You Know Karen by The Pudding →

Fun data analysis done at The Pudding about the popularity of the ‘Karen’ first name. The goal is to understand why this name became such a meme.

Chances are you don’t know too many babies named Karen today, but when the name hit its peak at #3 in 1965, Karens were everywhere. (Important context: the US was 88.6% White at the time, so it’s safe to assume many Karens are White). It’s this swift rise and fall in popularity that’s made Karen the name so era defining and made “Karen” the meme a perfect caricature of women of a certain age and a certain privilege.

It’s also fun to see how they used the popularity curve of the Karen name to find other names with similar popularity curves.

Well, based on these comparisons and their data, the male ‘Karen’ is most likely David first, and Gary second…


German swan

Exceptionally, the 8th of May, 2020 was a public holiday here in Berlin, Germany.

On that day, I took a long bike ride outside of the city, a weekend habit that I started during the Covid-19 lockdown.

During my ride, I stumbled upon a tiny beach named Strandbad Schmöckwitz. I sat in the sun, by the water. For a good two hours, passing boats and paddle boarders and swimming dogs and the landscape distracted me.

When suddenly, this swan (interestingly der Schwan in german) broke from its group of swan friends, came over, and posed for several pictures.

Here’s the best one. There’s something in the way it looks at the camera. :)

A German swan is posing


Historic day

It is mostly a historic day because France (where I’m from) has, after 55 days of lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, eased the restrictions today. France is among other countries to have done so.

Let’s remember that French people needed to write their own authorisations before leaving their homes during this lockdown period. This is now over. In Germany, where I’ve been living since 2015, this was not necessary.

From the aforelinked BBC article:

People will no longer need travel permits to explain why they have left home. Car journeys of up to 100km (60 miles) from home are allowed, but drivers need permission for distances further than that.

It is also a historic day for this website since, after almost three years of hiatus (exactly 2 years 10 months and 1 day), I am posting here once again. Strange times.

While typing these lines, I looked at the date of my previously last post with disbelief. It was posted in 2017, two years after my move to Berlin, Germany. This is what I have a hard time believing. Posting on this website is so strongly associated with my student years in my memory. As the archive page reveals, 2011 and especially 2012 were my most active years. I started while in my third year of studies and from mid-2011 to mid-2012, I wrote from Sydney, Australia where I worked and studied too. I do not recall at all posting from Berlin.

Anyway, the stay-at-home measures have made aspects of my life look like my old student life again. The balance has shifted and, like before, most of my occupations are at home now. My life has slowed down too. The outside world’s call for my attention is limited. I’m left with more energy and more time to spend on fulfilling occupations at home.

I guess it’s fitting that, today, my mind decided to release this website from its lockdown and re-opened it.


Product lessons from Snap’s S-1 →

Sam Gerstenzang quotes Snap’s S-1 filing and adds his comment:

Our strategy is to invest in product innovation and take risks to improve our camera platform.
I can’t state strongly enough how differentiated this is. No other company who has reached this scale works this way. Their long term differentiation is not based on a classic ‘moat’ but instead on the velocity of product innovation. Snap operates like a toddler running head-first down the gangway. Without momentum, Snap believes it will fall flat to the ground. In other words, Snap doesn’t believe network effects will save them. In our current App Store mobile world, where you can launch a new social app by authenticating it against the address book, network effects are reliant on the value of aggregated historic content, of which Snapchat has very little.

Another extract struck me:

Early on, we thought about charging our community to use additional features. For example, we saw so many people having fun with the Creative Tools we made, like drawing and captions, and we thought people might want to purchase additional ways to express themselves. To test this hypothesis, we built a Lens Store where our users could buy new Lenses, in addition to the free ones we already provided. The results were disappointing. Only a small number of people wanted to buy Lenses, and the number of people using Lenses decreased. After a few weeks, we got rid of the Lens store and made all of the Lenses available for free. Almost immediately, our community began to use Lenses more and create more Snaps to send to their friends and add to their Story.
This short description of Snap’s process is actually extraordinarily revealing. Snap is so good at product innovation precisely because they are okay with being wrong. They try large risky things, take feedback, and try again. They’re perfectly ok with launching and then rolling back major product changes (like Auto Advance) because it taught Snap (and their users) a new way of interacting with the product, which they eventually figure out to execute well (in the form of Story Playlist.)

Small experiments like these are not a new idea. Good reminder though.


The Withings Activité Pop is a cheaper brand of beautiful fitness-tracking wristwatch →

The Verge:

The Withings Activité is a watch. A Swiss Made watch, much like the ones we've been wearing for decades — only slightly smarter. At $450, it's a serious purchase, an investment in quality. Now Withings has tweaked the formula a bit. The Activité Pop, which was just announced at CES 2015, is a $149.95 wristwatch made more for the Timex wearer. The Pop comes in three colors: Azure, Shark Gray, and Sand. Which is to say it comes in black, blue, and beige. (There are other strap colors, too.) You won't find "Swiss Made" anywhere on these devices, because they're not nearly as high-end as the Activité; they're made of PVD-coated metal, a standard material in many mid-range watches, along with a silicone strap. The watch is water-resistant up to 30 meters, and its battery lasts up to eight months.

Withings follows up on its Activité with a cheaper model, but still good-looking.


Chaos Computer Club claims it can reproduce fingerprints from people’s public photos →


Chaos Computer Club, Europe’s largest association of hackers, claims it can reproduce your fingerprints from a couple of photos that show your fingers. At the 31st annual Chaos Computer Club convention in Hamburg, Germany, Jan Krissler, also known by his alias “Starbug,” explained how he copied the thumbprint of German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen. […] Krissler said he used commercially available software called VeriFinger to pull off the feat. The main source was a close-up picture of von der Leyen’s thumb, obtained during a news conference in October, along with photographs taken from different angles to get an image of the complete fingerprint. If anyone can really use this method as easily as described, it could be a potentially big blow to the use of fingerprints for security purposes. Nonetheless, this is no reason to stop using them: It’s important to keep the findings in perspective. Even if reproducing a fingerprint was a viable method for breaking into a system, be it a smartphone or a high-security vault, this news doesn’t mean that fingerprints are suddenly useless. Perfect security measures do not exist, and fingerprints definitely still have their place. They can still be more secure than PIN codes in many cases, and can always be used in conjunction with them or other types of passwords for multiple layers of security.

No panic. Fingerprints are still more secure than passwords, you know these things we use to access every service on the web.


Apple and Apps Dominated Christmas 2014 →

Flurry is a well-known analytics solution owned by Yahoo and used in more than 540,000 apps. It does not represent the whole mobile market, but its figures should give a good representation of brand preferences for Christmas:

It’s clear that Santa is no longer into cookies - he prefers Apples. It was a banner Christmas for the Apple, the company that started the mobile revolution with the introduction of the first iPhone in 2007. Seven years later, Apple accounted for 51% of the new device activations worldwide Flurry recognized in the week leading up to and including Christmas Day (December 19th - 25th). Samsung held the #2 position with 18% of new device activations, and Microsoft (Nokia) rounded out the top three with 5.8% share for mostly Lumia devices. After the top three manufacturers, the device market becomes increasingly fragmented with only Sony and LG commanding more than one percent share of new activations on Christmas Day. Up-and-comers Xiaomi, Huawei, and HTC all had less than one percent share on Christmas Day. One reason is surely their popularity in Asian markets where December 25th is not the biggest gift-giving day of the year.

The Verge: Withings Activité review →

The lesson of the Activité is how trivially easy it is to add these data-collection tools to a wristwatch. Sure, it decreases the battery life, but certainly not enough to be an issue; it definitely doesn’t require any real design compromise. It’s an almost exclusively additive process, making the thing you wear on your wrist more than just a device for telling the time.

It is a watch, a beautiful watch, a Swiss Made™ watch. Buy it because it looks beautiful as a watch. What is awesome about it though is that it can track your steps, your activities and your sleep. Taking this approach, David Pierce, who wrote the review, actually has an interesting idea for high-end watches:

If it’s a smartwatch, it’s the least capable smartwatch I’ve ever seen. What the Activité actually represents is the new table stakes for a watch, the new minimum for a device that looks like this and costs this much. Watches can already blare sound to wake you up in the morning, so why can’t they buzz quietly? Why can’t I swap bands before I get in the pool and have it track my splits? It’s all clearly possible, and I don’t think it’ll be long before those features are as commonplace as a sweeping second-hand. Rolex, Timex, and Bulgari have all already done the hard part: building a beautiful watch. So did Withings. And it proved that the other half, the technological half, doesn’t require sacrifice.

Counter Culture: The Curse of Online Status →

Interesting short documentary by Hamish Stephenson about online’s influence over creativity. Interviewees are from the fashion world. I’m not used to posting about fashion and creativity here, but it is relevant because it looks at digital influence and how these kids can become influential with an Instagram and Twitter account. The question then is how can they use this influence to make a career?

Whether you think they deserve to make money from their online presence or not, it actually works. About Mike The Ruler and Luka Sabbat, I encourage you to read this article from Dazed “mike the ruler’s kingdom”, you’ll learn a lot about the new generation.


Why random #hashtags fail in marketing campaigns →

Luke Ryan, from the agency WeAreSocial, about what he calls #campaignhashtags, those hashtags pushed by brands everywhere that consumers never use:

#campaignhashtags fail because they are completely forgetting where social begins – with the audience. Attempting to start a social conversation with a hashtag that is not linked to a larger social behaviour already taking place is like heading to the casino, putting all your chips on one number at the roulette table and expecting to win. It is up to brands to understand the conversations already occurring and be relevant in this pre-existing context. The whole notion of social media marketing is there is already a conversation taking place, not to force one.


Luke Ryan goes on by giving advice on how to find the right hashtag in his article. Great advice!


China Has Overtaken the U.S. as the World’s Largest Economy →

Very interesting article by Joseph Stiglitz, 2001 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, in response to China’s surpassing of the USA as the no. 1 world economy:

When the history of 2014 is written, it will take note of a large fact that has received little attention: 2014 was the last year in which the United States could claim to be the world’s largest economic power. China enters 2015 in the top position, where it will likely remain for a very long time, if not forever. In doing so, it returns to the position it held through most of human history.

Of course, I’m in over my head on this topic, but Stiglitz’s words are clear and actually simple to understand. He takes us back along the last century to explain the USA’s rise to dominance and the challenges it will face from now on. Roughly put, the USA needs to have a hard look at itself and “put [its] own house in order”.

Definitely worth reading.


Could Europe really break up Google? A look at what’s possible →


The European Parliament in late October called on Internet companies operating in the region to “unbundle” its search engines from its other commercial properties. Although no companies were named, the motion was aimed squarely at Google, the leading search engine by a long shot in Europe with an estimated 90 percent market share. The non-binding resolution had no legal weight, but sent the strongest signal yet to the European Commission to take action after almost four-years worth of unsuccessful negotiations to settle an ongoing antitrust probe into the company’s business practices. The company has been accused of anti-competitiveness including claims it deliberate buried search results of rival sites and services. The recent motion sought to “prevent any abuse in the marketing of interlinked services by operators of search engines.”

I understand and agree with the diagnosis, but as the article explains later on splitting Google seems unlikely.


5 Viewability Findings on display ads, a study from Google →

From CMO Today, a Wall Street Journal blog:

To better understand the state of viewable impressions, Google compiled data from its various display ad platforms, including its ubiquitous ad server DoubleClick. The study examined display ads that appeared in browsers on desktop and mobile devices, but did not include video or in-app ads. Here are five key findings from the research. Over half of online ad impressions aren’t visible. 56.1% of all display ad impressions never appeared on a screen, Google’s research found.

Let’s just quote here what a viewable ad is considered to be. As detailed in Google’s infographic (.pdf), summing the research up:

A display ad is considered viewable when 50% of an ad’s pixels are in view on the screen for a minimum as defined by the of one second, Media Rating Council.

Are media sellers going to give this information to their clients? Are they going to charge only for “viewed” ads (according to the above definition)? Seems like a potential big loss of revenues unless they step up their prices. How will they convince media buyers to swallow this price increase? By touting better performance only? Logically, “Viewed ads” should show better click-through rates and as a result motivate advertisers to spend more on these display ads. Is this a way for Google to boost ad spendings in the long run for its own ad network?

So many questions.