RobinBerjon

Lightning Tank

Adrénaline éristique

Essay |

Vous avez vu tous les Fast and Furious, vous connaissez par cœur les répliques de Bruce Willis dans Armageddon, vous maîtrisez chaque stratagème de L’Art d’avoir toujours raison de Schopenhauer et vous récitez la Rhétorique d’Aristote à vous enfants pour les endormir. Bref: en adrénaline comme en dialectique éristique vous êtes sérieusement badass (ou “mauvaiscul”, comme diraient nos amis étouffeurs de la langue française). Mais connaissez-vous le lightning talk?

Vive le terrorisme!

C’est de la bombe, bébé

Essay |

Qui connaît son histoire sait que chaque époque véhicule son lot d’idées injustement vilipendées, ignorées, piétinées, qui se révèlent bientôt être de véritables maïeutiques à l’avènement d’un monde meilleur.

Je pense notamment au Minitel qui, ayant fait de France Télécom un géant de la pornographie, lui permet ainsi de ne plus choquer quiconque avec ses tarifications souvent indécentes, voire licencieuses.

Je pense aussi à la loi “anti-Amazon” qui a permis de rétablir la justice en augmentant toutes les commandes de 1 centime sans s’encombrer de la complexité qu’il y aurait à percevoir plusieurs centaines de millions d’euros d’impôts sur des ventes réalisées en France — il est bien plus simple de les récupérer par une politique d’austérité.

Je pourrais encore citer Google+, un réseau social radicalement innovant dans son respect de la vie privée, chacun pouvant y publier ses pensées les plus secrètes en demeurant certain qu’elles ne seront jamais lues.

Il me semble aujourd’hui, en plein débat sur le Projet de loi renforçant les dispositions relatives à la lutte contre le terrorisme que ce dernier est de ces idées bafouées iniquement, et qu’il est grand temps d’en faire ici l’apologie.

Looking for my Next Project

What’s Next?

Essay |

As you well know, dear reader, I am a freelancer, and as freelancers well know All Contracts Must Die. Thanks to the kind support of Adobe, Google, and Microsoft, I have had an interesting two-year run being part of the W3C Team and shepherding the HTML5 specification towards Recommendation. As August goes, these two years too will end.

Web 2024

Waiting for the singularity

Essay |

With all these Web@25, W3C@20, WHAT@10, and of course Robin@37 worldwide celebrations it seems like as good a time as any to take a few minutes for musings about where we’ll be ten years from now. The content here is not meant to be particularly serious (or anywhere near complete), but I operate under conservative assumptions, for instance that the world doesn’t get overrun by an evil AI in the meantime. I’m also not interested in every other small detail. These are some of my opinions, and while I very, very much welcome opinionated disagreement I certainly don’t mind that part of them may feel outrageous to some — nor how wrong they turn out to be.

Is HTML Too Big To Fail?

The Forks At Helm's Deep

Tech, Essay |

Evil geniuses, be it in history or fiction, tend to distinguish themselves through some unique trait that hallmarks their own personal expertise beyond the generic, run-of-the-mill apparatus of evil. Dracula has dread, Torquemada has torture, Carly Rae Jepsen has Call Me Maybe. If ever an evil genius were to rise from the ranks of the standards community, there is no shade of a doubt for me that her evil specificity will be tedium.

Lions and Tigers

The Day We Fight Back

Essay |

In 1937, Walter Lippmann wrote The Good Society which captured with stunning lucidity the politics of his time. And as many potent political texts, it echoes well beyond its era. One of my favourite quotes from it is:

Please Bring Me More Of That Yummy DRM Discussion

Austening ourselves to the full Brontë

Tech, Essay |

Allow me, Dear Reader, to kick off with a remarkable statement that will no doubt keep you astonished for days to come: I really, really don't like DRM. I want a third party to be allowed to control my ownership of my books, movies, and music just as much as I wish Ikea were allowed to come reclaim tables and cupboards from my home, Uniqlo to snatch clothes off my hunky pecs, or Tanziti Abdelfattah (the baker around the corner) to grab his baguette right out of my toaster.

Boltzmann Replicators

Fiat Lux

Essay |

Let us start off with Boltzmann Brains. Imagine a universe that is nothing more than a diffuse cloud of stuff, without any structure to speak of. Perhaps it is at the heat death end of a universe such as ours, perhaps it is because no such structure has emerged yet. That does not matter. It also does not matter what the "stuff" is. It can be lots of elementary particles, the sort that we know of; it can be some variant from another universe; or it can just be a chaotic primordial bit soup, just raw random information.The latter type of ur-chaos can match a good definition of nothing, but that’s the topic for another blog post. What this diffuse universe is made of is irrelevant to the argument made here.

Don't Make Me Think (About Linked Data)

The Missing Links

Tech, Essay |

I've long been very much in love with the semantic web vision. Or at least, that's what I've been telling myself. I really like the idea of having lots of data out there, with links between items, in a way that I can process. Easily. And I can't say I care whether it's branded with capital "S" & "W" or not, or whether it becomes Linked Data or Data on the Web. I'm definitely not amongst the most knowledgeable on the topic, and it so happens (totally by chance) that I've only been involved with the existing fruits of this technology in relatively minor ways. But the point is: I've always been deeply fond of the idea, and I've been waiting. A lot.

L'URSSAF, c'est magique!

Centre de Formatage des Entreprises

Essay |

J'ai déménagé. Pas vraiment récemment, non, mais comme chacun le sait, le déménagement est un de ces évènements de vie propices à faire fleurir le chaos, et en l'instance qui nous concerne ici quelques séquelles demeurent. Heureusement que nous bénéficions d'un service public fort pour nous épauler dans ces moments difficiles en nous permettant de rester focalisés sur l'innovation, la croissance, et l'inversion de la courbe du chômage. En l'occurrence, pour un indépendant comme moi, cette démarche passe par le guichet unique de l'URSSAF qui se charge de répandre l'information nouvelle là où il faut.

Go Fork and Multiply

W3C Specifications Should Use an Open License

Tech, Essay |

The web standards community has been discussing using an open license for W3C standards for quite some time now. We've had a long time to look at this from quite a few angles. Having contemplated the arguments, I still feel that the fears that power the anti-forking sentiment, even though they stem from a desire to help the web, are both unfounded and powerfully counter-productive. Further, I believe that the world has changed a lot since the W3C Document License came into effect — and with the Proposed Permissive Copyright Experiment in HTML Working Group now is a good time to take this evolution into account.

A 101 on the Range of the HTTP Dereference Function

FakeTAG Remembrance

Essay |

Even the most respected institutions sometimes come to an untimely death. Amongst Web institutions, few have left such a blazing trail of genius and dedication to excellence as the FakeTAG. Yet for all its brilliance those amongst you who stay appraised of the Web’s own heartbeat can’t have failed to notice the recent disappearance of the FakeTAG. After years of faithful service, it has finally gone to rest. We celebrate its everlasting contribution by republishing here one of its most emblematic findings, by renowned architect “eristikitten”.

Amazon's Experimental Pricing

Single-Player Auction

Essay |

As I've argued before (in French), there are good reasons for ebooks to actually be sold at higher prices than pbooks. If you reason purely in terms of manufacturing costs, it makes very little sense — but if manufacturing cost influenced much beyond the minimal price that an item may be sold at we would have a very different pricing landscape than the one we know. For starters, the price of Microsoft Office would be hard to evaluate given that, as we all know, each new version is just an increasingly fancy wrapper around the same page-numbering and bullet-indenting bugs that we already paid for fifteen years ago.

There Is Still A Frontier

The Next Next Thing

Tech, Essay |

I stumbled across Garann Means's excellent blog post “no country for old hackers” and sure enough it resonates deeply. Web hacking used to be a pretty damn daft calling when you consider what you could actually do, but it sure was fun. It's certainly true that with great power comes, well, stuff that's a bit too easy. Code that works the first time over. Tricks that, erm, what tricks? You just google what you want to do, download the right library, and your problem's solved before you even knew you had one. But all is not lost!

Application-Level Menus for HTML

It's What's For Dinner

Tech, Essay |

A little while back you might recall that Paul Rouget posted a little demo about Experimenting with HTML5 and native controls. The title is broad but much of the content is about a cool demo of what can be done if browsers implement the HTML menu element. Allowing a site to integrate with the native UI is a powerful approach to making the web easier to use and increase its world domination but it naturally comes with its share of potential security issues.

Numerical Constants Must Die

Rant Of The Week

Tech, Essay |

Interfaces regularly require constant identifiers. You have a node and you want to know if it's an element or a comment. You have a message and you want to know if it's email or SMS. That makes sense. What baffles me is why in designing these APIs we insist on naming things with numbers when we could name them with, you know, names.

Le livre homothétique n'existe pas

Fiction

Essay |

On peut faire confiance à la filière de l'édition pour bien choisir ses mots. Homothétique. Le vocable est peu courant. Mon respectable Dictionnaire historique de la langue française n'en fait pas état. Au Dictionnaire des mathématiques figure bien un article, mais je ne pourrais le citer ici sans devoir vous parler aussi d'espace affine, de corps commutatif, d'endomorphisme et d'automorphisme, et de von Koch — l'ensemble étant moins sexy qu'il ne sonne. Cet usage est donc novateur; il s'agit ici de décrire les livres électroniques reproduisant à l'identique des œuvres imprimées, tout en admettant quelques enrichissements, le filigrane de l'idée voulant que la transposition numérique n'apporte à elle seule aucun changement. C'est là une belle histoire qu'il s'agit de classer au rayon fiction.

The Touchstone of Consensus

Open Politics

Essay |

Watching a consensus-based process at work can be quite inspiring. From the outside I mean. Far from the madding crowd of bicker and squabble. And in fast-forward montage. But inspiring it is. More importantly, as is often claimed of Wikipedia, while it may very well work in practice, it can never work in theory. This doesn't keep some of us from theorising about it anyway.

Trusted Web Applications Considered Harmful

Web Applications Security

Tech, Essay |

There is a lot of thinking going on around the possibility of using well-known Web technologies in order to create not-served-from-HTTP, not-running-in-the-browser, having-access-to-powerful-additional-APIs applications. I very much applaud the first two aspects, the third is more problematic. Not served from HTTP is great because there's a bunch of stuff that I just want to do locally. Some things are great for the cloud, but I like my local drive and there's a lot of information on it that I want to stay there. Not running in the browser is good too (even if it's using the same engine) — frankly there are only so many tabs you can handle. Heightened access is, however, something that we should be a lot more careful about.

The Death of Draco

Smothered in Hats

Tech, Essay |

Sometimes words have interesting origins. According to his Wikipedia entry, Draco was a 7th century BCE Athenian legislator who replaced the system of oral law and blood feud with a written code, posted clearly in public so that none could ignore it. By our lily-livered modern criteria, his laws are deemed harsh because the few offences that didn't call for meting out the death penalty enslaved their authors. But putting his deeds in context, one has to admit that a written, shared law that is not subject to arbitrary interpretation and the whims of elders is very much a progressive step.

A New DAP

Reboot

Tech, Essay |

The process of getting a technology standardised and adopted (not necessarily in that order) across a broad spectrum of industry and community can be a complex one, with many failure points. Amongst the problems that a group may face is when the opinions of some (louder) members can give the impression that they represent the group's consensus, causing those who disagree to leave post-haste (it's not as if there wasn't a lot of work to be done elsewhere already). And as we all know, once someone has formed a negative opinion and discussed it around them, it can be very difficult to change it back no matter what the facts say — all you get from there on is confirmation bias.

A Boilerplate for Everything

Cease & Desist

Tech, Essay |

It's always good to stat the year with a little humour. It's cold and damp outside, the new year party was a disappointment despite you not expecting anything from it, and, if you're me, you went to Spain on vacation and never one to go without having tried local world-renowned specialties you came back with a nasty strain of influenza. All in all, it's a good moment for some cheering up.

It's Meh Again

XML versus JSON

Tech, Essay |

A common preoccupation of philosophy is the study of fallacies. I'm unsure how it became this common, I can only presume that scaring up a shared definition of what the truth is has over time proven to be such a dastardly headache-inducing activity that coming up with a list of every way in which one can be wrong might have seemed easier — if only because not only can you drink at the same time, but being drunk is actually a superior methodological approach to producing what is indeed a very, very long list. Or maybe it is because after a few years' worth of honest debate, the young, starry-eyed philosopher grows tired of having his buttocks handed over to him in separate bags by less honourable wranglers. Schopenhauer's Art of Being Right certainly lends credence to the latter.

SVG Boilerplate alpha

Putting the wow back into the web

Tech, Essay |

Many of you are likely to be familiar with HTML5 Boilerplate. If not, I encourage you to check it out, it's a very useful template to bootstrap any HTML5 page you may wish to produce. It includes a number of tricks and best practices that you probably want to use, or at the very least be aware of. One of its most useful parts is that it includes a number of shims that help produce HTML that works pretty much everywhere. I was using it the other day, and though Hey, wouldn't it be nice if we had the same for SVG?

Introducing DAP

DAPdate Zero

Tech, Essay |

There are many ways of getting someone to do something that you would like them to. You can ask nicely, you can put a gun to their head, you can wallow in the dust and kiss their boots. You can turn on your irresistible Bambi eyes and stare until you prey can only give up. The latter is my personal superpower, but that's not what brings us together today. What brings us together, on this page, at this instant, is Bruce Lawson.

Internet, politique et coproduction citoyenne

Version papier

Essay |

Couverture Juste un petit mot pour annoncer la publication d'une note sur laquelle j'ai travaillé ces derniers mois: "Internet, politique et coproduction citoyenne", au think tank La Fondation pour l'Innovation Politique (ou “Fondapol” pour les intimes).

Google's Bouncy Balls, in SVG

Bouncy bouncy

Tech, Essay |

As many noticed on Twitter this morning, Google pulled off one of its neat little logo tricks with a bunch of bouncy balls that fly all over the place. Useless. Very DHTML. But hey, it works on we the geek crowd.

Just a Small Tweak

Dependencies

Tech, Essay |

There are days on which you whip out your text editor, take a deep and fulfilling breath, set your jaw to its squarest, type line after line of code as clouds drift by in fast motion, run your code, and it just works. Right there. Right now. Smooth. And then there are days like today when it seems the Universe is bending itself not just backwards but into exotic topologies to tell you you shouldn't be writing code. Days, for instance, very much like today.

Une nouvelle constituante

Intention d'inventer

Essay |

Le toujours très à propos Stéphane Sire me faisait part il y a peu de la citation qui suit. Essayez de deviner de qui elle est, où elle est publiée, et la date de sa rédaction avant d'avoir fini de la lire.

Un RSS pour les études d'impact de l'Assemblée Nationale

Agence du Patrimoine Immatériel en Exil

Essay |

Il y a quelques mois, le site de l'Assemblée Nationale s'est vu ajouter une page listant les projets de loi dont les études d'impact sont actuellement ouvertes aux contributions. Les internautes peuvent y consulter un dossier et y déposer une contribution. C'est très limité, on ne sait pas très bien à qui l'on s'adresse, il n'y a pas vraiment de voie de retour ni de place pour le débat mais ne boudons pas: c'est déjà un (tout petit) pas en avant.