Still being led by donkeys

I’ve mentioned them before, but I’m more than happy to share another article about them. It was great to see one of their billboards just down the road from me here in Leeds, and here they are again, on that recent Brexit march.

How the viral Led by Donkeys anti-Brexit campaign is haunting flip-flopping politicians
On a weekend that featured an array of aesthetically creative Brexit protest signs, the most memorable was perhaps the simplest: just a quote from arch-Brexiteer David Davis, blown up to massive size and unfurled over the thousands of protestors gathered in London’s Parliament Square.

still-being-led-by-donkeys

I think they’re right about the impact of these physical, in-your-face representations of what could be seen as throwaway lines.

Richard says that the effectiveness of the group’s tactics has something to do with relationship between offline and online speech. “We discovered that if you take a digital format, a digital message and you put it up on a six-meter-by-three-meter billboard in a town centre, in a physical space, it forces that politician to own those words,” he says. Bringing an online quote into the offline world seems to overcome the internet’s ephemerality; it makes a statement more substantial.

Another take on all that.

The Brexit farce is about to turn to tragedy
Welcome to Disneyland. Leading Brexiter Jacob Rees-Mogg is playing Mickey Mouse as the sorcerer’s apprentice from Fantasia; Theresa May is the wicked witch from Snow White — though she is short on magic. Across the pond, an evil ogre known as Donald Trump is waiting to eat us all up.

It’s grim; but it’s a great learning experience. Has anyone learnt? Has former Brexit secretary David Davis worked out that his plan to leave the EU while retaining “the exact same benefits” as staying in the single market, was a little ambitious? Or that the Germans actually care more about the integrity of the EU than about selling Brits BMWs? Has Michael Gove finally noticed that we did not after all “hold all the cards” the day after we voted to leave? Has anyone worked out that frictionless trade is quite complicated, and that the dreary Brussels machinery does a good job for us?

We shouldn’t count on it.

I loved this last line. An inquiry is coming, surely?

Government by slogan does not work. Are we taking back control or handing it over to Brussels? By the time we find out, it will be too late. If the UK prime minister had a sense of humour, she would set up the committee of inquiry now, so it could take evidence in real time, as the tragedy unfolds.

Hashtag political satire

Perhaps Twitter is good for something after all?

Four men with a ladder: the billboard campaigners battling Brexit
It all began, as most good ideas do, in the pub. They were talking about the infamous David Cameron tweet – “Britain faces a simple and inescapable choice – stability and strong government with me or chaos with Ed Miliband” – which was doing the rounds again after Theresa May cancelled the vote on her deal in December. And someone said: why don’t they slap it on a billboard, make it the tweet you can’t delete?

hastag-political-satire

How an army of farcical fakes ruined Turning Point UK’s big day
The result was a surreal farrago of misunderstanding and noise. Fake accounts would call out Turning Point’s genuine handle as a fake set up by antifa extremists, and sometimes would even go as far as exposing other fellow fakes as fakes. It was fakes calling out convincing-looking fakes as fakes in order to reroute Twitter’s attention to other fakes.

hastag-political-satire-2

A strange morning

The Quartz Daily Brief is just one of several e-mail newsletters I like to start my day with, on my commute to work on the number 97. A variety of topics are covered, some catch my eye more than others — politics, yes; business, not so much — but today’s ‘Surprising Discoveries’ section was so odd I just have to share it all with you.

Jack Dorsey sent his facial hair to Azealia Banks. The Twitter CEO wanted the rapper to make a protective amulet out of his beard shavings.

A judge ordered a Missouri poacher to watch Bambi on repeat. He has to watch the Disney classic at least once a month during his year-long jail sentence.

Actual witches want Trump to stop saying “witch hunt.” They say his comparison of the Mueller investigation to their painful history is disrespectful.

A diamond the size of an egg was unearthed in Canada. The value of the 552-carat “fancy yellow” gem will depend on the cutting (subscription).

The year 536 was the worst to be alive. A mysterious global fog covered half of the planet for 18 months, leading to constant darkness, crop failure, and mass starvation.

That’s quite a collection of strangeness for one morning. Sign up for your own odd start to the day.

Less talk, more thinking

Two recent articles, from within different contexts but with the same unconventional conclusion: most political debates are pointless and serve just to reinforce division and animosity.

Against debate
The confident assertion of a clear statement beats caution and caveats. Experiments tell us that people often mistake overconfidence for competence thereby selecting for it and against actual ability. Debates favour articulate overconfident posh folk who in fact know nothing – which is why we got into this mess.

Resolved: Debate is stupid
People — yes, even you — do not make decisions on an entirely rational basis. An audience is more easily won over with a one-liner that inspires applause or laughter than a five-minute explanation of a complicated phenomenon. A false statistic repeated confidently will be more convincing than a truth stated haltingly by some guy you’ve never heard of.

And here’s another article that I think is related. It’s from Slate and wants to be about how Twitter is finally proving itself to be a useful, benevolent platform for debate, with historians acting as fact-checkers and context-providers. I’m not so sure.

Viral history Twitter threads: 2018 was the year historians embraced the platform.
Historians used the Twitter thread to add context and accuracy to the news cycle in 2018. Here’s how they did it.

I’m growing more and more disillusioned with Twitter, and social media in general. Yes, these longer sets of tweets can provide ‘explanations of complicated phenomena’, and are interesting to read. But are we really saying that Twitter, with its average tweet length of about 50 characters, can overcome those problems with political debates, highlighted above? Or are they just preaching to the converted?

How many tweets have you seen that have included the words, “Oh yeah, you’re right, I hadn’t thought of it like that.”

How to fix* broken Brexit

With humour.

Instead of this …

Draft Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community, as agreed at negotiators’ level on 14 November 2018 (pdf)

… and this …

Brexit analysis: Why Theresa May’s deal may be doomed
Somehow, all this would be bought at no cost. British citizens would continue to enjoy frictionless travel to the E.U; goods and services would still cross borders with hyperloop-y speed and ease. But immigrants would find that Britain’s international entry points had become a veritable eye of the needle. Above all, we were told that all our E.U. contributions would now get fed straight into the National Health Service […] It’s not just that these assertions were unfounded. They showed a fundamental overestimation of Britain’s power and prestige, of its ability to bend other states to its will. The E.U. has not as yet capitulated to a single meaningful demand from a British government that has frequently looked weak and confused.

… read this.

And instead of this …

Brexit deal resignations are more bad news for the British pound
Today’s resignations have been far worse for the pound. About an hour after Raab, Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey resigned, too. There have been four more junior-level resignations on top of that, all before lunch.

… read this.

(* Ok, not so much ‘fix’ as ‘get through’.)

New alphabets, new words

I can’t imagine how difficult this must be to organise. Kazakhstan is changing its official alphabet — every written thing across all areas of life, work, education, commerce — from the Russian-based Cyrillic one to the Latin-based one of the West.

The cost of changing an entire country’s alphabet
That the Kazakh language is currently written in Cyrillic – and the persistent use of Russian in elite circles – is a legacy of the Soviet Union’s rule, one that some of its neighbouring countries sought to shed right after the union’s collapse in 1991. Azerbaijan, for example, started introducing textbooks in Latin script the next year, while Turkmenistan followed suit in 1993. Kazakhstan is making the transition almost three decades on, in a different economic environment that makes the costs hard to predict.

[…]

So far, state media has reported that the government’s total budget for the seven-year transition – which has been divided into three stages – will amount to roughly 218 billion tenge ($664m). About 90% of that amount is going to education programmes the publication of textbooks for education programmes in the new Latin script, including for literature classes.

The government aims to complete the move by 2025. I’d love to revisit this story then, to see if they meet their deadline and budget.

I wonder if Kazakhstan’s new alphabet will be put to use with some of the new words this report discusses. A University of Birmingham researcher has analysed 900 million tweets from October 2013 to November 2014 from users in the USA, looking for terms that started off rare but became more popular.

Feeling litt? The five hotspots driving English forward
The result was a list of 54 terms, which covered everything from sex and relationships (such as “baeless” – a synonym for single), people’s appearance (“gainz” to describe the increased muscle mass from bulking up at the gym), and technology (“celfie” – an alternative spelling of selfie). Others reflected the infiltration of Japanese culture (such as “senpai”, which means teacher or master). They also described general feelings, like “litt” (or “litty” – which means impressive or good – or affirmations such as “yaaaas” (as an alternative to yes.) Interestingly, some of these terms such as “candids” (a noun describing photos taken without the other person’s knowledge) have been around for years, but were extremely rare until seeing a sudden rise in popularity.

Because the messages were timestamped and geocoded, he could track five geographic hubs that were driving these changes and additions to the language; West Coast, Deep South, North East, Mid-Atlantic and the Gulf Coast.

Gulf Coast  The third (and final) southern region to feature in Grieve’s analysis, this hub centred around New Orleans, extending across Louisiana and into eastern and coastal Texas and along the Mississippi to Memphis. One of the region’s most noteworthy contributions – idgt (I don’t get tired) – became a catchphrase of the rapper Kevin Gates, who grew up in Baton Rouge, the state capital of Louisiana, and released a single of the same name in 2014.

Notable terms: bruuh (bro’): idgt (I don’t get tired); lordt (Oh Lord!)

The CIA is not your friend

As sinister dealers in mass death, the CIA could at least spare us its snarky tweets
As evil as the Nazis were, at least their messaging was consistent with their actions. The SS weren’t nice guys; lest anyone be confused about that, they wore skulls and crossbones on their uniforms. Had Germany won the war, you wouldn’t turn to @Gestapo for droll quips. Hitler didn’t make Holocaust jokes; Mao didn’t turn meta on the Cultural Revolution at the Forbidden City Correspondents Dinner.

Spinning like lonely stars indeed

Grant Smithies is lost in cyber-space
Here, my friends, is an addiction of the worst possible kind: A scourge on polite society that wastes the body and fries the brain. While seemingly harmless, social media is powerfully habit-forming. Within no time, the user becomes hopelessly hooked on gossip, recycled jokes and pop culture detritus, and begins to crave daily doses of dot-camaraderie with their online “friends” or “followers”. Rather than seeking flesh-and-blood interactions in the physical world, they spin like lonely stars through a vast digital galaxy swirling with trivia, wondering how they might best contribute to the communal pool of inanity.

Oh cheer up #ffs!

So. Farewell then, App.net

app-netI’ve decided to cancel my app.net subscription. In the little please-tell-us-why-you’re-leaving box I put something about not feeling geeky or technie enough to feel I belong there.

I like their we-are-selling-our-product-not-our-users thing, and I really loved the founder’s podcast about business models and Instagram’s recently difficulties, but I just don’t feel that I’m getting enough out of the service to justify the cost. I don’t have a smart phone with which to experiment with all the apps, I’m not especially social with my social media and I wouldn’t recognise json if he hit me with an argonaut. There are only a few people I follow there anyway, and Google Reader will still help me catch what they’re saying and follow any of their links to anything interesting.

So I’m sticking with Twitter, though no idea why. I’m sure I’ve written about that before. And Facebook too, I guess, though this tweet from @nickbilton sums things up quite well.

Owner occupier

I increasingly feel like this is the only place on the internet I really own. The place I’m sure of. Twitter, Instagram etc feel like places that could be snatched away at somebody’s whim. Which would, sort of, be fine but, sort of, be not. I’m backing them up like I’m backing this up. But the files without the social context would be a little thin.

A post from Russell Davies carrying on that Personal Cloud line of thought.

Overseas students, FOI, productivity

  • BBC News – Colleges lose licences in immigration crackdown
    “More than 470 UK colleges have been barred in the last six months from accepting new foreign students from outside Europe, the Home Office says. They either had licences revoked or did not sign up to a new inspection system – part of government efforts to curb abuse of the immigration system. It estimates the colleges could have brought in 11,000 students.”
  • Universities UK response to Home Office update on student visa changes
    “Beyond the substance of these arrangements, it is essential that the government considers the way in which the rules are communicated externally. It’s important that the UK appears ‘open for business’ to those individuals who are genuinely committed to coming to the UK to study at one of our highly-regarded universities. We must also be conscious of the impact that cutting down on pre-degree courses is having on our universities. Many universities operate pathway programmes with a range of providers. It is estimated that more than 40 per cent of all international students arrive through this means.”
  • Tweets could now be considered valid FOI requests > JISC Legal
    “According to recent guidance published by the ICO, tweets addressed to an institution may constitute valid Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.”
  • What Kind of Worrier Are You? | World of Psychology
    “And this list actually made me feel better because, while I checked off the majority of them, I realized I still have plenty of things to worry about that I hadn’t even thought of! Score!”
  • Productivity Future Vision
    “In 5-10 years, how will people get things done at work, at home, and on the go. Watch the concept video to get a glimpse of the future of productivity, then explore the stories and technology in more detail.”
  • Take a More Realistic Approach to Your To-Do List with the 3 + 2 Rule
    “At the morning you think you can do a, b, c, d, e. But then something goes wrong with b and you spend much more time on it than you anticipated. Subsequently you can’t finish c and d and you feel like you haven’t done enough. Let it be. Instead of having unrealistic expectations, just acknowledge that you can do only 3 big things and 2 small things. Do them and call it a day!”

Mental health, Twitter, HE in Wales, Excel

Mental Health and Social Media | Therapy Soup
Of course there are dangers, too. We’ve blogged about the dangers of the Internet and Social Media in the past, but we wanted to learn more specifically about the potential for mental health care and addiction treatment benefits.

How Scholars Are Using Twitter (Infographic)
The effect Twitter and the social Web have begun to have on entertainment, journalism and other media-related industries is by now well known and much-discussed. Its impact on other areas of human culture and knowledge, however, is still emerging. For example, how does the microblogging service impact academics and scholarly communication?

Uni of Wales needs ‘decent burial’ – Leighton Andrews
The University of Wales (UoW) requires “a decent burial” following a turbulent period which has damaged the reputation of Wales, says the education minister.

Excel Blog – Tips on using seven heavenly text functions
Harness the power of the suite of Text functions, such as RIGHT, LEFT, MID, FIND, LEN, TEXT, and REPLACE, and you’ll be an unstoppable force. Okay, maybe that’s a bit over the top. But learning to use these functions can really build your formula prowess. And it can be fun! Still a little extreme with the enthusiasm? Sorry, I’ll tone it down a bit.

Digital HE

Scholars Compile Academic Book From Twitter and Blogs
Two academics put out an online call for material. In one week, they had a book’s worth. Hacking the Academy, an edited volume about academe in the digital age, was compiled from blog posts and Twitter messages posted during a single week. The project was organized by Dan Cohen and Tom Scheinfeldt, of George Mason University’s Center for History and New Media, as an experiment meant to challenge the conventional university-press system.

Integrating Twitter

Any opportunities here for HEIs to improve (prospective?) student engagement?

Twitter Blog: It’s Alive!
Last month we previewed an incredibly simple set of web tools which enable partner websites to easily integrate Twitter functionality into their site experience called @anywhere. The idea is that web users will be able to engage with existing Twitter features from all of their favorite sites. Today, we’re happy to announce this service is live and ready for anyone who wants to build a little Twitter into their online experience.

Twitter strategies, visualising data, managing projects

Template Twitter strategy for Government Departments
You might think a 20-page strategy a bit over the top for a tool like Twitter. After all, microblogging is a low-barrier to entry, low-risk and low-resource channel relative to other corporate communications overheads like a blog or printed newsletter. And the pioneers in corporate use of Twitter by central government (see No 10, CLG and FCO) all started as low-profile experiments and grew organically into what they are today. But, having held back my JFDI inclinations long enough to sit down and write a proper plan for BIS’s corporate Twitter account, I was surprised by just how much there is to say – and quite how worth saying it is, especially now the platform is more mature and less forgiving of mistakes.

50 great examples of data visualization
50 of the best data visualizations and tools for creating your own visualizations out there, covering everything from Digg activity to network connectivity to what’s currently happening on Twitter.

University of Edinburgh Records Management Section – advice on freedom of information, data protection and records management
The Records Management Section provides help and advice to all units of the University on information management issues including records management practices and procedures, data protection and freedom of information.  We are also responsible for the Central Records Registry and the day-to day management of the records of the central administrative areas formerly known as Policy and Planning.

University of Edinburgh Projects Web Site
A one stop source of information about University IT projects – Templates and methodologies to assist in the successful management of projects – A filing system and repository for project related documentation – A communication vehicle for keeping stakeholders informed about project progress.

Degree fraud, social teams

Diploma and accreditation mills: Exposing academic credential abuse
Take Belford University, for example, which offers bachelors, masters or doctorate degrees in 15 days based on passing an online test or an applicant’s ‘life experience’. Anyone who has spent three hard years at university will know that passing one online test is not what a real degree is about – particularly one that you can take as many times as you want. However, Belford University claims to be accredited by the International Accreditation Agency for Online Universities (IAAOU) and the Universal Council for Online Education Accreditation (UCOEA).

Using Yammer
Where a social communications tool, like Yammer, wins out, is when you want to stay in touch with the all the conversations that your particular colleagues are having. Yes, some of them will be irrelevant, but that’s just like being in the office. For a distributed team, social tools can be invaluable for keeping your finger on the pulse.

Outdated admin, new networks

DC Deficit Fixer: Print on Both Sides of Paper – $102M in painfully obvious cuts shows how outdated gov’t is
A short while ago, President Obama called on his Cabinet to make budget cuts in their departments totaling $100 million. They came up with $102 million, but some of the cuts were so obvious one wonders why it took a presidential edict to elicit them, the Wall Street Journal notes.

Keeping cyberspace open to the public
The argument over the public space of the network has not gone away, however, although it now relates to a different level of the network. Instead of the internet itself as a collection of linked computers it concerns the social network and the various sites, tools and services that many of us now rely on.

Tired Twitter

Why we can never rest: a year in the life of Twitter
Although we are already a few years into our latest collaboration, this has been the year the world took note of a simple service that has profound promise. For us, it has been a year during which we realised that no matter how sophisticated the algorithms get, no matter how many machines we add to the network, our work is not about the triumph of technology, it is about the triumph of humanity.

E-admin

e-Learning Focus – e-administration and enterprise resources
Resources in the area of e-administration.

E-Administration
e-Administration, or electronic administration, refers to any of a number of mechanisms which convert what in a traditional office are paper processes into electronic processes, with the goal being to create a paperless office. This is an ICT tool, with the goal being to improve productivity and performance.

e-Administration
e-Administration is ‘the effective management of the coordination and control of business processes and the electronic information they create’. It has two fundamental objectives: to increase the efficiency of administrative processes within institutions and to lessen the administrative burden faced by all staff during this process.

Twitter: The virtual loud hailer
I can’t help visualising Twitter as a loud hailer. And… it doesn’t necessarily matter how witty and apt your tweets might be if you’re stuck talking down the wrong end of it! As you tap your 140 characters into the Twitter dialogue box it is as if you are talking aloud to yourself, but with the added echoing effect of a loud hailer, broadcasting to all those – virtually – around you.

Twitter networks, HE finance, HE admin

Explore your Twitter network with Mentionmap
Asterisq just released Mentionmap, an exciting web app for exploring your Twitter network. Discover which people interact the most and what they’re talking about. It’s also a great way to find relevant people to follow.

Study reveals lack of awareness over university bursaries and scholarships
The scope and clarity of information provided by universities and colleges about bursaries leave a lot to be desired, says the study. Almost one-half of students (44 per cent) thought there was too little information about how to apply for a bursary, though higher education institutions think they provide enough. Many universities need to do more, says the study. Three-quarters of students and two-thirds of parents did not realise that universities and colleges must give a minimum bursary to students receiving the full state maintenance grant. And, almost half the students surveyed (47 per cent) thought bursaries were one-off payments given to students in their first year.

V-c: scholars should lighten the administrative burden
Answering a question on “blended roles”, which mix academic and administrative tasks, she said: “I would like to see young academics accepting that is part of their contracts. I would like to change this sort of attitude that all you really do is teach or research, or in most cases both, and that you don’t have a sort of common responsibility towards helping to run the institution.”

The academic v administrator debate rumbles on, and still doesn’t get anywhere…