she’s got a new 5 year old rescue dog. 🙂 Nice to walk along and chat with her on my way to seeing my partner Dave.

Big office move

Spider plantWhilst we were at the staff conference, there was an office re-organisation. We’ve condensed our office space onto one floor and been moved around so that we are better connected to people we will be working with in other teams. A goodbye lunch to our old floor on Wed and to our new desks on Fri morning.

All good though my former colleagues who sat where I am sitting have left a load of stuff that needs to be sorted out and either thrown away or recycled (creatives….)

Evening meetings

Two evening meetings last week. I don’t mind these as long as there aren’t too many in a row and that they don’t end too late. There was a third evening event on Thurs but I knew I would be knacked by then especially as its start was back to back with the end of our staff conference.

Doteveryone

Tues night, I went to the launch of the latest piece of research by Doteveryone. The event took place at The Wellcome Collection which is a wonderful and free ‘museum’ to visit. Especially great that it is across the road from Euston so works very well if you have to catch a train from there.

Doteveryone’s strap line is ‘Fighting for a Fairer Internet’. The research report was ‘People, Power & Technology’ looking at the public’s digital understanding – or lack of it. Some key findings include:

  • 45% of people are unaware information they enter on websites and social media can help target ads
  • 83% are unaware information can be collected about them that other people have shared
  • 47% haven’t seen prices change when they repeatedly search for an item, or noticed friends / family seeing a different price for the same service
  • 62% don’t realise their social networks can affect the news they see
  • 24% don’t know how tech companies make money

Also interesting that in the sister report on digital attitudes (which can be found here), it was identified that 50% of people say the internet has made life a lot better for people like themselves, but only 12% say it’s had a very positive impact on society.

Regulating the internet

Robot of deathAll serious issues though I veer away from a sledge hammer approach of getting the govt to regulate the internet particularly as they don’t understand it – did you see the Senators’ questions to Mark Zuckerberg? They were ‘dur’ and he ran rings around them. For me it’s about people being educated to know what they are doing, calling out bad behaviour, and working with corporates to regulate themselves.

Frankly I trust the 5 tech giants far more than I trust most companies dominating old media such as News International, Sky, and even the BBC these days. Governments are terrified of trying to regulate these old media empires though they are often in the hands of questionable individuals.

New Power

Then on Wed evening I attended a ‘salon’ like dinner discussion. It took place in Ladbroke Grove at the beautiful home of Holly Branson. Various people were brought together to eat and discuss the digital future. This was particularly in the context of a great new book called ‘New Power’ by Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms. Their thesis is that we have new opportunities for people to wield power such as social media. We were also considering how to progress the influence of young people across the globe.

cybermenFor me it’s not so much about being old-fashioned ‘political’ as about nurturing empathy. For instance creating empathy in the minds of Western consumers with the wage slaves making their cheap clothes or with people whose lands are flooding due to climate change.

I was probably too critical of those promoting old media – and the battle will be fought by both old and new media. But I disagree with those who think fundamental change will come in how people see and use tech as a result of the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica stuff. Indeed, I think some people will be more aware of how they can be manipulated online but I don’t think it will put them off using tech.

Conversations with other brilliant people

Several day-time meetings last week, many of them internal including catching up with job-share Dilhani (we had not seen each other for a couple of weeks), talking to new people in the team that develops and manages external partnerships, and supervision with my boss.

But also some good meetings with external people:

  • Noam from Design Club. A great, new initiative to get children doing design and based around the idea that future employability won’t just be based on learning to code. Good to chat around options for how they might develop their business model. Also details given on another Tech for Good programme later this year that they could consider applying to.
  • Annie Radl from Nominet Trust. We haven’t seen each other for a year as she has been on maternity leave. Lots of stuff happening at NT and a new direction to be announced shortly. The report we commissioned together that M-ITI did on Social Tech Eco-systems in Sub-Saharan Africa should be in the public domain soon. A good discussion on possible partnership working in the future around tech for good and / or social investment.
  • Joe from Democracy Club. Similar to Design Club, this is a new not-for-profit based on digital tech. Demo Club is about encouraging more people to vote and to be more engaged generally with the democratic process. Again not sure it is really suitable for any of our main grant programmes but good to talk re their business model, give some general advice, and tell them to look out for the Tech for Good grant programme later this year.
  • Finally, I was with Karl Wilding from NCVO on Fri afternoon. Karl is a big beast at NCVO – National Council for Voluntary Organisations which is the main umbrella body for not-for-profit outfits in the UK. He is actually NCVO’s Director of Public Policy and Volunteering. Like me, he is a passionate believer in the importance of voluntary and not-for-profit organisations and we also share a keen interest in tech. Really good just to have a no-agenda catch-up as we haven’t seen each other in ages.

Scunthorpe

Sun morning it was off to Scunthorpe with my mum. It was Dave’s mum’s 80th birthday on the Monday but she was having a family do on the Sunday. Me & mum got an uber to Kings Cross and then up to Doncaster on a very busy train. Four young men on the next door table were having a very fruity conversation about their exploits. Dave met us in a hire car, he had been there since Fri.

Off to a members’ club near where Dave’s mum lives. About 60 people (nearly all extended family) and lunch provided by the local cafe. It was good fun and quite northern. The members’ club had once been a working man’s club and it felt quite like that. The bar next door to where we were meeting was for members only and there seemed to be very few women in there.

Then in the evening me, Dave, my mum, and his mum went for a one course pub dinner. Very pleasant though it is funny how we find our parents as they get older. The child-parent relationship is reversed with the parents needing looking after. It is also interesting how cautious people get as they age.

Health & Efficiency

Gym

I knew last week would not be good for exercise because of the need to work 4 days and travelling to Scunthorpe on Sun. And so it came to pass that I only did one solitary gym session but it was a decent one.

It happened Tues late morning after first helping mum with the laundry and then popping into work for a quick presentation at a meeting. The workout went really well with all the main body parts worked especially my legs. So many gym people don’t like doing legs whereas I really enjoy it.

Jog-run

lady running in cold weatherI did this on Sat morning. A bit of trepidation because it’s been a few weeks with the disruption of CHOGM and the Marathon. Plus I’m still recovering from my winter hibernation.

Shit time and pace. I did 7.5 km so building up again to the 10 km I used to do each week. Time was over 52 mins equalling about 7 mins per km. But it felt good to plod round the parks and I’m pleased I did it. The details on all my jog-runs can be found here (I’ve stopped weighing myself each week).

Oops!

bloods takenBit of a fuck-up last Fri morning when I totally forgot to attend the appointment to check my INR to make sure my blood is not over or under-clotting. With the busyness of last week and not having the routine of Thurs as leave, I just forgot. Phoned the practice as soon as I remembered and the appointment is re-scheduled for next week.

I think that is the first time in my whole life I have forgotten to attend a pre-booked medical appointment. I did get a GP appointment on Mon to renew my non-HIV meds – it would have been perfect if both last week’s appointments could have been done together but twas not to be.

Personal Development

Coffee computer pen+paperBig news was that I did some coding practice on Code Academy. 🙂 And I managed to do a bit of Duolingo everyday though some days it was only a little bit. Emails spiralled a little bit out of control as they do unless I pay constant attention.

Books & Reading

‘The Phoenix and the Mirror’

This is a classic fantasy novel written by Avram Davidson in 1969. I’ve been meaning to read it for ages. I like fantasy though I prefer sci-fi. I find fantasy a bit repetitive with made-up forested lands filled with wizards, dwarves, and wicked emperors. This book was a quite unique one especially considering it was written nearly 50 years ago. Hard work initially but definitely a very inspiring read.

It centres on the adventures of the classical poet Virgil. But in this book he is a magician living in an alternative Renaissance Europe. Apart from the magic, the main thing seems to be that the crucifixion and the rise of Christianity never happened. Hard work especially as the book whizzes along at a fast pace with lots of info you would love to know about not being explained. But then I realised it needs to be treated like a classic legend being laid out in a poem where the focus is on the adventure rather than developing characters and stories.

The Week Ahead:

  • I start the week by finishing my sojourn in Scunthorpe. Mon is Dave’s mum’s birthday and we will go for lunch. Tues – back on the train to London with Dave, me and my mum.
  • Work all day Wed and Fri though I also need to pop in for a meeting on Thurs afternoon. Lots of internal meetings though looking forward on Fri to catching up with another former colleague. She is now at NESTA and is coming to talk about a challenge prize for young people we might want to get involved with. 🙂
  • Velvet Page book club on Thurs evening where we will be considering ‘Insomniac City’
  • My old friend Dom’s 60th birthday on Sun and we are all going out for dinner
  • Gym hopefully twice next week (Thurs & Sun) plus jog-run on Sat weather permitting
  • Got to keep up with emails as well as Duolingo and continue to do some coding practice

And Finally…

You’ve got until 6pm on Tues 8 May to nominate to the Comic Relief Tech4Good for Africa Award – spread the word!

Tech4Good for Africa Award: apply by 8 May

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