Things I Have Learned Delivering LibDem Leaflets
April 18, 2010, 5:21 pm
Filed under: politics

For the past 6 months or so I have been delivering leaflets for the local Liberal Democrat party, and as you might imagine, the number of leaflets has increased recently, anyone would think there was an election on.

  • Some people have driveways that are far too long
  • Some people have too many steps.
  • It’s a great time for listening to audio books, I like SciFi myself, perhaps a little Cory Docterow?, or Kim Stanley Robinson. Red Mars is an epic story and I can’t wait to listen to the next 2.
  • Always open the inner letterbox flap by inserting you hand palm up, if you don’t, you might end up scratching your knuckles.
  • Don’t ben too worried about dogs, unless they’re waiting for you on the other side of the letterbox you’ll have plenty of time to make your getaway.
  • Marks and Spencer carrier bags are not strong enough, you’ll be lucky to get a half a round out of it before one of the handles goes. Blackburn Rovers store bags survive a few rounds.
  • Keep your back straight while walking, don’t slouch.
  • Make sure the leaflets go the whole way through, don’t leave them sticking out. My Paperboy training came in really useful here.
  • Push other leaflets through too.
  • Don’t be tempted to remove opposition leaflets if they’re poking out.
  • Don’t drop your elastic bands.
  • Take a drink.
  • Don’t try and teach your son to ride his bike at the same time, you’ll get nowhere.

Do you have any tips? Any advice for fellow leafleteers?


Why I would have voted FOR the Digital Economy Bill – by Angela Smith
April 7, 2010, 10:24 am
Filed under: politics | Tags:

I wrote to Angela Smith asking her not to rush through the Digital Economy Bill, here is the 2nd response I got, the first being a letter explaining my letter had been forwarded to another department.

Here is the letter in full:

07 April 2010

Our Ref: Digital Economy Bill

Dear Constituent,

Thank you for your recent email concerning the digital economy bill and the prospect of this bill becoming legislation.

Although I would have voted in favour of the bill at its second reading, none of the opposition parties provided any opposition to advancing the bill. As a consequence of this, no vote was held and so the bill progressed to committee stage unopposed. I do however feel compelled to explain the reasons why I was in favour of the bill’s passage at second reading.

It is the case that businesses crucial to the UK’s media and technology economy will greatly benefit from the implementation of the bill. Such companies include Channel 4, whose main benefit would be an extension of its public service remit.  The Bill will legally require Channel 4 to invest in film, thereby securing its already considerable commitment to this medium.

The other provision I strongly support is that relating to the strengthening of online protection of children and young teenagers. There have been numerous cases of children downloading information, using internet gaming and using social networking sites without their parents’ supervision or permission. The internet is one of the most influential and therefore powerful tools in the world, and there is little doubt that this level of unregulated and free information can have dangerous consequences on an impressionable mind.

A major area of controversy that the bill seeks to readdress would be the issue of online gaming. Rather than there being two regulatory boards examining and classifying the suitability of games, there would now be just one, avoiding the confusion on gaming suitability that currently exists. Secondly, the bill would put in place a strict procedure when games rated for ages 12, 16 and 18 are supplied to people under these ages,  as it simplifies and clarifies the law on age-related status for retailers, parents and children, ensuring that children are not exposed to any material that is not deemed appropriate for them. Finally, it will create an age ratings system harmonised across 30 European countries so that children will not become exposed to offensive gaming material from other countries. Whilst the majority of research conducted on the internet is useful and informative, I believe that where we can take reasonable measures to protect children then this action should be taken.

It is also the case that the Bill has been thoroughly debated in the Lords and amended in relation to the provisions on copyright.  It is my understanding that a clear and effective appeal mechanism has been put in place and that before Regulations could be implemented there would be full consultation and Parliamentary scrutiny.

Yours sincerely

Angela Smith MP

Sheffield Hillsborough

So in short, my MP would have voted for the bill because it had a couple of provisions in it that protected children, regardless of how many bad provisions there are in the bill. Surely that is a reason NOT to vote for it and hold it over for proper debate and proper consultation in the next parliament!

Update: As Saul pointed out on Twitter, the last paragraph says it all “It is also the case that the Bill has been thoroughly debated in the Lords“, an unelected and unaccountable body, and that is one of the complaints against the bill.

I’ll update the post when I send a reply.

Politics needs more geeks.
March 10, 2010, 10:48 pm
Filed under: politics | Tags:

I’ve previously asserted that government should be assigning more of it’s ICT projects to smaller companies, and after reading the Digital Economy Bill and the various ammendments by Lords I’ve come to realise that politics needs more nerds.

It’s clear that the current batch of politicians and lords don’t understand technology both from the point of view of how it works, nor from the angle for how it has effected, changed and bettered society.

Chris Huhne’s call for police to be given the power to monitor sex offenders use of the internet is well intended, but the means by which the police are to acheive it expose the kind of lack of understanding that we see all to often.

Neither an IP address or even an email address are identity tokens, you cannot definitivly tie them back to an individual. In my house there are 2 computers, and one of those is shared so to imply that I have been browsing the CBBC website or reading email on Yahoo is completly impossible.

What if I were to access the sites form the local internet cafe? The free wifi you get in places like Starbucks (ah! the DEB will take care of that), what if I use the WIFI from the flat a couple of floors below because they havn’t secured it, or they use a service like FONera that offers free wifi?

Add on to that the fact that ISP don’t give out the same IP address to the same account each time, mix in a little anonymous proxy or two and services such as TOR it’s obvious that you can’t rely on an IP address being attached to an individual.

What about email addresses, everyone knows they’re an easy way to identify someone, right? Wrong! There are a multitude of service providers that will give you an email address, some even without having to sign up for an account, most of these are banned from being used as email addresses, but it’s not hard to imagine services that keep themselves off the radar.

None of that matters however because you can go and sign up for a Google Mail address right now and the recovery email feild is optional, you can have an email adress that will log you in in seconds, and that’s why you can’t rely on an email address as an identity token.

And this is why politics needs more geeks, so that politics as a whole will become more rounded and a better representation of the people who elect them and so the naive one in me would like to think they’d be consulted before statements like this are made or bills like the DEB are poposed or ammended.

Government needs to stop wasting money on big IT projects.
March 10, 2009, 1:37 pm
Filed under: politics

Give it in little projects to the little guys.

As I’ve said in the past, government should concentrate on providing data and let it’s citizens build the sites they want out of that.

Some would say that the sites built wont cover the needs of everybody, but then how is that different from today?

Over the weekend a bunch of people got together for Hack The Government Day and proved what can be done when data is free, using screen scraping, they built projects against the data held at companies house, the job center, an API for searching schools, a site for finding a local dentist, a site to review your MPs voting record and a site that took Sport England’s Active Places and improved it using Google Maps. Active Places was developed using £5 million of lottery money.

The sooner this kind of data becomes free, the sooner we start to get these kind of sites available.

A Letter to my MP
June 18, 2008, 11:47 am
Filed under: Crime, politics | Tags: , , ,

Dear Angela Smith,

I was pleased to see that the cabinet office has published a report
that proposes “monthly crime information should
be published to include … details of crimes committed”. [1]

Could you tell me what format these statistics will take, more
specifically if they will be in a format that members of the public can
easily use.

I really hope that this information is published in an open, and free
format such as XML, or even just plain CSV, publishing the data in a
closed, proprietary form such as a PDF file would not encourage the
re-publication of that data in a form that is easier for more people to


Yours sincerely,

Stuart Grimshaw

Just in case anyone was thinking of voting Tory
August 28, 2007, 7:58 pm
Filed under: politics

I think that’s every niche of the youth vote alienated?
See my Jaiku feed for some more comments on this.