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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Web Applications Security
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.
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
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.
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.