Slow Web

Inspired by the Slow Food and more recent Slow Science movements, I decided to go back to what I call Slow Web. Enough of real-time distractions, enough of noisy notifications, enough of crappy web 2.0 "services" telling me intimate things about people I do not even know. Back to real reflexions, interesting discussions and passionate serendipity. In plain old HTML.

I thought about it for a while and my year in Japan will be the perfect timing to switch:

  • 8 hours timezone lap with France and US, less real-time distractions ;
  • about 2 hours a day of transports to just think, disconnected ;
  • back to a salary job with less peripheral concerns.

Here is what I did to slow down my attention and bring back my reflexion. Let me be clear, this is not a guide, just a testimony:

  1. Deleting all accounts with time consuming notifications. LinkedIn is the perfect example, after a couple of messages I realized that all propositions were just bullshit and that you need to know people to find interesting jobs, not contacts.
  2. Reopening an aggregating system with few quality blogs remaining after the micro-reflexion crisis. I thought that Twitter, the human sourced aggregator was enough but the signal vs. noise ratio is too bad even with a restrictive follow policy.
  3. Forcing me to write articles. By forcing I mean taking the time to aggregate some thoughts and links to try to summarize my vision on the topic, not just transmitting/retweeting links without any context nor deep reflexion.
  4. Finding a good setup. My 11" MacBook Air associated with Sublime Text 2 in Distraction Free Mode looks to be perfect. At the technical level, I just use a repository to store my writings generated in static, portable, almost perennial, troll proof HTML. This will be a one-page blog, be ready to scroll (and to link anchors).

At the end of the day, the quality you produced matters. Be part of that Web and share the love :-).

As a side note, I’m trying to write in English to force me to express myself with that language, please email me if there are mistakes. Same apply for Japanese, if any.

PS: there will be no comments at all on this space but discussions are much more appreciated and manual trackbacks will be added, just find a place to publish. Don’t let me be responsible of your data, please!

Summer 2011, Arles

Geeks are paranoid

Because they/we are control freaks. And that’s the root of a lot of issues because geeks are creating and implementing systems for people who are not obsessed by pixel perfect rendering, exact version numbers or strongly typed stuff (Wait there are statuses between male and female, how can I implement that?! A FREE text field? Crazy you.). Let me saying it out loud: PEOPLE JUST DON’T CARE.

This idea leads me to consider a very system familiar: the human body. Actually that’s one of the most complex systems that you can study very easily, try to enhance, feed randomly, drug at best. And that’s why I’m not surprised that more and more geeks I know are starting to do sports regularly (OK, at first it’s for the beer-effect phenomenon but then...), trying to figure out how that system works and finally control it. Of course. It’s interesting to compare running (the sport!) programs and Scrum’s process for instance, an iterative way to improve yourself in one sense.

A lot of geeks are over-equipped (including me, I confess) because of that psychotic frenzy, thinking that you can only achieve yourself when all the environment is at his best. This is not about consumerism or having a better one than your neighbor, it’s probably more about ego actually: I deserve the best to accomplish myself. Somehow it’s wrong but so reassuring and challenging in the meantime because you have to give the best of yourself in this configuration :-).

But trying to control an open system is pure utopia and it will only bring frustration. This frustration is turned into pessimism about society, human nature and so on. The only solution is to let it go, to rise above (do not stress, this parenthesis will never be closed but it’s a possibility and it’ll not make that world better nor worse, just breathe, no problem. You don’t know if that sentence is still in the parenthesis but that’s still OK. Relax.

Should we try to heal that mental disease? Good question. In one hand it standardizes the Worl^W^Web at an incredible pace with that control obsession in mind. On the other, the control must be performed in a perfect way and it slows down the process with endless discussions and countless standards. It’s always a matter of cursor. What about you?

Summer 2011, Arles

Feeds

Most of the feedback about that page was about the missing RSS feed. I got two technical remarks about that: as you probably noticed there is no date associated with posts and a feed requires one I was wrong, the pubDate element of an RSS feed is optional, I wonder how RSS tools deal with that and freshness though. Secondly, HTML 5 adds some (poor) semantic through tags (article, section, etc) so I wonder why we still need to duplicate the information in a feed while it already exists. You are just reading some kind of content feed with that page, interpreted by your browser.

Now let’s consider a juridic point of view, the license for that page will probably be (still undecided):

Creative Commons: Attribution, Noncommercial and No Derivative Works.

BUT, those conditions are far from being enough, you need to explain what you mean by Attribution or people will just put an hidden link somewhere or worse your name without any link and same apply with Noncommercial: is Google’s indexation a commercial use of my content with their contextual ads? What if your aggregator displays ads on top of my feed? What do you consider as a Derivative Work? Is an extract a derivative?

The real question about feeds is: Do I want to be eaten by robots? Not yet. And I’m seriously considering the deindexation of that page from search engines too.

PS: this page has only been announced on Twitter so you’re probably following me and will be notified for new content that way, at least for now! I agree that it’s not really Slow Web compatible, just keep that tab opened if you’re an extremist :p

Summer 2011, Arles

OpenData contests

This article is a follow up of a discussion with Olivier after the OpenDataGarage event which took place in Marseilles last July. After the excellent keynote of Simon we were wondering if those contests are finally useful for citizens.

Most of the contests are arguing that it allows data openers to have apps for a minimal investment. Ok. Let’s try to find who’s fooled in that contest? Extract from the Apps for democracy website:

The first edition of Apps for Democracy yielded 47 web, iPhone and Facebook apps in 30 days - a $2,300,000 value to the city at a cost of $50,000.

2 million dollars. Incredible ROI, right? But it means that app developers worked for that amount of money without getting a penny back. And developers are citizens. At least for now because that’s my second point.

One of the argument of that kind of contest is to develop local economy. But after a few contests this is not true anymore, most apps being reused across cities/countries: if you did an app for Ottawa public transports, will it be easier to adapt it to Paris or to write it from scratch?

Last but not least, most of the created apps during those contests are not maintained because the business model was just to win the first prize and it’s of course not viable for the 47 involved companies (note that even the first prize is probably not enough to be profitable given the time spent building the app).

How can we encourage innovation and creativity with released open data? First let’s ask citizens, I really like the way Ubuntu is involving users through their Brainstorm and Neighborland has a nice UI too. Once you’re sure to have potential users, be collaborative with other developers, raw data often requires to be refined to standard formats and that’s a boring/repetitive task. Third, start to innovate to build your awesome AND viable app. This is the only win-win scenario, there will probably be less apps at the end but more useful to citizens. We can even imagine a business model based on citizens’ donations based on a relevant idea if there aren’t enough potential users. We should not focus on OpenData apps but on OpenData communities. I want MyMajorCompany’s concept applied to OpenData apps’ development. Communities will drive local development, nothing else.

Summer 2011, Arles

Noosphere

Bernard Werber introduced that concept to me in his Encyclopedia, the noosphere is the "sphere of human thought", it’s about ideas emerging in the meantime but in different places. With the Web, this is not anymore a matter of physical places but this phenomenon still happens.

For example my latest article about OpenData contests has been written after 2 months of reflexion/maturation but I discovered that Hubert Guillaud wrote a similar article the same day with ideas from articles written those 2 last months that I wasn’t aware of. Coincidence? I don’t think so ;-).

I’m convinced that Twitter is a new step, some kind of neonoosphere, where the physical distance between places has turned to a social distance related to followers’ circles. Twitter is somehow the feed of human thought (about the "human" part, I’m a bit skeptical though, I’d love to know the ratio of content generated by bots on Twitter). It means that from an era of relatively slow confrontation of ideas we can turn this in an era of real-time collaboration. This is the theory.

With geofences, the concept developed by Flickr (see their researches for interfaces), something interesting is happening: the concept of digital neighbor BUT in a physical space, a way to combine both approaches.

Our history is a perpetual local/global/local circle, I think we’re currently going from global to local but this "local" is not anymore a matter of physical space. And in the meantime this digital local has a growing influence on our physical world: coworking spaces based on affinities, local food by digital cooperation, web conferences encouraging proximity and so on. This is terribly exciting.

Summer 2011, Arles

Replacement

I’m reading The 100 thing challenge book while doing my luggage for Japan and it’s quite inspiring:

We buy things year after year, over and over again, in our pursuit of contentment. It has been my impression that these days, replacement is emblematic of our dreams more than ownership. This is a curiosity, for it is by endlessly acquiring the right things that we measure our distance from the good life. We are always getting, but never getting there.

We are not anymore bound to objects, the beauty of an hand-made unique piece, the more we can do is being devoted to a brand. But that’s not the same, it implies to get the latest object from that brand, again and again, replacement as a way of life. Consumerism at best.

Doing your luggage for a whole year is very different from doing it for holidays. You have to make choices about what you bring, what you keep, what you give, what you just trash. I decided to give as much as I can and to reduce what I keep to the minimum. If I’m not bringing it, who know if it’ll be useful a year from now? In this configuration, it’s hard to think at some things as "I’ll never buy that article again because it’s useless" vs. "I’ll replace it with a better/different one when I’ll be back". After all, if I didn’t miss it for a year, is that really useful? How tempting is it to start a new consumer life? Buying the latest replaced product :-).

Ironically, we’re ourselves more than ever afraid of being replaced, as a husband, as a father, as an employee, as a client and so on. This leads to stress and our relations and lives are totally changed by that replacement approach. Is there any alternative? Contributors, not consumers, are what the twenty first century needs.

Summer 2011, Arles

Dequiring

I finished The 100 thing challenge’s book before leaving France and I’m not convinced that’s the way I want to refrain myself.

Having 100 things but replacing those regularly is still consumerism and your challenge is just an alibi. I propose an alternative to it or maybe more a complement: the "aquire only x things per month" challenge where "x" is personal. Because there is a marketing issue here, let’s call it The Dequiring Challenge (yes, I love neologisms). This approach focuses on quality and perenniality of your things while encouraging minimalism and reflexion.

From now on I’ll experiment that challenge, starting with x=3 this month (November). I have no idea how hard it will be given that I’m still discovering my new life in Japan and being continuously tempted by Japanese gadgets! Anyway, I’ll keep you posted on twitter.

My dequiring challenge log:

November 2011
  1. Foldable bag to avoid plastic ones
  2. Lightweight hat for hiking this winter
  3. Barefoot shoes for running/trailing/hiking
December 2011
  1. A classy pull-over with hot underwears
  2. A visor to have more options when I run/trail
  3. Scissors for homemade hair-cut
  4. Christmas gifts: a belt, two caps, running gloves
January 2012
  1. A classy black trousers
  2. A polar vest
  3. Foldable chopsticks
February 2012
  1. Speakers
  2. Bag dedicated to trail
  3. A camera
  4. Valentine’s gift: a japanese bauble, a towel
March 2012
  1. 2 pairs of minimalist shoes for road & trail running
  2. A leather jacket
  3. A lightweight sleeping bag
April 2012
  1. A lightweight hammock
  2. A light polar vest
  3. Diving glasses
  4. Birthday gift: a camera lense
May 2012
  1. A shirt
  2. Cool biz shoes
  3. Recovery legging
June 2012
  1. A longsleeves running shirt
  2. A longsleeves comfort shirt
  3. Cardio watch
July 2012
  1. A pink polo
  2. A classy t-shirt
  3. A funny t-shirt
August 2012
  1. An hiking bermuda
  2. A rain jacket
Autumn 2011, Tokyo

Contents vs. Streams

I’m often asked — as a data/privacy freak — why I use Twitter daily. To me Twitter isn’t about contents but streams and it changes it all: the value is the freshness of the information and the speed of the reactions, not the content in itself.

I even created a script, a long time ago, to keep only recent tweets (maintained and completed by Olivier) because in one hand I don’t want a public history of that kind of discussions and the interest of a stream drops very fast with time. Things I tweeted 1 month ago are probably irrelevant/useless now. If Twitter dies tomorrow, I’ll regret it for daily discussions/informations, but not for the log in itself.

Of course, it might have been better: decentralized for instance. The problem isn’t decentralized discussions but decentralized notifications. How to be able to aggregate all reactions in one place for a better reader experience? Trackbacks were a fiasco because of spam, because there isn’t any network of trust yet. That’s a huge unresolved issue for the Web.

Another problem is universality: you need to create an account to take part of the discussion and that’s the most annoying part to me, some people I want to interact with are not part of the closed system. Again, there is a lack of notifications too, I can’t easily cc messages to an email address or a cell phone number.

It might have been worse too. Hopefully this platform will remain independent but I doubt about that, sooner or later a Big One™ will buy this toy and kill it. And we’ll get back to IRC, as always :-).

Autumn 2011, Tokyo

Barefoot

There are two distinct things behind this term: a running technique that can be applied whatever the shoes (but democratized by barefoot runners) and the fact to actually run (almost) barefoot.

The running technique (mid-step, no extension, etc) is well described on numerous websites. I’d like to focus on the experience to run barefoot. My first impression was how silent it is to run with minimalist shoes (I didn’t opted for real barefoot for now), you rediscover the sounds of your environment, you approach animals and people without any annoyance, I even kept my respiration for a while to be totally silent :D

The second sensation is of course the one you have with the soil, from roads to trails, you can feel whatever you’re walking/running to. Choosing each and every step placement is fun, jumping like an animal from places to places, back to ancient instincts, barefoot running really changed my approach of running and hiking, more focused on sensations. It can potentially hurt but, being more careful, you can avoid any injury related to that quite rapidly. There are surfaces more critical than others but the same apply whatever the shoes, remember that the articulation of your foot is way closer to the soil and thus limits risks.

I started all this as an experiment, because experimenting on your own body is probably the more exciting thing you can do, and I know that I’ll not look back for a while. This is all about sensations and (feeling of) freedom.

PS: note that you must start slowly, whatever your current running experience, it’ll take months to develop muscles in your foot. That’s frustrating, because you know that your body can continue but your calf just can’t. I had to stop running for 3 days because of my lack of humility, don’t make the same mistake ;-).

Autumn 2011, Tokyo

Projection

I realized lately, alone by night in an onsen (hot Japanese spa: best place ever for introspection), that I don’t have projects anymore. No geek related project, no photography project, no career project, not even sportive project. Ultimate freedom or lost wandering? Hard to say for now.

Ironically, I tried the opposite approach a few years ago, by infatuating my mind with video games, useless projects and events. It worked quite well to stop thinking for a time but on the other side you feel always exhausted and it’s really hard to keep that pace of very short nights…

That’s an interesting moment in my life, partly motivated by my decision to move from my comfortable home. Japan influences me in that way, it’s a good place to stop taking care of a lot of things (security, food, etc). Next steps? Nothingness, detachment and compassion to use Zen’s vocabulary. Shibumi, Iki and Wabi-sabi to use Japanese words that I don’t fully understand yet :-).

Autumn 2011, Tokyo

Jetlag

A few advices when you have to travel around the world to adapt your body to another timezone faster:

  • do not think about your old time and even try to anticipate if possible (getting up earlier or try to stay awake later) ;
  • take your meals at the new lunch times, as big as you can the first day, your body will be used to that new cycle ;
  • expose your body to the sun (or at least lights) during days at your new location, here you can anticipate too darkening your room the day before you leave ;
  • be exhausted, something I experimented for ParisWeb and that worked pretty well: it allows you to sleep in the plane (depends on your level of excitation and arrival time of course) ;
  • do not go to sleep before it’s night at your new location, it’s hard but it’s a good investment, trust me ;
  • on the contrary, if you can’t sleep on the evening, do sport as much as you can and then watch the most boring thing you can find on the TV at your hotel ;
  • take care of what you drink, coffee and tea are well known for their properties. Drink water, a lot. Alcohol can make you sleepy in the plane but I prefer to be dressed warmly.

Still to be tested: Anti-Jet-Lag Diet, even if I’m a bit skeptical about that idea. Any feedback?

Autumn 2011, Tokyo

Centralizing

I’m thinking about that for years now and the recent issues with the APINC motivated my laziness to regroup all my digital identities to a unique domain name: larlet.fr

Creating both a single point of failure, but also a single point of trust: domain and DNS managed via Gandi and files hosted via Alwaysdata because they care so much about their clients and innovative technologies.

Here will be the URI (this is still a huge work in progress, I’m so happy to have kept so many pages static!), all will of course be redirected:

  • / dispatching between members of the family
  • /david/ the page of my identity (FOAF and so on)
  • /david/biologeek/ the content of biologeek.com, probably as static html
  • /david/pro/ the content of welldev.fr
  • /david/code/ the content of welldev.org
  • /david/thoughts/ the content of larlet.com
  • /david/media/ the content of photocos.me because Alexandre Buisse convinced me to publish photographs again
  • /anakin/ (my black cat) and /yoda/ (my bonsaï) maybe one day :D

Another big news is the switch to HTTPS only for the whole domain, something I’d like to do for a while is now becoming way easier/cheaper with a unique domain. It was way easier to set up than I imagined and I encourage you to do so: being sure of your source of information is so important (note that Gandi is offering an SSL certificate for each domain name). It will allow me to test WebID for real too.

I’m also working on a new design to unify a bit all those pages with a topbar ala Twitter or Google. This is far from being finished, this is more a test actually and I’m still thinking about the mobile adaptation of both the navigation and the design. I’m trying new fonts served by Typekit, using the Abril Text and Abril Fatface ones.

Those days, I try to focus on aesthetic, minimalism and links. Not only for this website but as a way of life. Drop me a line if you have any suggestion.

Winter 2011, Tokyo

Healthy

I decided to do some sport about a year ago, mainly to be able to complete a trek in Corsica that I dreamt of for years.So at first it was just about having enough muscles and endurance but the more I trained, the more I actually enjoyed it!

First your motivation is essential, you need a goal. And even with a goal, there are chances that you’ll fail because sport is boring at the beginning. Really. And it hurts. And it takes time. You don’t need motivation but abnegation for the first 2-3 months. How to achieve that painful process?

  • start small: but often, 420 minutes per week is better than 330 minutes, it prevents injuries too ;
  • routine: decide rules with yourself, like "I’ll go running 3 times that week whatever happens" (and by whatever I mean weather, family, laziness, etc) ;
  • diversity: try to mix various sports during the week, running, hiking, biking, swimming, anything that motivates you ;
  • everywhere: you can always use your environment to do sport, from stopping to take lift/escalator to making tractions during your daily commute in the train, there is always a way to use that time efficiently.

During those first months, you’ll learn a lot about you. I learned to breath, to drink, to eat, to stretch, to rest. Sometimes with advices, most of the time the hard way though. Probably because I did all the process alone, it can be interesting to do that with a group or a friend but I know that I better listen to (and motivates) me when I’m alone. YMMV.

  • breath: it’s all about rythm, that’s the first thing you learn and ironically that’s the last thing you need to improve, if you still have problems with respiration after a few iterations, you probably try to start too fast. Reduce your pace, there is no problem at being slow. Focus on endurance first.
  • drink: regularity, regularity and regularity. My rule is: one little mouthful every 10 minutes if you run, 20 minutes if you walk. You can drink less but your performances will drop very quickly if you are deshydrated, it’s up to you ! Adapt to the weather but remember that you always emit water so hydration is not an option.
  • eat: regularity, regularity and ok you start to understand :-) My rule is: one mouthful every 30 minutes. Never too much or your performances will drop too (forget about big meals during a picnic when only half of the hike is done for example).
  • stretch: I’m still learning a lot in this domain, from my experience you can hardly plan a sportive event on many days without stretching. Since my barefoot transition it’s essential to stretch my calves many time a day but that’s a bit extreme.
  • rest: if you’re exhausted at the end of the week you’re doing it wrong (or you’re not training anymore), you know if you’re not over-training if you can repeat your iterations for 4 weeks without pain (nor injuries!). It’s OK to feel your muscles but plan days for recuperation.

Note: when I talk about performances, it’s about enjoying your iteration and it totally depends on the context, adapt to your situation, it’s different when I go hiking with family vs. trailing alone for instance.

Do not think that gaining muscles is fast, it’s not. If you focus on muscles, go to a gym club and eat a lot of proteins. That’s not my motivation. What I love about sport is enjoying the nature and reaching places that looked inacessible a year ago. There is some kind of animal instinct too when you’re jumping from stone to stone, it’s hard to describe but you "feel" to be part of your environment and you start to see previously "hidden" things. I met a lot of unusual animals during my runs:

  • a chamois in the Luberon, I was in a descent full of rocks, he was jumping to go up. We both stoped at 6 meters and stared each others for a couple of seconds, astonished (it’s not usual to see a chamois there so I was probably the more suprised!) ;
  • a fox crossing an alpine ibex crossing a marmot crossing… me, under an hailstorm, totally surrealist scene in the Alps ;
  • a tanuki today at the Meiji Jingu Shrine, between Shinjuku and Shibuya (two of the most crowded places of Tokyo, and probably the world), I was very surprised to see an almost wild animal there of that size given the thousands of people processioning at that place 3 weeks ago for the new year celebration.

Besides that, I learned to eat less fatty food (so hard when you work from home) and drink way less alcohol. Both leads to an annihilation of performances :D

A japanese told me last month that I looked healthy. I smiled.

Winter 2011, Tokyo

Layers

There has been a lot of frustration lately about layered systems in computer science and especially the Web.

First with HTTP layers and the creation of ql.io:

Engineering clocks slow down because developers need to account for dependencies between API calls, and to arrange those calls to optimize overall latency. Implementing orchestration logic involves multi-threaded fork-join code, leads to code bloat, and distracts from the main business use case that the developer is striving to support.

With architecture layers too and the cost of load-balancing techniques and their complexity:

And really the frustrating part is there seems to have been no headway on any of this stuff in a decade. Same old open source options, same old techniques.

And finally with operating systems layers and the way they’ve originally been developped:

You program in a dynamic language, that runs on a JVM, that runs on a OS designed 40 years ago for a completely different purpose, that runs on virtualized hardware. Does this make sense?

Now, if we go one step further, what about data layers? When you think about it, nowadays the data displayed to the end-user has been processed a crazy number of times! Let’s take the example of an architecture with a backend API and a classic SQL database:

  • from disk to database ;
  • from database to language object (ORM) ;
  • from language object to JSON ;
  • from JSON to language object ;
  • from language object to HTML.

And I’m oversimplifying here, your data is probably denormalized with parts from cache in memory, your HTML interacts dynamically with your data through JavaScript and so on. All this has a cost: development, maintenance, performances, hosting, bandwith, etc.

Now imagine that you can remove those layers. From Boot to Gecko to CouchApp, we are not that far of getting rid of some big layers in fact. Think about that today: what can I do to reduce the number of layers of my project? Degrowth applied to computer science (Plain Old HTML is valid too ;-)).

Winter 2011, Tokyo

Books

You maybe noticed that I’m not mentioning books on my dequiring challenge log, that’s because I’m not considering stories as things you can own.

To me a book, digital or not, is just a representation of a story, a way to transmit a message. I consider myself as a node when I got a book: I listen to the story and then I try to transmit it to a friend, like an interesting link shared on the Web. I don’t care about the physical book in itself, I don’t get any particular attachment to dead trees.

That being said, I’m really concerned that a story can be lost. Of course a lot of stories are lost every days by lack of transmission, that’s what I call the Darwinism applied to collective knowledge. We can’t log and/or remember every story and the less transmitted ones disappear.

The network of stories transmitted by books is acentered, like the Web. That’s a way to preserve knowledge, even if a node fails to transmit the story, there will be another way to find it. This is no longer the case with digital libraries which store stories in a centralized way, nodes are getting way too big and it’s really dangerous. Some are even considering disconnecting totally their nodes from the current network (I’m looking at you Apple!).

If a node of that kind disapears, a lot of stories will be lost. Once and for all. This is not the first time in history but it’s really sad that it still happens now that we have the technology to avoid it. Put your digitalized stories on the Web if you care about their perenialty.

Winter 2011, Tokyo

SSL

A few people asked me why I switched to HTTPS only on this domain. First about the only, that’s because knowing both the plain text and the encrypted text eases a cryptographic attack by comparison. Now about SSL’s pros and cons:

Please read the follow-up of this article about HTTPS, this thought contains mistakes.

Pros

  • privacy: any intermediary between you and my server will not be able to analyze the content you read because the message is encrypted, only the URI (meaningful, SEO-oriented URIs can be a threat for your users’ privacy, did you ever thought about that?) ;
  • security: any intermediary between you and my server will not be able to alter the content you read, this is not exactly true though but way better than nothing ;
  • identity: this is a requirement to play with WebID, to be able to log in and to exchange critical data with the third-party website (that information’s workflow part is what differs conceptually from BrowserID).

Cons

  • performances: the negotiation at each request takes time, enough time to be a problem on mobile apps (or low connection access). Furthermore, I can’t have a subdomain for my assets without paying more and thus you had to send cookies for statics too, which impacts performances ;
  • one more point of failure: if your Certificate Authority (CA) is down, the user will not be able to view your website in a secure manner (same as HTTP + browser error) ;
  • price: it costs me 16$/year without taxes and I had to remember to update it each year or browsers will raise a certificate error too. Moreover, your web hosting need to be compatible (for instance I had to pay 66$/year more for an IP address on my mutualized server).

That being said, is it worth it? Well, I do think so because I consider this domain as my digital identity but I understand that it can be overkill for the current content. This is an investment for the future.

Winter 2011, Tokyo

Fear

I realized lately that French people are afraid. And that’s why they are so arrogant and embittered.

Afraid of theft, afraid of being involved in a fight, afraid of loosing their job, afraid of being injured/rapted, afraid of the police(!), or just afraid of being fooled. It creates a very nasty environment to live in, a vicious circle of rejection of the others leading to all kinds of extremisms. The constant attention required by fear consumes a lot of useless energy. People are exhausted and they don’t even realize why.

Let’s compare this situation to Japan. Of course. In Japan, the level of trust (I prefer that word vs. security or safety) is so high that you can even lost money and find it back. When you put your bag somewhere, you’re 99% sure to find it at the exact same place hours later (the remaining 1% is due to tourists :p). You’re never afraid of wandering by night. No one will ever tried to fool you when you stand in line for a restaurant or an exposition. So relaxing that you can’t believe it without actually living it. It sounds incredible and it shouldn’t be.

And yet, there are a lot of reason to be afraid in Japan, from natural to not-so-natural-anymore events you can hardly consider this country as a safe place. Japanese tends to adopt a pragmatic approach to this (may I say phlegmatic?) because nothing can be made against it, there is even a word for that!

So why do we — frenchies — inflict that mutual fear to us? Alternatives do exist. It’s up to you, to me, to us.

Winter 2011, Tokyo

Standards

People are complaining about the W3C’s standardization process for years. Is it a fatality?

First things first, when I share a link on Twitter I try to quote the interesting part, the one that reflects my point of view. Most of the time it’s not the whole article otherwise I had to write it :D. That’s what happened with the link to Dustin Curtis’ article lately, note that I didn’t quote the sensational:

The reason the -webkit prefix was necessary is simple: the W3C and the CSS Working Group are ineffective, failed organizations.

On standards, what interest me is that simple question: is it possible to establish a consensual standard faster? After all that’s the main criticism toward the W3C. Standards take times for 3 reasons:

  • endless discussions: some thread are real caricatures of trolls, I sadly quit the WebID group for this ;
  • lack of involvement: probably because the standardization process looks boring from a developer point of view ;
  • politics: that’s the tough one, from egos to economical interests, objectivity is for sissies.

The chairman has the role to put an end to endless discussions, that’s difficult but necessary. On the other side discussion is a requirement to consensus and the line between troll and well-founded reasoning is thin and not the same for all participants. I don’t know how to address the lack of involvement issue, maybe a way to collect web developers needs at a higher level can motivate future participations, a lot can be done in this area. Remains politics, diversity is the only regulator to fight against extremisms and mono-cultural approaches, not sure that it speeds up the process though. To answer my own question and please take the time to think about it too: it’s hardly possible. But I’d love to be proven wrong by W3C’s haters.

Jacob Kaplan-Moss asked:

Let’s say that Mozilla and Microsoft both sign onto WebKit and ship it in their browsers. How would that hurt the web?

It will not hurt the Web, it will not accelerate the pace of standardization/innovation either, the discussion will just move from W3C’s to Webkit’s mailing-lists and innovation to new proprietary layers on top of Webkit. The W3C is a Consortium, a group of people (mostly representing implementors) discussing how to build things in a standardized way to ease implementation for us: web developers. Opposing implementors and W3C is a nonsense, they are the core of the W3C.

W3C should stand for World Wide Web Community too and that’s the current problem, web developers are not enough involved in those discussions and thus are frustrated because they don’t understand the standardization’s process. We are the Web, we must be part of the W3C.

Winter 2011, Tokyo

HTTPS

I was almost totally wrong on my previous article about SSL so here are corrections thanks to Alexandre Alapetite and Vincent Bernat.

About privacy: the connexion is established via an IP address and port only (that’s why I need a dedicated one by the way). So your URLs, as meaningful as they could be, are not a threat as I previously stated.

About costs: you can get a free certificate via StartSSL or CAcert, in my case I prefer to trust my registar (Gandi) which provides a free one too. I know that I’ll have some support if I get into any trouble and it’s easier to manage domain name, DNS and certificates in one place.

About security: activating SSL is not enough, you have to take care of the configuration too. SSLlabs is an interesting tool to check that and the result for this website is not that good… if I was on a dedicated server. AlwaysData told me that they are aware of those issues and got protections against that, some evolutions are planned to improve that part.

About performances: you have to take care of caching more aggressively because browsers will consider that resources will not always be cacheable by default. On the other hand, the size of the key you use is crucial for the latency during the negotiation of the SSL connexion, mine is 2048 bits (best compromise) but Google for instance choose a 1024 one to speed up the process (less secure though but security is always a trade-off, Mozilla and Microsoft updated their policies a year ago on that topic).

About point of failure: if your Certificate Authority is down, it will probably be ignored considering you’re on a captive portal (which leads to issues with certificates’ revocation, read the article for the whole story).

That’s what I love about bloging, learning new things when I write something on a subject, being proven wrong, discussing, iterating. Never hesitate to send me an email if I’m wrong. I must confess that I learned almost all my computer science knowledge while helping people on IRC and writing blog posts. Sharing is learning.

Winter 2011, Tokyo

Caring

A follow-up of my precedent article about Fear.

Olivier Thereaux reacted briefly on Twitter:

societies tend to fear the other more when differentiation (and inequality) are inflated. Class, sex, race, nationality… case in point, the Japanese fear neighboring countries, foreigners. etc. Just not each other, cos jp is still very homogeneous.

There were a few reactions on the extract published by Laurent Gloaguen (in French) too.

There is another aspect of Japan I need to discuss related to respect and trust. The concentration of people in Tokyo leads to that daily routine, everybody feeling "connected" with their smartphone and thus ignoring their environment and their neighbors, looks familiar? But, if anyone has any trouble, there is a huge difference in the astonishing devotion to fix it. I saw a person running to give a glove to another person running to give that glove to another person running to catch up a bike with the owner of the missing glove 60 meters away. Wow! This is just an example, I’ll not report the dozen of time Japanese people proposed to accompany us to the location we initially asked for help to find a place.

The act of caring is so developed that they even created a complementary currency based on that to help seniors called fureai kippu: a way to exchange hours of service to an elderly person from one family to an other.

What can we learn from that? First, when everybody is playing the game, it works. Second, beyond the fact of helping others, there is the one to feel concerned by the work of others (which for instance results in a cleaner city, really no one is eating in the street or littering whatever). Third, it creates an implicit solidarity to fight against adversity, it’s incredibly reassuring, even more being a foreigner. Fourth, barter can work at large scale and that’s a good reminder those days.

Winter 2011, Tokyo

Exercising

Each sportsman asks himself — and is often being asked — why does he inflict that to his body? Here are my personal reasons.

First, I’m close to 30 and about a year ago I realized that my body was way older, I wasn’t able to complete a hike without being really tired with aches for a week. It was very hard to accept it and I made the choice to change my sedentary way of life (working from home for 3 years has physical consequences). I consider that I did half of the pathway and that’s extremely rewarding to reach that point!

Second, I want to be prepared for tough times. Not that I’m particularly afraid of the future but I can smell that something is "evolving" and I want to be ready, both physically and mentally to… well… mind the gap. As a result, I didn’t feel sick for a year after 2 winters (maybe biased by face masks for the last 6 months in Japan but we live for one month in a very cold^W^Japanese apartment) .

Third, it reconnects me to my environment, that’s why I refuse to run with music or any sports’ app yelling my distance and time each kilometer. I use that time to discover my city, to observe people, to listen to the nature, to just think and to stop thinking. Willingly. It offers me the time to make thoughtful decisions too.

Besides all that, it’s all about feeling good. I’m not talking about endorphins here (even if it’s obvious that it’s stimulating too), but more about the sensations you can have when you take pleasure to do it. This weekend I was running in a snowy trail and I felt the same sensation that I had a few years ago while snowboarding, a combination of speed and flight and suffering and happiness.

I feel lighter, healthier, slower, stronger. Alive.

Recommended book: Sun and Steel by Yukio Mishima, merci Karl.

Winter 2011, Tokyo

Theorem

Inspired by the CAP theorem, my own experience shows that it is impossible for a web enthusiast to simultaneously obtain all three of the following guarantees:

  • Fun: technically and humanly
  • Ethic: self-accomplishment and generosity
  • Profit: sustainability and extras

According to the theorem, a web project can satisfy any two of these guarantees at the same time, but not all three.

Discuss.

Addendum: if you only have one, it’s time to find a new job.

Winter 2011, Tokyo

Traceability

A few months ago I wrote:

the value [of the stream] is the freshness of the information and the speed of the reactions, not the content in itself [because] the interest of a stream drops very fast with time.

It appears that Twitter found another value in this stream based on trends and customers’ satisfaction dedicated to marketing, they sold their Firehose to DataSift and Gnip since July 2011 in order to make money and I can perfectly understand that. It could have been worse.

This anecdote reminded me that I worked for a company 5 years ago dedicated to traceability (in laboratories) and that there are many levels, from macro to micro, to make stories from data. Besides that, I realized that a lot of information contained in tweets are personal (from place to time to context and so on) and will be used on an individual bases. This is just a matter of time.

Given that I rewrote my script (no maintenance, no support, just DBAD) to keep tweets in text files and delete originals from Twitter. I control the meta information I keep and the one I want to share publicly. Take care of your webprints.

Spring 2012, Kyoto

Cleverness

In his book Introduction à la pensée complexe published in 1990 (thank you Thomas!), Edgard Morin opposed the car to the human body as an example of an auto-organized system: the former composed by perfect elements that results in single points of failure of the whole, the latter made of lousy elements resulting in an auto-regenerating system.

I think we reached that point on the Web with the cloud and all fail-over mechanisms we have now. We don’t spend time setting up perfect components but rather try to create the more auto-regenerating architecture, this is an important shift in the way we shape our services.

The next step is to make those parts speaking one to each other, without a centralized monitoring component to rely on. The communication in our body is a peer-to-peer system, not that far from the original Web architecture after all.

Do not fight against failure, learn to deal with it. Cleverness is about adaptability, not perfection.

Spring 2012, Hakone

Communities

Note: this article is a summary of my 12 minutes talk at djangocong.

I’m in Japan for 7 months now and I thought that the harder times would have been to deal with the distance from family and friends. Actually, it’s not. Because those people can take a plane or give a Skype call, what is difficult is to be far from your communities.

A community is a group of people (cum) sharing something (munus), this is all about sharing a common good and interacting with the other members of the group. I think we can go a bit further in that definition adding the notions of vision and values associated to that group. During that time in Japan I realized how important communities are, not only to interact with but because they define yourself. Your personal story is the sum of all interactions you have with your communities. (Warning: if you’re only defining yourself with one community, it’s probably a sect.)

Initially, you probably started to ask for help as your first contact with the Django community but that was an transient state to both increase your knowledge and know cultural codes of this particular community, to be able to communicate, to feel part of it and to give your knowledge back. Unfortunately some people never reach that point and I think that it has to do with the size of the community. I highly recommend the reading of Clay Shirky, A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy on this topic:

And, finally, you have to find a way to spare the group from scale. Scale alone kills conversations, because conversations require dense two-way conversations.

I identified 5 ranges of sizes from my own experience:

  • 1-5 people → Reflexion: thinkers, they share the same values (conflicts are very destructive in such a tiny group) and decide of the vision. This is the same schema as in a startup.
  • 6-15 people → Action: doers, they agree with the overall vision and feel emulated by the capacities of other members. This is the same schema as in a team (see Daniel Herrero’s keynote for the importance of 15 team mates in Rugby).
  • 16-50 people → Interaction: talkers, they like the initial vision and they can talk endlessly about it but nothing concrete is actually done. This is the same schema as in a non-profit association.
  • 51-500 people → Consumption: consumers, they don’t try to understand the vision, they are here for themselves. This is the same schema as in a company.
  • 501 people and more → Presence: attendees, they don’t even know about the vision, they are here because they have to. This is the same schema as in an administration.

Those figures may seem extreme and too precise, that’s of course an approximation of the different patterns I identified. I’m not saying here that all participants from a group of more than 50 people are consumers, that’s just the limit where you start to see people joining the community with that profile (going to an event to look for a job, joining an IRC channel to finish a project, etc).

Given those sizes, determine your involvement in each of your communities. Does it define what you would really like to be? Should you focus a bit more on this community? Is your help still valuable in this other? Your interactions with those communities evolve with time because you’re evolving too. There is no shame about that, just be clear on what you’re trying to do. This is all about communication, be honest with others, with yourself.

Let’s focus on Djangocong, given the growing popularity year after year and the lack of new seats, it has been stated as an elitist event. I understand that it can be considered like that from an external point of view even if I regret it but that’s the price of the conviviality you can’t achieve with consumers. The solution is as obvious as the original title of the conference: Les rencontres Django. Why is there only one event with such a title? Go on, create your own (local) event and benefit from the help of the community. You’re already a talker, level up and become a doer!

One thing I learned in Japan, is the importance of the group on behalf of the individual and how it can transcend a society. We should think a bit more about that in our more and more individualistic societies.

Spring 2012, Montpellier

Training

When you are a geek and you discover a system as complex as your own body, you’re highly tempted to experiment with its capabilities, to push it to its limits, to see how it reacts to new solicitations. It opens an incredible new field with endless possibilities. A few months ago, I talked about exercising and I’m still considering that:

Besides all that, it’s all about feeling good.

but, is it possible to feel good for a longer period? Definitely, but it requires training. Daily training, hard training, cross-training and more important: happy training. I set no goals, I know it will take time and I’m ready for this, the only requirement is that it still provides me fun, crossing new animals and landscapes, meeting new people.

I started my own "program" 2 weeks ago and the results are quite good for now, I’m no longer feeling tired after the first 10 km of running barefoot and I can even run a semi-marathon without being totally exhausted, a thing that seemed just impossible 2 years ago! As a counterpart, I started suffering from my knee, a sign that I trained "Too Soon, Too Fast" without enough recovery. Like a n00b :-).

Today I bought a watch with heart rate monitoring capability, because "the only unit of time that matters is heartbeats" as said Paul Ford and I want to measure more precisely some reactions of my body, as an introverted datasexual. This is a turning point.

Spring 2012, Tokyo

Switching

I changed my Nikon D3 for a Fuji X-Pro 1 three months ago and took a lot of photographs since then. Be ready for the only review without any picture ;-).

  • Mobility: I reduced the weight of my bag by 3 or 4. I’m not anymore reluctant to take my camera for the whole day and obviously I take more photographs with a camera so it’s a clear win. I can even bring it for my trails, yay!
  • Incognito: the first thing you realize is how silent it is when you take a photo, for instance I was able to take people in a museum without being spotted. You’re not anymore considered as a pro, just a random tourist taking pics and it changes a lot the way you can hunt and shoot people.
  • Quality: of the object in itself first, it’s clearly less durable than a DSLR and I’m now afraid of rain etc. Of the produced images, you can see the difference on a big screen when you know where to look at but this is way sharper than I expected even at the highest apertures and colors render better than the X100. The difference with a DSLR is hardly noticeable except for photogeeks.
  • Autonomy: I had to buy a second battery because I wasn’t able to finish the day with a single one… without taking any video, it really sucks. I’m trying to verify if the first one is deficient because that’s just not acceptable.
  • Performances: the autofocus is incredibly slow, I hope a firmware update will at least ease the verification of the focus as with the X100’s. Edit: that’s the case. It’s hard to discuss on exposition and tonality for now given that Aperture doesn’t handle RAWs from this camera yet (I don’t know which one of Fuji or Apple is responsible for this but that’s a shame!).
  • Liveview: I discovered how powerful it can be to do not have to put your eye on your visor for upper-crowd shots or very low point of views (I still lay down on the ground sometimes to remember good ol’ times). Bonus: reduces the wrinkle of the photographer :p
  • Happiness: probably the more important point, that switch brought me back the fun of taking photographs, I shot more those last months than the previous year. This is not about the quantity of course but more how inspiriting it can be to embrace new constraints. Moreover, I got rid of a bunch of photography stuff in the process, one more step on the minimalism journey.

To sum up, the switch is above my expectations and I’m quite happy. I’ve "lost" a lot of money in the process but it was definitely worth it. Next steps: printing and offering.

Spring 2012, Tokyo

Japan

I’d always been reluctant to write about Japan, waiting to better understand this country, better understand these people. It never happened :-). Next month, I’ll come back to France once and for all (well, at least for a couple of years? months?). The decision was tough but it’s a good timing to make a stocktaking about the last 9 months in this country.

Has Japan changed me? Of course it does have. Now is it relative to the travel or to Japan itself? Good question. I think I can try to separate the two, with things that changed in my life:

  • I do a lot more sport: the first six months I gain some weight in Japan even if there are less sugar and salt in food so the Japanese diet is probably not that ideal (at least when you continue to eat like a European), I lost 2 kg since I train harder and reduce my rice consumption. The lack of socialization probably influenced my switch from exercising to training but I have some fun playing with my heart now so I’m not sure which one is an excuse for the other ;
  • I own less things: living in 24 square meters probably helped but that change started before I left France while selecting stuff I decided to keep for that year and after, that’s more a personal reflexion about consumption and economy craziness. Living in the largest supermarket of the world (Shinjuku, Tokyo) probably speed up the process though ;
  • I care even more about environment: here again, maybe Japan influenced me with the waste of energy I can experiment daily or being conscious of what happened in Fukushima but that’s more part of my return into the wild thing while trailing and hiking.

And things that changed because of/thanks to Japan (and I’ll miss, hardly):

  • I care more about people: by mimicking, obviously. I learned how rewarding it can be to be part of an ecosystem. This is not anymore about self-esteem but respect of others and at the end of the day it’s extremely relaxing ;
  • I realized you can live in a world without aggressiveness and fear: and in the meantime how aggressive is the French way to communicate, I’m done with that debate excuse to be arrogant and I’m sure this energy can be reused positively, calmly ;
  • I rediscovered how happiness is communicative: daily seeing a lot of people laughing, being amazed, smiling creates an indescribable atmosphere of positivity and safeness. That’s what I will probably miss the most.

Coming back to France with such observations is hard because I know these are deeply entangled cultural values and you can’t change that within a lifetime. And you can’t judge a culture either, that’s something I learned during that year. There is often a good reason for that and when there is none that’s part of the singularity of this culture, what makes it unique and somehow desirable.

That being said, how to combine all this in my "future life"? I’ll try to bring some of my learnings to France to see how it can fit, at least locally. I don’t consider this as a come back but more as a pursuit of the journey, in a place I (used to) know, with people I care about, with updated values, with upgraded me :D. I don’t regret any minute I spent in Japan and counting. I know I’ll come back, at least for that little place of paradise I found. One day…

ありがとうございます気をつけて。

Summer 2012, Tokyo

Jobless

I spent the last year to build interfaces both for users and developers on top of a document-oriented database with a built-in search engine. I learned a lot of things, a few amongst others:

  • developing an API and its Python client counterpart using the HAL+JSON specification to link resources in a truly RESTful way ;
  • reducing the complexity of a dynamically generated search interface, not enough for my taste but already a huge step forward ;
  • turning my relational background to a document way of thinking and its multi-valued fields ;
  • automating continuous deployment against Amazon Web Services and Doing Things Right™ considering cache, rollback and so on.

Unfortunately I ended up disagreeing with the founder on the vision of the product — which has an incredible potential by the way — that demotivated me and I quit last week.

Now there are a few options I’ll consider within the upcoming months:

  • taking the lead of a technical team, that means moving to a bigger city than I plan to (Arles) and I think I’m not ready for that. Note that I’m not sure there is a need for a team leader in a technical context and that’s why I prefer the "Web Architect" title when I refer to my job/skills ;
  • starting my own product, after so many fail stories I’d been taken part of I optimistically (and wrongly :p) think that I can avoid common pitfalls (shipping early, reducing complexity, considering marketing seriously, making profits and so on). A few problems are currently scratching my own itch but I need more brainstorming ;
  • collaborating with other people, I already did that with Makina-Corpus and it went extremely well (kudos to Lauréline, Matthieu and Benoît!), maybe it’s time to go a bit further and consider the association of talented people in a small dream team. Utopia? A few companies around the Web prove me not :) ;
  • pursuing my freelance activity as I did before moving to Japan, the easy and obvious solution but I remember all the drawbacks of that approach: lack of technical skills update (too risky to sell something you’re not proficient at), lack of team emulation (celebrating daily victories is so important for long-term welfare), lack of challenges (you’re somehow constricted to basic projects given your manpower) to name a few.

That being said, I’m open to all propositions.

Summer 2012, Tokyo

Fujisan

A few things I learned during our attempt to reach the top of Mt. Fuji last night:

  • Humility: We made two (costly!) decisions that probably saved our lives, I’m a bit dramatic here but when something is going wrong at that altitude it can be dramatic. First, we switched from a 2300 meters trail to a 1200 meters one (ascent) which allowed us to do not spend the whole night hiking. Second, we reserved a hut at approximatively mid-distance to the summit to take some rest before reaching the top for the sunrise at 4 a.m. (initial plan). The Fuji’s staff made an awesome work informing us from dangers related to climbing that particular night, I’m against over-protection concerning mountain but in this case that was perfectly appropriated.
  • Patience. When we woke up at 1 a.m. the storm and the wind were so strong that we didn’t even open the door, the hut keeper said "Very bad, do not go" and advices from local people are pure gold. We made a second try 2 hours later when the storm stopped to realize that we were now in the cloud and the wind was still incredibly violent, enough to hardly stand up. Finally at 5 a.m. the hut crew woke up everyone to say that it was not possible to reach the summit that day. When we took the bus to return to the station, uprooted trees and destroyed roads made us realized how unusual was that storm.
  • Renouncement. Even if that date was highly symbolic to us, sometimes you must admit that you can’t fight the mountain, whatever your training, and just give up… until the next attempt ;-).

Ô wise Fujisan, will you let us reach your top next time?

[Edit] : 3 days later, we did it in perfect conditions. Thanks!

Summer 2012, Tokyo

Stillness in motion

I had the chance to experience that state 3 times in my life for now, that’s the hardly descriptive feeling of being in movement (by yourself) without feeling it, better explained by this Taoist text:

The stillness in stillness is not true stillness; only when there is stillness in movement does the universal rhythm manifest

The first time was at the finish sprint of my first and almost last race ever, 15 years ago. I was playing basketball at that time and we challenged ourselves with a good friend to run that 5 kilometers race without any specific training (for the story, we did the 10 kilometers the year after and it was a bit too much). It was still fun because the distance is easy if you’re doing some sport but painful enough to reach that I’m-so-happy-to-end-this state. And then a few meters from the finish line I sprinted and that was like flying, my vision focused on the finish gate, yells from the crowd were like marshmallows and that weird taste of iron come to my mouth but I only realized all that when I stopped trying to analyze what just happened. During that minute, probably less, I was just in another dimension, feeling the indescribable joy of being alive.

The second time was a couple of years ago while snowboarding in the Alps. There was a descent full of fresh snow between two lifts and I did it about 20 times with a lot of pleasure. But then, with no particular new element in the context, maybe fatigue, maybe anaerobic or hypoglycemia, anyway that particular ride was like surfing on top of a moving wave, my body was moving but my brain was elsewhere, both plainly conscious of the situation and somewhere on top of me (yes it’s close to Near Death Experience somehow), both having a lot of fun.

The third one was this spring during Hanami. I decided to go running just for a few kilometers from Shinjuku (via Yotsuya) to Iidabashi on the top of the canal because I knew there will be cherry blossoms at that place. The view was incredible and the joy of japanese people is so communicative during that period that you can’t feel bored. And then close to the end, a very soft wind made all petals falling from trees like snow and that instant was once again magic. Everybody looks up with a large smile (and some usual japanese interjections), I continued running going through that waterfall, almost literally diving into flowers. Time stopped and a child laugh brought me back to life.

Lately, I discovered during Fujisan’s descent that you can share that kind of orgasmic state with somebody else. Maybe the end of my sportive singleness :-).

Summer 2012, Plane

Delegating

I used to think that religion is for weak people, people who prefers to delegate comfortably their thoughts and sometimes manpower to one central authority.

It hits me lately that politic follows the exact same pattern, annihilating any self-consciousness and thus self-esteem. Electing a president at the head of a nation creates the feeling that you did your job as a citizen for the next X years but being a citizen is not a one-shot, it’s a daily challenge to find your place in the society not as a consumer but as an actor. Our societies are relying on one person with his government to drive our countries for a few years without any long-term vision, a scapegoat for our lack of thinking, our lack of acting, our lack of humanity. Where is your dignity when you can’t even think and act by yourself?

In 1721, Montesquieu published his Persian letters and the 14th is very important to me, here is an extract (in French) but I recommend the whole reading:

O Troglodites, what moves you to this; uprightness becomes a burden to you. In your present condition, having no head, you are constrained in your own despite to be virtuous; otherwise your very existence would be at stake, and you would relapse into the wretched state of your ancestors. But this seems to you too heavy a yoke; you would rather become the subjects of a king, and submit to laws of his framing-laws less exacting than your present customs. You know that then you would be able to satisfy your ambition, and while away the time in slothful luxury; and that, provided you avoided the graver crimes, there would be no necessity for virtue.

Such an idealist! Nobody can live and work in this context today. Virtue, really? Almost a hundred of geeks at Github are proving that it’s possible, see that blog post from Ryan Tomayko:

Telling people what to do is lazy. Instead, try to convince them with argument. This is how humans interact when there’s no artificial authority structure and it works great. If you can’t convince people through argument then maybe you shouldn’t be doing it. […] Essentially, I try to create little mini-managers, each responsible for managing a single person: their self.

Confirmed by Brandon Keepers, working there for 6 months:

Anarchy works wonderfully in a small group of individuals with a high level of trust. Everyone at GitHub has full access and permission to do whatever they want. Do great things and you earn respect. Abuse that freedom and you violate everyone’s trust.

Marriage is another way of delegation, behind the love story that’s a way to state administratively (and sometimes religiously) that you’re forming a couple. Validating your love by a piece of sheet and a ring instead of daily attention, it surely deserves a huge celebration in our attention-deficient world.

That’s why I’m agnostic. That’s why I’m a blank voter. That’s why I’m running my own company. That’s why I’m not married.

The worst part is that by delegating, you can loose your knowledge too. Think about it in our geeky world of Clouds, Proxys, Frameworks, each introducing more and more opaque layers.

We are Tailorizing the Web and soon nobody will be able anymore to put a service online without heavily relying on an uncontrolled — delegated — stack.

Summer 2012, Arles

Broken

From 0 to 5, you’re encouraged to talk.
Above 5, you’re encouraged to shut up.
From 5 to 10, you’re encouraged to be independent.
Above 10, you’re encouraged to be addicted.
From 10 to 15, you’re encouraged to criticize.
Above 15, you’re encouraged to follow.
From 15 to 20, you’re encouraged to know.
Above 20, you’re encouraged to delegate.
From 20 to 25, you’re encouraged to be.
Above 25, you’re encouraged to have.
From 25 to 30, you’re encouraged to procreate.
Above 30, you’re encouraged to reproduce that loop.

This system is broken.

Summer 2012, Arles

Cooperating

Some companies are inspirational: 37signals, LincolnLoop or Github for instance. They pursue their vision, propagate their values through their culture, share their ideas. They can achieve this thanks to their cooperation, both internally and with their clients, considered as collaborators, as peers.

Coming back from Japan, I knew that I’d like to change my professional environment, being solo was a really good experience (may I say experiment?) but it’s hard to do that for many years. Not socially (at least for me) but more in terms of knowledge (How do you progress when you’re in a comfortable situation? Can you take the risk to use a new technology for a client ?) and even more important in terms of values (it’s very hard to debate with yourself wether a client has crossed the ethical line or to arbitrate objectively a sticky situation).

A few months ago, Nicolas contacted me with a project he shared with Stéphane and Vincent to create a framework to work together. Not a technical one, a legal and ethical framework. Creating a company based on values and principles, on cooperation and participation. A company encouraging humanity before profit. This proposition intimately resonated with the way I wanted to evolve, both as a professional and as a citizen. I accepted the challenge.

So far, I learned a ton of things. From administrative knowledge to humanist discussions, this is even more interesting than what I dreamed of. And this is just the beginning, it takes a lot of time to set up the foundations but it’s an incredibly valuable time to discuss our ideas and to feel confident in our shared vision. More on that later.

Summer 2012, Arles

Unplugged

I experienced an unusual situation in our rich countries last month: not having any electricity for a whole week due to my move from Japan and my switch to a non-nuclear electricity provider: Enercoop. During this period, completely scheduled on daylight which is in itself an interesting experiment, I discovered a few things.

The first thing you realize in an unplugged home is the silence. All our technology produces a background noise that you don’t notice daily but only when it stops. In this situation, all other noises are amplified: a wooden beam cracking, an insect flying, yourself breathing. Natural noises of the townsman. You rediscover an inner world.

Then you start to listen to your environment: the street, your neighbors, shops, tourists. Each one have their schedule and their habits. You consume electricity by procuration, listening accidentally your neighbors’ radio, TV or parties. Social noises of the celibate. You rediscover an outer world.

Finally, you’re alone with your noisy ideas and you start to think, to read, to write, to do things, to care about people. After a few days, only when all batteries are empties, you’re able to proceed to an introspection, to question yourself about your place in this world. Brain noises of the human. You rediscover yourself.

Summer 2012, Arles

Sleeping

I bought an electric bed for my new home, the kind of bed you can find in hospitals with an engine to raise the head or your legs. That’s pretty expensive but the end-result is way above my expectations.

Being in Japan, I realized that futons were definitely not adapted to my body, especially the curving of my back so I started to experiment different positions adding books under my legs, my knees, my head and I found a pattern similar to what you have in a hammock or a cocoon but with knees a bit upper to do not stretch your muscles. This way I was able to lay on my back without any pain.

Back in France, I found the bed of my dreams, well… literally, for two people with two mattresses which is very important because we end up not using the same level of elevation. We’re using it for a month now and she changed her mind from "Yet another useless geeky gadget" to "This is the best thing you bought EVER! <3". My best reward :-)

When you put in perspective the time you spend in a bed plus the pain you suffer for a few hours after being out of your bed, you don’t ever look (at your) back. Bonus: in recovery mode or for a little nap, having your legs above your body is very comfortable. Bonus 2: I spend way more time reading from my bed given the suitable position I can have.

Autumn 2012, Arles

Sharing

My only career management engine — and thus advice — is to share. I thought about it after reading Mathieu’s article on that topic (in French), it’s not really a planning involving ladders but the end result is far more rewarding. Why is that so powerful?

  • By sharing you meet new people. You have to find people to share your knowledge with, from going to conferences to taking the responsibility to train someone, it will definitely boost your career.
  • By sharing you learn new things. You have to dig into something to be able to share it, you have to be curious, you have to find new people, new ways of thinking. You’ll be more confident and proficient.
  • By sharing you know when to quit. The moment you stop being able to share at work should ring like an alarm bell. Hey wake up, your brain cells are doing boring & repetitive stuff!
  • By sharing you become valuable. Both for your team and your company, your value is related to the way you explore, you synthesize, you create links between people and knowledge.
  • By sharing you become humble. You realize that you just know a very small part of the vast knowledge ocean and that your experience has to be confronted with others’.

Your value is proportional to the number of times you shared your knowledge, your experience, your ideas with others. This advice will make you richer every day, not only in money :-).

Autumn 2012, Arles

OpenData

I was at the OpenDataHACK PACA this last weekend and I ended up being quite disappointed and frustrated. Disappointed because I thought that a hackathon is about just having fun together and that event looks closer to a startup weekend with a final jury and questions about business models. Frustrated because after a few months without coding actively I was very motivated and most of the projects presented didn’t provide any line of code or even use OpenData (from PACA) for real.

In hindsight, I discovered the discomfort I have with OpenData (at least in France): it’s hard to have fun for a developer.

  • the nature of data is very limited and you can’t do anything but a service about transportation or tourism.
  • the quality of data is so bad that you lost a lot of energy just being able to use it programmatically.
  • the freshness of data is incredibly inconsistent and can’t be predicted.

That being said, here are some ideas for data providers:

  • we reached the limits of public data, it’s time for companies to expose some of their private data in order to make pertinent and various services, don’t forget the first-mover advantage here! (by private I mean internal, not data related to privacy of course).
  • we need to work on the way providers open their data, releasing files — whatever the format — is not an option anymore, developers used to work with APIs for a good reason. Take care of your data, that’s your responsibility.
  • we invest time with your data, give us guarantees, document your data, give informations about the releases’ frequency, future released data, interoperability with others’ data and so on.

As a citizen, I want to be involved in the life of my city/county but I’ll need some help from your side, providers.

Autumn 2012, Arles

Democracy

Lift 2012 in Marseilles was a blast. The first afternoon was dedicated to conferences (more intimate than previous editions) about a lot of interesting topics, from Biology 2.0 by Thomas Landrain to Gudrun Pétursdóttir, chairman of the Icelandic Constitutional Council, talking about the democratic process in Iceland after 2008’s crisis. But the most interesting part was the second day, a whole day of workshops entitled "DIGITAL DISRUPTIONS" COLLECTIVE FORESIGHT. You first have to choose one of the 20 "promises" explained as some kind of scenarios about a given topic. I picked the one dedicated to democracy: restored, enhanced, extended and I’ll try to sum up some of the insight in this session (there were about 10 people).

First things first, when you talk about democracy you have to consider that not everybody wants to actively participate in it, it’s very frustrating but it’s interesting to analyze causes:

  • lazyness: it’s much more comfortable to let others do the hard work even if it’s not possible on the long term if you consider democracy as a daily implication ;
  • hopeless: one thinks that democracy is just a mirage that can’t be reached, they consider that we are not in a democracy ;
  • disagreement: I don’t think that democracy can scale (even using MongoDB :p) to the size of a country or even a city — or Humanity is just not ready for that — at best it should be possible in a community or a tribe. The only alternative I see (and we get back to small groups) is Sociocracy but I need to experiment that system of governance for real.

The first part of the day was dedicated to past and present initiatives and we all felt a bit desperate after that observation. One of the conclusions is that the digital world, even if we can cite a few marginal examples, didn’t enhance nor extend democracy. But, it provides a new hope: the one to be technically able to reinvent the democracy. The Web gives people a way to educate themselves about citizenship and to somehow magnify their messages, to express their diversity. On the other side, it can be instrumentalized and didn’t invert any hierarchical relation.

The afternoon were hopefully more encouraging, we talked about the future of democracy and even if it was hard to keep focused a whole day with intense discussions we ended up proposing some key actions to change for the better. Unfortunately I didn’t took the time to write notes down because of the rush but I’m impatiently waiting for Hubert Guillaud’s article on that topic given that he kept the poster :-).

Note : I’m more and more frustrated about the lack of discussions about those unidirectional thoughts but I don’t want a clasic centralized commenting system, maybe I’ll finally code that DCVS fork/enrich/propose way of interacting…

Autumn 2012, Arles

Television

rules the nation. — Daft Punk

I had a television in my house for about a quarter of my life (7-9, 23-27) and thus I lost a bunch of so-called "TV references". What I gained instead is a capacity to focus on ads’ analysis, to choose wisely my programs, to be conscious of the time lost watching TV. Retrospectively, I’m not sure it was worth it given the popularity of childish 80s’ events though :p.

Back from Japan, we decided to do not have a TV anymore. Since then, a few things changed in my life:

  • I definitely sleep more (combined with sport) ;
  • I read more, from magazine to books ;
  • I almost cut myself from news and it’s quite relaxing, I realized how useless it is to care about extra-local things ;
  • I’m listening to more music ;
  • I choose what I decide to watch (TV series, documentaries, movies) ;
  • I shocked people with a living-room not centered on TV.

Things to improve now: more games, more love, more cooking. Less screens.

Autumn 2012, Train

Goodies

I refused the goodies’ bag at the last conference I attended (ParisWeb). The staff, always very careful about their attendees, asked me politely why I declined that "gift", here are some reasons in no particular order:

  • I presume that most of the bags (and their content) were trashed within 2 days after the conference, ecologically that’s just crazy.
  • Half of the bag used to be full of crappy goodies to promote brands I don’t care about (or worse).
  • Most of the content is not adapted to me: I got an smartphone to read the program, the t-shirt is too large, I already have a pen and so on.
  • I went to that conference without any bag and I’d like to keep that freedom during the whole event.

I know how important it is for sponsors to distribute their goodies (and thus make the event viable) but I’m sure there is a way to let the attendee have that choice. That being said, maybe there is a better way for sponsors to promote their brand:

  • Provide high quality goodies without an ostentatious logo, something that people will actually use (I still wear a beautiful t-shirt from DjangoConEu Berlin and I do appreciate the notebook offered to orators by ParisWeb last year for instance).
  • Send people from your company to attend the conference or even participate (avoid product-driven keynotes, please), your employees are the best ambassadors of your brand but they have to be happy in their job to share their passion of course.
  • Offer something valuable to the conference’s attendees and explicitly ask to be named for that, for instance "This food is provided by FooInc who cares about the health of their actual and future employees".
  • Think about ways to ease the integration and socialization of people during the conference, there is a lack of tools for that.
Autumn 2012, Arles

Transparency

We chose the transparency as a core value of Scopyleft because we wanted to share our little adventure and it’s incredibly hard.

I used to publish code as an open-source process but when it comes to administrative stuff I feel way less confident and feel somehow reticent to publish drafts publicly or to edit values/principles from my side when it impacts 3 other people. I know (well, I hope) that it’s a way to improve myself on those topics like it happened for my code but the transition is quite brutal.

Fortunately, your first messages and contributions are very positive and really encouraging. Thank you. The thing is we don’t know any "Open Company" publishing all the process of their creations to be inspired by so we try to do our best to share our road to enlightenment :-).

Autumn 2012, Arles

EndOfPage

I decided to switch from English to French as my blogging language so this post is the last one in English for a few reasons:

  1. I started to write in English to somehow extend my audience given that I went to Japan and only a very few Japanese people are reading French. I’m pretty sure no Japanese at all ever read that page so I can consider this as a failure, I realized way too late that integration is before all about working together in Japan :-).
  2. It looks like Craig Kerstiens is the only one reading English-only across my few readers (thank you!), probably because my vocabulary and grammar are so bad or my thoughts far from those of another country. Anyway, trying to think in English was a good experiment but now I need to improve myself via discussion, not unidirectional writing anymore.
  3. This page started to be a bit too large for my taste (even if performances are still not that bad), when I started it I wasn’t sure to write more than 3 posts. Well, there are 42 posts now — Coincidence? I don’t think so — and I’ll switch back to a dedicated page per article (coucou Damien !).
  4. I want to be involved locally, from OpenData to (micro)events, and to interact with my French peers. Moreover, I’m trying something new with Scopyleft and I’m sure that feedback about that adventure is more valuable for French people too.

Je vous vois demain !

EOP

Autumn 2012, Arles