Category Archives: English

Analize, English, Politică

A gamified war

Is it like Afghanistan? Is it Vietnam again? Does it look like Serbia, 1999? Any connection to World War II? To the Cold War? Which one of them is it?

The answer is “all.” It is all of these and more than that. The war in Ukraine has a virtual component easy to notice if it were only for cyberwar and hackers. But it’s even more: Age of Empires. Civilization played by an aggressive guy. DOOM and Wolfenstein. The war in Ukraine is gamified.

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English, Visual

Lockdown Blues


We had moved to Belgium two weeks before the COVID-19 outbreak and the lockdown that started on 17 March. One could say for us the shock was double – adaptation to a new country followed by coping with the Coronavirus crisis, but it wasn’t so. Some of the components of change are the same. So, with lots of time on my hands and little perception of the outside World, I could indulge in my photo hobby, documenting the various aspects of everyday life, which became news in their own right. Continue reading

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Shantel about party music as a political phenomenon, South East Europe’s contribution to the EU and his roots in Cernăuți

Stefan Shantel, a German musician with Bukovina Jewish and Greek roots, became famous in Romania due to the two very successful sets he performed at Balkanik 2014 and 2015. He is something close to a global underground celebrity – whatever that may mean – due to ‘Disko Partizani’, a hit he launched in 2007, combining electro with Balkan music. In September this year, he released ‘Viva Diaspora’, an album more related to his Greek roots, conceived as a road movie, ‘cinema for the ears’, in Athens, with contributions from renowned local musicians such as Areth Ketime or Imam Baildi.

I’ve interviewed Shantel by telephone, prior to his September 13 performance at Balkanik, for ‘Șapte seri’ – the Romanian version was already published. Here’s the first part of the conversation as it took place originally, in English.

You are probably the most seminal artist for the Balkan music trend which originated in Frankfurt several years ago and is a mix of Balkan, DJ-electro stuff and other influences. Can you tell us a little bit about how it all started?

Listen, first of all I would like to clarify a little bit this misunderstanding. I never considered myself a spokesman or representative of Balkan music. That was never the idea. Totally not. Second, I started somehow my work because I’m an artist from continental Europe and I am born and raised in Germany, but I come from a very cosmopolitical family. Continue reading


The talented monsieur Carpentier goes digital

Stéphane Carpentier by Stéphane Carpentier

Stéphane Carpentier by Stéphane Carpentier

The gentleman in the picture is Ringier’s superstar art-director and a person with whom I’ve had the privilege to work on several projects, ranging from the “Unica” magazine relaunch, to a “Libertatea” face lift. Swiss-belgian Stéphane Carpentier has virtually touched every title at Ringier Romania – and a lot of the magazines and newspapers the company has around the world. He hasn’t come to Romania during the last several years, but his trademark still can be seen at publications such as “Unica”, “TV mania” or “Evenimentul zilei”.

During his stay in Romania, most of the people working with him became aware of his reluctancy to get involved in digital. I was happily surprised to find him at the forefront of the digital offensive of the Swiss company, as a creative director of the Vietnam-based Ringier Studios. I’ve had the opportunity to ask him some questions for The Industry, the magazine I do for Intact Media Group, and you can see the English version here (the Romanian version is here). Among the answers you can find the reason why Stéphane got very involved in tablet applications design, after his innitial reluctancy related to digital.

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The end of print media? More like the end of the print crisis…

The Romanian print advertising market has decreased, since the beginning of the crisis, from roughly 80 million to a value estimated between 24 and 27 million in 2011 (Mediaedge:cia and Initiative Media for The Industry). 2011 is the first year when print spendings will go below the Internet budgets. Titles such as “Gândul” have closed their paper edition (April 2011), while “Adevărul” lost more than two thirds of its sold circulation, since the first months of 2010. The crisis stroke badly the print segment of the media market, because economic fragility became an open door for the politicians’ and political parties’ influence and tabloid content got mixed in every publication’s formula.

In other words, things appear as they could not look any worse. Both newspapers journalists and their managers are depressive, quality titles have very little prestige left and even tabloids can complain about sold circulation.

Logo of the Romanian newspaper Adevărul, as us...

An old logoplate of the "Adevărul" newspaper

Is it the extinction then? Not really. More like the bottom point. Or, in other words, more like the end of the crisis than the end of the print media. Obviously, print will cease to exist in its traditional form. Or it already ceased. But it’s more about a change of a business model. The decrease of the advertising spendings in the segment is only roughly 10%, 2011 versus 2010. So hopefully the market has settled down to 25-30 million euros/year. Sold circulation decrease, which also brings a decrease of the revenues, is more manifest for titles deprived of aggressive marketing (books and DVD’s inserts) such as “Adevărul” than for the rest of the market. It is organic, dealing with the consumers’ interest, to a smaller extent. So these days the issue is more the discovery of a new business model/sustainability recipe than about losing even more speed.  Continue reading

9 mistakes companies often make on the internet

I think it was 2001 or 2002 when I first got involved in an online communication project related to a company (it was Coca-Cola). Back then it was called e-marketing or e-presence. Now it is called interactive, direct marketing, special projects, social networking, PR 2.0 and so on. Based both on my own experience and also on others projects, which I’ve studied in order to be able to come up with good solutions for my customers, I’ve assembled a list of DON’Ts or common mistakes companies usually make online.

  1. Too much control, perfectionism. Successful companies search for perfection with their their products and services, launched in a competitive climate and carefully tailored to consumers’ needs. Blogging and social platforms have a very different philosophy, consisting of spontaneity, reaction speed, lightness, tolerance for error. Unlike printed texts, blog posts can be corrected after publication and if mistakes are not brutal, there will be very little frustration and criticism because of them.  Continue reading
English, Promo, Software

MS Office 2011 for Mac Word hands-on: is it better than OpenOffice?

After MS Office 2010 for Windows, Microsoft launched the 2011 Mac version. Does it bring something essential to an iWork and OpenOffice user? Probably Outlook, which is ported on OS X for the first time, after previous Office versions that included something called Entourage. This is a great plus for corporate users, but I’ll focus on the word processor since I haven’t used Outlook for six or seven years. I’m evidently using it a lot since I’m a writer.

The good things are legion

The first thing worth mentioning is MS Word is a solid text editor for complex documents such as this one, which I’m actually working on:

Office 2011 for Mac

As you can see, this is collaborative work in English. One particular aspect is the “track changes” feature. OpenOffice does have a similar feature, labeled as “record changes.” It does work, but it produces compatibility issues. Bulleted lists and footnotes do it too. They exist in OpenOffice, but they break or inject strange formatting.

I know, this is not intrinsically related to the quality of software but to the total number of users of the same processor/version, which is absolutely in favor of MS Word. This surely irritates open-source supporters, who also feel sorry for the people spending money on software that has a free equivalent. But there are other things too.

MS Word is a clear winner at launching, which is much snappier than OpenOffice’s. Then there are the menus. Microsoft Office launched the “ribbon” interface in its 2007 version, while OpenOffice still has the traditional organization of the previous MS Office versions. The ribbon is nice and comfortable even to me, a traditional menus user because it’s highly intuitive.

Another thing that makes sense to Mac users is that MS Office 2011 really has a very nice look and feel on OS X. The previous versions were pimply and crowded. The Microsoft UI designers really did a good job in terms of integration with OS X. Then there’s something that makes anybody who knows something about fonts feel good: the new “C” typefaces, such as Calibri and Cambria. In standard formatting, they replace the old and ugly Arial/Times New Roman pair. Also, plain templates are pretty sexy in the new MS Word: headings in a subtle blue and nice body text. Word 2011 makes even users that don’t know anything about graphic design produce good-looking documents, compared to, let’s say, Office XP users.

And there’s something else which I admit could be my personal obsession: the “split window” feature in MS Word, which breaks in two a document horizontally, so that the user can work on a totally different version of the text in the bottom half. It’s a priceless feature for one that translates an English text or works on a news story based on press releases and other text chunks that stay in the half-window above. There are countless word processors with countless windows organization options. I’ve tested many of them and always looked for the “split window” feature. Again, maybe this is personal, but I haven’t found it anywhere else.

And finally, MS Word has a more complex Find and Replace module. I sometimes need hidden characters such as paragraph marks or non-standard spaces. I can do this in programming editors such as Smultron or Sublime Text. But not in common word processors. OpenOffice Writer kinda has it but is buggy.

Enough praise. Where does MS Word fail?

Is there a downside of MS Word? There is, since no software is perfect. Oddly, the most compatible word processor has a compatibility issue. To produce a document totally suited to non-Microsoft users (OpenOffice or whatever), one must save documents in the old “doc” format and give up the new Calibri-Cambria pair. This is ironic, since Microsoft adopted the new XML-based “docx” to give up its old proprietary and messy standard. But to keep the new polished look of “docx”, one can at most export the documents as PDF, which is a relatively new and welcome MS Office functionality. Still, PDFs are hardly editable.

In personal terms, though, what upsets me most is the lack of Romanian spelling. There is a multilingual pack for MS Office 2010 (Windows), but I couldn’t find it on Mac Office 2011, although I’ve installed the available updates. It will possibly show up in the following updates, but so far, it hasn’t. However, Romanian spelling is available in OpenOffice, iWork Pages, and other Mac processors. It needs a bit of work to get it, which is to install Aspell, the GNU Romanian spell checker. I could do it easily. Aspell is less-than-perfect, but what other spelling checker is?

Would I spend money on MS Word?

I got the test copy from McCann Romania, the agency in charge of Microsoft. In virtue of all the advantages I’ve mentioned, I will keep it. I’ll delete my OpenOffice with few regrets and be happy about the compatibility with other Word users I need from time to time. This means big collaborative documents in English. I’ll keep using iWork Pages for my Romanian writing, which I’ve integrated with the Aspell spellchecker. It is free, very nice, and non-disruptive for simple, journalistic stories. Now the issue is – would I spend money on MS Word if I didn’t get it for free from McCann?

I certainly would if I did more collaborative work. I only sometimes do at this stage, and I know how to avoid inserting OpenOffice junk into such documents. Then again, I’m a very particular use case. If I were to turn this into a piece of advice, I’d say that spending 100 euros on Microsoft Office is more of a work environment decision. You’ll probably buy a high degree of intimacy and comfort with the software, but what you’ll absolutely need is seamless integration with other users’ work.

Week 43: The Realitatea phone conversation transcripts controversy

A scandal related to some phone conversation records of Sorin Ovidiu Vîntu, Realitatea-Cațavencu’s owner, and his managers spread throughout most of the 18-26 October week in the Romanian media. Romania has slipped to no. 52 from 50 in the Freedom Press Index, and the public television is planning some savings by cancelling transmissions from some sports events and sublicensing the Olympic Games in 2012. Continue reading

Week 42: Dire straits continue at Realitatea-Cațavencu

The resignations from the Realitatea-Cațavencu group continue with one of the key managers, while a Romanian entrepreneur sold an epayment platform to Naspers. A Romanian cable company started an italian operation, and two advertising adgencies have merged. iPhone 4 is to be available for Vodafone customers too, and Kanal D might be subject of a transaction between Dogan and an international group. Continue reading