Taoffi's blog

prisonniers du temps

The social vs. networking

Numerous of the latest events reveal as much of collisions between technology and social activities.

You may have a look at some of Zeynep Tufekci's articles to get an idea about how broad the problem is.

Information Technology seems to have grownup immersed in its own technical problems with little regard to the social role it might (or might have to) play.

It is somehow astonishing, for instance, to watch how a company like Facebook does not seem to grasp few simple responsibilities about what it may / may not sell or buy and to whom. And how it came up at the end by admitting that a 'human' check is required over ads sold on its network!

Definitely, some technology companies seem to have grown up from their technical issues to at least one social notion: profit.

Unfortunately that cannot be enough. May they just recall that even profit is constrained by laws and, accessorily, some fundamental ethics!

Inspiring Jargon

I read:

"Arianespace… announced […] that two satellites it had tried to launch to join the European Space Agency's Galileo constellation, had entered a "non-nominal injection orbit"—in other words, gone wrong"  

You probably now know how to better say "I got a bug" (when it is just a "non-nominal behavior")!

MOD: Mur Oriented Development

MOD est un pattern connu de gestion de projets. Il s'agit de réussir son entrée dans le mur !

Sa pratique est assez simple : elle consiste justement à éviter, au dernier moment, de rentrer dans le mur. Adopter MOD est facile. Le maîtriser et le réussir est une autre affaire !

Object Visibility and learning cycle… just a vision of

In everyday work, we come through new tools or new versions of tools we knew before.

The cycle of playing with and manipulating these tools’ objects to attain a reasonable level of mastering… is often daunting!

To minimize the learning cycle of tools, some helpful features have been introduced: like documentation, tooltips… etc.

Documentation is of course important, but, for me, tooltips are much more helpful. They just appear when I need them in the context of using the object or the property.

The thing is: when you manipulate an object for the first time, you really know few things about its composition and, even less, about its role in the global mechanics of the tool in question. You just know it is there, and it should be there for some reason and that you should spend some time to understand: its role, its structure, and finally how can it be useful for you (if at all it could be!)

One way to shorten this learning cycle is to let others show you how to use the tool and its object. Quite useful, but, on one hand, this occults some side of self-experience (important)… and also negatively interferes in your critical view of the tool (which is often useful for the tool’s enhancement itself)

What we do to know about (most) simple toys seems more rational: You just set something on or off (left/right or up/down…)… then put the toy on work and see... after some cycles you end up by figuring out what is the ‘best’ position for your needs (or mood!).

Another representation, which may also give an interesting slant related to this subject, is the DeepZoom technology used in maps applications where you can first see the whole world map, and then, zooming-in on the map you get more details about a given country, city, streets, buildings… etc.

A good path for reducing the time and effort needed to learn a subject or a tool would be:

  • To be able to see (explore) the global image of the subject or tool’s structure in action;
  • Be able to zoom-in on its objects and see their properties (progressively detailed according to your zoom level);
  • Be able to change the value of a give object’ property… and perceive the impact of the change on the global behavior.

This proposed path cannot of course be applied in all situations or contexts, but can be useful in many (most) cases.

We may, for instance, need to create a simulation context inside which we can ‘run’ the specific tool or object. An approach which may also be useful for product tests and benchmarking.

Some interesting works have been done on some aspects (like The Property Grid project)… More is to be done on the visualization of objects and properties by zoom level. Will try to write a sample on this in a future post.


The end of Internet (browsers, and search engines at least!)

Communication is a vast and ancient field which ran through many evolution phases, experiments and research. Internet, as we know it today, is one of the outcomes of this human work.

In this story, no one technology proved eternal or ever-lasting. Cycles of evolution produced some usable and convenient forms of communication at a time. Internet seems to be just one of these.

But now, each time I look at a web page, I feel that just cannot last much longer (at least I hope so:)): these elastic regions, shapeless tables, unexpected fonts changes, images and colors… hazardous page reloads and other ‘partial updates’ (sometimes even more annoying)… the whole mess of plug-ins, add-ins and other artifacts…

That really doesn’t seem to be an ever-lasting model!

Searching for something on Internet is even worse. Just go search for the word ‘sequence’ and you will find yourself with a non-classified mess of subjects ranging from cinema to molecular biology!

Looking for a solution of a problem?... you may find many, often ten or fifteen years old… which rarely relates to you current question.

To keep some ‘Lasting Value’ for old archived articles, many publishers no more mention the articles’ publication date… and search engines don’t help much in finding out a time-classification of a search result. All these ‘partners’ (publishers / search engines) are happy with this. As long as the consumer (you and I) don’t complain, the business just continue to run with minimal costs!

The appropriateness between what is needed and what is offered seems to be near a break-point.

In parallel, the great rise of technologies like web services and the wide range of their implementations may just allow us to hope for something new to emerge: new stable and appealing content explorers / new relevant and coherent search engines.


shrek With a little refactoring, this presentation can be quite good for SharePoint 2010:

“In this fully computer-animated fantasy from the creators of Antz, we follow the travails of Shrek […], a green ogre who enjoys a life of solitude. Living in a faraway swamp, he is suddenly invaded by a hoard of fairy tale characters, such as the Big Bad Wolf, the Three Little Pigs, and Three Blind Mice, all refugees of their homes who have been shunned by the evil Lord Farquaad […]. They want to save their homes from ruin, and enlist the help of Shrek, who is in the same situation…”


“While simultaneously embracing and subverting fairy tales, the irreverent Shrek also manages to tweak Disney's nose, provide a moral message to children, and offer viewers a funny, fast-paced ride.”


Political pause: Challenges à la Française

Dans un des derniers numéros, Fortune prend comme sujet « 40 under 40 » pour parler de 40 (ça nous change des chiffres 50 et 500 J) jeunes personnalités.

Parmi ces 40 personnalités, on trouve Esther Duflo, économiste d’origine française, actuellement professeur au Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) où elle détient la « chaire Abdul Latif Jameel sur la réduction de la pauvreté et l'économie du développement ».

Cela m’a fait plaisir de savoir que la France avait encore à donner au monde quelque chose de différent à la fois de Sarkozy et de BHL !

Quelques semaines plus tard, c’est dans le magazine français Challenges que je suis tombé sur ce gentil commentaire à propos du même sujet :

« … cette sélection des "40 under 40" très ouverte aux non-Américains. Mais quel Français parmi ces 40 visages ? L’économiste Esther Duflo, professeur au MIT, experte de la mesure de l’efficacité des programmes anti pauvreté. Comme si la France avait fait de la misère son domaine de compétence… »


Très aimable !


Bizarrement, le numéro suivant de ce même magazine, consacre des pages et des pages à un autre genre de under 40 : Pierre Kosciusko-Morizet.

Né en 1977, ce jeune homme a apparemment fait un gros coup qui vaut le détour : créer une boîte (française donc : priceminister) pour la revendre dernièrement (pour pas mal d’argent… c’est le sens du succès) à une boîte Japonaise…

Là apparemment on n’est pas dans la misère (selon à travers de quel trou on regarde la scène !)