dimanche 25 janvier 2015

One annotation site to rule them all?

from the my-kinda-people department

I did not know that Marc Andreeson, programmer of the first graphical web browser, NCSA Mosaic, had originally included a commenting feature built-in, but rapidly disabled it when the resource implications of hosting the entire web's remarks about the entire web's content sank in(!) Fair enough. But the reason why commenting is a personal itch for me is because this is the bit of the web that so obviously represents a novel departure from traditional publishing processes. A web "page"? Meh, 2000 years off the pace, dude. Anyone anywhere can comment instantly on what's just been written? Now that is wow! like WOW! Though of course, as Gary Wolf so memorably wrote in his article about Craig's List in Wired all those years ago, the public is a motherfucker.

But from Slashdot to BMJ Rapid Responses, to Comment is Free and a slew of comments across a heap of blogs that I read on RSS, commenting is something I do, and something I follow. It seems to be where the action is. So I was very excited to come across http://hypothes.is this morning, which, as I understand it, has the ambition of taking up where Andreeson left off, and providing a reliable annotation framework for the whole web:

Digging around a bit deeper, hoping to join in, I came across this design document, written by a leading light in the project back in 2013 which outlined the approach the project is taking to facilitating the quality, and eliminating the spammy*:
The reputation of a user represents our trust of the user. In mathematical terms, we can think of the reputation as of a probability of the user telling us a correct statement. If reputation is zero then the user always gives wrong information. If reputation is 1 then the user always correct. If reputation is 0.5 then the user gives correct information in 50% of cases.

From other point of view, reputation expresses how much useful content a user has contributed. For example, in stackoverflow, more good answers I contribute, more reputation I have. Intuitively, this reputation is proportional to amount of useful work the user has done.
I felt impelled to comment:

The idea of "one reputation score to rule them all" is obviously seductive when considering the ranking of multiple comments. But reputation in whose eyes? Surely a reputation system worthy of world wide use should reflect the reality that different people have different assessment of each other's reputations (particularly when we consider--ahem!--interdisciplinary contributions).
I'd certainly be interested in a system that enabled me to deprecate or appreciate comments made by other persistent identities in the knowledge that so doing would reduce or augment my probability of **me** seeing comments by that commenter in future. But I'm sure it would be a bad thing to impose my own assessment of someone else's reputation on anyone else.

But (ironically) that comment seemed not to be registered. So I'm posting it here.

FWIW: The current federated system seems reasonable. We just need better meta-information about sites that host discussion well (including archiving), and sites that cheat: pretending to host comments, but then not doing so, so we can avoid them in future. (cf SourceWatch)

* This plan involved:
Phase 1 - Simple spam triage
Phase 2 - Simple voting
Phase 3 - Metamoderation based on social graph
Phase 4 - User notifications

samedi 10 janvier 2015

May the earth hear the words of my mouth

from the truth-is-still-getting-its-boots-on dept

Email to the Editor, JewishVoiceNY.com [sent 16:39h, 30/12/2014]

Dear Editor,

I live in Nantes, and I have a google news alert set up for Nantes, which is how I came across your story entitled: ' "French Rampage Attack Injures Ten; Driver Shouted "Allahu Akbar" ' (http://jewishvoiceny.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=9591:french-rampage-attack-injures-ten-driver-shouted-qallahu-akbarq&catid=106:international&Itemid=289)

I was in the area that evening, and have followed the press coverage of this event particularly closely. Your account is at variance with the local press reports, which clearly state that there was NO reputable report that the driver shouted "Allahu Akbar;" indeed this was categorically denied:

e.g. https://twitter.com/OuestFrance/status/547125894389977089

If the driver had indeed made such an utterance, there were certainly plenty of witnesses available to hear it.

I accordingly submitted a comment at the foot of your story which read:

All official sources reported by Ouest France are quite categorical that the driver in Nantes did NOT shout Allahu Akbar: http://www.ouest-france.fr/accident-place-royale-des-blesses-au-marche-de-noel-3076473 (Fr). There were certainly plenty of witnesses to hear him, should he have done so.
Place Royale is a public square in the centre of Nantes, not an "area."

This you have yet to publish. I wonder if you have any plans to do so? I would be interested to know of your decision.

With best wishes,


Update: 1110h 10/1/15. No reply has been received from the editors, and the comment has yet to appear at the foot of the page, so it is published here.

It is interesting to consider how sketchy the evidence is for anything said amidst the understandable distress occasioned by violent events, even when immediate formal investigation of living witnesses is possible, as here. And how easy it is invent any old nonsense that suits your agenda, and broadcast it to the world. But the truth will out, even if, as it would appear, that's not a business that Jewish Voice NY is in.

[About the title: "May the earth hear the words of my mouth" is the masthead slogan of Jewish Voice NY, may peace be upon them]

vendredi 9 janvier 2015

Better to keep quiet and be thought a fool...

from the all-doubts-removed dept

I quite liked the Three Percent podcast in many ways: those guys served my mental model of conversation with a couple of smarty pants east coast literary types. Host Chad Post seems a knowledgeable guy, if slightly pressured in his speech; the lofty drawl of regular guest the bookseller Tom Roberge served in pleasant contrast to him—their chemistry is good. And their objective—of promoting the sale and reading of translated books in the US—is entirely honourable.

So it is with modest regret that I write this post (and hit unsubscribe), following my strict artistic rule that comments that I write for publication in situ "below the line" of a blogpost that do not get posted (for whatever reason) must be logged here.

Briefly, the setup: about 45 minutes into podcast #85, Chad and Tom start to discuss the translation of various English language titles that have been translated into French, and also French titles that have been translated into English. Unfortunately, in so doing, Tom Roberge revealed some rather basic ignorance of the French language, which, considering some of his claims in previous podcasts—to have been welcomed as an honorary member of "Oulipo" for example—are is plainly an embarrassment for all concerned.

Now, ignorance is not to be condemned wholesale—anyone that tussles regularly with the French language knows it's a tricky beast that's best not provoked—and we're all at where we're at in our knowledge of it.

But still, given the academic pretensions of the host, it seemed important to set the errors straight—to leave them unremarked would be to foster ignorance.

Turning to the comments to contest the matter, I found that someone called Marc had already beaten me to the correction of the most egregious errors—Chad and Tom had seemed unaware that the verb "tirer" does indeed mean "to fire [a shot]" as well as "to pull"; and that "personne" does indeed mean "nobody/no-one" as well as "person." As these matters can be resolved simply by consulting a dictionary, these are hardly worthy of further discussion. (Though obviously it would have been worth actually doing this before slagging off the translations in a podcast).

It is more challenging to consider the adequacy of "Whatever" as a translation for Michel Houellebecq's "Extension du domaine de la lutte," but emboldened by the evidently blank terrain that had opened before me, I wrote:
Wot Marc said.
And I would add Houellebecq's title "Extension du domaine de la lutte" is not so nonsensical as all that: "Lutte" (~struggle, but also wrestling (the sport), and political movement) is a common enough word in French. The protagonist's failure with women and incipient racism set up two areas of struggle in his life: what's not to translate?
It is understandable that a title along the lines of 'Expansion of the struggle into new areas'** was not felt to be a commercial proposition by the publisher. We can only surmise the editorial process that led to the choice of 'Whatever', but I sense loss (as in someone lost)—and mischief—all the way.

—**Maybe seek out some retro Trotskyist newsprint before committing to a precise phrase.
I just wrote the comment, clicked submit, and moved on. Someone was wrong on the internet, correction supplied, we've all learned something. But what is totally unacceptable to me (and it is for this reason that I have unsubscribed from the podcast) is that when I went back later to check the comments, I found that they've suppressed the comments altogether.

Fortunately the Disqus commenting system used makes it possible for me to reconstruct the discussion here. But how dishonest! If I have a bête noire online, it is sites that pretend to host comments, but then don't post the ones they don't like. Of course that is their right: but it's also contemptible, and I'll always call it out here.

Update 12:09h, 13/1/15. Both Chad and Tom have responded to this post on Twitter so I have Storify-ed the relevant tweets. (This was a good opportunity to play with Storify for the first time. Verdict: OK to meh). In setting up the comment in this post I mistakenly conflated two different Three Percent contributors in my own mind, Tom Roberge and Daniel Levin Becker. Becker is the Oulipo man, not Roberge. Sincere apologies for this error.

lundi 22 décembre 2014

France's outbreak of offensive driving

Mme Beezer had already agreed to take the boy to see Paddington this evening. Dubbed into French, but never mind: well, mostly. We did regret not hearing Julie Walters in person. Nicole Kidman was certainly an impressive baddie--the lad was trembling--and he roared at the CGI'd slapstick. It was perhaps an irony that the film made, as is customary, very light of a car chase, at the denouement of which, no-one (of course!) was in any way injured.

I myself had been feeling a mild duty to see the film after reading this excellent blogpost on how Paddington (and the Browns) would be treated, were he merely an undocumented human migrant from Peru in Britain today.

Anyway, we got the tram into town, as is so very convenient for us, and we were a bit early, so we wandered back out into the Christmas market after picking up our cinema tickets in order to get a present for Mme Martin, Mme Beezer's faithful help. The cinema faces onto the Christmas market in Place du Commerce; fifty metres up an adjoining street is the other, larger, part of the market, in Place Royale.

These markets are a Nantes tradition: in the last week of November, highly efficient crews erect what is basically a large collection of garden sheds, from which are sold variously artisanal salami, handknits, battery-operated drones, candy floss, plaster models of the nativity, winter hats, and vast cheeses. A pleasant feature of the set-up are the many stalls selling vin chaud (mulled wine); and in one corner of Place Royale is a large traditional merry-go-round, around which the children of Nantes form a willing scrum.

Anyway, we ducked out into this for ten minutes, and then back into the cinema, in good time for the 7.10pm start (lest the trailers be the best bit).

At which same time, also, reportèdly, and most unhappily, the generally calm and orderly life of we Nantais, was shattered by the driver of a white van, who, for reasons best known to himself--though there may be clues in an indecipherable notebook found in his van--decided to plunge his vehicle at the crowd standing round one of the mulled wine stalls on the south-west corner of the Place Royale. Panic briefly ensued; staff from the pharmacy opposite  came to the aid of the injured immediately; the emergency services arrived in strength with commendable promptness.

We were in blissful ignorance of all this until the film finished around 9pm. We were oddly captured on video walking towards Place Royale by a dude with his mobile phone, and then walked on a few metres to find our path home barred by a cordon of gendarmes, and the rumour, on the lips of a fellow citoyenne, that 17 people had been injured by a madman crashing his car into a mulled wine stall.

Getting home, and turning, as is my wont, first to the google news and the twitter, it is consistently reported that the number of people injured was in fact ten, four seriously, and one of whom, a woman, is on the critical list. The driver himself, "of European surname," and a Charantais (where his vehicle was also registered) apparently then tried to stab himself several times (between 2 and 11 depending on what you read), and is also seriously injured, though not critically.

 Various right wing commentators on Twitter were quick to spread rumours that the driver had shouted "Allah Akbar" as happened in Dijon the other day. (if you want to read it, try a Twitter search on #Nantes + Akbar; you will also quickly find the reason why the swivel-eyed are best ignored on-line). This sectarian provocation has been firmly denied by the Nantes Procureur (chief prosecutor) and the police. A full investigation is under way; a lone madman the dominant hypothesis.
("The madman didn't shout 'Allah akbar,' prosecutor confirms")

My thoughts, naturally, are with the injured. It certainly could have been us standing there having a glass of mulled wine before the film. Let us hope that all concerned, not least the driver, make a full recovery, so the lessons can be learned. And it certainly could have been worse: those poor Glaswegians! My condolences.

A former doctor writes: if you issue random humans with personal armoured vehicles, this kind of thing will happen from time to time. Making it harder to acquire, and easier to lose, a licence to drive a motor vehicle (cf. commercial pilots) would probably reduce the lamentable toll of death and injury on the roads. It would be unsurprising if this character's psychiatric case record turns out to have been many inches thick. Should he even have been at the wheel of vehicle that works by exploding petrol? That most useful of diagnostic instruments, the retrospectoscope, is evidently reading NO off the scale; but are the social structures in place to keep the wayward, the demented, and the blind, and those, bless them, who are heading that way, off the road? Evidently they are lacking. And all that before even considering the place of the "essential car user" in society. Which must remain a topic for another day.

Update 15:15h, 24/12/14: According to this Liberation article, the driver responsible had little history with the psychiatric services or police. One of the victims, a 25 year old man, has died of his injuries.

jeudi 18 décembre 2014

A short note on the importance of the triolectic

I read it was Hegel who said that things are both coming into being and going out of being: the historical dialectic. (Full disclosure: I've never read Hegel, only the reviews: which is why I've never read Hegel). Thesis, antithesis, synthesis, thesis. Or Ramon y Cajal's exposition of the discontiguous synapse. (Others believed the nerves to be continuous.) Or "the forces of history" as the kind of phrase used by people for whom Newtonian mechanics were the best thing they had. F = ma. Great equation. Highly explanatory. No-one ever falls out of a window without it.
But it's easy to get stuck in binary oppositionalism. As a tool for illuminating nature, it's not bad, and certainly better than a greybeard spouting ex cathedra, but it has the dangerous flaw of situating a debate. You seek knowledge; you find yourself arguing around the village pump, because that's where the debate is, rather stravaiging into nature to make some original observations.
And this is the importance of triolectic football. Because what are you going to do with your knowledge? I've never actually played a game of triolectic football, but knowing it exists is surely most of its importance.

mercredi 17 septembre 2014

L'indépendence pour l'Écosse? Bah oui!

I don't have a vote in the referendum on Scottish independence tomorrow. Though I'm proud to be Edinburgh-born and educated, I haven't resided in Scotland since I got on a train to head off to Sheffield University in October 1983, and my professional life since has pursued a southward trajectory: Yorkshire, Cambridge, London, now France.

But there are still family and friends that I care about up there, and hardly a year goes by without a visit or three to Edinburgh. Now, as there's nothing quite as contemptible as a partisan who can't even be bothered to live in his own country, there, perhaps, I should leave it. ("Sean Connery in the Bahamas, I'm looking at you!")

But if you were to ask me in a general way, "Should Scotland be an independent country?" I'd probably say YES. I base this opinion on the prejudice that smaller countries are in general better governed (think Norway, the Netherlands), and also less likely to venture abroad in a noxious manner. ("Tony Blair, you warmongering vomit-bag, I'm looking at you!").

Smaller countries create natural experiments and permit cultural variations that are always instructive. The world is richer for them. Living in France, an unashamèdly centralized country, one is struck with how, if Paris has it right, then everyone is right; but if they have it wrong, then everyone is wrong. The offences such a system can create against common sense are legion, though it's yet to break my romance with French culture: the overall effect is... well, France, and the many wonderful things that also implies.

Metropolitan France is an empire, fully consolidated by the bourbon kings in the late 16th/early 17th century. Its population is also much more rural than the UK's, which makes holding regional identity self-evidently natural, but the centre quite carefully and consciously acts to ensure that this does not raise its head into practical demands for separate national identities.

I live in Nantes, within the Napoleon-created département of Loire-Atlantique (44), which falls within the administrative région of Pays de la Loire, set apart from the other four départements that make up the Brittany region (="Breizh" in the (Welsh-like) Breton language). There is indeed a current in contemporary French life which believes that Brittany should be reunified, and even, perhaps, a separate country (this is the significance of the "44=BZH" graffiti one sees about the place), but the powers-that-be have rejected this option, electing to keep the Loire-Atlantique, the most prosperous and industrialized part of what was historically Brittany, carefully apart from it in the recent reorganization of the regions.

(This is fun for me: if people are banging on about Breton identity, I can interject, with James Bond-like cadence: "Je suis de Bretagne: Grand Bretagne!" which usually gets a laugh).

I say life here is centralized. One wee example: would university professors at the University of Nantes best be appointed in Nantes or Paris? For me, the obvious answer would be Nantes, but currently their selection committee is in... Paris! (Update§: it's complicated, but) new teaching staff do still arrive, blinking, like newly-expatriated colonials sent hither at the will of a Parisian emperor, to their posts.

And then one is in the realm of consideration of how corrupt is the empire, does the emperor love all of his subjects equally, and do they prosper in the might of his justice and his peace?

And you have to say, by that standard, looking at Westminster's track record ever since I've been old enough to follow politics, first Thatcher, then Major, then Blair, then Brown; mighty emperors all;  each, in their own way, has committed sufficient crimes upon the Scottish people to richly deserve their sacking. From stocking their nukes tidily away from English population centres, to trashing whole swathes of regional industry and doing very little about the social devastation that resulted; to undermining the United Nations--how the Scottish people admired New Labour's development of the 'special relationship' with George W. Bush, state executioner turned federal torturer!--while all the while flipping second residences and claiming duck houses on expenses... Tsk, tsk!

Scottish people have a relationship with the truth that derives from their proud, early adoption of the protestant tradition, entirely unrelated, and in stark contrast to the so-called "Reformation" of the Church of England, a tool of monarchs. Pity the English certainly, but do we always have to stoop down to their level?

Now my Facebook feed is alive with YouTube video of lumpen Dundonians, pale and fat and middle-aged, singing Dougie MacLean's "Caledonia," a song that I detest by the way, for its line "Caledonia, you're all I've ever had" which even for the most abject Scottish person is surely understating reality, and I've just about had enough of it. Tone down the empty nationalism by dears, and tell me what you're actually going to do to improve the nutrition of those poor folks in Castlemilk. My Facebook feed is also alive with friends, all comfortably off, succumbing to the economic fear the NO campaign is very successfully generating. Curiously the shenanigans of the banksters did not so rouse them in 2008. But hey--the prevailing international neo-liberal "reality"! What can you do?

The result seems too close to call. My own dear parents, who, charmingly, have always* cancelled each other out in past constitutional referendums (on accession to the "Common Market," or "EEC" as the European Union was then proffered to the electorate, in 1977, on devolution, in 1979), are unanimously YES. But my sister is against, because she believes the SNP's current economic proposals ("a sterling currency union") to be half-assed. She may well be right, but it seems to me that creating a new nation is always going to be a leap of faith, and that there is no reason why Scotland should not create its own central bank and currency, should it wish to do so. The Irish Punt pegged sterling for fifty years--with no cooperation from the Bank of England--before Ireland adopted the Euro. Scotland's economy is bigger than Ireland's, and its fundaments are strong, and it will be stronger still once wind and wave renewables get going. I can't say I'm wild about the SNP's longstanding enthusiasm for the oil industry: have they heard of climate change? But renewables plus conservation will in any case create more jobs, so either way they'll be fine.

Among the old friends I keep up with on Facebook, opinion seems also to be divided, with a slight trend towards the better-off being against, the more humble, for, independence. As an independent Scottish government would almost certainly start to adopt more progressive property taxes, so perhaps they are right to be worried: if worrying about your own personal wealth is all you should do in a democracy, sending the polity any information it needs through Hayekian signals. (That's a joke BTW).

 We expats, very often only expatriated as far as England, and generally to the left, seem generally in favour, I think mainly because we see the justice of the Scottish case: the Scots vote left, and yet they are always suffering under right-wing governments chosen for them by the English. Scotland's departure from the union would be a wake-up call to the English left to actually organize themselves to democratize their country (a House of Lords! In the 21st century!), and regain the necessary checks and balances brought to government by strong trades unions and dynamic civil society.

Here in France, people are curious about the Scottish referendum, and wonder what to make of it. That's if they've even heard of Scotland: to many, we're all "les anglais"; at any rate to all those not up on the finer points of the history of Her Majesty's Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Certainly the intellectual void of the crude right wing identity politics espoused by Le Pen's Front National is generally despised. I try to reassure them of the truth of the previous paragraph, whilst praying that is true of the Scottish National Party.

Certainly the SNP's policies on Europe, immigration, education, health and social care seem well to the left of any English party with a chance of power at Westminster. I watched a bit of a Scottish parliamentary committee live on cable TV the other week--a finance discussion--and was reassured by the dullness and technicality of all participating. This is surely how politics should be: sober, grey-suited men and women, seeing what sort of laws can be agreed upon, openly, in full view of the people they represent, accountable. You can see it would work, that they are capable people, and Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP deputy leader, is obviously outstandingly competent, as, for all his faults, is Alex Salmond.

Outside the parliament in Edinburgh there are a number of shallow ornamental ponds, divided by low waterfalls. These are ideal for paddling, though naturally this is officially forbidden, presumably for the best of health and safety reasons. But on a hot summer's day (22°C!), of which we were fortunate to enjoy many on our visit this July, the single unarmed policeman on duty outside the parliament, his white sleeves rolled to his elbows, was studiously uninterested in enforcing the little "No paddling" signs, turning a blind eye to the small children and dogs frolicking in the water, as their parents enjoyed the dramatic view up Salisbury Crags, and the legislators, presumably, enjoyed the remarkable work of the Catalan architect from the inside.

Law and architecture are but approximations of the human spirit, but this harmonious tableau of aspiration meeting reality in general civilized contentment, seemed to me to suggest that Scotland has already chosen a brighter day, and that full independence will come, if not this time, then the next. The contrast with the tank traps and machine-gunners that line the approaches to the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, and the Scottish parliament on that day could not be starker. What goes around, comes around, and if the Scottish people deliver a serious and considered drubbing to the corrupt bunch of warmongers operating out of London town, by rejecting them utterly, no-one will cheer louder than me tomorrow night. Vive la paix! Vive l'Europe! Vive l'Écosse!

§ Update 1743h, 17/9/14. Naturally, I find now I've written this (based on what my FLE prof. told me, hmm, now 6 years ago), things are more complicated than I first wrote. In fact, in higher education, more power for candidate selection has apparently devolved locally, though the concours --the competitive teaching qualification exams, are still nationally organized. But secondary school teachers, who are considered to be civil servants, are still allocated around the country by Paris.
Update 22:36, 17/9/14. My recollection of my parents' stated voting behaviour  is at variance with their own. They now claim to have been of one mind on devolution in 1979 (for), but concede they may possibly have been at odds over the "Common Market" referendum in 1975. I'm going to let the point stand for now; it was an honest recollection from my youth, and it's generally a shame to let facts spoil a good story. And I'm happy to report that they're both feeling sufficiently chipper to totter along to the polls in person tomorrow!
Update 09:10, 18/9/14. Links to my sister's numerous effusions on the matter below, many of which have attracted good comments. Continuing the family tradition of discord on constitutional questions, she is broadly against! Unlike me, she will be voting. And there is also a handy guide to late-opening Edinburgh pubs if you want to see the results announced in the company of your fellow citizens.
Update 12:43 25/9/14. Obviously the NOES had it, 55:45 on an 85% turnout. I am sanguine about this outcome personally. There's been a lot of chat on social media in the aftermath too. Here's a comment I made, lifted from my Facebook activity timeline: " I appreciate you nailing the currency question Paul because that was the sore point that led my sister Jane, a resident of Leith, to become an outspoken partisan for NO. Despite being in favour of Scottish independence in principle, she thought the economic proposals as outlined (and yes, she did read them) were half-cocked. I respect her view. My own surmise is that Salmond, in a grotesque parody of New Labourism, wanted "Independence, but don't worry, nothing's going to change, so you can vote for us as a simple lifestyle choice" whereas, true fiscal independence does, inevitably, involve having a central bank to manage a currency floating free in the international soup (and a thrashing from George Soros et al if they don't like the way government receipts are getting out of kilter with expenditure)."
My final word on the matter? En avant la république!

samedi 28 juin 2014

On the mysterious disappearance of *Dr* Douglas Carnall

   Between 1994 to 2007, if you'd asked me, "What do you do?" I suppose I'd have replied, "I'm a GP." Certainly that was how I mostly earned money, even if I rejected much of the ideology of the discipline. This was a delicate matter. My chief concern was to keep my workload within reasonable limits, which I did by working as a locum and billing by the hour.  Such an attitude was a certainly an affront to the notions of vocation claimed by the betweeded denizens of the British Journal of General Practice. I had no desire to confront this ideology: it seemed in many ways humane, certainly in comparison with other parts of the profession. And anyway, I didn't really have the intellectual tools to do so, and wasn't particularly interestedat that timein acquiring them.
   Still, I was flattered, in 2003, to be called by one of the editors of the Br J Gen Pract, and asked to write about blogging for the back pages of the journal, presumably on the strength of the columns I'd been writing about the internet for the BMJ for several years.
   I remember finding the BJGP article hard to write: I'm not sure that I shared the vision of the commissioning editor, and I was certainly more interested in maintaining my own blog and making music at the time. But I wrote something, and delivered it, probably on time, and in due course, it appeared.
  Usually I enjoy rereading my old stuff, but not that one. By that time I'd developed significant disillusion with the dis-ease of use of the free software of the epoch. I was ambivalent about proposing that all doctors should blog, though I'd taken it up myself. Doing it on free software seemed almost insurmountably difficult; yet handing over all comms and memory to predatory capitalists and intrusive state agencies using proprietary platforms was as much an evident danger back then as it is now. I didn't pose the issue explicitly in the article, but my nagging doubts that I was merely a fashion victim do seep through, I think, and it's hardly a comfortable position as an author.
  A decade later, happily retired from general practice, I suppose I was right that blogging would catch on: both Twitter and Facebook are effectively blogging platforms; but wrong that this would greatly affect general practitioners, who seem largely absent from them. I guess taking up blogging would be something to be done on the eighth day of the week. And the duty of confidentiality makes any discussion of individual cases online so fraught as to be best avoided entirely. Neither has the publishing world's snail-like progress towards open access aided trade among doctors in professional articles. Progress towards the noble goal of making the world's scientific literature open to anyone who cares to read it, has, to my mind, been disappointingly slow, though things are going in the right direction.
  Anyway, when I moved to France in August 2007 "for six months off" I stopped paying all of my medical subscriptions, including to the Royal College of General Practitioners, and felt that it was only right that I should saw the MRCGP off my name (the M stands for member). And as holders of a bachelor's degree in medicine are addressed as doctor only as a courtesy for clinical settings, I have converted, for all purposes, to being a simple monsieur, et toute ma vie y est améliorée.