Posted in : Thinking

Essays about subjects related to technology

The Amazon ultimate Ad

The lost art of gift offering

Here’s an interesting personal story that I experienced recently, about gifts.

Ancient wrapping for objects exchanged in human social relationships

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The Infometer Concept : Making information measurable

Introducing the Infometer chrome extension

In this article I will show you what’s missing in the way we process digital content and what we could do to improve that with the concept of “Infometer”. It is the rationale behind the Infometer chrome extension that I also introduce here as an illustration of this concept. Continue reading

So I am a heavy reader. My best rate is one book per week. I read mostly practical books that make me learn something and sometimes novels. My reading is consequently very goal driven : I have to understand and learn. Being rather a practical reader, I have developed some reading techniques that make me read faster, with more focus, so that I learn more efficiently.

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Show me the numbers !!!!

The use of numbers to describe online representations of people: the difference between a database of things and a database of "people"

This article is about the forced display of numbers to describe online representations of people, it studies the cases of Twitter and Facebook. What is the difference between an online database of things, like an online shop, and an online database of “people”, like a social network? What’s wrong with numbers? The answer could seem common sense, but this reflection was intentionally developed in detail for the technical minds. Continue reading

I recently noticed that now when someone adds you as a friend on Facebook, this line appears under the name :

I find this line very inappropriate. Why is it there? Am I supposed to judge this person from those numbers? And make my decision of confirming or refusing based on these numbers? WHY ? Maybe for people who use Facebook to add strangers it’s useful to know if the account is real or not, but if really the goal is to “connect people” why tag them with numbers like this?

You know, it feels like when you see a product, you immediately look for the price tag. This line feels like the price tag. It’s like your scores. A measure of your influence and even worthiness. What use could this have other than to make people judge each other by numbers? Is it to encourage people to post more, have more friends etc? I wonder how the meeting to decide this went …

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A message in a bottle : Hello world

Message in a bottleEver since I watched the movie “Message in a bottle”, I have been wondering if there was an equivalent on the web of sending a message in a bottle. I find the experience special. Is it sending a message randomly to any email address? Is it leaving an anonymous comment somewhere? Is it posting an anonymous message on a website dedicated to send messages in a bottle? Is it tweeting with no followers or facebooking without any friends? What is it? Is it possible to design a system to send a message in a bottle on the web? I couldn’t figure it out. Then, I analyzed what type of communication was the act of sending a message in a bottle.

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Machines are digging

Introducing ui engineering

Context : living the future

I studied technology because it’s not from the past, it can only move forward. For me, it’s a great source of hope. Through the many dreams we had in science fiction we expressed how much we hoped for technology. We dreamt of a smart robot companion that would be our friend and personal helper. We dreamt of smart technology.

Today, technology is living with us. From the smart phone to the camera we more and more carry a personal device with us. We are able to rely on technology more than we used to rely on people. We use it to replace our memory, to find our way, to get information, to communicate…it has become our personal helper as we dreamt it. GPS, the Internet, all our online communication tools, those are today’s personal helpers. Those are today’s smart machines. Yes, machines are digging, but they don’t look anything like robots, and they’re not evil. Instead they’re just smart software that we interact with. It’s only the beginning.

We don’t realize we’re already at the point where machines are intelligent because we expected intelligence to come in the form of robots with human-like behaviour, we still live by the science fiction vision. But if you look around the machines already do many things that remind us of the future we expect : they are replacing cash desks, public transportation, they help you find the best price, the best way, they help you take the best decision. Machines are intelligent, but one thing they miss so we perceive their intelligence is interaction with us. Today’s machines have very poor interactions with us, they are mostly functional and there is almost no notion of user experience in the way they are designed. Since experience is what we as humans value in our interactions, we don’t perceive machines as intelligent, yet.

Definition : user interface

My view is that the perceived intelligence of a machine stems from its UI. UI is the characteristic that lets un-tech people interact with technology on a high level layer. As technology applies more and more to all kinds of fields, UI becomes fundamental to make sure that humans know how to interact with machines intuitively to fix them or control their behavior.

When technology emerged, there was no interface. The interface is an evolution of technology, it makes technology useful and usable to you. We already reached the stage where we managed to make the machines functional thanks to the software layer, I think now is the time to make the machines expressive and personal by honing their UI. We could start by working on applications, it’s simple enough. Then we could invent new interfaces.

Even if we’ve imagined intelligent machines as robots, intelligent machines have already started as software and the better the UI the more intelligent we will perceive them. That is the definition I put behind UI : the characteristic that makes humans interact with technology intuitively.

To achieve such goal of making technology “intuitive”, UI starts even before implementing anything and becomes an engineering principle : we tailor technology for our needs. While classic engineering is more about making technology functional, UI engineering has the goal of the interaction with the user, it integrates the user in the equation for building better systems. Every feature, every detail is guided by the idea that there is a user on the other end, there is us. In UI engineering, we build technology the way we want to use it.

Scope : human actions

As technology becomes closer to us, it will become our personal source of information. UI is what brings the information to us. We believe the interface. The better the UI, the better we understand the information. This is how I envision UI in general wherever there is information to convey (in a movie, in a speech, in the design of an object…) :

Then when the UI is interactive like in technology it becomes :

When the information is crucial, our understanding of it will determine our actions :

Then if we zoom in, in the context of technology :

Since machines are becoming the predominant holders of information, UI applied to technology becomes all the more relevant and important to guarantee that we get the right information to make the right decision. Bad UI can make some damages, and good UI can make some marvels. UI is important because it can directly influence our actions.

As we have entered the age of information, information becomes the fuel of technology, and UI becomes the way to bring it to us. UI starts today as basic interfaces but its scope is really larger, it will shape the future of technology.

Philosophy : making helpers

Technology is flexible, we can make it the way we want. Because it’s so flexible we often end up using it for services that just improve our comfort when it actually has the potential of changing lives. So what if we made it really useful ? As the data opens there is the hope that real relevant data is coming to feed services that will help everyone. There is also the hope that the data will be free for everyone to use.

There is always fear surrounding the rise of technology as if it was a threat for our freedom. But since humans create technology, they are responsible for its fate. We can’t control how a technology will be used, we will never control people’s intentions either good or evil, but we can influence how technology should be used with UI. The idea of UI engineering is to design technology the way we want to use it, it’s possible to design it responsibly as it moves forward, so let’s build technology to help us, not to format us. Let’s make helpers.

 

Posted in A.I, Future, Thinking

Digital narcissism: We are digital mammals

Do you google yourself?

I saw a documentary untitled “I am the Media” directed by Richard Rassat that discusses the question of digital narcissism. It shows how the Internet has become a way for us to exhibit ourselves more and be more narcissistic. The documentary begins with the question “Do you google yourself?” and in fact this is the question asked to all the people interviewed and almost all of them answer yes.

Narcissus

Narcissus (by Caravage)

As mentioned in the documentary, people used to like looking at themselves in the mirror, now they like “googling” themselves. The documentary showed many examples of self exhibition (some of them were really extreme) such as personal web tvs that broadcast someone’s life in a live video blog, compulsive bloggers and famous youtubbers. I have to say, I don’t use much social media and I mainly use the Internet to share information but I feel ill at ease to share things about my person, indeed I am one of those reserved dinosaurs. But since there is so much enthusiasm spreading online to get the most followers, subscribers, friends through any way possible, it seems that the Internet has invented a new sport : the self marketing. This new hobby of the modern homo sapiens itched my curiosity and obliged me to study the question of digital narcissism.

Why do people share all their life openly online? Why do they reveal what they ate at lunch?

I am curious, is it really only about self mirroring through the Internet? Even me, I had to open a blog about my interest for technology. Is it narcissistic to share my point of view? Is digital narcissism a bad thing and did technology encourage it? Or is it society that is becoming more narcissistic? What is the role of the Internet in the expansion of narcissism?

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“I really hate talking” : how Technology makes it OK

“I really hate talking” : this was my google search query of the day.

There is something I like to do…when a thought pops up in my head I like typing it in google and see if other people had the same thought too. I find it really amusing that sometimes the exact sentence I thought of, even as weird as it is, with the same combination of words appears in google. There is something reassuring to it. “Ohh google thinks like me ….. :)”. Other times when there is no result at all, it’s also flattering. “Hehe my thoughts are so unique … :)”. Today when I typed “I really hate talking” in google, it was really to measure how many people out there didn’t like talking either, I was certainly hoping to be reassured on some level…by the Internet.

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