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Carlos Fenollosa

Carlos Fenollosa

Developer & unix enthusiast

Carlos Fenollosa — Blog

Thoughts on science and tips for researchers who use computers

Request for startups

September 14, 2014 — Carlos Fenollosa

Y Combinator have posted a request for startups, where they give founders-to-be some big ideas to work on.

It is interesting to see how things have shifted since just two years ago, when pg posted his "Frighteningly Ambitious Startup Ideas". In just 24 months, we have shifted from internet applications into real life-changing ideas. Biotech has resurrected after its own bubble blew up around 2008. Human augmentation seems to be more than a gimmick now. Fitness is increasingly important for a number of people.

Those ideas seem out of reach for first founders, but after some business success and gathering a bit of experience, momentum and capital, they look like dream jobs. Who wouldn't like to disrupt Hollywood? Transportation? Travel?

What's better, these ideas look feasible with each passing day. Open APIs, Github and the second coming of free software, cheap hardware everywhere, drones. We have spent about 20 years, since around 1995, building great ideas and infrastructure. It seems the right time to connect the dots and do awesome stuff.

Stop for a second and think about it. We really are living in the future.

Tags: startups

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Allowing strangers 24/7 access to you

September 02, 2014 — Carlos Fenollosa

Marco posted about some internet drama and I found the second part of the post quite enlightening.

We allow people access to us 24/7. We're always in public, constantly checking an anonymous comment box, trying to explain ourselves to everyone, and trying to win unwinnable arguments with strangers who don’t matter in our lives at all.

That is exactly spot on, and that is why I always recommend disabling all notifications on your phone except for a few important people on Whatsapp. Otherwise, any random person on the internet can ruin your day at any time with an offensive comment on any public website.

Tags: internet, life

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Email Is Still the Best Thing on the Internet

August 15, 2014 — Carlos Fenollosa

Nice piece by Alexis C. Madrigal on why the email will live long and strong for many years to come. Furthermore, I agree with thim that all these startups trying to replace it with some other proprietary protocol are pretty much doomed.

IM didn't kill the email and it has been around since the nineties; phone messengers have taken some of its market quota and use cases, but THE messaging protocol is still email.

Who knows, maybe in five years I have to eat my words. Meanwhile, I'm positive that it was a good choice of a protocol for feenbox

Tags: feenbox, internet

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Spanish media just shot themselves in the foot -- or maybe in the head

July 24, 2014 — Carlos Fenollosa

In Spain we have an old proverb, La avaricia rompe el saco. Literally "greed bursts the sack"; it means that if you fill a purse with too many coins it will break and you will end up with none.

This week, the Spanish Congress passed a law with two main goals:

  • Ban torrenting sites, i.e. that is link-only sites (not content hosts), which is a totally different topic.
  • Make social aggregators pay media publishers for the use of news excerpts.

More details can be found on this Gizmodo article

If this weren't so serious I'd say that news lobbies pressing against the right to quote, you know, the one their business is based on, is ironic.

But this is so outrageously hypocritical that it's not ironic, it's immoral and vomitive. Disgusting. Greedy to the extreme. This is a capital crime against ethics.

So why did they just do that?

Last year, Google was forced to pay French publishers for use of their content. Spanish publisher lobby AEDE (lack of link intended) saw here a huge opportunity: let's do the same and get free money from Google.

Google is so big that's it's an easy target. Demagogy is so simple; Google is a tech giant that does fiscal engineering to avoid paying taxes and profits from our content. Yes, that's true. But Google does exactly what these publishers do: curate what others say and provide citations to strengthen and validate their job.

But then, Google's natural reaction would have been, "You don't want my traffic? Wish granted! Next time, be careful what you wish". However, AEDE had anticipated this, so with the new law content providers can't opt out by not linking to AEDE's affiliated media. F*ck off genie, we wished for infinite wishes!

It's so effortless to lobby in a corrupt and manipulated environment where politicians don't even know what a link is.

But wait, there's more.

Once you start considering the implications of having to pay to hyperlink, things get worse. A study conducted by Coalición Prointernet, a lobby against this law, states the obvious:

  • It has not been proved that content aggregation limits the editor's earnings. Of course; it's the opposite, it actually drives them more traffic—300M yearly visits, according to an admin of one of those sites.
  • There is no basis to establish an inalienable compensation towards media editors and, if it were any, this new legislation is not the best way to go.
  • The new law reduces legal security for Spanish internet companies.
  • Media aggregation is necessary and positive from a "freedom of speech" standpoint. Unavailability of aggregators can drive small publishers to extinction and leave users without an important tool to diversify their media consumption.

Please read and think about the last point again, because it is very, very important.

Let's summarize what is happening here:

Big media editors AEDE, most of which pro-government, in collusion with the corrupt Spanish politicians have managed a masterstroke which they think will:

  1. Get them free money
  2. Destroy the discoverability of smaller media competitors, usually critical with the government
  3. Hinder the future of Spanish internet tech business, their main competitor
  4. Get more exposure, since readers won't have access to media agreggation and will resort to read just one or two outlets

In reality, what is likely to happen is:

  1. Google will close Google News Spain, no big problem
  2. Spanish media aggregators will move their business abroad and won't contribute taxes to the country
  3. Tech enterpreneurs will realize that Spain is a shitty country to invest money on
  4. Without Google, the aggregators, and thanks to the increasing user boicot to AEDE media, those editors will lose traffic and money.

This is so, so sad.

It is clear that traditional media companies are suffering because of the internet revolution and need to fight in some way. However, they are cutting their own nose to spite the face. And, in the way, they are denying others a right, not a banal one, but the right to quote, which news business is built on.

I honestly think that traditional media is absolutely necessary even today. They are the ones who report, research, discover, analyze and interpret what's happening in the world. Specially in Spain, where we don't have these modern US internet-only media companies which don't just feast on press releases but do real journalism.

This is not a cry against traditional media. People, most of all, need them. But people also need aggregators to contrast different views on news. Aggregators need media because it's impossible to talk about news without a headline and an excerpt to reveal what's going on. And media, most of all, needs aggregators and people to survive in today's world.

Now the law has been passed. Though it needs to be ratified in the Senate, it is a pantomime because the majorities are the same as in Congress and also Congress has the last word even if the Senate votes against it (take that, Montesquieu!). What will media editors do when they start losing money and realize the harm they have done to themselves, the Government, Spanish media consumers and the Spanish tech industry?

Next time you think somebody is stupid, remembar that the Spanish press just got in a war with Google, Facebook and Twitter because they want them to stop linking to their content.

Crazy world we live in, huh?

Tags: law, internet, news

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Simplicity

July 16, 2014 — Carlos Fenollosa

Marco pointed out today to Matt Gemmell's blog, and I've been reading some of his best articles.

I highly recommend his On productivity section, especially Simplicity, which I can really relate to.

He's a very talented writer, so if you have some time, read his Personal essays section, which is very emotive.

Tags: productivity, life

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