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Tag: Personal

Talk: Be Your Best Offline Self Online [en]

Talk: Be Your Best Offline Self Online [en]

[fr] La conférence que j'ai donnée mercredi à Women in Digital Switzerland à Lausanne.

Kelly invited me to be the guest speaker for the Women in Digital meetup in Lausanne on Wednesday, with a talk titled “Be Your Best Offline Self Online: How your personal online presence helps your business/career“.

It was streamed live on Facebook, which means that even if you weren’t able to attend in person, you can still listen to my talk now. I’ve put it up on YouTube for easier access outside of Facebook.

(Feel free to go “audio only”, the slides aren’t that important.)

There is a lot to write about this topic, and hopefully I will, but for now I’m at least making sure that you have access to the video! This makes me think I should get the various videos of my talks I have collected over the years on YouTube, even if the quality of most of them is not that great, and make a playlist of them.

A big thanks to Kelly who held her iPhone as steady as possible to capture this talk. I’m extremely grateful to have a recording of it.

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Social, Plural of Personal (or When Personal Scales) [en]

Social, Plural of Personal (or When Personal Scales) [en]

[fr] Grâce à JP et sa série d'articles, je viens de me reconnecter avec ce qui fait la fondation de ma passion pour le web et les médias sociaux: qu'ils mettent les gens en contact direct, et dans le contexte de l'entreprise, humanisent celle-ci. A lire.

Today I am going to send you to read JP Rangaswami, after my latest spree of ranty pots. JP is writing a series of articles around the idea that social is the plural of personal. And he is so spot on.

I was so happy when I read JP’s first article, because it made me remember what attracted me to social media in the first place (at the time, “blogs” or “social software”) and helped me understand the growing dissatisfaction I have developed about the field over the past years.

What I find interesting about social media in a business setting is how it helps humanize the organisation/company. How it puts human beings back in touch with human beings. And how in the context of an authentic relationship, you need to care for things to work out.

I am so frustrated that French does not have a good word to translate “care”.

I had a revelation when I went to the very first Lift Conference, in 2006. Here are the posts I wrote during the conference (see how blogging has evolved since then — this was before Twitter and Facebook). My memory tells me that I owe this revelation mainly to the talks of Robert Scoble and Hugh MacLeod, and the conversations we had during the conversation. I remember that it was this pivotal moment which made me understand what use blogs (at the time) were in a business context, and therefore that there might be a way to earn money with what was fascinating me.

Update: link to lift06 videos.

Six+ years later, well, you know the story.

I’m trying to remember if I also met Euan Semple that year at Lift, or if it was somewhere else, or later. Do you remember, Euan? Anyway, a few weeks before reading JP’s post, I had ordered Euan’s book, “Organizations don’t tweet, people do”. I haven’t yet started reading it but I’m really looking forward to diving in. Same thing: it’s all about putting people, and personal, and relationships, and trust, and authenticity back in front of the scene.

Somewhere along my business life, with all my freelancer insecurities, the pressure to actually earn a living through my activities and interests, I seem to have lost touch with the core of my passion for the living web. Not to the point where I’ve sold out to some ad agency and started spewing out viral videos or whatnot. Not so much in my actions — more just that I forgot.

But I remember now.

Thanks, JP. Thanks, Euan. And thanks to all of you along the way who have not let go and are not letting go, and are working to make our organizations more human-friendly.

#back2blog challenge (7/10):

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Mon barbecue se rapproche! [en]

Mon barbecue se rapproche! [en]

[fr] Saturday 11th July: my traditional birthday barbecue will take place by the lake.

Comme chaque année, je complote mon traditionnel barbecue d’anniversaire au bord du lac. Il est annoncé sur Facebook, mais pour ceux et celles d’entre vous parmi mes amis et connaissances qui n’utiliseraient pas encore ce merveilleux réseau social, voici quelques détails accessibles publiquement (je précise en passant à ceux de mes lecteurs que je n’ai jamais rencontrés, ou que je ne connais pas, qu’a priori mieux vaut venir au prochain apéro de l’eclau pour faire ma connaissance ;-)):

  • samedi 11 juillet 2009, dès 18h (oui, c’est le dernier soir de la Cité, rien ne nous empêche d’y finir; aussi, je serai sur place dès l’après-midi pour réserver la place, compagnie bienvenue)
  • barbecue canadien: amenez ce que vous désirez griller ainsi que quelque chose à partager (salade, apéro, boissons, desserts, etc…); je fournis le “matériel” ainsi qu’une bonne quantité de boissons sans alcool
  • amis/famille bienvenus: conjoints, tendres moitiés, enfants, amis de passage ou proche sont bienvenus (à quatre pattes également) — amenez frisbee, boules de pétanque, ou piscine gonflable si le coeur vous en dit
  • idée cadeau: c’est sans obligation aucune, mais comme on me demande régulièrement et que là j’ai une idée, je la partage avec vous: j’ai l’intention de m’offrir pour mes 35 ans un vélo d’appartement (pas très glamour, je sais) — vous me voyez venir? Offrez-moi une pédale, quelques centimètres de chaîne ou encore la poignée gauche du guidon 😉
  • RSVP: merci de vous inscrire, sur Facebook ou bien par e-mail (éventuellement dans les commentaires), histoire que je sache à peu près combien on sera!

Je crois que je n’ai rien oublié! Je me réjouis de vous revoir le 11!

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A Short Note and Update [en]

A Short Note and Update [en]

[fr] Comme vous avez pu vous en rendre compte, passablement occupée ces temps-ci. C'est l'occasion de peaufiner mes armes de gestion du temps!

As you can see, the few days I spent recuperating up in the mountains resulted in quite a lot of 50-word stories. I’m a bit horribly busy these days (working on keeping my time management under control) — thankfully because I have quite a bit of work lined up.

Expect a steady drivel of more business-related postings around here in a few weeks!

*PS: yes, there are still about 4 months worth of posts missing from Climb to the Stars. Coming soon too!*

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Busy Week [en]

Busy Week [en]

[fr] Semaine très chargée. Toujours pas le temps de remettre mon blog en état, même si c'est la chose la plus présente à mon esprit chaque jour. En plus mon Mac m'a lâchée ce week-end (heureusement pas durant Lift!) -- réparé déjà, toutefois, grâce à la célérité de Mémoire Vive à Lausanne.

To top it all, just after the Lift conference (you can read the notes I took there by looking at the previous posts), my MacBook fan decided it was time to die. Did you see me holding my ear up to my laptop during the conference? That was because it had started making nasty noises. Thank goodness it waited until the conference was over to die.

Hectic week-end, therefore, but very speedy repairs (thanks Apple Care and Mémoire Vive) — I gave my computer in on Monday, and had it back on Wednesday morning (only because I couldn’t make it on time Tuesday night).

Not having my blog online is turning out to be a rather big source of stress, specially as I have a huge pile of critical things to do for clients or eclau right now. I keep wanting to fix the blog “right now” but I can’t, because other things come first. And while it’s offline, it feels like a kind of part of me is missing — like I don’t have access to all my memories or tools. And that’s what it is, actually. I keep pointing people to stuff on my blog, because that’s where I write stuff I want to be able to point others to. And I can’t.

In addition to that, I understood a few important things about what I actually do for a living (my main focus/skill is strategic stuff), and understanding that is going to change the way I present myself quite a bit. Blog posts and site updates in perspective.

But for now, some sleep, before a horribly busy end-of-week: I need to cram about 3 days work in 3 hours, which is all the office time I’ve got left until the week-end (on the road quite a bit, as you can guess).

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Stephanie Has a Newsletter [en]

Stephanie Has a Newsletter [en]

[fr] Voilà, j'ai une newsletter. Je la rédigerai en anglais et en français, et y parlerai principalement de mes activités professionnelles. Je vais certainement radoter, il faut vous y attendre -- mais seulement une à deux fois par mois. Je parlerai aussi des choses que je n'aborde pas dans ce blog. Pourquoi une newsletter? J'y ai longuement réfléchi et écrirai sans doute bien plus à ce sujet dans les semaines à venir.

Je suis curieuse. Quelle est votre réaction? Est-ce que vous vous inscririez à une telle newsletter? Je me réjouis de voir ce que va donner cette expérience.

Taking example on my friend Martin, I decided it was time I had my own newsletter. There’s a lot of thinking behind it which I’ll share here at some point (when I’m less in a hurry).

To answer a few questions:

  • I’ll publish a couple of newsletters per month
  • I’ll talk mainly about my professional life
  • Yes, I might ramble
  • I’ll talk about stuff you won’t find on the blog
  • Not everybody reads blogs, no
  • Yes, you can unsubscribe (it’s managed by Google Groups)
  • Nope, I won’t spam you or give out your e-mail address

If you want to subscribe you can do so using the box below.

Google Groups
Subscribe to Stephanie Booth's Newsletter
Email:

Visit this group

What’s your reaction to this? Would you sign up for such a newsletter, or not — and why?

I’m looking forward to seeing how this experiment goes.

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5 Lessons in Promoting Events Using Social Media (Back to Basics) [en]

5 Lessons in Promoting Events Using Social Media (Back to Basics) [en]

[fr] Leçons apprises lors de la promotion de Going Solo:

  • communiquer directement avec les gens (messagerie instantanée, conversation offline, téléphone) est le mode de communication le plus efficace
  • ne pas négliger l'e-mail, les dossiers de presse, le matériel imprimable: tout le monde ne lira pas le blog ou Twiter
  • rien ne devient automatiquement "viral" parce que c'est sur internet: aider les gens à vous aider à passer l'info, par exemple avec un e-mail "forwardable"
  • aller où sont les gens, les retrouver dans leur communauté (Facebook, MySpace, Rezonance, LinkedIn... partout)
  • ça prend du temps... beaucoup de temps

J'ai été surprise à quel point tout ceci a été difficile pour moi, alors qu'une partie de mon métier consiste à expliquer aux gens comment utiliser les nouveaux médias pour communiquer plus efficacement. Une leçon d'humilité, et aussi un retour à certaines choses basiques mais qui fonctionnent, comme l'e-mail ou le chat. En récompense, par contre, un événement qui a été un succès incontesté, et tout cela sans le soutien des médias traditionnels (pour cause de communiqué de presse un poil tardif) -- mis à part nouvo, qui a répercuté l'annonce, mais qui trouvait que c'était cher!

One of the big lessons I learnt while organising [Going Solo](http://going-solo.net) is that [promoting and communicating about an event through social media](http://going-solo.net/2008/05/04/going-solo-all-over-the-place/) requires a huge amount of time and energy. In this post, I’d like to share a few of the very practical things I (re-)discovered.

Even though part of what I do for a living is explain social media and its uses in marketing to my clients, I found it quite a challenge when I actually had to jump in and do it. (Yes, I’m aware this may sound pretty lame. By concentrating on the big picture and the inspiring success stories, one tends to forget some very basic things. Sending managers back to the floor every now and then is a good thing.)

The **main lesson I learnt** is the following:

– **1. The absolute best channel to promote anything is one-on-one personal conversation** with somebody you already have some sort of relationship with.

Any other solution is a shortcut. And [all shortcuts have prices](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/06/11/about-not-reading/).

This means I ended up spending a lot of time:

– talking to people on IM, IRC, and offline at conferences
– sending out personal messages on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Anytime you do something to spare you this time (like sending out a collective e-mail, writing a blog post, or even tweeting — situations where you’re not adressing one specific individual directly) you dilute what you’re communicating. You open the door to:

– imperfect understanding of what you’re trying to say
– people not feeling like it’s really addressed to them (lack of interest, or lack of awareness that their actions are important to you)
– people simply not seeing it.

I have many examples of this. I created a [page with material people could use to promote Going Solo](http://going-solo.net/support), in particular, [blog sidebar badges](http://going-solo.net/2008/02/04/badges-for-your-sidebar/). But not many people put them up spontanously, even amongst my friends. But when I started pinging people on IM and asking them if they would please put up a badge to support my event, they did it. They just hadn’t got around to doing it, hadn’t realised that them doing it was important for me, or it had simply slipped their mind. It’s perfectly understandable: it’s “my” event, not theirs.

Another example is when I started sending out my “forwardable e-mails” (lesson #3 is about them), most people stopped at “well, I’m not a freelancer” or “I can’t come”. It took some explaining to make sure they understood that the **main** reason I was sending them the e-mail was that they *might know somebody* who would like to come to the event, or who could blog about it, or help with promoting it. If I spared myself the personal conversation and just sent the e-mail, people were much less likely to really understand what I expected from them, even through it was spelled out in the e-mail itself.

And that was a big secondary lesson I learnt while preparing Going Solo: it’s not because people don’t get back to you, or don’t act, that they aren’t interested or don’t want to. The burden is on you to make it as easy as possible for them to help you.

Let’s continue on to the next lessons.

– **2. Blogs and Twitter are essential, but don’t neglect less sexy forms of communication: newsletter, press release, printable material.**

The first thing I did for Going Solo was to create [a blog](http://going-solo.net) and a [Twitter account](http://twitter.com/goingsolo). Getting a blog and Twitter account off the ground isn’t easy, and it took quite a lot of one-on-one communication (see lesson #1) (and [blogging here on CTTS](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/01/22/going-solo-venues-open-stage-and-link-love/)) to get enough people to link to them so that they started taking off.

But the lesson here is that **not everybody is on Twitter, and not everbody reads blogs**. We highly-connected types tend to forget that. It didn’t take me that long to get the feeling that I had “exhausted” my immediate, social-media-enabled network — meaning that all the people who knew me directly had heard what I was talking about, linked to stuff if they were going to, or registered for the event if they were interested.

So, here are some less “social media cutting-edge” forms of communication I used, most of them very late in the process (earlier next time):

– [an e-mail newsletter](http://groups.google.com/group/going-solo-news)
– [printable (and printed) posters](http://going-solo.net/2008/05/03/more-cutting-edge-promotion-tools-posters/)
– a [press release](http://going-solo.net/press/) and other “old media focused” material

Some comments.

Our press release came out so late that we got no coverage at all from traditional media, bar [one exception](http://nouvo.ch/n-1279), which focused on how expensive the event was. This means Going Solo Lausanne is a great case study of successful event promotion entirely through social media.

When I [created the newsletter](http://going-solo.net/2008/04/30/going-solo-has-a-newsletter/), I spent a lot of time following lesson #1 and inviting people personally to sign up, through IM most of the time. I sent out invitations through the Google Groups interface, of course (to the extent that I got [flagged as a potential spammer](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/05/01/google-groups-pain-in-the-neck/)). But I also went through the process of inviting people directly through IM.

A word of warning about newsletters: don’t *add* people to your newsletter unless you’ve checked beforehand that they were OK with it, or if you have a *very* good reason to do so (they are the speakers/attendees for your event) — but even then, it can be risky. I was recently added to a bunch of mailing-lists without having asked for it, rather than invited, and I find it really annoying. It’s way more impolite to unsubscribe from a newsletter than refuse an invitation to subscribe, so adding people can put them in an embarrassing situation (be impolite vs. be annoyed at getting newsletters one doesn’t want).

– **3. Don’t expect “viral” or “[organic](http://epeus.blogspot.com/2008/02/be-organic-not-viral.html)” spreading of your promotion to happen, but prepare the field so it can: the forwardable e-mail.**

There is so much talk about the fact that social media allows things to *spread* all by themselves (and indeed, there is an important potential for that, and when it happens, it’s very powerful) — that we tend to expect it to happen and be disappointed when it doesn’t. And let’s face it, it’s not something that we can control (sorry for stating the obvious again, I’m doing that a lot in this post) and it takes quite a bit of skill to create the right conditions so that it *may* happen.

So, now that we’ve set our expectations, what can be done to *help things spread*? I mentioned having exhausted my immediate network higher up, so I needed to come up with a solution which would help me reach beyond it. How could I get my friends to mention Going Solo to *their* friends?

Of course, our use of social media in general allows that. Blogs, Facebook Groups and Events, sidebar badges… all this is material which *can* spread. But again — what about the people who aren’t bathing in social media from morning to evening?

**Back to basics: e-mail.** E-mail, be it under the shape of a newsletter, a discussion list, or simple personal messages, has a huge advantage over other forms of online communication: you’re sure people know how to use it. It’s the basic, level 0 tool that anybody online has and understands.

So, I started sending out e-mail. A little bit of *push* is good, right? I composed a rather neutral e-mail explaining what Going Solo was about, who it was for, giving links to more information, and a call to action or two. I then sent this impersonal text to various people I knew, with a personal introduction asking them to see if they knew anybody who could be interested in information about this event, and inviting them to forward the message to these people. Nothing extraordinary in that, right?

I of course applied lesson #1 (you’re starting to know that one, right?) and tried as much as possible to check on IM, beforehand, if it was OK for me to send the “forwardable e-mail” to each person. So, basically, no mass-mailing, but an e-mail written in such a way that it was “forwardable” in a “here’s what my friend Steph is doing, could interest you” way, which I passed along as a follow-up to a direct chat with each person.

In a more “social media” spirit, of course, make sure that any videos you put online can easily be shared and linked to, etc. etc — but that will be pretty natural for anybody who’s familiar with blogging and “being online”.

– **4. Go where people are. Be everywhere.**

Unless your event is already very well known, you need to go to people, and not just wait for them to come to you. If you’ve set up a blog, Twitter account, newsletter, then you have a place where people can come to you. But that’s not enough. You need to [go where people are](http://going-solo.net/2008/05/04/going-solo-all-over-the-place/):

– Facebook
– Upcoming
– LinkedIn
– Xing
– MySpace
– Pownce
– Seesmic
– Existing communities big and small… (blogs, forums, chatrooms)

Again, this is a very basic principle. But it’s not because it’s basic that it’s invalidated by the magic world of social media. Where you can create an event, create an event (Upcoming, Facebook, Pownce, Rezonance — a local networking thingy); where you can create a group, create a group — I waited a lot before creating a [Facebook group for Going Solo](http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=12748128087), because I had a [fan page for it](http://www.facebook.com/pages/Going-Solo-being-a-freelancer-in-a-connected-world/13470503249) already, but as you can see the group worked much better.

– **5. It’s a full-time job.**

Honestly, I didn’t think I’d spend *weeks* doing nothing else but send e-mails, update Facebook pages, blog, send e-mails, talk to people, IM, tweet, e-mail again… to promote Going Solo. It’s a huge amount of work. It’s so much work that one could imagine having somebody full time just to do it. So when you’re (mainly) a one-person shop, it’s important to plan that a significant amount of your time might be spent on promotion. It’s easy to underestimate that (I did, and in a major way).

Working this way doesn’t scale. At some point, one-on-one communication takes up too much time and energy to compensate for the benefits it brings over more impersonal forms of communication. But that only happens once your event is popular enough. Before you’ve held your first event (which was the situation I was in with Going Solo Lausanne), you don’t have a community of advocates for your work, you don’t have fans (you might have personal fans, but not fans of your event) or passionate attendees ;-), you don’t have other people doing your work for you.

At the beginning, every person who hears about your event is the result of sweat and hard work. Hopefully, at some point it’ll take off and you’ll start seeing more and more people [blogging about the event you’re organising](http://del.icio.us/steph/goingsolo+coverage) — but even then, it might take a while before you can just sit back and watch things happen. But in case this moment comes earlier than planned, you’re all set: you have a blog, a Twitter account, a Facebook group and a newsletter. Until then, though, you’re going to be stuck on IM and sending out e-mails.

**A few last words**

I hope that by sharing these lessons with you, I’ll have contributed to making things a little easier for somebody else in the same situation I was. You’ll have understood that I haven’t tried to be exhaustive about how to use social media for promotion — indeed, I’ve skipped most of the “advanced” stuff that is more often spoken about.

But I think it’s easy to get so taken up with the “latest and greatest” tools out there that we forget some of the basic stuff. I, for one, was guilty of that initially.

Also, one thing I haven’t spoken about is *how* to talk to people. Of course, some of what you’re doing is going to be impersonal. Own up to it, if you’re mass e-mailing. Don’t pretend to be personal when you aren’t — it’s hypocritical, doesn’t come across well, and can be smelled a mile away.

I haven’t quite finished reconciling my practical experience with how I believe things “should” work. I’ve learnt a lot, but I certainly haven’t figured everything out yet. I would have wanted to do a lot more, but time simply wasn’t available, so I tried to prioritize. I made choices, and some of them were maybe mistakes. But overall, I’m happy with how things went and what I learnt.

If you have had similar experiences, I’d be really happy to hear from you. Likewise, if you disagree with some of the things I’ve written, or think I’m wrong on certain counts, do use the comments. I’m open to debate, even though I’m a bit hard-headed ;-).

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On Being Wiped Out [en]

On Being Wiped Out [en]

[fr] Epuisée mais contente. Si je ne vous reconnais pas, si je vous demande trois fois votre nom, si j'essaie de vous donner des cartes de visite trois fois... soyez indulgents. Je suis hyper contente de la réception de mon discours sur l'histoire de Going Solo.

My poor brain can’t follow anymore. I’m loosing track of who I speak to, who I’ve met, who I’ve given [Going Solo](http://going-solo.net) moo cards too (even to my friends). I’m delighted with the reception of my [speech about Going Solo](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/02/07/lift08-my-going-solo-open-stage-speech/) — swept off my feet, even.

Many people have come to tell me they liked my speech, that it was inspiring, that they are going to come to Going Solo, that they want to interview me (I’ve lost track of the number of interviews I’ve given today, honestly), or talk about partnerships or possible synergies.

I’m feeling bad, because I was [invited as one of the electronic media crowd](http://www.liftconference.com/electronic-media-crowd) to live-blog the event, and I think I’ve done a really crappy job of it. I hope to earn my pass tomorrow.

I’m not feeling [overwhelmed as I was at FoWA](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/10/06/too-many-people/), because I’m happy rather than frustrated and anxious. But I can’t keep up. Don’t get me wrong, I want to speak to you, and I’m going to. I also know that this is important for my event 🙂 — but if I look a little exhausted, if I ask you your name three times, try to give you Moo cards twice, or forget what you just told me… please be indulgent!

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Working on my Professional Site [en]

Working on my Professional Site [en]

[fr] Je suis en train de donner un coup de peinture fraîche (enfin, plus qu'un coup de peinture, parce qu'il s'agit de contenu) à mon pauvre site professionnel. Qu'y mettre? Voilà la grande question. Donc, je brainstorme. Si ceci vous inspire des réflexions, n'hésitez pas. Je vais publier la liste en français dans mon prochain billet.

So, here I am at [WPD2](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/12/26/wowipad1-and-wpd2-news/), giving [my poor professional site](http://stephanie-booth.com) a much-needed facelift. More than a facelift, actually — content rather than form is the subject of the day. Call it a complete overhaul.

I opened a mind-map and started brainstorming a bit. I’m really not sure what I’m going to put in this site, and how I’m going to present things. I must say I really like [Euan Semple’s professional site](http://www.euansemple.com/): simple and straight to the point.

Here’s a snapshot of the work in progress. Feedback welcome of course (which is why I’m blogging this). It’s brainstorm-like, and there are redundancies.

### what do I do?

– help people understand stuff about the internet (social media)
– teach people how to use social media
– help companies figure out what they can do with social media
– speak
– connect people
– I want to empower people to have a voice online
– I share my understanding of internet culture with those who need it
– I help companies rethink their communication strategy
– organise events
– get people started with blogging and associated tools
– introduce people to managing the technical aspects involved in installing and maintaining tools like WordPress

### what are my interests?

– languages on the internet (multilingualism)
– teenagers on the internet
– social media and how it changes the way companies and people communicate
– social tools, how we use them, what their purpose is, and how they work

### who are my clients?

– normal people who want to know more (about blogging or teenagers online)
– schools
– people in key communications/media positions in big companies
– small companies
– media corporations
– marketing/communications people
– tech people

### who am I?

– multi-faceted
– I know stuff about the internet
– I also know stuff about people and culture
– a long-term blogger and online person
– good at explaining, teaching, inspiring, assisting thought and decision-making processes

Seen from the “outside”, am I leaving stuff out?

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Christmas [en]

Christmas [en]

[fr] Quelques réflexions au sujet de Noël -- des grandes fêtes de mon enfance avec tous les cousins jusqu'aux fêtes plus intimes des familles fragmentées d'aujourd'hui.

Pour une fois, je ne suis pas stressée par les cadeaux de Noël. Je m'y suis prise "à l'avance" (dès jeudi au lieu de tout le 24), et j'ai même pris plaisir à choisir du joli paper d'emballage.

Les publications frénétiques sur ce blog ne reprendront sans doute pas avant la fin des fêtes de Noël.

Joyeux Noël à tous. Prenez le temps d'être avec ceux qui vous sont chers.

As a kid, I used to like Christmas. It was a chance to get together with all my cousins, uncles and aunts, eat nice food, light the Christmas tree and distribute presents. I like to think we are a family which didn’t go overboard with presents. A CD, a book, a nice vase, a jumper, or a couple of beautiful candles — sometimes bigger presents from parents to children, obviously, but overall, I’m pretty proud of us, looking back.

As I grew older and the “next generation” of kids started arriving (and we became proper adults), the annual Christmas gathering broke up into smaller parts. I don’t see my cousins at Christmas any more. We all celebrate in our smaller, nuclear families.

Then there are break-ups, divorces, and more fragmentation.

My brother and I get two Christmas parties nowadays. One with my dad and “his” side of the family, and a similar one with my stepmum. Four-five people, smaller than the gatherings of my childhood, but cosy. Sometimes, these small family gatherings seem a better site for tensions between individuals to surface — but maybe this has more to do with me being an adult now than the size of the group. As a child, one isn’t always aware of all that is going on in the “grown-up world”.

So, overall, I like Christmas — even if over the last years there have been some parties which have not turned out as fun as we hoped.

The one thing I don’t like is shopping for Christmas presents.

I don’t like the commercial overload one is subjected to in the shops. I don’t like the fact that there are too many people. And I don’t like the fact that usually, I leave Christmas shopping until the last minute, and have to find/buy my presents in a rush on the 24th before going to the party in the evening.

This year, things are different.

I decided to start early. “Early”, for me, means that I went Christmas shopping two days ago, on Thursday. I bought a couple of presents. I went again yesterday. Bought another few presents. And today: a few more.

The result of all this is that I had a nice time walking around town, looking at things in shops (which is something I like doing!), bumping into friends (because particularly around Christmas, Lausanne is a little village), choosing presents, and even buying pretty wrapping paper and cards.

Even my sprained big toe last night at judo hasn’t managed to make me feel stressed about these pre-Christmas times.

There isn’t much blogging here these days as you’ve noticed, as I’m spending a fair amount of time away from the computer — but no fear: I still have a pile of posts to write “asap”, ideas, and energy to keep things going. Might just have to wait until after Christmas, though.

Merry Christmas everyone. Enjoy your time with those you hold dear. Remember it’s about love.

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