Nicolas Magand on the internet

Comments about tech, media, nature, &c.

My name is Nicolas Magand and I live in Paris, France. I work as a social media and engagement editor at the Global Editors Network, a non-profit aimed at promoting innovation and sustainability in the news industry. Here I blog mostly about tech and media, but many other topics can face my enthusiasm.

Time, thoughts, tools: pick two

The last few days, I discovered a few new tools or platforms from which you can publish blog entries (hat tip to Dense Discovery for most of them). Small Victories, Listed, Blot… All three platforms aim to make blogging easier than ever: by pluging themselves on top of the tools you already use. Whether it is through Dropbox folders or the Simple Notes app, they all seem Template-based and hassle-free. If you are on the newsletter bandwagon, your Substack archive can also be used as a blog.

All of this is probably a good sign that blogging is thriving, or needs to thrive again in the age of platforms (looking at you, Medium.)

Along with the magnificent Squarespace (or Kirby, or even Svbtle which I used before), it probably has never been easier to publish on your own blog. The days of setting up a WordPress just for a personal blog seem over, and I have not seen anyone using MarsEdit for ages.

If this is a golden age for blogs, then why has this one not been updated since February ? As Carl Barenbrug says, well, on his own blog, Twitter may be the culprit :

Although we are starting to see a new wave of blogging, many people use Twitter as a means to express themselves. I still use Twitter, so I can see some value in this platform, particularly to make personal and professional connections through common interests, or to simply share something I like. However, Twitter is also a tool that encourages negative, impulsive, and ill-considered behaviour. It doesn’t really keep our minds healthy—much like all social media—in the sense that we are constantly looking to see who has responded or engaged with what we have published.

When I see something interesting, rather than saving it, digesting it, deciding whether it should appear on the blog or Twitter, I tend to just tweet or retweet right away. Maybe it is lazyness, maybe it is the need to be among the firsts, but time management has become the hardest part of blogging.

Should you cover your PC's webcam? No, unless you still use software from ten years ago

Everybody reading this blog knows I'm a big fan of John Gruber's Daring Fireball. And while I don't always fully agree with him, I am 100% with him on the whole "cover your webcam shennanigans", and I could not have said it better :

I have never understood the mass paranoia over laptop webcams — which have in-use indicator lights, which I’ve seen no evidence can be circumvented on Macs from the last decade — and the complete lack of similar paranoia over microphones, which cannot be blocked by a piece of tape and which have no in-use indicator lights. And I don’t see anyone taping over the cameras on their phones.

Gruber commented on Joanna Stern's column for the Wall Street Journal; a very good article, which has the merits of existing and giving precise, documented answers to this question. But indeed, the whole piece is feeding the paranoia over laptop webcams.

If I had to chose a way to be hacked, between what my open laptop webcam sees, what is displayed on my screen, what the microphone can hear, what words (and passwords) I type on the keyboard, and what websites I visit, I would chose the laptop webcam.

I see more people with a piece of tape on their webcam than using a password manager. I see more people using fishy Chrome extensions with too much access than I see people using a proper 2-factor authentication or keep their devices updated.

In the end it is about feeling safer, and hardware's sense of security (locks on the door, blinds on the windows, piece of tape on the webcam) is much easier to control than software's (a complex and unique password for each app, encrypted messaging, 2-factor authentication, etc.) Why those basic things are not more often taught in schools is beyond me.

Moving a whole city a few kilometres away in order to keep it alive

A fascinating story by Chris Michael, on the fate of the northern Swedish city of Kiruna, which is threatened by the collapse of the iron ore mines underneath it. By law, the mining company has to keep the city from being swallowed into the ground, since it is responsible for this unusual situation. In that case, it means moving the city a few kilometres away.

The scale of the project is unprecedented. Several dozen buildings will be moved by a specially assembled team of experts who have become so good at their jobs that Cars claims it’s now usually cheaper to move a home than to demolish and rebuild. The huge wooden church will be hoisted and moved; other buildings, such as the current city hall and the railway station, will be stripped of aesthetic elements, including lampposts and iron railings, to be incorporated into new structures.

Piece of cake.

The imminent climate change catastrophe, if not already started

Fiona Harvey, writing on The Guardian, about a newly published provisional statement on climate change, from the World Meteorological Organisation:

Global temperatures have continued to rise in the past 10 months, with 2018 expected to be the fourth warmest year on record.

Average temperatures around the world so far this year were nearly 1 ℃ above pre-industrial levels. Extreme weather has affected all continents, while the melting of sea ice and glaciers and rises in sea levels continue. The past four years have been the hottest on record, and the 20 warmest have occurred in the past 22 years.

The warming trend is unmistakeable and shows we are running out of time to tackle climate change […] On current trends, warming could reach 3 ℃ to 5 ℃ by the end of this century.

Another day, another worrisome report about climate. I'm afraid the great K.C. Green's Gunshow drawing – the origin of one of the strongest memes – will stay trendy for a while.

Social media is not all that bad if you listen to teenagers

Katie Notopoulos, writing on BuzzFeed News, on a new Pew Research Center report on social media and generation Z.

Much research has focused on social media being a huge waste of time at best, a facilitator of ideological bubbles, and a dangerous, hostile experience for young people at worst. But the 743 teens Pew surveyed say it’s actually, well, good. Millennials were the first to make social media mainstream, but might their Gen Z successors have figured out a better relationship with their smartphones? Growing up among devices and platforms could just make today’s teens better at incorporating technology into their lives than even the millennials before them, with greater awareness of the hazards. The internet clearly can be a dangerous place, but teens now have the self-awareness to know when it's time to unplug.

The study is a lot more nuanced than this, but Notopoulos explains it well. Anyway, this is, I think, a good reminder for us – older generations, including millenials like myself – to be more willing to learn from the youngests, and to be more careful on not ending up sounding like our own parents.