Variety is the Spice of Life [en]

[fr] De l'importance de varier les choses que l'on fait pour être heureux, les façons dont on s'organise, et le type d'article qu'on publie sur son blog. La routine ne tue pas seulement le couple. Vous avez d'autres exemples?

I’m in India. I’m reading “The How of Happiness“. The two are completely unrelated aside from the fact they come together to give me the title of this article.

Photo credit: Sunil Keezhangattu/Flickr

Don’t let the slightly corny title put you off as it did me, The How of Happiness is an excellent, solid, well-researched and practical book.

I don’t want to delve into the details of the book, but just share with you something that has fallen into place for me during the last week. It has to do with variety.

You see, in her book, Sonja Lyubomirsky doesn’t only go through the various things you can do to make yourself happier, or help you pick those that seem the best fit for you: she also insists on the necessity of varying the way you put them into practice.

The example that really made this point hit home for me was the one on “counting your blessings” (yes, corniness warning, directly from the author herself, but don’t let that stop you).

First, the test groups who were asked to write down the things they were thankful for 3 times a week ended up seeing less improvement in their happiness than those that were asked to do it only once a week. Doing it only once a week makes it more of an event and keeps boredom/immunisation at bay.

Second, even then, Sonja Lyubomirsky invites the reader to not do it in the same way every week. By writing, by conversation with a friend, upon certain occasions, about certain areas of your life, or in yet a different manner, so that it remains a meaningful practice. (Page 97, if you want to look it up directly.)

This immediately reminded me of a flash of insight I had one day walking in the mountains around my chalet. I can’t remember exactly when it was, but I can see the road I was on and I remember the insight quite clearly.

Update: I found the article I wrote at the time, it was in 2009!

I was thinking of the different ways in which I had got organized, and how I seemed to become “immune” to a given method after some time had passed. The flash of insight was this: “maybe I just need to keep on finding new ways of getting organized.” I brushed off the idea, because it wasn’t comfortable, and wrote it down to the need to have different techniques for different contexts. For example, there are times when I’m more stressed than others. Times when I have more work than others. Times when I feel productive, and times when I need to kick myself down the two floors from the flat to the coworking space to get to work. Even my recent musings on freeform versus structured work go in that direction.

But in fact, I was right. Just like it’s important to vary “happiness activities/techniques” to prevent habituation (or worse, boredom), I think it’s important to vary one’s organization methods. Or at least, for me, it is. And it could well be because there is a “happiness” component for me in the act of getting organized. I like the feeling of being on top of things, of finding solutions to be productive despite my built-in procrastination engine, of learning how I function, of coming up with strategies to prioritize and get things done. And maybe — maybe — for me, trying to find one method that I can just stick to is a big mistake.

Another area I’ve recently connected “variety is the space of life” to is blogging. I’ve been hanging out with the communication team at Wildlife SOS these last days, volunteering a bit of my time and expertise to help them make better use of social media.

As I was inviting them to vary the type of article they publish on their blog (at the moment, almost all the stories are animal rescue stories), I realized that this was another example of this theme at work: “variety is the spice… of reader engagement?”

Even if as a reader, animal rescue stories are my favourites, I will actually enjoy them more if they stand out against other types of articles. And for another reader, the favourites might very well be “behind the scenes” articles or “get to know the team” ones.

By publishing only one type of “top post”, one turns it into the “average post”. Add a sprinkle of intermittent reward to the mix, and you’ll probably positively influence the way readers perceive your content. Isn’t it more exciting to head over to a blog which might or might not reward you with a new article, which might or might not be the type that moves you most?

Now think about relationships: don’t we say that routine is the biggest love-killer? Oh, some habits are nice — but you also want new stuff, changes from the habitual, different way of being together and relating to one another. Surprises. The unexpected. This is nothing new.

So, let me summarize. Variety is the spice of life. Not only should you flee excessive routine in your marriage or relationship, but also in the following areas:

  • activities that make you happy
  • how you get organized (work, and probably life too)
  • the kind of content you publish on your blog

Can you think of other areas where it’s a little counter-intuitive, but it actually turns out to be really important to add variety to the way you do things?

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L'intimité au travail (Stefana Broadbent) — à lire absolument [fr]

[en] A great read, if you understand French: "L'intimité au travail" by Stefana Broadbent. If you wan't read her book, at least watch her TED talk.

IMG_1749.jpgJe viens de finir de lire “L’intimité au travail”. Stefana Broadbent fait une lecture fine et pertinente des enjeux liés aux nouvelles technologies à la place de travail, et met le doigt sur ce que je “sens” et tente d’exprimer maladroitement depuis des années. Les problèmes ne sont pas ces technologies en elles-mêmes: elles dérangent (comme le téléphone mobile et facebook à la place de travail) en tant qu’elles rendent visible des transgressions du contrat social à la place de travail, par exemple.

A lire absolument pour tous ceux qui s’intéressent:

  • aux médias sociaux et aux nouvelles technologies à la place de travail
  • à l’intégration des TIC en milieu scolaire (un splendide exemple vers la fin du bouquin)
  • à la question de la frontière entre vie privée et vie professionnelle, et son effilochement
  • à contrer l’argument-massue-bidon de la “perte de productivité” si on donne accès aux médias sociaux dans l’entreprise
  • aux réels facteurs de danger et de risque dans les incidents impliquant l’usage abusif de la technologie
  • à l’évolution de la notion de “travail” et des mesures de contrôle variables en fonction de sa nature
  • je pourrais continuer…

Ce sera en tous cas une lecture chaudement recommandée aux étudiants de la formation de Spécialiste en médias sociaux et communautés en ligne!

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Shit, I'm Reading "Eat, Pray, Love" [en]

[fr] Malgré moult réticenses, en train de lire Eat, Pray, Love d'Elizabeth Gilbert, si ce n'est pour pouvoir critiquer en connaissance de cause. Misère: j'ai bien du plaisir à le lire, ce livre. Elle écrit très bien, pour commencer -- un genre de style que j'adore, et qui me fait penser à celui d'Anne Lamott. Je me reconnais dans certaines de ses facettes. Par contre, j'appréhende l'épisode indien, comme vous pouvez imaginer, et la dimension "quête spirituelle" me fatigue franchement. Encore 248 pages à lire!

I’ve just turned page 100 of Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestseller Eat, Pray, Love, and I’m afraid to say I’m enjoying it.

I’d managed to stay away from it so far. Just like Harry Potter many years ago, the amount of hype surrounding the book put me off. But there was more: I have a big problem (and still do) with the whole “spiritual quest to India” trip. Warning: I haven’t reached the “India” part of Gilbert’s book yet, so I may still end up cringing uncomfortably at that point.

Two things made me cave in and buy the book. The first, which had been nagging at me for a while, is that in order to be properly critical of it when facing the masses of fans, I need to know what I’m talking about, and hence, read it. All to easy to criticize a book you haven’t read. The second reason is that I heard Elizabeth Gilbert in Radiolab’s episode “Help!”. I didn’t know it was her at first, but I thought she had a lovely voice, and I liked what she said. Shit.

So, I bought the book at Heathrow Airport, and started reading it yesterday. One thing is certain: Gilbert writes really well. I love her writing like I love Anne Lamott‘s. She does things with her words that make me envious — she lets them run off and play on wild forest paths as I sometimes try to let mine, but with infinitely more grace.

As for the story, well, the jury is still out. I love life stories. Some aspects of Elizabeth’s story hit very close to home — close enough that I actually started crying a couple of times while I was reading. For me, not for her. I recognize myself in her, just like I imagine many readers do, and I guess that’s part of her success. Eat, Pray, Love is more than just her story — it’s ours, us women in their 30s, not quite where they imagined they’d be in life. (God, I can’t believe I just wrote this.)

In other ways, though, her story is not my cup of tea: I’ll skip lightly over the whole Indian guru thing (another day, maybe, but remember: a degree in Indian religions and culture, and a year in the country, and being pretty much as atheist as can be). And the predictions of the Indonesian medicine-man. And the spiritual journey thing (knowing, though, that I have yet to see where it will lead — I may be pleasantly surprised, who knows). And have we not already read too many stories of women who figure out they maybe do not want the whole “house, husband, kids” thing and struggle with walking away from it all and living “free”? (I’m waiting for the books about the women who want it all but are failing at getting anywhere near it.)

In the details have lain some treasures, though. Elizabeth Gilbert’s comments on the kind of traveller she is resonate with my own self-interrogations on the question these last few days. And her written conversations with God-who-might-be-herself have helped remind me that I need to spend more energy using on myself those qualities that make me a good friend. I think I am a good friend, or at least, I try my best to be. And I try to be the kind of friend I would want to have… I think. No reason I cannot be friends with myself.

And with that, I’m off to read the next 248 pages of Eat, Pray, Love — in hope that I make it through the Indian episode safe and sound.

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Rebirth of the Book Project [en]

If you were reading my blog or hanging out with me in 2006 and 2007, you may remember that I was planning to write a book around teenagers and the internet. It took me some time to realize this was not a money-earning project, that it would be hard for me to find a publisher, and that earning a living was higher on the priority list than writing a book.

A few weeks/months ago (time is a blur) I was approached by a publishing house who wants to publish a book on the “internet and family” topic. The editors thought of me, not knowing about my existing (dormant) book project. We met last week and though this is still very early stages (nothing signed, etc.) we’re both interested in pursuing.

As we were talking about process and next steps, I raised the issue of licencing. Though they have never published anything under a Creative Commons license, the editor had heard of it and said it was worth opening a discussion on the topic with the publisher. This got me thinking (and talking) about various concerns I have about an author contract:

  • what happens if they publish one run of the book and stop there? can I self-publish it on Lulu or Blurb afterwards, or take it to another publisher?
  • can I blog the work-in-progress as I write?
  • what about making an electronic edition available? (the publishing house only does paper so far)
  • can I publish it under a CC licence?
  • what the heck, how about making it available for free on the web?
  • what happens if somebody approaches me saying they want to translate my book? can they self-publish a translation?

Lots of questions, as you can see, that need to be clarified upfront with the publisher and included in the contract — and here is where I’d like your input. I know that many of you reading this blog have experience with writing, publishers, licenses, and all. What would you recommend doing and not doing? What should I pay attention to?

Having a rather progressive stance on certain IP/copyright issues, it would make sense if the terms of my contract and endeavour in the land of dead trees reflected that to some extent. Of course, I’m aware everything might not be possible, but there seems to be an opening to talk about these things with the publisher, so it would be a pity not to take it. Before that, I need to make my mind up about what I’d want — in an ideal world.

I welcome all feedback!

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Lisez le Cluetrain Manifesto [fr]

[en] I write a weekly column for Les Quotidiennes, which I republish here on CTTS for safekeeping.

Chroniques du monde connecté: cet article a été initialement publié dans Les Quotidiennes (voir l’original).

“Lisez le Cluetrain Manifesto!” Voilà mon refrain, que je répète comme un vieux disque rayé depuis des années.

Je l’ai lu tardivement, ce Cluetrain Manifesto, qui a fêté l’an dernier ses dix ans. En 2006 je crois, ou peut-être 2007. Blogueuse de longue date, voyez-vous, je ne pensais pas qu’il m’éclairerait beaucoup. J’avais bien entendu lu les 95 thèses du manifeste qu’on trouve facilement en ligne (elles sont d’ailleurs traduites en français), et… c’était quelque part entre “c’est évident” et “je ne vois pas vraiment l’intérêt”.

Et puis j’ai lu le livre. Quelle révélation! Effectivement, mon expérience en ligne me rendait déjà tout acquise aux thèses que défend le Cluetrain, mais sa lecture m’a donné le vocabulaire qui me manquait pour mettre en mots tout ce que je croyais. A sa lecture, les pressentiments informes ont fait place aux arguments solides. Je pouvais enfin expliquer en quoi internet changeait fondamentalement les règles du jeu, et pourquoi les blogs (et autres outils en ligne “sociaux”) étaient si importants.

Que vous regardiez la culture en ligne comme un objet bizarre, ou qu’au contraire vous soyez tellement immergé dedans que vous peinez à expliquer vos évidences à “ceux du dehors”, je ne peux que vous encourager à prendre la peine de lire le Cluetrain Manifesto. Il peut être lu gratuitement en ligne dans son intégralité, mais personnellement, j’ai un faible pour le format papier quand il s’agit d’écrits de cette longueur. C’est quand même plus agréable de pouvoir se vautrer sur le canapé avec un bouquin que de rester vissé des heures à lire sur son écran. (Enfin, chacun son truc. Je préfère le canapé.)

C’est en anglais, mais lancez-vous quand même. C’est drôle, c’est bien écrit, c’est irrévérencieux, c’est plein d’anectodes. Il y a certes eu une traduction française mais celle-ci est épuisée. (“Liberté pour le net” chez Village Mondial, quelqu’un connaît l’éditeur? Je ne suis pas fan du titre, j’avoue, “Le manifeste des évidences” c’est nettement plus heureux, comme choix.)

Il y a plusieurs années de cela, coincée à une conférence sur les blogs un peu raide, et frustrée de me retrouver dans des conversations stériles avec des dirigeants d’entreprise qui m’expliquaient avoir tout compris aux blogs (“c’est très bien les blogs, il faut juste complètement contrôler ce que les employés écrivent”), un ami et moi plaisantions que nous aurions mieux fait de venir avec une pile d’exemplaires du Cluetrain Manifesto à distribuer, plutôt que de se fatiguer dans des dialogues de sourds.

Aujourd’hui, j’ai mon petit stock au bureau, à donner à amis et clients. Je viens d’en faire l’expérience dans un autre domaine: il y a toujours plus de chances qu’on lise un livre si on l’a déjà entre les mains, plutôt que si on doit aller l’acheter ou le commander.

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Conference Experience Evolution and The Paradox of Choice [en]

[fr] Mes réflexions sur l'expérience vécue lors de conférences comme LIFT08, LeWeb3, SXSW, BlogTalk, à la lumière de ma lecture du livre The Paradox of Choice. Surcharge cognitive et sociale, trop de décisions à prendre. Evolution également, entre les premières conférences où je ne connaissais presque personne, et où l'accent était mis sur "faire de nouvelles connaissances", et les dernières conférences, où je me rends compte que je ne peux pas passer du temps (ni même parfois dire bonjour) à toutes les personnes que je connais déjà.

There’s a lot going on in my head these days, and unfortunately I’ve been too [busy/exhausted]( (that damn anaemia is still around, fwiw) to blog about it. Since a week or so before LIFT08, actually, I feel like I’ve been desperately running behind the train, and the distance between my hand and the handlebar that will allow me to climb back on is just increasing.

One book I’ve been reading these last weeks (months?) is [The Paradox of Choice]( If you haven’t read it yet, take a few minutes to order it now. It’s turning out to be a really important book for me, on the one hand for understanding a few things about how the world we live in functions and affects us in the areas of freedom, responsibility, and of course, choice — and on the other hand for understanding myself.

I suffer a lot from having too many options to choose from: I’m really bad at being a “satisficer” in certain areas (somebody who will be satisfied with an option as long as it meets certain criteria) as opposed to being a “maximizer” — wanting the *best* option available. In particular in my professional life and my intellectual pursuits, each choice is agonizing, because my brain wirings keep me very focused on everything I’m possibly missing out upon each time I pick a particular option over others. I do my best to tone this tendency down, of course, but it’s there.

There’s a lot I could comment upon in relation to this book and all it is helping me understand (it delves deep into the mechanisms of choice, and that’s fascinating), but suffice to say right now that it’s colouring a lot of my thinking in general these days.

One of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot recently is conferences. Obviously, as a [conference organizer]( ([Going Solo]( early bird price ends soon, by the way!), it’s on my mind, but I’ve also been attending quite a few conferences recently and reflecting of how my experience of these events has evolved (due to [“burn-out”](, increased [network and public profile](, and maybe other factors).

For online people like me, conferences are an occasion to see their usually scattered network of relations (friends or business contacts) coalesce in one single geographical location over the space of a few days. It can be very exciting, especially when you get to meet many of these people offline for the first time, but it can also be overwhelming. During my first conferences, I also got to know a lot of new people. People I wasn’t interactive with online. People who “grew” (ew) my network. People I liked and decided I wanted to stay in touch with. People who were interesting business contacts.

As conferences went by, I would find myself in a crowd of more and more people I already knew and appreciated and wanted to spend time with. I think [FOWA]( last November was a breaking point for me — I realized that it was impossible for me to catch up with all “my people” there in the space of two short days. It was quite distressing to realize this, actually.

A few weeks after that, I was in Berlin for [Web2.0Expo]( A bit burnt, I took things way more lightly. Attended a few sessions. Didn’t even show up on certain mornings. Hung out with people I met there. Didn’t try to blog all the sessions I attended. It went much better.

Conferences are hard. There is a lot of intellectual stimulation (sessions and conversations), and a lot of social stimulation too. As I mentioned earlier in this post, I already feel life is simply too full of interesting things and people. In my everyday life, I struggle with the feeling that there is “too much out there” for me to “deal” or “cope” with — and a conference just concentrates this feeling over 2-3 days. Lots of fascinating (hopefully) sessions to attend. Great corridor conversations. Old friends to catch up with. New friends to make. Business contacts to touch base with. Dinners, lunches and parties. Take photos, blog, video the sessions or interview fellow attendees. To do all that well, you’d need to be superhuman.

I had two “different” conference experiences during these last six months, and they were LeWeb4 and LIFT08. Both times, I attended the conference with a rather clear [business objective]( It was tiring, but less overwhelming, because I’d decided in advance what I was in for. LeWeb4 (LeWeb3 actually, 2nd edition — don’t ask me why) actually turned out better than LIFT08 for me, because I simply didn’t attend any sessions (aside from half of [JP](’s). At LIFT08, I had a press pass, so I did feel pressure to live-blog — and also, it’s my “home conference”, and I really like their programme. I was also [giving a speech](, so, although this conference experience “went well”, it was [overwhelming](

So, what am I learning about conferences? They’re “too much”. So, you have to go to them knowing you’ll miss out (which brings us back to what The Paradox of Choice is about). The more connected you are, the more socially unmanageable it’s going to be. People you won’t see. Not saying goodbye. Not spending as much time as you wanted with certain people, but in exchange spending more time with others. So, I’ve come to accept that. I don’t know who I’m going to be able to catch up with. I know I won’t be able to catch up with everyone. I do my best not to plan — and if there is a small number of people (1, 2, 3) that I really want to see, I make plans with them, and that’s it.

The sessions are also “too much”. You can’t sit in sessions for the whole day, take notes, blog about them (or whatever you do) and then do the same thing the next day. Well, you can, but chances are your brain will fry at some point. I know that I can’t do it for two days in a row. At [SXSW](, I decided at one point to officially give up on attending sessions. I felt bad, because there were lots of them which sounded interesting, and lots of people I wanted to hear, but I also felt relieved because all of a sudden the pressure of making choices had been removed. If I happened to be hanging out with people who went to a panel, or if I stumbled into one — well, good. But I wasn’t going to make decisions about them other than on the spur of the moment. That worked out pretty well.

I did the same for the parties. Too much choice => I refuse to agonize on decisions before the last moment. All open. Go with the flow.

So, bottom-line: very little planning, lots of improvisation, and setting low expectations about doing precise stuff or hanging out with precise people.

To change the subject a little, I noticed at LIFT08 how at one point, there seems to be a physiological limit to taking in new people (certainly some relation to the [Dunbar number](’s_number) department). At LIFT08, I was just so socialed out (or over-socialized), between running around promoting Going Solo and being the object of some attention after my speech ([watch video](, that I realized at some point that I was doing horrible things like:

– trying to hand out moo cards twice to people I actually already knew (in this case, it was [Robert]( in the space of a few minutes
– asking people for their name 3 times in a row
– forgetting I’d talked to people, even when they took the trouble to remind me what we had talked about a few hours before
– and of course, totally not recognizing anybody I’d been introduced to recently or at a previous conference

In this kind of situation, you can do two things. “Fake it”, as in “oh, hi! how’s business, blah blah blah” and hope that the person will drop enough info to help you out, or just fake it till the end. To be honest, I hate the idea of doing that, and I can’t bring myself to do it (plus, I’m sure I’d be quite bad at it). So, I prefer the second option, which is being honest. I apologize for not recognizing people (mention that I’m [hopeless with faces]( — people who know me can attest), explain that I’m over-socialized and have simply been meeting and interacting with too many people. In my experience, this approach works out fine.

There’s also a lot to be said about “micro-fame” — the first couple of conferences I went to, the number of people I “didn’t really know” who were interested in talking to me (as in “walked up to me to introduce themselves”) was close to zero. Today, people show up out of nowhere, know me, want to speak to me. Friends want to introduce me to people they know (which is good, by the way!) My first conferences involved a lot of just meeting a nice person or two, and hanging out with them for the whole conference. This is more difficult today (except maybe at small conferences like BlogTalk) because I just know too many people (or too many people know me).

There also seems to be a subculture of highly-travelled, highly-conferenced people I’m suddenly finding myself part of — and I’m sure it would be worth taking a closer look to what’s going on here (hmm… [a conference](, maybe?)

I’ll stop here, after dumping these thoughts in this not-very-organized post. It felt good to write all this down. If you have comments or thoughts, agree or disagree, experiences to share — my comments and trackbacks are yours to use.

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Reading The Black Swan [en]

[fr] Notes de lecture de "The Black Swan", sur l'impact des événements hautement improbables.

One of the things I did yesterday during my time offline was read a sizeable chunk of [The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable]( by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

It’s a fascinating read. (Thanks again to Adam Hill for saying I should read it.) I just find myself a little frustrated that I can’t effortlessly copy-paste quotes from the book into a text file or [my Tumblr]( as I read. (And no, I wouldn’t want to be reading this online. I like books. They just lack a few features. Like searchability, too.)

Anyway, I’ve been [twittering away]( while I read, and here are a few things I noted. These are not exact quotes, but paraphrases. Consider them “reading notes.” (And then a few me-quotes, hehe…).

– oh, [one quote]( I did copy to [Tumblr]( (check it, if you’re lucky, you might find more quotes!)
– Finding Taleb’s concepts of Mediocristan and Extremistan fascinating and insightful.
– Probably in Extremistan: number of contacts, length of relationships? Not sure.
– High-impact, low-probability events (Black Swans) are by nature unpredictable. Now apply that to the predator problem.
– We confuse ‘no evidence of possible Black Swans’ with ‘evidence of no possible Black Swans’ and tend to remember the latter.
– ‘No evidence of disease’ often interpreted as ‘Evidence of no disease’, for example.
– Taleb: in testing for a hypothesis, we tend to look for confirmation and ignore what would invalidate it.
– Interesting: higher dopamine = greater vulnerability to pattern recognition (less suspension of disbelief)
– So… Seems we overestimate probability of black swans when we talk about them. Terrorism, predators, plane crashes… And ignore others.
– Anecdotes sway us more than abstract statistical information. (Taleb)
– That explains why personal recommendations have so much influence on our decisions. Anecdotes, rather than more abstract facts or stats. (That’s from me, not him.)
– Journalists according to Taleb: ‘industrial producers of the distortion’

**Update:** [Anne Zelenka wrote a blog post]( taking the last and, unfortunately, quite incomplete citation as a starting-point. Check [my clarification comment on her blog]( And here’s [the complete quote](

> Remarkably, historians and other scholars in the humanities who need to understand silent evidence the most do not seem to have a name for it (and I looked hard). As for journalists, fuhgedaboutdit! They are industrial producers of the distortion. (p. 102)

**Update 2:** Anne edited her post to take into account my comment and our subsequent discussion. Thanks!

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First Draft of Book Presentation [en]

[fr] Un premier jet de ce que pourrait être une présentation de mon projet de livre, en anglais.

*// Here’s a first draft of what a short presentation of [my book project]( would be. Comments and nitpicking welcome. Is this convincing? Does it sound solid?*

#### A Book About Teenagers and the Internet

Teenagers are very active internet users. Parents and educators, however, less so. There is often quite a bit of confusion over what teenagers are doing online and how risky their online occupations are. Attitudes range from complete lack of interest (probably fuelled by fear of technological incompetence) to outright panic (particularly about sexual predators, with complicity of the media).

Adults who are not particularly internet-savvy (and even those who are familiar with it) need a sane guide to precisely what all this “online stuff” is about. What is beneficial? What is harmless? Where are the real dangers? How does being “totally wired” (in Anastasia Goodstein’s terms) influence relationships and social life?

This book will be is a guide to understanding today’s online world, aimed at parents, teachers, and educators. It will helps them make informed educational decisions about teenagers’ use of the internet. The focus will be is on de-dramatizing a lot of the “risks” the mainstream media have been very vocal about (sexual predators, for instance) and on promoting a deep understanding of how online and offline are integrated in teens’ lives. This brings about new issues with are maybe not dramatic, but which can be challenging for our youth, and which they should not have to face without the support of the adults they love or trust in their lives.

Part “tourist guide to the online world”, part essay, this book should be is a precious ally for those living or working with teenagers, and who sometimes feel at loss with what the internet is all about;, as well as contributing it also contributes to a more general understanding of how the internet is changing our lives.

#### About the Author

Stephanie Booth has been a very active and respected online citizen for close to ten years. After graduating in arts (Indian religions and culture, philosophy, French), she worked first as a project manager and then as a middle-school teacher. She left teaching in 2006 to devote herself exclusively to helping others understand internet culture and technology, and make good use of it.

An important part of her work has been giving lectures in French-speaking Switzerland about “the living internet” (blogging, instant messaging…) to teenagers, parents, and schoolteachers. Her extensive personal experience of “internet life” married to a strong academic background and her ability to explain tricky concepts to a variety of audiences in a down-to-earth and convincing fashion have led her to be recognized by both the media and school authorities as an expert on “teenagers and internet” issues.

She has been writing regularly on her blog Climb to the Stars for over seven years, both in English and in French. A lot of her thinking about the internet can be found there.

#### Contents

– Kids online, parents offline: why is it a problem?
– How teenagers use the internet: it’s a town, not a library
– Where can it go wrong?
– Core online publication issues: anonymity, permanence, findability
– How afraid should we be of sexual predators?
– How online communication affects relationships
– What can parents do?
– The bigger picture: media education

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A Book on Teenagers and the Internet [en]

[fr] Malgré l'excellent travail de danah boyd et le livre d'Anastasia Goodstein ("Totally Wired"), je pense que mon projet de livre sur les adolescents et internet tient encore la route. Une petite argumentation à ce sujet.

*// After complaining for weeks that I wasn’t making any progress in writing my [book]( proposal in preparation for the [Frankfurt Book Fair]( I’m leaving for tomorrow, I finally started writing on the journey back home from London. Here’s some stuff in English. Your comments and suggestions are welcome, as always.*

I know of a couple of people in the English-speaking world who are doing great work on teenagers and the internet. One of them is [danah boyd]( She has traveled all over the US and interviewed dozens of teens for her PHD. Another is [Anastasia Goodstein](, who has written the excellent book “[Totally Wired](”, aimed at parents of today’s connected teenagers.

While reading “Totally Wired”, I have to admit I started rethinking my book project. I took the decision to write “The Book” because I noticed a huge void in the French-speaking world. No danah or Anastasia that I know of. Parents and educators need a sane book in French on teenagers and the internet, written by somebody who actually knows and understand the online world. Why not simply translate Anastasia’s book?

I’ve thought about it. For personal reasons, I do want to write a book, and this seems a good and useful subject for one. But is my personal desire to be a published author getting in the way of doing what makes most sense, and putting my energy where it will really be useful? I see two reasons for which this is not the case:

1. Anastasia’s book is US-centric. Although I believe that “internet culture” does not change radically from one part of the world to another, there are differences between the US and French-speaking Europe that need to be taken into account. I could provide this “European perspective”.

2. As a friend of mine told me, “this is important enough that we need more than one good book on the topic”. I can’t, of course, guarantee that my book will be “good”, but I promise that I’ll do my best. 😉

Parents and educators of Francophonia need a guide to their teenagers’ internet. And beyond that, we need to understand the impact all these technological spaces are having on the way we build relationships and relate to each other.

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Notes From San Francisco [en]

So, roughly half-way through my five-week trip to San Francisco, what’s going on? I haven’t been blogging much lately, that’s for sure.

For once, I took some photographs from the plane. Unfortunately my camera batteries ran out just as we were coming down on San Francisco, and my spare ones were in the luggage compartment above my head. Oh, well.

Flying to San Francisco 31

I got some first-level questioning at immigration coming in. No, not the sort where they take you to a separate room, become much less friendly, and have boxes of rubber gloves on the counter. This is how it went:

– …And what is the duration of your stay?
– Five weeks.
– …And what do you do in… over in Switzerland?
– I’m a freelance… internet consultant. *OMG that sounds bad.* …I’m actually here to work on a book project. *Yeah I know I should never volunteer information.*
– What’s the book about?
– Er… teenagers and the internet.
– And…?
– Er… Well, the situation with teenagers and the internet, and what we’re doing about it in Switzerland.
– And what are you doing about it?
– Well, not enough!
– And? Come on, tell me more about it.
– Er… OK. *OMGOMG* Well, see, teenagers are really comfortable with computers and the internet, and so they’re chatting, blogging, etc. — they’re digital natives, see? — and parents, well, they’re clueless or terrified about the internet, and they don’t always understand what’s going on in their kids lives online, so basically, we have teenagers who are spending a lot of time online and sometimes getting into trouble and parents don’t know or don’t care about what they’re doing there, so we have this… chasm between generations and…
– Thank you. You can go.

The pick-up from the airport was wonderfully orchestrated and much appreciated. Being driven into town by somebody friendly rather than having to use unfamiliar public transportation really makes a difference. Thanks to all those involved (yes, it took that many people!)

Waiting on the Sidewalk

Then, through some freak breakdown of all modern forms of communication (partially documented on Twitter), I ended up waiting outside on the sidewalk for almost an hour while my kind host Tara waited for me inside her appartment. We worked it out finally, and I was introduced to my (nice and spacious) room before going to hang out at [Citizen Space]( A nice dinner out with Chris, Tara and Jimmy to end the day, and I happily collapsed in my bed at a respectable local hour. You will have taken note that I did not collapse at 4pm feeling like a zombie, thanks to having taken [melatonin]( on the plane. (It [doesn’t seem to work that well for Suw](, but it works perfectly on me, and I’m never traveling between continents without it again.)

The four next days went by in [a blur of Supernova madness]( too many people, too many sessions, food with ups and downs, parties with [cupcakes]( and others at the top of [skyscapers]( I took [lots of photographs]( and even [a video sequence that got some attention](

Supernova First Day 33

During the next week, I started settling down. Met and hung out with old friends, made new ones, unpacked my suitcases, went walking around in town, saw [Dykes on Bikes](, the [Gay Pride Parade](, and the [iPhone launch](, photographed [skyscrapers in the night](, ordered a new camera, got my MacBook (partly) repaired, and even [dropped in at Google to take notes of Suw’s talk there](

All this, actually, is documented in [my Twitter stream]( — maybe I should add a whole lot of links? — be sure to keep an eye on it if you’re interested in a more day-by-day account of what I’m doing here.

Overall, things have been good. A small bout of homesickness a few days ago, but I’m feeling better now. I need to start focusing on the things I want to get done (blogging, writing, book, writing, fixing things for clients…) — holiday over now!

Downtown San Francisco By Night 9

I’ve been thinking about my “work career” a little, too. I’m very happy doing what I’m doing, but I’m not going to be doing “Blog 101” for ever — I can feel my interests shifting somewhat already. I’ve been interested in the “social tools at large” department for a long time, but unfortunately it seems to translated to “blogging” in most of the work I do, so I’d like to expand my horizons in that direction a little. I’ve had a couple of talks with people in startups recently, and I realize it’s a kind of environment I wouldn’t mind working in — at least part-time. We’ll see what happens.

I’m also realizing that there is more potential than I first thought around [the two main things I care about these days]( teenagers online and internet language issues. Hence, the book, and also a talk on the subject of languages on the internet which I’ll be giving at Google this coming Tuesday.

Also in the “work” department, two other things have been on my mind. First, the idea of opening up a coworking space in or around Lausanne ([Ollie is having the same kind of thought]( — we’re talking). Second, trying to find a solution so that I don’t have to do maintenance on my clients’ WordPress installations once all is rolling, or spend hours swimming in HTML, CSS and WordPress theme PHP template tags. Not that I don’t know how to do it or don’t enjoy it once in a while, but it’s really not the kind of work I want to spend my time doing. So, I’ve been starting to ask around for names of people who might do this kind of thing (for a reasonable fee), and even thinking of recruiting some students in Lausanne that I could coach/train so that they can do most of the work, and call me up only for major problems. So, see, I’ve been thinking.

Some people have been asking me if I was planning to move here. Indeed, 5 weeks in the city looks suspiciously like a scouting operation. Actually, traveling has an interesting side-effect for me: I tend to come back home thinking “gee, Lausanne is *such* a great place to live! I’m never moving!” Sure, I have some underlying personal issues which contribute to making me overly attached to my hometown, and I know that someday I might end up living elsewhere. But really, for the moment, I don’t think I’d want that.

And even though I’m told San Francisco is very “European” compared to the rest of the US (which I have yet to see) I can’t help seeing how “horribly American” it is. Don’t get me wrong, I really like this city and am enjoying my time here. I know that what I say can give wrong impressions (for example, people — especially Indians — read [the story of my year living in India]( and think that I hated the country; it’s not true, I really loved it, and can’t wait to go back). But I walk around San Francisco and see all the signs with rules and regulations and “stupid” warnings (like, God, the pineapple chunks I buy at Whole Foods haven’t been pasteurized and may contain harmful germs! or, don’t use the hairdryer in the bath tub!), the AT&T Park and other manifestations of what to me is “consumerism gone mad”, I hear about health care and [“you’re expected to sue” horror stories](, visa lotteries for non-renewal, the education system…

So, yes, I’m focusing on the negative. And Switzerland, even though it’s a wonderful country ;-), has its negatives too. Like many natives all over the world, I’ve developed a selective blindness to what is “wrong” in the land I come from, considering much of it “normal” as I have been brought up with it. I know that. But too much of what I see here makes my skin crawl. I’m really enjoying spending some weeks here, I love my friends, the food and the sunshine, but I don’t think I’d be happy living here.

Misty Skyscrapers in Downtown San Francisco 10

Well, this was one of these longer-than-expected posts, and it’s occupied most of my morning. My tasks for this afternoon are (in this order):

– one WordPress install for a client
– spending a little more time trying to see if there is hope for the aggravating Google Groups problem I bumped into, and if not, setting up a Yahoo! Group instead
– writing a post for []( or working on my book — whichever I most feel like.

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