Uber bravo !

First Uber experience: wow!

This is my first Über experience and I must say I’ve been *very* impressed!

I installed the app – it’s straightforward and the app is well designed and very easy to use. I entered my personal info, including PayPal and credit card payment details.

When I tried Uber, I was in Montreal – and I don’t know Montreal so finding a bus, subway or even a taxi was not obvious.  I fired up the app. It found my location (a great apartment rented via AirBNB – another great and disruptive tool which I recommend, by the way).  So I didn’t have to explain where I was… (1)

I entered my destination. Über displayed the cars in my area: there were a few. I confirmed my request. A few seconds later, it was accepted: I was informed that I would be picked up by a driver named Bolivar in 3 minutes!… (2)

On the map, I could see my driver approaching: good to stay inside while waiting (3) – Montreal is cold at this time of the year… 🙂

The car was there on time and when I opened the door, I was greeted by a warm “Good morning Vincent”!… (4) Yes, the driver knew my first name via Über… Cool! So I replied “Good morning Bolivar “… Felt almost like old friends…

I knew Bolivar was a serious driver: he was rated 4.5 stars out of a max of 5. (5)

We chatted:

  • Bolivar has been an Über driver for 3 months
  • He likes the system but there are more and more drivers so he has less business…  Market laws in effect…
  • He is also a bit frustrated because he does not know why he sometimes does not get a 5 star.  🙂
  • He also told me that, unlike taxi drivers that take “people on the street”, he only carries identified people (Uber identifies all passengers and all drivers thru email and credit card) – a much appreciated extra security for him, and for me.  (6)

It was also very clear from our discussion that Bolivar was extremely interested in my satisfaction…  (7) The number of stars I would give him was important to him.  Quite a difference with many taxi drivers that just don’t care about you because, “anyway, I won’t see that stranger anymore”.  The benefits of being evaluated and in a public and trustable system: extra motivation to do good.  And it was fair too: as a customer I would also be evaluated by my driver…  (8) So both parties do have an interest in behaving correctly, being polite, being honest.  This is the benefit of local communities where everyone knows everyone, but on a worldwide scale!  “Community of trust” has a real meaning here.

While driving, I could follow on my Uber GPS the roads that Bolivar was taking.  It felt good to know that he was taking the shortest / fastest road.  (9) With taxis, you never know what trick they will use to make the trip more expensive.  Besides my control, Uber also knows the number of kilometres and time of my ride.  So I’m pretty sure that they can make sure all drivers stay honest with a bit of statistics.

We arrived at destination.  I greeted my driver and hopped out of the car. No money involved! (10) My trip would be charged to my credit card.  No unexpected extras for you-never-what-your-taxi-driver-will-add (extra for late hour, extra for luggage, extra for blablabla…).  (11).  A few seconds later, I received all the details of the trip by email (12):


Which makes it also easy to create a quick expense report if your company requires it – without the wait in the taxi for a driver that hates doing that.  (13) And by going to the web site, you can see all your previous trips… (14)

Update: Since that first trip with Uber, I travelled a few times more in Montreal, but also in Budapest. Always the same great experience.  And an extra benefit in Budapest: everything goes smooth even if you don’t know the local language and your driver is not too good in English! (15). Congratulations to Uber!  Keep up the good work!


PS: I don’t want to make too big a deal of that, but in practice, Uber has completely changed the local transportation by car, and made it a much better experience.  Somehow, the world is a bit better without all those taxi problems…  Technology can indeed improve our ways of living.

(1) the numbers in parentheses in my text count the advantages of Uber over conventional taxis…  I’m aware that some mention also disadvantages but most of them are related to taxi companies loosing their privileges.  They will need to evolve.  The world is changing.  The world is improving.

My TEDx Liège talk – Open source in the medical sector

You know I love open source software. You also know I have had cancer as well as my son Pierre:

Why can’t open source help with the discovery of new miracle drugs, like the one I’m taking for my leukemia: Gleevec ?

That’s the subject of my talk at TEDx Liège (in French – subtitles in other languages are coming – help translate):

Vincent Keunen - TEDx Liège - Open Source Rebirth

Vincent Keunen – TEDx Liège – Open Source Rebirth

Let me know what you think by commenting on this post or sending me an email at vincent@keunen.net.

“On” a gagné!…

On fait bien de chanter “on” a gagné…  Car “on”, c’est bien le bon mot…  L’équipe s’appelle “la Belgique”, mais nous avons des joueurs d’origine congolaise, marocaine, martiniquaise, italienne, flamande, wallonne,… C’est sympa, un pays si ouvert, si cosmopolite, si accueillant!





Vive la Belgique ! Et vive tous les autres pays aussi !

De toutes façons, avec internet, la notion de pays, c’est un peu dépassé, non?  Restons fair-play, ayons la victoire modeste.

Notre ami Dalaï n’a-t-il pas dit:

On s’intéresse à ses membres comme parties de son corps, pourquoi pas aux hommes comme parties de l’humanité ?

Et aussi:

Il n’y a personne qui soit né sous une mauvaise étoile, il n’y a que des gens qui ne savent pas lire le ciel.

Olé, olé, olé, olé!


How I manage email, SMS, phone calls – how to contact me

(latest version of this text)


I receive many emails and other forms of communication. I enjoy quality contacts, but at the same time, I’d like to preserve my sanity (what’s left) and my efficiency… 🙂

So in order to avoid unmet expectations, I’d like to clarify below how I manage the numerous communication channels that technology gives us today.


I try to read my emails once and only once per day. I voluntarily limit email reading in order to focus on important vs urgent matters, to be more proactive vs passive and to reduce the number of interruptions. I usually don’t read my emails during the weekends and holidays. I don’t set a vacation message because I consider that a breach of my private life (this means that, on occasions, I might not reply for the duration of my holidays).

I consider email as asynchronous and for non urgent communication (please do not send me an email to cancel a meeting at the last minute, for example – I find this rude, actually).  See SMS section for urgent messages. You can expect a reply from me in 3 working days under normal circumstances (longer if I’m on holidays). I reply to most emails that expect a reply from me – unless they are rude, flame wars or “commercial cold calls”.

All commercial solicitations must be done by email. Please don’t send “commercial cold calls” emails several times – if I did not reply, I’m not interested.  I consider repeated emails rude and they significantly reduce my willingness to work with the author of such emails.

Please note that I’m on the Robinson list. If you don’t know what that is, read about it on Wikipedia. If you don’t know what Wikipedia is, well, then don’t contact me at all. 😉

Don’t put me on mailing lists without my prior consent. I’m in favor of opt-in. If you put me on a mailing list, this reduces my willingness to consider your product / service.

Don’t send me messages via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc… I have no commitment to reply to messages coming via social networks.

If you use whitelisting software to reduce your spam, don’t expect me to click to validate that I’m a legitimate sender.  I don’t want to bear the burden.  Imagine if everybody was doing that…  There are other ways to fight spam.

Phone – voice calls

Please only call me if we know each other and only for urgent matters (urgent means to be solved in a few hours time) – and try SMS first if possible. In other cases, send me an email first. I hate being called for commercial purposes. I don’t answer calls without a caller ID.  If you’re not sure if you should call, then send an email first.  This does not apply to my close friends, of course (you know who you are, dear).

Phone – voice mail

Please don’t leave me a message asking to call you back. Just leave a message with your questions or information you want to transmit to me.  Let’s be efficient.

I am on the “Don’t call me” list (ex-Robinson). See “emails section”.


Use SMS only for urgent communications and if we know each other. Please make sure it’s really urgent. Also make sure you receive a confirmation from me that I received your message.  I hate commercial solicitations by SMS. Now you know. 😉


To sum up, use the following channels to contact me, by order of preference:

  1. Email
  2. SMS
  3. Phone call

Besides that, I’ll be happy to be in touch with you. 🙂

It’s just a question of mutual respect.



Montaigne, où es-tu ?

Je vous livre, tel quel, le texte ci-dessous, transmis par une amie (Yolande, la maman de Maxime). A la mémoire de Maxime, décédé du cancer en pleine jeunesse (23 ans), probablement en partie à cause de trop de pression.

A Maxime, Julien, Anne-Sophie, Margaux et les autres…

C’est une mère en colère qui prend la plume ce jour.

Une mère qui, in illo tempore, fut formée en Sciences humaines à l’Université de Liège, en garde un souvenir ébloui mais se désole de constater ce qu’il s’y passe aujourd’hui. Surtout dans certaines facultés dispensant ce que l’on nomme les sciences “exactes” dites aussi “dures”… A ce ce dernier qualificatif, je préfèrerais le vocable d’ “inhumaines” pour mieux les opposer à celles dans lesquelles ma jeunesse a baigné.

Je suis en colère en effet! En colère contre un certain univers universitaire qui malmène, use et démotive nos enfants! Au coeur de la session d’examens, je constate avec effroi l’état d’épuisement dans lequel se trouvent nos étudiants.

Epuisement physique, d’abord, car l’étude intensive a repris aux premiers jours de mars alors même qu’un tout petit mois s’était écoulé depuis la fin de la session de janvier. Impossible de récupérer dans ces conditions d’autant que les horaires de cours en semaine laissent nos jeunes exténués en fin de journée. Et pour bien nous les achever, le blocus a été réduit à une semaine quand il n’a pas été tout simplement supprimé!

Epuisement psychologique, ensuite, car le rythme effréné des examens, avec toute la pression qu’ils génèrent, est insoutenable : trois à quatre par semaine, parfois; et souvent programmés en fin de journée (jusqu’à 22h). A quand les nocturnes à l’Université ? Nos jeunes auraient tellement besoin d’un sommeil réparateur qu’ils n’arrivent pas à trouver tant le stress, à ce rythme-là, est impossible à évacuer… Alors certains cherchent à juguler l’anxiété avec des moyens qu’aucun professeur en médecine ne conseillerait.

Epuisement intellectuel enfin face à l’asburdité de certains questionnaires dits “à choix multiple” où les questions portent parfois sur un détail masqué par cinq cents pages de théorie, sans parler de la formulation qui prête souvent à confusion… et j’ose à peine évoquer l’absurdité qui consiste à contrôler, à l’aide d’un tel dispositif, des compétences en chirurgie. Je ne voudrais pas être le patient qui subira les coups d’un scalpel formé par QCM!

Permettez-moi donc de m’indigner (même si ce mot semble parfois galvaudé!).

Je m’indigne contre ces professeurs hyperspécialisés dont je ne dénie pas les compétences mais dont je conteste les exigences car chacun attend, pour son domaine, qu’un étudiant maîtrise une discipline que lui-même a mis, met ou mettra une carrière entière à s’approprier. Cumulez les cours et imaginez les effets…

Je m’insurge contre ces dispositifs d’évaluation qui ne permettent en aucun cas à l’étudiant de réfléchir, de mettre en lien, d’expliciter son raisonnement… bref, de montrer l’intelligence qu’il a d’un problème et sa faculté de le résoudre par une approche complexe. “Une tête bien faite signifie que plutôt que d’accumuler le savoir, il est beaucoup plus important de disposer à la fois d’une aptitude générale à poser et à traiter des problèmes ainsi que de principes organisateurs qui permettent de relier les savoirs et de leur donner sens” (E. Morin, La tête bien faite, Seuil, 1999, p.23). L’Université se donne-t-elle les moyens de sélectionner ces têtes-là ?

Enfin, je peste contre ces formations longues qui, en faisant enfler et durer l’approche abstraite des savoirs, tardent à mettre en place la formation d’un praticien réflexif. Au point qu’au seuil de la sortie (un des mes enfants se trouve en avant-dernière année d’une de ces formations), certains s’interrogent sur le goût et la motivation qu’il leur reste pour exercer ce métier auquel ils se destinaient.

A l’heure où, à la suite de Montaigne, des experts comme Serres ou Morin clament l’urgence de former des têtes bien faites pour relever les nombreux défis de demain, j’invite l’Université à questionner ses modèles de formation et d’évaluation. Je plaide aussi pour plus de sens, de complexité (de complexus : ce qui est tissé ensemble) et plus de respect. Enfin, j’en appelle à ce que l’Institution universitaire, pour qui j’eus tant d’estime autrefois, veille à insuffler dans la culture et la formation scientifiques un peu plus d’humanisme, et surtout d’humanité!

Françoise Darville