Advertising’s War on Consent

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.

Fear the Black Box — Don't Fear the A.I.

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.

The Calmer Seas of Privacy

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.

Ah, que j’aimerais être Marine Le Pen!


La Celle-Saint-Cloud. Je me réveille et, déjà, je ricane.

Les anti-burkinis, 5ème colonne de l’État Islamique

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.

How Not To Have A Conversation

One-Character Character-Building

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 useful.

Le cri sourd du pays

Paris, 2015-11-13

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.

The Confusion

Fun In The ’Garten

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.”

Tweete Comme Valls

La pensée sous surveillance

Manuel Valls est inspiré aujourd’hui. Très inspiré. Et comme toute bonne politique est fille de 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’ quasi.c, a 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.

Lightning Tank

Adrénaline éristique

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?

Looking for my Next Project

What’s Next?

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Don't Make Me Think (About Linked Data)

The Missing Links

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.

Thelma Hedy Eleanor Berjon-Berthezène

The Other Prettiest Baby

3kg. 51cm. Another perfect baby.

L'URSSAF, c'est magique!

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.

Go Fork and Multiply

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 Proposed Permissive 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”.

Amazon's Experimental Pricing

Single-Player Auction

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

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

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

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.

The Touchstone of Consensus

Open Politics

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

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.