Anyone for some free Dr Who videos?

So I’m clearing out my shelves this weekend, and it has come to my attention that I have a number of Doctor Who videos from the olden days which are now redundant, since I have the DVD editions of the same stories. Having looked on eBay, there clearly isn’t much of a market in selling the things any more, and in any case that seems like a lot of hassle, so I figure it’s either give them to anyone who wants them, or throw them in the bin. So, I have 50 stories from the original series of Doctor Who to give away, and they’re yours for the cost of the postage (about £15 I reckon).

They aren’t all the stories that have come out on DVD now, since I never actually owned proper copies of some of them. Here’s a list of what’s on offer. It’s a bit of a mixed bag, but there’s some good stuff in there:

An Unearthly Child
The Daleks (Remastered)
The Edge of Destruction
The Dalek Invasion of Earth
The Rescue
The Romans
The Time Meddler
The War Machines
The Tomb of the Cybermen
The Invasion
The Mind Robber
The Seeds of Death
The Claws of Axos
The Sea Devils
Carnival of Monsters
Frontier in Space
Planet of the Daleks
The Green Death
The Ark in Space
Pyramids of Mars
The Brain of Morbius
The Deadly Assassin
Horror of Fang Rock
The Invasion of Time
The Ribos Operation
The Armageddon Factor
The Leisure Hive
The E-Space Trilogy
The Keeper of Traken
K9 & Company
The Visitation
Black Orchid
Arc of Infinity
The Five Doctors (original version)
Warriors of the Deep
Resurrection of the Daleks
The Caves of Androzani
Attack of the Cybermen
Vengeance on Varos
The Mark of the Rani
The Two Doctors
Revelation of the Daleks
Trial of a Timelord
Delta and the Bannermen
Ghost Light

Any takers?

Conference Timetable

Well now, inspired by Jennie, I thought I’d post my (insanely ambitious, probably to be completely abandoned when I get there) conference schedule for all your delectation.

Hopefully you can see my Google Calendar above this line. You’ll (obviously) need to look at the dates of conference to see what I’m on about.

Anyway, see any of you who are at any of those there.


Look! My name on a scientific paper. Woop!

That is all.

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Telephone Fundraising and Sally Morgan

The Western Morning News reports that Sally Morgan, PPC for Central Devon, sent off an angry email to Cowley Street after she received a fundraising call from the party. She is quoted as writing “Please do not employ apparatchiks to telephone me at home to tell me how well the party did in the local elections only days after I and many of my colleagues lost our seats.

She has, incidentally, since described this as “me blowing off steam to somebody in the party”, adding “I am still a parliamentary candidate. I have no argument with the party”, so it’s probably not worth blowing this out of proportion, although it does raise the question of who passed the email to the local press if she didn’t.

What I do think it’s worth commenting on is phone fundraising more generally, since I worked for a time recently for a company who do precisely this kind of work for charities (and, occasionally, the Labour party, although I was never faced with the problem of being asked to work on any campaigns for them). NB: I have never fundraised for the Lib Dems, and to the best of my knowledge, the company I worked for never has done.

In my time, I called on campaigns for several well known charities, often on upgrade campaigns. Frequently, as you might expect, I met the kind of irritable response which Sally Morgan has given here. “Why don’t you call people who don’t already give their time and effort”, “Why are you spending my money pestering me for more”, threats to cancel altogether, etc. Of course, these are all pretty good reasons to refuse, and very rarely could people be talked round.

So why do organisations bother?

Basically, because it’s still a pretty cost effective way of fundraising. I’m sure any members of the party (or of anything funded by its members, for that matter) will be familiar with mailings asking for donations, and with the ease of throwing them in the recycling with barely a second thought. Even cold calling, the returns on are pretty lean pickings. If you carefully select the numbers you call according to any data you might have to suggest that people will be better disposed to you than average people, then you might expect to get about 6% of them to say yes, if you work really pretty hard at it, and don’t take no for an answer. If you call your existing supporters, about 40% of them will say yes. It’s still hard work, and yes, half the people you talk to will give you a hard time for calling them, but at least the other 50% are nice.

Most charities and other fundraising organisations have rules forbidding them to spend money on strategies that they expect to give them a return of less than ~£3 or £4 for every £1 spent (otherwise, their donors would probably rather they spent the money on the stated aims of the organisation). Bumping up subscriptions from people they already have on board is a crucial part of this, especially since their projections of whether it’s worth spending the money to get new donors on board is often based on an assumption that they may well be able to get the person in question to increase after a couple of years. The reasons most charities set a minimum level for Direct Debits of £2 a month is that much less than that and it’s barely worth the admin cost of processing it in the first place.

Now, Sally complains that she has been called up and told that the Lib Dems are well placed for the next election, when she personally has just lost her council seat. Leaving the disentangling of the national fortunes of the Lib Dems from Sally’s own position as an exercise for the reader, how would she rather the party fundraised? Call people up and tell them “We’re going down the shitter, it’s all going to buggery, could we have more money?” Of course the party is going to be upbeat in its attempts to fundraise, because that’s what works.

And yes, sometimes campaign messages jar with people’s own individual experiences. I came across plenty of that. It’s easy, when you’ve got a script in front of you, or have been trained to get people talking about their involvement in the organisation you’re calling for, to find yourself stumbling into all sorts of areas that, in retrospect, you’d probably rather you hadn’t brought up. Try it with a few donors to cancer charities, for instance, and you’ll see what I mean. The problem is, it’s important to the chances of people donating (more) to be positive about what their money can achieve, even if their own personal experience hasn’t borne that out (and statistically, there will always be such people).

If I’m sounding very positive about this way of fundraising, then I probably ought to mention that after a few weeks working for this company, I was so depressed one Monday morning by the prospect of another week ahead of me that I quit my job that day. This is an enormously draining job to do, and the centre in London which I worked in was typical in having what my employers called “a high caller attrition rate”, with weekly training sessions for the next batch of replacements. In the end (and quite quickly, actually), the consolation of totting up how much money I had raised for the charity that day stopped being enough.

I don’t especially like this way of fundraising, I particularly don’t like the emotional blackmail that is often a part of it, and I wish it didn’t work. But at the same time, I would like to congratulate Sally Morgan for doing the right thing here, and blowing off her steam by putting her objections in writing and sending them to the person in charge, not by verbally beating up on the person at the other end of the phone (or at least, I hope she didn’t). Quite often, people would deliver the sort of tirade Sally writes in her letter to me personally, for the offense of calling a number I had been supplied by someone else.

So next time you receive a call from a fundraiser and the answer is “no” (and do always give serious consideration to your answer), politely tell them “no” (if you have the time, brighten up their day by having a nice chat to them, and tell them “no” three times, which is how many times they have been told to ask you unless you hang up or tell them your mother died yesterday), and ask for your number to be taken off the database if you don’t want to be called ever again. Be nice, wish them luck, and then, if you object to the call, write a really stinking letter to the head of fundraising for that organisation. It will do considerably more good than having a rant at the person on the phone, who, if they bothered to report your irritation to their superiors, would only be replaced by someone else.

Hat tip to Lobbydog, via Guido.

ps. I was amused by the following worldly-wise comment of one “Rob’s Uncle” on Lobbydog’s blog:

It is a well recognised weakness of the Lib Dem phone fund raising effort that the phoners know nothing about the activism, etc,. of those whom they ring.

Frankly, it’s hardly unusual not to know much about the people you are calling on telephone fundraising calls, even for upgrade campaigns. I considered myself pretty lucky if I had any information at all about the person I was calling in front of me; occasionally there was a date when they started donating. Yes, this is something the party could improve, but it’s hardly proof of their great deficiency in this regard. Often, the person calling you will not be directly from the organisation in question, but working for a company who specialise in this kind of work, like I was. Even when I was supplied with data, it could often be a few months since the database was sent to my employers, and the information was therefore not completely reliable. The caller who called Sally Morgan, even if they had information about her in front of them, almost certainly didn’t know she had lost her seat.

Of course, you could argue that the people who call councillors maybe ought to be Cowley Street apparatchiks, but the problem then is, they aren’t as experienced and well trained at phone fundraising as someone who specialises in it. Most of the callers I worked with who had been doing their job for more than a few months were bloody good at it. What tended to make them good at it was being able to hold two contradictory stances at the same time: caring deeply enough about what they were doing to put that across on the phone, and being indifferent enough not to let it get to you that many people you spoke to were just unpleasant in return.


1. I now have access to the electric internet again; my usual inconsistent pace of posting will return shortly.

2. I interviewed Vince Cable today, along with several other bloggers (see below).

3. I met several lovely fellow bloggers who I’ve not met before, including the regal Lady Mark, the owner of an excellent bag Jennie, the I’m-trying-desperately-to-resist-the-temptation-to-call-her Jo Crispy-Strips, the distinguished Mary Reid, the brilliant Alix, the lovely Helen Duffett, and of course the fluffy Millennium with his daddy Richard.

4. An evening in the pub’s always quite nice, innit?

I Have Moved… to the Stone Age

Apologies for lack of blogging lately, but I have been getting myself sorted out to move out of my parents’ house for the first time and move to London, which is a lot to get your head around, or at least it would have been if I had really thought about it until now. Unfortunately, I now find myself on my own (my housemate isn’t going to be here permanently until February) in a house with no internet (about which more in a minute).

As a result, you are reading this via the medium of the free wifi at wherever I’ve decided to go and use free wifi to post this up, having pre-writted it at 22:06 10/01/09. I expect I’m now drinking a coffee or a pint, depending what time of day it is.

So anyway, I’m now living in Camden (nice, albeit a bit trendier than really suits me), trying to do little things like clean the oven so I can cook in it, plumb in the washing machine, get a job, etc. Which has been moderately succesful so far. But when I moved down here, I thought I was going to be online by Friday 9th. Instead, when the Virgin Media chap turned up, he informed me that the cable to our house is “dead” and will have to be replaced, and guessed it would be 1-2 weeks more until I had an internet connection. Which is a bit of a pain in the arse, really, because I had been hoping to be able to use the internet to find out where stuff I wanted was, where temping agencies might be found, etc.

But it was only this evening that I realised it’s more than that. Sat here without a housemate to talk to, I felt very isolated, not because I’m sat in a house on my own (which I’ve done many times before, obviously), but, I realised, because I would usually go on the internet and watch Maron V Seder, leaf through Lib Dem Blogs, poke about Facebook or some forums, etc. In short, the internet makes up a fair chunk of the ways I socialise.

Then it occurred to me that it was somewhat bizarre to feel like I was cut off from the world. After all, before the internet existed for the use of the general public, this was the normal state of affairs. So is this a generational thing? I don’t imagine, for example, that lack of access to the internet for a couple of weeks would bother, say, my parents, anything like as much. Is this, I wonder, connected to why I’m so crap at getting reading done in my leisure time – because faced with a choice between reading and talking to people on the internet, I’m generally likely to choose the latter, with the exception of very few books.

Then again, is this a generational use of the internet thing, or just that I value time talking to other people more than many other people do? After all, at uni, where all my peers were roughly my age, I chose to keep more of my time available for just chatting over a cup of tea to friends, when I might otherwise have been sat on a million different committees, or involved in more ADC shows, or something.

Ho hum. Anyway, if you’ve read this far, you might as well write a comment. How much does it bother you when you’re cut off from the internet?

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US Election Night

Sofa and TV: Check

Several tabs in Firefox on laptop displaying various websites:
LDV’s liveblog when it arrives: Check
Maron v Seder: Check to see how their predictions went: Check
CNN Results page: Check
Political Betting: Check

Popcorn with which to enjoy the looks on the inhabitants of Fox News’s faces: Check

…yup, all set!