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Marketing and Networking & telecommunications and Security and Social networking and The media and The Web12 Jun 2013 at 11:11 by Jean-Marc Liotier

A few reflections from my notes of public reaction to last weekend’s events.

Advertising is the main source of revenue for publishers on the Web, including the lords of sharecropping empires such as Facebook and Google. Revenue from advertising varies hugely with how well the message targets the audience. Targeting requires getting to know the target – which is the business that Facebook and Google are in : getting the user to find them useful and trust them so that he willingly provides them with their raw material.

I used to enjoy giving the publishers a lot of data in return for personalization and services – even considering the risks. Yes, we knew the risks – but they are the sort of risks that we are notoriously bad at evaluating. Most of us have probably read at least a dozen different tales of Orwellian dystopias – yet our productive relationship with service providers let us convince ourselves that betrayal won’t happen. We were so complacent that it might be argued that we asked for this.

So why are we surprised ? The surprise is in the scale of the abuse. Corruption always exists at the margins of any system that is sufficiently slack to let alternative ways thrive and supply the mainstream with fresh ideas. A society with no deviance at its margins is totalitarian – so we live with that some antisocial behaviour as a cost of doing business in a society that values individual freedom.

But today we find that the extent of corruption is not restricted to the margins – we find that most of what goes on there among people we entrusted with extreme power at the core of the state entirely escapes oversight and drifts into mass surveillance which is known to asphyxiate societies. That much corruption was a risk that we were warned against, but seeing it realized is still a nasty surprise.

Again, this is not about lawful surveillance under democratic oversight, which is as acceptable as ever – this is about the dangerous nature of massive untargeted surveillance outside of democratic control. But public opinion reeling from the shock will probably be blind to the difference – it is now likely to be wary of anything that even remotely smells of surveillance.

Of course, not everyone has yet realized the tradeoffs that modern communications entail and that they have always been making, even if unwittingly – public awareness of privacy issues is not going to arise without continued evangelism anytime soon. But a host of users has awoken to realize that they were sleepwalking naked on Main Street. What will they do now ?

Considering how mainstream audiences have long happily kept gobbling up toxic information from the mass media, I am not holding my breath for a violent phase transition – but a new generation of privacy militants might just have been given birth and I wonder how much they will nudge the information industry’s trajectory. In any case, they will not make the Internet more welcoming to it.

Networking & telecommunications and Politics and Social networking and The media and Uncategorized09 Jun 2013 at 22:49 by Jean-Marc Liotier

In the wake of the Prism debacle, Google CEO Larry Page and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, among others, published reactions full of outrage, strong denials of specific allegations (“direct access”, “back doors”) and technically correct truth… But ridiculously inadequate in the face of the awesome shitstorm that Edward Snowden kicked up, as they won’t admit willful cooperation or even awareness of possible abuse of privileges lightheartedly granted to the NSA.

Meanwhile, the Director of National Intelligence issued a fact sheet stating that PRISM was conducted “under court supervision, as authorized by Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) (50 U.S.C. § 1881a)”. Among other things, that fact sheet states that :

Under Section 702 of FISA, the United States Government does not unilaterally obtain information from the servers of U.S. electronic communication service providers. All such information is obtained with FISA Court approval and with the knowledge of the provider based upon a written directive from the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence.

Above emphasis is mine – “not unilaterally” and “with knowledge of the provider”. Hello, Larry ? Zuck ? Feeling lonely there ? Have you just been hung out to dry by your friend the DNI ?

Military and Networking & telecommunications and Politics and Social networking06 Jun 2013 at 22:40 by Jean-Marc Liotier

By now you are probably already participating in the fireworks triggered by the leak of a secret court order requiring Verizon to hand over all call data to the NSA. Mass surveillance was a well known threat – but now we have proof that the USA do it… Will that be the wake-up call for increased political awareness ? I’m not holding my breath…

US Senators don’t seem to have realized the extent of public outrage – witness comments such as “This is nothing particularly new… Every member of the United States Senate has been advised of this”… Mass surveillance ? Yes we can ! All that would not have happened if Obama had been elected.

Anyway, a couple of months ago, Frank La Rue, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion, has reported  to the UN Human Rights Council, making a connection between surveillance and free expression. It establishes the principle that countries that engage in bulk, warrantless Internet surveillance are violating their human rights obligations to ensure freedom of expression. Was that report prescient ? Is it part of a new trend at the UN ? Here are a few choice morsels from the conclusions of this extensive piece of research:

79. States cannot ensure that individuals are able to freely seek and receive information or express themselves without respecting, protecting and promoting their right to privacy. Privacy and freedom of expression are interlinked and mutually dependent; an infringement upon one can be both the cause and consequence of an infringement upon the other.

80. In order to meet their human rights obligations, States must ensure that the rights to freedom of expression and privacy are at the heart of their communications surveillance frameworks.

81. Communications surveillance should be regarded as a highly intrusive act that potentially interferes with the rights to freedom of expression and privacy and threatens the foundations of a democratic society.

Clear enough for y’all ? The report was in no way aiming at the US of A but today’s revelations makes it difficult to read it without thinking about them…

Mass surveillance is like searching every single home in the whole country because some of them might hide something illegal. With such massive indiscriminate intrusion in private lives,  secrecy isn’t kept to avoid “tipping off the target” – it is about avoiding legitimate public outrage at misguided actions outside of any effective control, that undermine the very foundations of what we strive for.


Identity management and Knowledge management and Social networking and Technology and The Web09 Jul 2011 at 2:21 by Jean-Marc Liotier

I have not read any reviews of Google Plus, so you’ll get my raw impressions starting after fifteen minutes of use – I guess that whatever they are worth, they bring more value than risking paraphrasing other people’s impressions after having been influenced by their prose.

First, a minor annoyance : stop asking me to join the chat. I don’t join messaging silos – if it is not open, I’m not participating. You asked, I declined – now you insist after every login and I find that impolite.

First task I set upon : set up information streams in and out of Google Plus. A few moments later it appears that this one will remain on the todo list for a while : there is not even an RSS feed with the public items… Hello ? Is that nostalgia for the nineties ? What good is an information processing tool that won’t let me aggregate, curate, remix and share ? Is this AOL envy ?

Then I move on toward some contacts management. I find the Circles interface is pretty bad. For starters, selecting multiple contacts and editing their Circles memberships wholesale is not possible – the pattern of editing the properties of multiple items is simple enough to be present and appreciated in most decent file managers (for editing permissions)… Sure it can be added later as it is not a structural feature, but still : for now much tedium ensues. Likewise, much time would be saved by letting users copy and paste contacts between circles. But all that is minor ergonomic nitpicking compared to other problems…

No hashtags, no groups… How am I supposed to discover people ? Where is the serendipity ? Instead of “Google Circles” this should be named “Google Cliques”. In its haste to satisfy the privacy obsessed, it seems that Google has forgotten that the first function of social networking software is to enable social behaviour… It seems that the features are focused on the anti-social instead. I can understand the absence of hashtags – spam is a major unresolved issue… But groups ? See Friendfeed to understand how powerful they can be – and they are in no way incompatible with the Circles model. It seems that selective sharing is what Google Plus is mostly about – public interaction and collaboration feels like an afterthought. This will please the reclusive, but it does not fit my needs.

Worse, the Circles feature only segments the population – it does nothing to organize shared interests : I may carefully select cyclists to put into my ‘cyclists’ Circle, but when I read the stream for that circle I’ll see pictures of their pets too. This does not help knowledge management in any way – it is merely about people management.

Finally Google is still stuck with Facebook, Twitter & al. in the silo era – the spirits of well known dinosaurs still haunt those lands. Why don’t they get on with the times and let users syndicate streams across service boundaries using open protocols such as Ostatus which an increasing number of social networking tools use to interoperate ? Google may be part of the technological vanguard of information services at massive scales, but cloning the worst features of competing services is the acme of backwardness.

Of course, this is a first release – not even fully open to subscription yet, so many features will be added and refined. But rough edges are not the reason of my dissatisfaction with Google Plus : what irks me most is the silo mentality and the very concept of Circles as the fundamental object for interaction management – no amount of polish will change the nature of a service built on those precepts.

I’ll keep an account on Google Plus for monitoring purposes, but for now and until major changes happen, that’s clearly not where I’ll be seeking intelligent life.

Military and Politics and Social networking03 Feb 2011 at 19:03 by Jean-Marc Liotier

In troubled times and under pressure from a government with powerful social networking analysis capabilities, the mere preliminary act of searching for co-conspirators and linking with them carries a lot of risk. Care in maintaining a anonymity reduces that risk, but the proper use of secure online communication tools is cumbersome, their use itself hints at subversive activity and the anonymous procurement of devices and mobile telephony accounts is yet another drag on the enthusiastic would-be clandestine operator.

In summary, proper risk mitigation techniques are beyond the casual level acceptable for fomenting mass action. As a result, frustrated citizens rising up fall back on existing social networks that were not designed for that purpose. The use of family relationships is the archetypal example though a dangerous one: even  if your government does not emulate Stalin by deporting your entire family after suspecting a single member, it makes tracing very easy using genealogy software as was the case during the USian occupation of Iraq. What is needed is an organization which is more distributed and capable of achieving critical mass fast.

This week, Algeria’s Football Federation has called off a planned friendly with neighbours Tunisia under the rather difficult to believe pretext that “the only two stadiums capable of hosting the match are both unavailable”. The real reason is actually the wave of massive protests that is currently rocking the Middle East. But what does football have to do with it ?

Paul Woodward reports an interview by the prominent Egyptian blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah on Al Jazeera in which he made the interesting observation that the uprising’s most effective organizational strength comes from a quarter that has been ignored by most of the media: soccer fans known as ultras :

“The ultras — the football fan associations — have played a more significant role than any political group on the ground at this moment,” Alaa said. “Maybe we should get the ultras to rule the country,” he joked.

Cited by Paul Woodward, James M. Dorsey, an expert on soccer in the Middle East, writes:

Established in 2007, the ultras—modelled on Italy’s autonomous, often violent fan clubs—have proven their mettle in confrontations with the Egyptian police, who charge that criminals and terrorists populate their ranks.

“There is no competition in politics, so competition moved to the soccer pitch. We do what we have to do against the rules and regulations when we think they are wrong,” said an El Ahly ultra last year after his group overran a police barricade trying to prevent it from bringing flares, fireworks and banners into the stadium. “You don’t change things in Egypt talking about politics. We’re not political, the government knows that and has to deal with us,” he adds.

The involvement of organized soccer fans in Egypt’s anti-government protests constitutes every Arab government’s worst nightmare. Soccer, alongside Islam, offers a rare platform in the Middle East, a region populated by authoritarian regimes that control all public spaces, for the venting of pent-up anger and frustration.

This has not escaped Libya either, as this Google Translation excerpt of an Al Jazeera article mentioned by Zero Hedge attests : among other measures that are part of the state of emergency and security alert imposed since the outbreak of the revolution in Tunisia, the Libyan government abolished the league matches of Libyan Football Association which was to be organized during the following month.

When political organizations are crushed and political life driven underground and dispersed, only apolitical organizations remain – and they end up being politically involved because in the end, everything is political.

Mobile computing and Networking & telecommunications and Social networking and Technology30 Sep 2010 at 11:04 by Jean-Marc Liotier

Stumbling upon a months old article by my friend George’s blog expressing his idea of local social networking, I started thinking about Bluetooth again – I’m glad that he made that resurface.

Social networking has been in the air for about as long as Bluetooth exists. The fact that it can be used for reaching out to local people has not escaped obnoxious marketers nor have the frustrated Saudi youth taken long to innovate their way to sex in the midst of the hypocritical Mutaween.

Barely slower than the horny Saudi, SmallPlanet CrowdSurfer attempted to use Bluetooth to discover the proximity of friends, but it apparently did not survive: nowadays none of the likes of Brightkite, Gowalla, Foursquare or Loopt takes advantage of this technology – they all rely on the user checking-in manually. I automated the process for Brightkite – but still it is less efficient than local discovery and Bluetooth is not hampered by an indoor location.

People like George and me think about that from time to time, and researchers put some thought into it too – so it is all the more surprising that there are no mass-scale deployments taking advantage of it. I found OlderSibling but I doubt that it has a large user base and its assumed spying-oriented use-cases are quite off-putting. Georges mentioned Bliptrack, a system for the passive measurement of traffic, but it is not a social networking application. I registered with Aki-Aki but then found that it is only available on Apple Iphone – which I don’t use. I attempted registration with MobyLuck but I’m still waiting for their confirmation SMS… Both MobyLuck and Aki-Aki do not seem very insistent on increasing their user population.

Nevertheless I quite like the idea of MobyLuck and Aki-Aki and I wonder why they have not managed to produce any significant buzz – don’t people want local social networking ?

With indoor navigation looking like the next big thing already rising well above the horizon, I’m pretty sure that there will be a renewed interest in using Blueetooth for social networking – but why did it take so long ?

Code and Mobile computing and Social networking and The Web01 Sep 2010 at 13:58 by Jean-Marc Liotier

Twenty two days ago, my periodically running script ceased to produce any check-ins on Brightkite. A quick look at the output showed that the format of the returned place object had changed. Had I used proper XML parsing, that would not have been a problem – but I’m using homely grep, sed and awk… Not robust code in any way, especially when dealing with XML. At least you get a nice illustration of why defensive programming with proper tools is good for you.

So here is a new update of – a script that checks-in your Google Latitude position to Brightkite using the Brightkite API and the Google Public Location Badge. Description of the whole contraption may be found in the initial announcement.

The changes are :

% diff
< id=`wget -qO- "$latitude%2C$longitude" | grep "<id>" | sed s/\ \ \<id\>// | sed s/\<\\\/id\>//`
< place=`wget -qO- "$latitude%2C$longitude" | grep "<name>" | sed s/\ \ \<name\>// | sed s/\<\\\/name\>//`
> id=`wget -qO- "$latitude%2C$longitude" | grep "<id>" | sed s/\ \ \<id\>// | sed s/\<\\\/id\>// | tail -n 1`
> place=`wget -qO- "$latitude%2C$longitude" | grep "<name>" | sed s/\ \ \<name\>// | sed s/\<\\\/name\>// | md5sum | awk '{print $1}'`

I know I should use a revision control system… Posting this diff that does not even fit this blog is yet another reminder that a revision control system is not just for “significant” projects – anything should use one and considering how lightweight Git is in comparison to Subversion, there really is no excuse anymore.

Back to the point… To get the place identifier, I now only take the last line of the field – which is all we need. I mdsum the place name – I only need to compare it to the place name at the time of the former invocation, so a mdsum does the job and keeps me from having to deal with accented characters and newlines… Did I mention how hackish this is ?

Anyway… It works for me™ – get the code !

Jabber and Networking & telecommunications and Social networking and Technology12 Apr 2010 at 23:21 by Jean-Marc Liotier

This week-end I noticed Juick, an XMPP-based microblogging system with some nice original features. But Juick is not free and its author does not seem interested in freedom. So who’s gonna save XMPP-based microblogging ?

Enter OneSocialWeb, a free, open and decentralized XMPP-based social networking platform with all the federated goodness one might expect from an XMPP-based system. Sounds good doesn’t it ?

Laurent Eschenauer is a software engineer at Vodafone Group R&D and he is the architect of OneSocialWeb – the team also has Alard Weisscher, Lorena Alvarez and Diana Cheng on board. Today he posted great news about OneSocialWeb at Vodafone’s RndBackyard :

“Two months ago, we introduced you to our onesocialweb project: an opensource project that aims at building a free, open, and decentralized social networks. We explained the idea, we showed what it looked like, and we answered many questions. However it was only a prototype running on our servers, there was no such federated social network.. yet.

Today, we have released the source code and compiled versions of the core components of our architecture. With this, you are now in a position to install your own Openfire server, load our Onesocialweb plugin, and you will immediately be part of the Onesocialweb federation. We also provide you with a command line client to interact with other onesocialweb users.

As you see, we are not releasing the web and android client today. They will require a bit more work and you should expect them in the coming weeks. This means that this first release is mainly targeting developers, providing them with the required tools and documentation to start integrating onesocialweb features in their own clients, servers and applications.

This is a first release, not an end product. Our baby has just learned to walk and we’ll now see if it has some legs. We look forward to keep on growing it with the help of the community. Please have a look at our protocol, try to compile the code, and share your feedback with us on our mailing list. You can also have a look at our roadmap to get a feel for where we are going”.

Laurent only mentions Openfire and the OneSocialWeb plugin for Openfire is the only one currently available for download on OneSocialWeb’s site, but despair not if like me you are rather an ejabberd fan : “Its protocol can be used to turn any XMPP server into a full fledged social network, participating in the onesocialweb federation“. So if everything goes well, you may bet on some ejabberd module development happening soon. And who knows what other XMPP servers will end-up with OneSocialWeb extensions.

There were some news about OpenSocialWeb about two month ago, but that was unlucky timing as the project’s message got lost in the Google Buzz media blitz. Anyway, as Daniel Bo mentions : “Many years of discussion have gone into determining what a federated social network would look like, and the OneSocialWeb doesn’t ignore that work“. Indeed, as the OpenSocialWeb mentions, it “has been built upon the shoulders of other initiatives aiming to open up the web and we have been inspired by the visionaries behind them:, portablecontacts, OAuth, OpenSocial, FOAF, XRDS, OpenID and more“. Only good stuff there – an open standard built on top of recognized open standards is an excellent sign.

All that just for microblogging ? Isn’t that a slight overkill ? Did we say this was a microblogging protocol ? No – the purpose of OneSocialWeb is much more ambitious : it is to enable free, open, and decentralized social applications. OneSocialWeb is a platform  :

“The suite of extensions covers all the usual social networking use cases such as user profiles, relationships, activity streams and third party applications. In addition, it provides support for fine grained access control, realtime notification and collaboration”.

Two weeks ago, Laurent attended DroidCon Belgium and he explained how OneSocialWeb will enable developers to create social & real-time mobile applications, without having to worry about the backend developments:

“In my view, this is one of the most exciting element of our project. Beyond the ‘open’ social network element, what we are building is truly the ‘web as a platform’. An open platform making it simple to create new social applications”.

Here are his slides from DroidCon Belgium :

Is it a threat to ? No : being an open protocol, it can be used by any system willing to interoperate with other OneSocialWeb systems. @evan has expressed interest about that and I would trust him to hedge his bets. OneSocialWeb certainly competes with’s ambitious Ostatus distributed status updates protocol, but whichever wins will be a victory for all of us – and I would guess that their open nature and their similar use-cases will let them interoperate well. Some will see fragmentation, but I see increased interest that validates the vision of an open decentralized social web.

By the way, if you have paid attention at the beginning of this article, you certainly have noticed that Laurent’s article was posted at Vodafone’s RndBackyard. Yes, you read it right : OneSocialWeb is an initiative of Vodafone Group Research and Development to help taking concrete steps towards an open social web. Now that’s interesting – are big telecommunications operators finally seeing the light and embracing the open instead of fighting it ? Are they trying to challenge web services operators on their own turf ? My take is that this is a direct attack on large social networking operators whose rising concentration of power is felt as a threat by traditional telecommunications operator who have always lived in the fantasy that they somehow own the customer. Whatever it is, it is mightily interesting – and even more so when you consider Vodafone’s attitude :

“We by no means claim to have all the answers and are very much open to suggestions and feedback. Anyone is invited to join us in making the open social web a reality”.

“We consider it important to reality check our protocol with a reference implementation”.

They are humble, they are open and they are not grabbing power from anyone but walled garden operators : this really seems to be about enabling an open decentralized social. I have such a negative bias about large oligopolistic telecommunications operators that I would have a hard time believing it if I had not had my understanding of the rational behind one of them funding this effort against the likes of Facebook… But free software and open protocols are free software and open protocols – wherever they come from !

Daniel (a.k.a. Daeng) Bo
Jabber and Social networking and Technology and The Web09 Apr 2010 at 16:24 by Jean-Marc Liotier

I don’t quite remember how I stumbled upon this page on Nicolas Verite’s French-language blog about instant messaging and open standards, but this is how I found a microblogging system called Juick. Its claim to fame is that it is entirely XMPP based. I had written about Identichat is a Jabber/XMPP interface to – but this is something different : not merely providing an interface to a generic microblogging service, it leverages XMPP by building the microblogging service around it.

As Joshua Price discovered Juick almost a year before me, I’m going to recycle his introduction to the service – he paraphrases Juick’s help page anyway :

Juick is a web service that takes XMPP messages and creates a microblog using those messages as entries [..] There’s no registration, no signup, no hassle. You simply send a XMPP message to “” and it creates a blog based on the username you sent from and begins recording submissions.

  1. Add “” to your contact list in your Jabber client or GMail.
  2. Prepare whatever message you want juick to record
  3. Send your message

That’s it. Juick will respond immediately telling you the message has been posted, and will provide you with a web address to view your new entry.

The simplicity of an account creation process that sniffs your Jabber vCard is something to behold – I makes any other sign-up process feel ponderous. This poor man’s OpenID Attribute Exchange does the job with several orders of magnitude less complexity.

Almost every interaction with Juick can be performed from the cozy comfort of your favorite XMPP client – including threaded replies which are something that’s Jabber bot is not yet capable of handling (edit – thanks to Aaron for letting us know that’s Jabber bot has always been able to do that too). And contrary to every microblogging service that I have known, the presence information is displayed on the web site – take a look at Nÿco’s subscribers for a example.

The drawbacks is that this is a small social network intended for Russophones, and the software is not free. But still, it is an original project whose features may serve as inspiration for others.

For some technical information about Stoyan Zhekov‘s presentation :

Social networking11 Mar 2010 at 11:05 by Jean-Marc Liotier

In a comment to a nostalgic utterance by Louis Gray, I found that Joelle Nebbe (iphigenie) expressed best what happens when participants in online communities move on :

“That’s the problem of online communities – they cannot move. It doesn’t matter how good the community is now, people just wont agree to move to the same place as one… They fragment, people move, new ones form, but large groups just never manage to move as one to a new platform. You get fond memories, and happy surprises when names reappear on another community later”.

The proverbial cat herding is well known to anyone who has had to deal with human change management, but in online communities not bound by any organizational structure the problem is even worse.

Online communities will continue to rise and fall, and with that there will always be fond memories and happy surprises !

Social networking and Technology and The Web10 Feb 2010 at 22:06 by Jean-Marc Liotier

Yesterday, while Google Buzz was still only a rumor, I felt that there was a slight likelyhood that Google’s entry into the microblogging field would support decentralized interoperability using the OpenMicroBlogging protocol pioneered by the open source micro messaging platform. I was wrong about that, but it was quite a long shot… Speculation is a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it !

I am also surprised that there is no Twitter API, but there is plenty of other protocols on the menu that should keep us quite happy. There is already the Social Graph API, the PubSubHubbub push protocol and of course Atom Syndication and the RSS format – with the MediaRSS extension. But much more interesting is the Google Buzz documentation mention that “Over the next several months Google Buzz will introduce an API for developers, including full/read write support for posts with the Atom Publishing Protocol, rich activity notification with Activity Streams, delegated authorization with OAuth, federated comments and activities with Salmon, distributed profile and contact information with WebFinger, and much, much more“. So with all that available to third parties we may even be able to interact with Google’s content without having to deal with Gmail whose rampant portalization makes me dislike it almost as much as Facebook and Yahoo.

I’m particularly excited about Salmon, a protocol for comments and annotations to swim upstream to original update sources. For now I wonder about the compared utilities of Google Buzz and FriendFeed, but once Salmon is widely implemented it won’t matter where the comments are contributed : they will percolate everywhere and the conversation shall be united again !

Jabber and Rumors and Social networking and Technology and The Web09 Feb 2010 at 12:29 by Jean-Marc Liotier

According to a report from the Wall Street Journal mentioned by ReadWriteWeb, Google might be offering a microblogging service as soon as this week.

When Google opened Google Talk, they opened the service to XMPP/Jabber federation. As a new entrant in a saturated market, opening up is the logical move.

The collaborative messaging field as a whole cannot be considered saturated but, while it is still evolving very fast, the needs of the early adopter segment are now well served by entrenched offers such as Twitter and Facebook. Touching them will require an alternative strategy – and that may lead to opening as a way to offer attractive value to users and service providers alike.

So maybe we can cling on a faint hope that Google’s entry into the microblogging field will support decentralized interoperability using the OpenMicroBlogging protocol pioneered by the open source micro messaging platform. Shall we take a bet ?

Don’t you love bar talk speculation based on anonymous rumors ?

Marketing and Social networking and The media and The Web15 Dec 2009 at 0:24 by Jean-Marc Liotier

Today I mentioned that 15 years late, I had finally put a name on a past adolescent problem : patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS). As far as I understood, it is a growth related muscle unbalance that solves itself when the body reaches maturity.

As usual with most of my microblogging, I dispatch the 140 chars to several sites using and then follow the conversation wherever it eventually happens. In that case, a conversation developed on Facebook. Friends asked questions and gave their two cents – business as usual.

And then an interloper cut in : “Jean-Marc we can help correct your patellfemoral pain syndrome. It is the mal-tracking of your patella. Check us out at”. It is not entirely spam at first sight because it is actually on-topic and even slightly informative. But it is not really taking part in the conversation either because it is a blatant plug for an infomercial site. So spam it is, but cleverly targeted at a niche audience.

I does looks like all the blatant plugs that we have been seeing for decades in forums and mailing list – usually for a short time after which the culprit mends is devious ways or ends up banned. But there is an innovative twist brought by the rise of the “real-time web” : the power of keyword filtering applied to the whole microblogging world is the enabler of large-scale conversational marketing. Obnoxious marketers attempting to pass as bona fide contributors to the conversation are no longer a merely local nuisance – they are now reaching us at a global scale and in near real-time.

Marketers barging in whenever someone utters a word that qualifies their niche are gatecrashers and will be treated as such. But I find fascinating that we now have  personalized advertising capable of targeting a niche audience in real-time as the qualifying keywords appear. Not that I like it, but you have to recognize it as a new step in the memetic arms race between advertisers and audience.

Imagine that coupled with voice recognition and some IVR scripting. Do you remember those telephone services where you get free airtime if you listen for advertising breaks ? Imagine the same concept where during the conversation someone – a human, or even a conversational automaton – comes in and says “Hey, you were telling your boyfriend about your headache ? Why don’t you try Schrufanol ? Mention SHMURZ and get the third one free !”.

Even better, add some more intelligent pattern recognition to go beyond keywords. The hopeless student who just told his pal on Schmoogle FreeVoice telling about his fear of failure at exams will immediately receive through Schmoogle AdVoice a special offer for cram school from a salesdrone who knows his name and just checked out his Facebook profile. You think this is the future ? This is probably already happening.

15 years late, I finally put a name on my past adolescent problem : patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) – growth related muscle unbalance.

Jabber and Social networking05 Nov 2009 at 15:02 by Jean-Marc Liotier

On 13th May 2008, Facebook announced ”Right now we’re building a Jabber/XMPP interface for Facebook Chat. In the near future, users will be able to use Jabber/XMPP-based chat applications to connect to Facebook Chat“. The news has been greeted positively in various places everywhere.

A year later, strictly nothing had happened, and that silence has not gone unnoticed. Facebook has not even issued the slightest announcement, except a wishlist bug report comment by Charlie Cheever mentioning that “some people are working on this.  It will probably be done in a few months. Sorry the timeline isn’t more clear“.

But today the people at ProcessOne noticed that preparations for an opening have reached an advanced stage that hint at the imminence of a public XMPP service :

It now seems the launch is close as the XMPP software stack as been deployed on, as our bot at IMtrends have found out: on IMtrends.

The biggest question that remains is whether federation is on the menu. By federating with Google Talk and the rest of the XMPP world, Facebook has an opportunity to make a huge splash in instant messaging with 300 million users at once and deal a heavy blow to Yahoo and Microsoft. Will the partial ownership of Facebook by Microsoft keep them from interoperating ?

I would love to be able to chat with all those Facebook friends who will never use a chat client that was not pushed by a mass market service provider. So far, Facebook has always chosen the closed way – opening its service to a federation would be a first. I’m eager to see if Facebook can take this golden opportunity to surprise us in a good way.

Code and Design and Knowledge management and Social networking and The Web21 Aug 2009 at 16:01 by Jean-Marc Liotier

LinkedIn’s profile PDF render is a useful service, but its output lacks in aesthetics. I like the HTML render by Jobspice, especially the one using the Green & Simple template – but I prefer hosting my resume on my own site. This is why since 2003 I have been using the XML Résumé Library. It is an XML and XSL based system for marking up, adding metadata to, and formatting résumés and curricula vitae. Conceptually, it is a perfect tool – and some trivial shell scripting provided me with a fully automated toolchain. But the project has been completely quiet since 2004 – and meanwhile we have seen the rise of the hresume microformat, an interesting case of “less is more” – especially compared to the even heavier HR-XML.

Interestingly, both LinkedIn and Jobspice use hresume. A PHP LinkedIn hResume grabber part of a WordPress plugin by Brad Touesnard takes the hresume microformat block from a LinkedIn public profile page and weeds out all the LinkedIn specific chaff. With pure hresume semantic XHTML, you just have to add CSS to obtain a presentable CV. So my plan is now to use LinkedIn as a resume writing aid and a social networking tool, and use hresume microformated output extracted from it to host a nice CSS styled CV on my own site.

Preparing to do that, I went through the “hResume examples in the wild” page of the microformats wiki and selected the favorite styles that I’ll use for inspiration :

Great excuse to play with CSS – and eventually publish an updated CV…

Code and Mobile computing and Social networking and The Web17 Jun 2009 at 11:11 by Jean-Marc Liotier

I just released a new update of – a script that checks-in your Google Latitude position to Brightkite using the Brightkite REST API and the Google Public Location Badge.

The changes are :

20090607 – 0.3 – The working directory is now a parameter
20090612 – 0.4 – Only post updates if the _name_ of the location changes, not if only the _internal BK id_ of the place does (contribution by Yves Le Jan <>).
20090615 – 0.5 – Perl 5.8.8 compatibility of the JSON coordinate parsing (contribution by Jay Rishel <>).

Yves’ idea smooths location sampling noise and makes check-ins much more meaningful.

Thanks to Yves and Jay for their contributions ! Maybe it is time for revision control…

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