Les commentaires d'un blog ne sont pas un espace de pub! [fr]

[en] I'm tired of people using blog comments as advertising space (it's particularly a problem on the ebookers.ch travel blog that I manage). I've decided that I was tired of racking my brains to figure out if this or that slightly fishy comment was ham or spam, so in future, people who sign comments with brand names (or any non-human name, for that matter) will not see their comments published. Ditto if the URL provided with the comment points to something resembling a commercial site (well, anything that is clearly not that person's site).

Y’en a marre! Le spam mécanique qui nous assome de Britney peu vêtue et de Viagra dans nos commentaires de blog, c’est déjà pas drôle, mais il y a des filtres à spam genre Akismet qui font assez bien leur travail.

Mais là, ce qui commence à me sortir par les trous de nez, ce sont les personnes (au pire malhonnêtes, au mieux mal informées) qui s’appliquent à laisser des commentaires “pseudo-intelligents” à droite et à gauche pour promouvoir leur site/blog/produit.

Ça va de la remarque vide genre “super article, merci!” ou “j’adore ton blog!” au commentaire un peu plus réfléchi et même parfois pertinent, en passant par le franchement publicitaire plus ou moins subtil.

Les auteurs de ces commentaires ont parfois un nom d’être humain, mais souvent pas. Et leur URL n’est clairement pas celle de leur blog ou site personnel.

C’est particulièrement grave sur le blog de voyage ebookers.ch, dont j’ai l’honneur d’être “blogueuse-rédac-chef”. Environ la moitié des commentaires que nous recevons sont entre le douteux et le franchement commercial. Quand quelqu’un qui s’appelle “blog voyage” laisse un commentaire sympathique 2-3 fois par mois, on se pose des questions. Ou bien alors l’annonce pour une location d’appartement dans une rue de Paris dont nous parlons dans un article. Les liens vers d’autres sites de tourisme ou de voyage. J’en passe.

Alors bref, y’en a marre. Voici ce que j’ai décidé.

  1. Déjà, pour commencer, si vous n’êtes pas capable de signer votre commentaire d’un nom humain ou d’un pseudonyme clair, je ne publie pas votre commentaire.
  2. Si votre commentaire se complaît dans la banalité et sent de façon suspecte “l’excuse à lien”, il croupira dans l’obscurité de la file de modération sans jamais voir la lumière du jour.
  3. Si vous utilisez un nom d’humain et qu’en plus votre commentaire est génial, mais que le lien fourni laisse à penser qu’il est commercial, alors je le publierai, mais en supprimant le lien.

Méchant? Oui.

Je comprends toutefois que de nombreuses personnes (et agences, parce que je me rends bien compte qu’il y a des professionnels qui se lancent dans ce genre d’opération misérable) agissent ainsi par manque d’informations. Ou se basant sur de mauvaises informations provenant de soi-disant experts en marketing 2.0 ou que sais-je, mais en fait qui n’y comprennent que dalle.

Donc, du coup, je vais vous expliquer.

Oui, laisser des commentaires sur d’autres blogs est en excellent moyen de promouvoir le vôtre. Mais seulement si vous ne le faites pas dans le but premier de faire de la promotion. Paradoxal? Pas tant que ça.

La raison pour laquelle les commentaires vont faire connaître votre blog, c’est parce que ces commentaires vont vous faire connaître. Ils vont vous faire connaître à travers l’intelligence de vos propos, la vivacité de votre esprit, le tranchant de votre plume clavier. Les commentaires d’un blog, c’est l’espace privilégié de la conversation, et donc de la rencontre entre êtres humains. Comme j’aime le dire, on ne peut pas avoir une conversation avec un communiqué de presse — on ne peut pas non plus avoir une conversation avec un robot publicitaire, même si celui-ci s’appelle Juliette.

Et j’ai une mauvaise nouvelle pour les robots publicitaires: on les repère de loin dans la foule des humains.

Quelques exemples. (J’ai omis les cas tout à fait évidents d’un côté comme de l’autre.)

  1. Un article portant sur la bonne manière d’organiser sa valise: j’y laisse un commentaire vantant les mérites des shampooings solides de chez Lush. Je n’ai pas d’actions chez Lush, ce n’est pas un client (sinon je le préciserais, du coup), je n’ai aucun bénéfice direct à en parler, si ce n’est que je suis un fan de produits Lush et que j’ai envie de partager ça. => publié.
  2. Un article parlant de San Francisco: Ben (je sais qu’il s’appelle comme ça grâce à son e-mail et à une signature en fin de commentaire) laisse un commentaire avec une petite info supplémentaire et un merci pour les photos qui lui rappellent de bons souvenirs. Ça s’annonce bien, sauf que dans le champ “nom et prénom” il a écrit “blog voyage” et que le lien qu’il fournit est celui de Enroutes!, une plateforme de blogs de voyage, justement. Ajouté aux deux autres commentaires du genre laissés sur d’autres articles, ça sent fortement le “j’essaie de faire connaître un site en laissant des commentaires à droite et à gauche”. => pas publié.
  3. Sur l’article “Trois destinations de rêve“: quelqu’un laisse un commentaire répondant à la question posée dans l’article. Problème? Son nom est “Ces petits riens”, comme le blog donné en lien. Du coup, alerte rouge. Je vais visiter le blog en question, je fais un peu d’analyse de texte et… cela semble effectivement a première vue être un blog personnel écrit par une personne. Un conseil pour la blogueuse en question? Se choisir un pseudonyme qui ressemble plus à un nom qu’à un titre de publication, si elle tient à rester anonyme. Son commentaire a failli ne pas être publié. => publié, mais ça m’a demandé du boulot de vérification et j’en ai marre.
  4. Enfin, l’article donnant quelques trucs “santé” pour voyager malin: “Rando” (ça commence mal) laisse un commentaire pour préciser qu’en effet, il ne faut pas oublier de prendre une trousse de secours pour ce genre de destination… avec lien sur la page de vente de trousses de secours d’un magasin en ligne de matériel de randonnée. => pas publié.

Avec ces quelques exemples, j’espère que vous voyez où est le problème avec ce genre de commentaire “trop promotionnel”: on ne sait pas vraiment qui est en train d’écrire le commentaire (le proprio du magasin en ligne? le créateur de la plateforme de blogs de voyage? l’employé d’une agence de comm?) et clairement, le commentaire est laissé plus pour la valeur qu’il leur apporte que pour celle qu’il nous apporte. C’est pas très désintéressé, comme qui dirait.

Pourraient-ils procéder autrement? Oui.

Par exemple, Ben pourrait signer les commentaires de son nom et laisser en lien son propre blog de voyage au lieu de celui de la plate-forme. Cela éviterait de donner l’impression qu’il essaie simplement de placer un lien vers la plateforme. Ou s’il est le créateur de la plate-forme et qu’il cherche à promouvoir celle-ci, il pourrait nous écrire pour nous suggérer de faire un article à ce sujet pour nos lecteurs (ce qu’on ferait ou non, c’est une autre histoire). Dans les deux cas, la communication serait claire et transparente.

Quant à “Rando”, il pourrait nous dire simplement dans le commentaire que son magasin en ligne vend des trousses de secours, et peut-être nous expliquer en quoi les siennes sont tellement plus extraordinaires que les autres que l’on pourrait trouver. Il nous donnerait son nom, et un lien qui nous en dise un peu plus sur lui. Ça passerait ou non, clairement, aussi en fonction de son engagement dans la micro-communauté du blog. Si c’est son seul commentaire, bof. Si c’est un contributeur engagé (et authentique!) régulier, on lui passerait probablement ça, parce qu’il aurait accumulé assez de capital social pour se le permettre.

De façon générale: payer quelqu’un (à l’interne ou à l’externe) pour aller arroser les blogs de pseudo-commentaires dans l’espoir de faire connaître son site (ou le faire soi-même) est une mauvaise stratégie, qui finira simplement par vous ranger dans la catégorie des spammeurs et pollueurs.

Ici, comme avec tout ce qui touche aux médias sociaux, ce n’est pas l’action (laisser un commentaire, envoyer un tweet, faire une page sur facebook, publier sur un blog) qui est importante. C’est l’état d’esprit dans laquelle elle est faite.

Et pour cela, encore et encore, lisez le Cluetrain Manifesto. Oui, même s’il faut vous taper la version anglaise.

En attendant, moi, je vais devenir impitoyable dans la modération des commentaires des blogs que je gère. Si vous n’avez pas un nom d’humain, passez votre chemin!

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"Have-to" Posts and "Want-to" Posts [en]

[fr] Quand je blogue, il y a les articles que je "dois" écrire, souvent de nature informative: annoncer des événements, par exemple. Il y a également les articles que je "veux" écrire, où je partage des réflexions, des idées, ou des choses sympas.

I was about to blog about something else when I realised one thing that is bothering me about this whole “blogging more” theme that I’ve been talking (and thinking) about a lot over the last year (or is it years, actually?)

Blogging, for me, is divided into “have-to” posts which I write to inform my readers of something, and “want-to” posts which I write because I’m thinking about something or what to share something cool I’ve done or seen.

Informative blog posts are the part of blogging which really feels like work. For example, telling you that eclau is one year old, that you can listen to me on the radio (again!), that the blogger accreditation form is open (it’s closed now, sorry) — and also most of the stuff I publish on the Bloggy Friday blog, the eclau blog, the Coworking Léman blog, and used to write on the Going Solo blog.

It’s like creating facebook events and groups, sending messages to mailing-lists, promoting happenings and projects, my stuff or other people’s stuff, left, right, and centre.

It’s work. Nice work, but clearly, work. And most of the time, it’s time-sensitive, so at one point it gets this “have to do it now” or “oops I’ll be in trouble if I don’t do it” flavour (which is probably what makes it feel like work). These are the “have-to” posts.

Given what my job is, the other kind of blogging I do (the “thinking” posts, or the “sharing” ones) is of course also part of my work. But it feels more optional. There are no real time constraints. It doesn’t feel like work. This is the kind of blogging that (I think) I became known for, and that I prefer. These are the posts that I want to write more of. Like musings on the evolution of the web social sphere, a 50-word story titled “Love”, giving 80% for free as a marketing model, or talking about new toys I’m discovering like a bunch of Twitter tools, Fluid and Prism, or Google Wave. These are the “want-to” posts.

Confusing the two, or not making the distinction, has led me to be frustrated with my blogging at times: if what I feel I want to do more of is “want-to” posts, and I spend half a day writing “have-to” posts, then of course I won’t really feel like I’ve been “blogging more”. My “have-to” posts also tend to get in the way of my “want-to” posts, because if I keep a list of things I want (need?) to blog about (in my head or elsewhere) I have not, until now, separated the two types of posts.

So from now on, “have-to” posts will go on my next-actions-todo list, and “want-to” posts will go on my “things I want to write about” list. We’ll see if understanding this changes anything.

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I Need to Blog! [en]

[fr] Ma vie a pris une jolie forme cette année. Par contre, j'ai un peu négligé mon blog ces derniers temps (je ne dis pas ça par culpabilité, mais parce qu'un sentiment de "j'ai besoin de bloguer!" vient de me prendre aux tripes).

Here we are again. Another long break on CTTS (unplanned, as always) and another “OMG I need to blog more!” post.

But this isn’t a “I feel guilty, my poor readers, I’ve abandoned you” one. I don’t do those, you should know by now.

No, it’s a cri du coeur: I just sent this tweet a few minutes ago, and immediately after was overcome by an urge to blog — 140 characters just didn’t cut it.

I’ve been working too much these last weeks — enjoying life, too, though. I honestly have a very good (happy) “work-life” balance (yeah, I know the expression is loaded, bear with me). But I miss writing here, and I’ve only just realized to what extent.

Once before — OK, maybe more than once — I took the decision to start my work day by writing a blog post. I did it for some time (my excuses, I can’t dig it out of my archives, see the sad mess my blog still is). But then stress shows up again, and emergencies, and… I stop.

I think that the problem with writing a blog post to start off the day is that it can be pretty quick (this one is only taking maximum 15 minutes or so of my time) but it can also take half a day. So, maybe I need to do it this way:

I will start my workday by writing a blog post, but if after an hour of blogging I have not hit “Publish” I will save my post and continue it on the next day.

Another thing I’ve been thinking about is that I need to build in time for research and fooling around online into my weeks. At this stage, I’ve successfully managed to:

  • have a morning and evening routine and regular sleeping hours
  • exercise 30 minutes on my bike every day (give or take one a week, roughly)
  • take lunch breaks
  • have an end to my business day
  • separate maker days and manager days
  • plan regular mini-vacations (a few days at the chalet)
  • have a social life (yes!)
  • have “downtime” for myself at home
  • unclutter the worst parts of my flat in 15-minute increments
  • clean the flat roughly once a week
  • keep my inbox regularly empty, or at least under one screenful
  • set up a “next action” list system, which, whilst not kosher GTD, works pretty well for me
  • keep my accounting up-to-date and my finances in order.

Two years ago, none of this was working. I’m pretty proud of how far I’ve come! So, next missions: blogging and research.

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Commentaires et bonnes manières: 8 conseils [fr]

Allez, je vais faire un peu ma Nadine de Rothschild, et vous proposer une petite séance de savoir-vivre blogosphérique. Les manières pour les manières, c’est clair, c’est barbant, mais elles ont généralement un sens. En l’occurence, faire preuve de bonnes manières lorsque l’on laisse un commentaire sur le blog de quelqu’un, c’est avant tout:

  • s’assurer que celui-ci ne sera pas confondu avec du spam
  • lui assurer au moins une chance de publication.

Mais de quelles bonnes manières est-ce que je parle? Etre poli, c’est bien joli (en effet, même sur un blog, être respectueux et éviter d’insulter son prochain passe toujours bien) — mais est-ce que ça m’évitera d’être confondu avec un spammeur?

Je m’explique un peu avant de vous donner ma petite liste de préceptes à suivre (ou ne pas suivre). Les spammeurs sont malins. Les créateurs de filtres anti-spam (comme Akismet) le sont aussi. On assiste à une véritable course aux armements, et les spammeurs font tout ce qu’ils peuvent pour embrouiller les filtres à spam, et faire en sorte que leur spam ressemble à un véritable commentaire. (C’est exactement le même processus pour ce qui est du spam d’e-mails.) Parfois, il n’est pas aisé de reconnaître au premier coup d’oeil (même pour un blogueur expérimenté) s’il s’agit ou non de spam.

Une autre plaie des commentaires de blog, c’est la déferlante de marketeux ou autres individus auto-promotionnels maladroits ou carrément imbéciles: mon blog n’est pas une plate-forme de promotion pour autrui, et l’art de ramener du traffic vers son blog en laissant ailleurs des commentaires est délicat, et doit être manié avec goût.

Donc, histoire d’éviter que votre commentaire se retrouve à la poubelle (ou pire, dans le piège à spam), voici ce que je vous recommande.

  1. Signez de votre nom: vous avez un nom, utilisez-le. Une discussion a lieu entre êtres humains. Si vous signez du nom de votre boîte, c’est au mieux déplaisant (je ne discute pas avec des boîtes, moi), au pire une utilisation de mon blog comme plateforme publicitaire. Il va sans dire qu’un pseudonyme bien établi peut servir de nom, mais attention: je ne fais pas une enquête en ligne au sujet de l’auteur de chaque commentaire que je dois approuver, donc à vos risques et périls.
  2. Donnez une URL personnelle: à la base, les commentaires se faisaient entre blogueurs, et le champ URL ou “site web” était là, bien évidemment, pour qu’on y mette l’adresse de son blog. L’adresse, donc, d’un site personnel qui pourra informer sur l’auteur du commentaire. En près de neuf ans, le paysage a certes changé, mais si l’URL que vous fournissez ne semble pas mener au “site de quelqu’un”, mauvais point. Faire un lien vers un article particulier pue l’auto-promo excessive, la plupart du temps. Un lien vers le site de son entreprise, c’est limite: n’avez-vous pas d’autre identité que celle d’employé? Si vous êtes là pour représenter votre boîte, à la limite… mais cela ne marchera bien que dans un contexte de support.
  3. Orthographe! Je sais que je suis parfois une pinailleuse sur ce sujet (ex-prof de français, on ne se refait pas), mais là aussi, il y a les limites raisonnables et le dépassement de ces limites. Language SMS-kikou-lolllll? Passez votre chemin (votre commentaire, en tous cas, passera le sien). Ponctuation et orthographe frisant l’illétrisme? Préférez un commentaire vidéo (lien Seesmic en bas de chaque champ de commentaires). On a le droit de faire des fautes, tout comme on a le droit de sortir mal vêtu. Mais pas tout nu.
  4. Ajoutez de la valeur: de nombreux spammeurs essaient de pourrir les filtres en laissant des commentaires gentils comme “super article!” ou encore “merci, ça m’a été très utile”. On apprend vite à ne pas se laisser aveugler par la flatterie! Si vous laissez un commentaire, assurez-vous que vous apportez quelque chose aux lecteurs futurs de l’article commenté. Sinon… abstenez-vous. Si on se connaît, c’est différent, mais si on ne se connaît pas, s’arrêter pour “lâcher un comm'” un peu vide, ce n’est pas une entrée en matière très respectueuse de l’autre.
  5. Freinez vos élans dissertatifs: les commentaires sont là pour apporter des compléments d’information à l’article principal, ou héberger un débat ou une discussion y prenant naissance. Veillez donc à ce que vos contributions soient digérables dans un contexte conversationnel. S’il vous prend l’envie de partir dans une envolée lyrique sans fin, ou de rédiger sur un coup de tête votre travail de thèse, votre blog est le meilleur endroit pour le faire. Laissez ensuite un commentaire aux dimensions modestes incluant un lien vers votre article. Pas de blog? C’est par ici. Je ne dis pas qu’on ne peut pas faire de longs commentaires, juste… qu’il y a des limites. (Une dissertation dans les commentaires d’autrui, c’est soit dit en passant le meilleur moyen de tuer toute conversation en ayant justement l’air de lancer le débat.)
  6. Restez dans le sujet: l’article que vous commentez parle d’un problème de ventilateur MacBook? Evitez d’y laisser un commentaire détaillant votre dernière visite de Rome (sauf éventuellement si c’est en lien avec un problème de ventilateur MacBook). Les conversations dévient, on peut parler de choses en rapport par association, mais si le lien n’est pas évident, ça ne fait pas de mal d’expliquer pourquoi on laisse le commentaire qu’on laisse.
  7. Publicisez avec doigté: si vous êtes là pour (entre autres, on l’espère) attirer l’attention sur un autre produit ou article, réfléchissez à deux fois et dégainez votre tact. Est-ce que votre commentaire apporte véritablement quelque chose aux autres lecteurs, ou n’est-il qu’un prétexte à pousser un lien, un nom, ou une idée? Avez vous assez de “capital social” pour le faire? (Tiens, une idée d’article vient de germer dans mon cerveau…) — Chez moi, les commentaires trop franchement publicitaires (à plus forte raison si je n’en connais pas l’auteur) passent direct à la trappe. Dans le doute, abstenez-vous.
  8. Politesse, respect, tout ça: ça ne fait jamais de mal de le redire, mais personne n’est obligé d’accepter dans son salon un individu irrespectueux, malpoli, et qui crache par terre. Vos commentaires sont votre présence dans le salon du blogueur qui les héberge. On peut ne pas être d’accord (c’est même là pour ça, les commentaires) — mais un minimum de politesse et de respect s’impose.

Comme vous le voyez, les trois premiers conseils ont vraiment trait à la forme ou aux métadonnées de votre commentaire. C’est la première chose que regardera celui qui modère les commentaires (avec un coup d’oeil au contenu).

Et vous autres blogueurs, quelle politique exercez-vous pour la validation de commentaires sur votre blog? Durant longtemps, j’ai tout tout tout publié (sauf le spam), mais ces dernières années, le spam devient parfois franchement difficile à distinguer de certains commentaires vides de contenu et de présence humaine, et je sabre donc plus lourdement qu’auparavant dans les commentaires “douteux”.

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I Need to Blog More [en]

It’s been nagging at the back of my mind. Since before Going Solo Lausanne, actually — when I got so absorbed with the conference preparation that CTTS hardly saw 6 posts over the space of 4 weeks.

I need to blog more.

It became clear this morning, as a chat with [Suw](http://strange.corante.com/) led to a [long blog post in French](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/07/20/reflexions-freelance/) that I’d been putting off for… weeks, to be generous.

This isn’t the first time (by far) in my blogging career that I’ve been through a “dry” patch, and then one day realised that I had to get into the groove again. Life is cyclic. It’s not a stable line or curve that heads up and up or, God forbid, down and down. It’s ups and downs. Some days are better than others, some weeks are better than others. It’s the low moments in life that also make you enjoy the high ones (though I wouldn’t want you to think I’m advocating heading for “lows” just so you might have post-low “highs” — lows are just part of the colour of life, like the highs).

Some people have higher highs than others, and lower lows. Some people have more highs, some have more lows. We’re not equal — and in the matter of happiness in particular, I remember Alexander Kjerulf saying at Reboot last year that roughly 50% of our “happiness potential” is genetically determined.

So, pardon me the digression on the highs and lows, a topic that’s been on my mind a lot lately due to my own ups and [downs](http://www.bcwomens.ca/Services/HealthServices/ReproductiveMentalHealth/MentalHealth/PMSPMDD.htm). Back to blogging.

With the [supposed return of the tired “blogging is dead” meme](http://www.gapingvoid.com/Moveable_Type/archives/004603.html), which we long-time bloggers have seen poking its silly head up every year or two, oh, “blogging is so yesterday”, I once again sit down and wonder at what’s kept me going for over [eight years](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/07/13/eighth-blogversary/) now.

I know part of the answer: I’ve never been in the arms race — or at least, never very long. Arms race to first post, arms race to breaking news, arms race to most comments, arms race to more visitors, more visitors, yes, ad revenue, monetize, recognize. Oh, I want my share of recognition and limelight — I won’t pretend I’m above all that — and there are times when I feel a bit bitter when I feel I’m not getting as much attention as others who have louder mouths but not necessarily better things to say. What can I say: I’m only human, and I think one constant you’ll find amongst bloggers is that each in our own way, we’re all after some form or other of recognition. Some more badly than others, yes.

So, I need to blog more.

One of the things blogging did for me, many years ago, was put me in touch with other people who shared similar interests to mine. That is one thing blogging does well, and that it always will do.

It also provided a space for me to express myself in writing — forgive me for stating the obvious. I’ve always written, always had things to write, and blogging for me was a chance to really dive into it (actually, before that — this website existed before I signed up for a Blogger.com account many years ago).

Writing helps me think. Even though it may sound a bit lame to say so, it’s something I do that feels meaningful to me. It’s not something that puts money in the bank account (one of my important and ongoing preoccupations these days, to be honest), but it’s something that connects me to myself and to others.

Organising a conference as a one-woman endeavour can feel extremely isolating, even with a large network of advisors and supporters. But more than that, I’ve been a freelancer for two whole years now: working from home most of the time, travelling a lot, getting more and more involved in personal and professional relationships outside my hometown, and often in completely different timezones.

I don’t really have any colleagues I see regularly anymore. My client relationships are usually short-lived, given the nature of my work (lots of speaking engagements). I haven’t really had any clients in the last year that I saw regularly enough to build some kind of meaningful relationship with.

It’s not without a reason that I’ve become increasingly interested in [coworking](http://blog.coworking.info/), to the extent that I’m now working at setting up a space in the very building I’m living in (quite a coincidence actually, but a nice one for me, given I like typing away with [my cat](http://flickr.com/photos/bunny/collections/72157600210295068/) purring next to me).

What does this have to do with blogging more?

My feeling of isolation isn’t only offline. It’s online too. It feels that I’ve been spending so much time “working” (ie, preparing conferences or worrying about how to earn some money) that I’ve taken a back seat in my online presence. It’s time I started driving again.

I don’t mean that in the sense “agressively fight for a place in front of the scene”. I’ve never been an A-lister and probably never will be. I just want to go back to writing more about stuff I find interesting. Hopefully, not only long rambling soul-searching posts like this one 😉

Twitter, FriendFeed, Tumblr, Feedly, Facebook and Seesmic are changing my life online. I haven’t finished figuring out in what way. But what I know is that my online ecosystem, particularly around my blog, is not what it was three years ago. I am in no way rejecting these “newer” tools in my life, but I do feel at times like I’ve been neglecting my first love.

My blog is also where I give. Over the course of my blogging career, I’ve writen posts which are still helpful or inspiring to those who read them, years after. The more you give, the more you get. Well, maye one reason I feel things are drying up a bit around me is that I’ve stopped giving as much as I used to. Oh, I know it’s not magical. I don’t believe in “balance of the universe” or anything. I do believe in human relationships and psychology, though. If you care about other people, there are more chances that they’ll care about you. That’s what makes us social animals.

Part of it, over the last years, has been the challenge of transitioning from passionate hobbyist to professional. Suddenly my online world/activities are not just where I give freely, but also where I try to earn a living. Such a transition is not easy. And I haven’t found any handbooks lying around.

I’m going to stop here, because I think that this post has already reached the limits of what even a faithful reader of friend can be expected to be subjected to without complaining.

To sum it up: for a variety of reasons I’ve tried to explore in this post, I want to blog more than I have these past months. I think it’ll make me feel better. Blogging is something I enjoy, and if the way I’m doing things doesn’t leave me time for that, then something is wrong with the way I’m doing things. I became a freelancer in this industry because I was passionate about blogging and all the “online stuff” hovering around it — and wanted to do more of it. Not less.

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Feeling Like a Born-Again Blogger [en]

[fr] Depuis quelques jours, je blogue à donf, comme on dit -- et j'ai l'impression de redécouvrir ce média. Oui, ça marche vraiment de mettre par écrit ses idées, ses doutes, ses problèmes stratégiques ou organisationnels. La communauté est une précieuse alliée. Continuez à laisser vos commentaires, je les apprécie beaucoup!

I feel like a born-again blogger.

Over the last days, I’ve been blogging like a madwoman about [Going Solo](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/12/14/announcing-going-solo/) (and other things), and I feel like I’m rediscovering blogging. All this stuff that I tell my clients about, I’m in it now:

– blog about the process, the ideas — you’ll get great feedback
– blog about your doubts or problems — your readers are smarter than you are
– blog about stuff you want to get out there — once it’s online, it’s ready to spread.

Funnily, I find myself faced with the same kind of doubts that my clients often express (though, I’m happy to say, they’re fading fast):

– can I really blog about this when it hasn’t been set in stone yet?
– what if people steal my ideas?
– should I mention this or that, or is it best kept under wraps for the moment?
– how much should I tell people?
– do I make a separate blog for my event/company, or keep it all on mine?
– how do I get my partners to blog?

So far, the responses I’ve got to my blogging and talking about my project (online, offline, in public, or in private) have been overwhelmingly supportive, positive, and constructive. It’s very encouraging. Keep it coming. Reaching out to the community really *does* work — I knew it, but now I’m experimenting it again.

Thanks to everybody.

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Tags and Categories are not the Same! [en]

[fr] Les tags et les catégories, ce n'est pas la même chose. En bref, les catégories forment une structure hiérarchique, prédéfinie, qui régit l'architecture de notre contenu et aide autrui à s'y retrouver. Les tags sont spontanés, ad hoc, de granularité variable, tournés vers le partage et la recherche d'information.

Update, Sept. 2007: when I saw Matt in San Francisco this winter, he told me he had finally “seen the light” (his words!) about tags and categories. Six months later, it’s a reality for WordPress users. Thanks for listening.

I got a bit heated up last night between [Matt’s comment that tags and categories function the same](http://steph.wordpress.com/2006/02/09/give-us-real-tags-on-wordpresscom/#comment-182) and a discussion I was having with [Kevin](http://epeus.blogspot.com/) on IM at the same time, about the fact that [Technorati parses categories as tags](http://technorati.com/help/tags.html).

I went back to read two of my old posts: [Technorati Tagified](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2005/01/14/technorati-tagified/) and [Plugin Idea: Weighted Tags by Category](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2005/01/28/plugin-idea-weighted-tags-by-category/) which I wrote about a year ago. In both, it’s very clear that as a user, I don’t percieve tags to be the same thing as categories. Tags were something like “public keywords”. Is anybody here going to say that keywords and categories are the same thing? (There is a difference between keywords and tags, but this isn’t the topic here; keywords and tags are IMHO much closer in nature than tags and categories).

Here are, in my opinion, the main differences between tags and categories, from the “tagger” point of view.

– categories exist before the item I’m categorizing, whereas tags are created in reaction to the item, often in an ad hoc manner: I need to fit the item in a category, but I adapt tags to the item;
– categories should be few, tags many;
– categories are expected to have a pretty constant granularity, whereas tags can be very general like “[switzerland](http://technorati.com/tag/switzerland)” or very particular like “[bloggyfriday](http://technorati.com/tag/bloggyfriday)”;
– categories are planned, tags are spontanous, they have a brainstorm-like nature, as [Kevin explains very well](http://epeus.blogspot.com/2005_10_01_epeus_archive.html#113011082782089285): You look at the picture and type in the few words it makes you think of, move on to the next, and you’re done.
– relations between categories are tree-like, but those between tags are network-like;
– categories are something you choose, tags are generally something you gush out;
– categories help me classify what I’m talking about, and tags help me share or spread it;
– …

There’s nothing wrong with Technorati treating categories as tags. I’d say categories are a kind of tag. They are special tags you plan in advance to delimit zones of content, and that you display them on your blog to help your readers find their way through what you say or separate areas of interest (ie, my Grandma will be interested by my [Life and Ramblings](http://steph.wordpress.com/tag/life) category and subscribe to that if she has an RSS reader, but she knows she doesn’t care about anything in the [Geek](http://steph.wordpress.com/tag/geek/) category. (By the way, CTTS is not a good example of this, the categories are a real mess.)

So, let’s say categories are tags. I can agree with that. But tags are not categories! Tags help people going through a “search” process. Click on a tag to see related posts/photos. See things outside the world of this particular weblog which have the same label attached. Provide a handy label to [collect writings, photos, and stuff from a wide variety of people](http://technorati.com/tag/lift06 “The LIFT06 tag.”) without requiring them to change the architecture of their blog content (their categories). If you want to, yeah, you can drop categories and use only tags. It works on [http://del.icio.us/](del.icio.us). But have you noticed how most Flickr users have [http://flickr.com/photos/bunny/sets/](sets) in addition to tagging their photos? Sets aren’t categories, but they can be close. They are a way of presenting and organizing things for human beings rather than machines, search engines, database queries.

To get back to [my complaint that WordPress.com does not provide real tags](http://steph.wordpress.com/2006/02/09/give-us-real-tags-on-wordpresscom/), it’s mainly a question of user interface. I don’t care if from a software point of view, tags and categories are the same thing for WordPress. As a user, I need a field in which I can let my fingers gush out keyword-tags once I’ve finished writing my post. I also need someplace to define and structure category-tags. I need to be able to define how to display these two kids of tags (if you want to call them both that) on my blog, because they are ways of classifying or labeling information which I live very differently.

Am I a tag weirdo? Do you also perceive a difference between tags and categories? How would you express or define it? If categories and tags are the same, the new WP2.0 interface for categories should make [the Bunny Tags Plugin](http://dev.wp-plugins.org/wiki/BunnysTechnoratiTags) obsolete — does it?

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Hosted Blog Platform Test Write-Up [en]

I’ve tested 13 free platforms, and this is a write-up on the experiment. The ones I preferred were Blogsome, running Wordpress, and Mon-Blog (in French), running DotClear.

Edit 26.12.2006: For those of you trying to choose a free blogging platform, I’ve now been recommending WordPress.com without hesitation for some time now.

As the people I hang out with on Freenode are painfully aware of by now, I’ve been on a blog platform testing binge. In total, 13 free* platforms tested. Here is a quick list of my test blogs — you’ll find detailed comments about each platform on the test blogs themselves, and a general overview below. The ones I preferred were Blogsome and Mon-Blog.

The platforms were tested with FireFox 1.0 on OSX, Javascript enabled, set to block pop-ups and force links opening a new window to open in the initial tab/window (we’ll see this setting seems to have caused problems with many visual editors).

My main interest was to have a peek at what existed (personal curiosity) and see if it was possible to claim the blogs on Technorati. What follows is an account of my personal user experience on these different platforms. It is not the result of a battery of systematic “benchmarking tests”, though here are some of the points I paid attention to:

  1. was it easy to create an account, or did I have to fight?
  2. how easy was it for me to sign back in, afterwards?
  3. overall, did I find the features I expect from a weblog? (note how subjective that is)
  4. how did writing a post go?
  5. could I add images?
  6. could I change the template?
  7. could I add links to my other test blogs? (linkroll management)
  8. could I claim the blog as mine at Technorati?
  9. did I bump into availability problems?

Lets get the last point over with first. I succeeded in claiming blogs on all platforms except three: NRJ blogs, Skyblog, and LiveJournal. The reason for that is that the last two platforms limit links in the blogroll to weblogs using the same platform. This prevented me from using the blogroll to add the Technorati code necessary to claiming the weblog.

Note, by the way, that I am talking about the free version of LiveJournal, as the paid version does not have this limitation. NRJ blogs, by far the worst platform amongst those tested, does not permit linking at all (even in posts!) I’m not even sure if it deserves to be called a “blogging platform”.

As far as linkrolls or blogrolls are concerned, ViaBloga gets top marks for their “almost-automatic linkrolling”. You can simply type in the URL of the blog/site you want to add, and it retrieves title and rss feed, and also creates a screenshot and thumbnail of the site. It really makes you want to add links to your sidebar. One-click blogrolling, if you like. Otherwise, most link management systems are pretty standard.

Some, like MSN Spaces, make you click “Add Link” between each links, instead of systematically presenting you with a form allowing you to add a link each time you go in link management. This is one of the minor but irritating usability problem which plague MSN Spaces. There are major ones too, but I won’t list them too (no paragraph breaks for me, login problems, timeout problems, clunky interface, ugly permalinks, horrible markup) — they are detailed on my test MSN Space.

Visual editors are neat when they work, but they are a great pain when they do not work. Because of my browser settings, I failed adding links to my posts at ViaBloga, for example. I also failed to add photographs at CanalBlog, HautEtFort, and 20six because of this. BlogSpot is clear enough about the fact you need an external service like Flickr if you want photos on your blog, and both LiveJournal and U-blog seem to fail the photo test for various reasons.

Both Skyblog and NRJ blogs are very limited blogging services, the latter being a very pale imitation of the former. Skyblog focuses on making it easy for teens to put photos on the web with brief comments, and, despite many other shortcomings (no permalinks, interface issues, server overload at peak times), I’m forced to admit it does it pretty well — which partly explains its success (it’s the main French language blog platform in blog numbers). The other services passed the photo test with more or less ease (don’t forget I’m a geek, so uploading a photo first, copying the URL and inserting it into a post isn’t an issue for me — it could be for some).

At some point, I had trouble connecting to the following services (or timeouts): Skyblog, MSN Spaces, and 20six (I can’t remember any others, but my memory might be failing me. NRJ blogs distinguishes itself by refusing to publish certain posts, or waiting a day or two before being so.

Now, before I get lost in random comments, I’ll give you a quick low-down on each of the solutions tested, as well as links to other people who have recently reviewed some of them.

Blogsome
  • Pros: WordPress, very easy to sign up
  • Cons: might need to be a bit of a techie at times

Being an avid and enthusiastic WordPress user, the idea of a hosted WordPress-powered blogging platform was very exciting to me. No bad surprises as I already knew the interface (I’m biased, of course), and no major bugs that couldn’t be addressed after posting about them in the forum. I didn’t try the visual editor there, but I assume it will make it more newbie-friendly. Definitely the platform I recommend for the moment.

MSN Spaces
  • Pros: none
  • Cons: way too beta (buggy)

After Roland Tanglao, Robert Scoble, and a dirty word test at Boing Boing, let me add my two cents by saying I am unenthusiastic about MSN Spaces. It’s still way too rough around the edges. Not usable as far as I’m concerned.

LiveJournal
  • Pros: community, well-established
  • Cons: lots of settings, limitations of free accounts (no Technorati claim possible)

Well, LiveJournal is LiveJournal, and I know that to get a good idea of what it can do you need the paid version. My first impression was that it seemed to have lots of options in the admin part (a bit confusing), but other than that, it was pretty easy to get going and posting. Google will point out to you many more complete reviews of LiveJournal, so I’ll stop here. My main point was, however, to see if I could claim a free LiveJournal as my blog at Technorati, and that was not possible (short of adding the code via JavaScript in the head of the page, but honestly, I wouldn’t want to go that far for my test.)

BlogSpot
  • Pros: well-established, nice admin interface
  • Cons: lack of categories, trackbacks, and image hosting

No big surprise here. I used Blogger for years (though not BlogSpot), and I liked the interface I found during my test a lot. They should wake up and get categories and trackbacks though. We’ll be in 2005 in less than 3 weeks. A good, solid option for people who can live without categories, trackbacks, and hosted photographs.

ViaBloga*
  • Pros: great link management, wiki-like features, active development
  • Cons: some usability issues and minor bugs; not free

ViaBloga has many good features. The “configurable blocs” system (invented by Stéphane for Joueb.com), which allows you to easily move about elements of your page, is just great (once you’ve figured it out). The platform has real wiki-like capability via keywords, and “cross-links”, which work like a kind of automatic trackbacking system. On the shortcomings side, I would say that although the features are great, the usability and user-friendliness of the administration aspect, which is a little confusing, could still be improved. I’m not a beginner, and it took me quite some time to figure out a certain number of things (and I know Stéphane and Delphine, so it’s easy for me to get direct help). And no, it’s not just because I’m “used” to other systems — I should still be able to figure things out easily.

Joueb
  • Pros: well-established, community
  • Cons: community (!), some usability problems (cf. ViaBloga)

Joueb is ViaBloga’s community-oriented little sister. The first French language hosted blogging platform seemed to me a little more kludgy than ViaBloga, but there is a happy community there, and Stéphane is an active developper, always ready for feedback and making improvements to his babies. If you’re looking for a French weblogging platform with a strong community, I’d say this is a good choice.

Skyblog
  • Pros: great if all you want is upload your phone photos, spit out a comment, and allow people to comment (though Flickr does it better)
  • Cons: no permalinks or trackbacks, limited server availability, teen-sms-talk and link-whoring comments

I remember when Skyblog was launched, the francoblogosphere was boiling over in horror at this kind of bastardized blogging solution where teens posted pics of their friends and commented in sms-speak. (Sorry, can’t find any posts right now, will add links later if I do.) As I said, Skyblog does not do much, but it makes publishing photos and short texts easy, and it’s pretty successfully targeted at a certain audience. My pupils have Skyblogs and they are obviously all the rage. Lots of photos, hardly any text, and comments abound which either say “ur 2 kool”, “u suck”, or “com visit my sky http://somecoolnick.sykblog.com/”. Not very interesting as a blogging platform, as far as I’m concerned, but obviously successful.

NRJ blogs
Edit 18.12.04: it seems confirmed that NRJ blogs hasn’t launched yet, and Google caught them by surprise.

  • Pros: none
  • Cons: sucks (I mean, some posts don’t even get posted, and finding your blog URL demands a thorough investigation)

I’ll say it loud and clear, NRJ blogs suck, and as a pretty obvious consequence they aren’t taking off really well: less than 50 blogs created since they launched (and NRJ is a major popular radio!) However, I can’t find a link on their home page, so there is a possibility this was a preliminary soft launch. In any case, I’m getting my few days of fame as an NRJ blog star. Neuro, Mr_Peer, and Kwyxz also tried NRJ blogs and were all but impressed. See their posts or my test blog for detailed complaints.

CanalBlog
  • Pros: has the usual set of features you expect from a blog
  • Cons: admin interface can feel a little rude at times

CanalBlog was a pleasant surprise. The admin interface takes over your browser, but it works pretty well and it’s user friendly enough in a “MS-Office-lookalike” way. The layouts you can choose from are clean, and they have comments and trackbacks. They have ads, though. I’d say they are a viable platform (er… a viable choice of platform).

HautEtFort
  • Pros: nice admin interface
  • Cons: no trackbacks

Too bad they don’t have trackbacks! I like what I’ve seen of the admin interface, nice and clean and uncluttered. As many other platforms do, they force me to go through the home page to log in (which I dislike), but honestly, like CanalBlog (and maybe more, if it wasn’t for the lack of trackbacks), I’d say they are an honest French language blogging platform.

20six
  • Pros: has the set of features you expect from a blog
  • Cons: ugly, cluttered admin interface, server downtime

I really didn’t like 20six. I find their layouts ugly, the admin interface is hell, and their server was unavailable for hours at one point when I was about to do my photo upload test. Even though they know what trackbacks are, I wouldn’t recommend them (go CanalBlog instead).

U-blog
  • Pros: community, features more or less ok
  • Cons: probably doomed

Well, I’ve spoken a lot about U-blog already, but more in a blogo-political context. When there weren’t so many French language blogging platforms around, U-blog used to be my recommendation. On trying it now, I can’t help saying that it feels a little broken, or abandoned. I was faced with an error when trying to upload a picture, and some of the links in the admin section tell you that this or that feature is only available with the paid version. Given the platform doesn’t seem in active development anymore, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Mon-Blog
  • Pros: DotClear (clean, beautiful, all functionalities)
  • Cons: launched three days ago

Now this, ladies and gentlemen, was a last-minute and very pleasant surprise. Mon-Blog is based on the weblog engine DotClear, which I have long held in high regard. For the first time, I’ve had a chance to see the DotClear admin interface, and let me tell you, it’s as beautiful as the themes they provide to dress your weblog in. Nothing really missing feature-wise, though it seems templates won’t really be customisable at Mon-Blog for the moment. The service has just launched and some creases need ironing out, but the forums and the developer are reactive. Just go for it. This is clearly my first choice for a French blogging platform.

I hope this will have been of interest to some. Thanks for your attention, and I’m glad to be over with the testing!

Edit 16:20: I’ve just add quick pros/cons bullet points (thanks to acrobat for the suggestion and the proof-reading).

Edit 13.12.04: ViaBloga was included in this survey although it is not a free platform. It is free for non-profit organisations, however. The mistake is mine — being an early tester, I was offered six months free, and in my mind had not switched ViaBloga to the “paying platforms” category. See my comment and Stéphane’s on the subject.

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Testing Hosted Blog Solutions [en]

I’ve set up a few test blogs on various hosted blogging farms. Nasty feedback for some of them.

[fr] J'ai ouvert des blogs-tests à  divers endroits qui offrent blogs et hébergement. Voici une liste de mes blogs-tests avec quelques commentaires.

I’ve started setting up test blogs here and there to try out hosted blogging solutions, as I’m eager to encourage people to start blogging, but I’m aware that getting server space, a domain, and installing WordPress isn’t something the casual user will do.

So, very brief review here, more details on the blogs themselves (which tend to be lists of complaints and problems I ran into while functioning in my lazy-lambda-user mode).

ViaBloga

My test blog is Chez Steph. ViaBloga is a cousin of Joueb.com, minus the community emphasis, which appears repulsive to some. (Think LiveJournal.)

I’ve run into a few bugs and usability problems there, which have always been quickly responded to and addressed by the staff. I should add that I’ve known Delphine and Stéphane for quite some time now, and that the latter personally asked me if I was interested in testing ViaBloga when they were starting with it.

ViaBloga has got wiki-like features I haven’t really managed to get into. One thing that really has me enthusiastic (and I discovered that today) is the list management system. Just add the url, it fetches the title of the link, the rss feed, and creates a thumbnail. Here is an example of what it can look like — look at Delphine’s blogroll, too. I’d love to see something like this rolled into a plugin for WordPress — it makes me feel like adding all sorts of links to my blog.

Skyblog

I’ve decided to go public with my skyblog, and I hope you appreciate my courage. Skyblog is clearly aimed at a very young public (teens), and even the language in the admin interface reflects that. Many of my pupils have skyblogs on which they post photos of their friends and make brief comments in sms-talk.

I find the blogs themselves ugly, and the admin interface is kludgy, though it seems it works, because my pupils always complain that WordPress is so hard to use and that skyblog is so much better and easier. One thing to be said, skyblog makes it really easy to upload photographs, so many of these skyblogs ressemble a vaguely commented photo album.

I hardly posted anything to my test blog, and upon checking it out again today I was amazed at the amount of (a) visits (nearly 1000) it had had, and (b) nasty aggressive comments complete strangers had left me. I’ve added a photo of my cat, I wonder what the reaction to that will be.

Blogsome

Blogsome is clearly my favourite. Here is my Blogsome test blog, complete with a Pink Lilies theme. It took me less than 30 seconds to open my weblog (a username, an e-mail address, and a title for the weblog — done.)

It’s WordPress, so I’m in known territory, and I’ve been busy posting bugs and comments in the forums. Blogsome is still young, and my biggest gripe for the moment is the caching problems — for example, changes to the template or links are not immediately reflected on the blog (though “publishing” a post helps).

If you’re looking for a free hosted blogging solution right now, Blogsome is the one I would recommend, along with Blogger, of course. I used Blogger for years, before Blogspot existed. I left mainly because it lacked certain features I wanted (like categories) — and I’d say that still now, it’s a little bit poor on the feature side. But it’s a good, reliable service which has been around long enough to be trusted without too many second thoughts.

MSN Spaces

I just opened a test blog at MSN Spaces. My first two posts complain quite a bit (my biggest gripe for the moment being that it doesn’t convert line breaks into paragraphs — a showstopper, if you ask me). My positive experience was changing the template — that worked fine.

So, if you’re interested, keep an eye on those blogs. I’m always happy to try things out and complain about all the problems I run into.

Edit 06.12.04: Got another test blog at NRJ blogs — though in my opinion you can barely call it a blog. I had to log out to figure out what my blog address was, and it seems totally impossible to make outgoing links. Keep an eye on the individual test blogs for comments on the different systems.

Edit 2: OK, got one at CanalBlog too. The admin interface completely takes over the browser, but it seems really usable (I didn’t run into any problems!) and the default layout is clean enough. Just an ad banner on top. That’s enough for tonight, folks!

Edit 3, 07.12.04: Add a 20six.fr test blog to the list. Follow-up post coming.

Edit 4: HautEtFort, and I think I’m done with creating test blogs. Gah.

Edit 5, 08.12.04: Hopefully the last bunch, but you never know. I seem to be suffering from some obsessive-compulsive blog opening disorder. LiveJournal, BlogSpot, Joueb and U-blog. Have I forgotten someone? I count 12 test blogs. Now let me go and update all my blogrolls.

Edit 6: A fresh new French service, open since yesterday: Mon-Blog.org, based on DotClear.

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