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6 things you probably didn’t know about Invader

In a previous blog post I talked about the streetartist Invader and the great mobile game that he released in 2014.
If you have read this article you already know that I made a browser extension to extend the game and bring it to Chrome. Along the way, I discovered a couple of not-so-known facts about Invader and thought I would share them with you.

1. invaders Can be « reactivated »

While testing my Chrome extension I noticed something quite interesting. On Google Street View I could sometimes see invaders that magically reappeared after having been removed!
Concrete example with this one:

2008

2012

2019

Crazy right? Well, reading this article, there is apparently a non-official « reactivation team » who is fixing the dephased art. The article above is about the UK team, so I am not sure that the Paris reactivation waves are from the artist himself. One certainty though, the reactivated invaders give you points!

 

2. You can Find invaders more easily thanks to this Flickr group

Still working on my Chrome extension I realized that some invaders were harder than others to scan. So, to make sure that everything was working fine I had to find a lot of invaders with their precise locations.
This is how I discovered this super useful Flickr group which lists the invaders and their geocoordinates.

Another tip I can give you to maximise the time spent hunting invaders is using the « go-back-in-time » feature of Google Street View. Sometimes invaders are simply gone and you will see this immediately on Google maps without loosing time going on the actual spot.

3. Dephased invader can still give you points!

Interestingly, it also seems like that some invaders which have been removed or dephased still counts!

For example the one in Rue Française in Paris is long gone but is still worth 20 points!

4. There is a secret webPage which shows all the invaders recently scanned

While inspecting the app’s requests I found out that you could actually see on this page the most recent invaders scanned.

5. Invader art has been banned from Bhutan

Throughout 2018-2019 I have been travelling to a lot of different places. For example, in November 2018 I made a stop in the amazing kingdom of Bhutan.
Funny enough, Invader was here too! As highlighted on his website the artist left his mark not so long before.
One problem though, when I actually found one of the spot, it seems like the invader was already gone.

Ce diaporama nécessite JavaScript.

(By the way, did you also notice that the picture on Invader’s website has been Photoshopped? ;-).

So what happened? Well, after some researches I discovered that many inhabitants and fans were outraged by the art hanging on the wall sacred buddhist monasteries.
So, despite having the approval of the “chief” monk the art is all gone now.

Reply from invader himself:

“I know that some people will scream that it is disrespectful to have practiced my art in Bhutan. Personally I don’t think so! My practice tells a story, and I don’t know why I should deprive Bhutan from this story. I’m proud to have left my trace in that wonderful country”

6- Invader is in space too

I currently lived in the Netherlands and was looking at the ones that can be found in this magical country. This is how I discovered Noordwijk, one of the European Space Agency labs!

Also, did you know that an actual invader was brought to the ISS by astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti’s Futura mission? 😉

 

Bonus: Scan invaders or die trying (don’t)

If you are living in Paris I bet you have already noticed that many invaders are visible directly from a car on the « Péripheriphérique ». Slight problem though, scanning them can sometimes be challenging (especially since the in-app Zoom is not always working!).

Good luck for example scanning this one!

So, my advice here would be to simply take a classic photo, find the geeocordinates later on and finally use the Chrome extension to actually earn the associated points. Risk free 😉

How I chased space invaders 17000kms far from home

Every evening before bed, I have this routine of watching Jay Swanson’s videos on YouTube.

One the recurring topic he is covering in his vlog is… Space invaders!
If you live in Europe, I bet that you have already seen these mosaics on the wall of your city.

The streetartist who makes them is French and has invaded several cities around the world!

One remarquable thing about him is that he « gamified » his work.
Through the official Flash invader mobile app you can take pictures of the invaders you found and earn in-game points!

 

Chapter 1: How’s everything started

One day, I was wandering on Google streetview and randomly saw an invader in a Paris’ street. This got me thinking: what if I looked how the Flash invader app works and extend its features to Google streetview?

This way, anybody, anywhere would be able to play the game! Wouldn’t it be cool?

Chapter 2: Building a working prototype

I started by using a proxy to lookup what kind of requests the app was making.
In the past, I would have used Charle’s proxy for this but nowadays there are much better solutions like MITMproxy.

While inspecting the content of the request, I learnt a bit more about how the app is working.
In short, when you take a picture it’s making a request to a remote server with the following parameters:

  • The geo coordinates of the user
  • Some sort of user authentification
  • The compress photo that you just took
  • And on the backend the LTU technology (a French startup cocorico) is used for the image recognition

MITM proxy Interface

The way it works is actually quite clever, it means that you really have to be next to an invader to Flash it. You cannot just take a photo of one of them in a magazine and claim that you found it.

Once the data collected, the next step for me was to build an actual prototype. For this, I used Postman to replicate the query.

After hours of debugging, I eventually made it work!

YOU FOUND AVI_21\nCHAMPION! 🤘

Chapter 3: Making a Google chrome extension

Before working on this project, I never made any Chrome extension. So, it was actually a very fun way to learn how to code one!

Once again, I won’t dive too deep into the technical details. If you are interested, the sources of the chrome extension are open-sourced.

See it in action:

Note that installing and configuring this extension requires a little bit of technical knowledge. So, if you need more guidance, I will be very happy to help you configure it.

Conclusion

What I really wanted to empathize in this article is that I made this extension to promote the game and enhance it with new features.

In the second part of this article we will for example see how you can chase invaders that have been removed or dephased!

How to find your first clients as a remote freelancer? (2019 update)

Two years ago, I wrote this article about how to land your first job as a remote freelancer. After going through the same process again for a couple weeks, I felt like giving it an update was much needed.

TLDR, try to avoid as much as possible any situations where you will be in competition with a pool of other freelances. Instead, use your personal network of connections and remember that chance plays an important role.

But first thing first, let’s start by giving you a little bit of context about my current work situation. After spending 20 months working at the BBC, my partner and I decided to travel in Asia for six months. We are now based in Sydney, Australia and have a working holiday visa valid up until March 2020.

Things didn’t really work as expected

Interestingly, what worked for me in 2015 didn’t really performed as well as of today.

When starting to look for new missions I was quite confident that I would find a freelance job quite easily. Indeed, if you compare to 2015, I have now more work experience more recommendations and a larger skillset.

So where did things go wrong?

It’s not about how qualified you are

As a developer, one of the biggest struggles when applying for a job is to fight the impostor syndrome.

Rare are the companies that clearly acknowledge that “new tools, products and systems are always appearing” and that you cannot be good at everything. Hence the job ads that require you to have X years of experience with this or this technology and hence the complete nightmare for most of the junior developers. On top of that, as a freelance developer you might have the feeling that you already need to be a technology expert (given that your client won’t have the time nor the budget to train you).

Well, let’s be clear about all of the above: this is b****t. A lot (to not say most), of the successful freelance developers I talked to have started their career without being an expert with the technology that was asked.

⇒ “Fake it until you make it” is the way to go!

http://twitter.com/PetitManifeste/status/1125425740462403608

… It’s actually more about your work situation and timing!

Something else to not underestimate is your current work situation.
From experience, a lot of companies are looking for permanent contractors and an even greater number will also be looking for somebody who can work inplace (the infamous “no remote”).

To say it differently: Your geographic position and the kind of visa you hold matters a lot!

Finally, something I didn’t realize in the first place, timing and chance are big factors. I cannot recall how many hot opportunities went down because of X, Y, Z reasons.

…Which leads us to the next important question:

How to handle rejection?

One of the biggest learning I had as a BBC Solutions Engineer was resilience! Not everything is instantaneous, companies processes takes time and in the end what pays off is your patience rather than stupid stubbornness.

If a potential client stop suddenly replying to your emails (or is inconsistent in the way he deals with you) take it as a good thing: You would probably have never wanted to work for this company in the first place anyway.

My advice to succeed

Plant a lot of “seeds” 

Interestingly, client prospection is not a game where you will see the consequences of your actions immediately. So, to maximise your chance of success, your best shot is to try a lot of different things. Never get stuck!

To give you some ideas, here is what I tried out:

  • Get in touch with local umbrella companies.
  • Reach out to local Web agencies and startups.
  • Contact ex-colleagues and professional connections.
  • Use your personal network of friends.
  • Register on freelancer job platforms (CometMaltToptal…)
  • Add a bunch of potential leads on Linkedin.
  • Answer tons of classic job ads (on Seek, Indeed, Linkedin…).
  • Look for Twitter job posting.
  • Register on freelance communities on Slack or Discord (RemotiveBeebenchReactiflux…)
  • Attend local meetups (because meeting people in real life will often accelerate the process)
  • Send cold emails to interesting prospects found on Angellist
  • Extend your research to other remote jobs platforms. Here is an interesting list I found on Reddit.

Also remember, it’s not because one lead is promising that you should focus exclusively on it. It’s a matter of balance, give this seed enough time and resources to grow but at the same time, keep the ball rolling.

Conclusion:

Finding your first clients as a freelancer is hard. On top of that, if you are a remote freelancer, things might get even more complicated.

However, don’t loose faith. The sweet spot is what’s the most beneficial in term of time spent versus return on investment.

On a final note, I also wanted to empathize in this article that everybody is different. My situation is obviously unique so what might work for me won’t work necessarily the same way for someone else.

Found this article interesting and have something to say about it? Let me know in the comment section.

Also, I always keen to hear more about freelance missions. If you are or know somebody who is looking for an experienced frontend developer feel free to send me a DM.

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