Jennifer Pahlka challenging you to Code for America

You might have already seen her talking at TED about Code for America (CfA), a movement that brings together developers with the Government on a common ground of creating useful apps that can make people’s life better.

Here, Jennifer Pahlka is talking about local government, and she’s asking developers to come forward and not to be shy to call their city hall and see how they could contribute to their community.

Code for Canada, for when?

I would love to see such a movement here in Canada too. We do have Open Data movements, and there are quite a few really nice examples of projects that were created using data offered by the government. It was just a couple of weeks ago that Quebec’s Open Data portal was launched (the site is in French), and there are similar projects in other provinces too. What I’m hoping for, is a Canadian Open Data movement that would cover all levels of government, federal, provincial and municipal, where knowledge and resources are shared, instead of being fragmented as they are right now.

 

Mobile apps, do you really need them?

Apple loves to brag about how many mobile apps are in their App Store, a number that the Android Market is trying to beat. If anyone is taking a closer look at these apps, most of them are just fancy RSS feeds, or a handful of games that are redesigned over and over again with different skins and slightly modified rules.

It’s very rare to see an app that takes full advantage of the possibilities the platform offers, most of them will settle for a mobile website, that the user has to download and install. The most striking examples I can find, since I work in the municipal field, are municipal apps. Every week, I get press releases about this and that city releasing mobile apps. A common feature I noticed is that they release an iPhone, an Android and a BlackBerry version so that they get “everyone covered”. These apps are mostly about feeding the latest news and press releases of the city.

The companies that are developing these apps are happy to promote this way of distributing news, they get payed three times, every time they sign up a new client. It’s really lucrative, because if the client needs to make a change to the app in order to accommodate new devices, they can charge extra. I’m sure there are other fields too, apart from municipalities, where institutions and companies jump on the app bandwagon.

As BlackBerry starts to sink, I wonder how long are institutions and companies willing to invest in BlackBerry app development. With Android, I’m not worried, there are plenty of people out there, that can’t afford Apple products, and there are plenty that can. Still, having to develop separate apps for all these platforms, is just not sustainable.

I have nothing against apps, they have their role and strengths. Just as no online photo editor can replace the power, speed and versatility of Photoshop (at least not in the immediate future), so goes for certain mobile applications, no responsive design or HTML5 magic can beat them.

Before you go out and spend tax money, or your shareholders money to order a mobile app, make sure that the features you need can only be obtained with an app and you’re not betting on an artificially created tech bubble that will burst sooner, rather than later.

Mobile web is getting stronger and stronger and by investing in a mobile/responsive website, you put your money in a product that will be easy to scale, easy to change, in order to keep up with the exponentially increasing number of devices used to access the Internet.

A few tips for a successful moving

These were the people that helped me move. Nobody can hope to have a better family and friends. Thank you all! Boris, thanks also for taking this picture!

July first is at our doorsteps and while in the ROC (Rest of Canada), to use a Quebecois expression, it’s a holiday to celebrate Canada, in Montreal, it’s Fête du déménagement, the day when the city is moving. Quite something to see and if there is no other way to experience it, you should watch this movie, to have an idea about how it is.

In the past few year, I moved a couple of times and I also helped several people move, so here are a few tips that hopefully you will find useful.

Use your calendar

I know, not everyone has the luxury of having several months to plan a move, but as soon as you know you have to move, take a look at your calendar, be that paper or online, and start marking down key moments. Do not expect to think of everything at once, but as soon as you remember something important, note it down. The main date is the moving day, depending on that you can mark down the date to book a truck (don’t leave it to the last minute), when to start building a team, etc.

Make a list of who to announce, ahead of time

Just as with the calendar, compile a list of who you need to notify about your move: family, friends, the Government, companies, banks, credit cards, your dentist, etc. A good way to start this list is by looking at your wallet, there you’ll find a bunch of cards to remind you who to call. Don’t notify them too early, you don’t want to risk having your bills sent to your new address, before the move. Depending on where you are, the Government might offer you an online way to notify several agencies at once, here is the service offered by Quebec.

Ask for help

In case you will move with a moving company, ignore this section.

Think of everyone who could come and help you, talk to them about your plan beforehand, to have an idea who will say no right away. Don’t be afraid to ask too many people, in the end some of those who told you they’de help, will back off. Think of a plan B, if you don’t gather enough people, be ready with alternative solutions.

A day or two before the move, once you have a clear idea about the size of your team, you can estimate how much time it will take. Let them know, so that they can make arrangements accordingly.

Don’t start packing too early

There are several inconveniences with packing too early: you will live in a mess, exactly the shoe you need will be on the bottom of the box on the bottom and it can be dangerous if you have kids, etc. Don’t let it to the day of the move neither, it will be a lot easier for your friends to come and grab boxes, than to start packing things. Make sure that by the time you have to pack, you got enough supplies to properly package everything.

Label everything

As you package your stuff, label every box and create yourself a code about which box goes to which room in the new place. This can be written or can be color coded. If you have a large furniture that you need to disassemble, label every piece of it, and eventually take pictures to help you remember how to reassemble it. The small parts, such as screws and dowels, put them all in ziplock bags and tape them to one of the main pieces of the furniture.

No kids and pets around

On the day of the move, make sure that small kids are not around and your pet is locked up safely for the next few hours. You don’t want them or anyone else being injured, safety must be an important aspect to keep in mind.

Make it fun

Moving is fun, make sure your team is well hydrated and fed during the move. Leave the alcohol to the end :).

 More tips?

Add your tips in the comments section, I’de curios to learn new tricks.

 

Macaroni necklace for Mom

I never posted a press release on this website, but I think there is a first for everything.

François Lalumière:On the Phone with Mum. Montreal artist François Lalumière, known for his colorful installations is one the artist invited to participate.

Macaroni necklace for Mom

In celebration of Mother’s Day, several students have asked 18 Montreal artists “ to make a necklace out of macaroni ”. From the 5th to the 12th of May 2012, at the studio XX in Montréal, Macaroni Necklace for Mom will show the works of several different exhibitors in a multi-disciplinary visual arts exhibition.

What is it about ?

The idea of making a necklace out of macaroni for one’s mother originates in the poetry of simple daily objects. A necklace of noodles has always been the king of preschool creations. Unfortunately, these projects are regarded with derision : they are seen to have little to no commercial value. Nonetheless, such an object conserves its sentimental value, crystallized in the pure intention of a child who carefully makes it, for his or her mother. Macaroni Necklace for Mom also proposes to banish barriers which circumscribe any creative discipline to celebrate “an object with a modest soul, without borders of any kind or origin”; a stance which, echoes the proposition of the artist Hervé Perdriolle – a key promoter of Free Form.

The Genesis

Cybèle B. Pilon – a communications undergraduate at the University of Montréal – invited 18 Montreal artists from different disciplines to make a necklace out of macaroni to celebrate Mother’s Day. To mark the same occasion as a youngster, she often spent time in similar handicraft activities in elementary school.

Years pass but the games we play remain the same. Cybèle is passionate about things that, on the surface, are ordinary, simple; she has organized a team consisting of Guillaume, Marie- Audrey and Cassie to turn this crazy project into a reality. The desire to learn and participate in a worthwhile project prompted these four students from communications, design and scenography, to organize the project.

A Macaroni Necklace for Mother aims to stimulate the Montreal cultural scene as well as to honor women as part of a celebration of Mother’s Day. One hopes to find as well, in this project, a continuing hope to erase the lines which define disciplines, media and other barriers between the contemporary arts.

Studio XX

4001, rue Berri – Suite 201 (between Duluth and Roy, Sherbrooke metro)
Montreal, Quebec, H2L 4H2
514 845-7934

If you happen to be in the neighborhood, check this exhibition out.

It’ll be open till this Saturday, May 12th.

Transporting goods with metro

We got to point were old way of urban development is not sustainable and it’s clear that cities will have to find new ways to grov and to accomodate more and more people. Loud and impatient voices ask for radical changes to be done overnight, let’s get rid of all the cars and build bike-paths all over the place.

The metro is a fast and convenient way to get people fast from point A to point B, and it does not hinder the traffic, the cityscape, you don’t hear it, you don’t see it, but it’s there and it’s hard to beat. The problem with underground metros is the price of building the network, it’s very expensive to build a km of metro line and because of this, cities usually go for cheaper solutions.

I wonder if the place of the metro would be reconsidered, if it would be perceived as more than just another way to transport people, and in paralel, to be used for transporting goods? The bill of developing new metro lines would be split between the passengers and the freight companies. There would be fewer trucks on the road and the metro line could be used at its maximum capacity.

This solution might be too crazy to be realistic, but the main idea behind it I think should be considered. The idea come to me from the French word for “public transportation”, which is “transport en commun”, that could be translated as “joint transportation”. As people can share the same vehicle, why couldn’t they share it with goods too?

Balance

Balance is about Canada, about Quebec, about multiculturalism, about the difficulty to keep the right balance in order to advance and avoid falling in chauvinism, racism or xenophobia.

From my personal experience, as a new comer to Canada, I was surprised by the openness of people here, how easily they accept that I come from somewhere else.  How easy it is to feel home in Canada, in Quebec, in Montreal.

The only thing I’m still struggling with and the only thing that shatters my illusion of a harmonious society is the relationship between certain Francophones and Anglophones.

It’s an extremely touchy subject, that makes interaction with locals difficult. I got Francophone friends, I got Anglophone friends and they are all open minded people with a lot of respect for other cultures (I’m avoiding bigots), but there are times, especially when elections are near, when poison is in the air. Poison spread by political parties without a serious platform and cheap journalism that tries to sell a few extra papers by steering up the spirits.

I’m looking forward to the time, when the Red will recognize the importance of Blue in creating a unique richness and when Blue will stop focusing on a pessimistic interpretation of its past and start focusing on its future.

I’m going back to school

If the student strike will end before this autumn, I will start my master degree at the Université de Montréal in Information Studies (IS). Of course, it’ll be part time only, with not more than two courses per semester, because I will continue to work full time, so I’m expecting that it’ll take me a few years before I’ll finish it.

There are several fields I can specialize in: Archival Studies, Librarianship, Information Architecture, Information and Knowledge Management.

At this stage, I’m not 100% sure which way I want to go, I still have to take the prerequisite classes and after I might be wiser. For sure I’m not too much interested in a career in archiving or librarianship, so I still have to decide between Knowledge Management or Information Architecture. We’ll see…

Starting this post, I added a new category to this blog, Information studies. As I will advance in this field, I will use this category to regroup ideas, books and articles about IS.

France to crackdown on visitors of terror website

Now that the ordeal in Toulouse has ended in the death of the al-Qaeda-inspired gunmen, Nicolas Sarkozy came out as a decisive leader, who doesn’t hesitate to take action. I’m expecting that his popularity will go up and he might even win the upcoming elections.

But not all is smooth for him, there will still remain some difficult questions to answer, as in this Haretz article.

The attacker happens to be a Muslim, and this could raise the popularity of Marie LePen too, the candidate of the far right, so Sarkozy had to show that he would go even further to stop terrorists, by imposing the same sentence on repeated visitors of websites that promote terror as on the visitors of child pornography websites, meaning sentences of up to two years in prison and €30,000.

What makes me wonder about the wisdom of his intention, apart from consolidating his image among  his electoral base, is that monitoring visits to websites that promote terror won’t be an easy task.

In the case of child pornography, it’s easier to set up rules, images of models under the age of 18, will be flagged, hence visiting such a website is punishable, but what about terror websites? It’s quite unclear, when does a website will become flagged? What does it mean repeated visitor? How many time a person has to go on such a website to be considered a repeated offender?

Will the law enforcement keep just as a close eye on Neo-Nazi websites and forums as they will on Islamist sites? After all, Anders Behring Breivik was not an Islamist, still he’s the author of the worst terror attack in Scandinavia.

My other question is how will jailing visitors of Islamist websites will be prove to be effective on the long run?

The Toulouse killer was a small time crook that became radicalized while doing time. Sending people to jail, who already seem to be attracted by extremist ideologies, will mean that they get a bursary to the best universities of crime and terror. If they won’t come out from jail more radical than ever, for sure they will have plenty of opportunity to recruit others for their cause.

The warmest St-Patrick parade

I find St-Patrick’s day to be the coolest holiday of the year. What can bring more joy than the celebration of the arrival of spring, soaked in beer and accompanied by bagpipe music?

I still remember our first St-Patrick’s Day parade, it was just a few weeks after our arrival to Montreal.

As new immigrants, we thought on a Sunday, we should go to a Romanian church, maybe we’ll get introduced to the Romanian community and we could make some connections that would help us in our integration.

At the time, we lived in DDO, in the West Island, to get to downtown, where the Romanians were renting a church, we had to take two busses than take the metro, change lines, etc. It was a long trip and it took a lot of determination to go there on a Sunday, especially for us, not your typical church goer type.

From the time we got on the first buss, we noticed there we a few people wearing strange stuff, funny hats and a girls face was painted in green. We thought, they’re going to some party and we tried not to show we’re new comers, so we would just look elsewhere. On the second buss there were even more pople, with even stranger hats and the metro was unusually packed, all with people dressed in green. We realized that this must be something bigger than a weird party and we became so curios to see where everyone is going dressed like this, that we dropped the plan to go to church and we just followed the crowd.

As we got out on St-Catherine street, at Peel metro station, the sidewalks were occupied by a huge crowd and in the middle of the street there was the St-Patrick’s Day parade.

Everyone shouting “Happy St-Patrick!”, bunch of drunk people, kids, cops, bagpipes, clowns (it was later that I learned they’re the Shriners), etc. The parade went on and on and on, and we forgot completely about our plan to go to church. We were happy because we were part of something special, something Canadian and we felt more integrated into our new home, than we would ever feel by going to any Romanian church.

The parade left on me a lasting impression, I even made a painting that you can see here and I try to never miss it. Every year we would go with my wife and celebrate the coming of Spring. Today was no different, especially that we had 20 degrees Celsius, we went again to have a beer and shout “Happy St-Patrick” to strangers.

Are we in the post-PC era?

Mike Elgan’s article in Computerworld, Dispatch from the post-PC revolution is about “well, I’ve told you so!” PC fading away in favor of tablets.

He has all the right to do so, since he was one of the pundits who have predicted this phenomenon at the launch of the first iPad, two years ago. His predictions are confirmed by statistics, there are way more tablets sold than PC’s and the numbers are looking better and better for tablet makers. PC is something that covers quite many different types of devices, but in this post, I will follow Mike Elgan in calling PC a workstation or a laptop.

Can anyone say no to Mike Elgan or to Tim Cook and all the other gurus? Will anyone, by looking at the numbers and listening to these guys, claim we’re not in a post-PC world?

Let me be the one saying it, but let me add to it, we’re not yet in the post-PC world , but we’re heading towards it with full speed. Here is why:

Tablets are not replacing PC’s

Tablets (and here I would include smartphones too) let you do things that with a workstation or a laptop would be quite cumbersome, like accessing the Internet on the go, or while laying on a sofa while watching TV. Touch screens are way more intuitive to use than a mouse or a trackpad, hence the popularity of tablets even among non-technical people.

PC’s are still more ergonomically adapted as tablets

As intuitive as it is a touch device, it is still not as efficient as PC with a keyboard and a mouse, when it comes to ergonomics, it’s OK to write an email or a blog post on a tablet, but I would like to see that secretary who has to type every day hundreds of emails doing it on the screen of a tablet. I’m sure at the end of the day her neck and her wrist will be soar as hell.

What it would take to really talk about post-PC?

Tablets have succeeded in taking over from PC the entertainment part, but they are still far from dominating the workplace, because of productivity issues. In response to this deficiency and because the tablet market is expanding, there is a whole new sector mushrooming, the accessory producers. There are plenty of keyboards already that work with tablets, that will make typing more easy, but we still have to solve the problem with the limited screen size of a tablet.

Be that a wired or a wireless solution, in the end we will need a way to connect tablets to a bigger screen or why not, to several of them. It’s a long known fact that having a fast computer with enough screen that you don’t have to juggle with windows on top of each other, will improve productivity.

When we talk about big screens, sorry, but touch is out of question and the good old mouse or something similar to it, will be a lot more easy our wrist than stretching out to push a screen, especially when it comes to repetitive movements performed over a long time.

For storage, I think tablets are doing good, maybe the 16G version won’t be too practical in a professional environment, but I’m sure SSD prices will end up dropping and we’ll laugh at the price Apple is charging right now for the 64G iPad.

What is your take on this, are we or not in the post-PC era?

 

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