Retour sur le premier café socio-tech

Ce matin avait lieu le premier café socio-tech, un petit retour sur les sujets. Je ne sais pas quelles étaient les attentes des autres mais de mon côté c’est ce que je visais, un total de 7 personnes, engagées (la plupart du temps) dans une même conversation et beaucoup de connaissances autour de la table. Certains des sujets donc:

  • Infomutations et le besoin d’avoir des “traducteurs” entre la dernière génération ou le papier à (avais) prépondérance et la suivante.
  • Why Can’t We Read Anymore?
  • Les nouveaux formats de communications (long vs court, images, nouveaux formats de livres à la Amazon Singles).
  • Données ouvertes à Montréal.
  • Procuste.
  • Les votes de contrats à Montréal sans que les élus n’aient le temps de les lire.
  • Un contrat de plan de classification des documents de 350 000 $ à Montréal.
  • L’écart entre les compétences requises dans le future et ce qui est enseigné à l’école.
  • Les standards de diplôme en gestion des ressources humaines.
  • La valeur déclinante des diplôme dans ce qu’ils apportent dans la tête des diplômés mais grandissante en terme de dollars.
  • La ville intelligente, plus particulièrement la vision d’Adam Greenfield dans son cours livre Against The Smart City.
  • Mon usage de “socio-tech” tiré de l’usage du terme “sociotechnical” par Strange Telemetry et “tribu” associée.
  • [Mises à jour ci-bas. (Certains ajouts via les participants par Facebook.]
  • Les “solutions” technologiques qui obligent les organisations à adapter leurs processus à des structures de l’ère industrielle (silos, rétention de l’info).
  • Les organisations qui sont à la merci de consultants qui ne sont pas capables de repérer et d’interpréter les changements.
May 1st, 2015

Premier café socio-tech

Il y a quelques mois j’avais mentionné l’idée d’organiser un café «socio-tech» un vendredi matin de temps à autres. Quelques semaines malade, des conflits d’horaire et l’idée de ne pas faire ça le même matin que les Creative Mornings m’ont retardé mais, avec le printemps, je relance l’idée. C’est très simple : pas de présentation, de thème ou de sujets préparés, pas de hashtag, de site ou de page Facebook; simplement une heure et un endroit pour discuter socio-tech. J’entends par ce terme l’intersection entre la technologie et la société, les changements, les opportunités, les dangers, etc.

Je lance donc le premier café le vendredi 1er mai à 9 h chez L’artiste affamé. J’y serai avec mon allongé ! On discute comme ça vient, avec ceux et celles qui seront présents.

(Obviously this is Montréal style so English speakers are more than welcome, language goes as we feel, same as the topics. ;) )

April 21st, 2015

Career Hybrids

Article written during a client contract which I can share here. I’m usually interested in hybrids across the board, i.e. spaces, organizations and people. In this case I was asked to focus on hybrid careers.

Chances are that if you’ve heard the term “hybrid” in the last few years, it was in reference to a car but you could very well have also heard it for a company, a creative agency, a retail space or even a person. But what is an hybrid?

“A person or group of persons produced by the interaction or crossbreeding of two unlike cultures, traditions, etc.”

It is entirely unoriginal to say that our times are changing fast. Unoriginal but true, and in this setting we seem to be witnessing a great explosion of new combinations and mixes. An almost Cambrian like explosion of ideas and new products and services, whether virtual, electronic or more classically physical. It’s then no surprise that this would also happen to what people do, what kind of work they take on and what kind of hobbies and passions they cultivate, often before “going pro” with those same skills.

We all know people who have jumped from one career to the next. The professor who goes to work for a startup, the mechanic who opens up a restaurant, the graphic designer who launches a line of pickled produce or the lawyer who moves to Mexico and starts giving surfing lessons. An interesting bunch for sure, but are they all hybrids? For some, certainly; the graphic designer turned pickler uses his design chops in the creation of his visual identity, his flyers, his kiosk at the market and all of it enhances his brand, his reach and makes the pickler side much more viable and operating on a tighter budget than if he were outsourcing. For other cases, not so much. Certainly they make for interesting discussions and tales. Certainly, having found their passion they might become successful and well accomplished but it often requires more of a jumping ship than coming up with an innovative combination.

When you start looking at the lists and descriptions of jobs companies consider hybrids and if you look at the stories of many freelancers, actual hybrids who have truly mastered two types of jobs, bridged two (or more) domains, and work at a newly created intersection, you see something popping up again and again; you see IT, you see the internet. You see people having seized on something brand new, which often makes them the first to master it, they become the go to people.

I spoke with Jon Husband about this recurring theme of IT and the internet. Husband coined and defined the term and concept wirearchy which “is about the power and effectiveness of people working together through connection and collaboration.” It’s an important lens through which we can see how the network changes society and how it enables deeper and global collaboration. To him “it seems clear today that hybridization (of knowledge, talent and credibility) is a phenomenon directly related to the cross-fertizilization and multi-directional and multi-disciplinary application of analysis, response, energy and talent that is increasingly apparent in a connected world.”

Going back to definitions of hybrids, we see that “[i]n some species, hybridization plays an important role in evolutionary biology.” Knowing how quickly computers and the internet have arrived in our lives, how quickly they have become so vital, it seems hybrids were the quickest to evolve. They are the ones adapting organizations to a connected world. Where hybrids are often presented as making choices and picking a direction (and they do), they are also products of a context as much as a series of choices. They are “going with the flow,” integrating changes around them, adapting, evolving.

For many, it is not computers or the internet which affects the job itself but it has proven an important part. This “newly” all including library, those newly available networks of peers from across the world, have let hybrids soak up new knowledge, new interests, have let them discuss, challenge, fail, try again. The connectedness isn’t necessarily part of their job but it has been, in a very real way, their teacher, letting them transform into new and innovative combinations. Again, context as much as choice, where they uses plentiful opportunities for learning and jump ahead where others might feel overwhelmed.

Another recurring factor seems to be not their own wider range of interest but its absence in others. Phrases like “I was the only one interested in…” or “she seemed to be able to work with every department” are common place. The person learning about the new printing process or the one at ease discussing deliverables with the designer and the programmer or with the architect and the carpenters. Kyle Wiens posited that ours is an era of specialists; “[d]octors specialize, lawyers specialize, academics specialize, mechanics specialize … just about everyone professionally specializes. The more deeply you specialize, the more money you’re likely to make.”

All good and well but specialties, silos, especially when “enforced” through years of education and training, can turn to isolation, ignoring other disciplines and becoming somewhat sclerotic. In a fast moving complex world, isolation can quickly cripple an organization. In such a context, someone who’s curious enough to learn about other specialities and then actively manages to build bridges, to adapt to silos, to punch through and connect them, not only finds new creative outlets but also becomes invaluable.

So how do people who go with the flow, adapt and evolve then behave outside of work? Often in much the same manner, integrating new learnings, observing the world, adjusting and taking action accordingly. For many, that means understanding the extravagances of our consumerist society and often pushing back, it means being at ease in networks and communities, finding much more reinforcement and information within their “tribe” than within media discourse. It means coming up with their own measures for success, exploring ways of doing business, ways of living, finding where they can mould the commonly held ideas to their liking, shape their present and their future.

Although some hybrids fit (and accept) corporate criteria and are well rewarded for theirs choice of job, many hybrids are, by taste or by context, constant floaters. Freelancing from gig to gig and adjusting as they go. As Greg J. Smith—a teacher, writer/editor as well as designer and developer hybrid—explains, for many rejecting consumerism is both a principled and economic decision; “…this idea of not owning things resonates with me. Once again, it is partially economic but I really have very little use for car ownership or dicey overvalued urban real estate. Sure I can’t afford them but I also recognize I don’t need them.”

Being able to flow between contracts, jobs and even careers gives them confidence and opens them up to other areas in which to explore change, other places where learning and evolving can help them in finding the best fit, their own model for living and working. They build on their ideals and those developed within their tribes, finding support and validation within their found communities and peer networks, globally, not simply in their immediate surroundings.

Hybridize or be downsized

Turning to Job Husband again; “with more information in the world today, with instant access and widely-spread overlapping social circles afforded by interconnectivity, with more relaxed social standards and greater diversity, with an ongoing emphasis on expression of one’s voice and less certainty than ever about gainful employment…I think I find it surprising that relatively few people are involved in being a hybrid of one sort or another, or more.”

With hybrids being largely born out of the socio economic context and the ever-present network around us, they are a form well adapted to the opportunities and challenges of the world, they might not always have chosen that state but they are adapting and making do, which certainly makes for a better position than the growing number of people downsized and rationalized out of a job.

Whether it’s by seeing opportunities or by feeling a crunch on their field of work, hybrids are multiplying.

February 24th, 2015

Back in time

Back in early 2014 I worked on a couple of content projects for a client, some of it was finished, some not but more importantly the thing as a whole was scrapped at the very end somewhat abruptly. A year later, I’ve managed to get permission to publish most of it here and finally decided to take the time do it. I’ve backdated them to roughly when they were written, here’s a list of what I’ve put up here:

Some of it probably feels dated but over all it holds up pretty well and unless you are tracking those topics, you’ll probably find quite a few interesting bits and pieces in there.

February 17th, 2015

Update, a Unit and Coffee

The Imaginary Unit

Last year I gave a couple of tries at getting back into blogging, not super successful so far but I’m trying again, starting with another update.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am now going forward with a new service offering, which is slow going but I closed 2014 with a couple of good contracts and I’m having some interesting discussions about potential opportunities. It’s a new version of the site, which is more focused on technology and is a first step in giving a better idea of how such a service can help organizations. (Right this moment it’s only in English so I can iterate a couple more times, I’ll then put another up to date version in French, désolé.)

“I study and make sense of near-future emerging technologies and their impacts on society, culture and business” is the simplest oneliner and it mostly translates into;

  1. What I call “strategic support” which means helping with direction and strategy but from a knowledge and understanding angle. Strategy should “come from within” as my friend cfd puts it.
  2. Written briefings covering what business leaders should know about that “beat” in a given period, as well as research reports on a specific topic.

The Imaginary Unit

I mention it again because the copy is now clearer, as I said earlier, but also because I’ve joined up with my friends Alex Deschamps Sonsino and Peter Bihr and we are launching a new product (service?) called The Imaginary Unit. It’s a monthly paid for emerging tech[1] trends report. Look at our profiles on the site as well as both of their about pages, you’ll see we cover quite the breath of topics and interests and read / study an insane amount of things every month, we are distilling that into a monthly quick read. As Alex mentions; this should help some of those senior executives struggling to understand the internet of things.

If you’re wondering how my services and TIU fit together; the latter is specifically tech, short and the same report goes out to all subscribers. The former are customized and generally longer form, sometimes delivered as presentations.

Please share the info with your c-suite friends and ping me if you have questions.


While I’m writing, I might as well throw this out there too and make myself commit to it. Shamelessly copying Matt Webb’s Coffee Mornings (example) which he calls “Hardware-ish,” as well as Igor and Johanne’s fatnine coffee, I’ll be launching a “Sociotechnical-ish”[2] coffee meetup. The first one will likely be Friday the 27th of February. I’m considering Laïka (for space and old times sake) or perhaps Code Black across the street. Other ideas more than welcome. As Johannes says:

Anyone is welcome to come by and join the conversation. There won’t be any prepared talks, pitches, specific topics, hashtags or Facebook events. Just coffee/tea and conversations.

I’ll give final details early next week. See you there.

[1] Alex says IoT, I say emerging tech but with everything becoming connected, we’re both right. ;)
[2] By which I mean the intersection of society and tech, not the approach to complex organizational work design.

February 13th, 2015


Some crazy realistic 3D face modeling.

October 6th, 2014

Six Cs

This week I launched a new personal website, refreshing the design, updating what I’ve done and announcing a new service offer. You can read more about it there but there’s also a bit of thinking to explain the topics I work with and around and I thought I’d re-post it here with some notes.

Through the two issues of The Alpine Review we’ve put everything we’ve been reading and thinking about so it’s natural that in now offering a form of “trends report” (although I hate the use of “trends”) service and consultancy alongside it I would thread much of the same paths. However, where “a compendium of ideas for a world in transition” might be a very good teaser to draw people to a magazine, it’s a bit short when offering monthly or quarterly briefings to organizations. I include a sample list of topics on my services page but I wanted to say more around that so I started thinking on and mapping what I’m most interested in, which also represents very well what appears most in those briefings.

In the end, some might see those themes as a somewhat comprehensive overview of the world today but that’s not the aim. Rather, those are the six themes I center my reading and research upon in exploring, and explaining, what’s happening in our world. I also group them under the overall idea of “Transitional Edges & The Network.” Here’s the re-post:

Transitional Edges & The Network

Societies, cultures, cities and industries are going through a variety of transitions. Moving in new directions, accelerating, slowing down, stretching, pulling, being invented, dying. Much of that has been said before and is now apparent to all. However, those movements are ongoing, some still accelerating, there is still so much to be understood, to be mapped out.

I find that the best places to look to when trying to understand where things are going are the boundaries, where edges meet, where things are made and mixed. I’ve taken to calling those places “transitional edges.”

It’s clear that the Internet, “The Network,” is now present in all areas of our lives and growing in importance. Yet, in many ways, it’s still only the beginning, still very early days. The Network—and more broadly computation—enables connexions across the globe, organization, collaboration, but also unprecedented level of surveillance and concentration of wealth and power, unbridled “disruption” of laws and industries. Its impact, potential, reach and future are still being determined, sometimes even fought over.


Starting from these somewhat broad ideas of transitional edges and the networked—or hyperconnected-age, I’ve identified some more specific areas of investigation and interest which I refer to as the “Six Cs”.

Computation. Algorithms, Automation & Robotics.

Calculations and actions by computers are managing, controlling, accelerating, optimizing and obfuscating an evergrowing share of our daily lives. What’s next? How does it impact our future? How do we become more literate and better informed about this major force in our societies?

Connection. Of people & things.

“Everyone” is connected, becoming a node in the network, a participant, a destination, a link. Now millions of “things” are joining us online while we still don’t completely understand how our hyperconnectedness impacts us. How do we make better sense of that and figure out how billions of people and billions of things interact and cohabitate?

Cities & Infrastructures.

We are now more urban than agricultural, we live in growing cities built with and on gigantic, often hidden, infrastructures. We need to live together, move, build, grow, accept and include everyone within our cities. How do we do so while looking at and preparing for the future?

Collaboration & Creation, Adhocracy.

We can now connect and collaborate from anywhere. We do so in groups, projects and communities, many of which are self-organized, open, innovative and horizontal. We create new tools and new ways of making. How can these ideas and ideals reach more people and help us meet all the challenges ahead?

Climate change & Milieu.

Humanity is now affecting the climate, polluting and decimating ecosystems, extinguishing species by the thousands. How do we change? Where do we find the promising inventions, adaptations and actions?


Interesting in itself but also a consequence of the themes above. The networks, cities, cultures, societies, and climate are all large systems, as they grow and interact more closely we go beyond the complicated and deal with complexity. How do we grasp complexity and act accordingly?

October 2nd, 2014

Donkey Drones

A fascinating and inspiring vision for widespread use of drones in Africa.

For many people, drone is an ugly word. It evokes a whining sound, something insectile. The dislike of the drones themselves is understandable. It is a new technology, used mainly for killing or peeping. However, this early negative feeling will begin to shift with positive use cases for drones. Before 2020, drones will take over search functions at sea. Never again will a coastguard helicopter go blindly into the night in search of a sinking ship. Instead, it will be guided by a drone sent ahead of them to locate those in peril. Drones will monitor the wellbeing of crops and animals. They will be used in mapping, counting, policing, and sports. And they will also lift things.

Donkeys will fly roughly at that Eiffel height, in what I call the lower sky. The routes will be geofenced: donkeys will only be able to fly in an air corridor about 200 metres wide and 150 metres high. Busier routes will resemble a high-speed ski gondola, without cables or supporting structures.

Every small town will have its own clean energy donkey station like the one below. The traffic to and from it will mostly be on foot and bikes. The stations will serve as the petrol station of the near future. They will incorporate postal and courier services.

The next decade will be among the most decisive in Africa’s recorded history. Fertility rates in the largest African countries are not falling as fast as had been predicted. At the present rate Africa’s population will be 2.7 billion by 2050, against 228 million in 1950. To have a chance of prosperity, African economies need to quickly turn growth into manufacturing jobs. The problem is that they are growing, but not transforming. Growth rates are much too low. In key economies like Nigeria, Kenya and Senegal manufacturing is dominated by small, informal firms. The poorest countries seem to be de-industrialising. New factories, such as in Ethiopia, will not offset the dumping of cheap finished goods from Asia on African markets.

I have identified 80 kilometre routes in Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda. Other prospective countries for early routes are Angola, Zambia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Namibia and South Africa. Routes can be tacked together to extend range. By way of example, it is possible in Rwanda to set up a donkey route from the town of Gitarama over the Nyungwe forest to Lake Kivu and down to the Congolese city of Bukavu. A country as compact and hilly as Rwanda can quickly draw routes across its lower sky and intersect them to most improve health and economic outcomes. My future Africa initiative at EPFL will get the first route up and running. An associated fund based in Africa and Switzerland will push for world-class research on the robotics, engineering, logistics, and law related to donkeys. It will also push for the establishment of an international agency for the lower sky, which will set global norms for the use of donkeys and other civilian drones.

September 30th, 2014