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Newsletters in 2016 [en]

Newsletters in 2016 [en]

[fr]

Réflexion sur les newsletters en 2016 et le rôle qu'elles peuvent jouer. Méditations sur les blogs, leur désenchantement, Facebook, et Twitter. Je pense qu'il y a un potentiel avec les newsletters de retrouver un sentiment de communauté restreinte et de connexion qui s'est un peu perdu en route avec notre immersion perpétuelle dans notre propre réseau.

Prêts à tenter l'aventure avec moi? Voici mes newsletters, faites votre choix:

For years now, I’ve been thinking about using newsletters better. Or simply, using newsletters. Until recently all I had was a pretty dead newsletter on MailChimp — and the ability for my readers to subscribe to CTTS blog posts and a weekly dump of all the links I save to Delicious.

MailChimp is a powerful tool, probably overkill for me, and I never really managed to ease myself into its process. Sending out an e-mail is dead simple, but sending out my newsletter felt like more work than cranking out a blog post.

Sunset

Two tools caught my eye over the last year: Revue and TinyLetter (acquired by MailChimp, what a coincidence!)

Revue is designed to help you send out curated lists of links. TinyLetter is a barebones newsletter tool, just what I need.

I’ve been trying to analyse my recent excitement for newsletters over the past days. Like others, I’ve been grieving what I think of as the golden age of blogging. I stumbled upon Tiny Letters to the Web We Miss, which I think hits the nail on the head:

Self-publishing online was fluid and inviting in the early years because the community was self-selecting — the sort of people who would know what Blogspot was in 2003. I didn’t worry about my boss finding my blog. I didn’t worry about getting rape threats in the comments either. (Just thinking about how absurd that sentence would have sounded in 2003 is giving me a crater-sized hit of nostalgia.) We didn’t have the same worries over public personas, because the internet felt like it was just us.

Blogging before social media was like drinking with friends. If someone adjacent to your conversation said something interesting, you would pull up a chair and invite them in. Sometimes a friendly stranger would even buy you a drink.

Everybody is here now, it’s not “just us” anymore.

This reminds me of In Praise of Online Obscurity by Clive Thompson, which I wrote about in 2010. At some point of growth, your “community” dissolves into an “audience” (on Twitter, on blogs) or a “network” (on Facebook). Engagement drops. People retreat.

Once a group reaches a certain size, each participant starts to feel anonymous again, and the person they’re following — who once seemed proximal, like a friend — now seems larger than life and remote. “They feel they can’t possibly be the person who’s going to make the useful contribution,” Evans says. So the conversation stops. Evans isn’t alone. I’ve heard this story again and again from those who’ve risen into the lower ranks of microfame. At a few hundred or a few thousand followers, they’re having fun — but any bigger and it falls apart. Social media stops being social. It’s no longer a bantering process of thinking and living out loud. It becomes old-fashioned broadcasting.

This dynamic is behind the somewhat counter-intuitive fact that more followers on Twitter does not mean more influence, and that getting a boost in followers through presence on a list doesn’t mean more retweets or replies.

Already at the time of my 2010 article, this was how I analysed what had happened to blogging:

I think that this is one of the things that has happened to the blogging world (another topic I have simmering for one of these days). Eight-ten years ago, the community was smaller. Having a thousand or so readers a day already meant that you were a big fish. Now, being a big fish means that you’re TechCrunch or ReadWriteWeb, publications that for some reason people still insist on calling “blogs”, and we “normal bloggers” do not recognize ourselves anymore in these mega-publications. The “big fish” issue here is not so much that formerly-big-fish bloggers have had the spotlight stolen from them and they resent it (which can also be true, by the way), but more that the ecosystem has completely changed.

The “blog-reading community” has grown hugely in numbers. Ten years ago, one thousand people reading a blog felt special because they were out-of-the-mainstream, they could connect with the author of what they read, and maybe they also had their own little blog somewhere. Nowadays, one thousand people reading a blog are just one thousand people doing the mainstream thing online people do: reading blogs and the like. The sense of specialness has left the blogosphere.

So there you have it. We “lost” something when the internet went from “just us” to “everyone”: part of our sense of community. People reading my blog don’t feel special anymore. I don’t even feel that special anymore for writing it. Blogs aren’t special. Numbers have declined, and I’m sure it’s not just due to the fact I’m slipping into old-fartdom and neglecting my beloved blog to romp in the bushes with Facebook.

The place where we go to connect online is Facebook, or Twitter, or Google Plus. We spend our time in real-time, and head out to read this or that when a link nudges us. We might be part of communities inside Facebook groups, or small delimited spaces, but overall we are spending our time just hooked into our network.

When I was directing the SAWI Social Media and Online Communities course, I read this article by Rich Millington about the distinction between communities and followings. I formalised a three-way distinction for my classes in the following way.

Audiences: around non-social products, bloggers, authors, politicians, salespeople, “fame”

  • attracted by you
  • interact with you
  • not interlinked
  • large scale

Networks: to filter information, connect people, search

  • individual relationships
  • two-way
  • interlinked
  • each node is its own centre

Communities: “a group of people who care about each other more than they should” (Cluetrain)

  • common object of interest
  • interactions inside the group
  • human-sized
  • investment of time, emotion, ego
  • around social objects and niche services

A few years later (and even as I was using it to teach), it’s clear this typology is a bit wobbly, and many spaces are hybrids. But it remains a useful thinking tool.

When I discovered Twitter, I was spending most of my online time on IRC. I remember that one of my first strong feelings about Twitter was that it felt a bit like an IRC channel which had all the people I cared about and only them in it. (I spent my first few days/weeks on Twitter frantically recruiting.) They didn’t all know each other, and didn’t realise they were rubbing shoulders in “my” room, but for me, it was really as if I had managed to invite everybody to my birthday party.

That’s the network.

Facebook entered my world, and the same thing happened. Life online became more and more about the network. And as the network grew (and grew and grew), all our time and attention poured into it. It’s great to have a place which is populated nearly only by people you know and care about. Facebook does that for you.

Who wants to hang out in blog comments when there is Facebook and Twitter?

As you can see, I’m thinking out loud in this rambly, slightly contradictory blog post. If you can synthesise all this better, definitely have a go at it (in the comments or on your blog — link back!) I can’t quite wrap my head around all this, I feel like I’m still missing a piece.

Back to newsletters.

What newsletters definitely have chance of bringing back is this feeling of small scale. When I write a blog post, like this one, I’m not writing it for a dedicated group of readers anymore. I know you’re still out there, of course, all three of you who actually follow my blog ;-), but I’m also very much aware that I am writing for a whole pile of strangers who will stumble her after a google search. I am writing for everyone.

Email can be very personal. It goes from private space to private space (the inbox). It definitely feels more personal to write than a blog post. But it’s funny, in a way, because this post is going to reach some of you by email, and newsletters are often archived publicly on the web. There shouldn’t be a difference, right?

But there is, because the medium or tool you use really changes the way you express yourself and connect. “Email first” or “web first” does not produce the same writing.

So let’s see what happens with this newsletter experiment, OK? Take your pick and subscribe to:

And seriously, I’m really looking forward to your comments on all the stuff I’ve talked about here.

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Chat perdu? Pas si sûr… [en]

Chat perdu? Pas si sûr… [en]

[fr] Poor little lost cat? Not necessarily. Cats can travel upto 2-3km to hunt, and way more for a tom running after females. This cat, who wouldn't quit following me around, is probably just on a (very) long walk, and runs the risk of being kept away from his home if made too comfortable.

A call to the local shelter gave me this information (about three people were ready to adopt him on the spot, so something needed to be done):

  • ignore him completely (no food, no water, no attention) so that he doesn't get comfy and heads back home because he's thirsty, hungry, or wants a cuddle
  • if he's still there after a few days, put notices up in the neighbourhood
  • if he's still there after a week or so, get the shelter to come and pick him up

The bottom line is that cats don't "get lost". They'll go back home, unless they're given a good reason (food, shelter, friendly humans) not to.

Chat perdu? Pas si sûr... (Vallombreuse, Prilly/Lausanne) 7

Me promenant à la Vallombreuse (près de la frontière entre les communes de Lausanne et Prilly), j’entends [un chat](http://flickr.com/photos/bunny/sets/72157601093412576/) qui miaule devant le numéro 77. Je regarde, il ressemble à Bagha, il veut sûrement rentrer.

A mon arrivée, il court vers moi comme un petit chien. Trois caresses, un câlin, je lui ouvre la porte mais cela ne l’intéresse pas. Je lui souhaite une bonne journée et m’en vais, mais je viens visiblement d’être "adoptée" et il me suit partout.

Que faire? J’essaie de le semer, sans succès. Après enquête dans le voisinage, il s’avère que ce chat était là la nuit d’avant et que quelqu’un l’a nourri. Pas étonnant qu’il traîne encore dans le coin! C’est un joli jeune mâle très (trop?) affectueux, pas castré.

Coup de fil à la SPA pour demander quoi faire (on soupçonne qu’il est perdu, et devant la mobilisation générale de l’immeuble pour l’adopter…). Conseils avisés du monsieur de la SPA:

– il est sans doute en vadrouille plutôt que perdu — un chat ne se "perd" pas, mais fait facilement 2-3km pour chasser, voire plus si c’est un mâle qui court après des femelles (le chat en question est un jeune mâle pas castré, et — coïncidence — la dame qui l’avait nourri la veille a une femelle non stérilisée dans son appart du rez…)
– ne pas le nourrir, ni lui donner à boire, ni d’attention; en bref, l’ignorer — le but est de ne pas rendre l’endroit "sympathique" pour qu’il retourne chez lui; en lui fournissant un semblant de foyer, même sous forme d’un peu de nourriture et de câlins, il risque de s’attacher et de ne plus rentrer chez lui
– s’il est encore là dans quelques jours, mettre des affiches dans le quartier; au bout d’une semaine environ, appeler la SPA pour qu’ils viennent le chercher…

Certains chats sont plus affectueux que d’autres, s’attachent plus vite que d’autres. Celui-ci… c’est un rapide (il n’a pas fallu grand-chose pour qu’il me suive à travers le quartier).

Sur internet, il y a bien le site [animal-trouve.ch](http://www.tierschutz.ch/index_f.html), mais mis à part une [gestion catastrophique des langues](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/07/10/talk-languages-on-the-internet-at-google-tomorrow/ “C’est un peu mon rayon…”) le site semble vraiment peu pratique. Difficile de faire des recherches fine, présentation des informations trop synthétique (une page listant les détails de toutes les fiches résultant d’une requête, ce serait pas du luxe), confusion entre animaux perdus et animaux trouvés… Bref, pas terrible.

Dans le Canton de Vaud, les animaux perdus/trouvés sont à annoncer au [registre des animaux trouvés (SVPA, Refuge Sainte-Catherine](http://www.svpa.ch/evenements.html?ID_POINT_FORT=19). Un animal perdu peut être annoncé sans frais au 021/784 8000; pour un animal trouvé, il faut remplir le formulaire d’annonce se trouvant [sur le site](http://www.svpa.ch/evenements.html?ID_POINT_FORT=19).

Chat perdu, donc? [Pas si sûr.](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2001/10/03/double-life/)

Chat perdu? Pas si sûr... (Vallombreuse, Prilly/Lausanne) 2

Surtout, surtout — si vous avez un chat, [faites-le munir d’une puce électronique](http://www.svpa.ch/visualisation_article.html?ID_ARTICLE=84) afin qu’il puisse être identifié.

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Missing Kitty [en]

Missing Kitty [en]

[fr] Mon chat Bagha a disparu depuis hier après-midi. Je suis inquiète, je tourne en rond chez moi, donc j'écris. Cela m'évitera également d'avoir à  répéter tous les détails cent fois sur IRC. Ah oui, le message du jour, c'est: ne nourrissez pas les chats de autres. Merci. (Edit: il est rentré sain et sauf!)

Update 13.08 13:30: The cat just came home, safe and sound. I’m so relieved!

18:00: Bagha came back through the downstairs neighbour’s window, as usual. He messaged me, I ran there, picked up the cat and squeezed him (OK, not too hard, I know my cat basics). He ate a little, meowed, cuddled, and very soon wanted to go back out. Sign, in my opinion, of a cat who has been locked up rather than one who has been roaming around for two nights in a row. I feel like somebody has turned on the light after two days of fumbling around blindly in the dark.

The Story

Bagha has been missing now for over 24 hours.

He’s an outdoor cat. I let him out in the morning. He comes in and out as he wishes during the day. I bring him in for the night. He sleeps in the crook of my arm.

It usually takes me about 3 minutes to find him in the evening. If he’s not waiting for me in front of the building when I come home, I take my usual little trip around the neighbourhood and here he comes, running or trotting out of one of his favorite “places”.

Very rarely, I don’t find him straight away. I go out a couple of hours later, or he comes in on his own.

Even more rarely, I go to sleep without having found him. Let’s say that happened maybe ten times in the four years we’ve lived here. I then leave the door open with the chain (like during the day) so that he can slip into the flat. He takes advantage of other people going in and out to get into the

building. I wake up in the morning to find him curled up on my feet — or at the very worst, I find him waiting downstairs outside the door.

Not this morning.

I couldn’t find him last night. I’d been away all afternoon and part of the evening (nothing unusual). Between 8pm and 1am, I must have spent approximately 4 hours touring the extended neighbourhood, calling for him.

I checked the roads, of course. I always check the roads. I’m terrified one day I’ll find his dead body on the sidewalk. I know this fear comes from inside me much more than from the actual danger: it’s a slow road, Bagha has a healthy fear of vehicles, and he’s a pretty calm, laid-back cat who won’t be caught suddenly dashing into the middle of the road because something startled him.

Still, I check the roads.

This morning, I started touring the neighbourhood again. Further than the places I know he goes to.

Conclusion: he’s not outside, or I would have found him. (Well, he would have found me, that’s usually how it goes.)

So I toured again, calling outside garage doors, pausing and listening. He’s got a loud voice. I’ve heard him calling from the cellar or the flat on the fourth floor where he was locked in once. He knows how to make himself heard.

This, I tell you again, is the cat who usually comes running to me once he’s seen me.

He’s microchipped. This means that if somebody takes him to the vet or the shelter, he’ll be identified as mine and I’ll be contacted. If he gets killed by a car, he’ll be identified by the team who deal with animal remains, and I’ll be contacted. I checked all this with people involved. No, they hadn’t found my cat.

I spent the afternoon printing out leaflets to stick on the entrance doors of the neighbourhood buildings (I had already put one in mine before I left for lunch). Now there are 30 leaflets with contact details, photograph and description of the cat, as well as my suspicion that he is either injured or locked in somewhere, plastered all over the neighbourhood. As you are bound to ask, he’s neutered, so he’s not after some hot female kitty.

One phone call, from a man who said he’s just seen my cat. I went to see, knowing there could be a confusion — there are about 4-5 cats around here with similar markings to mine. I don’t think it was mine; first of all because it was outside, and I tell you, if Bagha was somewhere outside I would have found him; second because I went there, and called, and called again, and no cat appeared. But who knows. Maybe something really strange is going on here. I didn’t see the cat this man had spotted, so I can’t say for certain.

Now I’m back home, vaguely waiting for the phone to ring or the cat to walk in, trying to find something to do with myself. I feel like hell. I don’t know how I made it through the day. I miss my cat horribly, and I’m so worried that something bad might have happened. The thought I might not see Bagha again is just too hard to bear.

Is this the price to pay for love and attachment? Now I know why a part of me gave up on love so long ago. It hurts way too much. Yes, hard times and sad times are a part of life just like all the rest. But they shouldn’t have to be quite as horrible as moments like this one.

So while I’m at it, let’s be a little constructive. Do you ever feed “stray” cats? Think twice. Cats are always interested in food, specially if you give them nice juicy tuna when all they get at home is vet-recommended dry food. (By the way, don’t give too much fish to cats — it contains thiaminase, an enzyme which destroys the amino acid thyamin, which cats are incapable of synthesizing.) The “hungry stray” might very well be just a clever beggar from the next block. Bagha regularly gets fed all over the place, even though I spend my time asking people not to do so.

Feeding somebody else’s cat just lures it away from its home and owner, centre of territory and primary source of nourishment and cuddles. So please, don’t feed other people’s cat. For all you know, the cat may start making a daily trip across a busy road to come and sample the delicacies you have to offer.

Thinking of adopting the cat that wandered into your living-room one day and avidly lapped up the milk you gave it? Some very worried owner may well be looking for it. Make thorough enquiries in your neighbourhood before getting too involved with it (feeding, naming, buying a litter-tray). This may sound stupid, but while my upstairs neighbours were keeping Bagha during my first trip back to India, he was simultaneously being adopted by a nice couple living just the other side of the road. He still came back here to sleep, but he spent his days there, complete with name and tinned food.

So, to sum it up: cats are independant animals and like to look masterless. It doesn’t mean all of them are stray. Oh, and please don’t feed other people’s cats.

Now I feel a bit better. I’ll tour the garages and cellars again once it’s nice and silent during the night. Of course, I’ll let you know as soon as the kitty turns up again. Thanks for listening.

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Sloppy Vienna Update [en]

Sloppy Vienna Update [en]

This will be short and incomplete because I am just about to go straight asleep in front of the screen. I spent the last two days roaming around with Horst, Suw and Philipp.

  • “Einbahn” means “one-way”, and not “subway” — those signs got me going round in circles on Friday
  • ate good food
  • froze watching “Citizen Kane” at the Vienna open air cinema last night
  • regretted not attending BlogWalk after all
  • Horst is at least as much into Bollywood as I am!
  • lots of thoughts of things to post about languages and weblogs
  • black Switcher jacket lost and found (thanks to the anonymous soul who picked it up)
  • bad lasagna on the riverbank
  • girl-talk during the football match
  • not enough sleep, so much to read, so much to write, so much to talk

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