More blogging in the world? [en]

Originally meant as a comment on the post Back to the Blog by Dan Cohen.

Over the years (quite some years ago) I ran a handful of “back2blog” challenges, to try and get people writing on their blogs again. They worked, but once the challenge was over, we all folded back into Facebook.

I’ve been writing more on my blog these last six months or so. One thing that helped me was to try and go back to the early days of pre-social-media blogging, when I’d write much shorter pieces than the essay-like ones. I realised that one of the things that made me write things that could very well have been blog posts on facebook rather than on my blog was that I had come to see blog posts as “articles”, complete with a proper title, appropriate categories and tags, and to make it worse, as I’m bilingual, a short summary of what I was writing in my “other language”.

To do that, I started posting things as “asides” — a post type WordPress provides with for somewhat lesser content. I also decided that my 45-minute commute on the train was more than enough time to crank out a quick post, and when I’m not travelling with colleagues, I really make an effort to write stuff.

I really believe that unless Facebook et al backpedal in making their platforms less addictive (cf. Clay Shirky’s segment in this OTM episode) we are definitely going to see people falling back on their blogs.

Now let me go and find a no-nonsense-no-frills newsreader so I can subscribe to Dan’s blog.

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Blogging and Facebook [en]

[fr] Réflexion sur la place du blog, de facebook, et de la solitude.

Not 20 years ago. But not yesterday either.

My number of blogging years is going to start to look like 20. Well, 18 this summer, but that looks an awful lot like 20 around the corner. My old Quintus is not quite as old as this blog.

We all know that blogging before Twitter and Facebook was quite different from what it is now. “Social Media” made blogging seem tedious, and as we became addicted to more easily available social interaction, we forgot to stop and write. Some of us have been hanging in there. But most of those reading have left the room: consumption is so much easier in the click-baity world of Facebook.

Facebook didn’t invent click-bait. I remember the click-bait postings and the click-bait blogs, way back when. When the nunber of a comments on a post were an indicator of a blog’s success, and therefore quality, and therefore of the blogger’s worth. And then we lost Google Reader. Not that I was ever a huge user of any kind of newsreader, but many were. So Twitter and Facebook, our algorithm machines, became the sources to lead us to blog postings, and pretty much everything else we read.

As the current “delete Facebook” wave hits, I wonder if there will be any kind of rolling back, at any time, to a less algorithmic way to access information, and people. Algorithms came to help us deal with scale. I’ve long said that the advantage of communication and connection in the digital world is scale. But how much is too much?

Facebook is the nexus of my social life right now. But I’ve always viewed my blog as its backbone, even when I wasn’t blogging much. This blog is mine. I control it. It’s less busy than my facebook presence, to the point where I almost feel more comfortable posting certain things here, in a weird “private by obscurity” way, even though this is the open internet. But the hordes are not at the doors waiting to pounce, or give an opinion. Comments here are rare, and the bigger barrier to entry is definitely a feature.

I’ve found it much easier to write here since I decided to stop caring so much, stop putting so much energy in the “secondary” things like finding a catchy or adequately descriptive title (hey Google), picking the right categories, and tagging abundantly. All that is well and good, except when it detracts from writing. It makes wading through my posts more difficult, I’m aware of that. But oh well.

During my two-week holiday, I didn’t disconnect completely. That wasn’t the point. But I definitely pulled back from social interaction (online and off, it was a bit of a hermit fortnight). I spent more time alone, more time searching for boredom. I checked in on the little francophone diabetic cat group I manage, as well as FDMB, a little. I checked my notifications. I posted a little. But I didn’t spend that much time going through my feed.

And you know what? After a week or ten days or so, my facebook feed started giving me the same feeling as daytime TV. Or cinema ads. I stopped watching TV years ago. I watch the odd movie or series, but I’m not exposed to the everyday crap or ads anymore. And when I go to the cinema, the ads seem so stupid. I’m not “in there” anymore. This mild deconnection gave me a sense of distance with my facebook newsfeed that I was lacking.

I caught myself (and still catch myself) diving in now and again. Scroll, scroll, like, scroll, like, tap, scroll, like, comment, scroll, scroll, scroll. What exactly am I doing here, keeping my brain engaged when I could be doing nothing? Or something else? I think my holiday gave me enough of a taste of how much I need solitude and doing-nothingness that I now feel drawn to it.

I’m not leaving Facebook. But if it were to disappear, I’d survive. I’d regroup here, read more blogs, listen to more podcasts (hah!). It helps that I’m looking at my immediate and medium-term professional future as an employee. And that I’ve recently experienced that forum-based communities could be vibrant, and in some ways better than Facebook groups.

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A bunch of links [en]

A few links I picked up.

The war to sell you a mattress is an internet nightmare

My thoughts about this aren’t quite coherent, because it comes and hits right where I had some ambivalence about a category of work I did over the last decade. Not so much because I wasn’t comfortable with what I was doing, but because I could see it was somewhere on a spectrum where things, at some point, became unethical.

The mattress story is way far out there for me.

But where is the breaking/tipping point? Where does building a community of fans or ambassadors, or simply seeking them out to solidify a brand or organization’s relationship with them, veer into “buying influence”?

I had the first really bad sniff of this when early bloggers started getting paid to do promotional postings.

I suspect the answer has something to do with scale. If an influencer can make or break a business, then he is part of that business and that relationship should be absolutely transparent. Or is my reasoning too simplistic? I long for one of these slow blog-to-blog discussions on the topic.

The world’s most expensive free watch

Welcome to the world of dropshipping, affiliate marketing, and the rest. The world of people making a pile of money online teaching people to make a pile of money online by selling stuff. Only the people teaching you how to do it are making money off the teaching, not the “selling other stuff”.

This stinks.

I had a whiff of it last summer, when I realised that one of the (multiple) reasons my freelance business had been going under was that I hated sales and sucked at it. So I decided to look at what a bunch of these online marketers were doing. I took some free webinars. Subscribed to newsletters. Watched them sell.

And of course, googled them. Despite all they tell you, and the lucky incident, they’re making their money promising to tell you how to make money. Most people will spend quite a bit of cash on courses, and not find success, because, well, luck. And a broken business model.

I shared a bunch of interesting articles I unearthed through my googling on Facebook at the time. I might try and dig them out, or you can try your luck at googling too.

De l’exploitation en milieu fermier écolo

In French, but worth sticking in Google Translate if you don’t speak the language. Remember how people got all annoyed (me included, at times) when “crowdfunding” became a way to cut costs and get people to do work for your profitable business for free?

Well, look no further if you want to see how so-called “sustainable” agricultural methods work. Not the serious ones, which use science to minimise the amounts of pesticides and fertiliser we need. I’m talking about the “organic” and “natural” lobbies and movements, often headed by guru-like figures like Pierre Rabhi. Wwoofing, anybody? Or how to make your unsustainable farming practice sustainable by exploiting free labour.

I’m annoyed that people aren’t more appalled by these practices, simply because they profit businesses which are ethically aligned with their ideology.

Go ahead, Millenials, destroy us

This one is encouraging. When I start despairing about where the world is going, which is quite often these days (and a new thing to me — 45 getting elected changed that), I remember that there are young people growing up to run the world, and that they might do things completely differently from us. It gives me hope. I’m looking forward to meeting them.

To end on a light note, read Kirk Drift if you like Star Trek. I recently started watching the original series (before my android TV box died) and though it was fun, I was having a really hard time with the cultural gap — both in terms of screenplay, assumed character psychology, and of course, sexism. Somebody pointed me to the excellent article I just linked to, and it made me watch the series completely differently. I find Kirk way less annoying. And the miniskirts (I hadn’t realised that at the time they were the symbol of women claiming their power! talk about judging something from another time by today’s standards…)

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Aimer écrire [fr]

Ça m’est venu hier dans une discussion avec une collègue: j’aime écrire, mais comme moyen d’expression. J’aime mettre par écrit des choses qui sont dans ma tête. J’aime m’exprimer par écrit, “parler” par écrit, réfléchir par écrit.

La rédaction pure, prendre un contenu arbitraire et le mettre en forme par écrit, collecter des infos de différentes sources pour en faire quelque chose de digeste, en tant que tel, ce n’est pas ma tasse de thé.

C’est certainement pour cela que durant toute ma carrière j’ai relativement peu écrit “sur commande”. Même lors des mandats rédactionnels que j’ai eus, j’avais une motivation forte à communiquer la matière dont il était question. Et lorsque ce n’était pas le cas, la rédaction était pénible. Oh, je l’ai fait, et je le ferai sans doute encore, mais je n’aime pas particulièrement ça.

Gagner ma vie en écrivant, ça n’a jamais été un objectif pour moi. Gagner ma vie en réfléchissant, ou en communiquant mes idées, ça oui, c’est attractif.

Je blogue depuis plus de dix-sept ans. Il y a eu des pauses plus ou moins longues, la fréquence rédactionnelle a beaucoup varié, le genre d’écrits aussi. Ici, je pense et je parle à haut clavier. Et c’est pour ça que ça dure.


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Less Facebook, Less Phone [en]

[fr] Moins de Facebook et de téléphone en ôtant l'app (restera l'ordi et l'iPad). Une collection de liens et de réflexions sur ce que sont devenus ces "médias sociaux" qui sont maintenant un "canal de distribution de contenu" dans lequel injecter des conversations est un pitch de startup.

I read this yesterday and removed the Facebook application from my phone again. Again, because I had done it a few months ago. I reinstalled it upon the death of a friend, who was also the founder of an online community I manage, and I needed to be connected better during those times. And I didn’t remove it afterwards (when is “afterwards”, when somebody dies?)

So, I’ve removed it now. I have a wristwatch again, too – have had for a few months. I like not having to take my phone out to know what time it is.

I’ve decided it was time to put my phone in flight mode during the night again, too, and I intend to leave it off for the first hour of the day. We’ll see how that goes. The next step will be implementing a shutdown time at night, too. I’d done it sometime back – no tech after 9pm.

For months now, it’s been bothering me. Maybe years. So much fear and outrage online. I’m sick of the outrage. What I fled when I stopped watching TV news has now caught up with me on Facebook. I remember this French TV executive who said very openly that they were in the business of selling “available brain time” to advertisers. Nothing has changed, it’s just online too now. I’m acutely aware how often I am “stuck on Facebook” when in fact I wanted to be doing something else. I feel a bit like a fool to have believed the digital world was something different. It was just because it was new.

As I am coming to terms with an upcoming shift in my career focus, which will probably mean “less social media”, I am reminded of what brought me here when I hear a startup pitching a social network that will “bring conversation” into social media, and describing social media as “content distribution”. I came here for people. For relationships. For conversations. For the web we lost, probably.

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Journaling With Google Keep [en]

[fr] Google Keep, super pratique à utiliser pour prendre des notes (avec photos!) ou tenir un journal.

During my holiday in Spain last May, I started journaling. I had two weeks “off”, sailing, and days quickly started to run into each other. So before going to sleep, I’d pick a photo of the day, and jot down where we had gone, what notable things happened, etc. Actually, the thing that got me started was being hit by a nasty wave of grief about losing Tounsi. And then I kept going.

I first used Apple Notes, but Google Keep quickly seemed more appropriate. It’s my main note-taking app. I also like the way it displays notes, with the photo(s) visible, and a snippet of text. I created a “Journal” label, so that I can easily filter all my journal entries if I want to.

I like the practice of taking a few minutes to sum up my day. I keep it short, avoiding the dive into stream-of-consciousness meandering around what I’ve been thinking, sticking to the factual. I think that’s what has allowed me to keep it going.

Lately, I’ve also used Google Keep to take notes during an outing to discover edible plants. Snap a photo of the plant, put the name in the note, and jot down relevant info. I remember missing out on taking notes like this during a previous “mushroom” outing: I ended up with a pile of photos and a pile of notes, but insufficient memory of which name went with which photo.

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Rendre visibles ses articles de blog, c’est galère [fr]

[en] Yep, making your blog articles visible sucks -- so does making anything visible.

Bon, pis les blogs? “Galère pour rendre visibles ses articles de blog,” me dit-elle. Je crois que c’est comme pour tout. On est vraiment sur-sollicités. Tout le monde et toutes les marques sont sur Facebook. C’est la surenchère du “comment faire pour que les gens remarquent ce que je fais”. Parce que oui, faut faire bien, être pertinent, répondre à un besoin chez l’autre… mais s’il ne sait pas qu’on existe, tout ça, c’est inutile!

Je ne dis rien de nouveau. C’est pour ça qu’on a la pub. On est tous dans une grande foule à tenter de se faire entendre. Ou voir. Le premier qui monte sur la table ou les épaules de quelqu’un, on va le voir. Mais si tout le monde le fait, on ne voit plus personne.

La solution? Perso, je pense qu’on va “en revenir” un peu, de cette surenchère à capter l’attention de tous. Quand tout le monde vous crie dans les oreilles, celui qui vous donne un petit billet réussira à se faire entendre. C’est ce qu’on disait au début du web, ce que disait le Cluetrain: on est pas des “eyeballs”, on est pas des nombres, on en marre qu’on nous objectifie pour nous vendre des trucs.

Et j’ai l’impression, de plus en plus, qu’online est devenu ce qu’était avant offline. Exemple bête, les infos. J’ai arrêté de regarder les infos il y a des années parce que ça ne faisait que me rendre plus anxieuse. Maintenant les infos sont partout sur Facebook et Twitter. La pub aussi.

Alors, moi, je crois (et j’insiste sur “croire”, c’est une croyance) qu’on va finir par revenir au fondamental: aux gens, aux relations. Quand on est saturé d’infos, et qu’on réalise qu’on ne peut pas leur faire confiance (Fake News anybody?) on va finir par recommencer à demander à son voisin ce qu’il en pense.

Retour au personnel, au relationnel. (C’est de ça que j’ai causé mardi à Genève, d’ailleurs.)

Alors, le blog? Le blog reste (j’en suis persuadée) l’endroit par excellence pour une communication humaine un peu plus développée et moins réactive que les commentaires Facebook. La discussion c’est bien, et utile, et nécessaire, mais des fois c’est bien de réfléchir un peu plus tranquillement dans son coin.

Son problème, c’est la distribution, et c’est là qu’il est “comme tout le reste”. Faut avoir un réseau de malade sur Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, et ailleurs. Faut savoir présenter les choses de façon accrocheuse pour capter l’attention du facebookeur décérébré (je sais, j’en suis aussi), qu’il clique et qu’il lise (et ne se contente pas juste de partager, ou pire, d’ignorer). D’ailleurs, je mets maintenant des photos à mes articles, même si elles n’ont rien à voir. Sinon, ils n’existent même pas, dans l’écosystème de distribution Twitter-Facebook-Linkedin.

Le chat qui miaule bien fort obtient les croquettes…

Les lecteurs RSS sont quand même bien morts avec Google Reader.

Le revers (positif) de la médaille, c’est l’e-mail. Avec la démocratisation des outils sociaux, notre e-mail s’est quand même un peu vidé de toutes sortes d’activités qui fonctionnent mieux sur Facebook et consorts. Je ne sais pas vous, mais pour ma part, je ne croule pas sous les mails. Les humains ont appris à utiliser des filtres (pas tous, ok, mais quand même), Gmail a commencé à regrouper nos longs échanges en conversations, et les boîtes de réception sont de plus en plus intelligentes.

L’e-mail, qu’on a voulu mort il y a des années (je me souviens de quelques interviews, dont une, j’étais sur le quai de la gare de St-Prex, marrant comme ça marche la mémoire, bref, on essayait de me faire dire que l’e-mail c’était fini, non mais tu rêves), c’est un certain retour à ces messages de moi à toi, en privé, loin de tout le bruit et des sollicitations. C’est pas pour rien que les newsletters reprennent du poil de la bête.

Donc, assurez-vous qu’on puisse s’abonner à votre blog par e-mail. J’adore le blog de Sylvie. Mais si je n’étais pas abonnée par e-mail, je raterais beaucoup d’articles. L’e-mail, je sais que je le regarde. Au moins le titre. Les réseaux sociaux, c’est pas fait pour tout voir. C’est conçu pour faire remonter les voix les plus fortes, et ce sont elles qu’on finit par entendre. On y a beaucoup cru (je me mets dedans), mais ça a des effets vachement pervers, mine de rien.

Donc oui, rendre son blog visible, c’est la galère. Rendre n’importe quoi visible, en fait.

Il y a certainement des choses à redire concernant les idées que j’émets ici. J’ai écrit tout ça d’une humeur un peu “coup de gueule” qui reflète aussi où j’en suis par rapport à tout ça. Si vous avez des objections ou des avis différents, je serai ravie de les entendre.

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Addictive Tech [en]

This week-end I was listening to a Fresh Air interview of the author of Irresistible, on addictive technology. I don’t like the idea of considering tech overuse as an addiction. But if we leave words like that one aside, I find myself in agreement with Adam Alter.

Here’s my main take-away, the one that has been trotting in my head since then: if you find yourself checking Facebook or whatever on your phone when you would actually rather be doing something else, then it means there is a problem.

This happens to me. A lot. But being aware of it makes it reasonably easy to snap out — which I have been doing regularly these last days. “Do I really want to spend my Sunday morning hanging out on Facebook?”

I’ve also installed Moment to try and get some objective measure of my usage, but I keep forgetting to take the screen shots.

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Russian Passenger [fr]

Tout à l’heure, j’ai écouté l’épisode “The Russian Passenger” du podcast Reply All. Alex arrive avec une question: il a d’un coup commencé à recevoir des alertes Uber pour des trajets à Moscou, au milieu de la nuit. Il voit que les trajets sont facturés à sa carte de crédit.

Il tente de se connecter à son compte via l’application sur son téléphone mais… son compte ne semble plus exister! L’investigation subséquente nous mène dans le monde du traffic de comptes et de mots de passe. On envisage d’abord l’hypothèse d’une faille de sécurité chez Uber, abandonnée au profit de la réutilisation de mots de passe. En effet, quand on réutilise ses mots de passe, il suffit qu’un service qu’on emploie soit compromis, et les trafiquants de comptes vont ensuite essayer notre combinaison “e-mail + mot de passe” un peu partout, pénétrant ainsi dans des comptes de service qui n’ont pas été compromis. Dans le cas d’Alex, il semblerait même que ce soit son compte Gmail qui ait été hacké, alors même qu’il utilise la double authentification… Le mystère demeure.

Bref, encore une histoire qui met en avant l’importance de ne jamais réutiliser ses mots de passe, et donc d’avoir un gestionnaire de mots de passe pour les gérer (parce que s’en souvenir c’est impossible).

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More Friction [en]

I think that now that we are all experiencing that we can be “public” (something we couldn’t 20 years ago) we’re going to be crawling back into more private spaces, understanding that the advantages we can see to “reaching more people” or “micro-fame” come with a load of drawbacks. But we need time in these public spaces to really get what those drawbacks are (as a society).

On a personal level, I can feel the pull towards publication spaces which have more friction. I was reading an author’s blog this morning — a full-time SF author who is quite well known. There were only a handful of comments on each blog post. It felt, reading his blog, that I had a priviledged contact with him — something I’m not going to feel on his 25k+ facebook page. Something that reminds me of the early days of online socialising and blogging.

When I write stuff on my blog, although it’s “the public internet”, it feels like a more intimate space, because it’s less reactive. The content is harder to get to. And there is value in that.

This was initially a Facebook comment.

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