Cheers, Ross.

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
UK policy
A photo of the dictionaries, glossaries, and style guides I use in my writing

Last month, we lost Ross Anderson. I reacted to this by saying shit shit shit shit shit a lot, raising a glass, and deleting our Signal chat, because that’s privacy geek black humour for you.

If you do not know who Ross Anderson was, sort that, and get reading.

Ahead of a meeting, I was re-reading his work, which felt very strange with him gone, and I found this sentence he wrote that summed up his genius. It’s just one sentence in a paper full of profound insight.

It’s also a sentence which, I think, needs to be printed out in 72-point type and stuck on the walls of everyone working in UK tech policy before, during, and after the Labour transition.

It goes:

The idea that complex social problems are amenable to cheap technical solutions is the siren song of the software salesman and has lured many a gullible government department on to the rocks.

I mean, look what he did there.

He took a controversial issue at the intersection of technology, politics, and legislation, and rather than presenting it as academic word salad, he used rhythm, alliteration, and metaphor (Greek mythology, no less), and made it beautiful.

Writing well is important. Writing well, and effectively, at the intersection of technology and politics, is a discipline in and of itself. I need a basket full of style guides (above) just to keep me straight.

Writing well is also a choice; one not exercised by the authors of the dry, boring, robotic consultation documents and white papers and academic journal entries that people like me have to read every day, most of which tend to challenge your will to live.

And yet.

In the midst of all that muddle, sometimes you see a sentence like that which stops you in your tracks and you think to yourself,

cheers, Ross.

Ross’s friends and family have asked for trees to be planted in his memory. Please oblige.

The Author

I’m a UK tech policy wonk based in Glasgow. I work for an open web built around international standards of human rights, privacy, accessibility, and freedom of expression. The content and opinions on this site are mine alone and do not reflect the opinions of any current or previous team.