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Podcast: The Computer Weekly Downtime Upload – Episode 41

In this week’s episode of the Computer Weekly Downtime Upload podcast, Caroline Donnelly, Clare McDonald and Brian McKenna have their Christmas Special, picking out a few gems, including the CW Diversity and Inclusion conference, and the team’s discussions of The Capture and The Circle

  • In this week’s episode of the Computer Weekly Downtime Upload podcast, Caroline Donnelly, Clare McDonald and Brian McKenna stage their Christmas Special episode, picking out a few gems, including the Computer Weekly Diversity and Inclusion conference, and the team’s discussions of The Capture and The Circle.
  • They also bring to the table some fun stuff to do over the festive period. But before the seasonal jollity begins, they chew over a couple of weighty matters.
  • First, Brian poses the question of what the Conservatives’ thumping General Election victory (not intimated by his Twitterverse bubble before the exit polls) will mean for IT. Could the Dominic Cummings revolutionary transformation of Whitehall, with its inevitable technology changes, have CW government reporters knee-deep in stories for years to come? And will the Tories deliver on a review of the IR35 regulations, and effect a postponement of the 31 January loan charge settlement date – which is of concern to IT contractors?
  • Good news came last week in the settling of the long-running dispute between the Post Office and subpostmasters in respect of the Horizon computer system. Justice seems to have come for some 500 subpostmasters, who have been awarded close to £60m in damages for their sufferings because of the system. “The Post Office has now, at last, been conclusively damned,” writes Bryan Glick, editor-in-chief, Computer Weekly, in his leader column in the current ezine.
  • Clare then kicks off the team’s review of episode highlights since the Summer Special podcast. She starts with her account of how an employment charity called Astriid helps sufferers of chronic illnesses and long-term medical conditions to find work in the tech industry. As an example of the work they do, she references an interview she did with tech worker and chronic fatigue syndrome sufferer, Victoria Clutton, who has benefited from the charity’s intervention to find a new job at Altran UK as a SharePoint co-ordinator.
  • Episode 32 of the podcast saw Clare, she recalls, filling the team in on what happened at the annual Computer Weekly and Mortimer Spinks Diversity and Inclusion in Technology event. As well as talking about the event’s theme – how diversity and inclusion can go towards making the tech industry the best place to work – the team discusses the results of the top 50 list of the most influential women in UK tech, 2019’s women in tech Rising Stars, and the latest additions to the most influential women in tech Hall of Fame.
  • Jumping back in time, Clare then directs listeners to her favourite podcast, Episode 31, in which Computer Weekly sub-editor Ryan Priest joined her and Caroline. Ryan emerged from the discussion as a shipping enthusiast, who regularly consults an app that tracks the location and direction of travel of ships around the world. And at the start of that episode, Ryan recounted how technology helped him find his way home after Clare’s eventful 30th birthday celebrations in Essex.
  • Caroline then takes up the podcasts review baton. In Episode 34, the team were joined by Alex Scroxton, CW’s security editor, to discuss BBC conspiracy thriller The Capture. Written by Ben ChananThe Capture brings together video surveillance technology, its doctoring, and facial recognition systems.
  • The UK and US security services are depicted in the show as organising a programme that they call Correction, which “turns intelligence into evidence” which is admissible in court, in order to jail terrorists – evidence in the form of doctored CCTV footage.
  • The programme “captured the imagination of the podcast team”, says Caroline, who expresses her hope that the Correction programme isn’t for real.
  • Continuing the TV theme, Caroline recalls the team’s discussion of The Circle, a Channel 4 reality series, the premise of which was the placement of a group of strangers living side-by-side in an apartment block in Salford, who are never allowed to meet or converse unless it is done via the show’s social media platform, known as The Circle. The team express how much they all enjoyed the series, and a lively discussion is had.
  • Brian then launches into some self-criticism. Having praised the agility of John McDonnell’s bold free broadband offer during the election – which did not have to be party conference-approved (in contrast with the Liberal Democrats, who are not permitted such rabbits out of hats) – he had to acknowledge that this surprise factor did Labour no favours.
  • This mea culpa is in respect of podcast Episode 38, in which the team the team discussed the Lib Dems’ manifesto and touched on those of the two main parties. Also under discussion were Dreamforce, Google Next and Monster Confidence for Stemettes.
  • In that podcast, Caroline talked about the Google Cloud Next UK conference, held in London. She related how Gareth Southgate, the England football manager, told the conference how the FA is using big data and cloud collaboration tools to change the organisation’s culture and improve player performance. Before Southgate, there was no data analytics. Whether data analytics troubles Scotland boss Steve Clarke is unknown to the podcast team at this time.
  • Ryan Priest was again in force in that episode, revisiting the Conservative Party’s social media masquerade as “factcheckUK” during the Corbyn versus Johnson ITV debate. “What’s the story morphing Tory?” was the question Ryan posed. And, referring to another of his Downtimes, he posed the idea that a tax-based system might be a better way of improving society than relying on the philanthropy of billionaires.
  • In that same podcast, Brian gave an account of Dreamforce, Salesforce’s annual conference in San Francisco, and the kingdom of tech billionaire Marc Benioff. Brian also flashes forward to podcast Episode 40, in which he and Clare talk about their visit to the opening of Salesforce’s Ohana floor at its London HQ.
  • In between, in Episode 39, CW investigations editor Bill Goodwin and reporter Sebastian Klovig Skelton discussed their stories about Facebook’s machinations against app developers and competitors. Bill and Seb appeared on an earlier podcast to talk about their first tranche of stories on Facebook’s putative maleficence.  
  • The team then offer up some holiday fun: Brian advocates Silicon Valley, which has just finished its sixth and final season; Caroline recommends Penguin Isle, a mobile game that sounds very beguiling; and Clare looks ahead to the Computer Weekly Christmas party, when the team will consign itself to a couple of escape rooms.
  • Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the Computer Weekly Downtime Upload Podcast team.

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