Gilles Vandenoostende

Hi, I'm Gilles Vandenoostende - designer, illustrator and digital busybody with a love of language, based in Ghent, Belgium.

I'm not the product but I play one on the internet

Derek Powazek on the Instagram drama:

Assumption: Not paying means not complaining.

The “you are the product” line is most often repeated when a company that provides a free service does something that people don’t like. See Instagram’s recent terms change or any Facebook design update. The subtext is, this company does not serve you, you don’t pay for it, so shut up already.

But that’s crazy talk. If a company shows that they’re not treating you or your work with respect, vote with your feet. Uninstall. Delete account. Walk! And make sure they know why you split. It’s the only way we have to make companies feel the repercussions of dumb, user-hostile decisions.

People have every right to complain when a company does something they don’t like. Sometimes, those companies might even listen. But unless you actually follow through on your outrage and delete your account or stop using their product, your outrage amounts to very little indeed.

People complain about Facebook and Twitter all the time (hell, I do too), but they have no motivation to care one iota about your privacy unless you actually suck it up and leave when they violate it.

Instagram’s New Terms of Service

iPhone photography site Life In LoFi takes a sober look at Instagram’s controversial new Terms of Service that has the world up in arms:

The internet is still an untamed place. If you want to share and for people to see your work, you now have to be ready to give up some control. If you want to maintain control of your works, you should consider rethinking your social media strategy.

Instagram themselves have since issued a statement on their own blog.

To me this all comes back down to the same old problem: if you don’t pay for something, you are the product being sold. You can’t expect make use of a free service like Instagram indefinitely and not expect there to be some sort of downside to it. Which is why I won’t publish anything serious on any of the big, free, social networks and instead choose to host it myself, on a website I made myself and whose bills I pay myself. Anything I post or publish anywhere else, I just assume it to be public, regardless of what anyone might tell me. It’s the only sensible position to take, considering these services can just change their ToS whenever they want.

If you can’t live with that and don’t want to host anything yourself, you can always pay for a professional Flickr account. Plus I’ve heard good things about their new iOS app too.

"Did we just kill a kid?" "Yeah, I guess that was a kid"

Der Spiegel has a good exposé on the life of American drone pilots, & how they’re trying to live with the knowledge that they’re killing people from halfway across the world via remote-control.

Drone warfare seems to me like one of the great social injustices of the world. I believe war should never be without a human cost for all sides involved, because otherwise there’s a fundamental lack of motivation to look for alternative solutions. Few things motivate the public (and thus politicians) against war like footage of body-bags coming home. With drones, there’s none of that.

There ought to be another Geneva convention against drone warfare.

"Go and build amazing applications. Build them with the most boring technology you can find."

So, you decided to build a real application. Not a toy. Not a hobby project. Something that’s supposed to last, supposed to scale, supposed to work and remain reliable.

It’s always tempting to try out new frameworks, technologies and toys when starting a new project just because. But over the years I’ve found that, for every minute of work you save when some framework does something magical for you, you’ll later spend 10 minutes going through the framework source code to figure out how to do something that works even slightly contrary to its design.

Whenever you work with someone else’s technology or framework, you ought to be prepared to own it entirely, i.e. to read & know most of its source code & documentation. Otherwise, don’t be surprised to find yourself working at 4AM on a Friday-night.

What a wonder is a terrible display

Jason Scott makes the point that retro games need to be enjoyed on a crappy monitor, or inside emulators that simulate crappy monitors.

I get it.

Interview with Loren Brichter

Before he was 25, he’d invented what is now one of the most ubiquitous iOS app features around. At 28, Loren Brichter is continuing to push the boundaries of what an app can do. We sat down and talked about his future and that of iOS.

I’ve always been a big fan of Loren’s apps. It still angers me that Tweetie has been so shoddily handled by Twitter.

"Made in the USA" is back

Jason Kottke has a good analysis of Apple’s announcement to bring some of their manufacturing back to the US (whereas today everything is “Designed by Apple in California — Made in China”). But it’s not all good news:

So basically, energy in the US is cheap right now and will likely remain cheap for years to come because hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking aka that thing that people say makes their water taste bad, among other issues) has unlocked vast and previously unavailable reserves of oil and natural gas that will take years to fully exploit. A recent report by the International Energy Agency suggests that the US is on track to become the world’s biggest oil producer by 2020 (passing both Saudi Arabia and Russia) and could be “all but self-sufficient” in energy by 2030.

Strange and interesting times are ahead.

The Orange Juice Test

Spending money is very easy. Spending money effectively is very hard. There are lots of dodgy people & service providers out there who will promise the world, send the invoices, and deliver mediocrity six months late. Or worse.

It’s helpful if you can eliminate these chancers from your considerations early on, to make sure you’re only talking to people well equipped to solve the problem you have. This is where the Orange Juice Test comes in.

Good anecdote, and a good test to filter out the bullshit-artists.

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