Monday, 20 February 2017

Installing the New Home Network

So to buying and installing. Given the amount of time I spent in Maplin, I took a look at their prices and products first. I don't mind paying a little over the odds for buying at a retailer, which is why I buy books from Foyles rather than Amazon. Support your local retailer. However, Maplin didn't have the specific modem-router I wanted, though they did have the next one up, but for full price, around £150. For that, I could order the router I wanted, and two USB adaptors, from Amazon and still have change from £150. Sorry guys. I did buy the Cat 6 cable I needed from them. I know there is dirt-cheap cable on Amazon, but it's made in China, doesn't have the guarantee of a Western brand, and you never know what you're getting. That was Monday evening. Amazon told me I could take delivery at my local Doddle Thursday. I could and did, skipped the gym and went straight home to play with my new toys.

Install the driver for the Netgear adapter on the Samsung. Windows 10 doesn't have it. When installed, plug in the adapter and Windows 10 spots it immediately.

Realise after some wandering around its menu with the remote, that the WD media player only understands how to talk to Wireless-N adapters. So now I have a spare Wireless-AC adapter. I can live with this. One day, the media player may get an upgrade to cope with Wireless-AC. (I bought it as 780p and one day it upgraded itself to 1080p.)

Darn! Run out of power sockets and I need an extra one for the Netgear router. Scrabble around for a 6-gang extension lead.

Take all the old wires out, unpack the new wires, connect the NAS and printer to the D6400 gigabyte LAN ports, connect the HG533 modem to the Internet socket on the D6400. Do all this while not tangling wires. I’m OCD about having non-tangled wires.

Turn off the HG533 wireless. Turn everything else on. Open up the Mac. There's a NETGEAR90 and an NETGEAR90-5G SSID visible. Realise after a while that “5G” isn’t a telephony protocol by the 5Mhz Wireless-AC. The 5G SSID belongs to the 5-Mhz Wireless-AC and the other one is the 2.4Mhz Wireless-B/G/N. So I paired the two laptops to the 5G, and the media player and my i-Devices to the other one. The Canon and the Blu-Ray player attach themselves to whatever they can find, and that will be the 2.4Mhz signal, leaving my 5Mhz alone.

It all Just Works. For those of us who can remember the pain of trying to get Windows 2000 to talk to wireless or even modems, this is nothing short of miraculous.

When browsing through the modem-router set-up, DO NOT tell it that the ISP needs a username and password to sign on, and then provide both. Everything stopped working. I think the built-in modem fires up and the router stops listening to the LAN port. It took me a few minutes to guess the cause and put it right, and then everything Just Worked again.

My web pages load snappy-fast on the laptops. Haven't noticed the iDevices being any quicker, but I did put them on the Wireless-N channel. I can live with that. And it's easy to change.

On your Mac's Network Settings, you will need to move the 5G SSID to the top of the "connect in this preferred order" list. Or it will default to something else.

Put a shortcut to the new router's management URL in your browser favourites.

While I was waiting for the new kit to arrive, Talk-Talk sent me a mail asking me to leave my HG533 on for ten days as they were doing stuff to make my Internet Experience even better, and if they did, it would be between 03:30 and 05:30. Sounds like a firmware upgrade to me. So we'll see. At some point I'm going to experiment with signing on using the D6400.

Worth it? Oh yes. In the end, even counting £40 on cable (I bought 10m of Cat 6 as well), that's less than a decent pair of trousers from a Jermyn Street tailor.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Sex was one of the many things I did because then I must be living a real life

I re-read Rollo’s post You Need Sex a while back for complicated reasons that don’t matter. A lot of water has passed under my bridges since I first read it.

Rollo’s point is that, while, of course a man isn’t going to die if he never has sex is part of the main course [of life], not a dessert, not some treat at the end of the meal. Masculinity requires that a man have sex to be a Man, to fully embody masculinity. It’s not some unfortunate coincidence that the same testosterone which makes men capable of strength, confidence, determination, perseverance, violence and aggression is also the primary motivating hormone for sex. Men will build monuments to the sky and send fleets of ships to war for sex. It’s not some sweet-treat reward (as women would manipulate you to believe) at the end of the meal, sex is part of the meal of life.
Well, so for some people, is kimchi.

(Kimchi - fermented cabbage, radish and scallions)

While I think that sex is one of the many things a man should try in his life, it's not been my experience that it's a central part of being a man. Or at any rate, of being me.

All I can do is try to explain what I experienced.

I’m a drunk and an addict. I did not drink so I could get the courage to approach a girl and have sex. I was having sex, or going to parties to meet girls, so I could drink. The sex was an excuse for drinking, and when I quit drinking, I didn’t really need the excuse. (Why did I need an excuse to drink? Because I'm an alcoholic, not a degenerate.) I’ve had sober sex, and it’s okay, but it’s kinda like eating eggs without salt.

Sex was one of the many things I did because then I must be living a real life. Like having a garden shed means I’m a normal person. (An Englishman will understand that one.) But my life didn’t feel any more real when I was actually having sex. The best thing about it was all the stuff around it, the way it broke up my routines, and how it could provide a time-out from the rest of my life. Moments like waking up on Boxing Day morning in a girl's rented attic bedroom in north London and seeing the snow on the ground. Stuff like that. And did I mention the booze? (If you get so drunk you can't screw, you're an amateur drinker and should confine yourself to a glass of sherry at Christmas.) Sex was not something I did for me: it was something I did for an image of me.

I'm an addict so I don't do anything for the sake of the thing, I do it for the feeling it gives me. I do kicks. I do intensity. I can do something abstruse for hours on end because it’s fascinating - and sets off the same trance-like state that a number of other activities do. Or I do utter laziness. I can do something because I know I will look at it and think "there's a job well done", which is the essential buzz of any craftsman.

The ACoA bit of my make-up kicks in here as well. One side-effect of that is a streak of co-dependency, a behaviour that leads me into involvements with people who have problems and need rescuing. This is a recipe for drama, frustration, time-wasting, and sometimes short periods of hot sex with women who are just a little bit crazy. I had to get sober to recognise I had this, and it took me many years to accept that I was attracted to the wrong kind of women, and would be much better off not getting involved with them. It takes a few years, but once I got used to a drama-free and reasonably ordered life, it was a lot like sobriety: I wouldn't want to go back, because the few highs do not compensate for the many lows. Emotional sobriety is like physical sobriety: it’s only for people who need it, and normal people should stick to drinking and drama.

Having said all of which, my life would undoubtedly be more fun and various if I was having a series of brief sexual affairs with attractive women under 40 who keep themselves fit, are reasonable company, and who are using me for whatever stuff is going on in their heads, and will move on in a few months.

(Undoubtedly a few weeks with Raquel Juarez would add something to my life.)

At this point I will be told by men and women of all pill-popping colours that I’m not being spiritual enough and that if I was a real man, I would appreciate the depths of sexual pleasure and intimacy possible only with a woman who likes you and respects you and with whom you have a history and yawn yawn yawn. Anyway, in the real world, I’m not going to have a series of flings like that.

And I sure as heck do not want the other thing that’s on offer, because, well, there comes a time when a man has to accept he can’t wear blue jeans any more. (Some men can look good in them at seventy, some need to stop it at thirty.) Same thing goes for getting shit-faced every Saturday night. I’ve reached the stage where I don’t want what I could get and can’t get what I want. So I do without. (If the planets ever align, I will happily do with.) Do not try this if you’re under fifty, because your hormones will give you hell.

I don't know how "masculine men" experience sex. Whatever they experience, it must be pretty freaking amazing, because why else would they think it would be a good idea to get married so they could have it multiple times a week? If they are experiencing what I did, then they are so dumb they shouldn't be allowed to vote. I will never know, and there's no point guessing.

And no, men do not build monuments to the sky and send fleets of ships to war for sex: they build monuments to the sky so they can make a return from the rents, and they send ships to war to clear trade routes and capture towns for the tax revenues. Business is about business, war is about business, marriage was about business when the family was the central economic unit, and ask any hooker, or wife keeping her husband sweet with semi-willing sex, or woman who seduced her husband into marriage and then took him down in the divorce courts, and sex is about business as well.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Upgrading the Home Network

Every now and then I work from home, and unreel some gnarly Cat 4 (really) cable I bought from Homebase a long time ago so I can connect the work laptop. One directionless thought eventually lead to a couple of visits to the Maplin store by Liverpool Street and a lot of browsing for specifications, cataloguing the computing kit, reading reviews and a bit about Wi-Fi data protocols (I used to work in telecoms).

So the first thing to do is to get the connectivity capability of every bit of kit I have. (It would be the first thing if I was the kind of person who Did Things Properly, but I’m not, so it was about the middle thing I did.)

  • The HG533 router has B/G/N wireless and has 4x100Mbs Ethernet ports and a USB 2 port.
  • The NAS has a Gigabit ethernet interface.
  • The Brother HL2250DN Laser has USB 2 and 100Mbs ethernet.
  • The Canon MG7550 inkjet has B/G/N wireless, USB 2, NFC and 100Mbs ethernet
  • The Apple kit has B/G/N/AC wireless, and the Macbook Air has Thunderbolt, which with an adapter provides Gigabit ethernet.
  • The Samsung NP-R720 has on on-board B/G wireless, and 100Mbs ethernet.
  • The Sony Blu-Ray BDP-760 has on board wireless, I’m guessing B/G given its age.
  • The WD TV Live media player has 100Mbs LAN, and a USB port into which I can plug what I want. I have a wireless-N dongle at the moment.

I know what you’re thinking. Upgrade my internet connection. I’m supposed to be getting 8Mbs download on my ADSL, and Speedtest tells me I can about 7Mbs get on my Air over the wireless-N, so that’s not the problem. I don’t do online gaming or TV streaming. This is the problem: when I connected the Samsung with the LAN cable, the browser speeded up. Wait. What? (This is when all the work started to get done in earnest.) Wireless-G is supposed to be good for 54Mbs, though with all the wi-fi signalling overhead, that works out at about 20Mbs of user data. So in theory the wi-fi has capacity to spare. Using the LAN should not have improved the download times. Yet it did. Reading around, it turns out the HG533 is a couple of ariels short of a six-pack, and it was designed to a price. The router definitely needs an upgrade, as does the wireless on the Samsung.

My first thought was that the modem bit of the HG533 is okay, unless it’s really cold outside, when it can drop out now and again, so I would leave well enough alone. But, what if it packs up and I need another modem? Getting a modem that doesn’t come with a router attached is difficult, or rather, you buy a router and can opt for a free ADSL modem to be included. So I might be paying for the same thing twice. I could go on using the HG533, but who knows if a newer ADSL modem might not improve the performance? I’m on ADSL2+ and about 2km from the exchange and in theory could get up to 15Mbs download. In practice, I’m not so sure. The copper and distribution pole (yep, an old-fashioned distribution pole) outside my house survived the Great Storm of 1987. Talk-Talk tell me that I can upgrade my router at any time. It will cost me £79 and I will get their Super Router. You read the review. (I think Talk-Talk do this as a sneaky way of limiting the demand on their network.) So why don’t I get a top-end router with a free modem?

So that’s done. I feel like I dodged a bullet there. So now to the in-house network.

Wire-heads have a Cat 6 wired house with sockets in every room, but a) I’m not a wire-head, and b) that still means wires trailing from the skirting-board to the kit. I have enough wires with the hi-fi and TV / DVD kit, thank you. And, yes, I did spend a while online reading, and talking with a helpful assistant in Maplin, about Powerline. The mains wiring in my house was last touched in about 1987 or so. Some of it may be older than that. The fuse box has been updated, but not the wires. I’ll leave that alone. It’s a nice-sounding solution, but I bet it works better with modern wiring. So it's wireless for everything except the heftiest data transfers, when I’ll live with temporary trailing wires.

There are two rules for wireless: destroy any nearby wireless-B device; and make sure your kit all has the same capability. Otherwise the wireless network will run almost at the speed of the slowest protocol (not quite, but nearly). I can make an exception for the Canon and the Sony because if I'm doing colour printing or watching DVD’s I’m not likely to be doing anything else.

So upgrade the wireless router to something with Gigabit-ethenet and AE-capable, and get AC-capable dongles for the Toshiba and the WD TV Live. The Apple kit and the NAS can then run as intended. Leave the Canon to be wireless and leave the Brother on a LAN port where it is now. (Printer servers cost too much.) Get some nice new Cat 6 flat cable for the work laptop when I’m at home, and for big downloads or when I want to do fast transfers of data between the laptops and the NAS.

Which router? Think about what a router does: it sees an incoming packet of data, reads its destination and sends it to the relevant port (modem, LAN, USB or wireless device). It needs to do that so fast it’s waiting for the next packet to arrive. Or if it can’t, it needs a lot of memory for those packets to sit in to be dealt with. Otherwise the computers are going to be sending lots of “Nope, missed that, send again please” requests back. Those doesn’t slow down the network, but it sure as heck increases the time it takes for a useful data packet to arrive. So we want a fast processor and a chunk of fast RAM. And you think you’re going to get that for £30? Ummm, no. £30 will get you a decent bit of kit, but I doubt that the experience will be snappy. So it’s worth spending a bit extra on a decent spec. With that spec there are two big choices: Apple Airport Extreme, or Netgear / Linksys / Belkin / Billion / etc. I have Windows 7 and 10 computers, and the forums have too many people saying the Airport doesn’t always play nice. It’s also really expensive. So after going through some reviews, I’m looking at the Netgear R6250 and two Netgear AC-dongles.

What I've not listed is how many websites and Google queries it took to get all that information together. Did you know there was a website that listed all the BT local exchanges and their capabilities?

Part Two to follow.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Looking-Glass Liberals and The Extinction Burst

What we’re seeing is not fightback, resistance and protest. It’s two things: players who are hedging their bets to avoid alienating customers and activism groups, and the activists and snowflakes who are having the mother of all extinction bursts.

Liberals are moral progressives. They impose their beliefs on the People through legislation and media content. Some of those were needed (racial equality legislation, TUPE), some have turned out to be dubious (Divorce Reform), and some are simply bad (Angela’ Army). There’s a built-in obsolescence to the liberal programme: once they have imposed legal and cultural enlightenment on the society and economy, if not in the hearts and minds of the people, they’re done. Time to quit liberalising and go get a proper job. Said very few political movements ever. So having done the sensible stuff, those liberals who can’t get proper jobs go in search of even more recherch√© causes to foist on the People. In the end, they choose a cause too far, pass through the Looking-Glass, and the People become the enemy. Through the Looking Glass they can fight the causes of cultures and people who represent everything their parents professed to despise. Which is why we have female snowflakes wanting to import unskilled, unemployable men from a deeply misogynist culture who would put those very snowflakes in burkas and confine them to the kitchen. Because all the snowflakes despise now are the taxpayers with jobs and children they want to prepare for the world.

Once Liberalism passes through the Looking Glass, it attracts the dispossessed, the alienated, and many of the younger, disaffected people who can’t get jobs. Those people also hate the taxpayers. Communism never got a real grip in the UK because young people could get jobs, and they suspected correctly there was more to it than workers’ rights. Looking-Glass Liberalism has its following in the West today because there are a lot of young people who suspect that they will never benefit from participating in their economies, and who also suspect that they were not raised with the skills or temperament to participate advantageously. In which case, some of them will be quite happy to tear it all down. After all, what has post-modern Capitalism ever done for them?

Populism is in part a reaction to Liberalism Through The Looking Glass. It says “Enough!”. It says: “This is not your country” and much worse than that, it says “You are not Good People.” Populism is an existential identity threat to Looking Glass Liberals, who have no other source of self-identity and self-esteem than the craziness of their causes.

Populism appears when Liberalism passes through the Looking Glass, and has established itself as the dominant cultural and social doctrine of the Chattering Classes (media, PR, advertising, politics, diplomacy) and is the dominant mood of mainstream literature, film, theatre, comedy and art. As it wakes up, Populism says “This is not my beautiful country, this is not my beautiful culture, my god! What have I done?”.

And then it seeks to evict the squatters and bulldoze their camps. Metaphorically, and in the case of “The Jungle” at Calais, literally.

Business has to do its PR, recruiting, advertising and investor relations within the mainstream mood. It cannot afford an avant-garde moral appearance: it can only change sides when the new winner is clearly ahead and in sight of the finishing line. Until then, it has to go with the favourite. Right now, Looking Glass Liberalism still looks good. If you live in a large city. If you are well-paid and have marketable talents. The Tech giants don’t care about immigrants, only cheaper programmers for the commodity tasks. If they cared about human rights, they would not be outsourcing to China or Mexico. Taiwan is just about okay, and that’s why my Apple kit gets made. When keeping a supply of cheap(er) labour and cosying-up to the mainstream can be achieved by signing a motion deploring 90-day immigration bans, they will sign the motion. And when it doesn’t, it won’t. And unlike governments, corporations can spin on a sixpence. It takes five minutes to tell HR they don’t have to bother with LBGQT hires anymore. The Looking Glass Liberals know this, and they know they and their crazy causes are a cost, not a benefit, to most corporations and all taxpayers. But the corporations will be the last ones to turn, unless they are run by a Rupert Murdoch. Someone has to go first.

Until then, we have to live with the screeching of Looking-Glass Liberals and their fellow-travellers being thrown out of their place in society, culture and politics (they never had much of a place in the economy, except as recipients of other people’s taxes). And all the posturing idiots don’t seem to know that someone is taking names.

The ass-kicking will follow.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

January 2017 Review

Cold. Did anyone else notice it was cold in January? Even leaving the engine running and the heating on in the car at 06:15 didn’t get the frost of the windscreen. I had a massage to get rid of some tightness around my leg muscles and waist, and while I’m sure it’s co-incidence, I didn’t balance so well for a couple of weeks (!) but am okay now. The Gentle Dentist continues to pay her bills with my teeth, as I got a crown on one of upper teeth.

I read Sarah Bakewell’s At The Existentialist Cafe, Graham Greene’s Stamboul Train, Peter Cooke’s monograph on Gustav Moreau, the Phaidon book on Richard Prince, Jason L Riley’s Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder For Blacks To Succeed, and Benjamin Markovitz’ You Don’t Have To Live Like This. I started a textbook on Artificial Intelligence as well.

I found a box set of the Antione Doinel films, saw The 400 Blows in December, Stolen Kisses and Bed and Board in January. I got through series Three of Angel, and polished off the last two episodes of Young Montalbano. In the cinema I saw La La Land at the Curzon, and, err, that’s it. I don’t need to see a film about Jackie Kennedy or a depressed man going back to his dysfunctional family in Manchester-by-the-Sea.

I’m clearly being hyper-vigilant, because I can hear even the slightest water drops from the guttering outside my usual bedroom, so I’ve moved into the back bedroom, where I used to sleep many years ago.

I’ve added legs to my training: extensions, curls and presses. Now if only I can lose a few kilos, I won’t feel that going up stairs is so much effort.

And finally I upgraded from my trusty old 3G iPhone 4S. I now have an iPhone SE. 4G and quicker. I’ve been working from home on Fridays, and it does make my weekends so much better. One less day of commuting at my age makes a difference.

Monday, 30 January 2017

What's Really Wrong With Some Algorithms - And It's Not Social Justice

Dr Cathy O’Neill, aka mathbabe, a former Algebraic Geometer turned Wall Street Analyst turned Data Scientist / Activist, has a best-seller and has just been appointed a Bloomberg columnist. Her target is the algorithms used in complex decision-making

Here’s her conclusion:
The irony is that algorithms, typically introduced to make decisions cleaner and more consistent, end up obfuscating important moral aspects and embedding difficult issues of inequality, privacy and justice. As a result, they don’t bypass much hard work. If we as a society want to make the best use of them, we'll have to grapple with the tough questions before applying algorithms -- particularly in an area as sensitive as the lives of our children.
Well, actually the social justice bit is not the most important issue here. First, something about “algorithms”.

Human judgement was first replaced by algorithms in bank lending and insurance. It turned out (apocryphal source) that human bank managers got it right 82% of the time, and the credit algorithms got it right 85% of the time. For even a small unsecured loans book of a billion pounds, generating £250m of new business a year, that three per cent ibuidls over a short time to a steady £7,500,000 a year of extra profit. More than enough to pay for a couple of dozen credit analysts, their computers and some SAS licenses.

Credit algorithms are brutal. No spare money at the end of the month after paying all your bills and feeding the family? Sorry, no loan. A couple of missed credit card, council tax or gas bills? Sorry, no loan either. A CCJ (County Court Judgement) issued to you at your address? Don’t let the door hit you on your way out. Before you mutter something about banks only lending to people who don’t need it, remember that the bank is lending your savings. You don’t want the bank to turn round and tell you your savings are gone because it was loaned to people who needed the money so bad they couldn’t pay it back - do you? OK. That’s clear then.

Most people can’t make their payments on time, or don’t have spare cash at the end of the month, are low-paid rather than irresponsible. People are low-paid because they don’t have the technical skills, education, or professional persona to earn better salaries. They may also lack the neuroses, character and moral defects, dysfunctions and ability to live without much social life that characterise many of the people who do earn in the top decile of salaries. But let’s not go there, and stick with the lack of education and social skills. Those, in the Grand British Narrative of the Left, are class- and culture-biased behaviours, which fortunately cut across race, creed and colour. In the Grand American Narrative of the Good People, it’s all about race, gender, religion, and economic status - because there is no "class system” in America. Cathy O’Neill is one of the Good People, so she’s concerned that the algorithms may have social injustice embedded in them.

Nobody gets too worked up about bank lending decisions because they are based on past financial behaviour and indicators. Those have an obvious relevance to a lending decision. However, what if the bank refused you because it picked up friends on your Facebook feed who were bad risks? Big Data says that in all sorts of ways we tend to act as our friends do, so it might seem relevant to see if we hang out with financial losers. Everyone lurves Big Data because smart and cool and computers. But how is this not the same as the local gossip saying that we shouldn’t lend to someone because she hangs out with losers? Did the banks hire all those PhD’s just to have them behave like the village busybody? (That’s my objection, not Dr O’Neill’s.)

When the decisions are about sentencing, parole, or taking children into the Social Services system, we would like the algorithms to be a lot better than the local gossip. And Good People want the algorithms to be socially-just as well. Here are the points O’Neill makes about a system called Approach to Understanding Risk Assessment (AURA) introduced in Los Angeles, to help identify children at risk.
The conclusions that algorithms draw depend crucially on the choice of target variable. Deaths are too rare to create discernible patterns, so modelers tend to depend on other indicators such as neighbor complaints or hospital records of multiple broken bones, which are much more common and hence easier to use. Yet these could produce very different scores for the same family, making otherwise safe environments look dangerous.

The quality and availability of data also matter. A community where members are reluctant to report child abuse, imagining it as a stigma or as a personal matter, might look much safer than it is. By contrast, a community that is consistently monitored by the state -- say, one whose inhabitants must provide information to obtain government benefits -- might display a lot more “risk factors.”

AURA, for example, uses contextual information like mental health records and age of parents to predict a child's vulnerability. It’s not hard to imagine that such factors are correlated to race and class, meaning that younger, poorer, and minority parents are more likely to get scored as higher-risk than older, richer parents, even if they’re treating their children similarly.
Her concern is that AURA will have too many false negatives, as the sneaky White People With Jobs stay off the radar. The result will be “unfair” treatment of the people who are correctly modelled. There’s a much bigger elephant in the room. AURA is an appalling model, as O’Neill describes:
In a test run on historical data, AURA correctly identified 171 children at the highest risk while giving the highest score to 3,829 relatively safe families. That’s a false positive rate of 95.6 percent. It doesn’t mean that all those families would have lost custody of their kids, but such scrutiny inevitably carries a human price -- one that would probably be unevenly distributed.
In other words, the next prediction from AURA is overwhelmingly likely to be wrong. Why? Do these people not know what they are doing? Well, I have tried using propensity modelling on a rare event, and got the same result: a horrible level of false positives. After checking my work and berating myself for a lack of creativity, I thought the issues over, and realised that this was caused by the rarity of the event and the nature of the facts I had to use. There is no hope of ever getting a decent predictor for an event as rare as child abuse. First, because it’s rare, and second, because it’s kept private, which is O’Neill’s second point in the quote. By contrast, defaulting in bank loans is a lot more common amongst borrowers than you might believe, and happens within a much smaller chunk of the population than “all parents”.

Propensity modelling started in direct marketing, and even models with much worse false positive rates can help improve profits by cutting down the number of mail shots. What’s good for junk mail is not acceptable for families. Propensity models of rare events are wholly unsuitable for sensitive issues around rare events, not because it "obfuscates important moral aspects and embeds difficult issues of inequality, privacy and justice”, but because the model will inevitably be awful.

That doesn’t mean Dr O’Neill needs to find a new line of work. Big Data research exercises are not expensive and in these kinds of cases a negative result can be valuable. Knowing that there is no group of reliable, accurate markers for child abuse can help dispel prejudice and old wives’ tales, challenge professional folk lore and force policy-makers to think about what they can and cannot achieve. Helping children who are found to be abused is and something a caring society should try to do. Claiming that you can prevent child abuse, when you know it can’t be reliably identified or predicted from publicly-availalble facts, is just irresponsible.

And all the Big Data in the world won’t overcome the cowardice that allowed child prostitution rings run by members of minority groups to operate for years, even though the police and social services knew about it. Which doesn’t mean someone shouldn’t do Big Data research, but it does mean that its issues need to be put in context and proportion.