Be disinclined to acquiesce
Consenting to sharing your personal data with a third party is not a problem that the Internet invented for us: social scientists have been struggling with the issue in their experiments for decades. Macartan Humphreys’s “Reflections on the Ethics of Social Experimentation” that provides a framework within which to consider the consent of populations being studied lists no fewer than eight consent strategies and the ethical considerations that surround them. True to style, the Internet just came along and made things bigger.
And don't fear the Reaper
With so much public doomsaying over A.I., optimistic views on the matter make for a welcome contribution to a healthier debate on the topic. There is, however, a gap between optimism and unwarranted confidence into which Mr. Pande's recent Artificial Intelligence’s ‘Black Box’ Is Nothing to Fear seems to have fallen.
A new tide for privacy rights
By no means are we there yet. Facebook is still a tracking company at which some engineers maintain a social network in their 20% time. Google can still track your navigation across an estimated 80% of the Web. And, perhaps more worrying, any number of smaller companies are not household names but know far, far more than the names in any given household — and what they know they will sell. There is still a long way to go for online privacy to meet reasonable expectations.
La Celle-Saint-Cloud. Je me réveille et, déjà, je ricane.
C’est dur, aussi, d’être haï par des cons
Je ne voulais pas traiter ce sujet. En politique française, le voile et plus généralement tout
ce qui touche à l’Islam est un chiffon rouge qui sert à droite comme à gauche à détourner
l’attention de l’absence totale de projet politique, et le feuilleton de l’été sur le burkini
n’y fait pas exception. Malheureusement c’est un sujet qui ne semble vouloir tarir au point
que les primaires LR se résument à un concours de celle ou celui qui pissera le plus longtemps
contre une mosquée. À force, quelques précisions s’imposent.
Because the EU can take a stand
It may be a trite thing to say, but I love the European ideal. I was firmly in favour of the
UK remaining in the EU, to the point of
threatening to karaoke
Phil Collins should “Leave” win (a threat that will be carried out at an undisclosed
future date). Without a doubt there is much to perfect in the European Union. But whenever I
cross one of our “borders” without it being in any way noticeable, or whenever I take a step
back and recall how we had “French Francs” when I was a kid and now have the euro, it means
something to me. We can turn a fractious bunch of tiny warring states into a friendly, motley
gaggle of a union — given determination and courage.
By and large, it’s one of those teapot squabbles that the intersection of Twitter and Open
Source can easily make more heated than enlightening. My interest here isn’t to pick a side
and point fingers thither and there, if only because it’s pretty hard to point fingers and
type at the same time. Rather, I wonder if the heat could not be harnessed to cook up something
Un jour à peine est passé depuis les nouvelles attaques sur Paris, et certains ont déjà cédé
aux clairons de la rhétorique martiale. L’émotion est vive pour nous tous; il est pardonnable
d’avoir trébuché un instant, d’avoir parlé dans la peur, d’avoir paniqué. Mais il est
indispensable de se ressaisir.
There will be those to tell you that the “kindergartener” is an appropriate noise level
metric. Nothing could be further from the truth. Direct experience demonstrates beyond
doubt that, in terms of sheer volume, there is in effect only marginal difference between
“3 kindergarteners” and “21 kindergarteners.”
La pensée sous surveillance
Manuel Valls est inspiré aujourd’hui. Très inspiré. Et comme toute bonne politique est fille
démagogiepédagogie, il a travaillé dur à nous expliquer le profond de sa pensée par
le biais d’une petite infographie, aussi efficace et lourde de conséquences qu’elle est simple
et féconde de sens.
Pretty SVG quasicrystal generator
Quite a long while back I had found Eric Weeks’
small and fast quasicrystalline pattern generator. I recall having quite some fun throwing
random options at it and looking at the pretty patterns it made. But C and PostScript are only
so much fun for so long, and so I thought of it no more.
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?
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.
Waiting for the singularity
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.
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
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:
Austening ourselves to the full Brontë
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.
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.1 What this diffuse universe is made of is irrelevant to the
argument made here.
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.
Centre de Formatage des Entreprises
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.
W3C Specifications Should Use an Open License
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
Copyright Experiment in HTML Working Group now is a good time to take this evolution into account.
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”.
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