Books That Changed My Life [en]

[fr] Une série de livres qui m'ont marquée.

Picked up on [Lifehacker](http://lifehacker.com/) (via [Feedly](http://feedly.com/), which I really like!), [What Books Have Changed Your Life?](http://lifehacker.com/397394/the-books-that-changed-your-lives) — so, off the top of my head, and way too late in the night to do any serious thinking/writing/linking, a bunch of books that were groundbreaking reads for me:

– The Web of Belief (Ullian & Quine)
– Emotional Intelligence (Goleman)
– Comment gérer les personnalités difficiles (André & Lelord)
– Naked Conversations (Scoble & Israel)
– The Black Swan (Taleb)
– Getting Things Done (Allen)
– The Paradox of Choice (Schwartz)
– Buddhism Without Beliefs (Batchelor)
– India: A Million Mutinies Now (Naipaul)
– The Cluetrain Manifesto (Searls, Weinberger, Locke, Levine)

There are certainly more that I’m not thinking about now, and the list is certainly skewed towards these past years (the near past is always fresher in memory, and old changes tend to be forgotten). I could give an explanation for each of them… but some other time, maybe.

I read a lot of fiction, too — not just essay-like books. But I wouldn’t say that any work of fiction (that I can recall) really changed my life in a major way.

I might come back to this. Or I might not. Who knows?

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About Not Reading [en]

[fr] Je me suis rendu compte tout dernièrement à quel point il est facile de répondre à une question sans l'avoir lue en entier, de commenter sur un billet de blog sans avoir cliqué sur le lien. FriendFeed pousse un peu à ça, avec sa manie de lister des titres de billets sur lesquels on peut commenter (je prétends pas avoir une meilleure solution).

Récemment, je demandais à mon entourage leur avis sur une question de workshops avant ou après Going Solo (j'en parlerai ailleurs plus en détail, ce n'est pas le propos de ce billet), et j'ai été étonnée de la quantité de réponses qui semblaient indiquer que mon interlocuteur n'avait en fait pas lu le lien que je lui avais donné.

Je ne vais pas jeter la pierre, je me rends régulièrement coupable du même raccourci (commenter sans avoir lu) même si j'essaie vraiment de me limiter. Ça me rappelle les Mythologiques de Lévi-Strauss, qu'on cite à tout va mais que personne n'a en fait lues en entier...

I’m guilty too. I sometimes read the title of a blog post, or a few sentences of an article, and comment on it.

It struck me recently how common this practice is, and also how it impairs communication. It’s the shortcut, the bet we make that we guessed or assumed correctly, the easy way out. Communication with no parasites requires work, and patience.

These last two days I’ve been trying to make up my mind about whether to place workshops *before* or *after* the main day of conferences for [Going Solo](http://going-solo.net). It’s a tricky problem which I don’t want to start discussing right now (I’m going to blog about the issues I face more precisely on the Going Solo blog shortly).

So, I chatted with people, Twittered about it, got into e-mail conversations, and decided to sum up some of my thoughts in a [Tumblr entry](http://steph.tumblr.com/post/37831000/workshops-before-or-after), which allowed me to simply point people there and ask them what their thoughts were.

And I was amazed at how many people didn’t actually respond to my point of concern (“are there any economical/sales/marketing reasons for putting a workshop before a conference, if there are other good reasons to place it after”) because the title, visible in the URL, led them to believe it was a simpler question: http://steph.tumblr.com/post/37831000/workshops-before-or-after.

Now, I’m guilty as much as they are. I took a shortcut too by blogging my thoughts and giving them a link, rather than engaging with each of them personally from ground zero.

But setting aside the question or workshops (which I’ll expound in another post), it did serve as an enlighting reminder that people (me included) do not always read what they react to.

It reminds me of one of my university teachers who told us the following story. When he was doing his PhD, he started trudging through the four volumes of Claude Lévi-Strauss’s Mythologiques. For those who are not familiar with Lévi-Strauss, Mythologiques is his master work and is oft-cited in many disciplines of the academic world. Well, as he was stumbling upon some particularly nasty passages, he started asking collegues and professors what they had thought of them. And to his surprise, he realised that *nobody he could find had actually read through the four volumes*. Everyone was talking about this work, but nobody had actually read it in its entirety.

Isn’t that incredible?

Well, not so incredible if you think of it — at least not in the academic world. And obviously, not in the blog world either.

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Stalling [en]

[fr] Trop à faire. 5 jours avant mon départ pour près de 4 semaines, et les priorités sont toutes conflictuelles. Aaaah! (Mais bon, je me connais, je vais m'en sortir.)

Gosh, I haven’t published in ages. Scary. I’m stalling. Too much to do, too little time, not sure where to start. Well, life is deciding for me, because I have 5 days left before departing on a nearly 4-week trip, and there is only so much one can do in 5 days. So, some news and some thoughts.

– [Going Solo](http://going-solo.net): things are good. 25% of tickets sold in less than a week. [Video of my speech](http://going-solo.net/2008/02/21/open-stage-speech-video-online/) finally made it online. Don’t miss [Early Bird price until March 16th](http://going-solo.net/2008/02/21/earlier-bird-is-gone-say-hello-to-early-bird/). In one word: [register](http://going-solo.net/register/). Reminder: stay up-to-date on Going Solo by subscribing to [the Going Solo blog](http://going-solo.net/) or the [Going Solo Twitter feed](http://twitter.com/goingsolo) — much better source of news than CTTS.
– 5 [talks/things](http://stephanie-booth.com/en/speaking/) in less than two weeks. A talk for [parents of teenagers](http://stephanie-booth.com/fr/conferences/) in neighbouring France Thursday evening. A session at [WebCamp SNP](http://webcamp.org/SocialNetworkPortability). A [panel to moderate](http://2008.blogtalk.net/programme/socialmediapanel) at BlogTalk. Co-hosting a [core conversation at SXSW](http://2008.sxsw.com/interactive/programming/panels_schedule/?action=show&id=IAP060453) and [moderating another panel](http://2008.sxsw.com/interactive/programming/panels_schedule/?action=show&id=IAP060434) (both [multilingual stuff](/focus/multilingual/)). I should blog about these more in detail. And more importantly, I have quite a bit of homework to do to prepare the four last ones. And I’m a bit anxious about how moderating panels will go — never done that before.
– travel: Cork (Ireland), Dallas-Austin (Texas), San Francisco. That means I need to sort some stuff out before I leave for nearly a month (clean the flat, do some paperwork, pay bills, see people). I’m going to have to pack <shudder> — and I still need to unpack. I’ll be in San Francisco for two weeks, so maybe I want to organise a dinner or something there. I’ll be distributing Going Solo moo cards all along my journey. I’m apprehensive about all this travel. I don’t want to go. I want to stay here, curled up on the sofa, with the cat purring next to me. But I’m looking forward to seeing people I like.
– work to do for Going Solo: not the least, unfortunately. Sort out the programme. Get back to all the people who sent in speaker proposals. Get sponsor/partner documentation and contracts sorted out so that the partners waiting in the lobby can be let in. Promote, promote. Worry about WiFi a bit more. Happily, video filming, venue set-up and design, and some offline promotion do not depend entirely on me. Prepare a “dossier de presse”. Finish rounding up media partners. Promote, promote.
– blogging: posts piling up in my head. About books I’ve read or am reading: The Paradox of Choice, A Perfect Mess (got a post brewing about GTD and messiness), and The Black Swan of course. Need more time to read. More time to write. Can’t keep up.
– misc: photos to upload, podcast to edit, other sites to update, e-mails to answer (I’m far from zero right now), plants to water, a life to live…

This roughly sums up where I’m at right now.

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An Experiment (Seesmic and The Black Swan) [en]

I love reading, and I have a pile of interesting books waiting for me to dig through them. I’ve just picked up [The Black Swan](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/10/15/reading-the-black-swan/) where I left it over a month ago.

One of my frustrations with reading, I realise, is the difficulty in sharing the interesting stuff I discover. Being an online person, I’m used to being able to share all the interesting stuff I find or think of very easily. Going from printed book to the web is not that simple.

I painstakingly typed up quotes in [my tumblr](http://steph.tumblr.com) but honestly, it’s not the best solution. Maybe somebody will offer me a pen-scanner one day (that would be fun!) but in the meantime, I’m a bit stuck without a good bridge between my dead-tree reading and my online community.

So, I just did an experiment with Seesmic. I read out quotes and commented some of the stuff I was reading. There are two videos because (as I just discovered!) Seesmic cuts you off at 10 minutes. In total, here are 16 minutes or so of me rambling on and reading quotes to you.

The Black Swan I

The Black Swan II

Sorry for those of you who can’t see the videos. For those of you who can, do let me know if you think this is a good idea or not.

Update: more videos…

The Black Swan III

The Black Swan IV

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Reading The Black Swan [en]

[fr] Notes de lecture de "The Black Swan", sur l'impact des événements hautement improbables.

One of the things I did yesterday during my time offline was read a sizeable chunk of [The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable](http://www.amazon.com/Black-Swan-Impact-Highly-Improbable/dp/1400063515) by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

It’s a fascinating read. (Thanks again to Adam Hill for saying I should read it.) I just find myself a little frustrated that I can’t effortlessly copy-paste quotes from the book into a text file or [my Tumblr](http://steph.tumblr.com) as I read. (And no, I wouldn’t want to be reading this online. I like books. They just lack a few features. Like searchability, too.)

Anyway, I’ve been [twittering away](http://twitter.com/stephtara) while I read, and here are a few things I noted. These are not exact quotes, but paraphrases. Consider them “reading notes.” (And then a few me-quotes, hehe…).

– oh, [one quote](http://steph.tumblr.com/post/15618111) I did copy to [Tumblr](http://steph.tumblr.com) (check it, if you’re lucky, you might find more quotes!)
– Finding Taleb’s concepts of Mediocristan and Extremistan fascinating and insightful.
– Probably in Extremistan: number of contacts, length of relationships? Not sure.
– High-impact, low-probability events (Black Swans) are by nature unpredictable. Now apply that to the predator problem.
– We confuse ‘no evidence of possible Black Swans’ with ‘evidence of no possible Black Swans’ and tend to remember the latter.
– ‘No evidence of disease’ often interpreted as ‘Evidence of no disease’, for example.
– Taleb: in testing for a hypothesis, we tend to look for confirmation and ignore what would invalidate it.
– Interesting: higher dopamine = greater vulnerability to pattern recognition (less suspension of disbelief)
– So… Seems we overestimate probability of black swans when we talk about them. Terrorism, predators, plane crashes… And ignore others.
– Anecdotes sway us more than abstract statistical information. (Taleb)
– That explains why personal recommendations have so much influence on our decisions. Anecdotes, rather than more abstract facts or stats. (That’s from me, not him.)
– Journalists according to Taleb: ‘industrial producers of the distortion’

**Update:** [Anne Zelenka wrote a blog post](http://www.annezelenka.com/2007/10/tell-me-a-story-but-tell-me-the-truth) taking the last and, unfortunately, quite incomplete citation as a starting-point. Check [my clarification comment on her blog](http://www.annezelenka.com/2007/10/tell-me-a-story-but-tell-me-the-truth#comment-1713). And here’s [the complete quote](http://steph.tumblr.com/post/15691134):

> Remarkably, historians and other scholars in the humanities who need to understand silent evidence the most do not seem to have a name for it (and I looked hard). As for journalists, fuhgedaboutdit! They are industrial producers of the distortion. (p. 102)

**Update 2:** Anne edited her post to take into account my comment and our subsequent discussion. Thanks!

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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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Response to Yvette: Loving Links in Posts Through Tabbed Browsing. [en]

[fr] Comment lire un texte plein d'hyperliens? Le mieux, à mon avis, c'est d'ouvrir les liens dans des onglets séparés en utilisant un navigateur comme Firefox. On peut ainsi facilement y jeter un coup d'oeil sans perdre de vue notre lecture principale, et y revenir plus tard si désir il y a.

Je pense qu'il est de la nature du web de nous disperser. Je commence à écrire un billet, en consultant mon matériel source, je me retrouve à répondre à un commentaire, et pour ce faire à mettre en ligne une saisie d'écran sur Flickr... J'utilise depuis peu un "mind map" pour me souvenir de ce que je suis en train de faire. Cela m'évite de perdre de vue ma tâche principale quand je suis plongée dans les ramifications des tâches secondaires qui en dépendent.

The best way to deal with [reading links in a blog entry](http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/lawgeek/2006/09/11/day-one/#comment-4), IMHO, is to open them in tabs in the background. Then you can either go to the link page straight away to look at it, come back to the blog post, and read the linked page more in detail later.

To work with tabs, you’ll need a browser like Firefox, which you can download and install for free. Once you’re in Firefox, instead of simply clicking the links you want to visit, ctrl-click them (or command-click if you’re on a mac, like me).

Here’s a picture of what it can look like.

I find that there is something in the nature of the web that encourages one to get sidetracked. It’s a web, not a road! For example, I started [writing a blog post](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2006/09/13/harvard-law-in-second-life/), came to read this page (as “source” material), decided I was going to reply to Yvette’s comment, then halfway through thought “hey, I should show a screenshot of what tabbed browsing looks like!”, so took a screenshot, saved it as jpg, uploaded it to Flickr, added a few notes to it…

I sometimes find it useful to keep a mindmap current with what I’m doing, when the “sidetracks” start becoming “tracks” in their own right. In this case it’s not too hard for me to remember I’m actually trying to write a blog post (my main task), because the “secondary tasks” (visiting links, putting a screenshot on Flickr) are things I’m comfortable doing.

And finally, now, because this comment is becoming really long, I’m going to make it into a blog post and publish it on my blog instead. See how things go on the web?

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Meme littéraire [fr]

Je cède au même littéraire. 4 questions sur les livres que j’ai lus.

[en] A book meme. Books I've bought, read, liked. You know the drill.

A l’unanimité, Delphine et Baud ont décidé que j’allais passer à  la casserole du dernier même qui court la blogosphère.

Combien lisez-vous de livres par an ?

Très dur à  dire, parce que ça varie énormément. Lectrice insatiable quand j’étais jeune, je n’ai presque plus lu durant mon Gymnase et mes années de chimie. Avec une ou deux crises de lecture dans des déserts, je dois avouer que la moyenne de ces 10 dernières années ne doit pas être glorieuse. Regardons plutôt le passé récent, parce que là , je dévore: une trentaine depuis fin mai, je vous laisse faire le calcul.

Je profite de digresser puisqu’on est dans les listes: voici une ancienne liste de lecture (sans dates, malheureusement). Et ma wishlist vous dira que j’ai soif de livres.

Quel est le dernier livre que vous ayez acheté ?

Acheté ou ajouté à  sa collection? Le dernier livre que j’ai reçu (un retardataire du gros pack de Noël que m’a offert mon père) est Just a Geek de Wil Wheaton.

Le dernier que j’aie acheté… aïe… pas parce qu’il n’y en a pas, mais il y en a trop. Je réfléchis, et je vais zyeuter ma bibliothèque (récemment réorganisée, j’en suis très fière).

Bon… je pense que ça devait être Comment gérer les personalités difficiles, acheté juste avant mon dernier voyage à  Paris.

Quel est le dernier livre que vous ayez lu ?
Foundation de Isaac Asimov.
Listez 5 livres qui comptent beaucoup pour vous ou que vous avez particulièrement appréciés.

Allez, je me lance:

  1. L’affaire Caïus de Henry Winterfeld: je l’ai lu quand j’avais 9 ans environ, et j’ai tellement croché que je l’ai lu jusqu’au bout, m’endormant à  passé minuit. Ce fut le début d’une longue habitude de lectures nocturnes “en cachette”, après l’extinction des feux et le passage de mes parents dans ma chambre…
  2. Prince Caspian de C. S. Lewis (dans les Chroniques de Narnia). Je devais avoir à  peu près le même age quand j’ai lu ce livre, et il m’a complètement fascinée. Je n’ai pas tardé à  me faire toute la série. Je la relis d’ailleurs régulièrement.
  3. La demoiselle sauvage de Corinna Bille. J’ai découvert Corinna Bille à  l’uni, à  l’occasion d’un séminaire d’analyse de textes de deuxième partie. J’adore cet auteur (et pas juste parce qu’on porte le même prénom). J’aime le caractère onirique de ses écrits et leur sensualité.
  4. (la liste s’allonge et je commence à  penser à  tous les livres que je ne pourrai pas citer ici…) Arranged Marriage de Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Un recueil de nouvelles ramené de mon deuxième voyage en Inde, racontant des histoires de mariages arrangés indiens, surtout de femmes qui émigrent aux Etats-Unis suite à  leur mariage. Bouleversant. Pour moi, du moins.
  5. The Gods Themselves de Isaac Asimov. Lu au début de mon adolescence, c’était mon premier contact avec Isaac Asimov, un de mes auteurs préférés. Il faut d’ailleurs que je le relise un de ces quatre, celui-là …

Je me rends compte que je n’ai cité que de la fiction. Il y a aussi de nombreux livres de non-fiction qui m’ont marquée. Une autre fois, peut-être!

A qui allez-vous passer le relais (3 blogs) et pourquoi ?
  • neuro, parce que je suis curieuse;
  • Chris, parce que je soupçonne qu’elle risque d’aimer ça;
  • Dave, parce que je suis toujours curieuse.

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