Review of 2010: Favourite Posts

Here’s my list of my own favourite posts from the blog this year. As in previous years I’ve tried to pick one from each month (but August is missing as I didn’t write a single entry all month).

  • Andrew Wakefield
    The doctor who manufactured the MMR “controversy” was censured by the General Medical Council. I particularly wanted to draw attention to the nonsense found in the comments on the Daily Mail story. The Daily Mail was, of course, one of the papers that gave a lot of coverage to Wakefield’s nonsense – without bothering to check the facts.
  • Homeopathic Dilutions
    Another story that was inspired by the Daily Mail. They ran a story on homeopathy and one of the comments was from someone who obviously didn’t understand just how diluted homeopathic products are. This was an attempt to set him right.
  • The Learning Guitar
    A rare example of sentimentality on the blog as I lamented the end of the guitar that I had owned for over thirty-five years.
  • Modern Campaigning
    Some thoughts about the general election campaign – specifically on how it didn’t turn out to be the digital campaign that many of us were expecting.
  • Programme for Government
    Our new government issued a document describing its plans. I examined it for information about some of the subjects that the rationalist/skeptical community might be interested in. I was very disappointed.
  • On the Intelligence of MPs
    A discussion of how many MPs seem determined to demonstrate their lack of intelligence by supporting nonsense like homeopathy.
  • Greens and Science
    One of the MPs who signed an EDM supporting homeopathy was the Green Party’s first MP, Caroline Lucas. This seemed strange given her party’s policy on scientific evidence and medicine.
  • Where’s Your Data
    A look at some of the potential downsides of storing your data in the cloud.
  • 38 Degrees
    The internet is making it easier to contact your MP. But, if you’re not careful, that contact can do more harm that good. I looked at how 38 Degrees run the risk of annoying MPs.
  • Web Site Links
    A recurring theme this year (particularly when writing about Iain Dale or Nadine Dorries) was bloggers who don’t link to articles they are writing about. I explained why I thought it was a good idea to link to your sources and came up with some theories about why people might not do it.
  • The War You Don’t See
    A review of John Pilger’s latest documentary.

It was harder to choose the list this year – largely because I haven’t been blogging so much this year and therefore there was less to choose from. But I shall try to blog more in 2011.

Thanks for reading.


Review of 2010: Most Popular Posts

As is becoming traditional, I’m going spend a couple of posts rounding up the last year on my blog. Today I’ll list the ten most read posts and tomorrow I’ll look at some of my favourites.

  1. Alice in Wonderland
    I really wasn’t very impressed with Tim Burton’s take on Alice in Wonderland. But I saw it and wrote about it the weekend it was released – which no doubt accounts for this post’s popularity.
  2. Berlin time
    This post did very well for one that was written so late in the year. In the Daily Mail Peter Hitchins wrote some jingoistic nonsense about the campaign to move the UK to European time. It was really easy to puncture his arguments.
  3. Polite Discourse
    Ah, memories… The day I was called a “sack of shit” by one of the UK’s most popular political bloggers. What a lovely bloke Iain Dale is.
  4. Iain Dale Talks Balls
    And speaking of Iain Dale, here he is again. This time he’s running with a complete non-story about Ed Balls being a member of the Oxford University Conservative Association. I particularly wanted to draw attention to the fact that he failed to link to his source for this story – as the source makes it clear that the story is bollocks.
  5. The People’s Pamphlet
    I don’t usually do April Fools jokes. But I enjoyed being involved in this one. Tim Ireland, Sim-O and I all claimed we were taking a month off work to campaign against Nadine Dorries in Mid Beds.
  6. Snow and Global Warming
    A perennial story. We have a bit of snow in the UK and some idiot thinks that’s conclusive proof that there’s no such thing as global warming. On this occasion it was Ann Winterton speaking in the Commons.
  7. Amazon Kindle
    Usually, posts from the end of the year don’t do so well in this list for obvious logistical reasons. But here’s another post from November that proved rather popular. In it, I reviewed the Amazon Kindle and bemoaned the fact that book publishers are making exactly the same mistakes with DRM that record companies made before them.
  8. Press Complaints Commission
    Anther project I was involved in with Tim Ireland and some other sensible bloggers. We were trying to use the PCC’s annual open review to suggest some useful changes. Of course, we got nowhere.
  9. Homeopathy Petition
    In February I set up a petition on the Number 10 web site calling for the government to take notice of the House of Commons Science and Technology committee’s evidence check on homeopathy. Unfortunately, all petitions were put on hold during the general election and the new government has closed the site down.
  10. General Election in Battersea
    I’m glad this post was popular. Whilst the election was going on, I was monitoring the way that my local candidates were using social media to get their message across. With a couple of exceptions, the results were not encouraging.

And there we are. That’s the ten most read articles from the site in 2010. As in previous years, I’m glad that it’s a pretty good cross-section of the things that I wrote about over the year.

Happy New Year everyone. Thanks for reading last year and I hope you continue to find something worth reading on the site this year.


Opentech 2010

On Saturday I was at the Opentech conference. Some brief notes about the sessions I saw.

The day was sponsored by, so it seemed polite to see one of their sessions first. I watched Richard Stirling and friends talk about some of the work they’re doing on releasing lots and lots of linked data. There were some interesting-looking demonstrations (using a tool that, I believe, was called Datagrid [Update: Sam Smith reminds me that it was actually Gridworks]) but I was in the back half of the room and it was a little hard to follow the details. The session also had a demonstration of the new site.

The next session I attended was in the main hall. Hadley Beeman talked about the LinkedGov project which aims to take a lot of the data that the government are releasing and to improve it by adding metadata, filling in holes and generally cleaning it up.

Hadley was followed by Ben Goldacre and Louise Crow who have a cracking idea for a web site. They want to expose all of the clinical trial data which never gets published (presumably because the trial didn’t go the way that the people running it wanted it to go). They already have a prototype that demonstrates which pharmaceutical companies are particularly bad at this.

The final talk in this session was by Emma Mulqueeny and a few friends. They were introducing Rewired State, which runs hackdays to encourage people to build cool things out of government data. I was particularly impressed with Young Rewired State which runs similar events aimed people under the age of 18,

It was then lunchtime. That went disastrously wrong and I ended up not eating and getting back late so that I missed the start of the next session. Unfortunately I missed half of Louise Crow’s talk about MySociety’s forthcoming project FixMyTransport. I stayed to watch Tom Steinberg give an interesting explanation of why he though GroupsNearYou hadn’t taken off. Finally in this session, Tim Green and Edmund von der Berg talked about how three separate groups had worked together on some interesting projects during the last general election.

I was speaking in the next session. Unusually for Opentech, the organisers decided to have a session about the technology that  underlies some of the projects that the conference is about. I talked about Modern Perl, Mark Blackman covered Modern FreeBSD and Tom Morris introduced Modern Java (or, more accurately, Scala).

The next session I attended was largely about newspapers. Phil Gyford talked about why he dislikes newspaper web sites and why he built Today’s Guardian – a newpaper web site that looks more like a newspaper. Gavin Bell talked about the future of social networking sites and Chris Thorpe talked about automating the kind of serendipity that makes newspapers such a joy to read.

For the final session I went back to the main hall. Mia Ridge talked about why the techies who work for museums really want to open up their data in the same way as the government is now doing and asked us to go banging on the museums’ doors asking for access to their data. And finally Robin Houston told some interesting stories about the 10:10 campaign.

As always the conference was really interesting. As always there were far too many things that I wanted to see and in every session I could have just as easily gone to see one of the other tracks. And as always, I have come away from the conference fired with enthusiasm and wanting to help all of the projects that I heard about.

Of course, that’s not going to happen. I’m going to have to pick one or two of them.

If you weren’t at Opentech, then you missed a great day out. You should make an effort to come along next year.