Internet continues to change our relationship to neighbours

At the hackathon last week-end I discovered this new site: Nextdoor.

When the business mentor told us about it, she described it as this site that lets you “talk with your neighbors without actually talking to them”.

It sounds really sad, at first. Then you stop lying to yourself and realise that it would indeed be useful.

I’m obsessed with this idea that things are returning to local now, but in a different way than in the past, and I cannot yet pinpoint exactly how different. Mouvements for eating local are huge. Microbreweries have a surge of popularity. Festivals are gold mines because they are so popular. People look to belong to a community, we know that, but still. There’s enough reluctance to not talk to our neighbours.

Nextdoor or other similar sites tackle an inherent problem with social proximity: the social pressure and control.

It allows us to have a community based on spatial location, but remain anonymous and stringless. To share information without other people’s judgments and uncomfortable chitchats in the corridor.

Sounds great, but what do we lose? Can we really have all the perks and none of the disadvantages?

Also, should a multinational company be the broker of our residence information, or should it be the role of the local government? Who should have these data? Is it too late to be having this discussion?

You’re an expert if you can find a good problem at a hackathon


I am sitting in the lobby of the Hilton Hotel in Vienna. The Healthcare MIT Hackathon ended this morning and we are all toasted. We didn’t win. I’m sitting here instead of visiting the city in order to stalk the judges.

It was really fun. You know how they say that these events are for meeting people? It’s true. For me it was particularly when we were arguing, and then out of the blue stumbled on an idea that was a perfect fit to our team. At that moment, there were sparkles in our eyes. Continue reading

Things I like.


  1. Getting on the side of the tram that minimises what I have to walk at arrival
  2. Coming up with a good analogy
  3. Biking in the city, which is my definition of freedom
  4. Having a set of translucent flag post-its when reading a novel
  5. Arguing about MBTI
  6. Paying bills on e-banking
  7. Staying in bed on very sunny days. No noise, no light, no outside stimuli.
  8. Being truthful and sometimes nervous when I blog
  9. Rays of sunlight through half-closed window blinds, reflecting on the moving dust
  10. Making a friend, because it’s so rare.

This is inspired by Jessica Gross’ project, Things we like. I like how it made me pause and cristallise those small events into words.

Your turn, now.

Montecastelli: the cello-piano duet

So we went on stage. I remembered that I always hated being on stage alone, on the piano. I never understood the difference between practice and stage. Why one was important, and the other one not.

The whole lab was watching from below, gathered in this small chapel made of stones, in the middle of Tuscany. It was cold, but not too cold. It was odd, but not too odd.

He pulled his bow – played the levée –

And I fell in love.

I fell in love with the moment. Continue reading

Of complex networks, and why we love hook-ups.

This post is about two friends hooking up.

But before getting to that part, it’s a confession of how unstable and unbalanced I have become since I started research. Work-life balance now depends pretty much on whether Github loads correctly. The lack of results or any kind of milestones is nerve-wrecking.

I cope by doing sports. Lots and lots of sports. Enough to mess up my hormonal system.

Fun fact: did you know that professional athletes force their body so much that it is constantly in survival mode? It reacts by cutting non-essential functions, such as reproduction functions. Next time when you watch sport, think of these professional athletes as all temporarily sterile. Continue reading

How to find an interesting position, anywhere


In the lab I got assigned a project that no one wanted.

The data is messy, there is no clear goal and I literally heard sighs of relief from those who passed it on to me.

Truth is, this is very common when you start any job, in industry or research. The new colleague gets the projects that others left out. It, however, doesn’t have to stay that way. Here’s how you can get projects you’re interested in, in any working environment. Continue reading

Is academia more risky than startups?

Yesterday I went to the “Business Ideas” workshop organised in Zurich by Venture Kick for the ETH startup scene.

There were talks by successful spinoffs like Aerotainment Labs and SwissLitho talking about their experiences which are all positive of course. And the challenges, and the freedom… Blah.

The most interesting thing I learned was why companies spend millions and millions in advertisement in big sport events. Did you know it was not only for the visibility? They’re in for the emotions: the high-stake, the suspens, the belonging. Positive and strong emotions. They want to be associated with that.

Anyway, while I was busy stuffing myself with free food I bumped into this guy, stuffing himself too. He must be a researcher, I thought. No one stuffs themselves at a networking event if they had a real salary. Continue reading