Fighting the Vertical Video Syndrom



I believe vertical videos are one of the worst ideas ever. The field of view only captures meaningless details and do not match how your eyes work. The video below makes an excellent point about why vertical videos are bad.

The only reason vertical videos exist is because it’s the most natural way to hold a phone while filming, and unfortunately that’s a fact. Holding a phone horizontally is obviously clumsy and unnatural. That being said there are solutions to solve this:

  • Get phone manufacturers to rotate by 90 degrees the sensors in the phones. This option is unfortunately pretty unlikely, unless some of the leaders make this move.
  • Crop the videos from vertical to horizontal : easy to do since the latest sensors are 4k (3840 pixels × 2160 lines) it’s actually possible to get an HD 1080p horizontal video out of a vertical 4k. The horizon app, for instance, does just that – I would love to see something like that embedded in our phones’s native camera app.
  • Turn vertical videos into horizontal ones by adding a blurred background. This is how the TV does it – the issue with this approach is that it makes the content look tiny and unappealing.
  • Move to square videos which are a lesser evil and do provide some interesting immersion capabilities

What do you think about vertical videos ?

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360 Degree Video: Wait ‘Til It Really Comes Around

This post was initially posted on Mediapost

Over the last few months there has been a lot of hype surrounding an immersive new type of video. Commonly referred to as virtual reality or spherical video, it allows the viewer to get a complete 360 degree view of an environment, and freely move their point of vision by tilting and turning their device.

The buzz surrounding this trend is palpable — it feels like announcements of new 360 camera hardware, software, and videos come out of the woodwork on a daily basis. But while the tool presents exciting new opportunities, it hasn’t quite matured yet and still has a lot of growing pains.

It’s important to consider the value of “this next big thing” and assess whether 360 video is the right choice for your content marketing, at least for the time being.

The ability to guide the viewer’s eye

Imagine a scene set on a tropical beach. The camera begins on a wide view of the emerald blue sea, before zooming in on someone jogging along the beach. In this way the viewer’s attention is directed to what the director wants them to be looking at.

Now imagine that you have this same scene with 360 video. You wobble your device around trying to figure out how it works. You look at a palm tree, try and fail to follow a seagull flying across the sky, and if you’re lucky notice there is someone on the beach, just as they run out of the scene.

With 360 video, the user can manipulate the recorded camera angle by tilting and panning on their device. But this freedom comes with a catch: the loss of true storytelling. While the ability to choose where you look offers an interactive experience, it also blows storytelling out of the water, and makes it difficult to guide the viewer’s eye.

Unlike watching a movie that transports you through the director’s vision, users make their own personal field-of-view version of the story.

If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it

Traditional video marketing works. Studies show more than half of companies are already making use of the medium to forge an emotional connection between viewers and their brand with great results.

Successful video content provokes emotional responses in the viewer. The sparkly decorations and bright red Santas in end of year Coca Cola adverts, for example, makes us subconsciously think about Coca Cola and how it can be useful in our lives.

Kelly Fong, a content editor at 2U, argues that when viewers feel emotional responses they think, “What do I make of this, and what can I do about this?” These naturally lead us to share by word-of-mouth, or to re-share on social media.

This shareability is an extremely important selling point of traditional video, which 360 video — at its current stage– is lacking. It is the emotive responses we have which provoke us to share video with others, and without basic storytelling, these reactions are challenging to achieve.

Molded for mobile

But 360 video is still in its first stage of evolution. As VR technology and mobile devices advance, 360 video will become more relevant and find its place in the market. People will be able to enjoy the immersive experience in its full glory, because right now, watching a 360 video on the small screen of a smartphone doesn’t do it justice.

On the other hand, traditional video has been honed for modern, busy consumers who are constantly on the move. From full screen ads, to one-click links to share on social media, marketers have mastered the art of video content marketing. Cisco predicts that consumer Internet video traffic will go from 64% in 2014 to surpass 80% by 2019, securing video as the future of content marketing.

As mobile and VR technology advances, 360 video will evolve into something much more powerful. But as it stands, outside of specific fields such as advertising events, travel, locations, and real estate, it’s hard to find a good use for the everyday content marketer.

With 360 video, the risk is that the audience loses focus, and as a result, fails to engage with the content. It’s like giving a kid a pair of binoculars at a theater production: they might be peering through the lenses, but not necessarily following the plot.

Testing a VR Wear prototype retro-fitted into a Forte Technology VFX1

Testing a VR Wear prototype retro-fitted into a Forte Technology VFX1

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Video as the next expression challenge

For those who know me, you know I have little talent when it comes to creating art.
I’ve been working on it though, focusing on photography, learning techniques and applying recipes that definitely helped moving up the ladder from ugly memory-keeping pics to more elegant images that actually start conveying some level of emotion.
Some of them can be seen on and show that by following a couple rules you can create eye-candy pictures.

Recently I’ve been faced with a new challenge: sharing my experiences as a runner or a scuba diver. Turns out the logging plateform I use to record my experiences are great for a personal use or for sharing with their respective vivid communities of active practitionners, but way too complex for people who are not into this specific activity to actually get it.

The pictures weren’t enough neither – they were missing the context and ended up being too static and limited to help me tell my story.
Even animated GIFs seemed like a better option than stills when it comes to telling a story.
So I started looking into the video option but while I managed to get a quick hold on the do’s and dont’s of photography – video turns out to bo a completely different level of challenge.

I started to create a bunch of footage with my phone or GoPro which ended up creating GBs of rushes on my Dropbox. Of course watching the rushes unprocessed turned up being very boring – I needed to edit.

iMovie was an excellent starting point: but being able to create a short & engaging video content that would combine my footage and contextual data to share my story turned out pretty difficult and pushed the soft to its limits really fast. Plus any incrustation turned out super ugly.

It took me a while to realize that the music was an essential part too and finding something snappy that would accomodate an unknown clip duration while providing a start, a climax and an end turned out to be challenging. The Vimeo music store is a great start but would not prove enough.

The big boy’s tools such as After Effect are really out of the league of the casual videographer. Turns out when I searched online for examples of video that would be as cool as the amazing pictures I can see in 500.px, I came to realize that I probably wasn’t the only one having trouble making actually cool video contents from my footage.

So – any of my readers have an idea as the best way to make it happen without the need of a full team to make the footage and another team to edit it ?

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Entrepreneurship: Survival & Patience

I’ve attended LeWeb in Paris since the second edition back in 2005 – and year after year you get to reconnect with amazing people and update on their businesses.
This year I was impressed by 2 of those entrepreneurs who launched their startup over 10 years ago, and kept it going despite the ups an downs, pivoted a few times until they finally got this year in a position where their product is a  perfect fit for the market and their business is scaling at exponential speed. 

In Techcrunch or other startup savvy media you can often read incredible stories about startups with immediate blazing growth success and glory – all those stories are inspiring and powerful drivers for wannabe entrepreneurs willing to try out their deas.
It’s important to keep in mind that very often those stories are reinterpretation of the past hiding out the long times of iteration, doubts, slow take offs … until the acceleration that successful startups will experience happens.

When I talk about entrepreneurship I usually say that a start-up story will take at least 10 years – and that as an etrepreneur your job is to be ready to captain the boat through that time.

Even in tough times it’s crucial for an entrepreneur to keep in mind that his #1 obtective is survival – if he gives up and the project dies everything is lost. Wether it means downsizing drastically, pivoting or accepting a round at low valuation – everything works as long as the boat stays afloat. Just like the cliffhanger on the illustration of this post – loose grip and you’re dead.


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Citizen science project: Cosmic ray particle tracking

I am passionate about citizen science. I believe that crowdsoucing data and leveraging on a communauty not only helps understanding patterns and behaviors, but whenever possible we need to be able to tap on the crowd to gather data and support scientific purposes.
i believe that people are only waiting for oportunities to get involved to make the world a better place – and simple actions brought at scale can have massive impacts.

We did exactly that through Diveboard where species occurences identified by divers wordwide are published as open data for scientists to use in their research hence giving them an access to real-time occurence data at scale, which they could only be dreaming of before Diveboard.

Scientists from the University of California have just announced an incredible citizen science project “CRAYFIS” which stands for Cosmic Rays Found in Smartphones.
Turns out your smartphone camera may be sensitive to those cosmic rays. So they built an app to use your phone as a detector for those rays and evaluate their flow over earth – at the citizen science scale.
Currently in beta, you can sign up (I did) and take part in that amazing initiative.


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From Cybernetics to Discovery

Discovery has become one of our main area of interest at Diveboard. Of course discovery isn’t a new idea – helping someone stumble onto something that will get him excited has been on the mind of every marketer forever.
What has changed greatly though is the means we can leverage on to get there.

Discovery actually dates back from the 50s as a part of Cybernetics. For those like me who were born after that discipline stopped being taught, we may have a wrong idea about what cybernetics is. Cybernetics has little to do with bionic lungs and enhanced humans, its actually defined by wikipedia as :

Cybernetics is a transdisciplinary approach for exploring regulatory systems, their structures, constraints, and possibilities. (…) Concepts studied by cyberneticists (or, as some prefer, cyberneticians) include, but are not limited to: learning, cognition, adaptation, social control, emergence, communication, efficiency, efficacy, and connectivity

This basically relies on the concept of the feedback loop which enables a system to adjust to its environment. Here’s a simple example of such loops:

Internet really exploded when proper search got in. The basic idea of search is simple: you need to be able to express what you are seeking and the algorithm will try to “understand” it and find in its database a match. Basic search is easy, but as Google and others have demonstrated over the years understanding a query properly can be a huge help in finding the most relevent information – this is called as the Semantic Web.
This really makes a lot of difference when it comes to giving you the answer vs finding a relevant page. 
For example let’s say you’re looking for the best New York marathon time.
wolfram’s answer versus google‘s are making that difference very clear.

But as search hits a hard limit – since there’s as much you can understand from a query – or at least as the cost of getting a little bit better has raised exponentially, the whole discovery space is getting momentum.

Discovery tries to read the user’s mind, understand it’s behavior, learn from it and try to get to the user contents related to its research but without limiting  itself to the keywords he may have typed. Discovery is about digging relevant stuff in a given space.

The first notable forays  where done by such like Amazon using what is now called “Collaborative filtering” techniques. It’s basically a “people who liked this also liked those”-type of algorithm. This happened at the turn of the century and this simple methods have given spectacular results.

Today, as we learn to aggregate manage big data, new doors are opening up. Numerous research projects, and some implementations are starting to bring back those old ideas from the cybernetics age to build pesonalized feedback loops for each of us. 
By testing us with stimuli and watching us react (click/scroll…) the system can learn a lot about our affinity to a subject and hence profile us and serve us with more relevant content that will be appealing to us.

In the very specific case of Diveboard, that would mean understanding where a scuba divers wants to go next (and why) and what he expects to be doing there : is he more excited about big fish, caves… does he start considering taking a training course to level up … all those things are already in the system and would bring a lot of value by directly pointing a user to the elements that matter to him instead of flooding him in an endless listing of stuff he wouldn’t care about or -worse- forcing him into formalizing what he’s searching for, provided he’d know that himself.

Since we’re spending a lot of time on this subject I’ll follow up on this note on some analysis we’ve done about how Discovery is currenlty implemented on the web and how it’s performing.

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Building an automated home with z-wave in 2014

Ah home automation – what an overworked subject. It’s been hot (or not) for 20 years …

Truth is home automation needs to be shelved as a meaningless buzzword encompassing way too many ideas.

As we just bought a new home, I was faced with the challenge of dealing with rewiring it so it matches today’s electrical standards (which is a very versatile concept). Fact is wiring a home is a nightmare. You need to figure out early one which switch connects to which plug and engrave it deeply into you house stone walls… as a consequence it VERY expensive (~ 100>150€ per  switch) and totally inflexible.

My initial approach was too remove all switches from the wall and just use phones and remotes – but Stephanie used a veto and let’s face it – switches are a needed convenience.

I spent a huge amount of time researching technologies to support the objectives : no wires, flexibility. To those objectives I had to add security / redundancy since I could not allow a downtime of weeks should the home go down and should I need to repair it . Yes – the concept of a home going down is a bit scary.


The first technology I really liked was Chacon’s DI-O. Direct communication between switches and plugs, no central point of faliure in the architecture… only massive drawback: about 2s lag between the flip of the switch until the light toggles …



After an in-depth market study I naturally landed on z-wave as the most promising technology. Plenty vendors (although you need to watch out about the z-wave frequency – typically EU devices are incompatible with US devices), plenty devices… There isn’t any nice module such as Chacon’s for the wall switches, but since Stephanie didn’t want tech-looking switches I ended up hacking a KFOB2 to connect it to simple brass push-buttons ready to install.

Screen Shot 2014-06-21 at 22.17.02

On the power-side, fibaro micro-modules are pretty awesome: small and sleek they do an amazing job. They also have support for some cool sensors – such are pH, K and more for salted water aquariums (another side request for the new home :D).

As for the logics side, since z-wave requires a central controller, I spent a lot of time prototyping solutions… the best consumer solution in my opinion is Smartthings: cheap, efficient,  beautiful… but unavailable in EU (remember the incompatibility between EU and US z-wave thing? ). another weird thing is that it’s currently network-dependant. Alex, Smartthings CEO says they’re going to make it offline ready but in the meantime it’s scary to think that a net outage would break home (let’s face it in consumer Internet, outages are a reality).


Second best is Fibaro’s but the only viable option supporting proper scripting is the Home Center 2 (lite has no lua capabilities) retailing at 600€ … which would kind of break the point of getting an ROI option. Moreover I was concerned about potential hardware failures… and how tough it would get to find another working box in 5 years when this happens.

I was feeling more comfortable with raspberry pi solutions where I could bake a backup pi for 50$ and keep it around in case of failures. After testing all solutions I ended up liking Domoticz most.  While far from perfect, it’s having a very active community and fast paced iterations which I’m confident will enable me to reach my goals. Great web ui, great Android app Dromotica.

Next step: actually putting the whole thing in the home around q4 🙂 Bottom line: I’l be saving with this solution around 60€/switch and I’ll get way better flexibility – and a cool shutdown button and the door to turn off all lights before I leave home 🙂




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Is Google Glass dead !?

Screen Shot 2014-05-22 at 16.03.25

I’ve been a glass explorer for 6 months now. I often get asked “what is Glass good for?” Let’s face it: there is no good answer to that question.

Glass is obviously a platform to explore wearable and hands-free computing. From that prospective the platform is mostly up to the challenge.
After 6 months in the field the platform is falling short of killer apps that would justify wearing glasses rather that pulling out a phone

Turn-by-turn direction is probably the only app that really gets advantage of the platform, since wether your driving or walking pulling out your phone to check the next turn is a nuisance.
Beyond that use case, I’m pretty much clueless … I was dreaming at a facial recognition software that would pull out cards on the people I meet (or just memorize when we met with speech to text of our conversation) but that’s forbidden by the ToS.
I was dreaming about interactive lego building instructions ( or any other repair/build instructables) as to keep the hands free int the process, but the usability of such attempts remains rough.

After 6 months, the question remains: did we lack imagination, is the platform (mostly the screen definition and little battery life) limiting (I don’t think so) or is this whole augmented vision thing simply not for the consumer ?

I still think that the platform has a lot of potential, its initial position as a “notification” device was totally wrong in my opinion: the google wear watch will be more fit for that purpose. But the lack of ideas / innovations on the platform is worrying. Here’s the biggest list of glass apps I could find – not really compelling.

Finally, last but not least, the lack of firmware updates along with the bad quality of the latest firmware (reboots, sluggishness) are not helping its case…

The only sure thing about glass is that in the US it’s the best ice breaker ever. Doesn’t work so well in France though!

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SEO, how you have changed !

I had lately a couple discussions which made me realize there are loads of misconceptions about SEO.

SEO used to be magic. Some guys with a magic wand would be able to boos your ratings to Google top result list by tweaking a few tags here in there in your pages. Some dark wizards pretending to wield such powers still roam the web but let’s face it : they have largely become extinct – or at least have evolved as provider of best practices to improve your site as SEO technology has evolved to behave manly instead of being a simple easy-to-trick algorithm.

I’ll try to get a few points straight – and if you have specific questions please let me know:

1. What is SEO

My definition of SEO varies greatly from what it used to be: SEO is the art of making sure a human can easily navigate your site contextually and discover it all.

This means that your site’s backbone will enable a user to reach leaves answering specific questions by narrowing progressively the field of research.

“Easy navigation” also means making sure your content is easy to read and understand in a glimpse.

2. I’ve been stuffing keywords and paying for backlinks to get my SEO up – am I a fool ?

Well…. basically yes. Those techniques have become largely counter-productive.

Traditionally, the SEO “techniques” would incorporate the following elements:

  • keyword stuffing
  • link exchanges

But those techniques have become largely inefficient. If you want proof, check out what happened to Rap Genius a couple months ago: they got banned from Google! And indeed their link exchange technics were pure SEO Spam.

But back-links from high-reputation sites will help your ranking – so where’s the line will you ask ?

3. You must think of Google as a human

Google is special – it’s  the key source of organic traffic for many – and unlike Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and others he actually understands your HTML content from an end-user prospective. The other sites will look at tags and will not try to “understand” the content – hence you can easily fool them with keywords that have nothing to do with your page’s content and push them into doing the social actions you intend (i.e. share a cat picture from a very serious blog post when liking it).

But Google understands native language. It doesn’t really handles properly javascript and CSS yet, so you can still get some flexibility regarding how the content marked within your HTML page actually shows up to users, but he DOES understand your words.

If you follow simple HTML structure rules, and use the HTML tags properly (<title>, <h1><h2><h3>…) then Google will be able to understand what this page is about and it will make its way at the right spot in the search results.

If you focus on making sure that a user will easily be able from your homepage to discover the whole site by recursively following links within your site, you can be sure Google will be able to properly index the site. Even the sitemap is getting “deprecated” – a site without a sitemap will get indexed just as well.

4. So what matters?

The best way to do SEO is to focus on the site usability and on its content, making sure that each page has its own url and can be easily found within the site.

Backlinks matters, but beware of spamming backlinks or sophistically created links (with plenty keywords stuffed in your link tags…). Don’t think of it as pagerank, this ok it as third parties giving “trust” to your resources – google understands and appreciates that.

What matters most from my experience is how original and dynamic your content is. If your content is user generated and will be commented / edited by users regularly, Google will LOVE it and come check it back often. This is typically whi Wikipedia has so high rankings : heaps of backlinks get high trust and very dynamic content scores additional points.

5.  Are there any tools I should use ?

The best tool is Google Webmaster: it will help you assess wether Google bot can access and parse your site easily.

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2 weeks in #Glass


It’s been 2 weeks since I got into the Google #glass explorer program – and I’ve tried to wear those tangerine 2.0 glasses as much as I could ever since I got a hold on them.

ksso-yamauba.jpgFirstly: why did I get them ?

You may have missed that side of my personal history but I did work on a virtual reality project called VR-WEAR some 5 years+ ago. While the project which was very much like the Occulus rift but pre-kickstarter did not get funded at that time (just after the supbrime crisis was not the best time to go bold in France) immersive and augmented technologies have been my passion for a long time.

Then, as an early adopter and entrepreneur it was kind of my duty to be on the first wagon of that new Google trip to try and find out if there’s any business that could be built on top of this platform (short answer : obviously yes!)

Glass is an experiment, and should be treated as such. No one knows yet when/if it’s ever going to go mainstream. But it’s definitely full of promises. I won’t tell you about the unboxing experience (you can read that in plenty other places) or the fitting experience @ Google’s San Francisco dowtown offices (which is pretty awesome – thanks Svetlana  for your patience!) – Instead I’ll focus on what glass is and isn’t.

Glass isn’t an immersion device. The whole philosophy of glass is augmenting your vision, not replacing it. The initial SDK only allowed you to insert “cards” on your glass in a timely manner. While this sounds limited, this is really the spirit of the device: being there but letting you forget about it.

Glass is handless (almost). This is really one of the biggest change in computer interaction imho – trying to run everything through voice commands. It still has its limitations but I can promise that in a below freezing day being able to map your route while keeping your hands warm is a bliss (I actually did this)

Glass sucks up your phone battery. Since it’s tethered to your phone through bluetooth 4, Glass will notably kill your battery life (and my Nexus 4’s was already barely making it through the day – now I get to travel with an extra external battery pack – oh joy !)

Glass is dates and free beers – and every social interactions takes longer. If you’re looking to connect with people – just hang around in a meetup wearing glass you’ll be the center of attention – and if you dare go shopping with them expect any social interaction to start with “Hey wassup with your glasses ? ” . Also meeting other explorers is awesome!


Glass is the tip of the iceberg. Basically any augmented reality idea that has been popping for 30 years (since the early Terminator movie) now gets a sleek platform to be tried on. While using a phone for AR and holding it in front of you has always seemed a bit awkward to me glasses just makes it more natural.

As you can tell I’m pretty excited about it and I have tons of idea for cool stuff around this tech – not sure I’ll find the time to test them all but I can’t wait to see glassed fitted into a scuba mask !

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