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?

 

Formulaire d'inscription sur les affaires.com, première étape

Un exemple de formulaire de commentaire mal conçu

L’autre jour, je suis tombé sur l’article de Stéphanie Kennan, Savoir-vivre sur LinkedIn: soignez votre présence, que j’ai trouvé très intéressent, jusqu’à me pousser de laisser un commentaire. Je vous avoue, c’était ma première visite sur les affaires.com, alors, je ne savais pas à quoi m’attendre.

Je clique l’icône Commenter en bas de l’article et je tombe sur une page qui me demande de m’inscrire ou de m’identifier.

Ayoye! Ça commence mal…

OK, j’ai été encore assez enthousiaste pour cliquer le lien pour m’inscrire et là, je tombe sur un formulaire en trois étapes avec pleines questions obligatoires :

Formulaire d'inscription sur les affaires.com, première étape

Vous pouvez le deviner, j’ai été ben dégonflé. Tout mon enthousiasme a été en train de s’évaporer et je n’avais aucune envie d’écrire quoique soit, mais j’ai été curieuse de voir jusqu’à où cette aberration peut aller.

Alors, j’ai rempli les questions dans la première étape et voila, dans la deuxième pas, les affaires me pose un autre paquet des questions inutiles, cette fois-ci il m’oblige pas de répondre, mais nous sommes encore, en plein, dans la perte du temps des lecteurs.

Formulaire d'inscription sur les affaires.com, deuxième étape

Dans la troisième étape, on va choisir l’infolettre.

Oh! C’est cool! Des infolettres personnalisées! Je ne savais pas, qu’est-ce que manque de ma vie, encore une infolettre!

Formulaire d'inscription sur les affaires.com, troisième étape

Entre temps que j’ai passés à travers les différents choix, j’ai oublié une bonne partie de ce que je voulais écrire comme commentaire.

Comme coup de grâce, à la fin de ce calvaire, je m’attendais d’être déjà connecté, après tout, j’ai répondu à toutes les questions obligatoires, mais non, les affaires.com me demande de m’identifier…

Un peu plus sur les affaires.com

Pour ceux qui ne sont pas de Québec, voici un extrait de leur site :

« La plus importante salle de rédaction spécialisée en économie du Québec. Plus de 30 journalistes, ainsi qu’un réseau de pigistes et d’experts reconnus dans le milieu des affaires.

Plus de 300 000 visiteurs uniques par mois, qui totalisent 3,5 millions de pages vues. »

Je ne sais pas si quelqu’une a remarqué, les commentaires sont presque introuvables sur ce site.

Alors, si vous voulez que le monde laisse des commentaires sur votre site, s’il vous plaît, évitez d’emmerder vos lecteurs.

using cellphones and taking pictures is forbidden signs

No photography

using cellphones and taking pictures is forbidden signs

Photo from Wikipedia Commons

When you visit a museum or a library, often you will get these signs: “No photography” and “No cell phones”. Let’s take a look at their pertinence one by one.

Some museums, won’t let their visitors take pictures and they come up with various reasons: people stopping to take pictures might hinder the flow of visitors, the flash could damage the exhibits, or because of copyright constraints. Probably there are other arguments too, but these are the main ones I heard about.

As long as people are reasonable and behave in a manner to let others enjoy the exhibition, taking pictures should not be forbidden. By taking a photo, the visitor interacts with the exhibit, that photo will help to process and remember the big quantity of information that she will hopefully get by being there.

When it comes to using flash, I totally understand and aprove to tell people to cancel it; the high intensity of the flash light can have negative effects on certain exhibits. To a certain extent, I would also support forbidding photography in certain areas where highly photo sensitive objects are showcased and where organizers don’t want to take the risk that someone will forget to close his flash. For the rest let’s go for it! After all, there are experts that question the danger linked to sporadic use of flash in a gallery.

Copyright! Come on… I still have to understand, who seriously thinks that a picture taken by a visitor, will compete with the official image that was taken by a professional in a studio. Let people take pictures, let them share these images with their relatives and friends, because they are doing free publicity for the exhibition and in the end, the organizers and the owner of the artifacts will be glad to have more visitors and more profit if you like.

Let’s now enter a library where there is a sign forbidding the use of cell phones. I can imagine the first librarian who got fed up to listening all day long to the Nokia ring tones and she printed out a “No cell phones” sign.

In the mean time, phones evolved and I don’t mean that their ringtones are nicer than before, but they can connect to the Internet and help a reader, or why not, the librarian, find more information about a book, or find a library code, on the spot, just by using a smart phone.  On top of this, smart phones are also ebook readers. Librarians who use these signs should wake up and better focus on deploying free WiFi in their library and make sure their library has a good collection of ebooks.

 

Colours of India, stereotypes on steroids

Colours of India: View of the exhibition room. Photo by Alain Vandal ©Pointe-à-Callière

Yesterday I went to visit the Colours of India at Pointe-à-Callière. Since I had a meeting at 6:30 in the Old Port, I thought I will just go and make a small incursion into India. I arrived at 3:30 hopping that the museum will be open till 6, but sorry I was to discover that only during the Summer they are open till 6 and normally they close at 5. Would they be open during the week at least one evening till at least 7, if not till 9PM, then people who work downtown could go see an exhibition from time to time, after work. I hope the new management will fix this among other problems.

Other problems?

Although I thought, and I was even warned at the entrance, that one hour and a half won’t be enough to see the exhibition, my next disappointment came when I got inside. A small room with a few artifacts of recent date: most of them from 20th century, with a few 19th century items and exceptionally here and there some 18th century exhibits; considering the long history of India, nothing to be impressed of.

I could immediately sense that the exhibition was constructed around the photos of Suzanne Held and the rest of the artifacts were added just to have an excuse for showing these images in a museum. Beautiful photos, I have to admit, but that’s it.

There is very little information offered for the visitors, and even that is confusing. You have to be an expert in India’s geography to know where an image was taken, or where those shoes come from.

Instead of educating the visitors, the exhibition is reinforcing stereotypes that Westerners have about this country. India, the holly land, where everyone and their grandfather is a sadhu, where Hinduism is the main religion, let’s not mention Islam and we should be OK with ignoring Sikhism.

The exhibition fails to explore the history and the cultural diversity  of India. The guide told me that the focus of the exhibition was more artistic, but as an art exhibition, it’s more than shallow. I would have been much more interested to see photos taken by Indian photographers, and not by a European lady on vacation.

Would this exhibition been organized by the Indian Ministry of Tourism, I would have had nothing to complain about, but from a museum of archeology and history, I’m expecting more.

Immigrants, the proudest Canadians

OK, so today is Flag Day in Canada!  CBC, together with other partners, commissioned a survey to see what Canadians think are the characteristics of a good citizen. The result shows that immigrants are just as good citizens as those born here (sic.). They also tend to be more proud to be Canadians, 88% of immigrants vs. 81% of those born here, which is not a huge difference, but it’s still a difference.

Although the poll is not specifying it, let me guess, the lion share of those that are not proud Canadians, are from Quebec and this percentage can only get worst with the Harper Government.

Yesterday, the English language media got overly excited, because Justin Trudeau declared Sunday on Radio-Canada that he can understand the desire of Quebec to separate from Steven Harper’s Canada.

Trudeau’s opinion resonates well with how I feel about Canada. It was yesterday that we celebrated with my wife February 14th, which besides  being Valentine’s day, it is also the anniversary of us becoming Canadian citizens. I still remember how proud we were to take the oath of citizenship, how proud we were to cast our first vote and how proud we were to see our picture in a Canadian passport.

I think it would be a huge mistake by Canada’s Government (a.k.a. Harper’s Conservatives) to take these feelings granted. They should keep in mind, that not every immigrant that comes to Canada is desperate to come here. Moving to a new country, is a big thing and people shop around before taking a decision. Before deciding to come Canada, we had the choice to apply to other countries too, but we chose Canada, because of its reputation and its values, that we felt it would make us proud to be part of.

Unfortunately, day after day, when I look at the news coming from Ottawa, I feel that the reputation of Canada and its values that we cherish, are slowly eroded and replaced with a far right ideology imposed onto all of us, by a 40% minority (percentage that won’t reach 18% if we take in account the entire population of Canada).

I still have hope. I hope that next time, people will take more seriously their duty, to go out and vote and won’t let Canada sink into this swamp of backwardness.

About Startup Weekend Montreal and why I left after the first day

Yesterday, was the first day of the first Startup Weekend organized in Montreal .

Startup Weekends are events where people come together from different areas: developers, designers, marketing, investors, etc. and spend together a weekend to build startups from scratch, it’s a bit like a matchmaking orgy for entrepreneurs. The way it works is that Friday night, people come up on the stage, one after the other, and they have one minute to present their idea, then it’s the voting period. Those who get more votes will go to the next phase, where they have to recruit people to get the project started and take it as far as possible by Sunday when a jury will decide who the winners are.

It’s a great concept, especially for those that would like dive into the world of entrepreneurship head first and all they need is a partner or some expertise that would make a difference.

Since lately, with my friends, we were bouncing around ideas of project we could do for fun on weekends, we said, let see grab this opportunity and pick an idea to pitch at SWMontreal. Who knows, maybe people will like it, and than we could get useful feedback and mentoring to get it started.

Before the pitch fire, there was a panel of VC from Quebec, there was JS Cournoyer from Real Ventures, Yona Shtern founder of Beyound the Rack, Chris Arsenault from iNovia and François Gilbert from Anges Québec. It was a very interesting discussion about how to get founded when you have a startup that has potential and all it needs if money. There were so many great advises given in such a short time, that I really hope someone was filming it and it will end up on Youtube to benefit as many people as possible.

Here are a few ideas I retained:

  • Before approaching a VC make sure it is in the right league, don’t go with a something that needs seed money to someone that is giving minimum 250k and goes up to millions.
  • VCs don’t necessarily look for amazing ideas, they invest in people, in their skills and their determination to go beyond their limits.
  • Be ready to pitch an idea many times and if you got a number in your mind when you hear the word many, multiply that by at least ten, that is how many time you will be refused and you have to be ready to continue.
  • Related to the previous point, if you know you’ll have a chance with a VC, don’t start with that one, because pitching is an art that needs to be developed over time, you need exercise. When you presented something 30 times, it sounds a way better than on the 10th time and on the 50th time is way better than on the 30th, so don’t rush it because you risk to burn some bridges.
  • Be honest, don’t lie.
  • If you don’t like the VC, be ready to refuse the offer, just as VCs look for great opportunities that fit their vision, you also have to make sure the VC you are approaching is someone from who you would accept advices. Be informed, talk to people that got funding from them.
  • Yes, VCs are giving more than just money, be ready to accept advices, usually they know better than you.
  • People are afraid to give up control, to accept advices and are stubborn, VCs don’t like people that are not flexible. Not because they want to run your company, no they don’t; these people are wealthy, they don’t want to work shit hours like you have to, they just want to make sure that the direction of the company is the right one. Mr Gilbert even paraphrased another investor, by saying the VCs are like grandparents, they like to give the candy, but they are not the ones to administer spanks.
  • Be ready to commit heart and soul to the project, several of the presenters were bragging about how little time they spend with their kids and I could feel that they would look for people that would put as a number one priority on their life the advancement of the company. Of course, this is what every shareholder wants, that their investment would return one day multiplied by many, many times.

As the average age of the room was in the early twenties and I was wondering about this last point. Is it really the only way to succeed in this field, by committing 110% and sacrificing everything else? It’s nice and dandy to push forward success stories, of people that did not care about their family and than by hard work they ended up to become millionaires. But what about the others, those that screwed up their personal life and went bankrupt? I don’t have hard numbers to back this, but something tells me that the wast majority ends up screwing up everything for nothing.

With my friend, we knew that if our idea won’t get enough votes to go further we would leave and not because we wanted to break the party, but rather we knew that our life is wired differently and we won’t be able to commit to other people’s projects on a full time basis.

Yesterday there were more than 50 ideas presented, and out of these 50, 18 ideas where selected. There were a few really great ideas, that I hope will go further to become real products one day.

It was good to see so many bright people gathered in one place, fuelled by their ambition to do something in life and I know that a handfull of them will end up as successful entrepreneurs. I wish all of them good luck!

Pina

Spring, summer, autumn, winter! Loving, rising and falling, living a human life is the main subject of Pina, the latest movie of Wim Wenders, dedicated to the memory of the German dancer and choreographer, Pina Bausch.

I think Wim Wenders, succeeded in transmitting the emotional charge of Pina Bausch’s choreographies. The gestures, the facial expressions, the music and the surroundings create a whole that will capture your soul and mind. From one scene to the other, you will go from infinite sadness to unbearable joy of life, from despair to quite acceptance.

As the closing credits ended, we looked at each other and wondered how this could be possible? Should we go get tickets for the next screening and come back? Will we be able to handle this much emotion? No, we wont… We’ll have to come back another day.