Come to LIFT'08 [en]

[fr] Si vous ne pensiez pas aller à LIFT dans deux semaines, j'aimerais vous encourager à vous inscrire pour nous y rejoindre.

J'avoue qu'une des raisons que j'entends souvent de la part de gens qui me disent ne pas y aller, c'est le prix. Un peu plus qu'un iPhone, et moins qu'un vol à destination de San Francisco (à plus forte raison, meilleur marché également que deux grandes conférences technologiques ayant récemment eu lieu en Europe: Web2.0Expo et LeWeb3).

LIFT est un événement extraordinaire. 3 journées dont une de workshops, la fondue, deux événements supplémentaires gratuits (venture night et sustainable dev), ainsi que la fête -- et vous repartirez proprement "liftés". LIFT est une conférence qui change la vie des gens. Elle est au carrefour des questions de société et de la technologie, d'une pertinence incontestable par rapport aux problématiques de notre temps.

J'explique dans cet article plus en détail pourquoi je vous encourage absolument à venir à LIFT (il est encore temps). C'est un investissement qui sera largement récompensé. Quel que soit le domaine dans lequel vous travaillez, prendre 3 jours sur l'année pour s'informer à la source sur les problématiques de notre société liées à la technologie n'est pas un luxe.

The [LIFT Conference]( is taking place in just two weeks from now in Geneva.

If you’re free on those dates and haven’t considered attending, I’d like to encourage you to [register]( and come and join us. It’s really worthwhile. And if [the price tag]( is making you hesitate, think again. Here’s what’s included in your registration fee for this three-day event:

– a full day of [workshops](
– [two days of conference]( (more about that below)
– nice buffet lunches (upgraded since last year!), [fondue]( evening, open bar [party](
– [venture night]( and [sustainable dev]( sessions
– [lots of WiFi](

So, here we are. 850 CHF (that’s $781.50, 530.80€ or £396.30 [as of today]( for three days. Even though it is a sizeable chunk of money for many people (I’m not talking about you lucky ones who get sent to great events like LIFT by their employers), it’s not that expensive, when you think of it (just a little perspective):

– an iPhone: 399€
– the MacBook Air: $1799
– LeWeb3 (Paris): over 1000€
– Web2.0Expo (Berlin): over 1000€
– a cheap flight to San Francisco: $800 (you spend only 2 days on the plane, and it’s way less fun)

Now, as that is out of the way, let’s get to the meat. Why is LIFT worth so much more than what you pay for it? I’d like to add my two cents to [what the organizers already say](

– **new speakers:** the LIFT team goes to great lengths to introduce speakers that you haven’t already heard at all the other conferences you go to. I’m told it’s becoming a habit for other conference organizers to do their “speaker shopping” at LIFT. (Insider scoop, from Laurent himself: Eric Favre, the inventor of Nespresso, is one of the latest confirmed additions to the speaker list.)
– **great talk quality:** heard of [TED Talks]( They gather the best speakers around the world, and last year, started including talks from partner conferences. [LIFT is one of the four events]( they chose to select talks from.
– **at the crossroads of Life and Technology:** this, I think, I the top reason I really love LIFT. It’s about technology, but it’s also about people, society, and the world we live in. It lacks the dryness of the all-tech conference. It’s visionary. It blows your mind and lifts you up. It changed my life, and I’m not the only one.
– **non-commercial:** though I’m not against profit ([Going Solo]( is, after all, a [commercial event]( “A little background.”)), the fact LIFT is a non-profit labour of love does reflect in the overall atmosphere and quality of the event. No pitches or sponsors on stage. It’s about ideas and about us. It’s friendly and welcoming and human.
– **more than the stage:** LIFT is about what happens during breaks, in corridors and doorways. Yes, the most value one gets out of an event is generally in networking. LIFT has however taken this awareness a step further, investing a lot in [LIFT+](, activities and exhibits that populate the “in-between” spaces.

I hope it’s obvious from what I’m describing: LIFT is truly an event beyond all others. It’s well-organized and touches topics which are over-important for understanding the world we live in: technology has taken an increasing place in our society (all societies, actually), and this is a chance for geeks and “humanists” both to take a few steps back and think about the “big picture”.

Still not 100% sure you want to [register](

If you’re used to the conference circuit: LIFT will be a welcome change from what you’re used to.
If you don’t usually go to conferences: if you go to one event this year, it should be LIFT. (Well, you should give Going Solo a go too, but it’s [a rather different kind of conference](

If you are attending, it’s still time to spread a bit of [link love]( for LIFT — have you done it yet?

I’m looking forward to seeing you there. I’m part of the [electronic media crowd](, though, so if you see me [live-blogging]( like mad, don’t be [offended]( if I’m [not very chatty](

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Introducing Fresh Lime Soda with Episode 3 of the Suw+Steph Podcast [en]

[fr] Notre podcast anglophone (à Suw Charman et moi-même) a maintenant son propre nom de domaine (histoire de fêter son baptême et l'épisode 3): Fresh Lime Soda.

As [twittered yesterday](, [Suw]( and I are very proud to announce the christening of our previously unnamed podcast: [Fresh Lime Soda]( As you can see, it has a domain and blog of its own (hosted by [](, on which you can read the shownotes and of course listen to (or download) the podcast itself:

– [episode 1: Cities, geeks, security and risk](
– [episode 2: Conferences, note taking, Wedding 2.0 and new tools](
– and — yay! — the new [episode 3: Fresh lime soda, Twitter, bad marketing, you can’t beat being there](

You’ll certainly want to [subscribe using the RSS/atom (FeedBurner) feed](, possibly [subscribe in iTunes directly](itpc:// so that you never miss an episode!

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Technological Overload or Internet Addiction? [en]

[fr] Les vidéos du fameux débat sur la surcharge technologique à LIFT'07 est en ligne. Du coup, l'occasion de rappeler mes deux billets sur le sujet, et de rajouter quelques pensées suite à ma participation à la table ronde sur les cyberaddictions à Genève, entre autres sur la confusion entre dépendance et addiction parmi le grand public, et le fait qu'on perçoit souvent l'objet de l'addiction comme étant le problème (et donc à supprimer) et non le comportement addictif. Mes notes sont à disposition mais elles sont très rudimentaires.

For those of you who enjoyed my [Technological Overload Panel]( and [Addicted to Technology]( posts, the ( is now online.

Since I wrote them, I participated in a panel discussion about cyberaddictions (that’s what they’re called in French) in Geneva. It was very interesting, and I learnt a few things. The most important one is the difference between “addiction” and “dépendance” in French. “Dépendance” is physical. The cure to it is quitting whatever substance we are dependant to. Addiction, however, lies in the realm of our relationship to something. It has to do with *how we use a substance/tool*, what role it plays in our life and overall psychological balance. And it also has a component of **automation** to it. You don’t *think* before lighting up a cigarette, or compulsively checking your e-mail.

I think there is a lot of confusion between these two aspects amongst the general public, which leads to misconceptions like the [“cure” to alcoholism being complete abstinence]( Sure, abstinence solves the substance abuse problem and is better for one’s health, but it doesn’t necessarily solve the *addiction* problem.

Addictions which are linked to otherwise useful tools are forcing us to look deeper (and that is actually what I’m trying to say in the [Addicted to Technology post]( The problem is not the substance (ie, alcohol, or even the drug, or in this case, technology). The problem is in the way a person might use it. Hence I maintain that the solution lies not in the **removal of the tool/technology**, as the panel moderator suggests twice (first, by asking us to turn off our laptops, and second, by asking “how to unplug”), but in a careful and personalised evaluation of what one uses technology for (or what one uses technology to avoid).

I had a talk after the panel with one of the people there, who told me of some rough numbers he got from a consultation in Paris which is rather cutting-edge when it comes to dealing with “internet addiction” amongst teenagers. I think that out of 250 referrals (or something), the breakdown was about the following: one third were parents freaking out with no objective reason to. Another third were parents freaking out with good reason, for the signs that brought them there were actually the first indicators of their child’s entry in schizophrenia. I can’t remember the exact details for the last third, but if I recall correctly the bottom line was that they had something like a dozen solid cases of “cyber addictions” in the end. (Please don’t quote me on these numbers because the details might be wrong — and if you *have* precise numbers, I’d be happy to have them.)

This confirms my impression that people are [a bit quick in shouting “internet addiction”]( “5-10% sounds like way too much.”) when faced with heavy users (just like people are a bit quick to shout “pedophiles!” and “sexual sollicitation!” whenever [teenagers and the internet]( are involved). I personally don’t think that the amount of time spent using technology is a good indicator.

I took [some very rough notes]( during the panel I participated in (half-French, half-English, half-secret-code) but you can have a peek if you wish.

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The Shadow IT Department (and Shadow HR) [en]

[fr] Un article qui montre du doigt un nécessaire changement de mentalité dans les départements IT: nombre des outils que les employés utilisent pour améliorer leur productivité ont en fait été introduits de façon "sauvage". Vouloir tout contrôler à tout prix n'est pas la meilleure solution.

Here’s a very interesting piece I picked up in [Bruno’s links]( [Users Who Know Too Much (And the CIOs Who Fear Them)]( It talks about the chasm between what technology IT departments make available, and what tools employees install and use behind the IT department’s back to be more productive at work.

> And that disconnect is fundamental. Users want IT to be responsive to their individual needs and to make them more productive. CIOs want IT to be reliable, secure, scalable and compliant with an ever increasing number of government regulations. Consequently, when corporate IT designs and provides an IT system, manageability usually comes first, the user’s experience second. But the shadow IT department doesn’t give a hoot about manageability and provides its users with ways to end-run corporate IT when the interests of the two groups do not coincide.

> “Employees are looking to enhance their efficiency,” says André Gold, director of information security at Continental Airlines. “People are saying, ‘I need this to do my job.’” But for all the reasons listed above, he says, corporate IT usually ends up saying no to what they want or, at best, promising to get to it…eventually. In the interim, users turn to the shadow IT department.

I remember that when I used to work at Orange, many of my most useful tools were things I “wasn’t allowed” to have on my computer. I also remember that when [I got really bad RSI]( and [using dictation software]( was the only way to get me back to work, the IT department flat-out refused our request for [Dragon]( (Somebody actually said that if I couldn’t type anymore, they should just get rid of me.) My boss had to have a chat with somebody else’s boss to finally have the program installed on my computer.

The bit that actually prompted me to write this post is the comparison with the way HR organises the company:

> For example, a similar dynamic has long played out in HR. A company’s employees have titles and reporting relationships that give their work a formal structure. But at the same time every company has an informal structure determined by expertise, interpersonal relationships, work ethic, overall effectiveness and so on. Companies suffer when HR is out of phase with the informal structure. Employees are demoralized when the formal architecture elevates someone at the bottom of the informal architecture, and people who occupy the top spots in the informal architecture leave when they aren’t recognized by the formal one. Good HR departments know where employees stand in both the formal and informal architectures and balance the two.

A few months ago, I was giving a talk on blogs (etc.) to a bunch of Internal Communications people, and one of my points was that there *is* an informal structure inside the company (the value of which is in fact recognized by the companies, who will invest in “teambuilding” or “recreation” activities to encourage transversal communication), and that use of tools like blogs can help make this structure more visible and efficient. (Think [Cluetrain, these 50](

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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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Addicted to Technology! [en]

[fr] Une longue tirade, malheureusement pas vraiment traduisible vu l'heure et la longueur, sur la dépendance à internet, qui est à mon avis un faux problème. J'y parle de notre définition de la technologie (une voiture, c'est aussi de la technologie, et on ne s'alarme pas des gens qui seraient "dépendants de leur voiture" comme on le fait de ceux qui sont "dépendants de leur ordinateur"), de la valeur (petite) généralement accordée aux rapports humains qui passent à travers un ordinateur, de l'insuffisance de la "déconnexion" pour résoudre un problème d'utilisation excessive de cet outil, puisqu'il reste un outil valable et même indispensable pour certains, même si c'est un lieu privilégié de fuite.

Help! we’re all becoming [addicted to technology]( “Panel on technological overload which concluded by asking for the best way to unplug.”)! Think of it… we’re soon going to be merged to our computers and cellphones, and we already have a hard time living without them. Heck, we can’t even spend a day without chatting or checking our e-mail! Or our blog comments! Where is the world going?

#### What technology?

Let’s take a few steps back, shall we? First of all, please define technology. Do we consider that we are “addicted” on our cars? Our clothes? Our flats? The postal system, goods manufacturing and distribution, the newspaper? Oh, but those things are actually *necessary*, not superfluous like all this internet/computer/techy stuff. *That’s* what we mean by “technology”. People could communicate very well without IM and cellphones and e-mail, couldn’t they? So, shouldn’t we strive to remember that “real” human relationships happen outside the realm of all this “technology-mediated” communication?


Cars are technology. The banking system, and similar infrastructures our world relies on, are in their way a form of technology, and certainly, built upon technology. People who argue that cars, fixed landlines, or shoes are more “necessary” than IM are simply stuck with [views on what “technology” is and its value that are dictated by the state of the world when they came into it]( (Read [original material by Douglas Adams](

We consider things like fixed phones and the postal system like something we *need* because they have been around for so long that our society and the individuals inside it have completely adapted to having them around, relying upon them, and using them. It is “normal” to feel uncomfortable or jittery if your phone landline is cut or if your watch breaks down. But somehow, it is not “normal” to feel uncomfortable or jittery when we can’t check our e-mail for 24 hours.

Computers, the internet, and the various programs we use are *tools*, like the phone and our vehicles. They allow us to get things done, interact and connect with others, and also enjoy some recreation. Of course, they can be over-used. Of course, some people will have an unhealthy or even pathological utilisation of them. But they differ from the classical objects of “addiction”, like drugs, which (usually) do not serve a directly constructive purpose.

#### Addicted to our cars

I find it very problematic to speak about “addiction” regarding computers or the internet, partly because it makes it look like the problem is with the tool (instead of the person), and partly because it is very difficult to draw the line between healthy and unhealthy use of the tool without taking in many environmental and personal factors.

I think that making a comparison between computer and car usage is quite enlightening in that respect. They have in common that they are a form of technology, they have a use, and can be abused. Yet we worry about addiction to computers, but not so much about addiction to cars. Let’s have a closer look.

A car is not a vital necessity. Before cars existed, humanity managed to survive for quite a long time, and wasn’t necessarily worse off (I guess that judgement depends on one’s view of progress). However, nowadays, depending on where you live and what your lifestyle is, it’s hard to get by without a car (though [possible]( by making some arrangements). Would we consider somebody who uses their car everyday “addicted”? Most certainly not, because probably the main reason the car is needed is to commute to work. But what if one likes going to drive around in the countryside every week-end? Or takes the car to drive to the store when it is 5 minutes away on foot? Or uses the car for comfort, when public transport could be used? What about the distress one can end up when a car breaks down and has to be taken to the garage? Would anybody dream of speaking of addiction here?

Just as the car allows us to easily cover long distances, the computer allows us to do things we could not normally do without. It’s technology. Now, if the way we live tends to require or expect us to do these things, the technology becomes “necessary”, and not “superfluous”. Makes sense?

#### Nurturing online relationships has little value (not)

One problem with applying the reasoning I did for the car to the computer has in my opinion been touched upon in the [LIFT’07 panel I mentioned previously]( the blurring of the distinction between what is “work” (ie, “necessary”) and “personal” (“not that necessary”). Aimlessly chatting on IRC can actually be very important for my professional life. In general, taking care of one’s network (really: taking care of the relationships we have with other human beings we know) is something which should not be considered “superfluous”. During the panel, Stefana Broadbent mentioned that technology allowed us to actually keep alive (“manage”) a greater number of relationships than what we would be capable of without. Which leads us to the second problem: human relationships which take place “through the internet” are less valued in today’s world than the “real” ones which take place face-to-face.

What’s missing here is that “virtual” (how I hate that word in this context) interaction is not there to “replace” face-to-face interaction, or traditional communication technologies like the written letter, the fax, or the phone. IM, chat, blogging and e-mail most often keeps people in touch when they would *not* be communicating at all. I would not be keeping friendships alive across the Atlantic without my computer. And some of these friendships are no less valuable than the relationships I have with people I get to see in the flesh more often because they live in my hometown.

But more than that, these “poorer” channels of communication open up different dimensions in the way we relate to others. I’ve heard this said twice recently (though I’ve been aware of it through personal experience for years). First by [Regina Lynn]( in her (well worth reading) book [The Sexual Revolution 2.0]( At some point, she explains that for those who are used to texting and IMing in the context of a romantic relationship, the absence of these “channels” makes it feel like there is something missing in the relationship. Second, Stefana Broadbent (again on the LIFT’07 panel, link above) mentioned that the arrival of Skype and VoiP did not kill chat — people are still chatting even though they could use the richer communication channel and actually talk.

This is not surprising. We know that some things are easier to say or more adapted to this or that communication channel. It’s not news either — using letters or the phone rather than face-to-face is not always a choice made for questions of distance or availability.

#### If not addiction, then what?

Of course, as I mentioned, there are unhealthy uses of computer technology. And computer technology has [characteristics that help us get “hooked”](, so it won’t be surprising that people might use it compulsively or excessively. And for people who for a reason or another (and I at times can include myself in that lot) need to “escape” life/reality/pain, goofing around aimlessly online or chatting for hours with random strangers can be used as an alternative to getting drunk/stoned/passing out in front of the TV/reading all Harry Potter books cover-to-cover without interruption. But is it right to talk about “addiction” in such cases?

Whatever you call it, the problem here is that you can’t just tell the people to “unplug” as a solution. For most people who have built part of their life around the internet, the computer is a valuable tool for work and social life. And anyway, even with substance abuse addictions, [going “cold turkey” does not solve the real problem](, though it’s usually better for your health. (I have personal experience from “the other side”, here: I have never in my whole life even tried smoking a cigarette, because I sense that if I did, there are high chances I would turn into a heavy smoker. I’m not free. One could say I have an addiction problem, even though it is not manifest in substance abuse. It’s latent and finds an expression in total abstinence.)

If the computer is used excessively, it is necessary to address the *real* underlying problem. The “thing” that makes people need to escape to somewhere. Because the line between “normal use of the tool” (I need to chat to some extent to keep in touch with my friends/family/collegues) and “excessive use” (I spend all my free time chatting, forget to eat, and don’t go out anymore) is drawn in *quality* rather than *quantity* and does not comprise a clear border like a different environment, schedule, or tool, the “easy” solution of “quitting” does not work.

Then, how does one determine if one’s use of the computer is *excessive*? I like to say that the main defining criteria for this kind of problem is **pain**. Is the intensity with which one uses the computer (or cellphone, or whatever) a source of suffering? Does the person feel that it’s out of control, and would like to do something about it? Is it having concrete effects like work loss, strain on relationships, or is there dissimulation regarding the time spent at it, hinting at a general unease about the time that is used on the computer? The secondary criteria would be **purpose**. Addiction or escape serve a purpose (shields one from something). Is it the case? What is this purpose? It’s not a simple question, and it often doesn’t have a simple answer, and addressing it might even involve a therapist.

#### Not that addicted…

I find that the mainstream press and certain specialists (doctors or teachers I’ve met) are a bit quick to shout “addiction” when faced with the importance the computer and the internet have taken in our lives. I’m not an “addict” because I get uncomfortable if I haven’t accessed my e-mail in 24 hours. I’m not an “addict” because I chat to my friends from the other side of the pond every day. I’m not an addict because when I think of something interesting, I feel an urge to write about it on my blog. I’m not an addict because I need my computer to take notes during a conference, rather than a paper and pen with which I’m illegible and which [hurts me]( “I can type OK and be readable if I have very mild pain, but handwriting hurts a lot and is just useless.”). I’m not an addict because I sometimes choose to stay in and catch up with what people I know are saying on their blogs rather than go out clubbing.

Yes, when I’m not doing too well I will easily turn to my computer to escape from the world or myself. Before I had a computer and a social life on the internet, I used to turn to the TV in such occasions, or drown myself in books or music. One isn’t better than the other. But here, clearly, the problem is me, and not the nasty technology.

*If you’ve read all this, let me know what you think. I suspect I might have taken a few shortcuts here and there, and I’ll be more than happy to make them explicit if you point out what isn’t convincing.*

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Sugata Mitra: Outdoctrination (Hole in the Wall) [en]

*As always, these are just my notes and I may have misunderstood stuff. And as always too, check out [Bruno’s writeup](*

Build an argument for family eduction. 4 ideas.

Sugata Mitra

#### Remoteness of quality of education

– as you go further from the centre, you can… ?
– socially/economically remote from the rest of the society

Guess: schools in remote areas don’t have good enough teachers, and if they do, they can’t retain them.

Test taken by students, plotted against remoteness from Delhi. More remote = worse, but did not correlate with infrastructure (?).

Pilots for educational technology are usually the best schools => usually perceived as over-hyped and under-performant. ET should reach underpriviledged schools first, and not the other way around. Improvements at the bottom of the scale are proportionally higher at the bottom of the scale.

So… alternative primary education where there are no schools, not good enough, no teachers, teachers not good enough (“can be replaced by a machine”!!)

#### Children and self-organisation

The Hole in the Wall experiment. 1999-2004 (HIWEL project)

The Kalkaji Experiment. Hole in the wall of the office and pretty powerful computer with touchpad and internet connection, altavista etc in it. Within eight hours, one of the kids was teaching a younger one how to browse.

Second: Shivpuri. Children in groups can self-instruct themselves to use a computer and the internet.

Madantusi experiment, 2000-2001 (village near Lucknow). No internet, just CDs. 3 months later: “we need a faster processer and better mouse.” They were using 200 english words they had “learnt” from the computer.

=> language is not a barrier, it could even teach them some of the language.

Many other experiments in other places. *steph-note: lots of footage shown*

6-13-year-olds can self-instruct, irrespective of background, in *groups*

300 children become computer literate in 3 months (windows, browsing, chatting, e-mail, painting, games, educational material, music downloads, playing video), with one computer. Usually, one at the computer, 2-3 around advising, often wrongly… but they learn.

Letting it happen. [Hole in the Wall site.](

#### Children and Values

Example of confusion: sometimes it is necessary to tell lies: 50% yes, 50% no.

Natural self-organising systems: galaxies, molecules, cells, etc. traffic jams, stock markets, society…

– remoteness affects the quality of education
– educational technology should be introduced into remote areas first
– values are acquired, doctrine and dogma are imposed
– learning is a self-organising system

A digital, automatic, fault-tolerant, minimally invasive, connected, and self-organised educational technology. To address remoteness, values, and violence.

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Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us [en]

[fr] Une vidéo qui vaut vraiment la peine d'être regardée (si vous comprenez l'anglais).

I really enjoyed this video and want to share it with you.

Thanks to [Joi]( for pointing it out on IRC.

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Miglia Dialog+ Cordless Skype Phone [en]

[fr] Test et critique du téléphone Skype sans fil (pas wifi!) Dialog+ de Miglia. Franchement sympa et abordable, en plus!

***If you want the [review without the whole chatty story](, scroll down.***

As is now public knowledge, my visit to San Francisco coincided with [MacWorld]( (“Oh, you’re going to SF for MacWorld?” — “Mac-what? MacWorld? What’s that? Oooh…”) This was nice, because it gave me the occasion to join the geekfest, discover [](, watch the [Leopard]( and [iPhone]( demos, buy a pink “Mac Chick” cap, and last and lot least, hang around my IRC friend Victor’s booth, which quite unexpectedly led to me walking off with a [Dialog+ cordless Skype/iChat handset](

That booth was very obviously the most busy one in the row, and for a reason: [Miglia]( (drop the “g” when saying it, Italian-style) is a hardware company which make [a bunch of pretty cool toys]( for Mac (and Windows!) users.

They have [digital TV stuff](, which I’m unfortunately a bit deaf to these days, as wireless digital TV doesn’t really work in Lausanne, and the way Swiss TV does “bicanal” (the thing that allows you to choose between dreadful dubbed versions and original versions) seems to be somewhat non-standard. At least it didn’t work with [EyeTV](, which I tried and brought back to the store a few months back.

**Much more exciting for me: [cordless VOIP handsets](, and in particular the [Dialog+]( It’s a Skype/iChat cordless handset.** I’m [using Skype more and more](, and next best to a WiFi Skype phone (the geeky toy [I said I wanted for Christmas here]( is a cordless one. Unfortunately, most (if not all) of the cordless handsets I’ve looked at (see the [Skype Shop]( for example) have big nasty clunky non-laptop-friendly base stations. Not this one. Have a look at how laptop-friendly this is:

Miglia DialogPlus and dongle

And the price was nice too: $80 MacWorld price, $100 normal price.

Well, I was tempted. Very tempted. So tempted that I decided to buy it, after dragging Victor upstairs in the lobby where we could find wifi to try it out (I’m a bit picky about audio quality). On the way, we bumped into one of their PR (?) people, and a few seconds later I was eagerly saying “I’ll blog it, I’ll blog it!” at the prospect of being *given* the handset. Here for the disclaimer, then — but I would have bought it anyway 🙂

For the trouble, here’s a nicely [hReview-formatted]( review of the phone, after 24 hours or so of ownership and a couple of outgoing Skype calls. People who didn’t care for the backdrop story should start here.

Miglia Dialog+ (DialogPlus) Skype/iChat Handset


Laptop-friendly Skype/iChat phone, light, nice sound quality and affordable price. Small USB dongle and recharges through USB too.

The first thing that stood out when I was shown this 100$ phone (80$ at MacWorld) is that instead of having an untransportable base-station, it has a USB key-like dongle which is easy to carry around with the handset. The handset itself is light, has good autonomy, and is recharged (3AAA batteries) with a pretty much standard USB cable, as shown in the picture. It’s something I can imagine carrying around all the time in my computer bag. Charging the DialogPlus

You can scroll through your Skype and iChat contacts on the phone easily, and even scroll through the Skype contact list which is displayed on your computer from the phone (it’s a bit eerie, as if the phone were a remote mouse or something). At first I wondered what the purpose of this feature was, but actually, even though the LCD display on the phone is very nice, it’s still even nicer to go through your contacts on your computer screen.

Besides the up/down, green-red, and normal number keys you’d expect on a phone, the Dialog+ has only three “special” keys: one to display call history (you can use it to toggle between received, outgoing, and missed calls), one to display your contact list (use it to toggle between all contacts and online contacts), and a third button (clear/backspace) which allows you to take control of the Skype contact list on your computer. It’s pretty easy to figure out what each button does and memorize it.

I personally don’t use iChat much, particularly for voice (I use Adium for instant messaging, and unfortunately it doesn’t do voice over IM), but I placed a couple of Skype calls to check the sound quality. My hearing is slightly impaired and I sometimes find that volume settings on phones don’t allow me to listen at a comfortable level. Not the case here, I could hear the person I was speaking with very clearly. However, people on the other end do hear an echo if the volume is set too high, and have complained a bit about the audio quality they receive. This can be due to the quality of the Skype connection, but I’ll try lending my phone to somebody and have them call me to hear for myself.

Setting up the phone was rather simple: close Skype, install the driver from the CD, pair the phone with the dongle by pressing the little square button on top of it. At first my phone said there was “No contact list”, so I tried reinstalling the driver and re-opening/closing Skype, and it worked. Not quite sure what went wrong, but it fixed itself quite nicely. The instructions booklet is just the right thickness and contains clear explanations. I would, however, call this a “cordless” phone rather than “wire-free” — when I read that on the back of the phone, I went “wi-fi phone?!”, which of course, is incorrect.

So, to sum it up: very happy about the toy and its design. I’ll certainly be using it. I just unwittingly gave it its first crash test by kicking it off the sofa as I was writing this post, and it survived. According to the booklet, it has good autonomy. I still need to dig into the audio quality a little, and see how it works when I start walking about my flat with it (upto 25 meters range).

I was disappointed at first that I couldn’t send text messages from it, but actually, that’s not too bad: if I have the Dialog+, I have my computer nearby — and anyway, Skype text messages aren’t always very reliable (for example, depending on the carrier, they don’t give your own phone number as the “reply” number, and messages get lost).

Great job, Miglia — oh, and I nearly forgot: Miglia’s interest being hardware sales, the phone comes with free software upgrades. For life. Neat!

My rating: 4.0 stars

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Version française du semblant de podcast précédent [fr]

[en] A French version of this post: This Is Supposed To Be a Podcast.

Bon, allez, je suis bilingue, il faut que j’assume (hein [Thierry](! Je viens de mettre en ligne un [billet audio en anglais](, et voici donc [une version française qui recouvre à peu près ce dont je parle]( C’est plus facile de faire deux versions par oral que par écrit.


Pour les liens relatifs à ce que je mentionne dans ce bla-bla, visitez [la version anglaise de ce billet]( En bonus pour la version française:

– [Flock]( et [Firefox](
– [Jval Festival](

Si vous avez un truc pour qu’il y ait moins de bruit dans le micro, volontiers. J’ai essayé de l’éloigner de ma bouche mais le résultat n’était pas terrible.

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