Those who choose not to heal

Floral tributes at the Space Mirror memorial. Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett, from the Day of Remembrance page.

As I’ve mentioned a few times before, I’m a space geek. I want to know what’s up there, and I want to know how it got there. That counts whether it’s the stars in the sky (I’m a bit of an amateur stargazer), the satellites whizzing through it (my phone does ISS pass alerts and boy do I sprint to the window), or the best bit of TV drama I’ve seen in years.

I’ve been a space geek since I was a little kid; as I’ve previously written, like so many GenXers, I can identify the precise date and time when looking up caused me to grow up. In adulthood, I’ve found that there’s a lot to borrow from the space programme which can be applied to policy and regulation. I try to do that well. Others, well, they give me a decent laugh trying.

For space geeks, today is the pivotal day of the year. It’s not about a launch, or a milestone, or even a thing.

It’s the day when everyone stops and rips their own guts out.

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2023’s best reads and listens


Better late than never, as usual, here is my roundup of 2023’s best reads, both for work and leisure, and also a rundown of my favourite podcasts.

I read like the world is coming to an end, so what follows is only my best of the best. I don’t gamify or track my reading, and neither should anyone. If it gets you reading more, tracking is fine. If the number becomes the objective, stop.

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A short post on why I will not be writing a long post about Ofcom’s Online Safety Act consultation

UK policy

The late and desperately missed Hilary Mantel’s masterwork, her Wolf Hall trilogy, is 1,888 pages long. I savoured every moment I spent in that world, and grieved each time I was pulled out of it. Her chronicle of the politics of the Tudor court ends, for Thomas Cromwell, as his real life did: he lies on the banks of the Thames, his head freshly severed from his body, feeling his consciousness ebbing out with the tide.

Step over Cromwell’s body, walk a mile west along the Thames, and cross the river, and you will find yourself at the premises of Ofcom, whose first consultation on the rules, restrictions, and enforcement of Britain’s Online Safety Act is 1,742 pages long, and will cause you to feel much the same.

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Lawrence Jones proved it: in business, awards are for losers.

Ceramic bee, my garden, December 2023

For the past week I’ve been awash in emotions, some of them quite dark and heavy. I’ve also been afloat on two small bottles of prosecco. The reason for both of those mood swings is the same.

The cause has been the conviction and imprisonment of Lawrence Jones, the former CEO of Manchester web hosting company UKFast, on two counts of rape and one count of sexual assault. Strangeways, here you come. For fifteen years.

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Online Safety enforcement consultation, round one, yay

UK policy
Photo of a barbed wire fence © Tomas Castelazo, / Wikimedia Commons

If yesterday’s blog post about the Investigatory Powers Amendment Act didn’t cause you to lose the will to live, today you also have 1700+ pages of draft Ofcom guidance to read and respond to, as their round one of Online Safety Act enforcement.

That is what I shall be wonking this week for a client, as much as I’d love to wonk the other thing.

As you read through both and prepare your responses and strategies, as you should be doing, please remember that neither of these legislative processes are about “big tech” “social media” “tech giants”, and anyone who tells you so is full of shite: these processes impact any service of any size in any country which can be accessed in the UK, regardless of innocence or guilt.

Our policymakers assume the latter.

By the way: as you’re doing exactly what I am doing today, which is figuring out how on earth you even create a workplan to turn 1700 pages of cross-referenced consultation language into an actionable task, remember that the impact assessment for the Act famously said that getting to grips with the scope of compliance could be done in just over four hours by a regulatory professional on a wage of £20.62 per hour.


Are we doing this again? Yes, we’re doing this again.

UK policy

Yesterday I was rudely summoned away from a beautiful autumn day of wild foraging by The King.

Specifically, I was given a heads-up about one of the bills which would be in yesterday’s King’s Speech – the first of the King’s reign, and the first and only one of Rishi Sunak’s time in office.

The bill in question is the Investigatory Powers (Amendment) Bill, the outcome of a consultation held over the summer, which I obviously missed being out of work. (Neil Brown did not miss one word from his tech lawyer perspective, and TechUK were equally diligent from the service provider perspective.) There was also an independent review which requires prior knowledge of the IPA.

The problem is that aside from the rather legalistic topics dealt with in the summer consultation and independent review, some of which do indeed have merit, the politicians have stepped in.

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The call was coming from inside the house

UK policy
a heart-shaped leaf on a gravel path

Normally I wouldn’t waste my time reacting to churnalism – the adage about getting into a fight with a pig comes to mind – but the other day I saw an example of the genre which not only hit rock bottom, but then proceeded to dig. It related to UK internet regulation, which until last year was my line of work. And it’s Scottish, so I have to step up.

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The things I learned under the bluest sky


I cannot start the story where I want to start it, because I have to start it where everyone else who was there starts it. It’s how we calibrate our positions, time-stamped and geo-coordinated to the precise moments and exact locations where each of us was standing when we looked up to see it.

The story of that day always starts with the colour of the sky. It was blue.

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Back to work


And just like that, I went back to work. You couldn’t make it up: after 51 weeks of unemployment and job searching, I got multiple freelance contracts in a single week.


And I am very much back at it: Read More