0.0 Station Ident
I still haven’t tweeted for a while. This feels like a big deal! Like, as a friend relayed recently, progressing from heroin to methadone. I mean, I tell a lie, I have tweeeted, but only things like “I just published a newsletter”. When talking about this with said friend - who has properly deactivated their account - I was struck by the difference between what they did (ie: reduce the number of daily and monthly active users by 1) and what I and others of my friends are doing, which is a) not “creating content” or “engagement” on Twitter anymore, but instead b) still “engaging” by liking things. So I’m still a daily, monthly active user and count toward KPIs that Twitter reports to the street, but I’m no longer really increasing or creating value. I’ve become as passive as I can, I think.
Still, I think I’d prefer *not* to be a monthly or daily active user.
I continue to have thoughts about Mastodon. We’ll see if those surface.
1.0 Things that caught my attention
1.1 The basket of goods
You’ll have to bear with me on this one. The first thing that caught my attention was The Guardian’s story about how a no-frills lifestyle for a family of four (2 adults, 2 children) in the UK now results in a GBP 49/week shortfall for two working adults on minimum wage. This is, clearly, a terrible situation to be in. The story is sourced from a report by the Child Poverty Action Group, and does that irritating thing that too many news organizations still do of including hyperlinks, but not to the original source material. The body of the story includes the following links: poverty (to the Guardian’s index on the topic), to a story about the rollout of universal credit hitting families hard, and a link to a story in a quote about the employment rate being at a record high. There are no links in the body to a) the Child Poverty Action Group, who actually delivered the report. Now, this is *a bit like* press release journalism. Some interest body has a new bit of research and it’s been picked up and re-packaged. So I am interested in this thing because I want to read the *actual* report, so I go head out to find the Child Poverty Action Group, and see if I can find the report, which I can. The report, Cost of a Child in 2018, is a PDF. (The report is not in the “Latest Publications” section of the homepage, but it is the top entry on the “Latest News” sidebar on the right). Now I have to explain *why* this has caught my attention. The particular idea I have in mind is that it’s all fine and well for the technology sector to say that they’re amazing and that technology means you get to spend less money on things or that things that used to cost a lot now cost less, or that there are new things that you get for free which you didn’t pay for before. And so on. So I want to see what goes into the basket of goods - what’s the definition of the no-frills lifestyle? The answer is that basket of goods is defined by a minimum socially acceptable standard of living in the UK out of Lougborough university. It’s defined - as part of a section on “the Calculation” on page 10 of the PDF. Just so you know, the default PDF viewer on iOS spawned by Mobile Safari doesn’t - at least, didn’t when I tried it the other day - support hyperlinks, so when I see the section “for further information, see www.lboro.ac.uk/research/crsp/mis” I cannot tap on it. So instead I know I should google loughborough minimum income standard because I do not want to re-type www.lboro.ac.uk/research/crsp/mis into Safari and honestly it’s a toss-up as to how well I can remember that string and have to switch between one Safari tab/window and another. Remember - I want to look at the basket of goods to find out what’s involved in a no-frills lifestyle in 2018, so let’s go look at the latest minimum income standard results because it maybe has the detailed list of goods and services I’m looking for and yes it does, here it is for a working couple and two children aged 2-4. It is, unsurprisingly, very detailed. It is a 33 page PDF (which feels like a shame, because it’s obviously an Excel spreadsheet, and later on I find the link to the actual annual budget Excel spreadsheets for 11 household types). Anyway, now we’re at the basket of goods. There is a lot of detail about food. They show their working. Tesco smooth peanut butter costs GBP 0.21 a week. Marmite (cue a debate about whether this lifestyle is socially acceptable) costs GBP 0.05 a week (a 125g package at an estimated usage of 4g a week yields an expected lifespan of 31 weeks). There’s a comprehensive list of household goods, durables, and so on. And then, some interesting parts: a bicycle is marked at GBP 50, good for 10 years of use — if it’s a secondhand one from eBay. A safety kit, like childsafe locks etc. is the only other mention of eBay as a source of potential secondhand goods. Broadband cost (GBP 0.98/month) is bundled in with POTS line rental (GBP 17.75/month). A laptop comes out at GBP 249.99 and would be expected to last 5 years. An Office 365 subscription at GBP 5.99/month so that schoolchildren can do their homework.
The (obvious? naive?) point being this: how do we want to live? The supply chain management stuff I wrote about in the previous episode is a big part of why the basket of goods is as cheap as it is. All that food, all that furniture and so on. It also comes at a cost. And *even then*, this basket of minimally socially acceptable goods is still more expensive than the minimum wage in the UK. A reminder: Wikipedia says the UK was 5th worldwide in nominal GDP (after the US, China, Japan and Germany), and that’s before we even get into whether GDP is a useful measure or, even, what it’s useful *for*.
Anyway. That’s what using the internet for 10 minutes looks like.
1.2 The other things that caught, etc.
* Interstate 95 will be complete this September, after 60 years of work.
* I only just caught this potential Pons-and-Fleischmann story about cracking room temperature superconductivity - maybe through gold and silver nanoparticles, but Thapa and Pandey’s paper, published on arXiv, raises (to date) unanswered questions. Aside: arXiv is pronounced archive, because Xi is pronounced chi! Don’t be like earlier me, who pronounced Hermione Her-me-own.
* I don’t have enough time or the energy to write about Mastodon right now, but I really liked this blog post from Joe Steel about Mastodon. From my point of view, one of the most insightful points raised by Steel and one that resonated with me was their observation that: “other people were just born to be bulletin board moderators so let them do it” and let me just say that I want the choice to be able to trust people who’re invested in running and growing smaller communities from a personal point of view versus, say, a CEO who wears a #staywoke t-shirt and who achieves such wokeness by being an inspiring example of not-making-any-decisions, or, say, a CEO who bemoans the fact that they apparently now have to make choices about the kind of content they’d like on their network which absolutely totally isn’t making any editorial decisions not really. An aside: I’ve had multiple discussions with different people about whether “Facebook” is a community (I don’t think it is) or “Twitter” is one (it has slightly more claim to being one than Facebook, if only because at some point in its past, Twitter was small enough to have a bunch of shared concepts). I do believe that Facebook and Twitter are collections of communities, and that is one of the reasons why I’m excited about Mastodon - it lets people decide and run communities the way they’d like. Fine, Nazis can have their own Mastodon instance(s). But then I, or any number of admins, can decide whether they want them pissing in their pool.
It is not that late but I am very tired and I totally forgot to take some medication this morning which is probably contributing to why I’m so tired. So I’ll say thank you, again, for your kind notes, it’s nice to hear from you all. And I’ll try to make the font size bigger this time.
How was your Monday? Mine felt pretty productive and I’m reasonably convinced that I Added Value today, and what more could any of us ask?