Blogging 4 Business Afternoon Keynote: Michael Steckler [en]

Gossip: casual talking, especially about other people’s affairs.

SN are a large and highly engaged audience, so there is a great advertising and branding opportunity there. Rules?

Blogging 4 Business

75% use SN to keep in touch with family and friends.
62% for being nosey
55% express my opinions
49% meet people with similar interests

*steph-note: totally tuned out I’m afraid. I think the initial idea of viewing social networks as advertising space put me off, to the point I’m not even sure if he’s saying if it’s a good or a bad thing. Today I just feel like telling people to [ride on the Cluetrain](http://cluetrain.com).*

Personal spaces set up by a brand.

How do you get into that personal area?

– understand consumers’ motivations for using social networks
– express yourself as a brand *steph-note: I’m wondering if people shouldn’t just forget about brands a bit — not that they’re totally useless, but branding for branding gets tiring*
– create and maintain good conversations
– empower participants

Participation ecosystem. Recommendations based on personalities.

*steph-note: did a really shitty job of taking notes. I’m getting worse and worse today.*

Early adopters, onine mavens, online connectors (really important!), followers.

How to? create your own community, find influential bloggers, segment existing customers, attack the niche, start the gossip, reward customers… *steph-note: this is exactly the war-marketing vocabulary/mentality [the Cluetrain speaks against](http://cluetrain.com/book/markets.html)… Eek.*

Summary: SN = large and engaged audience => huge opportunity for branded content and advertising, but there are strict guidelines to how to approach this.

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Blogging 4 Business Conference [en]

[fr] Notes de la conférence Blogging4Business à laquelle j'assiste en ce moment à Londres.

So, unless some miracle happens, I’ll be blogging this day offline and posting it tonight when I get back at Suw’s. There seems to be no wifi provided for conference attendees unless you are willing to shell out £25 for a daily pass. (Actually, it seems there were a certain number of passes available.)

I would honestly have expected an event titled “**Blogging** 4 Business” to be “blog-aware” enough to realise that providing free wifi to connected people will encourage blogging of the event. Granted, most of the people I see in the room are taking paper notes (not that there is anything wrong with that) — this doesn’t seem to be an audience of bloggers. But wouldn’t it be an intelligent move to encourage the blogging public to “do their thing” at such an event?

I missed most of the first keynote and panel, spending time in the lobby chatting with Lee and Livio of [Headshift](http://headshift.com) (my kind hosts today), and [Adam](http://onemanandhisblog.com).

**Panel 1** incomplete and possibly inaccurate notes (they’re more snippets than a real account of what was said, partly because I don’t understand everything — audio and accents)

How do you respond to crisis online? (cf. Kryptonite)

Ged Carroll: In the 90s, faulty lock was broadcast on consumer TV. Mistake: didn’t tell the blogs that they were monitoring what was being said in that space, and that they were working on a solution (they *were* in fact acknowledging the problem, but hadn’t communicated that state of things to the public).

Moderator (Paul Munford?): how do you prevent something like that from being so predominently visible (search etc.)?

Darren Strange: owns his name. Same if you type “Microsoft Office”, his blog comes up pretty quickly too. Blogs attract links, good for search engine ranking.

Question: brands need ambassadors, OK, but where’s the ongoing material to blog about Budweiser?

Tamara Littleton: brand involvement in the site keeps things alive and happening. Reward ambassadors with merchandise.

*steph-note: on my way to London, I was reading the Cluetrain Manifesto (yeah, I’m a bit late on that train) and was particularly inspired by the part about how most of traditional marketing is trying to get people to hear a “message” for which there is actually no “audience” (nobody really wants to hear it), and so ends up coming up with ways to shove it into people’s faces and make them listen. This idea is kind of trotting in the back of my mind these days, and it’s colouring what I’m getting out of this event too.*

Question: transparency is a big thing… “creating ambassadors” (*steph-note: one “creates” ambassadors?!)… where is the space for disclosure?

Tamara Littleton: it’s about creating an environment, not saying “if you do this you’ll get that reward”. Rewards could be access to information about the product. Invite people to take part in something.

Ged Carroll: two types of rewards: merchandise etc, and also reputation-ego. Doesn’t have to be tangible.

Darren Strange: trying to have non-techie people try new releases of Vista, etc. Installed everything on a laptop, shipped it to the people’s house, and gave it to them. “Take the laptop, use it, blog if you want to, write good or bad things, or send it back to us, or give it to charity, or keep it, we don’t really care.” Huge debate about this. Professional journalists will be used to this kind of “approach”, but bloggers are kind of amateurs at this, they don’t know how to react. Disclosure: just state when you received something. *steph-note: and if you’re uncomfortable, say it too!*

**Panel: Lee Bryant, Adam Tinworth, David ??, Olivier Creiche**

*steph-note: got wifi, will publish*

Blogging 4 Business

Lee presenting first. Headshift have quite a bunch of nice products in the social software department. “It aint what you do it’s the way that you do it, and that’s what gets results.” (Bananarama)

Concrete business use cases.

Olivier talking now. “To blog or not to blog?” Simple answer: blog. Serious Eats. Citrix: a lot of knowledge disappeared when people left the company — a lot of knowledge out there that is only waiting to be gathered out of people’s e-mail boxes. Used Movable Type for that.

Another case study: AEP, also wanted to prevent e-mails from being the central repository of company knowledge (e-mails are not shared spaces!) Start small, experimental. Need to find the right people to start with. Another one: Arcelor/Mittal merger. Decided to communicate publicly about the lot of stuff. Video channel. Wanted to be very open about what they were doing and how, and answer questions. Good results, good press coverage.

David: allowing lawyers to share their knowledge and expertise, not just in their offices. Blogs, RSS, wikis allows time-critical sharing of information. *steph-note: like I’ll be publishing this as soon as the panel is over…* Catch things on the fly and make them available over a very short period of time.

Adam: starting to roll out business blogs just to allow communication. Bringing about profound change. *steph-note: very bad account of what Adam said, sorry — audio issues.* Other problems: educational issues. Best to not force people to use this or that tool, but open up. Share. Get people inside the teams to show their collegues what they’re using.

Question (moderator): a lot of evangelising going on in terms of blogs. Do blogs/wikis etc deliver on the promise of breaking down barriers, etc, when it comes to internal communication.

Lee: not a simple black/white situation. It comes down to people. Big problem: people bear a high cost to interact with communication systems and get no feedback. But with social tools (lightweight), we get immediate feedback. Integration with existing corporate systems.

Question: is social media the end of communications as we know it.

Lee: every generation of technology sees itself as a ground-breaker. But they’re all layered on top of each other. We have technology that delivers on the initial promise of the web (equal publication, sharing, etc) *(steph-note: yay! I keep saying that!)*

*steph-note: more northern English please ;-)*

David: now, using the web to create communities of practice, getting lawyers to communicate with people unthought of before.

Question: how do you deal with outdated material.

Lee: with mature social software implementations, any piece of information gathers its own context. So what is relevant to this time tends to come to the surface, so out-dated material sinks down. More about information surfacing when it’s time than getting out-dated stuff out of the way.

David: social tools make it very easy to keep your content up-to-date (which was a big problem with static sites).

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Introducing Fresh Lime Soda with Episode 3 of the Suw+Steph Podcast [en]

[fr] Notre podcast anglophone (à Suw Charman et moi-même) a maintenant son propre nom de domaine (histoire de fêter son baptême et l'épisode 3): Fresh Lime Soda.

As [twittered yesterday](http://twitter.com/stephtara/statuses/10631221), [Suw](http://chocnvodka.blogware.com/) and I are very proud to announce the christening of our previously unnamed podcast: [Fresh Lime Soda](http://freshlimesoda.net). As you can see, it has a domain and blog of its own (hosted by [WordPress.com](http://wordpress.com)), on which you can read the shownotes and of course listen to (or download) the podcast itself:

– [episode 1: Cities, geeks, security and risk](http://freshlimesoda.net/2007/01/19/fresh-lime-soda-episode-1-cities-geeks-security-and-risk/)
– [episode 2: Conferences, note taking, Wedding 2.0 and new tools](http://freshlimesoda.net/2007/02/15/fresh-lime-soda-episode-2-conferences-note-taking-wedding-20-and-new-tools/)
– and — yay! — the new [episode 3: Fresh lime soda, Twitter, bad marketing, you can’t beat being there](http://freshlimesoda.net/2007/03/21/fresh-lime-soda-episode-3-fresh-lime-soda-twitter-bad-marketing-you-cant-beat-being-there/).

You’ll certainly want to [subscribe using the RSS/atom (FeedBurner) feed](http://feeds.feedburner.com/FLS), possibly [subscribe in iTunes directly](itpc://feeds.feedburner.com/FLS) so that you never miss an episode!

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Promote Comments Plugin Idea [en]

[fr] Une idée de plugin que m'a soufflée Bruno Giussani: pouvoir "promouvoir" un commentaire et l'intégrer sans peine au contenu du billet.

A few days before [LIFT’07](http://liftconference.com), I had dinner with [Bruno Giussani](http://www.lunchoverip.com), who now happens to be one of the lucky people to live in [beautiful Lausanne](http://flickr.com/photos/bunny/sets/1292407/).

Amongst other things, he told of [his frustrations](http://giussani.typepad.com/loip/2006/02/blogging_frustr.html) with current blogging software (he’s using [TypePad](http://typepad.com)) and how [the perfect tool](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2003/10/10/requirements-for-a-perfect-weblog-tool/ “Old post I wrote when I was in the same state of mine.”) didn’t seem to exist. I guess one simple reason this is so is that “perfect” means different things to different people.

I use [WordPress](http://wordpress.org), like it, and generally recommend it around me, because to my mind it’s the most complete and user-friendly platform out there, **and** because the [plugin architecture](http://codex.wordpress.org/Plugin_API) allows for nearly any functionality to be added to it if somebody takes the trouble to code it.

Bruno shared with me one shortcoming of today’s blogging technology that he and [Robert Scoble](http://scobleizer.com) were talking about at LIFT last year (so this is not a “new” idea). Here is a write-up of this idea (with his permission of course), with a few implementation and interface details, in the hope that someone out there will pick it up and write the plugin. (I’ve heard enough people recently asking for plugin ideas to work their mad coding skillz on…)

**Here’s the basic idea:** there are often valuable contributions in the comments of a post, and we would like a way to be able to effortlessly “promote” a comment (or part of it) into the body of a post. This allows the blogger to easily act as an editor for the conversations taking place on his blog.

All this, of course, would have to be nice and ajaxy. Here’s how I could imagine it happening.

First of all, the plugin recognises that the author of the post is logged in, and adds a “promote” link next to each comment, in addition to the “edit” link. If that link is clicked, the comment text is automagically appended to the post content in a blockquote, complete with author name and link to original comment.

If part of the comment is selected when the promote link/button is clicked, then only that excerpt is quoted in the post.

Instead of the dreaded confirmation pop-up, a nice confirmation message should appear alongside the promoted comment in the post body, with an undo link.

From a back-end perspective, the promote link “knows” which post it belongs to (check the ID of the comment <div> it’s in). It shouldn’t be very difficult to grab author name, author url, comment permalink, format them all nicely (blockquotes, credit, microformats), edit the post, and add it to the end of the content with some introductory text (like “promoted comment”) and an “edited” stamp with time/date of promotion.

Possible problems:

– if part of a comment is selected and the wrong “promote” link is clicked, what behaviour would be expected? Probably an error message of some sort, or even better (but probably trickier to implement), a choice: promote the whole post (based on link clicked) or the excerpt (based on selection)?
– should promoted comments really be added into the post content, or stored as post meta data?

Taking this a step futher: wouldn’t it be nice to let the blogger introduce the promoted comment, or write a few lines after it? In this case, pressing the promote button/link would bring up a pop-up where more text can be added, with the option of displaying it before or after the quoted text.

And even another step futher (but I’m not sure it’s an interesting one): how about allowing the blogger to make a new post out of the promoted comment, instead of just appending it to the current post? Would this be interesting?

Additional thoughts on this basic idea are welcome (Bruno, let me know if I forgot something, it’s been a while since our conversation). If you’re a plugin author and you feel upto it, go for it (just make sure you give Bruno credit for the idea). I’ll be happy to try it out.

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Musique: bénéfices d'une bonne stratégie internet [fr]

[en] This is a description of the benefits a musician or singer can find in implementing a sound internet ("web2.0-ish") strategy (blogs, social software, online presence...). It's lifted from a project proposal I sent a client recently, but it's in my opinion general enough to be of interest to other people. Oh, and check out SellABand.

Pour une personne faisant carrière dans le monde de la musique, avoir une bonne stratégie internet apporte un certain nombre de bénéfices non-négligeables. J’entends ici par “bonne stratégie internet” le fait de s’ouvrir à la dimension sociale et participative de l’internet vivant (blog, outils de social networking, sites communautaires, etc.) et de se “mouiller” dans cette culture. Expliquer ce genre de chose fait partie de mon travail de [consultante en blogs ou spécialiste(!) de la culture en ligne](http://stephanie-booth.com) (je cherche encore et toujours un moyen concis et efficace de décrire ce que je fais…)

Ce qui suit est une description des bénéfices auxquels pourrait s’attendre un chanteur ou un musicien s’il décide d’investir dans ce média intelligemment. En fait, cet argumentaire est repris presque tel quel d’une [proposition de projet](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/02/07/martin-roell-getting-started-in-consulting-lift07/) que j’ai envoyée récemment à un client. Je le reproduis ici car il est assez général et peut à mon avis intéresser autrui.

#### Un site web facile à mettre à jour et bien référencé

Aujourd’hui, il est indispensable d’avoir un site web qui soit bien référencé et facile à garder à jour. Les outils de blog comme WordPress sont des systèmes de gestion de contenu légers et techniquement relativement faciles à manipuler.

Ils permettent à une personne n’ayant pas de compétences techniques particulières de publier et d’organiser le contenu du site et de le faire croître au fur et à mesure. Le site ainsi construit contient donc aussi bien une partie “blog” (organisée chronologiquement, qui donne en tous temps et un coup d’oeil les informations les plus fraîches) et une partie “classique” organisée hiérarchiquement (pages “contact”, “bio”, “discographie” etc.). Quelques sites construits sur ce modèle: [le blog du CRAB](http://crablog.net), [Groupe Vocal Café-Café](http://cafecafe.ch) et [Vibrations Music](http://vibrationsmusic.com).

De plus, ces outils séparent complètement le design du contenu du site: il est donc très aisé de changer la ligne graphique du site sans avoir besoin de toucher au contenu lui-même. La structure des pages est également telle qu’elle encourage un bon référencement par les moteurs de recherche (accessibilité, balisage sémantique), sans avoir recours à des techniques de SEO (“Search Engine Optimisation”) parfois douteuses.

En deux mots, gérer un site internet avec un outil de blog permet de le mettre à jour soi-même très facilement et garantit un bon placement dans les moteurs de recherche, en fonction du contenu du site bien entendu.

#### Tirer profit de la dimension sociale d’internet pour la promotion

Internet n’est pas juste une plate-forme de publication, à la différence d’un média traditionnel. C’est un lieu de vie, d’échanges, de relations, de bouche-à-oreille et de conversations. Cette dimension d’internet est souvent encore mal comprise et son importance sous-estimée. Avoir un site permettant les commentaires du public en regard des publications (une des caractéristiques du blog) est un premier pas. Il existe des également des dizaines de services, centrés ou non autour de la musique, qui permettent d’avoir un pied-à-terre virtuel dans diverses communautés en ligne. En comprenant les dynamiques sociales en jeu, on peut augmenter encore sa visibilité sur internet et lui donner une dimension plus humaine et personnelle.

Rassembler une communauté sur internet autour de soi ou de son travail ajoute un double bénéfice: la communauté est visible, ce qui peut attirer l’attention de personnes extérieures (médias traditionnels ou organisateurs d’événements) et encourager autrui à la rejoindre; d’autre part, les membres de la communauté sont eux-mêmes au centre de leur “réseau personnel”, leur propre communauté, dans laquelle ils jouent un rôle d’influenceur. Cette dynamique existe hors internet bien évidemment, mais elle est décuplée sur internet par l’absence d’obstacles géographiques et la facilité avec laquelle on peut faire circuler des informations dans le monde numérique.

#### Mettre de la musique à disposition en ligne et favoriser ainsi sa diffusion

Mettre à disposition sa musique en ligne favorise de façon générale sa diffusion, et donne l’occasion à des personnes qui ne l’auraient pas eue autrement de l’écouter et de l’apprécier. C’est la popularité d’un artiste auprès de son public qui va influencer les ventes de CD, et non le contraire. Il est donc intéressant d’une part d’utiliser internet comme véhicule ouvert de diffusion de la musique (afin d’augmenter visibilité et popularité), et également de permettre l’achat de CDs ou d’autres produits via internet, ce qui libère le public des contraintes géographiques. L’utilisation de licences adaptées ([Creative Commons](http://creativecommons.com)) permet de protéger les droits commerciaux tout en encourageant le partage et la diffusion de la musique.

Des sites comme YouTube, consacrés à la publication et au partage de vidéos, ou MySpace, ont déjà eu un impact considérable dans le lancement d’artistes, parfois avec des moyens extrêmement limités. La promotion du matériel ne coûte rien, elle est faite par le public qui lui trouve une valeur suffisante pour le partager avec son réseau.

#### Se former aux nouveaux médias afin d’être autonome et adéquat

Internet est un média (ou une collection de médias) dont une des caractéristiques principales est de contenir une dimension conversationnelle ou participative. Ces médias sont nouveaux et encore relativement mal maîtrisés en général, et ceci d’autant plus que l’on a pas eu l’occasion d’y être exposés passivement en grandissant. Ces nouveaux médias ont également comme caractéristique de remettre l’individu (avec sa personnalité propre) au centre, de favoriser le contact direct en libérant des intermédiaires, et de mettre en avant les valeurs de transparence, d’authenticité et d’honnêteté. Une formation sérieuse à l’utilisation adéquate de ces médias permettra d’en faire un usage efficace et autonome, et également d’éviter des faux-pas dûs à une méconnaissance de la culture en ligne.

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Twitter, c'est quoi? Explications… [fr]

Cet après-midi, je ramasse 20minutes dans le bus, et je vois qu'[on y parle de Twitter](http://www.20min.ch/ro/multimedia/stories/story/10730138). Bon sang, il est grand temps que j’écrive le fichu billet en français que je mijote depuis des semaines au sujet de ce service [que j’adore](http://twitter.com/stephtara “Ma page Twitter.”) (après l’avoir [mentionné en anglais](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2006/12/12/you-should-twitter/) il y a plusieurs mois). Allons-y, donc: une explication de [Twitter](http://twitter.com), pour vous qui n’avez pas la moindre idée de ce que c’est — et à quoi ça sert.

“Twitter” signifie “gazouillis” en anglais. Ce nom reflète bien le contenu relativement anodin qu’il se propose de véhiculer: **des réponses à la question “que faites-vous?”**.

Ça n’a pas l’air fascinant, a première vue, un service dont l’objet est d’étaler sur internet les réponses somme toute souvent très banales à cette question. “Est-ce que ça intéresse le monde entier, le fait que je sois [confortablement installée dans mon canapé](http://twitter.com/stephtara/statuses/8276161)?” Certes non. Par contre, **cela intéresse peut-être mes amis**.

Oh, très clairement pas dans le sens “tiens, je me demandais justement ce que Stephanie était en train de faire maintenant, ça tombe à pic!” Mais plutôt **dans un état d’esprit “radar”**: avoir une vague idée du genre de journée que mène son entourage. En fait, ce mode “radar” est tellement omniprésent dans nos vies qu’on ne le remarque même plus, et qu’on n’a pas conscience de son importance.

Pensez aux gens que vous fréquentez régulièrement, ou à vos proches. Une partie de vos intéractions consiste en échanges de cet ordre: “je t’appelle après la danse”, “je dois rentrer, là, parce qu’on a des invités”, “je suis crevé, j’ai mal dormi” ou encore “tu vas regarder le match, ce soir?”

Sans y faire vraiment attention, on se retrouve ainsi au courant de **certaines “petites choses” de la vie de l’autre** — et cela vient nourrir la relation. Plus on est proche, en général, plus on est en contact avec le quotidien de l’autre. Et corrolairement, **être en contact avec le quotidien d’autrui nous en rapproche**. (Vivre ensemble, que cela soit pour quelques jours ou à long terme, ce n’est pour cette raison pas anodin.)

On a tous fait l’expérience qu’il est plus difficile de garder vivante une relation lorque nos occupations respectives ne nous amènent pas à nous fréquenter régulièrement. Combien d’ex-collègues dont on était finalement devenus assez proches, mais que l’on a pas revus depuis qu’on a changé de travail? Combien de cousins, de neveux ou même de parents et d’enfants qu’on adore mais qu’on ne voit qu’une fois par an aux réunions familiales? Combien d’amis perdus de vue suite à un déménagement, ou simplement parce qu’il a fallu annuler la dernière rencontre et que personne n’a rappelé l’autre? Et à l’heure d’internet et des vols low-cost, combien de ces rencontres fortes mais qui se dissipent dès que la distance y remet ses pieds?

C’est ici qu’intervient Twitter.

**Twitter me permet de diffuser auprès de mon entourage ces petites parcelles de vie si anodines mais au final si importantes pour les liens que l’on crée** — et de recevoir de la part des gens qui comptent pour moi les mêmes petites bribes de quotidien. Cela permet de rester en contact, et même de renforcer des liens.

Ceux d’entre vous qui chattez le savez: échanger quelques banalités de temps en temps, ça garde la relation en vie, et on a ainsi plus de chances de prévoir de s’appeler ou de se voir que si on avait zéro contact. Les chatteurs savent aussi que les fameux “statuts” (“parti manger”, “disponible”, “ne pas déranger”) jouent un rôle non négligeable dans la communication avec autrui. C’est d’ailleurs en partie inspiré par ces statuts que [Jack](http://twitter.com/jack) a eu l’idée [qui est un jour devenue Twitter](http://evhead.com/2006/07/twttr-is-alive.asp). (Un autre ingrédient important était la page des “amis” sur [Livejournal](http://livejournal.com).)

Une des qualités majeures de Twitter et que **ce service n’est pas limité à internet**. En fait, à la base, il est prévu pour fonctionner par SMS. On peut donc envoyer (et recevoir!) les messages via le web, via un service de messagerie instantanée ([Google Talk](http://www.google.com/talk/)), ou par SMS — selon ses préférences du moment.

Concrètement, cela se passe ainsi: on [s’inscrit](http://twitter.com/account/create) et on donne à Twitter son [numéro de portable et/ou son identifiant GTalk](http://twitter.com/devices), ce qui nous permet déjà d’envoyer des messages. Ensuite, on [invite](http://twitter.com/invitations/invite) ses amis (ou bien on les ajoute depuis leur page s’ils sont déjà sur Twitter — voici [la mienne](http://twitter.com/stephtara)) afin de se construire un petit réseau social de personne que l’on “suivra”. Tous les messages de ces contacts sont rassemblés sur une page web (voici [la mienne](http://twitter.com/stephtara/with_friends)), et on peut choisir de les recevoir en plus par SMS ou par chat.

On peut envoyer des messages privés, bien entendu, et il y a toute une série de commandes qui permettent facilement d’ajouter ou d’enlever des contacts et de contrôler les alertes que l’on reçois — même si on est loin de son ordinateur. Un billet consacré à ces considérations plus techniques suivra.

Il faut aussi préciser que **recevoir les SMS de Twitter ne coûte rien** (enfin cela dépend de l’opérateur, mais en Suisse c’est gratuit), et qu’envoyer un message par SMS coûte simplement le prix d’un SMS envoyé à l’étranger (à ma connaissance, de nouveau, en Suisse cela revient au même prix qu’un SMS envoyé à un numéro suisse).

A venir, donc, un billet avec des informations techniques et pratiques sur l’utilisation de Twitter, et un autre qui poussera plus loin la réflexion sur le rôle d’un tel service, la façon dont les gens l’utilisent actuellement, et certaines critiques qui lui sont faites.

**Mise à jour 09.2007:** une [explication audio](http://capsule.rsr.ch/site/?p=345) avec la complicité de M. Pain.

**Mise à jour 03.2010:** depuis mi-2008, nous ne recevons plus de SMS Twitter en Europe. C’est nettement moins important aujourd’hui qu’à l’époque, vu l’explosion des iPhones et autres téléphones similaires.

**Mise à jour 04.2010:** à lire aussi, Comment démarrer avec Twitter, moins technique et plus stratégique.

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English Only: Barrier to Adoption [en]

*Foreword: this turned into a rather longer post than I had expected. The importance of language and localization online is one of my pet topics (I’ve just decided that it would be what I’d [talk about at BlogCamp](http://barcamp.ch/BlogCampSwitzerland#unAgenda), rather than teenagers and stuff), so I do tend to get carried away a little.*

I was surprised last night to realise that this wasn’t necessarily obvious — so I think it’s probably worth a blog post.

**The fact a service is in English only is a showstopper for many non-native speakers, hence a barrier to wider adoption in Europe.**

But doesn’t everybody speak English, more or less? Isn’t it the *lingua franca* of today that **everybody** speaks? It isn’t. At least not in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and I’m certain there are many other places in Europe where the situation is similar.

Come and spend a little time in Lausanne, for example, and try communicating in English with the man on the street. Even if many people have done a couple of years of English at school, most have never had any use for it after that and have promptly forgotten it. German is a way more important “foreign language” around here, as it is the linguistic majority in Switzerland, and most administrative centers of big companies (and the government) are in the German-speaking part of the country (which doesn’t mean that everybody speaks German, either).

The people who are reasonably comfortable with English around here will most often be those who have taken up higher academic studies, particularly in scientific subjects (“soft” and “hard” science alike).

And if I’m the person who comes to your mind when you think “Swiss”, think again — my father is British, I was born in England, went to an English medium school and spoke English at home until I was 8, conversed regularly with English-speaking grandparents during my growing years, and never stopped reading in English: all that gave me enough of a headstart that even though my English had become very rusty at the end of my teens, I dove into the English-speaking internet with a passion, and spent an anglophone [year in India](/logbook/). So, no. I’m not your average Lausanne-living French-speaker. I’m a strange bilingual beast.

Imagine somebody whose native language is not English, even though they may theoretically know enough English to get around if you parachuted them into London. (Let’s forget about the man on the street who barely understands you when you ask where the station is.) I like to think of [my (step-)sister](http://isablog.wordpress.com/) as a good test-case (not that I want to insist on the “step-“, but it explains why she isn’t bilingual). She took up the “modern languages” path at school, which means she did German, English, and Italian during her teenage years, and ended up being quite proficient in all three (she’s pretty good with languages). She went to university after that and used some English during her studies. But since then, she honestly hasn’t had much use for the language. She’ll read my blog in English, can converse reasonably comfortably, but will tend to watch the TV series I lend her in the dubbed French version.

I’m telling you this to help paint a picture of somebody which you might (legitimately) classify as “speaks English”, but for whom it represents an extra effort. And again, I’d like to insist, my sister would be very representative of most people around here who “speak English but don’t use it regularly at work”. That is already not representative of the general population, who “did a bit of English at school but forgot it all” and can barely communicate with the lost English-speaking tourist. Oh, and forget about the teenagers: they start English at school when they’re 13, and by the time they’re 15-16 they *might* (if they are lucky) have enough knowledge of it to converse on everyday topics (again: learning German starts a few years before that, and is more important in the business world). This is the state of “speaking English” around here.

A service or tool which is not available in French faces a barrier to adoption in the *Suisse Romande* on two levels:

– first of all, there are people who simply don’t know enough English to understand what’s written on the sign-up page;
– second, there are people who would understand most of what’s on the sign-up page, but for whom it represents and extra effort.

Let’s concentrate on the second batch. An *extra effort”?! Lazy people! Think of it. All this talk about making applications more usable, about optimizing the sign-up process to make it so painless that people can do it with their eyes closed? Well, throw a page in a foreign language at most normal people and they’ll perceive it as an extra difficulty. And it may very well be the one that just makes them navigate away from the page and never come back. Same goes for using the service or application once they have signed up: it makes everything more complicated, and people anticipate that.

Let’s look at some examples.

The first example isn’t exactly about a web service or application, but it shows how important language is for the adoption of new ideas (this isn’t anything groundbreaking if you look at human history, but sometimes the web seems to forget that the world hasn’t changed that much…). Thanks for bearing with me while I ramble on.

In February 2001, I briefly mentioned [the WaSP Browser Push](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2001/02/16/to-hell-with-bad-browsers/) and realised that the French-speaking web was really [“behind” on design and web standards ressources](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2001/02/13/poor-french-web/). I also realised that although [there was interest for web standards](http://mammouthland.free.fr/weblog/2001/fevrier_01.php3), many French-speaking people couldn’t read the original English material. This encouraged me to [blog in French about it](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2001/02/24/tableaux-ou-non/), [translate Zeldman’s article](http://pompage.net/pompe/paitre/), [launching](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2001/03/21/faire-part/) the translation site [pompage.net](http://pompage.net/) in the process. Pompage.net, and the [associated mailing-list](http://fr.groups.yahoo.com/group/pompeurs/), followed a year or so later by [OpenWeb](http://openweb.eu.org/), eventually became a hub for the budding francophone web standards community, which is still very active to this day.

([What happened with the Swiss Blog Awards](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2006/04/30/about-the-swiss-blog-awards-sbaw/) is in my opinion another example of how important language issues are.)

Back to web applications proper. [Flickr](http://flickr.com) is an application I love, but I have a hard time getting people to sign up and use it, even when I’ve walked them through the lengthy Yahoo-ID process. [WordPress.com](http://fr.wordpress.com), on the other hand, exists in French, and I can now easily persuade my friends and clients to open blogs there. There is a strong [French-speaking WordPress community](http://wordpress-fr.net/) too. A few years ago, when the translation and support were not what they are now, a very nice little blogging tool named [DotClear](http://www.dotclear.net/) became hugely popular amongst francophone bloggers (and it still is!) in part because it was in French when other major blogging solutions were insufficient in that respect.

Regarding WordPress, I’d like to point out the [community-driven translation effort](http://translate.wordpress.com/) to which everybody can contribute. Such an open way of doing things has its pitfalls (like dreadful, dreadful translations which linger on the home page until somebody comes along to correct them) but overall, I think the benefits outweigh the risks. In almost no time, dozens of localized versions can be made available, maintained by those who know the language best.

Let’s look at teenagers. When [MySpace](http://myspace.com) was all that was being talked about in the US, French-speaking teenagers were going wild on [skyblog](http://skyblog.com). MySpace is catching up a bit now because it [also exists in French](http://fr.myspace.com/). [Facebook](http://www.facebook.com/)? In English, nobody here has heard of it. [Live Messenger aka MSN](http://www.windowslive.fr/messenger/default.asp)? Very much in French, [unlike ICQ](http://icq.com/), which is only used here by anglophile early adopters.

[Skype](http://skype.com/intl/fr/) and [GMail](http://gmail.com)/[GTalk](http://www.google.com/talk/intl/fr/) are really taking off here now that they are available in French.

Learning to use a new service, or just trying out the latest toy, can be challenging enough an experience for the average user without adding the extra hurdle of having to struggle with an unfamiliar language. Even though a non-localized service like Flickr may be the home to [various linguistic groups](http://www.flickr.com/groups/topic/69039/), it’s important to keep in mind that their members will tend to be the more “anglophone” of this language group, and are not representative.

**The bottom line is that even with a lot of encouragement, most local people around here are not going to use a service which doesn’t talk to them in their language.**

***9:52 Afterthought credit:***

I just realised that this article on [why startups condense in America](http://www.paulgraham.com/america.html) was the little seed planted a few days ago which finally brought me to writing this post. I haven’t read all the article, but this little part of it struck me and has been working in the background ever since:

> What sustains a startup in the beginning is the prospect of getting their initial product out. The successful ones therefore make the first version as simple as possible. In the US they usually begin by making something just for the local market.

> This works in America, because the local market is 300 million people. It wouldn’t work so well in Sweden. In a small country, a startup has a harder task: they have to sell internationally from the start.

> The EU was designed partly to simulate a single, large domestic market. The problem is that the inhabitants still speak many different languages. So a software startup in Sweden is still at a disadvantage relative to one in the US, because they have to deal with internationalization from the beginning. It’s significant that the most famous recent startup in Europe, Skype, worked on a problem that was intrinsically international.

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The Shadow IT Department (and Shadow HR) [en]

[fr] Un article qui montre du doigt un nécessaire changement de mentalité dans les départements IT: nombre des outils que les employés utilisent pour améliorer leur productivité ont en fait été introduits de façon "sauvage". Vouloir tout contrôler à tout prix n'est pas la meilleure solution.

Here’s a very interesting piece I picked up in [Bruno’s links](http://www.lunchoverip.com/2007/02/links_for_20070_8.html): [Users Who Know Too Much (And the CIOs Who Fear Them)](http://www.cio.com/archive/021507/fea_user_mgmt.html?action=print). It talks about the chasm between what technology IT departments make available, and what tools employees install and use behind the IT department’s back to be more productive at work.

> And that disconnect is fundamental. Users want IT to be responsive to their individual needs and to make them more productive. CIOs want IT to be reliable, secure, scalable and compliant with an ever increasing number of government regulations. Consequently, when corporate IT designs and provides an IT system, manageability usually comes first, the user’s experience second. But the shadow IT department doesn’t give a hoot about manageability and provides its users with ways to end-run corporate IT when the interests of the two groups do not coincide.

> “Employees are looking to enhance their efficiency,” says André Gold, director of information security at Continental Airlines. “People are saying, ‘I need this to do my job.’” But for all the reasons listed above, he says, corporate IT usually ends up saying no to what they want or, at best, promising to get to it…eventually. In the interim, users turn to the shadow IT department.

I remember that when I used to work at Orange, many of my most useful tools were things I “wasn’t allowed” to have on my computer. I also remember that when [I got really bad RSI](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2002/10/20/hiatus-repetitive-strain-injury/) and [using dictation software](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2002/10/31/trying-dictation-software/) was the only way to get me back to work, the IT department flat-out refused our request for [Dragon](http://www.nuance.com/naturallyspeaking/). (Somebody actually said that if I couldn’t type anymore, they should just get rid of me.) My boss had to have a chat with somebody else’s boss to finally have the program installed on my computer.

The bit that actually prompted me to write this post is the comparison with the way HR organises the company:

> For example, a similar dynamic has long played out in HR. A company’s employees have titles and reporting relationships that give their work a formal structure. But at the same time every company has an informal structure determined by expertise, interpersonal relationships, work ethic, overall effectiveness and so on. Companies suffer when HR is out of phase with the informal structure. Employees are demoralized when the formal architecture elevates someone at the bottom of the informal architecture, and people who occupy the top spots in the informal architecture leave when they aren’t recognized by the formal one. Good HR departments know where employees stand in both the formal and informal architectures and balance the two.

A few months ago, I was giving a talk on blogs (etc.) to a bunch of Internal Communications people, and one of my points was that there *is* an informal structure inside the company (the value of which is in fact recognized by the companies, who will invest in “teambuilding” or “recreation” activities to encourage transversal communication), and that use of tools like blogs can help make this structure more visible and efficient. (Think [Cluetrain, these 50](http://www.cluetrain.com/book/95-theses.html).)

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Geeky Frustrations [en]

[fr] Quelques râlages (comme quoi je ne fais pas ça qu'en français) au sujet de certains outils que j'utilise quotidiennement.

Right, so, just so I can get it off my chest, here is a list of little things that bug me with the tools I use daily. If I save them for a “proper write-up” they probably will never be posted, so… here goes.

– Twitter: let me see a differential list of those I follow and those who follow me, both ways. I need to know who is following me that I’m not following (maybe I missed somebody out) and who I’m following but they’re not (to keep in mind they won’t see stuff I twitter).
– Twitter: let me tag my friends, or sort them into buddy groups. Then let me activate phone alerts for only certain groups. One-by-one management is just impossible with 100 or so friends.
– Adium: let me [turn off Gmail notifications](http://twitter.com/stephtara/statuses/5560398). I have Google Notifier for that. I hate having to click “OK” on that window all the time.
– Google Reader: let me [drag’n drop](http://steph.wordpress.com/2007/02/17/dragn-drop-in-google-reader/) feeds from one folder to another.
– Facebook: let me import more than one RSS feed in my notes.
– Nokia 6280 and Macbook: please sync with each other *each time* I ask you to, not once out of three.
– Nokia 6280: gimme a “mark all as read” option for my text messages, please!
– Nokia 6280: I’d say something about the really crappy camera, but there isn’t much you can do about it now, can you.
– iPod: let me loop through all episodes of a podcast instead of having to go to the next episode manually.
– iTunes: let me mix playlists as a source for Party Shuffle (30% My Favorites, 30% Not Listened in Last week, 40% Artist I’m Obsessing Over These Days… for example)
– Google Reader and del.icio.us: find a way to allow me to automatically post Shared Items to del.icio.us too.
– Flickr: let me link to “My Favorite photos tagged …” so I can show my readers what I’ve found.
– **Added 18.02.07 0:10** [Google Ajax-y Homepage](http://padawan.info/web/google_goes_mashup.html): let me Share Google Reader items, not just star them.
– …

Certainly more, but these were those which were bugging me badly just now. Well, they’re off my chest, now I can go back to fretting about all the [stuff I need to get rid of](http://twitter.com/stephtara/statuses/5560379) in my flat and which is still lying around because I haven’t quite figured out the optimal way to dispose of it.

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Que d'anglais [en]

[fr] Just an explanation to my French readers about the amount of English here recently. Has to do with a post-LIFT'07 effect and the hard time I have coming back to "where we are with blogs and stuff in Switzerland". (Answer: frustratingly behind. Yeah, I'm grumpy and certainly a little unfair.)

Oui, je sais, je néglige à nouveau mes lecteurs francophones et j’écris des tartines en anglais. Je reviens de la [conférence LIFT’07](http://liftconference.com) (l’année dernière, [LIFT’06](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2006/02/) avait quelque peu changé ma vie), des rencontres plein les yeux et des idées qui résonnent encore dans les oreilles.

La langue que j’utilise ici dépend de l’humeur, du contenu du billet, du public imaginé. Là, j’avoue, je suis un peu coincée en anglophonie. Un peu difficile, après un [workshop magistral donné par Stowe Boyd](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/02/07/stowe-boyd-building-social-applications/) et [toute une série d’intervenants fascinants](http://lift07infrench.wordpress.com/ “Comptes-rendus en français.”) de remettre les deux pieds en terre vaudoise, où les journalistes tentant de se mettre au blog [essaient d’épingler les blogueurs pour une tournure malheureuse](http://vaud2007.ch/index.php/2007/02/09/101-improfessionalisme) (ah oui, c’est Stephanie sans accent si jamais, puisque vous tenez à la précision), les [cours d’initiation aux blogs](http://formationblogs.wordpress.com/) sont annulés de façon répétée par manque d’inscriptions alors que la demande est là, pourtant (appels, interviews, cartes de visite, demandes… et j’en passe), les gens veulent des blogs mais quand même pas trop “blog” (mais parlez en “je”, bon sang, ça veut pas dire que vous devez “raconter vos vies”), où [internet fait peur](http://flickr.com/photos/julianbleecker/385705252/) et où les journaux, en passe d’épuiser le filon, [tentent de faire les gros titres avec la fin des blogs](http://letemps.ch/template/tempsFort.asp?page=3&article=199713).

Donc, vous me pardonnerez, mais juste là, je retourne explorer [Facebook](http://facebook.com), garder un oeil sur l’évolution des [blogs d’Intel](http://softwareblogs.intel.com/) qui ont profité de mes services plus tôt cette année, parler boutique avec [Headshift](http://headshift.com/), lire [Stowe](http://stoweboyd.com/message/), [Bruno Giussani](http://www.lunchoverip.com/) et [David Galipeau](http://galipeau.blogspot.com/), rester en contact avec [ma tribu de LIFT](http://flow.liftconference.com/), commencer à travailler à mon futur livre sur les ados et internet (surtout: sur quel blog l’écrire), mettre mon nez un peu dans ce que fait [Derek Powazek](http://powazek.com/) avec [JPG Magazine](http://jpgmag.com/), guetter les dates de [reboot](http://reboot.dk) et planifier ma [prochaine expédition à San Francisco](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/01/26/back-to-san-francisco/)…

Un peu grinche, [la Mère Denis](http://www.pascalrossini.com/wordpress/?p=97), et probablement un peu injuste aussi, du coup. C’était le coup de gueule du jeudi après-midi. Vous en faites pas, amis romands — je vous aime quand même.


Merci à noneck pour la photo.

Pour me faire pardonner, allez, quelques [photos-souvenirs](http://flickr.com/photos/tags/lift07) ([de moi](http://flickr.com/photos/bunny/sets/72157594537203311/) et [d’autrui](http://flickr.com/photos/bunny/favorites/)) de LIFT’07.

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