The Aggregator Lag [en]

[fr] A cause de Google Reader qui m'a servie une version "non rectifiée" de ce billet de danah, j'ai failli contribuer à propager des informations fausses, et ça m'énerve. Ça m'énerve surtout quand (en l'occurence) la technologie vient nous mettre des bâtons dans les roues.

This bugs me. It bugs me because it’s a situation where the technology which is normally supposed to assist us in communicating actually gets in the way of good communication. It’s even worse, actually: here, a technological issue could invite us to spread false information.

(Of course, there is a human issue behind this, but it’s not what I want to address here. Humans can make mistakes, and as long as they are honestly made, I think we should just accept that they happen.)

I just read danah’s last post in Google Reader and headed to [the Facebook group]( she was pointing to so I could get a little more information on the current situation.

Post in Google Reader

There, I found a message which indicated that [FaceBook had never sent the ArabLGTB group]( the message they had received. It was, in fact, a fake.

"We have been fooled"

Well, I thought I’d better [comment about that on danah’s post](, so I headed over to her blog. There, to my surprise (happy surprise), I saw she had already updated her post.

Post on apophonia

The update just hadn’t made it to Google Reader.

So of course, there is nothing extraordinary going on here. This story is just another case of misinformation spread by good intentions (and I’m thinking mainly about all the people who blogged about this on their LiveJournals and will never know it was not true — or bother finding out). But I’m annoyed that I almost got caught in it too, and that I always forget that we can’t trust aggregators to serve us the latest version of a post.

Check, check, check. When in doubt, don’t blog. (That’s for me.)

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The Podcast With No Name (Steph+Suw), Episode 2 [en]

[fr] Nouvel épisode du podcast conversationnel que je fais avec mon amie Suw Charman.

Long, long overdue, here is Steph and [Suw](’s Podcast With No Name, episode 2, February 15th, 2007. Some rough shownotes, with some links. Hope you enjoy it, and let us know what you think. We’re down to 35 minutes! *Show notes might suffer updates…*

* conferences: [LIFT’07]( and [Freedom of Expression](
* not everybody has the internet (God, I need to stop laughing so loud when we’re recording)
* mobile phones in other cultures (e.g. Nigeria)
* “technology overload” at LIFT’07 [turned into “internet addiction”]( (interesting [Stefana Broadbent](
* note-taking on a computer: expected in some contexts, but feels really out-of-place in others (cultural issue)
* do we end up publishing our handwritten notes? trade-offs: handwritten and rewriting vs. direct blogging ([Steph’s crappy workshop notes](
* scanning vs. [photographing written material](, document management and shredding
* GTD status update ([inbox zero](…)
* [FOWA]( coming up and other fun London stuff
* Wedding 2.0 will be blogged on [CnV](, but will there be a webcast?
* technology as a way to stretch our [Dunbar number](’s_number), wedding 2.0 with IRC backchannel and crackberries galore
* the [Wedding Industrial Complex](, trying to find an affordable venue in Dorset
* IRC or SL would be cheaper, but is SL a registered venue?
* physical words for “virtual” places
* gap between us heavy users, and people who get a few e-mails a day, book holidays online and that’s it
* exploring how new tools could help us — most people aren’t curious about new stuff
* winning over new users: finding holes in people’s processes
* [Facebook]( is really cool, very usable, and for keeping in touch with people you know (has smart walls and smart feeds)
* who’s on Facebook? on the non-desire to join new social networks…
* [LinkedIn]( for business
* Facebook as a mashup to keep up with what your friends are upto — but isn’t that what blogs are for?
* outlet overload, tools need to talk to each other ([holes in buckets](, profile multiplication, Facebook share bookmarklet to “push” stuff
* clumsy wrap-up and episode three when we manage!

Did you miss [episode 1](

**Note:** PodPress seems to have collapsed, so here is a [direct link to the 14Mb mp3 file]( just in case.

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English Only: Barrier to Adoption [en]

*Foreword: this turned into a rather longer post than I had expected. The importance of language and localization online is one of my pet topics (I’ve just decided that it would be what I’d [talk about at BlogCamp](, rather than teenagers and stuff), so I do tend to get carried away a little.*

I was surprised last night to realise that this wasn’t necessarily obvious — so I think it’s probably worth a blog post.

**The fact a service is in English only is a showstopper for many non-native speakers, hence a barrier to wider adoption in Europe.**

But doesn’t everybody speak English, more or less? Isn’t it the *lingua franca* of today that **everybody** speaks? It isn’t. At least not in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and I’m certain there are many other places in Europe where the situation is similar.

Come and spend a little time in Lausanne, for example, and try communicating in English with the man on the street. Even if many people have done a couple of years of English at school, most have never had any use for it after that and have promptly forgotten it. German is a way more important “foreign language” around here, as it is the linguistic majority in Switzerland, and most administrative centers of big companies (and the government) are in the German-speaking part of the country (which doesn’t mean that everybody speaks German, either).

The people who are reasonably comfortable with English around here will most often be those who have taken up higher academic studies, particularly in scientific subjects (“soft” and “hard” science alike).

And if I’m the person who comes to your mind when you think “Swiss”, think again — my father is British, I was born in England, went to an English medium school and spoke English at home until I was 8, conversed regularly with English-speaking grandparents during my growing years, and never stopped reading in English: all that gave me enough of a headstart that even though my English had become very rusty at the end of my teens, I dove into the English-speaking internet with a passion, and spent an anglophone [year in India](/logbook/). So, no. I’m not your average Lausanne-living French-speaker. I’m a strange bilingual beast.

Imagine somebody whose native language is not English, even though they may theoretically know enough English to get around if you parachuted them into London. (Let’s forget about the man on the street who barely understands you when you ask where the station is.) I like to think of [my (step-)sister]( as a good test-case (not that I want to insist on the “step-“, but it explains why she isn’t bilingual). She took up the “modern languages” path at school, which means she did German, English, and Italian during her teenage years, and ended up being quite proficient in all three (she’s pretty good with languages). She went to university after that and used some English during her studies. But since then, she honestly hasn’t had much use for the language. She’ll read my blog in English, can converse reasonably comfortably, but will tend to watch the TV series I lend her in the dubbed French version.

I’m telling you this to help paint a picture of somebody which you might (legitimately) classify as “speaks English”, but for whom it represents an extra effort. And again, I’d like to insist, my sister would be very representative of most people around here who “speak English but don’t use it regularly at work”. That is already not representative of the general population, who “did a bit of English at school but forgot it all” and can barely communicate with the lost English-speaking tourist. Oh, and forget about the teenagers: they start English at school when they’re 13, and by the time they’re 15-16 they *might* (if they are lucky) have enough knowledge of it to converse on everyday topics (again: learning German starts a few years before that, and is more important in the business world). This is the state of “speaking English” around here.

A service or tool which is not available in French faces a barrier to adoption in the *Suisse Romande* on two levels:

– first of all, there are people who simply don’t know enough English to understand what’s written on the sign-up page;
– second, there are people who would understand most of what’s on the sign-up page, but for whom it represents and extra effort.

Let’s concentrate on the second batch. An *extra effort”?! Lazy people! Think of it. All this talk about making applications more usable, about optimizing the sign-up process to make it so painless that people can do it with their eyes closed? Well, throw a page in a foreign language at most normal people and they’ll perceive it as an extra difficulty. And it may very well be the one that just makes them navigate away from the page and never come back. Same goes for using the service or application once they have signed up: it makes everything more complicated, and people anticipate that.

Let’s look at some examples.

The first example isn’t exactly about a web service or application, but it shows how important language is for the adoption of new ideas (this isn’t anything groundbreaking if you look at human history, but sometimes the web seems to forget that the world hasn’t changed that much…). Thanks for bearing with me while I ramble on.

In February 2001, I briefly mentioned [the WaSP Browser Push]( and realised that the French-speaking web was really [“behind” on design and web standards ressources]( I also realised that although [there was interest for web standards](, many French-speaking people couldn’t read the original English material. This encouraged me to [blog in French about it](, [translate Zeldman’s article](, [launching]( the translation site []( in the process., and the [associated mailing-list](, followed a year or so later by [OpenWeb](, eventually became a hub for the budding francophone web standards community, which is still very active to this day.

([What happened with the Swiss Blog Awards]( is in my opinion another example of how important language issues are.)

Back to web applications proper. [Flickr]( is an application I love, but I have a hard time getting people to sign up and use it, even when I’ve walked them through the lengthy Yahoo-ID process. [](, on the other hand, exists in French, and I can now easily persuade my friends and clients to open blogs there. There is a strong [French-speaking WordPress community]( too. A few years ago, when the translation and support were not what they are now, a very nice little blogging tool named [DotClear]( became hugely popular amongst francophone bloggers (and it still is!) in part because it was in French when other major blogging solutions were insufficient in that respect.

Regarding WordPress, I’d like to point out the [community-driven translation effort]( to which everybody can contribute. Such an open way of doing things has its pitfalls (like dreadful, dreadful translations which linger on the home page until somebody comes along to correct them) but overall, I think the benefits outweigh the risks. In almost no time, dozens of localized versions can be made available, maintained by those who know the language best.

Let’s look at teenagers. When [MySpace]( was all that was being talked about in the US, French-speaking teenagers were going wild on [skyblog]( MySpace is catching up a bit now because it [also exists in French]( [Facebook]( In English, nobody here has heard of it. [Live Messenger aka MSN]( Very much in French, [unlike ICQ](, which is only used here by anglophile early adopters.

[Skype]( and [GMail]([GTalk]( are really taking off here now that they are available in French.

Learning to use a new service, or just trying out the latest toy, can be challenging enough an experience for the average user without adding the extra hurdle of having to struggle with an unfamiliar language. Even though a non-localized service like Flickr may be the home to [various linguistic groups](, it’s important to keep in mind that their members will tend to be the more “anglophone” of this language group, and are not representative.

**The bottom line is that even with a lot of encouragement, most local people around here are not going to use a service which doesn’t talk to them in their language.**

***9:52 Afterthought credit:***

I just realised that this article on [why startups condense in America]( was the little seed planted a few days ago which finally brought me to writing this post. I haven’t read all the article, but this little part of it struck me and has been working in the background ever since:

> What sustains a startup in the beginning is the prospect of getting their initial product out. The successful ones therefore make the first version as simple as possible. In the US they usually begin by making something just for the local market.

> This works in America, because the local market is 300 million people. It wouldn’t work so well in Sweden. In a small country, a startup has a harder task: they have to sell internationally from the start.

> The EU was designed partly to simulate a single, large domestic market. The problem is that the inhabitants still speak many different languages. So a software startup in Sweden is still at a disadvantage relative to one in the US, because they have to deal with internationalization from the beginning. It’s significant that the most famous recent startup in Europe, Skype, worked on a problem that was intrinsically international.

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Geeky Frustrations [en]

[fr] Quelques râlages (comme quoi je ne fais pas ça qu'en français) au sujet de certains outils que j'utilise quotidiennement.

Right, so, just so I can get it off my chest, here is a list of little things that bug me with the tools I use daily. If I save them for a “proper write-up” they probably will never be posted, so… here goes.

– Twitter: let me see a differential list of those I follow and those who follow me, both ways. I need to know who is following me that I’m not following (maybe I missed somebody out) and who I’m following but they’re not (to keep in mind they won’t see stuff I twitter).
– Twitter: let me tag my friends, or sort them into buddy groups. Then let me activate phone alerts for only certain groups. One-by-one management is just impossible with 100 or so friends.
– Adium: let me [turn off Gmail notifications]( I have Google Notifier for that. I hate having to click “OK” on that window all the time.
– Google Reader: let me [drag’n drop]( feeds from one folder to another.
– Facebook: let me import more than one RSS feed in my notes.
– Nokia 6280 and Macbook: please sync with each other *each time* I ask you to, not once out of three.
– Nokia 6280: gimme a “mark all as read” option for my text messages, please!
– Nokia 6280: I’d say something about the really crappy camera, but there isn’t much you can do about it now, can you.
– iPod: let me loop through all episodes of a podcast instead of having to go to the next episode manually.
– iTunes: let me mix playlists as a source for Party Shuffle (30% My Favorites, 30% Not Listened in Last week, 40% Artist I’m Obsessing Over These Days… for example)
– Google Reader and find a way to allow me to automatically post Shared Items to too.
– Flickr: let me link to “My Favorite photos tagged …” so I can show my readers what I’ve found.
– **Added 18.02.07 0:10** [Google Ajax-y Homepage]( let me Share Google Reader items, not just star them.
– …

Certainly more, but these were those which were bugging me badly just now. Well, they’re off my chest, now I can go back to fretting about all the [stuff I need to get rid of]( in my flat and which is still lying around because I haven’t quite figured out the optimal way to dispose of it.

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Please Make Holes in My Buckets! [en]

[fr] Tour d'horizon de mes différents "profils" à droite et a gauche dans le paysage des outils sociaux (social tools). Il manque de la communication entre ces différents services, et mon identité en ligne s'en trouve fragmentée et lourde à gérer. Ajouter des contacts en se basant sur mon carnet d'adresses Gmail est un bon début, mais on peut aller plus loin. Importer ses livres préférés ou des éléments de CV d'un profil à l'autre, par exemple.

[Facebook]( is [Stowe](’s fault. [Twitter]( was because of [Euan]( [Anne Dominique]( is guilty of getting me on [Xing/OpenBC]( I can’t remember precisely for [Flickr]( or [LinkedIn]( or — OMG! — [orkut](, but it was certainly somebody from [#joiito]( The culprits for [](, [DailyMotion]( and [YouTube]( “Even got there early enough to grab ‘steph’ — now I get password reminders almost everyday, great…”) have disappeared into the limbo of lost memories. [Kevin]( encouraged me to [sign up for a good dozen of blogging platforms](, open a [MySpace account](, and he’s probably to blame for me being on [Upcoming]( As for [](, I’ll blame [Matt]( because he’s behind all that.

Granted, I’m probably the only one responsible for having [gotten into blogging]( “Story here, abbreviated version.”) in the first place.

Let’s get back on track. My aim here is not primarily to point an accusing finger to all my devious friends who introduced me to these fun, [addictive](, time-consuming tools (though it’s interesting to note how one forgets those things, in passing). It’s more a sort of round-up of a bunch of my “online selves”. I feel a little scattered, my friends. Here are all these buckets in which I place stuff, but there aren’t enough holes in them.

Feeds are good. Feeds allow me to have Twitter, [](, Flickr, and even stuff in my blog sidebar. It also allows me to connect my blogs to one another, and into Facebook. Here, though, we’re talking “content” much more than “self”.

One example I’ve already certainly talked about (but no courage to dig it out, my blog is starting to be a huge thing in which I can’t find stuff I know it contains) is contacts or buddies — the “Mine” in [Stowe’s analysis of social applications]( I have buddy lists on IM and Skype, contacts on Flickr and just about every service I mentioned in this post. Of *course*, I don’t want to necessarily have the same contacts everywhere. I might love your photos on Flickr and add you as a contact, but not see any interest in adding you to my business network on LinkedIn. Some people, though — my **friends** — I’ll want to have more or less everywhere.

So, here’s a hole in the buckets that I really like: I’ve seen this in many services, but the first time I saw it was on Myspace. “Let us peek in your GMail contacts, and we’ll tell you who already has an account — and let you invite the others.” When I saw that, it scared me (“OMG! Myspace sticking its nose in my e-mail!”) but I also found it really exciting. Now, it would be even better if I could say “import friends and family from Flickr” or “let me choose amongst my IM buddies”, but it’s a good start. Yes, there’s a danger: no, I don’t want to spam invitations to your service to the 450 unknown adresses you found in my contacts, thankyouverymuch. [Plaxo]( is a way to do this (I’ve seen it criticised but I can’t precisely remember why). Facebook does it, which means that within 2 minutes you can already have friends in the network. Twitter doesn’t, which means you have to painstakingly go through your friends of friends lists to get started. I think [coComment]( and any “friend-powered” service should allow us to import contacts like that by now. And yes, sure, privacy issues.

But what about all my **profile information**? I don’t want to have to dig out my favourite movies each time I sign up to a new service. Or my favourite books. Or the schools I went to. I mean, some things are reasonably stable. Why couldn’t I have all that in a central repository, once and for all, and just have all these neat social tools import the information from there? Earlier today, [David]( was telling me over IM that he’d like to have a central service to bring all our Facebook, LinkedIn, OpenBC/Xing, and MySpace stuff together. Or a way to publish his CV/résumé online and allow Facebook to access it to grab data from it. Good ideas, in my opinion.

I’ll mention [OpenID]( here, but just in passing, because although in my dreams in used to hold the promise of this centralised repository of “all things me”, I don’t think that it’s what it has been designed for (if I get it correctly, it is identity **verification** and doesn’t have much to do with the **contents** of this identity). [Microformats]( could on the other hand certainly come in handy here.

So, please, make more holes in my buckets. Importing Gmail contacts in sticking feeds here and there is nice, but not sufficient. For the moment, Facebook seems promising. But let me use Twitter for my statuses, for example, or at least include the feed somewhere (I can only include one feed, so I’ve included my [suprglu one](, but it has a huge lag and is not very satisfying). Let me put photographs in my albums directly from Flickr. Talk with the profiles I made with other similar services. Grab my school and work info from LinkedIn and OpenBC. Then make all this information you have about me available to republish how I want it (feeds, feeds, feeds! widgets! buttons! badges!) where I want it.

Also, [more granularity]( Facebook has a good helping of it: I can choose which type of information I want to see from my contacts. I can restrict certain contacts from seeing certain parts of my profile. I’d like fine control on who can see what, also by sorting my people into “buddy groups”. “Friends” and “Family” as on Flickr is just not enough. And maybe Facebook could come and present me with [Stowe-groupings]( of my contacts, based on the interactions I have with them.

Share your wild ideas here if you have any.

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