Sailing [en]

[fr] La voile et moi. Histoire.

Note: I’ve been thinking of writing this post all afternoon, but put it off because I figured I should illustrate it, and some of the photos I’d like to use are stuck on this computer because of the bad internet connection I have here. Perfect example of how wanting to do things “well” easily leads to doing them “not”.

My parents met in Scotland, sailing. So, if you’re one to read signs and stuff, it would come as no surprise that I like sailing. My largely land-bound brother would probably beg to differ.

As far as I can remember, my dad has had a boat of some kind. On Lac de Neuchâtel when we were little, then Lac Léman (Lake Geneva). Holidays on the French canals, in Yugoslavia (nowadays the Croatian islands), and around another lake I can’t quite clearly remember (Lake Constance?).

I always liked going on the boat, but stuck to doing what I was told, pretty much.

When I came back from India in 2000, I signed up to be waiting-listed for a berth in one of the Lausanne ports. I knew that finding a spot for the boat each year was a bit of a juggling act, and for complicated local political reasons, my dad couldn’t sign up for one. There was a 10-15 year waiting list, but it cost nothing, and I figured I might as well put myself on the list, just in case it became handy some day down the line.

In 2008, I was very surprised to receive notice that I had been attributed a mooring in Vidy. It was good timing, as the boat had recently been washed ashore after the buoy it was moored to outside the port had broken during a storm. It was damaged, but the insurance would pay. Now it had a safe place to live.

The mooring being in my name, I had to pass my sailing permit. This was a good thing: I’d been planning on doing it a few years earlier, but life took over and I dropped the project. This was the kick in the pants I needed. I started accompanying my dad and his crew more seriously on their Wednesday evening races, and passed my Swiss sailing permit in fall 2009.

Before I started actually learning how to sail, I remember I used to find it a rather frustrating experience. It was hard to steer the boat in the direction I wanted it to go (though I’d of course done it in the past, under supervision). I didn’t understand the wind, or how to trim the sails. A lot of what went on on the boat was a mystery to me.

With time and practice, though, things started to sink in. I started to be able to take the boat roughly where I wanted it to go. I started getting the hang of the sail thing.

With a boat at sea now (here in Torrevieja, Spain), it made sense for me to go one step further and do a sea-based course. That’s what I’ve been doing this week — the RYA Day Skipper course. (I also added in Powerboat level 2 and VHF/DSC operator training, but that was unplanned, icing on the cake.) I learned a lot during this course (if you’re in Spain and want classes, book with Serenity Sailing without hesitation), but it also allowed me to realise how far I’ve come in just a few years. A whole lot of things which I used to find challenging are now almost automatic: I know where the wind is without having to really think of it, for example, because I now pick up on a bunch of signs that give me this information.

So the next step now? Gather a bunch of friends who are interested in a sailing holiday, and charter a boat for a week or two somewhere in some nice sunny islands. Oh, and if you have a powerboat lying around somewhere that needs to be taken out for a spin every now and again, let me know!

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Reading Like a Student [en]

[fr] Envie de lire mieux. Je vais me remettre à prendre des notes, et les publier ici. C'est du boulot, mais j'apprendrai plus.

As I devour chapter after chapter of Here Comes Everybody, I find the intellectual high of reading and learning dampened by the foresight that a few days/weeks/months from now, what I have just read will have collapsed into the vague mushy pile of “what I know”, complete with shortcuts, sloppy thinking, lack of references or sources, incorrect recollection, and confirmation bias.

This has been my in satisfaction with reading lately. Realising that once the last page is turned, my main impulse is “gosh, I need to read this again so I can hold on to what I’ve just learned”. Much as it pains me, I’ve become a lazy and sloppy (yes, again that word) reader.

It wasn’t always so. I read tons of books during my studies. I took tons of notes. There were no iPhones around, no kindles, no digital versions. I didn’t even have a laptop. I took tons of notes on paper. I wrote summaries. I copied quotes. I read to remember, not for entertainment. I was expected to do something with what I had read.

Nowadays, I read freely. I photograph pages with important ideas and stick them in Evernote rather than painstakingly copying quotes (what a time-saver! makes it so easy to find the right page… if I remember what it was about).

I’m not thinking of going to back to copying quotes long-hand (I can’t really write by hand anymore, thanks to RSI, but that’s another blog post). However, I am thinking of taking my reading more seriously: summarising main ideas, taking notes. Only this time around, there is no reason for them to stay in offline notebooks gather dust: I have a blog for this. The fact that I’m strong-arming (!) a batch of MBA students to keep learning blogs during our partial module together is probably no stranger to this desire to reconnect with the “learning in progress” aspect of blogging.

Stay tuned.

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Plot Grows Out of Character [en]

[fr] J'ai enfin compris comment écrire des histoires. Les histoires naissent des personnages. Il faut partir des personnages et les développer et les écrire à la vie, et non pas partir de l'histoire elle-même.

“Plot grows out of character,” says Anne Lamott, author of “Bird by Bird (Some Instructions on Writing and Life)”, which I am currently devouring.

Today, February 20th 2010, I think I have finally understood how to come up with stories. The stories come from the people in them, the characters. Who they are, what they’ve been through, what they care about, the choices they make, the way they react to what happens to them.

I’ve always wanted to write fiction, but failed at coming up with anything resembling a story or a plot. I started writing 50-word short stories about 18 months ago to jog my creativity, and it has worked pretty well in demonstrating both that I am capable of coming up with story ideas and that it is possible to excercise creativity.

But so far, I have been concentrating on the story, and not on the people in it.

Recently, I have realized how very good I am at imagining explanations for the behaviour of people surrounding me, or people in general. I tend to have a pretty anxious personality, which means I have “Disaster Channel” playing in my brain 24/7 (fear not for my sanity, though, after years of therapy I have learned to turn off the sound and ignore it most of the time).

So, give me a situation, say, X. is late, and my brain will immediately and effortlessly produce half a dozen plausible and disastrous reasons for her lateness. As I have learnt, though, that Disaster Channel does not provide a realistic view of the world, I have also trained myself to come up with “reasonable” and “reassuring” explanations.

I’ll stop there with the dissection of my psyche. Suffice to say that I am really good at inventing a whole range of explanations for human behaviour. (OK, with a biais towards the disastrous, I’ll give you that.)

Today, at long last, I have realized that coming up with a plot is just that. A story is about people and their behaviour. Writing it is about coming up with characters that are believable, and listening to what they want you to write.

To prove the point, I have written no less than two “really shitty first drafts” over the last few hours.

I’ve unlocked something today.

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Weekly Planning: Third Week (Learning Steps) [en]

Here we are — I’ve completed my third “planned” week since I started looking a bit further ahead than the current day (first week, second week, passing thoughts). Gosh, it was a busy week. I had only two office days, and I realize that it is not quite enough.

Around me, I’m faced either with people who are used to planning their weeks and find it normal, or people who could never dream of doing it, so busy are they putting out fires day after day.

I was like that for a long time. How did I get where I am now? I’ve been thinking a lot about which were the “first steps” on the road from chaos to “planning”.

Oh, before I forget: when I say I plan my week, I mean that I have a rough outline of what I am going to accomplish during the week, and on what day. It doesn’t go any further than that. Like when I “plan” my day, I don’t decide “I’m going to spend between 9 and 9.30 doing this, then do that for 20 minutes”. I know what I want to accomplish in the day, and go from there.

So, back to what brought me here, let me mention a few landmarks or “important steps” you might want to meditate upon if you are currently too busy putting out fires to even dream of planning your week. They’re in no particular order, because I think I haven’t quite finished figuring this out yet. If you spot one that seems doable, then start with that one.

  • Protect yourself. Set a very high priority on keeping “downtime” aside for yourself. Of course there are very busy periods where you won’t get much, but this shouldn’t be your “normal” week. Don’t answer the phone during lunch break, for example. Book an evening a week for yourself, and tell people who want to see you then that you “already have something planned”. Learn to become more comfortable about making people wait. If you always put others first you’ll just burn in the fire.
  • Set maker days and manager days. Yesterday evening, Claude pointed out to me that this was one of my first obvious steps towards weekly planning, back in April. It’s obvious: once you start having a clearer plan of how much actual time you’re going to have in the office to work on projects, it helps you not overcommit.
  • Under-promise, over-deliver. I can’t remember who recommended this, but it stuck with me. It helps me fight against my natural tendancy to underestimate the amount of time I need to deliver something. So I figure out a reasonable estimate, and then add a lot of security padding to give myself space for bad planning and other emergencies.
  • Everything takes more time than you think. I think David Allen says this somewhere in Getting Things Done, but I could be misquoting. It could be Nassim Nicholas Taleb in The Black Swan, too. Or Merlin Mann. Anyway: the unexpected almost always adds time to things. And in the cases where it doesn’t and actually reduces the time you need for something, it’s no big disaster (OMG! I have too much time to do this! I’m going to die!). So, add a lot of padding to any estimation of how much time something is going to take you. It’s always more than you think. Try doubling your initial estimate, for starters, and see if that improves things.
  • End your day by looking at tomorrow. This is something I got from FlyLady when I realised it was important for me to have a “getting started” (=morning) and a “winding down” (=evening) routine. She recommends including 10 minutes in your evening routine to prepare the next day: check the train timetable, know what appointments you have, etc. It’s easy to do, and it means you’re not diving blind into tomorrow anymore.
  • Learn to say no. This is the really hard one for most people. I’ve become pretty good at saying no, but I’ve come a long way: initially, I was somebody who said yes to almost everything. I was both enthusiastic about all sorts of things and terrified of hurting people by refusing their requests. So I didn’t say no. I’ll probably blog about this more extensively at some point (I already did in French), but the important thing to remember is that as long as you have trouble saying no, you will not escape fire fighting. One thing that really helped me learn to say no was to start by never immediately accepting anything. Say you’ll answer in 24 hours. Then I used that time to have a long hard think about how I keep saying yes to stuff I want to do to help out, and then end up procrastinating, not doing it, feeling horrible because deadlines slip, etc. That usually gave me enough courage to say no.
  • Have a list. You can go all GTD or only part-way, like I have, but you need some kind of system or list to capture the things you need to take care of. Learn the difference between a project and a next action, and list only the latter. To start your list, just write/type down all the stuff that’s bubbling at the top of your brain and stressing you out. If you think of something you need to do while you’re working, add it to the list. Ask a friend to hold your hand (it can be through IM) if your list gets too scary. Trust me, it’ll be better when it’s written down — anything is better than being an ostrich.
  • Learn to prioritize. I have huge problems with this (in other areas of my life too). When it comes to work-related stuff, here are a few rules of thumb I use. Invoicing is high priority, because it’s what brings in the money and it’s not very long to do. Anything really time-sensitive is also high priority (if I don’t announce tomorrow’s meetup today, it won’t be any use, will it?) Responding to potential clients. Paid work for clients with deadlines, of course. Asking questions like “what is the worst thing that will happen if I don’t do this today?” or “on this list, is there any item which is going to cause somebody to die if I don’t do it?” (start with “to die” and then work down on the ladder of bad things — thanks Delphine for that tip) also helps. This doesn’t mean you need to order your lists. It’s just to help you figure out where to start.
  • Admit when you’re in over your head. If you over-promised, said yes when you really should have said no, and basically find yourself incapable of keeping up with your commitments, tell the people involved. And use that safety padding again. If you told the client it would be done by Wednesday, and on Monday you already have that sinking feeling that it won’t be possible, tell the client. Apologize. Say you messed up if you have. If you’re pretty certain you can get it done by Friday, tell them that it’ll be done Monday. See? Safety padding. Under-promising. Of course this doesn’t work in all situations, but you might simply not have a choice — and it’s better to be upfront about a deadline slipping than keeping it silent. Not just for the relationship with the client, but for your learning and growing process. Same with money: if you need invoices paid earlier than you initially asked because you have cashflow issues, ask. If you can’t pay the bill, ask for a payment plan. Somebody might say yes.
  • You can only do so much in a day. At some point, you reach the end of the day. Either it’s time, or you’re tired, but at some point, the day is done. Pack up and go home. Watch TV. Eat. (Maybe not in that order.) Do something nice. Take a bath. First of all, it’s no use working yourself silly until ungodly hours, you just won’t get up the next morning, or if you do, you won’t be productive. Second, doing this will help you “grow” a feel for what can be done in a day.
  • Plan your day. At the beginning of the day, look at your list, and think about the 2-3 important things that you want to accomplish today. Rocks and pebbles might help. Forget all the rest and get cracking on those. You’ll be interrupted, you’ll have emergencies, of course. That’s why it’s important not to plan to do too much — or you’re setting yourself up for failure. I started doing this regularly this spring, first with index cards, then with a list in Evernote. At the beginning you’ll be crap at it, but after months of practice, you get better. And this is one of the building stones you’ll need to be able to plan your weeks at some point.
  • Save time for the unexpected. When I was teaching, I did quite a bit of time planning — I knew when I was in class and when I had “downtime” to prepare courses and mark tests. Doing that, I realized that I could not perfectly plan my time. There was always “unexpected” stuff coming up. So I started making sure I had empty time slots of “surprises”. At some point during the last year, I calculated that roughly half my time was taken up by “unexpected” things and “emergencies”. Now, it’s less, because I’m better at planning. So, depending on how deep in chaos you are, you want to make sure you leave enough “free time” in whatever planning you’re doing to accomodate everything you didn’t know about or hadn’t thought about. As organisation increases and stress goes down, the “things to do” will get more under control and there will be less and less emergencies — but it’s still important to leave “breathing space”.

This is more or less all I can think of for the moment. Is it useful to anybody? I like to think it would have been useful to me, but one can never know… would I have listened?

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Adapting to Budget: "on peut tout faire avec tout" [en]

[fr] "On peut tout faire avec tout", me dit une copine designer avec qui je parle d'un mandat pour ma conférence, Going Solo. Ce qu'elle veut dire, c'est qu'il y a généralement moyen de s'adapter au budget du client.

C'est vrai pour moi aussi -- du moins dans certaines choses que je fais, comme apprendre aux gens à bloguer. On peut mettre en place un blog pour une entreprise pour 2'000CHF, mais aussi pour 50'000. Dans les deux cas le client aura un blog, mais les choses seront tout de même assez différentes:

  • Dans le premier cas, le client sera livré à lui-même pour découvrir la culture de la blogosphère et la stratégie de communication qui lui est propre. Je lui en aurai parlé, bien entendu, mais cela restera inévitablement abstrait. Il va devoir apprendre en public, perdre la face peut-être. Il fera des erreurs. Si tout va bien, il s'en sortira, à long terme. Au bout d'un an, de deux ans, il finira par réellement comprendre ce que ce nouveau média a à offrir -- s'il n'a pas abandonné, découragé.
  • Dans l'autre cas, le client sera accompagné, suivi de près, conseillé, coaché pendant six mois. Il apprendra "juste". Il fera moins d'erreurs grossières. On ménagera sa susceptibilité en ne l'obligeant pas à apprendre sans filet sous les yeux du public. Il y aura des crises également, c'est sûr -- mais il ne sera pas seul pour y faire face.

Il n'y a pas une méthode plus juste que l'autre, c'est ce que je suis en train de comprendre. Ça dépend du client. Est-il prêt à être livré à lui-même, quitte à échouer misérablement ou à se décourager? A quel point tient-il à apprendre à maîtriser ce média? Son budget est-il limité? Je m'adapte.

Last week, I recontacted a girl I used to do judo with, who is now a designer (not a “graphic designer” per se — an object designer). We talked about her work and what she did, and ended up trying to see if there was anything we could do together for Going Solo.

I met her to discuss this — it was a very strange experience for me to be “the client” and to feel totally lost about what she was going to do for me. And also, to be wondering how much this kind of thing would cost me. I had more than a few thoughts for my clients, who sometimes turn green when I tell them the price tag for what we’ve discussed.

What I’d like to talk about here is something she said: “on peut tout faire avec tout”, meaning “you can get anything for anything”. Not very clear out of context, I’ll admit. We were talking about budget. Basically, what she meant is **”tell me how much you have for this, and I’ll figure out a way to give you something for that price”**.

As the client in this story, I personally found that much more comfortable than to have to wait for her to come up with a quote (which would probably make my heart sink) and then get into painful discussions to see how we could reduce the cost.

My needs here aren’t very specific. I want a logo, a “look”, banners, some printed material, etc. And it makes sense: I can probably get that for 2000 CHF, and I could also get it for 8000. What I’d get would be different, of course — but basically, it would fulfill the basic need.

I liked what she said, because it resonated with some background thought process of mine which never quite made it to the surface. In my “industry” (let’s think of social media here, like corporate blogging), you can also “get anything for anything”. **Want a corporate blog? Well, we can do it for 2000, but also for 20’000** — or even more.

Let me explain a little. This is something that’s been bothering me for a few months, and I’m glad I’ve finally figured it out.

When I quit my day job (or was about to do so), I set up blogs for some clients. It was very **lightweight**: evangelize, install WordPress, show somebody how it worked, adapt a design to a WordPress theme, give some strategic advice (not always received) — and there we go. Sometimes, I didn’t even go through all that. It was “talk a couple of hours, open a [WordPress.com](http://wordpress.com) account, done”.

*But I wasn’t that happy with the results.* People often didn’t really “get” it. I felt they were under-using their blogs, that they could be doing so much more with them. Sometimes, people “didn’t get it” to the point that they actually didn’t really use the blog we’d set up.

So, I changed my way of working. Over the weeks and months, I came to understand just how vital training was when it came to understanding social media. Not just the technical aspects, but as I’ve written [again](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/09/24/how-blogging-brings-dialogue-to-corporate-communications/) and [again](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/12/07/blogs-en-entreprise-un-peu-en-vrac/) (and probably elsewhere), the cultural and strategic aspects of it. So, I started to include that in my discussions with clients.

“Setting up a blog and learning how to publish a post is just the beginning. The big job is understanding the blogging culture, and figuring out how blogging fits into or changes (in most cases!) your communication strategy.”

*I didn’t want my clients to be disappointed in their blogs, or to “fail”, or to mess up too much.* It brought me to quoting healthy 5-figure prices for “we’d like a corporate blog” type of requests.

Not surprisingly, they thought it was a tad expensive. “Isn’t the whole point of this social media stuff the fact that it’s supposed to be *cheap*?” So, I didn’t get the gigs in question, and I wasn’t very happy either. The corporations I’ve been in touch with seem quite ready to be evangelized about social media, but not really ready to bet money on it.

(I know a lot of what I’m saying is old news, so forgive me if I seem to be stating the obvious to some of you.)

About a week ago I had a chat with one of my old clients, who told me that after about a year of having a rather non-bloggy blog things were slowly starting to change. Nothing very notable, but **they were loosening up**. They brought in somebody to help for the website who was more of a “web” person, and that had a positive influence on how lively the publication was becoming.

This seemed to bring me an answer to something I’d been uneasy about: lately, I’d caught myself explaining how blogging, as a tool, creates a certain kind of culture and communication strategy — but in the same breath, kind of negating that by insisting that throwing blogs at people doesn’t make bloggers out of them. I still think I’m correct about this, but it’s more complex than I make it sound. If you give somebody a blog, and they use it long enough, sooner or later they’ll start to “get it”. The catch is that there are high chances they will give up before they get there. And also, there is no knowing how long they’ll take to “get it”.

So, what do I do with this? **On the one hand, it is possible to keep blogging “cheap”. On the other hand, I do believe it makes sense (particularly for corporations) to invest a hefty chunk of time and money in learning to get it right.** (Corporations don’t hesitate much about spending lots of $$ — or even €€ or ££! — on software solutions… put that money you’ll save on the software in training and strategic consulting when it comes to social media.)

I realised that the key was *compromise*.

**Say your budget for opening a corporate blog is 2K.** We’ll open a WordPress.com account or install WordPress on a server somewhere, get you a domain name, maybe a cheaply customised theme with your logo in it. I’ll show you how to use the tool’s basic functions. I’ll give you some advice (blogger’s survival kit), recommend some other tools to try, and that’s about it. You’re on your own.

You’ll scrape your knees. It might take you a year or more to figure out for yourself that blogging isn’t about reproducing your “print” or “old marketing” content in a light CMS called a blogging tool. You might give up, or decide that this blogging thing is not all it’s hyped to be — it’s too hard, it doesn’t work, it’s just a fad. On the other hand, if you do hang on in there, feel your way through the crises, engage with your readers, learn to be part of the community, mess up and apologize… There is a lot of value in there for you.

**If your budget is 50K, we’ll do things differently.** I’ll follow and train your team over 6 months. I’ll walk you through the crises. I’ll help you prevent some. I’ll hold your hand while you learn. Talk with you when your communication strategy feels rattled by this alien blogging thing you’re doing. Help you see clearly so you understand what’s at stake more clearly when you have decisions to make. Spend time convincing the sceptics that what you’re doing really has value. Teach you to write better, as a blogger. Show you how blogging is part of this Bigger Thing that’s been happening online over the last years. When we’re done, I’ll have taught you almost as much as I know, and you’ll be autonomous.

In both cases, I’m compromising. The client is compromising. Blogging *is* about learning in the open, messing up in public, and getting scalded by the heat of real relationships and real people and real conversations. It’s about being human.

**Where exactly is the compromise?**

In the first scenario (the “cheap” one), the client isn’t really ready to invest much time and money in understanding blogging, or doesn’t have the means to do so. If he’s not committed or not passionate enough, the whole thing will **fail**. Remember that **many people start blogging, and then stop**. They’re just not around to tell us about it. All we see are the *natural bloggers*, those who have it in their blood, so to speak. Those who have a personality that fits well with the medium. On the flip side, the client gets the “real deal” right away. No training wheels.

In the second scenario (the “expensive” one), the compromise is in **saving the client’s face**. It spares the client the indignity of learning through making lots of mistakes, and in public. By investing time and money, and hiring competent people, you can avoid making gross mistakes, and appear to “get it” faster than if you jump in and half drown before you figure out how to float. We’re compromising here by preventing the client from looking too bad while he gets to grip with the new medium. Ultimately, the client will have to learn to lose face every now and again — nobody can prevent the business from messing up now and again. But it won’t be due to being uncomfortable with an unfamiliar medium.

**I don’t think there is *one right way* to get into blogging. Just like there is not a “best” way to learn, between taking classes and learning all by yourself. Both of these scenarios are good — and all those in between. It will depend on the client:**

– is the client ready to scrape his knees in public, a lot — or is he still happy with a rather controlled communication strategy, which he wants to ease out of gently?
– is the client willing to see his attempt to get into blogging fail (for a variety of reasons) — or does he want to put all the chances on his side to make sure he sticks with it?
– is the client on a budget — or is money not an issue?

Which brings me back to where I started. Translating what my friend says to my own business: if you want to get into blogging and your budget is set, it’s possible (within reason, of course). In all cases, you’ll get “blogging”, but you’ll get different flavours and intensities of it.

You *just* have to trust the professional you hire for this to be giving you your money’s worth.

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Diving Into Something New [en]

[fr] Pour se familiariser avec un sujet nouveau, il faut lire, et même si on ne comprend pas tout, continuer à lire. Au bout d'un moment, les choses commencent à tomber en place, et on peut reprendre avec plus de succès les premiers textes que l'on avait compris que partiellement.

I remember very clearly when I understood this: I was working on my coursework about gnosticism. I didn’t know anything about the subject and had a pile of about 10 books to go through.

I started reading, and felt completely lost: I couldn’t really understand much. But by the time I reached the middle of the pile of books, things started to make sense. I went back to the first books, and they were making sense too.

To learn about something new, one method is to dive in, and just read on even if you don’t understand. At some point, it will sink in, come together, and you’ll start to get it.

Something about [Agile](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agile_software_development) popped up this morning when I clicked [my Google Reader “Next” bookmarklet](http://www.stoweboyd.com/message/2007/09/the-google-read.html) this morning. This isn’t the first time I hear about Agile, and I have a rough idea what it is, but I thought that I should probably read up a bit on it. So I’m [reading this case study](http://www.agilejournal.com/articles/case-study/case-study:-how-bmc-is-scaling-agile-development.html), even though not everything makes sense. At some point, it will. I’m just starting.

*Note: don’t misunderstand. I’m not heading for a career change into software development. I just want to understand more.*

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Most People Are Multilingual [en]

[fr] Une clarification de ce que j'entends par "la plupart des gens sont multilingues". Multilingues au sens large.

In [a comment to my last post](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/08/09/another-multilingual-talk-proposal-web-20-expo-berlin/#comment-243962), [Marie-Aude](http://www.oasisdemezgarne.com/lgfr/blog/) says I’m being a bit optimistic by stating that “most people are multilingual”. I’d like to clarify what I mean by that.

The “most people are multilingual” thing is not from me. I’ve seen it mentioned in varied settings, though I still need to find systematic studies to back it up (let me know if you have any handy).

It all depends how you define “multilingual”. If you define it in a broad sense (ie, school-level passive understanding of a language counts), then a little thinking shows it’s not that “optimistic”. Here is what would make somebody multilingual:

– immigration, of course
– learning a foreign language at school
– living in a country with different linguistic groups.

Some examples:

– in India, many people are fluent in their mother tongue, and to some extent in one of the countries official languages: Hindi or English
– in the US, think about the huge immigrant population; the whole country was built upon immigration, come to think of it; in the bus in San Francisco, I often heard more foreign languages than English
– again in the US (because the English-speaking world is seen as a big “monolingual” block), think of the increasingly important hispanic/latino population (people who will often have knowledge of both English and Spanish)
– in most European countries, people learn at least one foreign language in school — even if it’s not used, most people retain at least some passive knowledge of it; I’m not sure about Asia, Africa, Southern America, Australia: does anybody know?

So, I don’t think it’s that optimistic to say most people are multilingual. To say that most people are “perfectly multilingual”, of course, is way off the mark. But most people understand more than one language, at least to some extent.

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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](http://www.lunchoverip.com/2007/02/lift07_sugata_m.html).*

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.](http://niitholeinthewall.com)

#### 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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"Learning Blogs": GWNG Meeting Presentation [en]

[fr] Présentation donnée vendredi passé au GWNG à UNAIDS.

Here are the slides I used as a backbone to my presentation of blogs as educational tools during the Global Net Manager Networking Group last Friday at UNAIDS. You can download them in three formats. As specified on the presentation, they are licensed [CC by-nc-nd](http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.5/).

– [20061215-gwng-learning-blogs.odp](/files/20061215-gwng-learning-blogs.odp) (OpenOffice Impress)
– [20061215-gwng-learning-blogs.pdf](/files/20061215-gwng-learning-blogs.pdf) (PDF)
– [20061215-gwng-learning-blogs.ppt](/files/20061215-gwng-learning-blogs.ppt) (Microsoft Powerpoint)

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Vidéo: nécessité d'une formation blogs [fr]

[en] I explain that it's normal that most people don't "get" blogging naturally. Active bloggers today "in the wild" are the result of a natural selection. You can't turn a bunch of politicians or employees into bloggers (all the more good ones) just by throwing blogging tools at them. Training is needed. Media education.

Voilà, chers lecteurs (et maintenant auditeurs!) francophones, c’est à votre tour d’être les victimes d’un [vidéocast Climb to the Stars](http://dailymotion.com/Steph), après mes lecteurs anglophones qui ont eu l’occasion d’entendre [pourquoi je pense que Lush devrait bloguer](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2006/11/20/video-about-lush-and-blogging/). (Je sais que *podcast* est également un terme techniquement correct pour ce que je fais ici, mais j’aime bien indiquer qu’il s’agit de vidéo.)

En sept minutes et une ou deux poussières, j’essaie d’expliquer pourquoi même si [le blog est un outil facile à utiliser](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2006/07/20/bloguer-avec-wordpress-cest-facile/), il reste utile (voire indispensable) d’apprendre à bloguer autrement que sur le tas.

Dailymotion blogged video
CTTS: Nécessité d’une formation blogs
Vidéo envoyée par Steph

Quelques liens en rapport avec le contenu de cette vidéo:

– [le fameux cours sur les blogs](http://www.romandieformation.ch/index.lasso?ID=14&Course=2318) (pub!)
– [monElection.ch](http://monelection.ch) et [ce que cette initiative m’inspire](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2006/11/12/blogs-et-politique-ca-bouge/)
– [WordPress.com](http://fr.wordpress.com) pour se jeter à l’eau
– [la vidéo sur Lush (DailyMotion)](http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xocox_ctts-lush-me-and-blogging)
– [ce que j’écrivais quand j’ai commencé…](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2000/07/)

Edit 12h30: Je vois maintenant qu’il y a des sauts, dans la vidéo — quelqu’un a une idée à quoi ça peut être dû? Il me semble pas que j’avais ce problème avec la vidéo d’avant. Le seul changement que j’ai fait c’est d’avoir mis les “key frames” sur automatic au lieu de 150 à l’exportation.

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