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Newsletters in 2016 [en]

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.

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Video Angst [en]

Video Angst [en]

[fr] Quand j'ai des vidéos à mettre en ligne, c'est toujours la même prise de tête. Quel service utiliser? YouTube, Viddler, DailyMotion, Facebook, Google Video...? Tous? Qu'est-ce que vous faites, vous?

Earlier this month at [BlogTalk 2008 in Cork](http://2008.blogtalk.net/), I ended up taking a bunch of videos of the talks there, as there was no official video-taking. [Rob Cawte](http://web2.0japan.com/blog/), who happened to be sitting just behind me on the first day, also took a whole bunch — check out his [WebCamp on Social Network Portability and BlogTalk2008 Cork Video Index](http://web2.0japan.com/blog/index.cfm/2008/3/14/WebCamp-on-Social-Network-Portability-and-BlogTalk2008-Video-Index).

I’ve finally got around to encoding, stitching together, and uploading (not in that order) almost all the videos I made. And as always, aside from the oh-my-god-what-format-do-I-export-in headache I’m starting to get used to, I find myself wondering where to upload. [YouTube](http://youtube.com/user/steph)? [DailyMotion](http://dailymotion.com/steph)? [Viddler](http://viddler.com/steph/videos)? [Google Video](http://video.google.com/), even though I don’t seem to be able to get upload to work? [Facebook](http://vupload.facebook.com/video/?id=503315010)? Serve them myself from my own server?

After going through a DailyMotion phase, I’ve now mainly switched to Viddler, because I like the way it allows you to make notes or place tags on any frame of the video. You can also link to any particular moment in the video. But unfortunately, I’m aware that placing a video on YouTube, for example, would ensure that it’s seen more.

How do you deal with this? While we wait for [the service which will upload your videos everywhere](http://twitter.com/realitygrenade/statuses/774250611), what do we do?

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Five Things You Probably Didn't Know About Me [en]

Five Things You Probably Didn't Know About Me [en]

[fr] Cinq choses que vous ne saviez probablement pas à mon sujet. Un petit jeu qui tourne dans la blogosphère.

This is [way overdue](http://del.icio.us/steph/5things), but I have a guilty conscience after having been tagged by [Jonas](http://www.jluster.org/write/2006/12/21/5-things-meme-five-things-you-probably-dont-know-about-me), [Ric](http://aqualung.typepad.com/aqualung/2006/12/im_it.html), and [Dannie](http://uncondition.blogspot.com/2007/01/tag-five-things-that-you-did-not-know.html). I think the main reason I haven’t yet published this post (well, I have now, but look at the dates I was tagged upon and you’ll understand) is the difficulty in figuring out how I can tell a **very** varied audience (which includes family, strangers, IRC buddies, close friends online and off, googlers, passing acquaintances, work relations and all the others) things that “they” probably don’t know about me.

So. I’ve had to conjure up a target audience. Let’s say the target audience are people, online or off, who know me somewhat but not that well and have maybe not known me for many many years. My close friends and family will probably know the five things I’m bringing up here, and none of them are “secrets”. Some of these facts are even already “out there” if you care to look for them.

That said, here goes.

1. I have a 21cm-long scar. I got it for my sixth birthday, and it beats all the other birthday presents I ever got. (Came with a price, though.)

2. My middle name is Jane. I like having a middle name, and I quite like the one that was chosen for me. This hasn’t always been the case.

4. My mother died of cancer when I was 10. It was only about fifteen years later that I managed to ask my dad which type of cancer she had, and details about her illness.

3. I usually start writing my posts at the beginning, work straight down, tag and categorize, and hit publish. I rarely proof-read or re-read.

5. My “pre-bunny” nickname was Gummywabbit. People kept thinking I was a guy, and I got sick of it.

What I chose to list here obviously says a sixth thing about me: I have a tendancy to get caught up in extremes. Too dramatic or too futile, too much or nothing at all. I work hard towards exploring the middle ground, but as you can see, I’m not always successful. Lucky you anyway, you got sixth things for the price of five!

I’m not tagging anyone myself (peer-pressure etc), but I’ll be happy to tag the first five people who ask me in the comments. And anyway, anybody is free to take up the meme and post their one — aren’t they?

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Chris de Burgh Concert in Lausanne [en]

Chris de Burgh Concert in Lausanne [en]

Warning: long, rambling, and clumsily written review ahead. I obviously still have progress to make in review writing! Thanks for bearing with me.

Chris de Burgh gave us a delightful solo show in Lausanne last night, armed with only his guitar, his piano and his songs (ok, with a very small dose of recorded choirs and stuff for a couple of songs).

The show started with The Road to Freedom, title song from his latest album, and continued for two and a half hours, including songs from a variety of albums. I was happy to hear It’s Such a Long Way Home, from the album Crusader, pretty early on in the show. Crusader is one of the first Chris de Burgh albums I actually owned, way back in the time of vinyl, and it’s an album I appreciate a lot.

Chris de Burgh introduced many of the songs he sang by giving the audience some background on them, often half in French and half in English. (We also got updates on the score for the ongoing Russia-Portual football match, which I found pretty cool — even if I don’t care about football at all.) Last Night (a personal favorite), a song about the damages of war, for the young soldiers who come back, and those who remain when they don’t, was an occasion to comment on actuality: Maybe Mr. Bush will think about this next time he wants to go to war. Right on the theme of war and its ills, Chris de Burgh later sang Borderline followed by Say Goodbye to It All — something I’d really been waiting for, as the second was written as a sequel to the first one.

Speaking of sequels, Lady in Red (a song you probably know even if you’ve never heard about Chris de Burgh, and that you might also understandably be sick of hearing too much on the radio) has a sequel in the latest album: Five Past Dreams. Before singing it, he told us about this strange fact: women spend a lot of time making themselves beautiful before going out, but men seem incapable of remembering what they were wearing. Lady in Red is about this man who is a party, and is looking at this beautiful woman in the crowd… and suddenly realises that it’s the woman he came with…

After poking a bit of fun at Britney and playback singers, Chris de Burgh put on a headset mike and actually got off stage with his guitar to walk through the public and shake hands while he sang a medley. Pretty impressive, if you ask me!

One great present of this evening for me was hearing the song Sailor again. Sailor is a song from the album Eastern Wind, which, along with The Getaway and Man on the Line, made me discover Chris de Burgh nearly twenty years ago. I remember the time when I listened to this song over and over again — it was one of those spine-prickling songs for me. And when Chris de Burgh started singing it tonight, I realised that I had totally forgotten it existed. I was incapable of naming it until he reached the chorus — something which hardly ever happens to me, as I have a pretty spooky memory for names.

I won’t go through all the songs which were sung. Imagine how many songs can be sung in two and a half hours, even with a fair amount of chatting en between! However, I’d like to mention one that I found particularly moving: Songbird, written after Chris de Burgh heard Eva Cassidy singing on the radio. Unknown in her lifetime, she died of cancer at the age of thirty-three, and it is said she had one of the most wonderful singing voices ever heard.

To sum it up, this show was a real treat. Chris de Burgh was the first artist I ever got to see live, almost twenty years ago, and I have trouble understanding how I let all those years pass without seeing him again. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for his next tour.

My friend Rachel, who accompanied me, knew only two Chris de Burgh songs (the inevitable Lady in Red and High on Emotion, but of course she had no idea who sang those songs), but she had a really great time too. I think that like me, she was moved by how very human and close to the public Chris de Burgh is. It seems to me (and the notes you can read in the Ask Chris section on his official website seems to confirm this) that he really has a sincere belief in his work — thirty years after his first album.

As I was saying to Steph a few hours ago: I like artists that look like human beings. If you have a chance to see Chris de Burgh live, do so — particularly if all you know of him is Lady in Red!

For the curious, here is a list of the songs I didn’t mention here but that I remember from the show:

  • Don’t Pay the Ferryman
  • Living On The Island
  • Sight and Touch
  • Sailing Away
  • St Peter’s Gate
  • Lebanese Night
  • High on Emotion
  • Natasha Dance
  • medley: Carry Me (?), Save Me, Tender Hands, Crying and Laughing…
  • Snows of New York
  • Where Peaceful Waters Flow
  • Nothing Ever Happens Round Here
  • Rain in Paris (the only song I did not know)
  • new album: The Words I Love You, Five Past Dreams, Snow is Falling, Read My Name, The Journey, Here For You (?)

Update 24.06.04: I’ve been thinking quite a lot these last days about why I like this singer so much, and why I’ve stuck with him for the last 20 years. Here is something he says about feeling what he sings that I really like:

When I sing, I like to convey a total and absolute honest belief in what I am singing. It’s very important for me to convey an emotion, and unless you feel that emotion, you can’t convey it. It’s my belief. So when I sing, I wear the song like a coat, I try to convey everything that I put into it initially. All the ideas, all the feelings, all the emotions.

Chris de Burgh

If you’ve listened to his songs a bit, I think you’ll agree with me that this is a man who seems to know what it is to love.

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