Blog-less Blog

That is the current status of this blog. I am supposed to write regularly and hopefully providing articles and comments of interest. All instead of just spouting updates on the progress, or lack of it, on my books.

The idea is to write other stuff which will attract interest form a broad readership. In turn this will lead to readers investigating this site and then hopefully clicking on a book description and consequently purchasing one of my offerings. Notice no links or embedded spam – is this a new approach? No, it just seems to have no impact so I’m trying a bit of reverse psychology. The statistics from this site tell me about click through traffic and pages read. Since my last post advertising my latest release and associated discount on the first part of the series, I have started several blogs but time and my own interest stopped a post going out.

I was going to comment on the Google tax deal and Apples quarterly sales in a hopefully witty way. Googles amount of tax paid to HMRC and the city’s reaction to Apple’s disappointing revenue and profits. If only more of the UK’s home industires had such disappointing results. Then there was the humour in watching the UK’s Labour Party trying to explain how we would still have a nuclear deterrent if we let our submarines sale without nuclear weapons. For real entertainment we can all enjoy the US Presidential Election Candidate Selection Process. This seems to consist of a group pf people from all parties who demonstrate their unsuitability at every occasion. Only another 9 months till the election. This is on the UK news almost as much as the other big story, namely the UK’s referendum.

As of this morning, 20th Feb, the UK apparently has a new deal agreed by the other member states. Does this indicate the sunset of the UK’s EU Membership or a positive renewal of our commitment. This is being described as meeting Cameron’s (the UK’s current Prime Minister) objectives and thus allowing him to campaign for a yes vote in what will probably now be a June referendum. I stated current as if he loses the referendum he may have to resign.

The yes vote is to stay in the European Union based on the changes agreed.  At the moment the polls (Remember them in the last UK election) seem to provide a very mixed response. The Daily Telegraph had 51.5% in against 48.5% out. YouGov with The Times this morning has 45% leave against 36% stay. As with the 2015 election – more guess work.

Flags_of_European_UnionOne annoying point that the scaremongers report is how the UK would be suddenly isolated outside the EU. The UK would still be one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. It would still be in NATO, World Health Organisation the IMF etc. It would still have too numerous to mention direct treaties with nation states including other EU members e.g. The Lancaster House Treaties between UK and France signed in 2010. It would still be a part of other pan-European organisations and legal processes. It would still be the 6th largest economy in the World. The sun will still rise in the East and set in the West. It will still rain – often.

For those scaremongering the other way, the same applies. The Common Market has changed out of all recognition. Some of this is good, some of this is done badly. The horrible farce that is the current migrant crisis and the never ending Euro crisis ( no it has not gone away, Greece was requesting more concessions as a condition fro backing the UK’s negotiation only this week) are caused by EU treaty and process failure. The EU like any organisation can be reformed from inside i.e. stay in and fix it. Some of the reforms the UK has asked for other member states want as well, they would not have agreed otherwise.

I must be honest – I am on the fence. The previous European referendum was on staying in what was then called the European Economic Community (EEC). The UK had actually joined The Common Market without a referendum and has not held a referendum since despite the vastly different environment that the EU now represents. I was too young to vote then. England, Wales and Northern Ireland were not asked about Scotland staying in the UK in 2014. The only referendum I have voted in was one on Alternate Voting, in 2011, where only 42% of people could be bothered to vote at all. The Alternate Voting and the EEC remain the only UK wide referendums ever held in the UK. Yes the mother of Parliaments, the cradle of modern democracy, has only bothered to consult the voters twice. The first of these was after the fact.

If it takes place in June, the planned referendum will be held before any legal treaty changes are made and before the European Parliament votes to accept the changes. It remains unclear what happens if the European Parliament rejects the changes agreed by the European Council (Heads of Government) or the Treaty Changes are not made. Many of partners in the European Union (Ireland, Netherlands etc) require their own referendums to approve treaties. Previous changes have not had a smooth ride through this process. The European Constitution vote or Lisbon Treaty is a good example. The first referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon held in 2008 was rejected by the Irish voters. A second referendum followed in 2009 where it was accepted. The UK was going to have a referendum but this was postponed after France and Holland rejected it. The Treaty was then changed. Others voted but the then UK Government signed it albeit after various concessions were created.

The Lisbon Treaty also states the explicit legal right to leave the EU and a procedure to do so. If the UK votes no in June, we will all get to see whether this procedure works, but don’t be surprised if there is not another round of negotiations and another referendum.

By the time the US elects it’s next President or even has the agreed party candidates the UK could be in the middle of a very major change. I might even get around to writing another book!

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A Tinfoil Hat – Data Protection and Security

For those of you that know me in my regular life, you will recall I can get a bee in my bonnet about data protection. Partly this is due to my previous professional roles and responsibilities. A frequent comment is that tin foil hats are needed as if my concerns and others are exaggerated. Using the Internet and any part of modern society means that your personal data is not personal or private it belongs to big corporations and government agencies. I do not believe that governments will deliberately misuse the data. That is the way of conspiracies and tin-foil hats. The scope though for data loss, data selling to third parties (who will misuse it) and data errors will grow. Then there are the criminal risks. If the security services need a backdoor through encryption then that back door exists for anyone that can find it. Ashley Madison anyone, to name one hacking case.

This also goes to some of my more reclusive tendencies. Reclusive? I hear you exclaim, a sometimes writer with a twitter feed, email, Facebook page as well as this blog. However, when it comes to data, this tendency can become overactive. I do not have a personal Facebook page and my on-line activities are covered by occasional blogs and comments on Goodreads. I have author profiles on Amazon and other sites, I have a Linked-In profile but my other personal details do not appear. I do not share my birthday or medical details on-line and I would prefer it if the companies I interact with did not either. Nor my financial details, spending patterns or other marketing led data. But we are in the era of big data. Having worked for one of the big credit reference agencies, I am aware of just how much data is known about me. More interesting is the analysis applied to that data to be sold to other companies which then results in marketing.

I recently received a mail shot from a marketing company offering me contact details on 5 million company directors. My details are probably in that list. How did they get that data (It might not be accurate of course, but how? I did not give anyone permission to give my data to this company. But of course I probably did when I forgot to tick or un-tick a box on another web site opting in or out. Of course I could have just wanted to run something and hidden in the EULA was an explicit clause along the lines of “We may use your data with selected third parties, if you do not wish this to happen etc….” To use the product you have to agree. Next thing you are offered US Car loan deals in Wisconsin – I kid you not. Not helpful in rural Englan not New England – the original.

Why is this relevant? Well last week saw the European Court of Justice (ECJ) rule that one of the data safeguards used by many companies, including Facebook and many cloud providers, the so called Safe Harbor (US Spelling) rules, were not worth the paper they are written on. Under that scheme the European rules on data protection are upheld in the USA where most cloud providers and social media companies reside.  This comes not just on the back of the Eric Snowden revelations about security service activities but also due to the USA’s Patriot Act. Under the act a; American companies are effectively obliged to hand over all data.Then there is the ongoing dispute involving Microsoft being asked to hand over data by the FBI held in an Irish data centre via a court order in a US Court without going through the existing legal agreements with the Irish authorities.

For cloud providers including WordPress what does this mean. In legal terms it means that no European citizen or company can handover data to a US company and know that the data is legally protected from misuse i.e. selling on or using for a purpose other than which it was provided. Something that US companies do not seem to understand. The UK’s Information Commissioner Office (ICO) provides a very simple set of principles for managing data which meets European requirements but they too have been relying on Safe Harbor and other contractual protections called Model Clauses when data is processed outside the EU.

The EU and the USA are negotiating new data protection rules but the bottom line for all of us is that if you use any cloud based provider that has any connection to a US company for any corporate or personal activity you cannot expect any privacy. You cannot expect that any of your data will not end up in the hands of the US authorities or sold on at the whim of a company. Expect more spam and more targeted marketing built on analysis of everything from your inside leg measurement to who you discussed fashion with on a social media outlet.  The terms of service issues by the providers with all their associated privacy policies are worthless and overriden by the activities of the US agencies and corporations.

A tin foil hat won’t help.

Keeping Up Appearances

All the marketing advice in the self-published space states, that building a following and regular posting is essential. This creates an audience that might, just might read a book. To achieve such a following the marketeer (the author role has disappeared for now) has to use the various social media outlets and/or advertising paths to raise awareness.

Now alongside being a writer, the skills of social commentary have to be added. In addition, the writer has to become technically familiar with all the different outlets. These vary from a simple blog like this on WordPress to Twitter, PinIntrest, YouTube, Facebook, Google+Instagram, etc,etc. Then there are the sites like Amazon’s forums, Linkedin or Goodreads. I’m sure there are lots of how to books and site FAQs that can explain the best way of using a particular platform but who has time to read them!

If you are like me you will stumble through and try to figure out the best way to make use of the different functionality. You may link sites to each other as I do so that this blog appears on Linkedin and Goodreads whilst a link appears on Twitter.

Now that I have created a wonderful commentary even if limited to Twitters’ few words, which will enthral the world, people will flock to my site. As my latest offering goes viral the sales will naturally follow and soon I will have to hire a publicist, web-master etc. just to keep up. One tiny, tiny problem with this plan. The cat or dog or baby video, celebrity trending tweet, scandal or my own problem.

I simply do not have enough time in the day to read or watch all this stuff. At work I now have email, Intranet, extra-net, Instant Messaging, conferencing and a Facebook replacement called Yammer, occasionally I get some work done but normally only after responding to the email, and IM message asking why I haven’t responded to the Yammer comment.

At home when I should be writing the next chapter of my book I am reading Goodreads, occasional other blogs and trying to follow some Twitter and of course updating linked in writing and professional forums all in an attempt to get me noticed. To keep up the appearance of activity and interest in the hope that this will be reflected back. Then comes the killer blow. Nearly everyone I am in contact with is another author trying to do the same thing. Yes we are all readers too so we try and read and review and offer helpful comments.

Somewhere out there is a true reader that might write a glowing review. What? They write a review, but now they are a writer too. There are hundreds if not thousands of review blogs, all this writing and communicating all this social commentary and interaction is overwhelming. Yet this week I had one of the most pleasing and odd experiences a personal appearance at a book club. I talked to my readers! Whatever next direct social interaction the next thing you know people may use there electronic devices to phone someone. Now I need to get this published and word spread, it will go viral if I add sex or a picture of a kitten won’t it!

Kitten-prays

From http://catsinflats.com.au/adopting-kitten-cat/