Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Who's afraid of Gregor Dallas?

A slightly off topic post today but it's on a topic which as an author of the sort of books that don't sell very well - ie ones about men's health - is close to my heart.

The Society of Authors, the trade union for British authors, is having the first election for its management committee that I can remember in the entire 15 years I've been a member. You'd imagine there'd be quite a state of excitement but today I got my copy of the Society's magazine and there was barely a word about it (nor is there anything on the Society's website). How am I supposed to make up my mind about the candidates?

I can see from the way the ballot paper is laid out that this is an election for four places between four candidates proposed by the board themselves and one other, Gregor Dallas, who was proposed by three other members.

I know Gregor Dallas and have even read one his books. He is an excellent historian, a passionate speaker and a nice man. Perhaps he is a terrible threat to the Management Committee, perhaps his ideas are, but I would like to have been able to make my own mind up.

The Society of Authors is the organisation of George Bernard Shaw, George Orwell, Virginia Woolf and hundreds of thousands of others who were not threatened by new or different ideas but embraced them. Shame.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The future of health online

We’ve had a successful Men’s Health Week drawing men’s attentions to the benefits of using reliable internet sites to find health information. But changes in the way the internet works mean this may become harder to do in the future.

‘Liking’ something is fine for the latest gadget, music or amusing video but can you ‘like’ the latest war footage or, more pertinantly to us at the Men’s Health Forum, information about erection problems? In an Observer article on his new book the Filter Bubble, Eli Pariser says that what is good for consumers is not necessarilly good for citizens.

He’s also concerned about personalisation. Internet search engines are no longer neutral. Since the end of 2009 Google has been tailoring your results to what you looked at before without telling you. It’s like buying a newspaper a couple of times and then being force fed the same paper every day. This is a partial world picture at best. Essentially you give up a whole load of personal data to your favourite search engine and they filter out the stuff they don’t think you want to worry your pretty little head about while bombarding you with adverts for the things that they think you might want to buy. A Faustian pact for the internet age. What will its impact be on health online?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

All 'appening for Men's Health Week

It's all coming in thick and fast now ahead of Men's Health Week which kicks off next Monday at White Hart Lane. This year's Week is all about encouraging men to get online and access quality health information. There's a free iPhone app and the Health Clicks mini-manual. All the Men's Health Week latest is on the MHF website and Twitter.