Basic Bilingual 0.3 for Multilingual Blogging [en]

[fr] Une mise à jour de mon plugin "Basic Bilingual" qui permet de rendre WordPress bilingue. Modification majeure: il n'y a plus besoin de bidouiller son template pour faire apparaître l'extrait du billet dans "l'autre langue". Par contre, c'est toujours nécessaire pour rajouter les attributs lang.

Long overdue, an upgrade of my plugin Basic Bilingual. Grab the tgz archive or check out the code.

Some explanations. First, you all know of my long-standing interest in all things multilingual and in multilingual blogging in particular.

Years ago, I switched to Movable Type and then to WordPress because I was blogging in two languages. Movable Type allowed me to assign more than one category to each post — so I used two huge categories, fr and en, to indicate what language I was blogging in. This soon made the rebuilds a real pain in the neck, and WordPress allowed me first of all to happily hack it into being multilingual, and then actually write a plugin to do it in a cleaner way. The plugin hasn’t changed much since, and this upgrade isn’t a major one, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Ideally, I’d like people to be able to use the plugin without having to modify their templates at all. I’d also like the plugin to allow filtering out one language if that is what the reader desires. I still hope that WordPress will one day “see the light” and let us define language at post-level (Matt saw the light for tagging ;-), so I do have hope). By the way, I stumbled upon this Ajax Language Switcher for Basic Bilingual earlier today, and it will probably greatly interest those courageous ones of you who tend to have translations of each post or page.

Back to the plugin. It installs normally (unzip everything in the /plugins directory). If you’re using other languages than French and English, you’ll have to manually change the language codes in the plugin file (not very difficult, you don’t have to know PHP to do it; just look for “en” and “fr” and put the language codes for your languages instead).

I’ve fixed an annoying problem with slashes that popped up at some point (somebody else gave me the fix, but I can’t remember who — let me know!).

But most of all, I’ve made the “other language excerpt” appear automatically in the post content. Yes, you hear me: no need to add <php bb_the_other_excerpt(); ?> in your templates anymore. Yay! Added bonus: it will show up in the feeds, too — for that reason, I’ve added a text separator between the excerpt and the post so that there is a separation between the languages.

Basic Bilingual in Google Reader

Obviously, you’ll want to hide these separators and style your posts a little. Here is roughly what I’m using right now:

.other-excerpt {
font-style: italic;
background: #fff;
padding-left: 1em;
padding-right: 1em;
border: 1px solid #ccc;

.other-excerpt:lang(fr) p.oe-first-child:before {
content: "[fr] ";
font-weight: bold;

.other-excerpt:lang(en) p.oe-first-child:before {
content: "[en] ";
font-weight: bold;

.bb-post-separator {
display: none;

div.hentry:lang(fr) .entry-title:after {
    content: " [fr] ";
    vertical-align: middle;
    font-size: 80%;
    color: #bbb;

div.hentry:lang(en) .entry-title:after {
    content: " [en] ";
    vertical-align: middle;
    font-size: 80%;
    color: #bbb;

Now, notice there is fancy stuff in there which relies on the lang attribute. If you’re mixing languages on a page, you should use the lang attribute to indicate which language is where. This means (unfortunately, until I become buddies with PHP’s ob_start() function) that you need to touch your template. It’s not that hard, though.

Find the outermost <div> for each post in the template (it should have the CSS class hentry, by now). Add this inside the tag: lang="<?php bb_the_language(); ?>". Do so on every theme template which produces posts. With the Sandbox theme, it would look like this:

&lt;div id=&quot;post-" class="" lang=""&gt;

That’s it!

If you’re using this plugin, please leave a link to your blog. I’m also always interested in hearing of other examples of multilingual blogging or multilingualism online.

Tags and Categories, Oh My! [en]

[fr] Il est temps de faire de l'ordre dans les catégories de CTTS. Je veux en garder 20-30. Vos suggestions sont les bienvenues.

The time has come. WordPress now has native tagging. I’ve imported my old tags and my even older keywords (yeah, even though tags and keywords are slightly different… what the hell). I’ve created an index page for my tags and an index page for my categories. Go and look, then come back.

So, what do you think?

I think the “tags” page looks pretty good (just needs a little CSS fixing so that the huge tags don’t prevent you from clicking on the smaller ones they hide). I mean, it’s a sprawling mess, but that’s what a tag collection should look like. Later, I can add fancy stuff like related tag clouds in the sidebar, or something like that.

But my, look at that listing of categories. It’s a huge sprawling mess, and it shouldn’t be. It should be a concise listing of rather widely defined areas I write in. Not easy. So, dear readers, I’m going to ask for your help.

See, I’ve installed this neat plugin, Tag Managing Thing, which does a lot of what I was dreaming up for a possible future version of Batch Categories. Well, one thing Tag Managing Thing doesn’t do which Batch Categories did, was to assign posts to categories and remove them. Tag Managing Thing only deals in organising tags and categories — including converting one into the other. Update: Rob Miller has a Batch Categories plugin which should do the trick. I can’t remember if he used any of my work or started from scratch, but in any case, it looks very much like what I had dreamed up for it 😉 [/update]

So, here we go. I want to keep — oh, let’s be reasonable — maximum 20-30 categories. (I’ll convert the rest to tags.) Some of the new or obvious ones will remain: Events, Youth, Social Software (maybe Social Tools?), Languages… Here’s what we’ll do. I’m going to write a list of categories at the bottom of this post, and I’ll keep modifying it until it looks reasonably good. I’ll be (heavily) relying upon your input for this. Thanks in advance. I really don’t think I can do this alone.

New categories for CTTS:

  • Events
  • Languages
  • Youth
  • Blogging
  • Technology
  • Social Tools
  • Travels
  • Livre (the book)

Please leave your ideas in the comments! The category index handily gives a post count for each category or subcategory.

Blogging in Internal Communications [en]

[fr] Notes de la conférence que j'ai donnée aujourd'hui à Zürich sur les blogs dans la communication interne.

First of all, let me thank all present for their participation, and Nils (Enzaim Communications) in particular for making this happen. I also appreciated having Stefan Bucher amongst the audience — it’s particularly nice when fellow bloggers show up, share their experience, and to top it all tell me my talk was interesting to them, too. Thanks!

Two months ago I gave a talk titled “How Blogging Brings Dialogue to Corporate Communications”. This one is quite similar, but focused on internal communications.

As I explained, the dynamics involved are very similar. It’s about having conversations, whether it’s behind the firewall or outside on the big bad internet — about engaging with people (employees, customers, colleagues) rather than talking at them.

Although the talk I prepared was very similar (with some added stuff specific to internal communications), it did of course turn out rather different. Different people, different questions. I like it (particularly with small audiences) when instead of giving a lecture-like talk, there are lots of questions and I am derailed from what I had planned.

That’s a bit what blogging is about, isn’t it? Having a dialogue. So, when the setting permits it, I try to do the same thing with my talks. My impression is that people get more out of them that way. (Do feel free to correct me if you think I’m mistaken.)

You should probably go and have a look at the notes from my previous talk, as I’m not going to rewrite everything here. I’ll just concentrate on what seems to me was the important additional stuff we talked about. If you were there and want to add things to what I’m writing here, please feel free to leave a comment. I’d be very happy if you did.

If you look at the slides, they’re very similar in the beginning, aside from slides 9-10-11 in which I try to clarify the difference between blog and wiki, as I was told confusion was common.


Content on blogs is organised based on the time they were written. From an editorial point of view, blogs also put the author(s) forward. He has a very different status from the commentators, who are guests on his blog.


Wikis, on the other hand, are organised solely through the links created between the various pages. The focus is on the documentation produced rather than on who produced it. The various author voices tend to merge into a uniform community voice.

Both blogs and wikis are part of the larger class of tools one can name “social media”. These are the online tools which help us publish information in a way that connects us to other people, and encourages us to engage in conversations and relationships with them. You’ll also come upon the expression “social software” used with roughly the same meaning (though the emphasis is in this way more on the technology than on its usage). “Social tools” can be considered a wider category including all technology that explicitly connects its users to one another. (I have to say, though, that many people — I included — will sometimes use these terms interchangeably.)

Short version: it’s “social media” that is important in this discussion, more than “just blogging”. I’m talking of “blogging” inasmuch as it is a popular incarnation of social media.

We spent quite some time commenting the blog examples I showed. These are of course examples of blogging externally, because unfortunately, it’s kind of hard to find examples of internal blogging on the internet ;-).

There are a lot of “damage control” or “crisis” examples, because blogging is a good tool to use in this kind of situation where real communication is required.

Here are a few quotes I read out. First, the beginning of the open letter to Palm on Engadget:

Dear Palm,

Man, what a crazy year, right? We know things haven’t really been going your way lately, but we want you to know that we haven’t given up on you, even though it might seem like the only smartphone anyone wants to talk about these days is the iPhone. It can be hard to remember right now, but you used to be a company we looked to for innovation. You guys got handhelds right when everyone else, including Apple, was struggling to figure it out. And it was the little things that made those early Palm Pilots great — you could tell that someone had gone to a lot of trouble to think about what made for a great mobile experience, like how many (or rather, few) steps it took to perform common tasks.

The problem is that lately we haven’t seen anything too impressive out of you guys. Sure, over the past few years the Treo has emerged as a cornerstone of the smartphone market, but you’ve let the platform stagnate while nearly everyone (especially Microsoft and HTC, Symbian and Nokia, RIM, and Apple) has steadily improved their offerings. So we’ve thrown together a few ideas for how Palm can get back in the game and (hopefully) come out with a phone that people can care about. (And we’re not talking about the Centro / Gandolf.) Read on.

Dear Palm: It’s time for an intervention

And two days later, the response of the Palm CEO, Ed Colligan

Dear Peter, Ryan and Joshua:

Thank you for the very thoughtful post about Palm. I really appreciate the fact that you guys and others care enough to take the time to write such a comprehensive list of actions. I forwarded it to our entire executive staff and many others at Palm have read it. Although I can’t say I agree with every point, many are right on. We are attacking almost every challenge you noted, so stay tuned. Let’s remember that it is very early in the evolution of the smartphone and there is enormous opportunity for us to innovate. We have only just begun to fight!

Thank you for taking the time to write. I really do take your comments to heart and I know the team at Palm is totally committed to delivering the best mobile computing solutions in the world.

Ed Colligan

Not bad, huh? This is the kind of openness people want to see more of.

Corporate types will always be concerned about negative comments, which is a valid concern; however, if you’ve got a product or service that’s worth blogging about, your fans should be coming out to support you — which they have, in Yahoo!’s case. Also, by allowing full comments, and better yet, responding to some of them, you gain a valuable sense of integrity and, as loathe as I am to type these words, “street cred” — that you just can’t buy.

Negative comments are the price you’ve got to pay for having a Real Blog, and companies that have them deserve to be recognized. It shows that they believe in their own business, and they respect their customers enough to allow them to have a public opinion on their business.

Yahoo’s Blog Takes Its Blogging Lumps, Like a Real Blog Should

We talked a lot about negative comments and what to do about them (they can actually turn out to be a good thing if you respond to them openly and honestly). We also talked about ghost-writing (don’t!) and human relationships in general. Things that are true for offline relationships, I find, are also true for online ones you can establish through blogging: if somebody is willing to recognise they made a mistake, for example, or acknowledge that you are upset about something, it goes a long way. Same is true on blogs.

Here’s a link to the corporate blogging 101 I mentioned in passing and I said I would point you to.

I also skipped a bit quickly through the Do/Don’t lists, so here they are again:


  • eat your own dog-food
  • trust your bloggers
  • read other blogs
  • be part of the community
  • use a feed-reader
  • link! even to competition, negative stuff
  • be human
  • learn the culture
  • use an existing blogging tool
  • discuss problems
  • define what is really confidential
  • give existing in-house bloggers a role (evangelists! learn from them!)
  • tag, ping, use the “kit” and other social tools


  • try to control
  • use a ghost-writer or outsource blogging
  • “roll your own” tool
  • ignore established blogging conventions, they’re there for a reason
  • copy-paste print material in posts
  • use corpspeak
  • force people to blog
  • write happy-clappy stuff
  • write blog posts or comments as if they were e-mails (starting with Hi… and ending with a signature)
  • be faceless (signing with the name of the company instead of the person)

Employees know (and so do internal communications people) that the best sources of information are usually one’s direct boss and… the cafeteria. If you think about it, your boss is probably one of the main people you actually have real conversations with. You don’t often have a real conversation with the CEO — but you probably have regular briefings with your boss. Hopefully, you have something resembling a human relationship with her/him.

The cafeteria or the corridors are the informal networking spaces of company life. And often, these informal relationships can actually be more useful to your work than the hierarchy. “Networks subvert hierarchies”, says the Cluetrain.

Well, in a company in which employees can blog, subscribe to their feeds and leave comments on each other’s blogs, the online space can become a kind of “virtual cafeteria” — only in the public eye. This might sound scary to some. But you’re not preventing people from having conversations in the cafeteria, are you? By having these conversations online, in a “public” space (which may still be behind the firewall), you can help them be more efficient if they’re positive, and debunk them more easily if they’re rumors.

RSS is an important technology to be aware of. It’s the one that allows people to subscribe to blogs, comments, or other sources of news. In a company where employees can have their own blogs, they’ll need to learn to use an aggregator, which will enable them to create their own news channel. One can expect an employee to know best exactly what sources of information to follow or people to stay in touch with to get her work done.

People who work remotely, who are on different sites, different silos, or who simply have different working hours can all benefit from the online cafeteria.

A few key checkpoints, if you’re thinking of introducing blogs in your company (“are we ready?” style). 5 prerequisites:

  • the management/CEO/company needs to care about their employees. Blogging won’t work well in an “abusive” relationship.
  • be willing to engage in real, honest dialogue, also about problematic issues (difficult, but often the most rewarding, as with normal human relationships)
  • blogging takes time, so it should be counted in as part of people’s workload/job
  • accept and understand that communication cannot be controlled
  • understand that blogging is not just a technology/tool, that it is mainly a culture/strategy

5 ingredients to “make it work”:

  • training. Don’t assume blogging comes naturally to people. We “natural bloggers” are the exception, not the rule. The technology is cheap — put money in the training, so people have a chance to really “get” the culture.
  • eat your own dog food. If you want to get people in your company blogging, do it yourself, too.
  • blogging is a grassroots phenomenon (bottom-up), so enable it (top-down), knowing you can’t “make” people blog. Create a blog-friendly environment.
  • read blogs and comments. This can easily be 50% of the workload involved in “blogging”
  • speak like a human being.

There… that’s about it. Did we talk about anything else important that I missed?

Focus Page on Experiential Marketing [en]

[fr] Une page sur le marketing expérientiel, en anglais seulement j'en ai peur. Feedback bienvenu.

There, here we go. I’ve written up a page on Experiential Marketing for my new Focus section. Feedback, ideas, reactions, etc… all welcome here in the comments.

And please, don’t hesitate to be critical if you think it’s required. Just stay constructive — thanks.

Stowe Boyd on Experiential Marketing [en]

[fr] Quelques citations (audio et texte) de Stowe Boyd sur ce qu'il appelle "experiential marketing" (marketing expérientiel en français). J'ai eu quelques discussions récentes avec des clients pour des mandats de cette nature, et je prépare une page d'explications à ce sujet pour ma section Focus (pas encore en français, désolée). Si vous êtes curieux, manifestez-vous dans les commentaires, ça me donnera probablement l'occasion de parler de tout ça en français!

I’m preparing a page on experiential marketing for my Focus series, as I’ve been in discussion about this kind of work with a couple of clients lately. It’s a term/concept coined by Stowe Boyd (not to be confused with the related but different independently named experiential marketing you can read about on wikipedia), so I dug around in his archives to see if he had blogged anything significant about it.

I found a few quotes in blog posts, but most interesting was this audio interview he gave Daniela Hinrichs in April 2006. Start listening just before the middle of the interview (the first half is about other stuff). Oh, and keep on listening after they’re done on the topic of experiential marketing — Stowe tells the story of why he wears a cap. 😉

It’s interesting to see how the idea evolved from the moment of this interview, just after he came up with the idea, and subsequent incarnations which he blogged about between then and now. Here are a few quotes I picked up:

Experiential marketing — as an increasing social consciousness pervades the online marketing world, advertisers will realize that ads are becoming less effective, even when streaming and animated. One answer is what I am calling experiential marketing: individuals or groups will be solicited and directly compensated to try out products and blog or otherwise chronicle their use. With highly trusted advocates acting on behalf of the community these campaigns will become a mainstay of product marketing 2.0.

Stowe Boyd, 15.06.2006

So, I will be posting on this “experiential marketing” project over the next few months, as I attempt to follow the advice of OpenBC’s staff and most knowledgeable users about how to achieve these aims, and I will examine everything involved: from the creation of a detailed profile, to developing a personal network, and the ins and outs of trying to use the system to accomplish real business goals. Because my goal is to spend more time in Europe, I am calling this the “More Europe” project.

As I said, I will be candid and critical. If I think some aspect of OpenBC’s user experience is dumb, I will say so. If I start drowning in social spam, I will write about it. If I get no traction on my plan, I will chronicle that.

Stowe Boyd, 20.07.2006

As I announced a few weeks ago, I am doing a new experiential marketing program for the folks at, one that entails me running a talk radio show. The first show was Thursday, and I had a great time interviewing Ted Rheingold of Dogster about Online Community (see /Talkshow Tomorrow: Ted Rheingold of Dogster on Online Community).

I started using the term experiential marketing a few years ago, in a project I was doing for GoToPC, and then again last year in the “More Europe” project for OpenBC (now Xing). The premise is that true understanding of a product or service can’t be gained from a half-hour demo: it requires hours, and perhaps weeks of use.

In this project I will be running a web-based talk show relying on the technology platform. Along with doing the show, I will be writing up my experiences with the software, recommendations for its improvement, and guidance for others trying the software.

Stowe Boyd, 14.04.2007

More details on all this when I put the Focus page online!

Competition, Colleagues, or Partners? [en]

[fr] Avec mon projet de démarrage de boîte, je me retrouve à me demander comment exactement l'on définit la concurrence. Qui seront mes concurrents? Quelle genre de relation peut-on avoir avec "la concurrence", surtout lorsque ceux-ci sont des amis ou des connaissances? Est-il possible d'aspirer à un rapport s'approchant de celui de collègues, plutôt qu'une guerre sans merci? Vos idées et expériences sur la question m'intéressent.

In the last ten days I’ve started planning, thinking, and talking about my new company. One of the things I’m struggling with at the moment (besides finding a name which isn’t already taken, isn’t too lame, and won’t get me sued) is how to consider others that are in the field I want to step into (I haven’t told you yet, have I?)

Very obviously, they are competition. My company is going to be doing stuff similar to theirs. But I don’t have the feeling it’s really clear-cut. I mean, look at the “social media consulting” business. Amongst my acquaintances and friends, there are many people who do similar things to me. But they feel more like colleagues than competition.

Is it simply because our skills overlap imperfectly, and our markets are geographically or economically separated?

As I understand it, to be competition, two companies (or people) need to be competing for the same clients/users, and this competition has to be exclusive. By that, I mean that if the client/user decides to go with company A, company B is going to lose his business. I guess this is pretty obvious.

So this is what I’m wondering about. I’m preparing to enter a market which is not totally new. There are already people/companies doing what I want to do. But I’m going to do it in a unique way — mine. Does that still mean the others are “competition”? and in that case — for those of these others who are friends or contacts — does that mean that I will be perceived as a threat, and that any “network benefits” I would have had from those people is to be considered lost? Is it going to have a negative impact on these relationships?

This seems pretty tough. (Maybe it’s just the business world, and I need to toughen up, but I don’t like this side of it, if it is.)

I’m not here to put others out of business. I want to do things better, appeal to a different audience, or “increase the consumption” (horribly way to phrase things, but I don’t have anything better on the tip of my tongue without being more specific) of the current “audience”.

I’m aware I might be coming across as terribly naive to all of you seasoned entrepreneurs and business people out there. But I’d like to believe it’s possible to “play nice” with “competition” — maybe not to the extent that they become partners, but at least something resembling a relationship between colleagues. A relationship where help can be given, contacts shared, advice and lessons learned dispensed. Even if I wouldn’t go so far as to expect partnership.

What about partners, then? Can they be involved with the competition? Could they have interests in one’s competition? (That sound like a bad idea, said like that.) Conflicts of interests aren’t good, that’s certain — but can we really be free of them?

I know that without the specifics this may seem a little abstract, but I’d really love to hear what you all think about this.

Netvibes Widget of my Shared Items [en]

If you read this blog “on the blog”, and look at my very cluttered sidebar, you probably noticed there is a feed of my “shared items” from Google Reader hidden in there (grab the feed!). “Sharing” is the reason I switched to Google Reader over a year ago.

I’m sitting in a workshop about UWA widgets at Paris Web, which had me looking at netvibes again. Even though it never clicked for me, I know lots of you use it (I check my stats, yes I do).

So, here we go. One thing leading to another, I created a widget with my shared items in it. It’s more for fun than because it’s really useful, as you netvibes users can create it really easily — but hey, here it is:

Add to Netvibes

Update: how disappointing! I thought it was going to look like this in the blog post:

My Shared Items Netvibes Widget

Not there yet, it seems.

Update 2: something I’ve been wanting to do with netvibes (not sure how feasible it is, actually): create a tab with “my stuff” in it. See, I’m scattered online. And the stuff I “share” is also scattered. If I found it through my feed reader, it’ll appear as a whole post in my shared items. If I was randomly browsing around, it’ll be in my links. If it was a video I watched on YouTube, it’ll end up in my VLog. If I wanted to share a quote, it’ll be in my Tumblr. Creating something to collect all these “things of others that I consider worth passing on” would be really nice. I wonder if a netvibes tab would be a solution — and if people would use it at all.

Berlin, Belgrade: Two Contrasting Airport Experiences [en]

[fr] Je déteste vraiment la sécurité dans les aéroports. C'est d'une hypocrisie primaire et le résultat principal en est une péjoration du comfort des voyageurs. Je raconte dans ce billet deux expériences contrastées (mes deux derniers vols).

L'aéroport Tegel a Berlin, où tout s'est passé comme sur des roulettes, même si j'ai eu bien peur de rater mon vol (imaginez: je me suis pointée au faux aéroport, moins de deux heures avant décollage). A Tegel, le taxi vous dépose directement au terminal. Le check-in est à 5m de la porte. Le contrôle des passeports est à côté (vraiment) du check-in (disons 3m). Le contrôle sécurité est droit derrière. Et la zone d'attente pour la porte est juste après. De check-in à salle d'attente, 10m et 5 minutes à tout casser.

A Belgrade par contre... Ce fut moins fun. Personnel peu agréable, renseignements médiocres, vilain sandwich tout sec... et pour couronner le tout, "double" sécurité. Eh oui, non seulement faut-il faire la queue pour faire passer aux rayons X toutes ses petites affaires avant le contrôle des passeports, mais encore faut-il passer par le même cirque à la port, pour accéder à la zone d'attente. Je vous passe les chaises en métal et les courants d'air...

Inutile de dire que je suis ravie de rentrer à Lausanne en train depuis Paris, et que j'espère que les grèves continueront à ne pas avoir d'influences sur les TGVs à destination de la Suisse!

Flying out of Berlin could have been a nightmare. It actually turned out to be a rather smooth experience. The nightmarish bit is that I went to the wrong airport to catch my plane. I flew in to Shönefeld (?), so naturally assumed that I would be flying out from there two.

When I arrived at the airport less than two hours before take-off, I checked the departure board and couldn’t find my flight. Suddenly, it hit me: this wasn’t the only airport in Berlin. A brief panicked enquiry at the airport information desk later, I was grabbing a taxi, calling the JAT office in Tegel Airport to explain the situation (they had my ticket waiting there for me), and deciding that 70€ to take the predictable but longer motorway route (it was peak hour and the town was gridlocked) was better than missing my flight.

My taxi driver was nice, reassuring, and cut quite a few lines to get me there on time.

Here is where it became smooth. Like most of you I guess. I’m used to airports where you need to wait in line for check-in, then walk to passport control, wait in line again, then walk to security, wait in line again, then finally, walk to the gate.

None of that nonsense at Tegel Airport. I had been given the terminal number by the person I spoke to at the JAT office, who told me my ticket would be waiting for me at check-in. My taxi dropped me off at the terminal.

I went through the door.

I walked 5 metres.

I waited 2 minutes at check-in, was greeted by a smiling hostess, given my ticket, and checked in.

The door to security — no kidding — was just next to the check-in desks. 10 steps away. And passport control was just before the door to security. And the gate itself (the waiting area) was just behind security. From check-in to the gate: less than 10 meters. Within 5 minutes I was through all of it.

And I wasn’t (by far) the last person to check in. I was early, actually.

Contrast that with my departure from Belgrade, five days later. (Oh, let me mention in passing that I had the most frightening landing of my life in Belgrade. I’m not a frightened flyer, but the weather was really very rough and stormy, with the plane rocking left and right and dropping abruptly as we were approaching the landing strip. And once on the ground, it didn’t stop either — precisely because the plane wasn’t slowing down, and was making dreadful noises. We stopped OK in the end, but from my point of view we were moving way too fast on that runway for way too long.)

Back to my experience this noon in Belgrade Airport. First, I have to say it was overall not very friendly.

I asked the check-in woman where I could change money and eat. She indicated two places for that, which meant I had to change money (lots of dinars) first and eat (paying in dinars) second. Great. Then, the change office didn’t have Swiss francs. Even greater (I now have enough euros to settle down in Paris for a month, nearly.)

I got a really nasty sandwich for a small fraction of the money I had been advised to keep for the meal, and then realised that I could change money on that floor too. They had Swiss francs, but with the amount of dinars I had it was more interesting to change in euros. Then, once I’d gotten rid of all my dinars, I noticed there was at least one other food place — nicer than the one I’d been to, of course.

Oh well.

I queued through security, did my usual Empty Half Your Bag And Get Half Undressed stunt, waited in my socks while the person at security control searched the bags of the woman before me (one person per machine, takes care of searching too, so when a bag is searched, the machine stops too — efficient, isn’t it?), and headed to passport control.

A rather unfriendly woman there gruffly asked me for my boarding pass (it had slipped out of my travel documents into my bag) and put a nasty wet stamp on it before folding it back into my passport. I had to wipe the wet ink off the (thankfully plastified) page with all my personal details.

Once in the “sterile” area, I noticed there were another two places where I could have eaten (oh, well) but no board with flight numbers and gates. I asked a member of staff who was passing by, and she pointed me to the travel information desk where I got the answer I needed.

I walked down the corridor to the gate and was quite surprised to find the place rather empty (this was about 10 minutes before announced boarding time). There was an open door with a corridor leading somewhere cold, and a closed door next to the flight details for the gate, behind which I could see a security machine and a bored young man in a uniform.

There were a few metal seats in the draughty corridor.

I tried to open the closed door, but it was — closed. I made interrogative signs to the young man, who got up to open the door and tell me that this was the right place, only later.

I therefore sat on a draughty metal seat and waited.

Slowly, more people arrived. Airline and airport employees, too. The door opened. Closed. Opened. Closed. Passengers got up and started to form a line (boarding time passed), so I got up too.

And waited in the cold. And cursed at the security machine I could see through the glass door.

You probably know I’m sick of airport security. It’s hypocritical (there mainly to cover some people’s precious arses), basically abusing poor passengers and making our lives miserable when we travel under pretense of keeping us safe from “terrorists”.

Right. So when you make everybody entering one part of the airport (what I call the “sterile area”) go through security and show ID… and you do the same thing again later on… what kind of message are you sending?

You’re basically saying: oh, well, our sterile area isn’t really sterile, you see — we don’t trust our own security screening. So please, let us screen you again. You know, just in case one of you entered this part of the airport without going through security, or managed to sneak a gun or explosives past us.

What do you think my opinion of airport security is now?

The cabin crew went through first, and for a wild moment I thought that maybe this was just for them, because for some reason they might not have had to go through the same long line of waiting for bags to be searched as us.

But I was wrong. One by one, 15 minutes after announced boarding time, we put our stuff in the X-ray machine again. Did I mention it was cold and draughty? I wasn’t happy to be in my socks again. And no, I didn’t feel bad about holding up the line because I put my stuff in four different trays to make sure I don’t raise any flags (got searched for cables in my bag, once — now they go through separate).

Colour me grumpy.

So, now that everybody had been doubly screened and that we were doubly safe, we got to sit down in more draughty metal chairs and wait. And then, stand up in line again and wait.

I am so glad I’m going back to Lausanne by train from Paris.

I just hope the strikes in France continue to not affect connections to Switzerland…