So You Know My Users and Community Better Than Me? [en]

Sometime back I joined a pile of “Group/Page Admin Help” support groups on Facebook. As you may or may not know, I manage a rather busy and intense support group for diabetic cat owners on Facebook. One thing I would love to be able to do is identify members who haven’t posted in a given time-frame to check in on them.

We screen people who want to join the group through welcome questions, so every person who joins the group has a sick cat (a few exceptions). The thing with diabetic cats is that if you don’t do things right, you run the risk of ending up with a disaster. When those disasters happen at night or on week-ends (as they do), the group ends up having to deal with panicked owner and sometimes dying cat that the on-call vet doesn’t want to see (I guess they have their reasons). So in addition to wanting to be helpful to our members, we have a vested interest as a community in making sure that our members are actually using the group to follow best practices, keep their cat safe, and therefore avoid being the source of a midnight crisis.

This is just to give you a bit of background.

So what we do in my group is each member gets a personalised welcome publication when they join, with instructions to get started and pointers to our documentation. At the end of the week. all the people who joined during the week get a “group welcome” publication with some more info and links. (Think “onboarding”.) Two months later, another message (the first six months after diagnosis are critical, so two months in is a good time to get your act together if you haven’t yet). I used to do a “you’ve been here six months, wow!” group post too, but now I’ve moved it up to a year (the group turned two years old last January).

When I posted in these “admin support groups” to explain what we did and that I would like a way to identify inactive members, I was immediately piled upon (honestly there is no other word) by people telling me that they would quit a group which mentioned them like that in publications, that people should be allowed to lurk, etc. etc. I was Wrong to want to identify inactive members and Wrong to actively onboard new members.

I have to say I was a bit shocked at the judgement and outrage. Why do these people assume they understand my community better than I do? Anyway, it was a very frustrating experience.

For the record, there isn’t a way of identifying inactive members in a Facebook group.

Yesterday, somebody else posted the same question on one of those groups. They also wanted a way to identify inactive members to encourage them to participate, in a group based on active participation. Again, the onslaught of judgemental comments regarding the group’s rules and philosophy.

Seriously, what is wrong with people?

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Le message vocal, entre amour et haine [fr]

A la base, je déteste les messages vocaux. Mais j’ai appris à les aimer. Je vous raconte.

Premièrement, le message vocal souffre du défaut propre à l’audio et à la vidéo, par rapport au texte: on ne peut pas y jeter un rapide coup d’oeil ou l’écouter en diagonale. Soit on l’écoute, soit on ne l’écoute pas. L’écouter monopolise l’entier de notre attention. Et avant de l’écouter, on ne sait pas ce qu’il y a dedans.

Impossible de “trier”, de décider s’il mérite ou non une consultation immédiate, s’il va nous remuer ou simplement nous donner une information anodine. Le message vocal, comme la séquence audio ou vidéo, est simple à produire, mais impose à celui qui le reçoit une plus grande charge pour y accéder.

Deuxièmement, et ça c’est un élément personnel, comme je suis malentendante, écouter un message vocal représente potentiellement toute une gymnastique: ôter mes appareils, trouver mon mains libres, etc. Et il y a toujours la crainte que la qualité audio ne soit pas suffisamment bonne et que je doive réécouter des bouts.

Voilà pour le message vocal “haine”: celui qui débarque sans explications ni annonce, imprévu, une boîte noire qui réclame que je lâche tout pour je-ne-sais-quoi.

Et l’amour alors?

Le message vocal, c’est de la voix. On entend l’autre. On s’exprime parfois plus facilement qu’à l’écrit. Pour raconter quelque chose, ou rentrer dans des subtilités, c’est génial. C’est moins prenant qu’un appel, mais il y a une proximité similaire. Il y a des gens avec qui j’ai des conversations par messages vocaux. J’adore.

Mais le pré-requis, c’est le consentement. Vérifier que je vais pouvoir écouter, par exemple. C’est aussi le message vocal envoyé avec un peu de contexte: “je te raconte ça, tu écouteras à l’occasion”.  C’est le message vocal poli, au final, qui tient compte de l’autre, et pas juste de la grande facilité qu’il y a à le produire.

Et vous, comment vivez-vous les messages vocaux?

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Moving From Apple Photos to Adobe Lightroom Classic CC [en]

God have mercy on me. A few months ago I decided I was coming back to Lightroom. Now is the time to actually move my stuff out of Apple Photos and into Lightroom. It’s not so much emptying Apple Photos that concerns me as transferring albums, favorites, and editing over to Lightroom.

I had foreseen the headache, and so I am documenting what I’m doing here first of all for myself (because I might end up abandoning halfway through, as usual, and picking up six months later, having forgotten everything), and also for other poor souls out there who might be in the same situation.

First, the easy part: exporting from Apple Photos.

  1. One thing I wanted to “export” was my albums. I went through each album I wanted to keep, selected all the photos in it, displayed information and added a keyword like “my cats album” to all the photos. Kludgy and a little tedious, but does the trick.
  2. When viewing photos Apple lets you display “only edited” photos. This allowed me to export both the edited photo and the unmodified original for photos I had edited in Apple Photos. I then exported the unmodified originals of photographs I hadn’t touched in Apple Photos separately.
  3. I exported these photos into three separate folders, without any subfolders: “Apple edited”, “Apple originals”, “Apple unedited”. I renamed the edited photos to avoid file name conflicts later on, but left the originals/unedited file names untouched, in the hope it would help Lightroom detect duplicates/updated photos later on.
  4. For the original files, I told Apple Photos to write IPTC to XMP. This works great for RAW files (Lightroom grabs the metadata from the XMP sidecar) but not for JPG originals (who are not supposed to have a sidecar). After fumbling around I found my solution: a simple command-line command for exiftools. The person posting had pretty much the same problem as I did, and I just used the solution offered as-is. It throws some errors (when XMP files don’t have anything interesting in them, I think) but works fine.

Now for the real fun: importing into Lightroom.

  1. For this, I used a temporary working catalog, rather than mess up my master catalog directly. I made the working catalog by exporting some photos as a catalog from the master catalog, and then removing those photos from the temporary catalog (not the files though, beware!)
  2. I started with the edited photos, followed by their original files. I moved them into a month-based folder structure parallel to the one I use for my main library (in a folder called “Apple import”). Upon importing, I gave each batch a keyword to be able to figure out who was who later on (“appleedited” and “master of apple edited”).
  3. I ran Find Duplicates 2 on those photos and it turned out quite a pile of them. Not that surprising. I decided to have a look, and saw that there were indeed a lot of “edited” photos that were so close to the original (or unimportant) that I wasn’t going to bother importing a bloated redundant JPG of those “edits”.
  4. I proceeded to cull those “duplicates”. I started out by giving all those photos a keyword to recognise them later (see how I abuse keywords?). I then rejected all the “mess” (screenshots, photos of bank statements…) that comes with exporting photos from your phone.
  5. I then went painstakingly (but as efficiently as possible) through the unflagged photos and used a label to identify those where I was indeed going to keep both the edited version and the master. I could have skipped this but I figure less bloat is better.
  6. Amongst the unflagged and unlabeled photos with the “duplicate” keyword, I filtered for those with “edited” in the file name (remember how I renamed the edited photos upon export from Apple Photos? handy; I could also have used the keyword I attributed the edited versions upon export, come to think of it. Oh well.) I rejected all those edited photos I decided not to keep.
  7. Similarly, I selected the originals for those photos and changed their keyword to indicate they were not a master photo for an edited version anymore. I also removed the duplicate tag and then cleaned up my mess of coloured labels.
  8. I am not deleting any rejected photos until I get everybody back into my master catalog. Hopefully this will clean up a bit of the “smartphone mess”…or not.
  9. I then proceeded to import the photos from Apple Photos which hadn’t been edited. Just 20k of them. It was loooooong.

Now… how to merge all this back into the master catalog without losing any information and without multiplying photos excessively… I’m not sure I have the solution, and I’m going to err on the side of not losing data. I can always hunt for duplicates later.

I picked a year where I had only a couple of hundred Apple photos, and exported a working catalog from the Apple import catalog for only that year. I then imported those photos into my master catalog, without moving the files. To my dismay Lightroom didn’t recognize any as duplicates or updated files. After looking at things manually it’s clear there are duplicates and I was very wise to not try and move the files to their right place in the catalog yet (filenames are identical!)

I set Find Duplicates loose on all the photos for that year. As I’ve previously cleaned up my whole catalog of duplicates, and marked “fake duplicates” with a keyword that allows me to filter them out, I end up with a shortlist of duplicates between my newly imported photos and those that were already in the master catalog. The “edited” photos in the duplicates are not much of a problem, as they are strictly speaking “fake duplicates”. The master photographs are more of a problem: I’d like to retain the keywords from the new photo and whatever keywords/ratings were on the old photo. I can do that by manually synchronising metadata, but it’s super tedious.

For the time being I’ll just mark those duplicates “appledupes” until I can figure out what to do with them.

Next in line:

  • moving those photos into the “final” folders (will involve renaming the Apple photos)
  • trying a year with more photos.

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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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