Profile pic [NOTE: This is my personal blog. Opinions expressed here don't necessarily align with what I would say, or recommend, in a more professional capacity.] I'm an old school nerd, techie, founder, and all those other things that comes with growing up fascinated by computers. Currently my primary job is to build a startup focusing on new ways to do B2C communications. This is work founded on my earlier research into the nature of digital information as we use it today; with the goal to allow people more efficient communications by eliminating the need for the data to pass through third parties such as social networks. I'm also part-time available as a chief tech advisor. Practically that means that I'm a tech strategist and business developer, that help up the level of tech competency, without burdening your organization with a new position that also has day-to-day operational duties. This is primarily meant for startups/SMEs; but I also work with individual business owners to help them set up their IT-departments, or external contractors. I work with everything from designing the underlying deep tech and system archi­tecture, to making sure that tech, user experience, and business requirements all line up.
/tony@svanstrom.org @
-- PS Work info is over at svanstrom.com.
Gordon Ramsay's 24 Hours to Hell and Back. In many ways this is just the usual Gordon Ramsay silliness/drama, but from a business perspective there's a lot more to it; and it's stuff that I've come across in real life, repeatedly. It's about how you get so caught up in what you "have to do", that you completely lose sight of what you should do… If you end up having to save money, you risk getting caught in a state of mind where you don't dare to spend money when and where you should. If you feel stressed, you risk not being able to prioritize what you should do. If you feel like "nothing gets done", you risk taking it upon yourself to do "everything"; so you end up not delegating, and feel like everyone fails you. If you feel tired, you risk getting stuck in a loop of always trying to work harder; until you're too worn out to efficiently do any work at all. And it keeps going like that, people getting stuck to the point where they do the opposite of what they should do; and behind the tv drama in 24hrs there are these nuggets of warnings what to not do, where to not get stuck, when you're running/starting a business. The latest episode (S03E02) definitely reminded me about someone I've talked to recently; but, unfortunately, in real life we can't always just drive a truck into people's lives and save the day.
Cup of coffee; with vegan foam, and cocoa. This is either a relaxing morning ritual, a requirement to get going, or me worshiping an addiction. I'm good either way. 🤷‍
Doctor Who (series 12)… WHO THE *BLEEP* THOUGHT IT A GOOD IDEA TO MAKE DOCTOR WHO A CHEAP ASS RIP-OFF OF JAMES BOND?? I'm having all kinds of opinions now; most of them involving very strong language, and colorful insults. 😡
First post (of 2020)! No "new year, new me"-nonsense here. I fought way too hard this past year to just throw myself away and start over again. :) 2019 definitely goes into the books as part of the heavy years, but it was also a major turning point; that last heavy year closing the books on heavy years. On the more lighthearted side of things, 2019 was the year that I… = Discovered pea-based "milk", made by Sproud. For all kinds of ethical reasons I've tried to make vegan options my norm, and 2019 was the year that my mind really started going to vegan options first. Yes, I'm the most failed vegan ever, but those are choices actively made; it's no longer that I automatically pick what I want, and then try to make some vegan alternative of it. What used to be replacements I now want because of what they are; like Sproud when making my coffee drinks, and tofu from Yipin when cooking. 🌱 = Spent more time in the garden. Looks live I've hit an age where having a cup of tea and feeding birds is enough to make a day. = Spent more time reading books. Favorite authors of 2019 would be Neal Asher, and Peter F. Hamilton. = Had more fun coding. For the longest time coding felt like sitting through a cutscene while being in a rush. It was just wasted time painstakingly doing something to have it done. Yesterday I even, almost by accident, built my own kanban board-software; and it was so much fun that I'm going to keep working on it as a hobby, and it's already flexible enough that I soon will make it my primary collaborative project management tool. Even tempted to turn it into a commercial product; which takes us to… = Realized I should get me some product owners. I've been my own roadblock while my own projects have progressed, and I've finally reached that point where I feel that I can delegate; without it ending up with me either losing control, or that I'd just get less done as I've got more to manage. Really happy about this. And even more happy about how I'm going to implement it. Basically the underlying tech that I'm developing is quite coherent, but thanks to emergence the commercial products based on it don't always show any relationship at all between them. Making it hard to present a single business in a coherent manner. Instead of going "I'm doing this, and this, and this, and this, and this"; I'm focusing on a few key products myself, and essentially taking on product owners that act as COO/cofounder of separate startups. = Got myself a moka pot. For the longest I couldn't get myself to replace the worn-out espresso maker a very special (now passed away) friend had given me; but I ended 2019 with an IKEA moka pot. Quite a decent product actually; absolutely worth the monies. (As with all moka pots, make sure you google a proper tutorial first; if you only follow the instructions in the manual you'll end up with a bitter insult to the coffee you absolutely ruin in it.)
The view from Garden Hill, HK Ikigai, a Japanese concept that means "a reason for being". I'm looking for my ikigai. The last text I sent before falling asleep last night was that I wanted to bring a bunch of food and beer, and sit on that hill in the pic above, and get drunk as the sun sets. Jyu cheung fan, char siu bao, har gow, (Shanghai) bak choi, xlb; with a lighter beer, followed by a really dark English style barley wine for dessert. Not enough to get drunk drunk, but enough to go "woa" when hours later standing up to leave. And that exact moment as standing up starts, when the decision to leave materializes, that's the moment I want to live in. That satisfaction of a perfect evening bound by the right moment to move on. Effortless action. Lagom. Wei wu wei. That's what I want my reason for getting up in the morning to be, that feeling of every day, every moment, being perfect in itself.
Traditionally these are times to go see movies at the cinema, and I did; so… Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. ⭐️⭐️ They just went through the motions like "here's a moment", "here's another moment", "and another moment" etc; and slapped a lot of expensive effects on top of it all. Not a bad end to it all; I just hope they now leave it all behind and go do something completely different for a decade or two. But, knowing Disney, they'll probably keep Frankensteining these characters until the fans can be heard screaming of despair all the way to a galaxy far far away. Jumanji: The Next Level. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I don't remember when I last had this much fun at the movies. Absolutely loved this one. (Tbh it didn't carry quite all the way to the end, but it packed so much fun that it's easy to forgive them for only being a normal level of funny for some parts.)
Photo of tree made of lights, and hearts. 10 years ago today… In Sweden it's the 24th of December, Christmas eve, that is THE main day of Christmas. I started the day by at the local store buy a bit of everything as far as Christmas food goes. Trying my best to cover all the bases as far as what older generations would enjoy finding on the table. Then I took all that, and I think I splurged on a taxi, and went to the hospice where my mom was. Almost to the day she now had two months left, and the cancer was at this time making her, on and off, confused about things. We waited for the (delayed) special taxi able to handle her wheelchair; and then went a bit north of Uppsala, to where my uncle (by marriage) was living. He had dementia, Parkinson's, and was bedridden since a heart attack some years earlier. Over the years he'd also suffered a number of strokes. My mom living in the torp next to his house had made it possible for him to keep living at home; with the assistance of "hemtjänst", a Swedish system for home care. This wasn't his last Christmas (he passed a little bit more than a year later); but it was his last Christmas living at home. Arriving later than planned we met the home care people leaving after making sure he'd had lunch. Not knowing if he was aware of it being Christmas, and not knowing if he'd have any visitors at all, they said they'd not mentioned anything about it being Christmas. I'm pretty sure I started by using the lift to get him back up into his wheel chair, and set him next to my mom for them to get a chance to talk. Him being tired, and both of them being a bit demented/confused, things weren't exactly running smoothly; and I kept running back and forth between trying to help them talk with each other, and preparing the food. The taxi back to her hospice wasn't delayed; and no chance of delaying it on a day busy with people in wheelchairs in need of transportation to and from family. I don't really remember much about that day; stress sort of shuts down your memory, and I was about half a decade of stress into their illnesses. I do remember moments of happiness. Them being happy of getting this. Me being happy while cooking some of the food. When later on walking home from the hospice I was mostly just relieved that alone all my (self-imposed) obligations were fulfilled; and seeing all the lonely people here and there I did think that even the shittiest holiday is better when you feel that you have a purpose.
Yesterday I wrote that "when we have the person placing the order of a solution using a particular language, that sets things in motion with a bias"; and I want to expand on that from the perspective of what happens when a non-techie is in need of some sort of tech for their business. The brutal way of putting it would be that it can be like having a self-diagnosed medical condition; dealt with by googling surgical procedures, followed by letting the neighborhood kid follow your step-by-step guide simply because you know that kid to like playing with knives. In tech the consequences are of course, in most cases, way less lethal, but the (lack of) competency behind the process can be very similar. For instance, again and again I've heard businesses say that they need a website, without in any way, shape or form mention why they need a website. And then they proceed with finding someone willing to make them a website, for whatever amount of monies that businesses has a gut feeling is acceptable. They end up overpaying for things they don't need, and, very often, don't get what they thought was either implied in, or a reasonable result of, having a website. In effect they have themselves (not) done the work of an experienced IT-strategist evaluating the needs of their business, and based on that purchased whatever someone was willing to sell them. This is why language is extremely important when purchasing IT-solutions. DO NOT focus on what services/products you think you need; DO focus on your expectations of what whatever you buy will give you. The fancier way of looking at this is that you want to control what the seller must do to fulfill their obligation to you. Like, is your desired end result really only to have a website, or is it perhaps to have your information easy to find in search engines‽ So, don't just buy a product or service, get the seller to promise you the results that you think that you're paying for. Not only will this keep sellers more honest, but it will also make it easier for them to actually match your expectations; and it will make you a better, and happier, customer, because if you have unrealistic expectations they will be addressed before the deal is made.
"Twitter is funding a small independent team of up to five open source architects, engineers, and designers to develop an open and decentralized standard for social media. The goal is for Twitter to ultimately be a client of this standard." – @jack I love that a major player is making this move; but as a realist/skeptic I have two doubts: 1. We've heard similar stories before; and there's a very long list of ifs for something like this to actually end up producing something decent, where it isn't still completely under the control of a single (commercial) entity. 2. The wording "a client of this standard"… Talking about "a client of", rather than "adopting" or "implementing", might sound trivial; and in a non-technical aspect it might not carry any deeper meaning. The problem is that even non-technical speak has technical meaning, and who the "client" is in a technical design greatly influences how it is designed. So when we have the person placing the order of a solution using a particular language, that sets things in motion with a bias. In this case the bias would be towards organizations (like Twitter) being the client; which is completely different than how we view classic decentralized communication structures such as with email, the web, and dns. Which represent the three underlying protocols that made it possible for the internet to early/mid 90's become a mainstream phenomenon. The bias of the wording here is very much in line with how much of the development of different forms of open "social" has been conducted for almost three decades now; starting with the work done with the so called semantic web. Instead of minimalistic solutions that show proper emergence by evolving with the needs of end-users we end up with someone's idea of a ready-made solution, that is designed to fit the requirements as stated by the organizations involved. And we then end up with a "this is how everyone will want to do this"-solution; which somehow is meant to encourage everyone to do things that way, because if everyone is doing it that way then everyone will be doing it that way and therefor it will be awesome because everyone will be doing everything the same way (and that it doesn't actually fit everyone's needs will be addressed some years from now by a 100 people strong committee that by then probably has been formed as soon as the current committee can agree on the rules for forming the next committee). Just because it is a standard, and open, it isn't necessarily something useful. Yes, I'm bitter. But, sadly that comes from experience.🤷‍
"Hong Kong police made 621 requests to remove social media posts since January". First of all, let's acknowledge that there are many legitimate reasons why online content might have to be removed against the will of the poster. There are many limitations to free speech in real life, and there is nothing controversial about the same concept being applied online. For instance, you can't yell fire, and cause a panic, just because you feel like doing so; and it makes perfect sense that you can't do that by typing it online instead. But… In real life, and in what we would consider a free and open society, being censored by the police results in you having your day in court. You are either charged with a crime, or you have legal means to challenge the action taken against you. Now that we post, and read, so much of our news on social networks that's changed though. As an account holder you have literally accepted a legally binding contract saying that your rights to post content on that service are much more limited than your otherwise legal rights to share content. And that has created a way for law enforcement to independently remove what they dislike. It's a loophole; limiting, and in some cases completely removing, a person's legal right to challenge when they are being censored. What started out as a very reasonable precaution taken by service providers has now turned into a back door, allowing many government agencies to have a direct line to a core team of content specialists at these companies. Your right to challenge certain actions taken against you by your government has been reduced to whether or not challenging a request is profitable by a commercial third party. And if it isn't, you might be left with nothing more than a generic "policy violation"-message; leaving you clueless exactly why your content was deleted. That is a problem. And it's an even greater problem in times of unrest; with people already doubting their government: Fake news amplifies fear and confusion in Hong Kong.
Modern day tracking of deliveries is awesome, and frustrating. Here my package basically just went by my house to go sightseeing around the neighborhood for another 51 minutes.
Jasmine tea in water Slightly obsessed with the patterns in my glass of Jasmine pearl tea. It is definitely a bit meditative to look at, and it helps me cut down on caffeine (as I don't habitually go for a cup of coffee); and with a bit of editing I go very pretentious about pics of it, thinking it looks like Renaissance paintings exploring perspective, while also being inspired of the abstractism of medieval art. An exploration of realism, that almost turns into aniconism due to the unknown nature of that which is depicted. Like, can't you just see the abstraction of a Putto hovering in this pic; with the stems being some Dantean representation of an entangled humanity reaching from purgatory towards enlightenment‽ 😅 I'm almost pretty sure that I'm mostly joking about that interpretation. 😁
Added a very basic dark mode. The default monospace typeface didn't always produce legible results on regular displays; so I limited dark mode to primarily touch devices for now. If your device is set to dark mode (and is a touch device), then everything here should look white-on-black-ish. @media (prefers-color-scheme: dark) and (hover: none) and (pointer: coarse) {…}
Uppsala old cemetary. Woe of the day: The murky unknown evils that lurks in the depths of… webdesign. As much as I'm trying to deny it, I'm actually working with design while putting this blog together. Which in theory is done using style sheets; allowing for a complete seperation between church and state content, design, and programming (in this context meaning JavaScript). I say "in theory", because practically speaking the web is a gigantic mess. In practice we start out with content, add basic structure to it, and then just keep adding layers of structure simply to have something to work with while trying to deal with the limitations of the styling options; and then we head into some real programming to actually be able to do the conditional design choices that must be done to make the whole thing look, and act, like a modern website. *exhausted sigh* Just for the fun of it, every webbrowser out there implements all these things slightly differently. *throws computer out the window* So, what do we developers do about all this? Well, to start with we go where no-one has gone before as far as the level of consumption of caffeinated beverages, and we try to take regular breaks whenever we feel the urge to set something on fire (this is the real reason why it's essential to have "playrooms" at offices with lots of nerds; pure self-preservation for everyone else in the building); and then we turn to software libraries. A library is simply a bunch of prewritten code that deals with all the exceptions we otherwise would have to code ourselves around. What any sane person/non-coder might think could be done with a single line of code might end up requiring a library with 100's of lines in it, or even (10's) of 1000's. Ignoring any licensing issues that might arise (mostly relevant if one's developing commercial software), this should be it; right? I mean, literally thousands of hours have been put into solving this problem for us, so… Surely it must be solved? Kinda sorta maybe. In the wonderful world of webdesign these libraries simply can't work at a low enough level to fix the underlying problems; so instead they try to manage them. This is sort of like having a broken foundation for a building; and instead of having techniques for replacing the foundation, we have ended up with a myriad of techniques for building on top of broken foundations. Which works great. Until you invite your extra heavy uncle, and under a full moon in retrograde accidentally let him sleep at the wrong angle in the wrong room during some unfortunately chosen unexpected (by the developers) hours such as regular nighttime. Practically speaking we're at this point back to exploring unhealthy coping mechanisms; and actively questioning every life choice made since kindergarten. And… if you are reading this using the "wrong" webbrowser on the "wrong" platform at the "wrong" time (ie, before I've fixed it), you'll find that to read the absolute last post on this page you'll end up having to scroll for about a week and a half. Evolutionary speaking what these problems has caused is that these libraries kept growing until they had more and more features; allowing developers to not work with the actual building blocks of the web, but rather the features the libraries provided. Which, in theory, makes everything used work together as we want it to. This has created a plethora of subsets and standards and extensions and whatnot; which is less about the web, and more built on top of the web, built with "web technologies". To solve my current problem with misplaced posts I could for instance simply do my work on top of a template offered by a library that does the basic features of what I want; and… That's how we went from webpages being single textpages offered up by a fairly simple webserver, to… having to use specific webservers, specific databases, to fit our chosen content management system, which comes with a template engine, on top which we place our chosen template, which comes with its own options and plug-in engine, in which we place the plug-in that focuses on our required feature, which in turn comes with extensions (another plug-in engine) tweaking the whole thing to work with our preferred type of posts. And at that point everything just works. Except… If we're unlucky it only works on some "supported" platforms, and only if you ignore/work around certain bugs. (Atheist or not, once you've got a working platform you better pray that none of the major players, like Apple, suddenly releases an updated webbrowser that accidentally breaks how your chosen platform has worked around any earlier problems.) Then there's how we go about sharing the actual content, now hidden somewhere in that convoluted mess. Which is where we must add even more code, to create all forms of APIs to open up the content to more "social" participation. Plug-ins to make content sharable between different platforms etc. This is as far as I will go with this layer-upon-layer mess, but I'm actually very far from done; there are many more layers. (I could write some very long essays about how, and why, things have evolved to where we are today.) But, what does all this mean in our day to day lives? Well, if we're a business and start out with something as simple as a short text, a photo, a menu, or a wine list, and we want to get this to our customers; we often end up with IT-technicians, web-bureaus, social media managers, content specialists, and so on. Instead of simply just placing the content online (like adding a pizza to our menu), and our customers simply getting updated about this (depending on their preferences, like geolocation and time of day etc), we end up having to put our content onto several platforms. Such as our digital menus and displays at our brick-and-mortar location, the payment system, online ordering system, if we have an app; and all our social media channels (where we must have the time and resources to do a campaign, to reach as many as possible of our followers). *sigh* We start with what should be able to be easily accessible content, which then gets lost in what we do to present it; forcing actual dissemination to become quite resource-intensive. And that's pretty much the tl;dr of how we went from a simple, open, and democratic, web, to relying on commercial third party social networks; because as much as they only work to maximize their own profits, they still end up cheaper to us than building our own solutions. Post scriptum: In this case my problem with a slightly misaligned element is actually just the latest gripe in a week long process to do something that looks deceptively simple; but that due to complex requirements has been hard to solve in a cross-platform safe way.
Coworking center Base10 Work in progress.😁 I'm coding a content management system, and this blog is a prototype of some of the most basic concepts. Right now the focus is on code/design structure; basic things like where one should be able to place an image, and the most minimalistic way to make modern webbrowsers display things as intended. For now that means that things, on and off, might be a bit misaligned; or perhaps move a bit in the wrong way when the page scrolls.🤷‍ Overall I wouldn't exactly call this part of the project design-work (which I vehemently claim to suck at), but more about exploring functionality… The goal is to create a reference platform that acts as a hybrid between a blog, and a social media profile. (Me being a fan of open and decentralized data it is probably not too hard to figure out where I might be heading with this; but there is a non-obvious twist to where things will end up.🤫) Most of the code will be reused in my day-to-day project, but done right it will also function as a stand-alone example of how it is possible to build a flexible platform, without creating a full-blown template engine. (What can I say, I'm a minimalist to the point where I go out of my way to "disprove" non-minimalistic approaches.) As of this writing nothing here is available under any license, so it is all "all rights reserved"; all images taken by me etc. (I just really don't want to have to waste any time on version control, updates, and whatnots, on stuff no-one might be interested in copying anyways; so just drop me a line if you want to use something here.)
People staring at phones What does it mean when I say that my work includes "eliminating the need for […] data to pass through third parties"? 1. First of all, let us dispel the myth that online businesses must stalk their users to be profitable. A great quick primer to this is the DuckDuckGo business model. 2. Second, if you don't save, analyze, manipulate and store every piece of data, then you are running a much leaner operation; meaning much less money to "recoup" from your users. So how does this come into play with my work? It is all about the dataflow… Today much of B2C communications wiggles its way through a whole myriad of servers and services (the prime example being social networks). This is expensive, and these third parties often use their own secret algorithms that prioritize their own profitability over efficiently transferring information. If you are a small business wanting to communicate something to your followers it becomes very resource-intensive to effectively push information through these third party systems; and you often find yourself having to do social media campaigns, pay for extra reach, and input the same data repeatedly into several very different third party platforms. But the internet didn't have to have evolved like this. Exactly why it did is a extremely complex matter, but the important part is that it is possible to backtrack things to the beginning, and explore alternatives. Which is exactly what my fundamental research was about. I looked at alternative ways that tech and business models could have evolved; and from that produced new tech and business models easily implemented in todays world, viable, and profitable, without producing these third party services that end up with a conflict between their own growth and greater information efficiency. And that is what I do. I remove the need for data to pass through third parties, to ensure maximum information efficiency. Practically speaking this becomes things like physical "shortcuts" that brick-and-mortar businesses can install to help visitors (without them having to install any new apps or give out any personal information) quickly access the information the business has online. And, I (in a clever way) provide a live API to the existing data. Allowing the business to automatically reuse their own data for digital signage, apps etc, as well as making it possible for anyone to easily "follow" the business' own website on their own terms (like geolocation, time of day, keywords etc). In effect cutting out the need for a third party, like a social network, that otherwise would be in control of what data actually is passed on to the "follower". In short; I take people to information, and I open up information to be available to people: 👤 ➡️ ℹ️ ↪️ 👤 Exactly how this works will become more obvious as products, services, and partnerships, are released/announced.
Hong Kong What new blog would dare to show up on the internet without containing the word "test", as well as some vague promises of future content‽ 🤷‍♂️ Well, here is not only all of that (the content-part is implied), but also a pretty picture to look at. So I'm feeling quite pleased with myself at the moment. Oh, btw, this pic is one I took summer 2017 in Hong Kong. A nice lil city that I've got a huge crush on. 😍