A European cloud

Dominique Deckmyn writes De Technocraat in De Standaard. In Tuesday’s column, he talks about the fact that in Europe we have much more stronger laws for privacy. This is widely known of course. In the US however, a slight majority cares more about “their” security than privacy. Commissioner Neelie Kroes sees Prism as a chance for Europe to build a privacy based company as this can provide Europe with a competitive advantage. Deckmyn then goes further, extrapolates this and advocates for a European cloud. He says that the initial idea behind the cloud was that it doesn’t matter where servers are located. “If we learnt one thing over the past few weeks, is that the Internet without borders is a mythe”. He says it does make a big difference if your mail provider is based in Europe or the United States. This is basically arguing that borders are still very much prevalent. This is very much in contradiction with my view that technology is allowing us to drive change. I still believe in that and keep waiting for that great, big and beautiful tomorrow.

Van reacties op blogs naar gepersonaliseerde feeds

Het gebeurt niet vaak dat ik op andere blogs reacties op een bepaald bericht wil volgen. Toch kunnen commentaren zeer verrijkkend zijn en een discussie op gang brengen. Nochtans zijn er genoeg mogelijkheden om reacties op te volgen. Soms is er bijvoorbeeld de mogelijkheid om reacties te volgen per e-mail, maar meestal worden ook afzonderlijke feeds aangeboden. Bij Blogger is dat een Atom feed. Op deze WordPress blog, bijvoorbeeld, is dat een RSS 2.0 feed. Eerlijk gezegd, ik heb nog nooit zo’n feed toegevoegd in mijn feedreader (Google Reader). Lasterlijk vind ik het, en de feed in kwestie zou er na een paar dagen al uitgegooid worden, want ik heb al zoveel feeds. Dus, waarom aparte feeds voor reacties en hoe zit het met de integratie van artikelen en commentaren?

Ik weet dat je eenvoudig feeds kan aggregeren via Yahoo Pipes om zo eenvoudig reacties in te bakken. Maar dat lijkt me nogal omslachtig, en wat als je dat per bericht wilt kunnen uitzetten? Dus waarom geen gepersonaliseerde feeds? Zo zou je bijvoorbeeld kunnen opteren om alleen de commentaren te zien van artikels waar jij reeds op gereageerd hebt.

Ik zie twee mogelijkheden op het niveau van feed readers. Ofwel zou het gestandaardiseerd kunnen worden, onder de vorm van een XML element binnen een entry, zowel voor de Atom als de RSS standaard. Op die manier zouden feed readers het eenvoudig kunnen afhandelen. Je moet je dan wel authenticeren om te bewijzen dat jij het bent die de feed leest zodat de gepersonaliseerde feed kan worden samengesteld. Dat zou je bijvoorbeeld kunnen doen met je OpenID identiteit om zo tot gepersonaliseerde feeds te komen.

Een tweede mogelijkheid zou kunnen zijn dat een bepaalde feed reader dit idee reeds geïmplementeerd heeft. Dat het gewoon een leuke feature blijft, niet meer dan dat. Je zou per bericht kunnen instellen of je reacties wenst te ontvangen. En dat de gepersonaliseerde data wordt bijgehouden in de feed reader zelf. En dat die zelf de reacties tevoorschijn tovert in de main feed.

In een krant komen de lezersbrieven ook achteraan en zijn ze dus logekoppeld van de nieuwsberichten op zich. Dat is niet zo onlogisch en simpelweg omdat het nieuws niet “instant” is en ‘s avonds geperst wordt in de drukkerij om uiteindelijk een krant te worden die de volgende dag in je bus belandt. Die informatie is statisch. Het Web is echter wel “instant” en zeer dynamisch. En eigenlijk is hetgeen ik suggereer wat Facebook nu reeds doet. En wat FriendFeed ooit was (en nog steeds is):

FriendFeed is a real-time feed aggregator that consolidates the updates from social media and social networking websites, social bookmarking websites, blogs and micro-blogging updates, as well as any other type of RSS/ Atom feed. It is possible to use this stream of information to create customized feeds to share, as well as originate new posts-discussions, (and comment) with friends.

Het doel van FriendFeed is om Web content meer relevant te maken en je kan er onmiddelijk reageren op berichten binnenkomende van allerlei social media services evenals de activiteiten zien van je vrienden op een bepaalde dienst. Maar natuurlijk, dan worden commentaren gedecentraliseerd en val je al snel terug op een dienst zoals Disqus, Livefyre of Echo die commentaren proberen te centraliseren.

Ik zou graag dezelfde features beschikbaar willen in een feed reader: reacties onder het artikel en mogelijkheid ingebouwd om commentaren te plaatsen die dan via een API op de respectievelijke originele pagina worden gepubliceerd, weg van de feed reader. De feed reader dient louter en alleen om informatie te verzamelen en integreren.

Feedly offering one-click migration tool from Google Reader

So the first of July is nearing. That’s when Google’s own RSS Reader will be retired. If you are an adept user like me, it’s very important to back up your data if you would like to just continue to read your favorite websites content. Luckily Google Takeout allows you to download a copy of all your Reader data before then. You’ll receive your subscription data in an XML file, and your lists and items will be downloaded as JSON files. Once downloaded, your subscription data should be easily transferrable to another product, where you can continue to keep up with your online reading.

However, there’s another an perhaps even more convenient alternative. You can migrate from Google Reader to Feedly’s new cloud version with one click of a button. Millions already did so!

How to write a good cover letter for a consulting position

A typical job application process begins with writing a good resume and cover letter. You resume should provide a snapshot of your qualifications to the recruiter, your cover letter should present an argument as to why you are a superior candidate for the position compared to everyone else applying.

The cover letter is basically something that is besides your resume is going to decide whether you are going be invited for the next round or not.

In case you want to get hired by a strategy/management consulting firm, you better make sure your cover letter does stand out from the crowd.

Below you find the basic structure that I recommend for any position in a management consulting firm.

Structure is everything. It is a first and single most important thing: do not jump from one thing to another and back.

  1. In one sentences, say why you are contacting them. This can be as easy as “I would like to apply for…”. This is enough in my eyes.
  2. Show your excitement for a career in consulting, and specify the role that you apply for. Also, at the end of the letter, add a sentence stating that following experience, skills and extracurricular activities make a good evidence that you are a good fitment against the position.
  3. Structure the third part with the most impressive and outline achievements and experiences that you acquired. State and boost the actions as much as possible. Quantify the impact if possible (E.g.: I have organized concerts. I managed a team of 10 people and secured financing from 4 companies. During the season 2000 people attended and we raised 5000 EUR.) Let the reader assume that you do billion things and make it look like you are a superman mutated with spiderman and chuck norris!
  4. Close the letter whith ensuring that you believe its not for everyone but you are THE one and politely say that you would welcome the opportunity to change the world with the McK/Bain/BCG on your T-shirt.

And then of course, keep in mind the below generic advice for anything related to cover letters.

  1. Be concise. Avoid superfluous information: you really don’t have to write a novel. Use short and clear sentences.
  2. Only mention relevant info and just make sure the cover letter is actually aligned with the profile you are applying for. Be also very concrete by showing your competencies with real-life examples. Make it sound very logical.
  3. If the moment is there, and you are actually being invited for an interview, don’t goof up. Remember you have to be able to justify every single sentence you stated. Stick to the facts, don’t hide anything and simply never tell any lies.
  4. Finally, don’t mess up with spelling or grammar. This comes across as unprofessional.

Running endeavours

This year seems to be my running year!

I have done a lot of training over the past months and the persistence paid off. Here’s the verdict.

Firstly, the winter was horribly cold and filled with snow, which makes it very inconvenient to train at all.

As time progressed, I got more serious about my running endeavours and rigorously followed a training scheme which made me run up to 3 times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and during the weekend. You really have to stick to your plans.

And it didn’t stop me from completing my first goal for April: running the Antwerp 10 miles in less than 1h20 minutes.

I don’t know how exactly I did it, but I managed to finish at a whopping time of 1:11:57.  Easy job right?

For me it was a first, and my performance even placed me in the 10% range I found out later. I’m very proud!

Then late May there was the 20km door Brussel. But it went downhill from here as I didn’t train regularly anymore (had to recover and then just other business going on).

As a result, the 20km was more challenging since I suffered from a severe cold and sour throat, and secondly because I stopped training. Also, there were over 35000 participants which were hindering me.

But I really enjoyed the race and eventually pulled off to finish at 1:34:43. Position 4594, 12%-best ranking.

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Execution is everything! The show must go on and I hope to pick up the running again over the next few weeks to pursue one of my dreams.