Twitter Is Still My Favorite Social Network

It’s all in the title. If you don’t like reading, you can skip to the comment section and tell me why I’m wrong! And if you want to know a bit more about my reasoning, read on…

A few years ago, I wrote a couple of articles discussing Twitter and marveling at its potential. Like many others, I thought it was silly at first. And like many others, after a couple of months, I got it. I’ve kept using it every day ever since.

The social network landscape has changed a lot since then. Twitter’s direct competitors have bit the dust, Facebook has evolved in drastic ways, and Google has a viable network of its own. A slew of new social services have also appeared (Pinterest or Flipboard for example), but I think these are good at different things than straight up social networking.

Getting back to the point, here are the reasons why I think Twitter is still my main social media outlet, five years in:

  • It’s really simple
    Threaded conversations on updates are great for creating discussions, but they also add complexity. Including such features is good for some aspects of the user experience, but they also inherently diminish other aspects of it, one of them being simplicity. Twitter has very carefully stayed away from such “enhancements”, and remains as straightforward as it’s ever been.
  • It’s really easy
    Sure, the concept might have been a bit obtuse at first, but it’s still very easy to set up and use: choose a name, follow people, you’re done. By comparison, Facebook has mutual friendships, apps and photos, Google+ has circles and different types of updates, etc. Twitter remains the easiest one of them all, both to start and to keep using.

    (more…)

April 10th, 2013 | 1 Comment

A Future For Print… ?

Saying that print media is in trouble is stating the blindingly obvious. The consensus is that, somewhere down the line, print might even disappear altogether. Everything will be tablets, foldable screens and 15th generation color movie capable e-ink screens.

I’m not so sure. Yes, print used for news propagation is probably dead; the Internet just does that better. But there’s still something deeply attractive about a sheet of paper, a carefully laid out page, or a beautifully printed picture.
And I think there might be a place for that, even in our digital future.

If it survives, print will have to evolve of course. One way would be products with a strong identity. Something that will be significantly more engaging than what we have today. Something that will be about the audience as much as it will be about the content. Magazines can offer a niche product that serves its readers’ pride and intelligence, almost as an identity and fashion statement.

I’ve come across a few examples:

  • The Gentlewoman is a high end fashion magazine. My fiancée describes it as “fashion for adults”. Clever, beautiful, and serious, as opposed to the teen pop soup we’re served elsewhere. Fashion as a well thought out subject matter, for grown ups who actually know how to read.
    The same goes for Fantastic Man, its male counterpart.
  • The Art of Eating is a bit less sophisticated, but covers the same basis: offering an engaging and authentically passionate product to a core audience, who won’t find this kind of thing in mainstream media and would still love to have a physical representation of the thing they love and who they are.
  • The Verge is actually what got me thinking about this whole thing. When Topolsky, Patel, Miller and the team at Vox Media started it, no one really thought something different could be done in that space. But their approach was bold, colorful, beautiful, visual and above all intelligent and authentic.
    A few weeks ago, I realized this was the first site I would actually consider paying for. Then, thinking about this article I wanted to write, I realized I would actually love to have something like that, in print form.
    And then I read an article saying it wouldn’t be out of the question. That article is now down for some reason, but here’s the Techmeme link.

The Age of the Grown Up Geek

There is such a thing as a “grown up geek”. Adolescent at heart, playful and a bit foul mouthed, but highly intelligent and analytical. And usually better informed and knowledgeable in their field than “serious” journalists from newspaper or TV outlets. Topolsky is one example, there are many others.

These individuals have often been dismissed by established industries because of this deceptive exterior. But things have been changing, as these geeks have been growing up and showing that they’re actually regular people, some of them brilliant. People don’t need a suit to be intelligent, and these guys are doing fine in a world of t-shirts. It took a while, but we’re getting there.

There’s something of an identity element in there too: the “grown up geek” is relatable and authentic. They are “real people” who talk and act like real people. And they’re also excellent at their job. So we would probably follow them a bit farther than we would a guy in a tie that doesn’t understand us (or what he’s saying).

My point is this: print is currently run by guys in ties, trying to reach a wide audience. I think there’s a place for guys in t-shirts, trying to reach their peers.

(more…)

March 16th, 2013 | 2 Comments

I Want Power Nap in Everything

Yes, I’d like to be able to power nap as well, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

Ok, this one ranks pretty high in the “first world problems” category, but many of us now have five or six “devices” in our homes: desktop, laptop, phone, tablet, a couple of consoles… And every other day, we get update notifications on one or more of those. Worse, if we turn one on after a couple of weeks, STOP EVERYTHING, THERE’S AN IMPORTANT UPDATE!

I’m kind of OCD with these things. I just have to do the updates as soon as they show up. I almost envy those of you who are able let the counter badge rank up into the double digits. I think that would kill me. Literally. Brain explosion.

So basically, apps and system updates are becoming sort of a plague for me. And for other also, I’m guessing. A few months ago, Apple came up with a clever (and obvious) auto update feature for their newest laptop: close the lid, it goes into “Power Nap” sleep mode. It’s a “low power connected state” where it’s basically off, but still downloads and installs the updates on its own. This connected standby concept isn’t new, and I had been hoping for something like this to come along for ages, but for some ungodly reason it hasn’t been implemented widely before.

This might change soon though: Sony has implemented it in its upcoming PS4, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Microsoft did the same in the next Xbox. But let’s not stop there: Apple will certainly implement the feature in all their new computers, and likely iOS as well at some point (iOS 7?). From there, it’ll become widespread enough that it will be a de facto standard feature, and others will have to implement it as well.
And as I was saying, I’m starting to hate updating so much, I want it in everything: phones, tablets, consoles, desktops (including all “app store” like installed software), set top boxes, watches, glasses, frying pans, shoes… Ok maybe not the last two. Yet.

Is that too much to ask for? No? I didn’t think so. Thank you, tech industry.

March 2nd, 2013 | 6 Comments

Yet Another Thing Apple Needs To Get Better At

I believe there are three areas in which Apple is falling behind in the software space.

Two are widely acknowledged : The Internet, and UI design.
Most people agree that iCloud is “better” than the company’s previous efforts, but most people will say in the same breath that that’s not saying much. And it seems everyone on the planet has written about the sin of skeumorphism (and that twice as many people are praying for Jony Ive to fix it). So let’s not dwell on those.

The third one, in my opinion, is the incredible sluggishness of their software.

This is the elephant in the room. Everyone knows it, everyone feels it, and everyone is sick of it, but we’re so accustomed to it that nobody seems to think twice about it. Yet on every platform, it seems that speed and efficiency are not even a concern. In a world where Google puts all their energy in shaving off every milliseconds they can everywhere they can, sluggishness doesn’t sit well anymore.

Let’s take a look:

  • On Windows, without even mentioning iTunes, we can compare Safari to Chrome. Same platform, same basic Webkit. But Safari is a blind, lame dog. Everything runs slower.
  • In iOS, most Apple apps run fine, but anything on the App or iTunes store feels slow and sluggish. I don’t care about the reason, it’s just frustrating.
  • In MacOS, it seems like any time I do anything, I get the spinning beach ball of doom. It is so incredibly annoying, I want to murder that beachball and turn it into a zombie just so I can murder it again.
  • On the web, we tolerate iCloud, but loading times are just atrocious. I could pile on, but I won’t, you get the idea.

(more…)

February 1st, 2013 | 9 Comments

My favorite albums of the 2000s

[EDIT Jan 29] I’m really liking Rdio; it feels like a better Spotify… Better social, great web version, and collection management!(!!) So I made a playlist for this article. :)

Regular people (like renown music critics, famed websites and legendary rock magazines), they do their decade top ten right as the decade ends. That’s kind of silly though, because you’re to close to the events to judge them properly. Right? Right??

So anyway, it’s 2013 and I’ve decided to do a list of my favorite albums of the previous decade. No reason, just because. Please note that these aren’t the “best albums” of the 2000s, just my personal favorites. I’ve also made two completely arbitrary categories (Heart and Punch), because they felt right.

 

– Heart –

The Postal Service – Give Up

This is probably the album that I’ve spent the most time trying to get people to listen to. It’s a magical mix of electronica and emo explosion, which inexplicably works. I’m pretty sure it’s my favorite album of the decade, period.

The Weakerthans – Left and Leaving

There are no words to describe how much I love The Weakerthans. The best way I can explain it is that their music creates a sort of wonderful melancholy for places you’ve never been. Stephen Carroll’s vocals will seem rocky at first, but pretty soon they’ll turn into a warming guide that you won’t want to quite.

Stars – Up in Our Bedroom After the War

Another Canadian band (in case you didn’t know, the Canadian indie scene is amazing). Stars are a bit more “syrupy” maybe, but just as enjoyable. Some tracks I’ve listened to on repeat for days, never getting bored of them (Calendar Girl, Personal). And then of course there’s the cryptically captivating quote at the beginning of this album, which you’ll remember it forever.

(more…)

January 22nd, 2013 | 4 Comments

What being a hacker means

aaron swartz quoteUntil Aaron Swartz committed suicide, I didn’t really know what he was about. But with the outpouring of emotion his death provoked, I read numerous articles on what he did and what he stood for. I’m sure you’ve read many yourselves, so I won’t elaborate.

One thing has touched me more personally though. I read this article on the EFF website, which included the image and the quote on the right : “Be curious. Read widely. Try new things. I think a lot of what people call intelligence just boils down to curiosity”. What a wonderful thing to say… I really think he has a point; not only is curiosity something we should foster and encourage, but it also breeds something we sorely needs, as a society: intelligence itself.

I posted the image on Google+, and got a comment by Rémi Pannequin:“This just exactly sum up the hacker philosophy”. He is so right. Rémi reminded me something I had forgotten, because of age maybe, as my own days of Amiga enthusiasm are far behind me, or maybe because of the constant badgering of people who only advocate in absolutes… Whatever the cause, the term “hacker” has become so associated with piracy and cyber crime that we are starting to forget what pushes people to hack, and try new and different things just to see what happens.

(more…)

January 18th, 2013 | 4 Comments

Anatomie d’un scandale (du net)

Dear english-speakers, I’ve written a few articles in French these last few weeks (interesting things happening in my country!), and I’m sorry if you don’t feel included. So here’s the gist for this one: our most inovative ISPs has just updated its router with a new “adblock” option, which is on by default, and it’s understandably sparking huge debates. I’d love to have your opinion on the topic, if you feel so inclined.

Cette semaine, Free a ému la toile française. J’ai lu beaucoup d’articles et de réactions sur le sujets, et j’ai aussi lu beaucoup d’amalgames grossiers sur les questions que pose cette situation. Comme je l’ai fait dans mon article sur le mariage homosexuel, je vais tenter d’analyser les différentes réactions et de donner mon interprétation de manière aussi dépassionnée que possible.

L’état des lieux :

Pour ceux qui ne connaissent pas la situation, Free a mis à jour sa Freebox le 3 janvier dernier, en intégrant une option qui bloque en théorie la publicité sur tous les sites internet. Ce type d’outil, appelé “adblock”, existe depuis longtemps, et chacun peut facilement installer un logiciel qui a la même fonction sur son ordinateur. Une des spécificités les plus commentées de la version de Free est qu’elle est “active par défaut”.

Les réactions :

Je vais évoquer tour à tour les différentes réactions que j’ai lu, et proposer mon analyse pour chacune. Si l’article est trop long, je vous propose de lire celles qui vous intéressent, pour vous faire une idée sur la chose.

  • La pub est un péché, bon débarras.
    Quand on parle de pub, on entend forcément des gens nous expliquer à quel point la pub est un maléfique, impure, et à proscrire dès que c’est possible. Les mots que j’emploie sont forts, mais le sentiment ne l’est pas moins…
    Je suis le premier, dans mon émission et ailleurs, à relayer l’idée que “si un service est gratuit, c’est nous sommes le produit”. C’est valable pour Facebook, Twitter et d’autres, mais aussi pour la télé, la radio ou les sites web d’information. Je ne referai pas le chapitre sur les méfaits et les bienfaits de la pubs ; contentons nous de dire qu’elle est généralement plus ou moins désagréable, et qu’elle est la source de revenus de ces services, ce que chacun comprendra aisément je pense.
    A partir de ce moment, quel que soit le jugement de valeur qu’on porte sur la publicité en elle-même, il me semble que le fait d’utiliser ces services en en retirant la pub revient à les pirater, au même titre que de télécharger un morceau de musique ou une série télé.

(more…)

January 5th, 2013 | 51 Comments

Un papa et une maman

Ce billet est une adaptation d’un article écrit en anglais il y a déjà quatre ans : Marriage(tm). Le contexte est un peu différent, mais le coeur de l’idée reste le même.

Depuis quelques semaines, nous voyons monter en France une fronde que je pensais réservée aux conservateurs américains, contre le mariage homosexuel (ou son doux euphémisme, le “mariage pour tous”). Un peu décontenancé par ces manifestations que je n’attendais pas chez nous, je me suis dit qu’il serait peut-être intéressant d’en parler en Français aussi, d’une manière aussi dépassionnée que possible.

1) Les enfants

Là où le mouvement américain voulait un mariage “entre un homme et une femme”, les manifestants français mettent en avant l’aspect familial du problème, avec le slogan “Le mariage c’est un papa et une maman”. Je commencerai donc en évoquant cette préoccupation essentielle. Il me semble en effet assez légitime de se demander si le fait d’avoir deux parents du même sexe pourrait avoir des conséquences négatives sur le développement ou l’éducation des enfants. L’implication non dite du fameux slogan est, je pense, double : on se demande d’une part si les enfants grandiront heureux et équilibrés, et d’autre part si, influencés par leur modèle parental, ils seront plus enclin à “devenir” homosexuels.

Ces deux préoccupations, bien que compréhensibles à froid, me semblent réfutées par des années d’expérience empirique… et un peu de bon sens.
D’une part, je n’ai connaissance d’aucune étude sérieuse qui conclurait que les enfants élevés par des couples homosexuels seraient moins heureux que les autres. Ils sont généralement tout aussi socialement adaptés et s’épanouissent tout autant. Les exemples étant statistiquement significatifs, je pense qu’on peut raisonnablement conclure à leur validité et accepter ce consensus scientifique : l’expérience nous prouve que cette peur est infondée.
D’autre part, nous avons aussi constaté que les enfants de couples homosexuels ne sont pas plus ou moins hétérosexuels que les autres. Comme le disait avec humour une page Facebook que je ne retrouve plus, “l’orientation sexuelle des parents détermine l’orientation sexuelle des enfants, comme le prouve le fait qu’aucun homosexuel ne soit jamais né de parents hétéro”. Cette plaisanterie et cette constatation d’évidence évoque une autre vérité : on ne choisi pas son orientation sexuelle, et la sexualité des parents n’a pas pas grand chose à y voir (sinon, encore une fois, les couples hétéro n’auraient jamais d’enfants homosexuels).

(more…)

November 19th, 2012 | 26 Comments

Explaining Windows 8 to Your Parents

Here’s what I believe is the easiest way to explain Windows 8 to non tech savvy people. In this order, everything becomes clear. And yes, I am aware of the irony.

The basics:

  • Windows 7 is like a Mac
    It is a traditional desktop computer.
  • An iPad is a different kind of computer
    Lighter and easier to use, but it cannot run Mac desktop applications.
The new stuff:
  • Windows 8 comes in two versions: Windows RT and Windows 8 Pro.
  • Windows RT is like an iPad
    A tablet computer: it doesn’t run your old Windows 7 desktop applications.
  • Windows 8 Pro is like a Mac… which could also run iPad apps
    Runs Windows 7 style desktop applications AND Windows RT tablet style applications.

That’s it really, you can stop reading here. The rest of the article is just tech and marketing ramblings that I wanted to get out of my system. Enjoy explaining Windows 8 to your parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and confused colleagues!

(more…)

October 31st, 2012 | 5 Comments

Something’s gotta give…

Dear all,

I’ve written this message two or three times already, so I’ll keep it short and as pain-free as possible. If you want to know more, I’ve included parts from the relevant emails below.

So here it is: The Movielicious and The Phileas Club are going on indeterminate hiatus, and likely won’t be coming back. I have loved and still love both shows (and the wonderful hosts) a whole damn much; one is some of the most fun I’ve ever had, and one is some of the most interesting discussions I’ve ever had. And I have loved and still love the communities that have formed around these “daring” endeavors even more. To all of you reading this; if I could kiss you right now, I honestly would. Like, full on. Even the guys. Just as an unwanted thank you.
But still, with many things to take into account, I have made the decision that I needed to take a breather somewhere, and that’s the only place I could find room. And hey, three and four years aren’t bad runs, right? We’ll always have the memories (some silly, some horrific, some fascinating), and if I ever find a way to bend the space-time continuum to get more hours out of a day, I’ll seriously consider resurrecting the shows. In the mean time, you’ll be able to find all episodes in RSS and iTunes form, hopefully forever.

There are two things this doesn’t mean though:
– It doesn’t mean this was a wanted or easy decision. Far from it. Tears might even have been shed, but it’s ok cause I’m French and love chick flicks anyway. Also, I said “maybe”, alright? “Maybe” means it’s not for sure. There might have not been any tears at all for all you know, so quit harassing me.
– It doesn’t mean I’m “retiring”. Probably the opposite in fact. First, I’m still doing my French shows (hey, a chance to learn a new language!), second I’m still happy to guest on any show that will have me (guesting is way easier than producing), and third, down the line it’ll hopefully give me more time to write blog articles, do videos, create silly one off things, etc.

So there you go; as promised, below is the long version. Hugs to all!

(more…)

August 31st, 2012 | 32 Comments