“You should not undermine how quickly people can change their ideas”

Must-watch video by Double Down News, featuring writer and stylist Ayishat Akanbi, talking about cancel culture.”

I’ve been lucky to be a Twitter follower of Akanbi for quite a while now, and her thoughts and tweets are very well written and full of wisdom. Considering all of the things happening in the world and in our Twitter timelines, it is a true breath of fresh air to read her words.

This video doesn’t disappoint either: she manages to go straight to the point and make it clear on a very difficult topic. Highly recommended.

Scary heatwave in Siberia is scary

Damian Carrington — environmental editor for The Guardian — writes, in a piece aptly titled Climate crisis: alarm at record-breaking heatwave in Siberia:

Russian towns in the Arctic circle have recorded extraordinary temperatures, with Nizhnyaya Pesha hitting 30 °C on 9 June and Khatanga, which usually has daytime temperatures of around 0 °C at this time of year, hitting 25 °C on 22 May. The previous record was 12 °C.

[…] Martin Stendel, of the Danish Meteorological Institute, said the abnormal May temperatures seen in north-west Siberia would be likely to happen just once in 100,000 years without human-caused global heating.

If climate change doesn’t scare you yet, well, I admire your optimism.

Missing the point reviewing the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip

Samuel Gibbs used the latest foldable phone from Samsung for four months, and today published a second review. Despite being short by today’s standards when it comes to reviews — around 800 words — I found that two things were especially worth mentioning.

First, the hardware seems to be excellent and quite durable. It should not come as a surprise that Samsung makes great pieces of hardware, especially great high-end phones.1 In the foldable devices area though, their reputation suffered quite a lot with the Galaxy Fold. It is therefore impressive to see that they managed to crack to code — and not the screen — on their second-only try.

Second, I think it is disappointing to not see Gibbs give more details on how it is to use the phone, you know that thing you do with yours? What does it mean to have a folding device in terms of checking your messages and emails? Putting it in a pocket a million times a day? How often do you really need to open and close it? I am convinced that the answers to these questions are what people need to know about a folding phone, and something we don’t really learn from this review.

The durability after only four months should not — in a perfect world — be a concern, not to the point of focusing a reviews on it anyway. Especially considering that during these last four months, people were safely stuck at home half of the time. I get that we don’t live in a perfect world, and that people may only have questions about the durability of such innovative phones, especially at that price, but it feels like a missed opportunity.

A few months ago, this is what I wrote about foldable phones like the Galaxy Z Flip, or the Motorola Razr:

If you thought first generations of Face ID and under-the-screen fingerprint sensors were slow, think about having to physically unfold a device every time you want to take a quick photo, reply to a message, or maybe just glance at your list of groceries.

And below are the only three sentences — four lines — where Gibbs writes about this matter:

I can open the phone with one hand, but rarely do.

So most of the time two hands are needed to open it?

Snapping the phone shut to end calls is very satisfying.

Oh damn, I did not know about the main key selling point.

The notification panel on the outside is enough to show me there’s something important waiting or the time, but I wish it was slightly longer so scrolling text was easier to read.

Sounds to me like a terrible experience for a phone that cost twice as much as a regular Samsung Galaxy S20, but it shows the time so I guess everything is forgiven.

On an average day, we unlock our phones more than a hundred times. Maybe we do it less often while using these devices, but the folding/unfolding part of the story is barely something to be overlooked, yet it is barely mentioned in the review. Too bad it focused solely on durability and not user experience; not unlike when the first iPhone reviewers where complaining about the lack of a physical keyboard or the lack of Flash.


  1. When they are not catching fire that is.

“I would love to ignore racism and focus all my attention on climate. But I can’t.”

Great read from Ayana Elizabeth Johnson on The Washington Post. Johnson is, among other things, a marine biologist, and it happens that I started to follow her just a few days ago mostly for that reason.1

She writes:

Toni Morrison said it best, in a 1975 speech: The very serious function of racism … is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being.” As a marine biologist and policy nerd, building community around climate solutions is my life’s work. But I’m also a black person in the United States of America. I work on one existential crisis, but these days I can’t concentrate because of another.

There are so many good bits on this piece that I could have quoted every paragraph.


  1. I studied marine biology back in 2004-2005 at the university of Heriot-Watt, Edinburgh, believe it or not.

Beautiful illustrations and a peculiar Instagram description

Earlier today, my Twitter pal1 Daniel Benneworth-Gray tweeted this excellent story on the New York Times Magazine, by Claudia Rankine: I Wanted to Know What White Men Thought About Their Privilege. So I Asked. Before I had the chance to read it, he rightfully praised the illustrations made for the article by Nabeejah Al-Ghadban, which immediately got me curious about what other works had been done before by this artist, which brought me to Al-Ghadban’s website. Besides the usual-for-an-illustrator Portfolio and Biography pages, there is also an unusual Collage page, which consists of a collection of illustrations seemingly not featured on the portfolio. This is how she describes it on top of the page:

An experimental feed: often where instant thoughts, ghosts, and ideas materialize, and co-exist through back and forth visits in time and medium; where the hand occasionally becomes illogical, nonsensical.

In other words: Instagram.

I love this. It reads like the pitch Instagram founders gave to VC funds in an awesome, alternate universe.


  1. We need a word for this kind of acquaintances.

UK National Parks photography competition shortlist

A few weeks ago, The Guardian shared a few entrants of the UK National Parks and Campaign for National Parks photography competition, and I believe that all of these pictures are gorgeous. My favourite is the one of Wistman’s Wood in Dartmoor, by the photographer Debra Smitham : I find it has some kind of a Hound of the Baskervilless vibe that I have loved since I was a kid.

The Guardian published those pictures on the 13th of March, which is the day I started working from home, a few days before the official confinement measures here in France. After now almost three months stuck in Paris, I cannot wait to rediscover nature with my own eyes this summer, and appreciate the beauty and peace of it all. The year 2020 as it is can surely use more of it.

When your PR services appear to be like the devices you sell: refurbished

Chris O’Brian, quoting refurbished gadgets company Back Market’s cofounder, Thibaud Hug de Larauze, on Venture Beat, following a new round of venture capital funding:

We want customers to find a very fast and easy solution to either repair or swap the product,” Hug de Larauze said. Ultimately, you want people to say there is no point in buying new because refurbished is just as good. And it’s better on price, it’s better on quality, it’s the same level of warranty, and it’s better in terms of ecological impact.”

Good for Back Market to succeed, good for them to raise money, I believe they deserved it just for the clever company name and the smart marketing campaigns I have seen in Paris last winter, so congratulations are in order.

But a few things are bugging me in this quote.

If the ultimate goal of the company really is that people” buy a refurbished device instead of a new one, they will very soon have a problem: if nobody buys new products, the refurbished market might become very, very difficult. I understand the ambition of the company, I understand the wish to grow big and grow fast, but using the word ultimately” here is just weird when you operate in the second-hand market.

Second, how can a refurbished device be better on quality? Better on price I get it obviously — this is the main selling point of a refurbished device — but quality? If Hug de Larauze had said same quality” or comparable quality” I would have let it go (even if it is also wrong), but better” is an overstatement to say the least, or maybe it is a crude edit made by Venture Beat. Better quality than regular used” devices, I could understand, but better quality than a new device is just ridiculous.

I won’t go deep into the whole better ecological impact” part, because it is obviously much more complicated than what three words can say. If they replace the battery in the devices they sell, meaning ordering new batteries and getting rid of the old ones — arguably the worst part of a computing device environmentally speaking — the extra carbon costs of transport needed to refurbish” the device and ship the batteries, and the new steps of packaging may eventually temper quite a bit this better ecological impact” argument, shamelessly qualified as infinitely greener” on the French website. I think it may be eventually better, but, since they provide no data or study on their website (unless I missed it), I can only assume.

Also interesting that in France, some warranties only last six month instead of the twelve months you get when you buy a new device, so not really the same level of warranty” either.

I hope Back Market is more careful with the quality of the devices they sell than they seem to be with their PR agency, otherwise many buyers will end up looking for better value instead of better price next time they buy a new phone, as they should.

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