Monday, 30 March 2015

The 2015 UK general election

Today, the UK parliament was dissolved. In a few days time, it's the seven party leader debate. That'll be ... interesting, but that's it for me.

Before I go silent and avoid the relentless coverage, switch off various channels, and delete feeds and news website bookmarks, a few predictions for the 2015 UK general election.

The result I want

A Labour + SNP + Green coalition. However, this is extremely unlikely; if you've lived in Scotland for any period of time then you'll know the deep chasm of dislike (massive understatement) between Labour and the SNP. I just can't see them forming a coalition, even if they have a majority between themselves. Plus, I'm not expecting the Green Party to get more than one UK seat, unfortunately.

The result I might get, hopefully

A Labour + SNP confidence and supply arrangement. It may happen if, again, the numbers look good (326+ seats between them).

The result I feel is the most likely

Call me pessimistic, but I feel that we're in for another five years of Dave (and then, Boris, but that's another thing altogether). I reckon the 650 seats will fall roughly:

Conservatives 307
Labour 249
Liberal Democrats 34
SNP 28
Plaid Cymru 4
Green 1
Other 24

That gives a confidence and supply majority of 16 (increasing to the low to mid twenties if the DUP also participate); so, the Liberal Democrats will be propping up the (UK) government again, but should have more influence over the annual budget. They could, technically, enter into a coalition, but neither party will have the appetite to have another five years of such a strong arrangement.

Labour and the SNP will, unfortunately, fall far short in terms of numbers. There's no possibility of the Conservatives and SNP reaching any kind of arrangement.

Overall, my predictions are significantly out from the various polls, except probably the odd internal Conservative poll or two. In point form; my ten predictions:

  1. As said above, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats will again govern in some kind of arrangement, probably confidence and supply.
  2. There will be a Black Swan event of some kind between now and the election that will work in the favour of the Conservatives. It may not be major - it wasn't last time, when Gordon's words were picked up by a Sky TV microphone - but it will drive the media into a frenzy and tilt the election towards the incumbents. Having said that, there is an outside chance it could be major e.g. Argentina having another bite at the Falkland Islands, or more likely Putin sending a bomber to actually fly across the UK mainland and daring the RAF to shoot it down (they won't).
  3. The Conservatives will be up slightly on the number of seats they won in 2010.
  4. Labour will fade in the last week or two of the election as the Conservatives relentlessly drive their (much better, and much better funded) PR machine, predominantly against Labour. Massive billboards everywhere, et al. Ed's team will end election day a few seats down from 2010.
  5. The Liberal Democrats will lose roughly 40% of their seats. Not quite the dramatic wipeout some are predicting, though 40% is still a hefty lot. And they'll still also be the third party in terms of seats as...
  6. ...the SNP will more than quadruple the number of seats they have, but still be a few behind the Liberal Democrats. While they take more than a few Labour seats in Scotland, Liberal Democrats will largely retain their seats north of the border, helped by tactical voting. Post-election, the political map of Scotland will be predominantly yellow and orange.
  7. Nick Clegg will hang on to his seat thanks mainly to the opposition vote being split. I have conflicting feelings on this, as one of the people standing against him is a work colleague. But, will see.
  8. Farage will win Thanet, again because the opposition (to him) vote is split. But UKIP won't be making the major gains they think they will.
  9. Boris will win his seat with a very large majority (5 digits) and immediately start unsubtly campaigning in his jovial-but-calculated manner to be the next Conservative leader and UK prime minister. Because Boris.
  10. Caroline will hold her seat for the Green Party, but the First Past the Post system will - as it wearily does - work against the national vote for the Greens. So, just one seat.
Oh, and two post-election predictions:
  1. Yvette Cooper will be the leader of the Labour Party pretty quickly.
  2. Caroline Lucas to become the leader of the Green Party by the end of 2015.

Codicil: In summary, I hope I am generally wrong on this one.

Saturday, 28 March 2015


Went to Lincoln pretty much spontaneously a few days back, as the opportunities for returning were rapidly running out, for now, and there were a few personal achievements to quietly celebrate. After doing the unexpectedly entertaining (and vertigo-inducing) Cathedral roof tour, I had a wander for a few hours and caught this image of the colours of one of the larger stained glass windows being projected onto the wall.

But back to the Long Project, and relative social quietness for a while.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Ariadne: onwards

Theseus was the mythical founder-king of Athens. According to Greek legend, he volunteered to help out with a bit of Minotaur trouble. Ariadne, being a practical facilitator, found him a sword. Noticing that Theseus - to put it mildly - wasn't great on logistics, she also gave him a massive ball of string (as you would give a cat) so he could find his way out of the Minotaur's labyrinth. As is the way of patriarchal societies, Theseus got the credit for some Minotaur-slaying action despite the fact that, without Ariadne, he had no weapon and no way of getting home.

There's a metaphor in there for academia.

And speaking of Ariadne...

Ariadne is back (or rather, not being mothballed) ... after a hunt for a new organisation to host all of the previous and future issues, and people to do all things editorial, several institutions and individuals made approaches.

Ariadne - - will be moving to Loughborough University in due course; here's the University of Bath Library news announcement. Loughborough has a long association with Ariadne, having written many articles right from the first issue to the most recent one. This was helped, back in the day, by an association between UKOLN and Loughborough on various projects, such as the Jisc-funded eLib ROADS project. Typically, the "deep thinking" would happen at UKOLN and the coding at Loughborough.

Therefore, it's great that they will be hosting Ariadne, which lives again.

An earlier hunt, by the University of Bath Library, for a new hoster proved fruitless. More hunting took place, involving the significant behind-the-scenes efforts of several UKOLN alumni. Speaking of whom, credit especially to Paul, now of EDINA, who put in a lot of personal effort over a long period of time to find a new hoster for Ariadne. Credit also to Emma, font of sensible and technical advice, and without whose personal efforts there would be rather less stuff from back in the day that's still online.

This latter hunt for new hosters and editors itself turned out to be muse-worthy, with conversations with various people in the UK library and information science sector who were interested, or who could not, or did not, want to "take on" Ariadne for a variety of reasons. An article out of this (provisionally entitled "Where have all the digital library research centres gone?") and analysing those reasons may happen later on. History is, as Norman (below) said in 1998, "Long and complicated".

But, solid interest did occur from this hunt. Perhaps surprisingly, several people replied after a posting on lis-link (surprising in that lis-link, which was originally an announcement channel for BUBL and became a heavy traffic library list over time, was useful in this context). Kara and Kate in the University of Bath Library dealt and negotiated with formal expressions of interest, as well as all of the direct enquiries.

Various people, new and from back in the day, got in touch or communicated. Some people weren't serious; others - such as from a subject librarian in Goldsmiths University of London Library - were constructive, professional and thought through. A large library sector publisher with a reputation for profit over open access made a strange informal enquiry and were dissuaded [I would like to write a lot more here on that, but, lawyers].

Meanwhile, at Loughborough, various communications were held between people from the library, IT services, and alumni from the old library school (as was). A lot of credit for this should go to Sue Manuel (also, nice presentation) at the university, who took an "Ariadne must carry on" attitude and pulled people from the tech and content sides, scattered across departments and units, together. If you've ever tried to herd academics (cats are so much easier) for a project, a meeting or even just to have their photograph taken (as in the 1996 UKOLN one below), you'll appreciate this.

In due time, an expression of interest, with the backing of Emma Walton, the Director of Library Services, was submitted from Loughborough. Credit to Kara Jones at University of Bath Library for dealing with this quickly. Their set-up contains an editorial board - not a peer-review board - to maintain quality control while ensuring that content still appears relatively rapidly after submission. The board contains various professional staff from Loughborough and other UK universities; some of these have previously written for Ariadne, and some also submitted expressions of interest to host or edit Ariadne.

As prophesied, a new editor is brought unto us - the 9th editor of the web version of Ariadne. The volunteer who stepped up to be editor for issues 74 onwards is Jon Knight, who also pulled together the expression of interest. If you were at Library Camp in Birmingham in late 2013, you may remember his brightly colored cardigan:

He's on the Twitter, and likes curry when he's not in this mode. His Ariadne publication history.

Initially, the Loughborough IT folk will be sorting out the transfer, and reinstallation, of content from the servers at Bath, adding Ariadne to their stable of hosted journals, and doing what needs to be done on all things technical. They're an industrious lot - see their practical-oriented articles in Ariadne over the years. In due course, they'll release details of procedures, content and future issues. In the meantime, if you're interested in writing for Ariadne, contact the new editor directly.

As of January 17th 2016 (ten months away), Ariadne will have been live, online, for twenty years. (Hint to Loughborough folks: that surely deserves a party. Look, that date is bolded so you have to hold one now.) It sounds like everything is going to be done electronically - there is no funding, the board is geographically spread out, meetings are often inefficient, and above all pointless when there's email - so it's going to be a lean-and-mean operation from now on.

Anyway, there was a modest cheese-centric event a few nights back to celebrate this turn of events, and all nine editors of Ariadne from the last 19+ years - John, Isobel, Philip, Marieke, Bernadette, Shirley, Richard, Kara and Jon - will be getting a badge (a real metal one) later this year.

Above all, it's a relief, and also pleasing, that Ariadne continues. Within the not-far-off 2,000 articles of Ariadne is much of the history of digital library developments within UK academia. Such content, media, diagrams and details of projects and services need to be kept, and kept open and free, for students, academics, practitioners, developers and historians.

So say we all.