A Little Bit of Background [en]

As the founding editor of Phonak’s community blog “Open Ears” (now part of “Hearing Like Me“) I contributed a series of articles on hearing loss between 2014 and 2015. Here they are.

My hearing has been stable since birth, and chances are it will probably stay that way until age-related hearing loss catches up with me. I was fitted reasonably late in life, at 38 (two years ago) and so my interest for audiology and hearing loss in general is quite fresh. I’m a bit of a geek, so I did my homework when I was fitted, but hearing loss wasn’t really a big part of my life growing up (I considered it a detail), and as my loss is mild to medium I clearly approach things from another angle than people with severe hearing loss or profound deafness. Hence the variety of contributors that we are currently getting in touch with for this blog.

Steph on Phonak roof

I’m aware the field of hearing loss/audiology is fraught with occasions to say things the wrong way, so I hope you’ll forgive me (and gently let me know) if I blunder into an issue with big uninformed boots. I’ll do my best not to, of course!

I’d also like to say a few words about my involvement in Phonak’s community blog project, and what I’ll be doing here. I started blogging a long time ago, in 2000. My blog Climb to the Stars is still active, and in it I write about pretty much anything that catches my interest, from futile to serious. I’ve been a “social media professional” since 2005, though I hate the term (“social media” didn’t exist back then). Over the years I’ve worked with  companies big and small to get them started with blogging or social media, manage their blogs, or assist them in establishing relationships with bloggers that go beyond “let’s put you on our mailing list and send you press releases and goodies every now and again”.

A few months ago Vincent and I met up to discuss a possible collaboration. Phonak had been thinking about setting up a community-oriented blog, and they were looking for somebody who had expertise in blogging and and also had direct experience with hearing loss. Based in Switzerland, in addition to that. That would be me!

We kicked things off early this year and as you can see we’re now in the process of getting the blog off the ground, defining its direction, and getting people inside and outside of Phonak interested in contributing. In addition to my blog-editor-in-chief role, I will be writing articles based on my personal experience and reflexions, and also what I’m discovering about audiology and hearing loss through my contacts with Phonak.

I’m really excited about this project, first because it’s a rather large-scale blogging project on a topic that is of personal interest to me, and second because of the role we are hoping this blog will play in the relationship between the company and “the outside world”, if I may put it like that. We find the vision behind Microsoft’s Channel 9 inspiring, and I’m really looking forward to opening the doors to passionate Phonak employees so that you can read what they have to share directly.

If you have questions about the blog or ideas, or if you’d like to contribute, feel free to get in touch!

Similar Posts:

What We Write And Where We Write [en]

[fr] L'environnement dans lequel on écrit quelque chose change ce qu'on y écrit. Le blog n'est plus aujourd'hui l'endroit où on va "vite publier quelque chose" -- Facebook a pris cette place.

Lately, Loïc has been writing “long stuff” (“post-length stuff”) on Facebook. I enjoy reading him. Here’s his latest post, on meditation. Maybe because I’ve linked it I’ll be able to find it again in the future, but otherwise, chances are this post, along with all the other status updates we’re publishing on Facebook today, will be lost forever in the corpse of the real-time stream.

Oh yes, Facebook is giving us search, but there are two reasons I’m not holding my breath:

  • we have search in groups already, and as you’ve probably also noticed, it sucks
  • Facebook status updates are a mess of re-shared stuff, “in the instant” messages, photos, funny things, serious things, more cat photos… will search allow us to say “find me all Loïc’s status updates which are longer than 500 words”?

Anyway. Ben dropped the “blog” word, I piled on, and an interesting discussion ensued. My suggestion was that Loïc copy-paste what he was publishing in Facebook into his blog (once he’s retrieved the password ;-)). This made me think of what Euan has been doing recently: he publishes both on his blog and in Facebook. I don’t know where he writes first, but the content is in both places.

Long ago I remember reading about some people who wrote their blog posts in their email client, because it helped them get into the right brainspace. I suspect something like this is going on with Loïc, who hasn’t blogged in a long time. Facebook is where the audience is (not in a marketing sense, in a “not talking to an empty room” sense). Facebook is where we’re expected to write a few lines, not full-blown essays. No pressure.

I’ve been feeling that kind of “pressure” for years on my blog. Look at what I write now. And look at what I was writing a year or so after I started blogging. My blog, initially, was this space where I could just spit out something and be done with it. Over the years, things changed. Now, a blog post has to be meaningful. It has to be worthy of the big bold title that introduces it (no mystery there, when I started blogging blog posts didn’t have huge bold titles). It has to be illustrated. It has to be well-written. It has to be thoughtful. This can be paralysing. The rise of “professional bloggers” doesn’t help.

What I’ve been doing with #back2blog and to some extent The Blogging Tribe is try to resuscitate this mindset. Just blog something. But the landscape of tools has changed.

Now, the space where you go to “just share something” is Facebook. “Everybody” you know is already there. They don’t have to fill in their names to comment. They get notified when there is a reaction to what they say — and so do you. You think of something, you start writing, and oh, you’ve written 6 paragraphs. This happens on Facebook now, not on your blog. And I’m guilty too.

More than once, I’ve found myself writing stuff on Facebook that could be a post on this blog. So I’m going to follow my advice to Loïc next time that happens, and post it here too. And move this blog off this email-less server so people can get comment notifications.

Similar Posts:

The Blog of Unfinished [en]

[fr] Un blog, c'est un espace pour lancer là-dehors des choses. Pas nécessaire que ce soit tout léché. Quand je veux faire du léché, c'est simple, je ne commence pas. Ou si je commence, je ne finis pas. Avec le blog, je me dis "bah, peu importe si c'est vraiment bien ou pas; l'essentiel c'est que ce soit publié". 13 ans que ça dure.

Hopefully you’ve heard by now that I co-direct a course on social media and online communities here in Lausanne. We’re preparing for the fourth year. This means I have students. And believe me, I learn a lot from them — they’re fascinating people. Of course, they are, they chose to follow the course I co-direct 😉

I’m mentioning this because I realized something very recently following conversations with two ex-students (or soon-to-be-ex). The reason I like my blog so much, and am still blogging 13 years after I started, is that it is a space where I can indulge in my natural tendency to start stuff and not finish it.

Said like that it’s a bit extreme, but let me explain.

The first step was the evening I spent with my ex-student who is starting a little side business of interior design alongside her day job. She waffled out a few free sessions and I took one. At some point the conversation drifted to more personal topics, and I mentioned my urges to start things and my difficulty in finishing them — probably related to my difficulty throwing things out. I’m a starter, generally. I have ideas. I want to do stuff. Way more than the space of my life lets me. Once I’ve started something, I do tend to lose interest, or at least find it more difficult to keep going. And don’t get me started (!) on finishing.

Yes, I’ll own up to being an immediate gratification junkie.

The second step, a day or two later, was a phone call with another ex-student that I had gently chided for signing a blog comment (“best regards” and the like). I was encouraging him to blog earlier about the project he was working on, and he was telling me he found it challenging to put things “out there” without them being sufficiently polished. My reaction of course (which I think wasn’t actually very helpful in his precise situation) was to say that blogging is for the imperfect, the good enough. A blog is great as a “put it out there” space.

And this is really how I use my blog. The stuff I don’t write about, I often don’t write about because I feel I need to work on it more. Wanting to do things well — too well — prevents me from doing them.

It sounds contradictory with what I said above about starting things and not finishing them, doesn’t it? It isn’t.

So this is why I like blogging. It’s a tool that makes it easy for me to “just get it out there”. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Yes of course it could be better. I’m sure I could have said the things I’m saying now more clearly. I’m sure I could have made them more compelling. More SEO-thingy. Found photos to illustrate. Thought about when to publish this kind of post and how to distribute it.

But no — I go the brain-dump way. And because I brain-dump, there are hundreds (thousands) of blog posts here which actually might come in handy to others.


Similar Posts:

Here We Go Again [en]

[fr] Des nouvelles.

Holidays in Spain. Two weeks of crazy work upon my return. Then orphaned kittens at home.

Things are lightening up: the kittens are weaned and clean, the big cats are taking care of them, and they have future homes. Though I have two batches of exams to grade (one now, one early june) my work life is taking a more manageable pace.

I’ve been the worst slacker in the Blogging Tribe experiment. I have a huge backlog of insanely cute kitten photos and videos to process and put online. I’ve started planting things for my balcony again. The sailing season has started.

Next week’s objectives: go back to judo, get back into something resembling a blogging habit, and start my new exercice regimen.

Longer term? Figure out why despite having identified long ago that I take on too much and need to slow down, and making efforts in that direction, I am failing.

Life is good.

Similar Posts:

Blogging Tribe: A Social and Blogging Experiment Looking for Volunteers [en]

[fr] Recherche de volontaires motivés pour une expérience socio-blogueuse.

Here’s the idea: form a group of bloggers, who agree to blog regularly for a certain amount of time, and read each other.

Scale? A dozen bloggers or so. From a dozen posts a month to one a day on average. For three months (or six? or six weeks?).


One of the things I understood while reading Here Comes Everybody, and which was missing from my global thinking about the connected world we live in, is the question of scale. That with more, comes different. Small group dynamics are not the same as large group dynamics. Small networks do not behave the same as big ones. At one point power laws kick in, and large groups or networks become fundamentally “unbalanced”.

Clay talks about the early blogging communities in his book, and I’ve understood what we feel we have “lost”, we bloggers of old: we’ve lost the small group dynamics, where we all read each other and there was a ball in the air that we all kept in movement.

I’ve seen that feeling reappear during the two “Back to Blogging” challenges I threw at fellow bloggers. For the ten days the challenge lasted, we started reading each other again, responding to each other in comments and even in blog posts.

So, I’d like to do this on a slightly larger scale. Larger not by the number of people, but larger as far as the dynamics are concerned. “Back to Blogging” has made a little foam appear in the egg whites we were beating — I want to try and turn the jug that holds them upside down.

Unlike Back to Blogging where I set the rules and dived in with what amounts to “qui m’aime me suive”, I’d like us to hash out the precise details together.

If you’re interested in this experiment and contemplating taking part, please get in touch with me. I’ll set up a quick mailing-list or Facebook book so we can all discuss the specifics and get the ball rolling.

Similar Posts:

Life and Trials of a Social Media Consultant [en]

[fr] Le marché et l'industrie des médias sociaux a beaucoup changé depuis que j'en ai fait ma profession (c'était en 2006, pardi!). Petit regard en arrière sur le chemin parcouru et où je me situe par rapport à la pléthore actuelle de services tournant autour des médias sociaux. Un profil de généraliste avec deux domaines de prédilection, les blogs et les indépendants.

Since I went freelance over six years ago, a lot has changed. We weren’t talking of social media back then. I was a “blogging consultant” and what I told people about was “the living web”. At some point what we did was “social software”. Somewhere along the line “social media” showed up (who still speaks of “web 2.0” nowadays?), and it’s become a pretty well-accepted umbrella term for all sorts of stuff from “viral videos” to “facebook marketing” to blogging to digital strategy to online communities… And all the rest.

At some point here in Switzerland, the social media industry matured. I went from being one of the very few people in the French-speaking part of Switzerland who could come and give a talk on “blogs and the living web” (when I started out) to one of the many fish in a larger and larger pond (including, sadly, some sharks). In other words, there are now people who specialize in creating marketing campaigns for facebook pages, others who are experts at Twitter, yet others who are full-time community managers.

I realized a couple of years ago that there was no point in me trying to compete with marketing/advertising agencies. Or community managers. I’m not a marketing expert. Or a community manager. Or many of the specialized roles that have appeared over the last couple of years. Today there are people who have full-time corporate jobs with “social media” in their job title — good luck finding any of those in 2004-2006.

You might remember my specialist/generalist series of articles. In today’s industry, I have a generalist profile (it’s a question of point of view of course, I’ll always be a “social media specialist” to the outside world). That makes me a great person to bring in during early stages of social media adoption/development (one reason I work with lots of freelancers and small organisations) and in situations where a wider view of the field is necessary to break through what are becoming the social media silos. It also makes me a good social media course director, because I have this global overview 🙂

There are, however, areas that I am specialized in — or have specialized in, over the years. I started out being a web standards advocate (Pompage.net and the associated mailing-list live on). I gave a whole bunch talks (and wrote some code) around the question of languages and multilingualism online. Until recently (and still sometimes, actually!) another area of expertise of mine was teenagers and the internet (I’ve lost track of the number of talks I’ve given in schools, but it’s probably somewhere around 50).

Today, the two areas I “expertise” in are blogging and freelancers/freelancing. I’ve been doing quite a bit of soul-searching as I prepare the much-needed revamped version of my professional website, which I won’t even link to here, it’s so horribly painfully out of date. Maybe once the new version is up I’ll come back here and add all the relevant links 😉

Blogging: I’ve been blogging since July 2000. Blogging is my thing. It’s in my DNA. I’ll probably never stop, even though I am blogging less than I used to, because there are now other channels of communication and self-expression that were not there in the early days of blogging. I’m a blogger. Professionally, that means it’s a tool I love, and that if you need somebody to get you started in the world of blogging, or help you progress along the way, I’m your person.

I’ve been playing around with WordPress since forever (even written a bunch of plugins). I’ve been the editor of the French-language ebookers travel blog for three and a half years. Last year I helped get the Paper.li community blog off the ground (not even mentioning the countless others amongst my more “modest” clients). I’ve advised and coached companies as varied as Intel (2007), Fleur de Pains (2008) or Solar Impulse (2010) on their blogging, and developed services in blogger relations for Web 2.0 Expo Europe, LeWeb, Solar Impulse, and now Orange. And how could I forget Bloggy Friday Lausanne!

Enough with the list. I’ve been doing this blogging stuff for a long time, and doing quite a lot of it.

Freelancers/freelancing: the freelance ride has not been smooth for me, though I’ve made it. I’m somebody who self-analyzes a lot, and so I have spent a lot of time reflecting on how to manage one’s life and job when one freelances. The first outcome of this trend was the Going Solo conference (now a group on facebook), and then the eclau coworking space in Lausanne. For many years I have also had lots of freelancers amongst my clients: people who have little or no web presence and want to get started, or learn how to blog, or use social media to make themselves more visible. All this ties together nicely, and I appreciate it goes beyond social media: business strategy, productivity, negotiating and dealing with relationships, work-life balance…

So, there we go. I initially wanted to speak about the wisdom (or not) of specializing in “blogging” nowadays, but the introduction of this post took on a life of its own, so there you are! I’ll keep that question for another post.

Similar Posts:

Mon interview "Orange Blogger Dialog" [fr]

[en] An interview I gave at the end of the last year on blogging, and blogs, and me and blogging, and me and my blog.

L’an dernier, j’ai été interviewée pour le “Orange Blogger Dialog” — une discussion très sympa par téléphone sur mon blog, les blogs, pourquoi je blogue, etc. Ça m’a donné un peu l’occasion de plonger dans le passé, et j’ai beaucoup aimé! De plus, j’ai trouvé que Sabine (avec qui je travaille maintenant dans le cadre de mon mandat Orange “relations blogueurs”) était une excellente intervieweuse.

“Orange Blogger Dialog” avait été mise sur pied entre autres pour faire connaître HD Voice, lancée à l’époque par Orange. Vous entendrez d’ailleurs dans mon interview qu’à un moment donné on perd le HD Voice, puis on le récupère. Comparaison en direct de la différence de qualité!

Alors voilà, si vous avez une demi-heure tranquille, je vous invite à écouter cette interview.

Et ensuite, pourquoi pas, écouter celle de Xavier Bertschy (mais oui vous connaissez!), et si vous êtes assez à l’aise en Allemand, ceux de Hans Fischer (technikblog) et Mirjam Herms (chic & schlau).

Ah oui, avant que vous disiez quoi que ce soit: la mise en ligne sur SoundCloud est encore un peu rustique, on le sait. A l’origine les interviews n’étaient disponibles qu’à l’intérieur de Facebook, et il nous a paru important de les mettre sur le web public. Pour le moment, on est concentrés sur OrangeCinema, mais on viendra bientôt rajouter des liens et des descriptifs jolis là où il faut. Merci de votre patience!

Similar Posts:

Measuring a Blog's Success: Visitors and Comments Don't Cut It [en]

[fr] Un blog, c'est un investissement à long terme. Six mois, un an au moins sans se poser de questions, avant d'essayer de voir si "ça marche" ou pas. Et ne mesurez pas son succès aux visiteurs et aux commentaires. Plutôt, trouvez un moyen plus qualitatif de mesurer les bénéfices que vous en retirez, en vous basant sur la raison pour laquelle vous tenez ce blog.

Interestingly, a large part of my work right now seems to revolved around blogging. I’m happy about that. I’ve been blogging for over 10 years now, and went I became self-employed mid-2006 the first “title” I used was “blogging consultant”. Because back then, it was about blogs (and maybe wikis, and maybe social software, but not “social media”).

Anyway, I digress.

What I want to point out is that if you start a blog, or your company starts a blog, it’s important to have realistic expectations about the kind of benefits you’ll reap, and when, and how to measure them.

Even in 2011, too many people imagine that if you’re doing a good job with your blog, it will translate into thousands of visits per day and dozens of comments within a few weeks.

No way.

Those blogs with thousands of visits per day and dozens of comments are edge-cases, and have probably been at it for longer than you have.

Blogs and comments are actually not a good way of measuring the success of a blog. Honestly, if your blog has a few hundred readers a day and you get a comment now and again, you’re doing fine.

To measure the success of your blog, you need to think back to the reason you’re doing it. What do you want to get out of it? Chances are that “having as many people as possible visit it” is not the reason you’re doing it.

Maybe you want to change the perception people have of you. Maybe you want to showcase certain things you’re doing. Maybe you want to attract a certain type of person — reader, writer, or contributor. Maybe it’s the “marketing budget” for your business. Maybe you want to share a passion. Maybe you want an outlet to express yourself.

There are many reasons to want a blog. And most of them are perfectly valid (one that’s not, most of the time: make money with it).

But don’t go around measuring readers and comments to judge your success just because they’re convenient numbers.

Maybe what you need to do is create a scrapbook of all the things people spontaneously say about your blog, online or off. Maybe you need to make a list of events or situations where your blog was an ice-breaker or opened doors for you.

That seems to make way more sense than counting visits and comments. I mean, if those are so important to make somebody happy, they can be gamed.

Blogging takes time. It takes time because it takes time to think, write, link, tag, categorize, illustrate, title, proof, and publish. It takes time to be creative, and if your ambition for your blog is to be more than a collection of breaking news, hot topics and catchy headlines, blogging is a creative job.

But blogging also takes time because it’s a long-term strategy. When blogging started being hot, there were these numbers flying around, telling us that the average blog on the web was 3 months old and had 3 articles (or something like that). People started blogging, and abandoned their blogs very quickly.

When starting a blog, I wouldn’t worry about if it’s working or not before at least six months or a year. People are in such a hurry nowadays. All this hype about real-time, the internet being a place of unprecedented speed, the acceleration of innovation, not to say the “overnight successes” we keep hearing about but which languished in obscurity for ages before coming to the light. And even if there are real “overnight sensations”, they are, as I said above, edge cases.

And your blog will not be an edge case.

Your blog can work fine and do its job, but it will not be an edge case.

Unless your blog is your product — and in this case you’re clearly in the media business, and not using your blog as a communication tool — it is not to be looked at as a service or product people are going to use everyday and flock to. Instead, it’s a collection of valuable, long-lasting, well-indexed information. It’s the expression of something. It colours who you are.

And that takes time — not just the time of labour, but the days and months flying by in the calendar, so that value can accumulate, and become valuable.

Let me sum up this long rambling post in a few points:

  • blogging is a long-term strategy: it will take many months or even years for you to see what benefits it’s actually bringing you
  • don’t obsess on visitors and comments; instead, focus on what is said about your blog, and the opportunities it brings, in terms of contacts, open doors, favorable dispositions (qualitative measurement rather than quantitative)

Similar Posts:

Formation à l'écriture blog le 03.12.2011 [fr]

[en] Giving a day-long course on blogging (the writing part of it) -- how to write a blog that reads like a blog and not like press release rehash or marketing copy 🙂

Depuis des années qu’on en parle, ça se concrétise enfin: je donne une journée entière de formation à l’écriture blog, le 3 décembre 2011.

Ça se passe à l’eclau, bien sûr, il y aura entre 5 et 10 personnes, et vous repartirez en ayant:

  • appris ce qui différencie le style “blog” des autres formes de rédaction (ou genres littéraires ;-)) — y compris le choix du titre, le formatage, le choix du sujet
  • mis en pratique, appliqué, corrigé, ré-écrit, écrit encore, recorrigé, jusqu’à ce que ça devienne naturel!

Le but: que vous puissiez écrire un blog qui ressemble à un blog “sérieux” (et non à un resucé de communiqués de presse ou de contenu marketing, pour les cas les plus graves ;-)) et que vous compreniez les mécanismes de ce type d’écriture, possiblement pour l’expliquer à de tierces personnes…

Informations utiles:

  • c’est donc à l’eclau, à Lausanne (facile d’accès en transports publics et en voiture — prévoyez un petit moment pour trouver une place de parc en zone bleue)
  • on commence à 9h, on finit à 17h
  • le repas de midi est compris dans le prix (on commandera au Baz’Art, c’est très bon)
  • le prix? 340.- à verser pour confirmer l’inscription à Stephanie Booth, Guiguer-de-Prangins 11, 1004 Lausanne, CCP 17-683449-5
  • annulation d’inscription: 30% jusqu’à 15 jours civils avant la formation, 50% jusqu’à 8 jours, et 80% jusqu’au jour avant (conditions piquées chez quirao parce qu’elles me paraissent très raisonnables)
  • chacun(e) amène bien entendu son ordi (et son blog! ce n’est pas un cours d’ouverture de blog, mais bien d’écriture!)
  • un grand grand merci à Valérie Demont qui me donne un coup de main pour la mise sur pied de cette journée, elle n’aurait pas lieu sans elle 🙂

Des questions?

Si ce sont les médias sociaux en général qui vous intéressent (plutôt que spécifiquement l’écriture blog), jetez un petit oeil du côté des workshops médias sociaux que j’anime au SAWI dans le cadre de la formation de Spécialiste en médias sociaux et communautés en ligne.

Merci de parler de ce cours autour de vous si vous connaissez des personnes susceptibles d’être intéressées! (Il y a un événement facebook que vous pouvez faire circuler.)

Similar Posts:

One a Week? [en]

[fr] Tant d'articles à écrire. Un par semaine, peut-être? Histoire d'avancer dans le tas? Suivez les liens si vous êtes impatient...

Hello there! Another of Steph’s “grappling with blogging” posts. I’m starting to have a pile-up of “posts I need to write about cool stuff” but that I don’t get around to writing because of course, paid work and need for downtime tend to be more of a priority these days.

I need to write about my kindergarten classmate Kris Di Giacomo who does lovely children’s books illustrations. I need to write about Skeeble, my friend Xavier Bertschy‘s “painlessly create your smartphone app” service, which recently got significant local funding. I need to write about Horse Coaching, which I discovered last week thanks to an invitation from Valérie Demont, one of last year’s students from my SAWI social media course. I should probably also talk about the “learn to write for a blog” training day she’s helping me set up for December 3rd (in Lausanne, in French). I have a pile of articles waiting to be written about my trip to Morat (thanks to Fribourg Région). I want to write about what I’m doing to try and make something of my childhood passion for animals and their behaviour, amongst other things by offering to volunteer at Wildlife SOS while I’m in India in a few weeks.

So, I’m thinking that maybe I should be “modest” (ha! ha!) in my ambition and put one of these posts on my to-do list every week. And do it.

Similar Posts: