30 May 2015

buffersocial: “6 Powerful Communication Tricks of Great Interviewers”

Remember that dreaded lull we talked about earlier? Sometimes – just sometimes – it can be a useful communications tool.

When a pro interviewer feels a subject is holding something back on a particular topic, they’ll often use the power of silence at the end of the answer to draw out more information.

Here’s how journalist Jim Lehrer describes it:

If you resist the temptation to respond too quickly to the answer, you’ll discover something almost magical. The other person will either expand on what he’s already said or he’ll go in a different direction. Either way, he’s expanding his response, and you get a clear view into his head and heart.
Courtney Seiter

I usually don’t pay attention to these kind of articles, but this one was interesting, particularly the section quoted above – because it’s something I often noticed myself in conversations.

29 May 2015

Monica at Mozilla: “Tracking Protection for Firefox”

Firefox Tracking Protection

I believe that Mozilla can make progress in privacy, but leadership needs to recognize that current advertising practices that enable “free” content are in direct conflict with security, privacy, stability, and performance concerns – and that Firefox is first and foremost a user-agent, not an industry-agent.

Advertising does not make content free. It merely externalizes the costs in a way that incentivizes malicious or incompetent players to build things like Superfish, infect 1 in 20 machines with ad injection malware, and create sites that require unsafe plugins and take twice as many resources to load, quite expensive in terms of bandwidth, power, and stability.

Monica Chew

Why is it that, when somebody makes broad, general, statements about online advertising they are praised all over the Internet, but when people take concrete actions against ads – such as using ad-blocking extensions – that’s suddenly the worst crime on the Internet?

26 May 2015

The New York Times: “Young Saudis find Freedom on their Phones”

Saudi Arabia has ideal conditions for a social media boom: speedy Internet, disposable income and a youthful population with few social options. Unlike China and Iran, Saudi Arabia has not blocked sites like Facebook and Twitter, although it occasionally prosecutes those seen as insulting public figures or Islam. The Saudi monarchy appears to have decided that the benefits of social media as an outlet for young people outweigh the risk that it will be used to mobilize political opposition, which it is quick to punish, harshly.

Ben Hubbard

There’s no doubt that social networking and smartphones have improved numerous lives and enabled new types of business, but that’s a long way away from freedom. In this context, (mostly!) unrestricted access to social media is a distraction for the masses, a concession the government uses to divert attention from their conservative society and social issues.

22 May 2015

Philadelphia City Paper: “I was an undercover Uber driver”

Driving for UberX isn’t the worst-paying job I’ve ever had. I made less scooping ice cream as a 15-year-old, if you don’t adjust for inflation. If I worked 10 hours a day, six days a week with one week off, I’d net almost $30,000 a year before taxes.

But if I wanted to net that $90,000 a year figure that so many passengers asked about, I would only have to work, let’s see…

27 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Emily Guendelsberger

Brutal. The situation is about to get worse still, as Uber is increasing the commission to squeeze more money out of its drivers. As they increasingly compete on cheaper prices instead of better experience, is it any wonder that Uber is quickly turning into just another taxi company?

20 May 2015

Wired: “Silicon Valley is Letting Go of its Techie Island Fantasies”

In a 2009 essay, Thiel described these island paradises as a potential “escape from politics in all its forms.” It wasn’t just desirable, he said. It seemed possible. “We may have reached the stage at which it is economically feasible, or where it will soon be feasible”, he wrote.

More than a half-decade later, the dream has yet to be realized. And optimism is starting to waver. Earlier this year, during a talk at George Mason University, Thiel said, “I’m not exactly sure that I’m going to succeed in building a libertarian utopia any time soon.” Part of the problem: A truly self-sufficient society might exceed the range even of Thiel’s fortune. “You need to have a version where you could get started with a budget of less than $50 billion”, he said.

Kyle Denuccio

If you thought the ‘island’ in the title is some kind of metaphor, think again! As megalomania goes, this is not even a particularly original idea, going back at least a century to Jules Verne’s novel Propeller Island. I guess it at least explains some of the more eccentric scenes in HBO’s show ‘Silicon Valley’…

19 May 2015

Baekdal: “The Thing about Facebook Instant Articles”

What many publishers don’t seem to understand is that Facebook is incredibly limited in terms of the behavior its audience has. People don’t go to Facebook for news. Instead, people primarily only use Facebook when they are having a quick break. That means that the audience is coming to Facebook without a specific intent. And because there is no specific intent, there is also almost no loyalty.

If you can optimize your content for that, then Facebook is amazing. Buzzfeed, for instance, have optimized almost entirely for people who are on a break, mostly bored, and with no specific intent. And because of this, Buzzfeed attracts quite a staggering level of traffic via the social sites, and primarily via Facebook.

Thomas Baekdal

The latest experiment in news delivery launched late last week and already there’s been an incredible amount of commentary about it – possibly more than the number of published Instant Articles. As the article linked above discusses at length, I see three main perspectives here:

18 May 2015

Outlook for iOS: a desktop-grade email client

After ignoring the and the mobile revolution for a long time, the past year saw Microsoft changing direction under new leadership and launching multiple apps for Apple and Android devices. The most important app in their portfolio is obviously Office, but curiously Microsoft didn’t have an Outlook app – until they acquired Accompli late last year. Without much change, the app was quickly re-launched as Outlook for iOS in January. After reading many positive reviews, I gave it a try as well. To my surprise, I was very impressed by the features and after a couple of days it replaced the built-in Mail app I’ve been using for years. While I try new apps regularly, in the end I usually stick with the default, because the benefits are marginal (like Chrome and Google Calendar) or the app is downright confusing, as it was the case with Google’s Inbox.

There are a number of features that make Outlook stand out from other mobile email apps. It has broad support for email providers, on par with the default Mail app, and much better than competitors, who usually only support Gmail and don’t bother with anything else. Outlook goes one step further and delivers notifications for new Gmail messages almost in real-time, something that the Mail app can’t offer anymore, since Google decided to drop Microsoft’s EAS from free Gmail accounts. The app provides swipe actions in-app (configurable by the user) and on lock screen notifications, message scheduling and conversation threads, all pretty standard features in mobile clients these days. More specific features are ‘Quick Filter’ to quickly see unread, flagged or messages with attachments, and the option to unsubscribe from email newsletters directly inside the app.

17 May 2015

Paul McAuley – Something coming through

in Bucharest, Romania
Paul McAuley - Something coming through
‘One day something will come through that will amaze us all. Perhaps you will be the first to see it.’

După o perioadă de recesiune, revolte și atentate cu mini-bombe nucleare, Pământul e confruntat cu un eveniment epocal: contactul mult-așteptat cu o rasă extraterestră. Jackaroo vin în pace, oferindu‑și ajutorul pentru problemele omenirii, împreună cu o duzină de planete pentru colonizare și explorare. În schimb refuză cu abilitate să răspundă la majoritatea întrebărilor, păstrând un mister ferm în jurul aspectului lor și a civilizațiilor dispărute, ale căror ruine împânzesc noile colonii. Treisprezece ani mai târziu, Chloe Millar, o tânără vânătoare de artefacte extraterestre, intuiește în desenele obsesive ale unui adolescent fugit de acasă posibile indicii către o descoperire majoră despre Vechile Culturi. În același timp pe Mangala, una din planetele populate predominant de europeni, polițistul Vic Gayle și partenerul lui, Skip Williams, au de rezolvat o crimă urâtă petrecută chiar în seara aniversării fondării coloniei.

Am ales cartea de față pentru că‑mi plăcuse povestirea 17 și s‑a vândut la reducere pentru Kindle înainte de lansare. Și la prima vedere a părut interesantă, ceva la intersecția între Sfârșitul Copilăriei (extratereștrii misterioși care ghidează omenirea), Avatarul (lui Poul Anderson) și Final Days al lui Gary Gibson (găuri de vierme, colonii și artefacte periculoase). Misterul promovat de Jackaroo și relicvele aduse pe Pământ întrețin o adevărată explozie de teorii ale conspirației și de culte care mai de care mai excentrice, vorbind în limbi de mult dispărute și proclamând salvarea în adâncurile spațiului. Autorul dezvoltă o serie de idei solide, plauzibile, de la mișcarea conservatoare care încearcă să limiteze schimbările produse de contactul constant cu necunoscutul, la tehnologii pe jumătate înțelese, la infiltrarea speciilor extraterestre în ecosistemele pământene.

10 May 2015

R. Scott Bakker – The Thousandfold Thought

in Bucharest, Romania

R. Scott Bakker - The Thousandfold ThoughtDupă Miracolul Circumfixului din Caraskand, opoziția ortodocșilor Inrithi față de Războinicul-Profet se transformă peste noapte în încredere și supunere necondiționată. Acum Războiul Sfânt se află complet sub controlul lui Kellhus, armatele Kian se retrag în dezordine, descurajate de înfrângerea neașteptată și de moartea Padirajahului sub zidurile Caraskand‑ului, lăsând drumul spre Shimeh larg deschis. Singura opoziție vine de la aroganța fără margini a Generalului Ikurei Conphas și de la încăpățânarea lucidă a lui Cnaiür, dar aceștia sunt îndepărtați cu repeziciune. Dar e posibil ca cucerirea Shimeh‑ului să nu fie cea mai importantă confruntare pentru viitorul lumii, ci întâlnirea lui Kellhus cu tatăl său, Moënghus, cel care a petrecut ultimele trei decenii în mijlocul magilor Cishaurim. Se va dovedi el un aliat împotriva forțelor întunecate din nord, sau cel mai periculos adversar al Profetului-Războinic?

Ultima parte a trilogiei Prințul Nimicului își pierde din păcate mult din suflul original și din tensiunea romanelor precedente. În mare parte problema provine din acumularea constantă de putere în mâinile lui Kellhus: la un moment dat e greu de imaginat o forță care‑i poate sta în cale. Inimile Inrithi sunt cucerite de predicile lui, spionii-piele din rândurile Războiului Sfânt sunt demascați. Însăși Școala Mandatului i se alătură și Achamian primește permisiunea de a‑l iniția în misterele Gnozei, pe care Kellhus le absoarbe cu aceeași ușurință cu care s‑a adaptat și a luat în stăpânire fiecare aspect al acestei lumi.

You are fallen from Him like sparks from the flame. A dark wind blows, and you are soon to flicker out.

Songs 6:33, The Chronicle of The Tusk

09 May 2015

The New York Times: “Henri Cartier-Bresson: ‘There Are No Maybes’”

Poetry is the essence of everything, and it’s through deep contact with reality and living fully that you reach poetry. Very often I see photographers cultivating the strangeness or awkwardness of a scene, thinking it is poetry. No. Poetry is two elements which are suddenly conflict — a spark between two elements. But it’s given very seldom, and you can’t look for it. It’s like if you look for inspiration. No, it just comes by enriching yourself and living.

You have to forget yourself. You have to be yourself and you have to forget yourself so that the image comes much stronger — what you want by getting involved completely in what you are doing and not thinking. Ideas are very dangerous. You must think all the time, but when you photograph, you aren’t trying to push a point or prove something. You don’t prove anything. It comes by itself.

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Despite the massive changes to photography hardware since, his ideas remain very relevant today.

08 May 2015

Hunter Walk: “The Time when YouTube eliminated Pay Bias for its Product Managers”

We were months away from any annual review process but when looking over the salary data we saw something troubling. Many of our high performers weren’t necessarily at the high side of their salary band. Why? Any variety of reasons but most had to do with what their Year One salary was at Google and whether they were aggressive negotiators of salary during performance reviews or off-cycle because of competitive job offers.

So what did we do to those high achievers who were being paid same or less than their peers? We bumped their salary to the max of their current level. Over time, their performance trajectory would have fixed any imbalances – they’d be promoted faster, get more stock, etc but that wasn’t the point. Our nearterm goal was for our best product managers to know that we never wanted them to feel undervalued and that they could trust our desire to invest in them. In my opinion, the dollars we spent in off-cycle salary changes repaid themselves 10x in retention and moral.

Hunter Walk

I’ve had the opposite experience at one of my previous workplaces: I was among the first hired and teaching newer colleagues the processes, when I accidentally found out they received about twice my salary. When I talked to my manager about this and an eventual raise, it quickly became clear that the company had no intention of fixing these imbalances, not for me, nor anyone else. And in the regular performance review system it would have taken me years to get to the pay level of these new hires.

Needless to say, I didn’t stick around very long…

07 May 2015

The Message: “Upon This Wrist”

Upon This Wrist

Can you read on it? they ask. Yes, I say. You can read news on it, I say. But I wouldn’t recommend doing so. Not if you like news. Or reading. Or life. Or the universe. For they are very slow, the small apps that show you news. And they are clumsy. One shoots text into your face, a single word at a time, from your wrist. This thing on the wrist. Out of its infinitude of blackness yellow words fly. But as soon as you spend any time with these apps, these news apps upon the wrist, you realize, quickly, they do not work well. They are not useful. You should not be reading the news on your wrist. You should not be glancing at the news on your wrist. You are rendered impotent. You cannot read the articles. You can only shift the articles to your pocket. You can only make more work for your future self, a self which probably doesn’t care about the thing you see, presently, upon the wrist. And so, no, I do not recommend reading on the thing on the wrist, certainly not the news. It is not yet good. It is not yet smart. It is not yet fast.

Craig Mod

Another couple of negative reviews of the Watch, filled with frustration and the general feeling that everything can be done easier on the . It all comes down to the tiny screen: as consumers are embracing larger smartphone screens (something that Apple grudgingly recognized only last year), why would anyone go back to squinting at a piece of glass smaller than the displays of feature phones a decade ago?

05 May 2015

MediaNama: “Facebook’s Internet.org platform is a privacy nightmare”

First up, no matter what Facebook says about Internet.org being a means of promoting Internet usage, it isn’t. It’s a fundamental, permanent change in the way the Internet works by splitting it into free vs paid access. It isn’t the same as giving someone Rs 10 of data access or even 100 mb. It is a permanent shift.

Without https (secure content), this means that telecom operators will also be able to snoop on your users, and through them, so will the government. Is Privacy a small price to pay for free access to a directory of services? Should the fact that India doesn’t have a privacy law be a factor in allowing Facebook to launch Internet.org?

Nikhil Pahwa

Did anybody expect anything less from ? After all, airplanes and drones are not cheap, neither are server farms. Facebook needs to justify these investments before stockholders; what better way to do this than by growing its potential user base and the amount of collected personal data?

04 May 2015

Clean up bookmarks in Google Chrome

I’ve been browsing regularly for years and collecting all sorts of links in my bookmarks, for work, hobbies or as reference for future blog posts – as I’m sure many people have. Over time, my bookmarks have accumulated duplicated and possibly obsolete sites. I’ve been meaning to clean them up for a long time, but doing that manually seemed too tedious. Fortunately I recently discovered an extension that does most of the work, called Bookmark Checker. After you get past the awful interface – I’m sure those useless graphic files make up most of the bulk of the extension – it’s easy to use and efficient. You just select the type of scan (for example bad links, duplicates or empty folders) and wait for the process to complete. Checking for bad links was the longest task, and it removed nearly one hundred bookmarks out of about 1300. You can manually review the results before removing the links if you want to keep some of them anyway. The duplicate check is super-useful, as I had a lot of bookmarks imported from previous browsers in different folders that I would never have found by myself. After you’re done, the extension can be removed from Chrome, since this kind of clean-up is not something you do daily – more like once a year.

Chrome Bookmark Checker scan in progress

via Gary Gurnicz

Mozilla Security Blog: “Deprecating Non-Secure HTTP”

After a robust discussion on our community mailing list, Mozilla is committing to focus new development efforts on the secure web, and start removing capabilities from the non-secure web.  There are two broad elements of this plan:

  1. Setting a date after which all new features will be available only to secure websites
  2. Gradually phasing out access to browser features for non-secure websites, especially features that pose risks to users’ security and privacy.
Richard Barnes

I’ve been critical of ’s decision to give better ranking to secure websites and all the points covered there apply here as well. What Mozilla is proposing is much, much worse: at some point in the future, you will no longer be able to access HTTP-only websites in ! This will effectively cut out a large portion of the Internet, removing legacy content from the public eye.

03 May 2015

La vânătoare de aurore deasupra Cercului Polar

Reîntors la aeroport, mi‑am căutat un loc liniștit și am așteptat citind sosirea celorlalți de la Amsterdam. Weekend‑ul prelungit la Oslo nu fusese decât încălzirea pentru o călătorie mai exotică către nordul Norvegiei, unde speram să văd și să fotografiez aurora boreală. Fusese aproape o decizie de moment, cu doar o lună-două înainte văzusem pe Twitter că s‑a eliberat un loc la tura lui Alex Conu, îl contactasem și‑mi rezervasem zboruri și cazarea în Oslo, iar acum stăteam la masă cu ceilalți, urmărindu‑i în timp ce se aruncau asupra mâncării din aeroport, înfometați de drumul de jumătate de zi din București. Și până în insulele Lofoten mai era ceva de mers.

După zborul nocturn cu SAS, am ajuns în Bodø aproape de miezul nopții. Am trimis bagajele mai voluminoase înainte cu un taxi și restul am pornit pe jos prin orășelul adormit spre țărm, însoțiți de poveștile lui Alex despre zăpezile care acopereau străzile și casele din jur cu șase luni înainte, la sfârșitul primăverii. Ne‑am intersectat de câteva ori cu singurul locuitor treaz, un tânăr pe skateboard tras de câinele lui împodobit cu lumini fosforescente – probabil la fel de surprins de procesiunea noastră ca noi de apariția lui. În schimb navetiștii adormiți în sala de așteptare a feribotului au ignorat complet agitația noastră în timp ce aranjam bagajele, verificam orarul cursei către Moskenes și deliberam dacă să luăm pastile contra răului de mare.

02 May 2015

The New York Times: “Iran and the Obama Doctrine”

We are powerful enough to be able to test these propositions without putting ourselves at risk. And that’s the thing… people don’t seem to understand, the president said. You take a country like Cuba. For us to test the possibility that engagement leads to a better outcome for the Cuban people, there aren’t that many risks for us. It’s a tiny little country. It’s not one that threatens our core security interests, and so [there’s no reason not] to test the proposition. And if it turns out that it doesn’t lead to better outcomes, we can adjust our policies. The same is true with respect to Iran, a larger country, a dangerous country, one that has engaged in activities that resulted in the death of U.S. citizens, but the truth of the matter is: Iran’s defense budget is $30 billion. Our defense budget is closer to $600 billion. Iran understands that they cannot fight us. … You asked about an Obama doctrine. The doctrine is: We will engage, but we preserve all our capabilities.

The notion that Iran is undeterrable — it’s simply not the case, he added. And so for us to say, Let’s try — understanding that we’re preserving all our options, that we’re not naïve — but if in fact we can resolve these issues diplomatically, we are more likely to be safe, more likely to be secure, in a better position to protect our allies, and who knows? Iran may change. If it doesn’t, our deterrence capabilities, our military superiority stays in place. … We’re not relinquishing our capacity to defend ourselves or our allies. In that situation, why wouldn’t we test it?

Thomas L. Friedman

To me, this approach comes off as both ignorant and arrogant. To test possibilities implies that you don’t know your opponent well enough to have a constructive dialog. To say Iran cannot fight us implies a position of superiority that shouldn’t be emphasized in negotiations, even if both parties know it’s a fact. Don’t get me wrong, any diplomatic solution to the cold war with Iran is better than escalation of conflict, I just think it should be handled better than ‘We’re America, you cannot fight us, so here!’.

Bloomberg Business: “The American Woman who stands between Putin and Ukraine”

Putin vs. the Accountant

Ukraine is one of the few countries in Europe without a 3G network because of an oligarchic shell game played out under the Yanukovych regime. The Poroshenko government recently completed a transparent sale of 3G licenses to several telecom companies, which will inject a total of almost $300 million into state coffers. Ukraine can celebrate building 3G—while the rest of the industrialized world is planning 5G. This is where Ukraine is today, caught between idealism and despair. The reforms that have come have been so slow that, to some, reform can seem a joke.

Brett Forrest

The most shocking fact from this article: no 3G – in Europe – in 2015! Makes you feel Romania is decades ahead, even though ‘reform’ sounded like a bad joke for such a long time around here as well.

01 May 2015

TechCrunch: “Microsoft announces Continuum, turning Windows 10 Phones into Desktops”

In an on-stage demo, Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore connected a phone to a monitor, keyboard and mouse, and instantly the UI he was using adapted to the new inputs and outputs. While the operating system interface we saw on screen didn’t look exactly like Windows 10 on a laptop or desktop computer, the applications shown (especially PowerPoint) did. Instead of making minor adjustments to a presentation using a 5-inch screen, you can simply connect to an HDMI-compatible monitor and have all the space and tools you would on a full PC.

Kyle Russell

Sounds very similar to ’s recently announced Chromebits, but without the hassle of buying an extra device and figuring out how to actually control the larger display. Could be interesting, for example as business device to replace laptops while traveling or working away from the office.

See how new Continuum functionality for mobile phones tailors the app experience across devices to transform a phone into a full-powered PC