Welcome to our weekly round-up of what the AccountingWEB team has been reading.
This week, our favourite stories include data protection, the need to say ‘no’ and once again, dystopian sci-fi.
Producer extraordinaire Abi Bottomley makes her what we’ve been reading debut. When she’s not producing AccountingWEB’s No Accounting for Taste podcast (I thought you’d never ask: here is the latest episode) she’s been reading The Windup Girl.
But up first, we need to talk about Facebook. Stewart Twynham already has an interesting piece on the site looking at the GDPR implications of the Facebook debacle. And now, Kat Haylock from our sister site UK Business Forums returns to the WWBR pages to talk about Facebook and how its algorithms stifle entrepreneurs.
As always, comment below with what you've been reading this week.
* * *
You couldn’t really move online this week for news stories on Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, the private data mining company accused of improperly harvesting data and using it to influence political elections.
Of course, the notion that large technology companies are exploiting our data is hardly new information. As The Outline pointed out, if you have an issue with the Facebook scandal, you should probably take a second look at the likes of Google, Amazon and Twitter too.
But because I work in the publishing industry and spend a lot of my time on a small business forum, I can’t help but feel a little bit of satisfaction. Facebook’s domination for the last 10 years has been stifling for tech entrepreneurship, and the platform’s impromptu algorithm shifts always hits small businesses the hardest.
This story doesn’t just remind us to keep a closer eye on who we share our information with online. It reminds us that the mighty can fall – and that the future’s up for grabs.
* * *
Richard: Say ‘no’ and change your life
The need to say no is not a new subject for practitioners. Only last year a stressed sole practitioner wrote about working seven days a week for unappreciative clients. Accountants in practice who have survived the rigours of self assessment will also sigh at the memories of saying ‘yes’ to those last minute clients.
I’m sure those who admit to these 'yes moments' will say they did so without thinking.
This impulsive yes could manifest as procrastination even if you have a stacked workload. That instant gratification to saying yes in that moment is far attractive than focusing on what is actually important in that moment.
Why do we do this? Sports psychologist Steve Peters likens this impulsive reaction to a chimp. His book The Chimp Paradox gets to the heart of this issue about saying yes: your inner chimp shouts down your more reasonable inner human, it wants that instant gratification; it doesn’t think, it just grabs.
For those who use ‘yes’ as their default answer this article from The Observer recommends you slow down – don’t let your inner chimp hijack your plans.
So before you impulsively beckon to your client’s demands at the cost of your work-life balance and ratchet up your stress levels, remember what’s important to you.
* * *
I picked up this book for three reasons. One, because I liked the elephant on the front. Two, because the quote on the front cover said ‘Bacigalupi is a worth successor to William Gibson.’ And three because it is Bacigalupi’s first novel and I love anything new and shiny. Despite my outrageously shallow purchasing motives it hasn’t disappointed.
The novel’s strongest feature by far is Bacigalupi’s skill at worldbuilding. Even though the book is set in an imagined future his depiction of a post-oil, calorie powered Thailand on the brink of civil war feels astonishingly true to life. Thailand is one of the last bastions of independence from the American calorie companies whose aggression and power mimics today’s oil industry.
This issues of climate change, race, gender and resources are central to the plot without giving solutions to the problems. Acknowledging that in a broken future there’s no reason to assume that our understanding of one another and the world around us will be any less broken.
I highly recommend The Windup Girl especially if you are looking for an introduction to sci-fi writing.
About Richard Hattersley
Richard is AccountingWEB's practice correspondent. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.