Revolution and Revolt in France

Tuesday, 11 February, 2014 0 Comments

Revolution: Yesterday, the French business daily, Les Echos, launched a news aggregator called Les Echos 360. To be precise, it’s not an aggregator, it’s an “aggrefilter” says Frederic Filloux, the head of digital at Les Echos, who explains that the word means an aggregation and filtering system that collects technology news and ranks it based on its importance to the news cycle. As Filloux points out in his Monday Note blog post, this move required courage and a lot of clever thinking:

“For Les Echos‘ digital division, this aggrefilter is a proof of concept, a way to learn a set of technologies we consider essential for the company’s future. The digital news business will be increasingly driven by semantic processes; these will allow publishers to extract much more value from news items, whether they are produced in-house or aggregated/filtered. That is especially true for a business news provider: the more specialized the corpus, the higher the need for advanced processing.”


Revolt: Journalists at France’s third-biggest national newspaper, Libération, have responded with rage at a plan by the owners to try to save the declining daily by transforming it into a “social network”. The owners also want to convert the central Paris building rented by the newsroom into a cultural centre with a café, TV studio and business area for start-ups. Liberation staff voiced their opposition on the cover of the weekend edition: “We are a newspaper, not a restaurant, not a social network, not a cultural space, not a TV studio, not a bar, not a start-up incubator.”

Started by Jean-Paul Sartre in 1973, Libération is a leftist fixture on Parisian newsstands, but it has long trailed Le Monde and Le Figaro, and, with a circulation of just 100,000, it has proved to be a bottomless pit for its shareholders. Last year, it lost more than €500,000 as sales sank 15 percent. Marx would be delighted with such energetic destruction of capital.

Prediction: Les Echos will survive. Libération will not.

Avoid Boring Content

Tuesday, 5 February, 2013 0 Comments

“Dull content is the kiss of death if your goal is to keep teens on your site. However, not everything needs to be interactive and fancy. Although teens have a strong appreciation for aesthetics, they detest sites that appear cluttered and contain pointless multimedia.” So writes Jakob Nielsen in his latest Alert Box column, “Teenage Usability: Designing Teen-Targeted Websites.” The advice Nielsen tenders should be read as well by those designing adult-targeted websites because it is sound and sensible. When it comes to “interactive features” that let users express themselves, Nielsen’s on the money:

  • Online quizzes
  • Forms for providing feedback or asking questions
  • Online voting
  • Games
  • Features for sharing pictures or stories
  • Message boards
  • Forums for offering and receiving advice
  • Features for creating a website or otherwise adding content

And because teens don’t like to read a lot on the web, Nielsen urges content creators to write “for impatient users.” Guess we can’t expect lots of teens to start reading Rainy Day, then. Ah, well.

GigaOM gets responsive

Thursday, 10 January, 2013 0 Comments

January AdAge headline: “AOL to Redesign All Content Sites with Responsive Design.” December Mashable headline: “Why 2013 Is the Year of Responsive Web Design.” What’s going on? Well, responsive design is a new approach that enables web developers to build and maintain a single website to serve to all kinds of devices: smartphones, tablets, laptops […]

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The web is woven in space and in time

Monday, 7 January, 2013 0 Comments

The web, she wrote, “is made of loyalties, and interdependencies, and shared experiences. It is woven of memories of meetings and conflicts; of triumphs and disappointments. It is a web of communication, a common language, and the acceptance of lack of language, too; a knowledge of likes and dislikes, of habits and reactions, both physical […]

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An ever-connected generation is going asset-light

Wednesday, 5 December, 2012 0 Comments

Who said it and when? “The desktop computer industry is dead. Innovation has virtually ceased. Microsoft dominates with very little innovation. That’s over. Apple lost. The desktop market has entered the dark ages, and it’s going to be in the dark ages for the next 10 years, or certainly for the rest of this decade.” […]

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Keep the UN and its agencies away from the internet

Monday, 26 November, 2012 0 Comments

On Monday, 3 December, representatives of the world’s governments will meet in Dubai to update a key agreement with a UN agency called the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Press reports suggest that the Russian Federation, Iran, China, Zimbabwe and other notorious champions of totalitarianism want control of key internet systems passed the ITU. “Member states […]

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Digg this: How liberal geeks turned $45 million into $500,000

Friday, 13 July, 2012

Once upon a time, and not that long ago, either, the people behind the website Digg raised $45 million from big-time investors including LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen. The fools and their money are now parted. Digg, which was once “valued” at more than $160 million, has been sold for $500,000 […]

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“We too want to learn Internet” under a mango tree

Thursday, 12 July, 2012

In mid-May, Boukary Konaté from Mali, who writes the excellent Fasokan blog in Bambara and French, visited the village of Sékoro, where he conducted an “introduction to the Internet” course for local schoolchildren under a mango tree. Google Translate: “This two-hour session was an opportunity for young students to a computer running, plug the USB 3G internet, and go turn a page on Google and do searches.”

The internet on a bike

Language note: The Bambara language is spoken in Mali, Burkina Faso and Senegal by some six million people. Given the colonial history of the region, Bambara uses many French loan words. For example, the Bambara term for snow is niegei, based on the French word for snow neige. As there has never been snow in Mali, the Bambara language has no unique word in to describe it.

When Manuel Castells predicted that Nokia would rule the world

Monday, 2 July, 2012

The true hoarder never throws anything away. This obsession leads to all kind of complications, though, not the least of which is domestic strife. Still, there are moments when the hoarder’s passion is vindicated. This is one such instance. We have here a faded newspaper clipping dated 18 June 1999. The publication is The Observer […]

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Chrome, but without the Google location thingy

Monday, 12 December, 2011

In his review of the best tech things of 2011, Farhad Manjoo of Slate picks Google’s Chrome Web browser. Says he: “Google quietly updates Chrome seemingly every few minutes, so naturally it got even better in 2011. Among other improvements, the company added something called Instant Pages, a system that ‘preloads’ the first Google search result into the browser’s memory. This makes for faster searching — when you click on the first link in any Google result, the page loads up in pretty much no time at all.” And he adds, “This month, Chrome’s market share surpassed that of Firefox. Download it now and help it beat Internet Explorer.”

It’s the best browser by far, but Chrome can be a bit too clever at times for Rainy Day’s liking. Consider the feature that allows Google search to detect one’s location and then determine the search results that are served. Might be a bit too intrusive for some, which means turning the function off, which is a nightmare because it is really persistent and Chrome does not offer a clear cut way to leave the maze.

After much weeping and gnashing of teeth, Rainy Day figured it out. Here’s how to do it: In “Basics”, go to “Search” and then “Manage search engines”. Then scroll down to “Other search engines” and make one of those your default search engine. One that’s done, scroll up to “Default search options” and delete Google. Yes, it’s a scary thing to do, but every now and then one must be like David Cameron and do the brave thing. Now, recreate your new Google search engine using the syntax After you have made this the default search engine, Google will drop the annoying location function in Chrome. But why does it have to be this complicated?