Newsletters in 2016 [en]

[fr]

Réflexion sur les newsletters en 2016 et le rôle qu'elles peuvent jouer. Méditations sur les blogs, leur désenchantement, Facebook, et Twitter. Je pense qu'il y a un potentiel avec les newsletters de retrouver un sentiment de communauté restreinte et de connexion qui s'est un peu perdu en route avec notre immersion perpétuelle dans notre propre réseau.

Prêts à tenter l'aventure avec moi? Voici mes newsletters, faites votre choix:

For years now, I’ve been thinking about using newsletters better. Or simply, using newsletters. Until recently all I had was a pretty dead newsletter on MailChimp — and the ability for my readers to subscribe to CTTS blog posts and a weekly dump of all the links I save to Delicious.

MailChimp is a powerful tool, probably overkill for me, and I never really managed to ease myself into its process. Sending out an e-mail is dead simple, but sending out my newsletter felt like more work than cranking out a blog post.

Sunset

Two tools caught my eye over the last year: Revue and TinyLetter (acquired by MailChimp, what a coincidence!)

Revue is designed to help you send out curated lists of links. TinyLetter is a barebones newsletter tool, just what I need.

I’ve been trying to analyse my recent excitement for newsletters over the past days. Like others, I’ve been grieving what I think of as the golden age of blogging. I stumbled upon Tiny Letters to the Web We Miss, which I think hits the nail on the head:

Self-publishing online was fluid and inviting in the early years because the community was self-selecting — the sort of people who would know what Blogspot was in 2003. I didn’t worry about my boss finding my blog. I didn’t worry about getting rape threats in the comments either. (Just thinking about how absurd that sentence would have sounded in 2003 is giving me a crater-sized hit of nostalgia.) We didn’t have the same worries over public personas, because the internet felt like it was just us.

Blogging before social media was like drinking with friends. If someone adjacent to your conversation said something interesting, you would pull up a chair and invite them in. Sometimes a friendly stranger would even buy you a drink.

Everybody is here now, it’s not “just us” anymore.

This reminds me of In Praise of Online Obscurity by Clive Thompson, which I wrote about in 2010. At some point of growth, your “community” dissolves into an “audience” (on Twitter, on blogs) or a “network” (on Facebook). Engagement drops. People retreat.

Once a group reaches a certain size, each participant starts to feel anonymous again, and the person they’re following — who once seemed proximal, like a friend — now seems larger than life and remote. “They feel they can’t possibly be the person who’s going to make the useful contribution,” Evans says. So the conversation stops. Evans isn’t alone. I’ve heard this story again and again from those who’ve risen into the lower ranks of microfame. At a few hundred or a few thousand followers, they’re having fun — but any bigger and it falls apart. Social media stops being social. It’s no longer a bantering process of thinking and living out loud. It becomes old-fashioned broadcasting.

This dynamic is behind the somewhat counter-intuitive fact that more followers on Twitter does not mean more influence, and that getting a boost in followers through presence on a list doesn’t mean more retweets or replies.

Already at the time of my 2010 article, this was how I analysed what had happened to blogging:

I think that this is one of the things that has happened to the blogging world (another topic I have simmering for one of these days). Eight-ten years ago, the community was smaller. Having a thousand or so readers a day already meant that you were a big fish. Now, being a big fish means that you’re TechCrunch or ReadWriteWeb, publications that for some reason people still insist on calling “blogs”, and we “normal bloggers” do not recognize ourselves anymore in these mega-publications. The “big fish” issue here is not so much that formerly-big-fish bloggers have had the spotlight stolen from them and they resent it (which can also be true, by the way), but more that the ecosystem has completely changed.

The “blog-reading community” has grown hugely in numbers. Ten years ago, one thousand people reading a blog felt special because they were out-of-the-mainstream, they could connect with the author of what they read, and maybe they also had their own little blog somewhere. Nowadays, one thousand people reading a blog are just one thousand people doing the mainstream thing online people do: reading blogs and the like. The sense of specialness has left the blogosphere.

So there you have it. We “lost” something when the internet went from “just us” to “everyone”: part of our sense of community. People reading my blog don’t feel special anymore. I don’t even feel that special anymore for writing it. Blogs aren’t special. Numbers have declined, and I’m sure it’s not just due to the fact I’m slipping into old-fartdom and neglecting my beloved blog to romp in the bushes with Facebook.

The place where we go to connect online is Facebook, or Twitter, or Google Plus. We spend our time in real-time, and head out to read this or that when a link nudges us. We might be part of communities inside Facebook groups, or small delimited spaces, but overall we are spending our time just hooked into our network.

When I was directing the SAWI Social Media and Online Communities course, I read this article by Rich Millington about the distinction between communities and followings. I formalised a three-way distinction for my classes in the following way.

Audiences: around non-social products, bloggers, authors, politicians, salespeople, “fame”

  • attracted by you
  • interact with you
  • not interlinked
  • large scale

Networks: to filter information, connect people, search

  • individual relationships
  • two-way
  • interlinked
  • each node is its own centre

Communities: “a group of people who care about each other more than they should” (Cluetrain)

  • common object of interest
  • interactions inside the group
  • human-sized
  • investment of time, emotion, ego
  • around social objects and niche services

A few years later (and even as I was using it to teach), it’s clear this typology is a bit wobbly, and many spaces are hybrids. But it remains a useful thinking tool.

When I discovered Twitter, I was spending most of my online time on IRC. I remember that one of my first strong feelings about Twitter was that it felt a bit like an IRC channel which had all the people I cared about and only them in it. (I spent my first few days/weeks on Twitter frantically recruiting.) They didn’t all know each other, and didn’t realise they were rubbing shoulders in “my” room, but for me, it was really as if I had managed to invite everybody to my birthday party.

That’s the network.

Facebook entered my world, and the same thing happened. Life online became more and more about the network. And as the network grew (and grew and grew), all our time and attention poured into it. It’s great to have a place which is populated nearly only by people you know and care about. Facebook does that for you.

Who wants to hang out in blog comments when there is Facebook and Twitter?

As you can see, I’m thinking out loud in this rambly, slightly contradictory blog post. If you can synthesise all this better, definitely have a go at it (in the comments or on your blog — link back!) I can’t quite wrap my head around all this, I feel like I’m still missing a piece.

Back to newsletters.

What newsletters definitely have chance of bringing back is this feeling of small scale. When I write a blog post, like this one, I’m not writing it for a dedicated group of readers anymore. I know you’re still out there, of course, all three of you who actually follow my blog ;-), but I’m also very much aware that I am writing for a whole pile of strangers who will stumble her after a google search. I am writing for everyone.

Email can be very personal. It goes from private space to private space (the inbox). It definitely feels more personal to write than a blog post. But it’s funny, in a way, because this post is going to reach some of you by email, and newsletters are often archived publicly on the web. There shouldn’t be a difference, right?

But there is, because the medium or tool you use really changes the way you express yourself and connect. “Email first” or “web first” does not produce the same writing.

So let’s see what happens with this newsletter experiment, OK? Take your pick and subscribe to:

And seriously, I’m really looking forward to your comments on all the stuff I’ve talked about here.

Similar Posts:

Our Relationship To Technology: Is Your Smartphone In Charge, Or You? [en]

[fr] Une réflexion sur notre relation à la technologie. C'est pas aussi simple que "addiction! addiction! au secours!".

Today’s post, again, brought to you by an article of Loïc Le Meur’s: Why are we checking our smartphones 150x a day? (Remember when Loïc was a blogger?) He links to a video with the catchy title “After I saw this, I put down my phone and didn’t pick it up for the rest of the day”.

I have mixed feelings about this kind of discussion.

  • On the one hand, I think we need to strive to be those in charge of our use of devices, and not victims of the operant conditioning of modern technology.
  • On the other hand, I think that framing the issue of our relationship with technology as addiction is counter-productive, as it puts the blame on technology and removes responsibility from users.

It’s also not a new conversation, and it pops up every now and again as “today’s big problem”. Hey, I was afraid I had “internet addiction” back in 1998. I read Silicon Snake Oil and The Psychology of Cyberspace, headed off to my chalet for a week, and stopped worrying.

As far as I’m concerned, I’m online a lot, both on my computer and on my phone, but I still perceive being on your phone when in human company as “impolite”. I try not to do it too much. So, usually, when I’m with other people, I won’t be on my phone, unless:

  • we’re playing with our phones: taking photos, looking at stuff together, etc.
  • there is something I need to attend to (I apologize and try and be quick)
  • I’m looking something up to help us solve a problem or get information we need
  • we’re spending quite some time together and are both having “phone-time”

I’m aware this doesn’t mean much: with the same description I could be glued to my phone all the time. How do you define “something I need to attend to”?

So, some context.

My phone is in silent mode, and I have very few notifications set (same on my computer). It usually lives at the bottom of my bag. When I’m working, there are chances it’s next to me on my desk. It’s often charging or abandoned in another room when I’m at home.

I’ll check it somewhat compulsively when I’m on the bus, or when I’m using it “as a computer” to hang out online. If I’m with other people, as I said, I don’t take it out too much (though they’ll be the best judges about how much — I do take it out).

I suffer from FOMO like almost everyone who is connected today, I guess. But I don’t feel that I’m a slave to it. I read The Paradox of Choice many years ago and it really opened my eyes: today’s world is so full of possibilities. If you don’t want to succumb to the anxiety of too much choice and too many options, you need to be aware of what’s going on, and accept you’ll miss out. I try to be selective. I still struggle, but I know I’m going to miss out and it’s not the end of the world. (It’s in my social media survival kit, by the way.)

Why do we end up compulsively checking our phones and stuff? I think there are many reasons, and that’s why saying it’s an “addiction” is a way to frame the problem in a way that makes it difficult to address.

  • FOMO: with the internet, we have access to everything that is going on, all the time, everywhere. If we want to be “part of it”, hang out with the cool kids, or share the video that’ll get us 20 likes, we feel a pressure to “not miss” what is going on in the real-time stream. So we overload ourselves on the input side. We think we need to consume everything.
  • Operant conditioning: I’m clicker-training one of my cats, Tounsi. He knows that a click means a reward is coming. When I’m reinforcing a behaviour, I use an intermittent reinforcement schedule: he doesn’t get a reward with each click.
    See how this fits with digital interfaces, and even more strongly, social media? I think Kevin Marks is the first one who first pointed out this phenomenon to me, when I was having trouble taking breaks from my computer even though I had bad RSI.
    Suw Charman-Anderson wrote about how it applies to e-mail back in 2008. We check our mail, there might be some candy in there. We check Facebook, there might be a like or a comment. Nothing? It only makes the urge to check again more compelling: the next time could be rewarded!
    Yeah, dopamine plays a role in there. Understand how your brain works so you’re not a slave to your hormones and neurotransmitters.
  • Validation: we want to be loved and appreciated, and some of what we’re looking for online is just that. Oh, somebody responded to my post. Oh, somebody sent me a nice e-mail. Ooh. But people who thinks that this is the only thing in play round down our issue with technology to an “ego problem” (very fashionable). It doesn’t help. But yeah, if you feel that your drive for franticly checking your phone when you’re having dinner with a friend is just that, maybe it’s worth addressing.
  • Work: the other time when I ran off to my chalet to find some peace was in 2008, and it was not to escape technology. It was to escape work. Our relationships to work and technology are very much entwined. Often, when people say they’re “addicted to their email”, and you take the trouble to dig a bit, you realise the problem is not “email” but “work”. They can’t pull away from work. They work during the week-ends, the evenings, their holidays. This is, I believe, a bigger issue than technology. Our relationship to work, as a society, is unhealthy. (And: Americans, you have a way bigger problem here than us Swissies.)
  • Not engaging: people often look at “not engaging” as a consequence of excessive use of technology. It’s the message conveyed by the video Loïc linked to in his post. I think that’s missing the point that “not engaging” can be the objective here. Relationships are difficult. Being present is difficult. Being with oneself is difficult. Being present to life is difficult. We do many things to avoid doing all this. We veg’ in front of the TV. We talk about unimportant stuff to avoid dealing with what matters in our relationship. And, increasingly, we dive into our phones.
    In the past, I used my camera a lot to “find my place” in social gatherings that would otherwise make me feel awkward. If I’m the person taking photos, I have a place. I have a pretext for interacting with others. I can remove myself from what is going on to be the observer snapping pics. It’s much more difficult to find my place and be with others if I’m just me, with no escape.
    So when we look at somebody who has his nose in his phone during a dinner party, I’d also ask “what is he avoiding by not being present?”

I think I have a reasonably healthy relationship to technology — and work. I have my drinking completely under control 😉

So, a wrap-up:

  • I check my phone in the evening before going to bed, and it sleeps on my bedside table, on but mute, and it never wakes me up (except when I ask Siri to do so).
  • I generally keep my phone muted and in my bag and my notifications off (also on my computer!)
  • I understand how FOMO and operant conditioning work, I’m aware of my need for validation and how I react to the infinity of choices in the world around me.
  • I stop working at the end of the day, and on week-ends, and I take holidays. Real holidays, not work-holidays.
  • I “switch off” a couple of times a year, taking a week or a few days off somewhere with no internet, where I don’t work and use my computer mainly for writing and having fun with my photos. This helps me remember what it is like to live more slowly, and makes me want to bring some of that back into my “normal” life.
  • I try and give priority of my attention to the people I’m with offline, without being religious about it. If I do need to attend to my phone or online stuff when in company, I try not to “disconnect” from the person I’m with offline.
  • I consider that I am the one in charge of my relationship with technology, and strive for a healthy balance between my ability to spend time totally immersed and connected and multitasking, and my ability to be completely (as completely as possible) present to the “offline”, be it a book, a person, an activity, or myself.
  • Like so many things in life, it’s about having healthy boundaries.

When I shared Loïc’s post on Facebook, he commented that we seemed to have similar points of interest these days. For some time, I’ve found what Loïc is writing about much more interesting to me. It’s more personal. Less about business, more about life. Life has always been the thing that interests me the most. My interest for the internet and social media comes from my interest in how people connect and relate to each other.

Interestingly, this is also the kind of stuff I’ve decided to shift my work focus to. Labelling myself as a “social media” person doesn’t fit with what I really do and want to do, specially in the Swiss context where “social media = digital marketing”, something I have very little interest in and want to stay the hell away of. So I’m moving towards “I help you use technology better”. Helping people have a healthy relationship with tech, use it to do their work or whatever it is they need to get done better. Some of social media fits in there too, of course. But also stuff like (yes, still in 2013), learning to use and manage email properly. (I’m actually preparing a training proposal for a client on just that these very days.)

So, how’s your relationship to technology? Who is in charge, you or the compulsion to check if there is something more exciting going on?

Note: I wrote this article in one sitting, getting up once to go to the loo (!) and checking my phone’s lock screen on the way back (it’s charging in another room) to see if I had a message from my neighbour, as we had been exchanging messages earlier and made a vague plan yesterday to maybe hang out together and look at cat photos this morning.

Similar Posts:

Why I End Up Sharing Without Reading [en]

[fr] Pourquoi je me retrouve parfois à partager sans lire.

A few weeks ago, I came upon an article (which I’m too tired to hunt for right now) which said that a huge number of articles shared through social media (understand: Twitter and Facebook) had not been read by those who share them.

I wasn’t surprised, because I do it regularly.

A few weeks after that, but still a few weeks ago, I shared an article I had just skimmed, and which was a pile of sh*t — and I missed that (also because it was on a topic I hadn’t done my homework on.) Thankfully I was quickly challenged by some of my followers, saw it, went back to the article, realised my mistake, removed it from my timeline (I didn’t want to spread it more), and apologised. I felt really bad.

Just like a car accident is waiting to happen if you habitually text as you drive or take other similar risks: it’s not because you manage to do it 50 times without getting into an accident that you won’t on the 51st.

Since then, I’ve been thinking really hard about this. I consider that being a reliable source is really important. I’m aware that as somebody with a bunch of followers/readers, I have a certain influence. It’s a responsibility. And I take it seriously.

So why do I end up, again and again, sharing links before I read them?

Tonight it dawned on me: it’s because of the way I browse — and maybe also because of how browsers are built.

As I scroll through my Facebook or Twitter timeline, I see article titles and summaries that look really interesting. I see who is sharing them and with what comments. Just as I am a trusted source for some, I have my trusted sources. I open said article in a new tab so that when I am in “reading mode” I can read it (and yes, I do do that). But right now I’m in browsing mode, so I continue scrolling down my timeline.

Do you see the problem, if I don’t share the interesting article right away? When I read it in a few hours or sometimes a few days, there will be no way for me to head back to the post or tweet that brought it to my attention to share it from there — and give credit to my source. So I take a small risk and share an article I know will be interesting and important, right, because I’m going to read it. (Yeah it’s faulty reasoning. But it makes sense in the moment.)

What’s missing here is a way to trace how one got to a given page, sometimes opened in a new tab. It’s even worse in mobile. Or “that page I stuck in Instapaper 5 months ago” — where did it come from?

When I’m “scanning”, I like to stay in “scanning/discovering” mode. When I’m reading, I stay in reading mode. The problem is that the “share” function is tied to the “scanning/discovering” mode. Exception: the stuff I put in Digital Crumble, which is excerpts of what I am currently reading, as I read it.

Do you sometimes share before you read? Have you tried to analyse why?

Similar Posts:

IRC Bots as Social Objects [en]

With the resurrection of #joiito, I’ve been struck by the role our channel bot (jibot) plays in catalysing interactions between us humans.

Jibot is a topic of discussion as Kevin Marks and others tinker with its various incarnations. We teach it stuff, check to see what it knows. We use it to say things about ourselves and others, but also to play (for example with the function “?cool <username>” implemented by Jens-Christian).

The IRC bot is clearly here a social object. It is an object that generates social interaction. Or maybe more simply, and object that makes us talk about it just by its simple existence. Because jibot is there before us, we have conversations, interact, get to know people that we wouldn’t have if it hadn’t been there. And jibot doesn’t really have to do anything to make that happen; it just has to be.

Similar Posts:

IRC: #joiito Channel Revival (Or At Least Reunion) [en]

[fr] Le retour du canal IRC #joiito, et quelques pensées sur ce qui différencie Twitter et Facebook (même les groupes) d'un canal IRC comme celui-ci.

So, let me tell you what happened last night. You know I’ve been reading Here Comes Everybody, right? Well, in chapter 9, Clay Shirky tells the story of #joiito — Joi Ito‘s IRC channel, that I was a regular of for years since sometime in 2003 or 2004, until Twitter emptied the channel of most of its life. Reading about it in Clay’s book reminded me what a special thing it was.

Last night, I saw that my old friend Kevin Marks was online on Facebook. Unless I’m very mistaken, Kevin is one of the numerous friends I made on #joiito, and we hadn’t chatted in ages. I wanted to tell him about my Blogging Tribe experiment, see if he was interested. We started joking about the old times (OMG Technorati!), I mentioned my reading Here Comes Everybody, the mention of #joiito, he pointed me to his blog post clarifying Jeannie Cool’s role in the channel (seems Clay had got the story wrong in the first edition of his book), which brought me to another post of Kevin’s on the bots we had running in #joiito, and on an impulse, I went to check out the channel.

Now over the last years, I’ve pretty much always been logged in to #joiito (I run irssi in screen on my server). But I stopped going. Like many others it seems, over the years Twitter became my “replacement” for IRC. I guess we all logged in less and less, and the channel population and conversation dropped below the critical mass it needed to stay truly alive. The community disbanded.

The channel never truly died, of course. There were always some of us sitting in there, and there would be sudden flare-ups of activity. But the old spirit had left the room.

Kevin followed me in, started fiddling with the bots, I found an old abandoned #joiito Facebook group. Created back in 2007, it was clearly an “old-style” Facebook group (they sucked) that was migrated to new style and emptied automatically of its members. There were three members, I invited myself in, invited a bunch of other #joiito old hands, and started pinging people to get them to drop into the channel.

In less than an hour we had a lively conversation going on in #joiito. I stayed on for a few hours, then went to bed. Imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning to discover close to 60 people in the Facebook group, and that the conversation on #joiito had gone on all my night, with “new old channel regulars” joining! It feels just like the old days. Seriously. It makes me very happy, because I think this IRC channel was really something precious, and I was sad it was “no more”. (Quotes because obviously, the channel never disappeared… it just died down.)

I haven’t had an IRC conversation like this in years. I’ve been very active on Twitter (slightly less now), am very active on Facebook, and really love Facebook groups. But an IRC channel like #joiito is something different.

When I asked my old friends what had “replaced” #joiito in their current online ecosystem, the general response seems to be “Twitter”, clearly. But what is missing with Twitter and Facebook (and even Path) that we are so happy to see our channel alive again?

Twitter and Facebook are centred on the network, not on the group. We are loosely joined to each other on Twitter just like we are loosely joined on IRC (I definitely am not “close” to all the channel regulars — more on that too in a bit), but the container is way bigger. On Twitter, our networks sprawl and spread until we end up (some of us) with thousands of followers. This is very different than an enclosed chatroom with less than 100 people in it.

Once we started spending more time on Twitter and Facebook, we stopped being part of the same group. We got lost in our own networks of friends, acquaintances, and contacts.

Facebook groups bring back this “community” aspect. But interaction and conversation in Facebook groups, which are built upon a message-board model, is much slower than in IRC. There is less fluff, less joking, less playing around. It’s not real-time chatting, it’s endless commenting. We’ve touted Twitter and Facebook so much as being “real-time” that we’ve forgotten where the real “real-time” is: in chatting.

IM, Facebook, and Twitter allow people to keep in touch. I’m connected to a large handful of #joiito regulars on Facebook — people I used to exchange with daily during the Golden Days. But on Facebook, we don’t talk. Our relationship is not one of one-to-one chats. Our lives on Facebook our different enough that they don’t bring us closer, but make us drift apart. We are missing our hang-out place.

You’ve seen that play out offline, certainly. You leave a club you were part of or a job. There are many people there whom you appreciate or even love, but you do not stay in touch. Once the common activity or place that brought you together in the first place is gone, there is not enough left to keep you together.

Twitter and Facebook are more lonely places to hang out online than an IRC channel, because nobody shares the same experience as you. We all have a different Twitter, a different Facebook. In an IRC channel, we all have the same lines of text scrolling before our eyes.

Is this just a reunion, or is this the revival of the #joiito IRC channel?

Only time will tell. I personally hope for a revival. I missed you guys.

Similar Posts:

Vindication and Unintentional Plagiarism [en]

[fr] Je retrouve dans Here Comes Everybody plein d'idées "à moi". Sont-ce vraiment les miennes? D'où viennent-elles? Peu importe, au final. Un livre dont je recommande chaudement la lecture.

I’m reading Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky. I should have read it a long time ago, like most unread books on my bookshelf. It’s about the behavioural and social change brought about by social tools. Each chapter is making me go “yes, wow!” and I get a sense of vindication, because so much of what Shirky so clearly explains is stuff that I’ve been saying for years. It feels like “he agrees with me”.

The truth is certainly more complex. These “theories” that I’ve come up with over the years to explain the online connected world to outsiders, and which feel like mine, well, I didn’t conjure them out of thin air. We all know about unintentional plagiarism, don’t we? Maybe I even read them on Shirky’s blog, once upon a time. Or heard them from somebody who read the book, or knows him.

Though Clay Shirky and I have never met, we have many friends and acquaintances in common. The Acknowledgements section at the end of his book is so full of people I’ve met and spoken with (when they’re not simply friends) that it’s a little surreal. I’m offline, or I’d check on Facebook and see how many contacts we have in common. Fair to say that we’re part of a tightly connected area of the network. (One notable difference, amongst others, though: Shirky took the trouble to write a book :-))

Another possibility is that these are “ambient ideas”. I’ve forgotten the reference for this (but Scott Berkun‘s book The Myths of Innovation almost certainly talks about it), but innovation is generally not an isolated event. The climate is ripe, and it is not rare that more than one person comes up with a new idea around the same time. These are possibly the “collective theories” in certain circles we are part of. It’s at the same time fascinating and frustrating that it is not possible to trace precisely how ideas travel through the network.

It doesn’t really matter, though. It feels good to see in print what I’ve been thinking and saying for years, even if I don’t remember how I came to these conclusions. Allow me to risk basking in the warm fuzzy glow of confirmation bias for a while.

Similar Posts:

Anil Dash Writes About The Web We Lost [en]

[fr] Le web qu'on a perdu. Nostalgie.

Yes, there are people who have been blogging for longer than me. Quite a few of them, actually. Anil Dash is one. You should read him.

His most recent article (found thanks to danah, who has also been blogging for longer than me, and whom you should also read) is titled The Web We Lost. It hits right on the nostalgia that has been creeping up on me these last years, expressed for example in A Story About Tags, and Technorati, and Tags or Ye Olde-School Blogs Are Still Around.

Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr and Pinterest are all great, but they tend to suck us in, and I feel we are all collectively high on real-time content and interaction. I miss the slower days. I miss the sense of “community” I felt with other bloggers in the old days, as I mention in the wrap-up post to my “Back to Blogging” challenge. I feel that on Twitter and Facebook community has been replaced with network. Networking is great. I love spending time with my network. But it’s not the same thing.

Most of all, the timeline we now live in is made up of transient content. It’s there and gone. It’s the world of orality, of the spoken word which evaporates once pronounced, even though we are typing. We are going back to an oral tradition. Blogs and wikis, however, are still part of the written tradition. We are losing searchability. We are also using content portability due to the lack of RSS feeds on certain platforms, and increasingly restrictive API access. APIs seem to be the promise for more holes in our buckets, but they seem more and more to be a way to control tightly what happens to the content locked in a given platform.

That’s sad. That’s not the way I hoped things would go.

There is more. Go and read Anil’s piece. And leave a comment there through Facebook.

Similar Posts:

C'est quoi un blog? Quelques réflexions à défaut d'une définition tranchante [fr]

[en] What's a blog? Thinking about it.

Deux articles sont apparus sur mon radar cette dernière semaine:

Les deux posent des questions de catégorie, limites, définitions. Elles sont liées: si on sait ce qu’est un blog, on sait ce qu’est un blogueur — et vice-versa. Ou bien…?

Durant mes études d’histoire des religions, j’ai appris que les catégories rigides ne fonctionnaient pas trop quand on commence à toucher aux sciences humaines. On a plutôt des définitions ou regroupements par affinité. Je crois qu’il est illusoire de vouloir dresser une liste de critères à la “si et seulement si” pour définir ce qu’est un blog. De même, je crois qu’il est illusoire de vouloir faire une distinction nette entre blogueurs et journalistes, dans le cadre des RP ou d’accréditations pour une conférence.

Il y a très longtemps, j’avais fait une page sur SpiroLattic intitulée “C’est quoi un weblog?“. Vous imaginez bien que ce n’est pas aujourd’hui la première fois qu’on se pose la question. Plus récemment, j’ai écrit ici un article (en anglais) sur les relations blogueurs, dans lequel je tente de poser quelques distinctions entre journalistes et blogueurs qui justifient de traiter ces derniers différemment.

Je vais tenter de démêler un peu ces termes. Ce qui suit n’engage que moi, ce sont mes définitions, mes conceptions, et elles n’ont pas la prétention de faire autorité (ou pire, parole d’Evangile). Tiens, d’ailleurs, en passant, à Coworking Europe j’ai l’impression qu’on a passé une bonne partie de notre temps à nous demander ce qu’était le coworking. Quelques débuts de réflexion de ma part là-dessus.

Donc, un blog — ou un weblog, comme on les a appelés durant des années — c’est quoi? Je vais essayer de partir avec une définition minimale sur laquelle tout le monde (je l’espère) sera d’accord:

  • un blog, c’est une sorte de site web
  • un blog, ça contient des articles datés (billets, posts) organisés en ordre chronologique inverse.

Je pense que si on a affaire à un truc qui n’est pas un site web, ou qui n’est pas une collection d’articles datés en ordre chronologique inverse, on aura de la peine à appeler ça un blog. Par contre je pense pas que ces deux caractéristiques soient suffisantes pour définir un blog. Nécessaires, oui, mais pas suffisantes.

Allons un cran plus loin: voici certaines caractéristiques qui sont généralement partagées par tous les blogs. Mais elles sont plus discutables. On pourrait hésiter, face à un “blog” qui ne les a pas toutes.

  • un blog permet de laisser des commentaires sur les articles
  • chaque article du blog est archivé à une URL stable permettant de faire un lien direct vers celui-ci
  • on sait qui écrit: il y a une personne ou des personnes identifiables derrière le blog, même si c’est sous pseudonyme
  • les anciens articles du blog restent en ligne, archivés chronologiquement
  • un blog facilite et automatise la publication grâce à une technologie spécifique (outil de blog/CMS) côté serveur
  • un blog est intégré d’une façon ou d’une autre dans quelque chose de plus large que lui, à travers des liens vers/depuis d’autres sites/blogs (intertextualité), ou des échanges entre le(s) blogueur(s) et d’autres via commentaires ou blogs interposés (communauté de lecteur ou e blogueurs)
  • un blog contient principalement du contenu original
  • la mise en page d’un blog consiste en une colonne principale présentant les x (généralement 10) derniers articles les uns sous les autres, généralement accompagnée d’une ou plusieurs colonnes latérales avec du contenu secondaire.

(Et hop, petit article en train de se transformer en tartine.)

Rapidement, pour chacun de ces points, un petit argumentaire expliquant pourquoi je ne les considère pas obligatoires.

Commentaires: clairement, la plupart des blogs aujourd’hui permettent les commentaires, mais il faut savoir que durant les premières années des weblogs, les commentaires n’existaient pas. Historiquement, c’est un peu restrictif. C’était pas des blogs qu’on avait? Le blog de Seth Godin, c’est pas un blog? Alors oui, un blog en général ça a des commentaires, mais l’absence de commentaires ne permet pas de dire “c’est pas un blog”.

Permaliens: pour moi, c’est une caractéristique importante du blog. C’est ça qui fait que le blog fonctionne, comme format de publication. Ça attire les liens. Chaque article est archivé pour toujours, avec un lien stable, le paradis! Mais on trouve encore des gens qui disent avoir des blogs, et qui ont des trucs qui ressemblent à des blogs, mais où il est impossible (ou très difficile) de faire un lien vers un article. Exemple: Solar Impulse. C’est un blog ou pas? (Alors oui, quelque part caché j’avais réussi à trouver comment révéler le permalien de l’article, mais on peut pas dire que ça encourage les liens.)

Auteur(s): ça, je crois que c’est super important. Il y a un être humain derrière un blog. Même si on ne sait pas son nom, il est là. Il a une personnalité. Une agence de comm’ ne blogue pas — ses employés le font. Le ton institutionnel, désincarné, impersonnel: c’est peut-être des news publiées avec un outil de blog, mais pour moi ce n’est pas un blog. Vous savez des edge-cases à proposer pour ce critère?

Archives: le format du blog est fondé sur l’organisation chronologique inverse du contenu. Les catégories sont venues bien plus tard, font à mon avis partie des “bonnes pratiques” pour un blog mais ne sont pas une fonctionnalité obligatoire. Si la première page est en ordre chronologique inverse, on s’attend à pouvoir “remonter le temps”, et trouver des archives temporelles. De plus en plus aujourd’hui, on voit des blogs (“blogs”?) qui s’en passent. Pour moi, on tombe dans le blogazine quand le thématique prend le dessus sur le chronologique. Edge case? Le Rayon UX, qui est à mon sens toujours un blog (t’en dis quoi, Fred?) même si il manque furieusement de chronologie dans l’organisation de son contenu.

Technologie: quand blogger.com a débarqué, une des choses géniales que faisait ce service était d’automatiser l’habillage répétitif des articles et leur transfert sur un serveur web. De façon générale, les blogs modernes utilisent un outil ou service de blog qui épargne au blogueur bien des manipulations techniques. Par contre, je refuse de poser ça comme une exigence. Il y a des blogs cousus main. Zeldman l’a fait pendant de longues années (disant même “c’est pas un blog!” pendant longtemps), et à moins que je ne me trompe, Karl fait toujours son blog à la mano.

Réseau: souvent, quand je regarde un “blog” en me disant “ça ressemble à un blog, mais ce n’en est pas un”, c’est cette dimension qui manque. Le blog qui blogue tout seul dans son coin, ignorant la multitude de pages du web et de gens qui les fréquentent. En général, le blogueur fait des liens vers d’autres pages (si ce n’est d’autres blogs), on (= d’autres blogueurs) fait des liens vers lui, s’il y a des commentaires il y a un minimum d’interaction — ou via articles interposés. Il y a une “culture blog”, et c’est celle du réseau, de la relation, et de la conversation.

Contenu: oui bien sûr, le blogueur produit du contenu, ajoute de la valeur quelque part. Est-ce qu’un blog sous Tumblr qui ne fait que republier sans commentaire ce qui a été trouvé ailleurs est toujours un blog? Si Digital Crumble était mon seul blog, j’avoue que j’aurais du mal à me dire blogueuse.

Apparence: j’avoue être assez vieux jeu sur ce coup. Une mise en page magazine, pour moi, ça transforme le blog en blogazine. Un blogazine, ça peut être bien — mais ce n’est plus un blog. Le chronologique a cédé la place au thématique. Et ça se voit dans la façon dont l’information est organisée sur la page d’accueil. Sans articles les uns sous les autres, j’ai du mal à appeler ça un blog. On voit d’ailleurs des blogs qui étaient partis dans une direction 100% blogazine revenir vers quelque chose d’un poil plus chronologique, même si c’est pas un long défilé d’articles les uns sous les autres. Exemple: celui de Tara Hunt.

Alors un blog, c’est quoi? Un blog, c’est plus ou moins ça. C’est cet ensemble de caractéristiques. Mais on va trouver des choses qui n’ont pas toutes ces caractéristiques et qui sont quand même des blogs, tout comme on en trouvera qui remplissent tous les critères mais… n’en sont pas. Signe qu’il faudra réfléchir plus et affiner. Définir, c’est un grand travail de va-et-vient.

Un blogueur, alors? Quelqu’un qui blogue. Mais je m’attarderai un autre jour sur ce qui le sépare du journaliste.

Similar Posts:

The Problem With Being an Early Adopter [en]

[fr] A force de grimper dans le train super tôt (et d'y rester), j'ai des fois l'impression de rater le train suivant, plus rapide, où s'installe la majorité des gens. Est-ce que tous les pionniers sont condamnés à devenir un jour des has-been?

I’m an early adopter. Not as early as some, but much much earlier than most. And I’m a quick adopter: once I’ve adopted something, I tend to use it a lot. I also stop looking, when I have a tool that does the job. I try to behave a bit more like a satisficer and a little less like the maximizer that I am deep down inside.

One of the problems with being a pioneer/early adopter is that you tend to remain stuck with the first versions of things, and miss out the second wave implementations.

I open a francophone coworking space in 2008, relying on the anglophone coworking community for support, and when I come out from under my rock in 2012 I realize that there is a whole world of francophone coworking that has grown in the time being.

I’ve been using WordPress forever, but completely missed the switch to automatic updates — because I’ve been doing it by hand for so long that setting up FTP on my server seems like too much overhead.

I’ve been running my own server for a long time, and it was recently brought to my attention that Linode existed (thanks Bret).

I’ve been using Google Docs forever too, and the other day I discover Hackpad, and realize that maybe I’ve stopped being cutting-edge.

Is this what happens? Do all early adopters turn into has-beens at some point?

Similar Posts:

Personal, Social, and the Shortcuts [en]

[fr] Je me demande si toutes ces fonctionnalités pour nous "simplifier la vie" dans notre utilisation "sociale" des outils ne vide pas partiellement ceux-ci de leur "socialité".

Yesterday, as I was gathering the links to the posts of the other #back2blog challengers (bloody hard work if you ask me), I remembered that I had left a comment on one of Delphine‘s posts.

I’ve been leaving quite a few comments on blog posts since the challenge started. Often, with “modern” blogging tools, you can check a little box to receive an e-mail alert when somebody responds to your comment. (Not on this blog. I run WordPress, but my server doesn’t send e-mail.)

It’s nice, because it relieves us of having to remember that we left a comment, and if conversation erupts (reward!) we will be informed.

Having to remember I had left a comment at Delphine’s reminded me of the time before RSS readers were popular, before coComment, before Facebook Connect, before WordPress even. Everything was much more “manual”. And with that, I believe, more personal. Part of what goes in to create a relationship is time, and effort. Time to find that blog post. Effort to remember.

Now, JP is arguing (and I’m with him here) that when you try and scale personal, you get social.

I am wondering, though, what it is that you do lose on the way, if you scale far enough.

Mass-everything did not come up from nowhere. As I learned the hard way while promoting Going Solo, shortcuts have a price. Send an e-mail copied to 100 people, or send 100 personal e-mails, and you won’t have the same efficiency. That’s why Americans take the trouble to make house calls or phone up people to convince them to vote.

And while I immensely appreciate all the features of modern social media which make it so much more easy for us to be social, I’m starting to think that some of what I find distasteful with some uses of social media is not just those who are stuck on the other side of what I think of as the “Cluetrain paradigm shift”, but maybe also what happens when we wind up taking too many shortcuts to make it “easier to be social”.

Are we headed for a form of “mass social media”? Are we already there, sadly, for some part?

Even if this is true, that does not mean that we have to give up on the “true” social, or even “personal”.

I remember a few years ago one of my friends (Suw if I’m not mistaken) saying that she didn’t get why so many people were complaining that “Twitter wasn’t what it was”.

On Twitter, one has complete control over who one follows. You don’t have to go and follow all the new-styled social media gurus. Or the annoying self-promoting people. You can stick to those who rock your world, and have a Twitter experience that doesn’t change so much over time. (Of course the people you follow change, but that’s another thing.)

You can use Twitter like mass media, or you can use Twitter like social media, or like personal media. The choice is yours.

#back2blog challenge (9/10)

Similar Posts: