The Blog of Unfinished

Hopefully you’ve heard by now that I co-direct a course on social media and online communities here in Lausanne. We’re preparing for the fourth year. This means I have students. And believe me, I learn a lot from them — they’re fascinating people. Of course, they are, they chose to follow the course I co-direct ūüėČ

I’m mentioning this because I realized something very recently following conversations with two ex-students (or soon-to-be-ex). The reason I like my blog so much, and am still blogging 13 years after I started, is that it is a space where I can indulge in my natural tendency to start stuff and not finish it.

Said like that it’s a bit extreme, but let me explain.

The first step was the evening I spent with my ex-student who is starting a little side business of interior design¬†alongside her day job. She waffled out a few free sessions and I took one. At some point the conversation drifted to more personal topics, and I mentioned my urges to start things and my difficulty in finishing them — probably related to my difficulty throwing things out. I’m a starter, generally. I have ideas. I want to do stuff. Way more than the space of my life lets me. Once I’ve started something, I do tend to lose interest, or at least find it more difficult to keep going. And don’t get me started (!) on finishing.

Yes, I’ll own up to being an immediate gratification junkie.

The second step, a day or two later, was a phone call with another ex-student that I had gently chided for signing a blog comment (“best regards” and the like). I was encouraging him to blog earlier about the project he was working on, and he was telling me he found it challenging to put things “out there” without them being sufficiently polished. My reaction of course (which I think wasn’t actually very helpful in his precise situation) was to say that blogging is for the imperfect, the good enough. A blog is great as a “put it out there” space.

And this is really how I use my blog. The stuff I don’t write about, I often don’t write about because I feel I need to work on it more. Wanting to do things well — too well — prevents me from doing them.

It sounds contradictory with what I said above about starting things and not finishing them, doesn’t it? It isn’t.

So this is why I like blogging. It’s a tool that makes it easy for me to “just get it out there”. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Yes of course it could be better. I’m sure I could have said the things I’m saying now more clearly. I’m sure I could have made them more compelling. More SEO-thingy. Found photos to illustrate. Thought about when to publish this kind of post and how to distribute it.

But no — I go the brain-dump way. And because I brain-dump, there are hundreds (thousands) of blog posts here which actually might come in handy to others.

JFDI.

Bloggers: an Opportunity to Contribute to the paper.li Community Blog

Bloggers and freelance writers, this is for you! I’m working with paper.li (you know them, right?) and we’re plotting an expansion/development of their community blog. In short, this means:

  • more interviews of interesting members of the paper.li community (similar to what Kelly has done until now)
  • thematic articles (either original content, commentary on stuff published elsewhere, bundles of commented links…) around “curation”, personal online publishing and editing — and where it’s going, basically: how we’re dealing with the wealth of information online (I guess you can see why this is a relevant topic for paper.li)
  • …and I’ll be editing/managing publication.

We already have a few people lined up to conduct interviews of paper.li community members (we’re open to more if it’s the kind of thing you’d love doing) and we are looking for bloggers or other online writers who are interested in writing some articles with us.

Maybe you would just like to do a one-off guest post, or you think you’d like to contribute regularly, because you have lots to say or want to help us assemble, organise and comment the related articles and links we’re collecting.

If you want to be part of this, we want to hear from you! Please use the following form to get in touch.

The form is now closed. If you’d like to get in touch, head over to the Contribute page on the community blog.

A few organisational/context notes to help you understand what we’re doing:

  • we’re aiming to publish about 10 articles a month (so, pretty low amount of publications — we want quality first)
  • published posts will receive a (modest) financial compensation, but this isn’t Demand Media where you can churn out 50 posts a week to make a living out of it — so we assume you also have other motivations to participate (passion, another audience, visibility, intellectual curiosity…)
  • we ask for a week of exclusivity for the content you publish with us — after that, you’re free to republish on your blog or anywhere else
  • posts will of course link back to your blog if you want
  • we’re pretty open editorially (and still defining the borders or our topics), so feel free to submit stuff even if it seems slightly off-topic!

We’re waiting to hear from you, and don’t hesitate to get in touch or use the comments if you have questions or want more information.

Rebirth of the Book Project

If you were reading my blog or hanging out with me in 2006 and 2007, you may remember that I was planning to write a book around teenagers and the internet. It took me some time to realize this was not a money-earning project, that it would be hard for me to find a publisher, and that earning a living was higher on the priority list than writing a book.

A few weeks/months ago (time is a blur) I was approached by a publishing house who wants to publish a book on the “internet and family” topic. The editors thought of me, not knowing about my existing (dormant) book project. We met last week and though this is still very early stages (nothing signed, etc.) we’re both interested in pursuing.

As we were talking about process and next steps, I raised the issue of licencing. Though they have never published anything under a Creative Commons license, the editor had heard of it and said it was worth opening a discussion on the topic with the publisher. This got me thinking (and talking) about various concerns I have about an author contract:

  • what happens if they publish one run of the book and stop there? can I self-publish it on Lulu or Blurb afterwards, or take it to another publisher?
  • can I blog the work-in-progress as I write?
  • what about making an electronic edition available? (the publishing house only does paper so far)
  • can I publish it under a CC licence?
  • what the heck, how about making it available for free on the web?
  • what happens if somebody approaches me saying they want to translate my book? can they self-publish a translation?

Lots of questions, as you can see, that need to be clarified upfront with the publisher and included in the contract — and here is where I’d like your input. I know that many of you reading this blog have experience with writing, publishers, licenses, and all. What would you recommend doing and not doing? What should I pay attention to?

Having a rather progressive stance on certain IP/copyright issues, it would make sense if the terms of my contract and endeavour in the land of dead trees reflected that to some extent. Of course, I’m aware everything might not be possible, but there seems to be an opening to talk about these things with the publisher, so it would be a pity not to take it. Before that, I need to make my mind up about what I’d want — in an ideal world.

I welcome all feedback!

Tumblr to Capture Comments?

The other evening, I was explaining that I still used coComment to capture the comments I made on other blogs. As always, people try to suggest alternatives: [co.mments](http://co.mments.com/) or [disqus](http://disqus.com/), for example. I appreciate the suggestions, but they show me that I haven’t managed to make myself clear.

CoComment does two main things:

– **track** conversations you participate in (or want to keep an eye on) so that you are alerted when a new comment is added to the thread
– **capture** the comments you make on other blogs so that you can collect them somewhere or republish them.

I use mainly the second feature. I’m not that interested in tracking all the conversations I take part in. Every now and again I am, and co.mments does indeed do the job, in an *ad hoc* way. Disqus is quite exciting and also allows centralization of the comments I make *with the system* (if I got it right), but it has the great disadvantage of still being too “blogger-centric” instead of “commenter-centric”: sure, I can install disqus on my blog (as a blogger), but it isn’t going to help me capture or track all my comments until all the blogs I visit have done the same.

So, like at the end of a [messy break-up](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/04/19/more-on-cocomment-advertising/) where you’re still sleeping with your ex, I’m still using coComment for the following:

– **capture** the comments I make all over the place and republish them in [my Tumblr](http://steph.tumblr.com).

That’s it. One thing coComment does pretty well, despite all the criticism I can make to the service, is capture comments I leave in a variety of comment forms (from WordPress to FriendFeed and Typepad and Blogger and even home-made in some cases) and spit them out in an RSS feed.

Yesterday, an idea dawned on me: what I really want is for my [comments to be published in my Tumblr](http://getsatisfaction.com/tumblr/topics/using_tumblr_to_capture_comments_made_on_other_blogs). Maybe we can come up with a way to do that directly?

I use Tumblr loads, and love it. The main thing I actively use it for (I’ve embedded a few RSS feeds in it) is for quoting interesting passages off blog/articles that I read. It’s very easy:

3 Steps to Share a Quote on Tumblr

1. highlight some text on a page
2. click on the Tumblr bookmarklet
3. Tumblr automagically recognizes it as a quote, and pops up a window which you use to publish it.

The result of all this is that I have [a Tumblr](http://steph.tumblr.com/) which is full of quotes, comments (thankfully coComment seem to have [removed the nasty ads from the RSS feed I complained about](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/03/31/please-dont-be-rude-cocomment-i-loved-you/)), and other things (videos and screenshots, for example).

I’ve been thinking a lot (but not writing, I know) about how these new tools in my landscape, which weren’t there [8 years ago (in a few days!) when I started blogging](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2000/07/13/weblog-open/), are modifying my publishing and interaction habits. The [panel I moderated at BlogTalk in Cork](http://www.viddler.com/explore/steph/videos/42/) was about that, actually, but I think we only brushed the surface.

So, back to the point for this post: I’d like a [hack for my Tumblr bookmarklet — or maybe a separate bookmarklet](http://getsatisfaction.com/tumblr/topics/using_tumblr_to_capture_comments_made_on_other_blogs) (by Tumblr or a third party) which will publish the comment I’m submitting to my tumblelog. It would work a bit like the coComment bookmarklet: click it to activate it at some point before hitting submit — and it does its magic when you submit the comment.

If you like the idea, [head over the Get Satisfaction](http://getsatisfaction.com/tumblr/topics/using_tumblr_to_capture_comments_made_on_other_blogs) and add your 2 cents.

A Day at the Frankfurter Buchmesse

A month or two ago, I was chatting about [my book project](/categories/livre/) and [decision to find funding](http://www.viddler.com/about/contact/) to [Joi](http://joi.ito.com/). He suggested that a trip to the [Frankfurt book fair](http://www.book-fair.com/en/portal.php) might be useful.

First on, the Messe is just *huge*. I spent a morning there and just walked, and walked, and walked. Overall, I found my visit rather disappointing, though I did learn some useful things (though they weren’t exactly what I wanted to hear). Here’s the information I gathered, from a visit to the Swiss booth and discussions with a few people.

– I have a list of Swiss (French-speaking) publishers, and a shortlist of 4-5 who could be suitable for my project.
– Publishers, distributors, and bookstores are all part of the same organisation (in CH).
– The market is saturated, publishers are swamped with manuscripts, and it’s even worse in France than Switzerland (so, I should stick with local publishers — the fact I’m already recognised as a local authority also pushes in that direction).
– I can forget about a deal with an advance, so I need to look at other sources to finance the *writing* part (Loterie Romande, educational associations, foundations… I’ll hunt around a bit to compile a list.)
– Swiss publishers don’t like agents, and having one might make it even more difficult for me to find a publisher.
– The publisher deals with the printing guys to get the book published, and deals with the distribution guys to get it distributed. [Hunter](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunter_Lovins), a seasoned bookwriter, tells me that unless I’m getting a huge advance, having a publisher is not worth it — I can deal with printers and distributors myself. Will just have to check if this is a viable approach in the Swiss market.
– The publisher is precious for the editing process, because he knows what is good and what is not, the head of this Swiss association tells me. Hunter, on the contrary, tells me this mostly gets in the way. A good editor can be precious but chances are I won’t be getting one.
– If I go the self-publishing way (offline), then I’ll need funding for the printing, which could be a problem.
– One option, which Joi suggests and I’d been getting at, is to start off by online-self-publishing (Lulu, Blurb, or another), and once there is enough buzz, sales, reviews, etc, approaching publishers.
– I really need to work on a proper proposal, and I have a better understanding of what such a proposal needs to look like. I got some advice from talking with a publisher over dinner (thanks again!) and Chris Webb left me a pointer to [his interesting series on book proposals](http://ckwebb.com/tag/book-proposal) in the comments to [my previous post](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/10/09/first-draft-of-book-presentation/). From what I gather, the more there is in the proposal, the better.

So, where do I go from now?

– **Write a proper proposal in French** (as the book will be in French). This obviously needs to be broken down into manageable pieces (GTD-style), and I realise that the big nasty bit for me is the outline. I have tons of ideas of stuff that I want to put in the book, but I’m not sure how to organise it all yet. I’ve been mind-mapping, but it’s a bit overwhelming and messy. So I’ll start by writing all the rest (the easy bits).
– **Write a project funding proposal** which will probably not be as detailed as the one for the publisher.
– Ask around for leads to getting funding, compile a list, send out funding requests with proposal.
– Send the proposal to the 4-5 publishers on the list, once it’s done.

Language? Isn’t it kind of weird I’m speaking about this in English? On the other hand, I don’t want to “cut out” my English network by blogging exclusively in French about this book project.

All this thinking about self-publishing has given me the desire to put together one or more photo books. I’ve barely been printing since I went digital, and it’s nice to have photos in physical form too, as [Moo](http://moo.com)’s success demonstrates. My friend [Andrea Lindenberg](http://www.andrealindenberg.com/) has put together a [collection of her best riding show photographs](http://www.lulu.com/content/1192654) — if you like horses, you should definitely check it out. She’s very talented.

My [Flickr photo collection](http://flickr.com/photos/bunny/sets/) is approaching 10’000 photos. So, again, the inevitable **choice** problem. I’ll certainly make a book of my best Indian photos at some point (most of them aren’t on Flickr but are either slides (first trip), negatives (second trip), or digital-[dumped-in-directories](http://old.climbtothestars.org/dumps/) (third trip). I have a set called [My Favourites](http://flickr.com/photos/bunny/sets/1292259/), but it’s very out-of-date and doesn’t contain any recent photos. I can probably dig out the photos I use for Moo cards or stickers and add them, though.

Any opinions? If you see any photos of mine that you think deserve ending up in the (a) photo book, don’t hesitate to tag them “forthebook”. Thanks!

Please Make Holes in My Buckets!

[Facebook](http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=503315010) is [Stowe](http://stoweboyd.com/message)’s fault. [Twitter](http://twitter.com/stephtara) was because of [Euan](http://theobvious.typepad.com/). [Anne Dominique](http://annedominique.wordpress.com/) is guilty of getting me on [Xing/OpenBC](https://www.xing.com/profile/Stephanie_Booth). I can’t remember precisely for [Flickr](http://flickr.com/photos/bunny) or [LinkedIn](http://www.linkedin.com/in/sbooth) or — OMG! — [orkut](http://www.orkut.com/Profile.aspx?uid=7955153206158244373), but it was certainly somebody from [#joiito](http://joiwiki.ito.com/joiwiki/index.cgi?IrcChannel). The culprits for [Last.fm](http://www.last.fm/user/steph-tara), [DailyMotion](http://dailymotion.com/Steph) and [YouTube](http://youtube.com/profile?user=Steph “Even got there early enough to grab ‘steph’ — now I get password reminders almost everyday, great…”) have disappeared into the limbo of lost memories. [Kevin](http://epeus.blogspot.com) encouraged me to [sign up for a good dozen of blogging platforms](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2004/12/11/hosted-blog-platform-test-write-up/), open a [MySpace account](http://myspace.com/stephtara), and he’s probably to blame for me being on [Upcoming](http://upcoming.org/user/94465/). As for [wordpress.com](http://steph.wordpress.com), I’ll blame [Matt](http://photomatt.net) because he’s behind all that.

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

Let’s get back on track. My aim here is not primarily to point an accusing finger to all my devious friends who introduced me to these fun, [addictive](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/02/12/addicted-to-technology/), time-consuming tools (though it’s interesting to note how one forgets those things, in passing). It’s more a sort of round-up of a bunch of my “online selves”. I feel a little scattered, my friends. Here are all these buckets in which I place stuff, but there aren’t enough holes in them.

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

One example I’ve already certainly talked about (but no courage to dig it out, my blog is starting to be a huge thing in which I can’t find stuff I know it contains) is contacts or buddies — the “Mine” in [Stowe’s analysis of social applications](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/02/07/stowe-boyd-building-social-applications/). I have buddy lists on IM and Skype, contacts on Flickr and just about every service I mentioned in this post. Of *course*, I don’t want to necessarily have the same contacts everywhere. I might love your photos on Flickr and add you as a contact, but not see any interest in adding you to my business network on LinkedIn. Some people, though — my **friends** — I’ll want to have more or less everywhere.

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

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

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

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

Also, [more granularity](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2006/12/12/you-should-twitter/). Facebook has a good helping of it: I can choose which type of information I want to see from my contacts. I can restrict certain contacts from seeing certain parts of my profile. I’d like fine control on who can see what, also by sorting my people into “buddy groups”. “Friends” and “Family” as on Flickr is just not enough. And maybe Facebook could come and present me with [Stowe-groupings](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/02/07/stowe-boyd-building-social-applications/) of my contacts, based on the interactions I have with them.

Share your wild ideas here if you have any.