Business Thoughts [en]

[fr] Je suis en train de me rendre compte de la valeur qu'il y a à investir dans ce que l'on fait et qui fonctionne déjà. Sans vouloir tirer des boulets rouges sur l'innovation (je serais mal placée), payer le loyer est important, et lorsque l'on lit les histoires de ceux à qui les risques ont souri, ne perdons pas de vue qu'on entend rarement parler des perdants.

I think a bunch of things I’ve been reading and thinking about over the last months are starting to come to something.

For example, one thing I’m realising is that it’s easier to pursue and grow existing business than do new things from scratch. I mean this in two ways:

  • existing customers
  • “stuff you do” that actually brings in money

If I look at the past two years, there are a handful of things that have consistently helped pay the rent. If I look back, I’ve spent a lot of energy over the past year trying to do “stuff I wanted to do” — experiential marketing, for example. Of course, it’s easy to say now with hindsight that I might have been better off concentrating on what had worked, but if experiential marketing had been a huge hit that had made me rich, well, it wouldn’t have been a mistake right now.

(I’m reading Fooled by Randomness these days, can you tell?)

Of course, taking risks and innovating is a chance to break through. I’m not saying one should always stick to what one knows. But remember we see the winners, not the losers.

But paying the rent is important.

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Websites and Blogs, Where Does One Start? [en]

[fr] Petite prise de tête (j'aime bien ça!) au sujet du site pour Going Solo et l'entreprise (pas encore existante légalement) qui est derrière. Quel nom de domaine utiliser? (J'en ai enregistré toute une série autour de cette idée de conférences, ça m'a d'ailleurs coûté un saladier.) Il va me falloir une identité visuelle. Que bloguer où? Créer déjà un site pour l'entreprise? Bienvenue dans les méandres de mes questionnements.

Along the lines of [rediscovering some aspects of blogging](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/12/17/feeling-like-a-born-again-blogger/), I’m rediscovering some tricky online presence questions which I’m more used to hearing in the mouths of my clients than in my head.

Questions like: do I create a separate blog for my company? for my event? how? when? who will blog on them? what will we blog on them?

To be honest, those questions aren’t actually all that tricky. For example, of course I’m going to create a site-blog (website with a blog) for [Going Solo](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/12/14/announcing-going-solo/). Is it too early to create a site for the company, though? I’ve got a good mind for the moment to [hold off incorporating](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/12/17/advisors-boards-companies-partners-oh-my/) it until the first event is done. I mean, not to be pessimistic, but if Going Solo doesn’t work out as well as I hope, and I decide to leave the event business at that, it will have saved me the trouble and grief of setting up the company “for nothing”, right? Other opinions on the topic?

A few weeks ago, I booked a pile of domain names (my poor credit card can testify). For the company, for Going Solo, for other events I already have in mind. I got .nets, .coms, .orgs, and even .co.uks. You don’t want a porn site as a neighbour, right? And if you’re going to build a name or a brand, who knows what you might want to do with the other TLDs 3 years from now? Better have them handy. Well, this isn’t really the topic of this post, but gosh, does it add up to a pile of money.

Of course, to make things easy, one of the .coms I didn’t manage to get is going-solo.com (it’s an insulin pump, so not much to do with what I’m plotting). Which leaves me with a choice of .co.uk, .ch, .net, .org. I’d say .org is out, as this is a commercial venture. As the event is going to [take place in Switzerland](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/12/16/picking-a-city-for-an-event-lausanne/), .ch would make sense, but then what happens when we reproduce the event in other countries? (I’ve actually already been talking about that with a few people — and can you imagine: the first event hasn’t even happened yet that they are already showing interest…)

Leaves us with .net and .co.uk, the latter making sense if the mother company is indeed incorporated in the UK as I plan, but as it hasn’t actually happened yet, it could change. So, I guess for the moment I’d go with going-solo.net and set up a blog there, to start with.

I don’t have any visual identity yet so that means it would be pretty bland at first. (This is where I really regret not being a bit of a designer myself.) I’m half-tempted to try and recruit [Bread and Butter](http://www.bread-and-butter.ch/) (look at the [beautiful art they did for Adsclick](http://www.bread-and-butter.ch/portfolio.php?tags=adsclick)), but they’re already doing LIFT (maybe a bit of a conflict) and as they’re already nicely established, I’m a bit afraid about the price tag. My more realistic idea is to try to find a small design shop in Lausanne which could use the visibility (local and international) Going Solo will bring them, or see if anything could be set up involving [students from the ECAL](http://www.ecal.ch/).

As for the company, should I set up a website already, even if it doesn’t “legally” exist? (God, I wish I were a lawyer and understood all this stuff.) I’ll need a visual identity (at least a logo) and some content. I guess there will be a lot of cross-posting between the Going Solo blog and this one, at least at the start.

Also, languages! Oh my! Actually, no. Going Solo will be held in English, therefore the site will be in English. I’ll provide some French content for local sponsors to dig through, but I’m not going to do the whole [multilingual space](http://climbtothestars.org/focus/multilingual/) thing yet for it. Could be an idea in the long run, though… hmm.

Well, thanks for following my thought process. I’ll be setting up going-solo.net soon and cross-posting relevant content there so that we can all start linking to it! 🙂

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Blogging in Internal Communications [en]

[fr] Notes de la conférence que j'ai donnée aujourd'hui à Zürich sur les blogs dans la communication interne.

First of all, let me thank all present for their participation, and Nils ([Enzaim Communications](http://enzaim.ch/)) in particular for making this happen. I also appreciated having [Stefan Bucher](http://www.stefanbucher.net/blog/) amongst the audience — it’s particularly nice when fellow bloggers show up, share their experience, and to top it all tell me my talk was interesting to them, too. Thanks!

Two months ago I gave a talk titled [“How Blogging Brings Dialogue to Corporate Communications”](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/09/24/how-blogging-brings-dialogue-to-corporate-communications/). This one is quite similar, but focused on internal communications.

As I explained, the dynamics involved are very similar. It’s about having conversations, whether it’s behind the firewall or outside on the big bad internet — about engaging with people (employees, customers, colleagues) rather than talking *at* them.

Although the talk I prepared was very similar (with some added stuff specific to internal communications), it did of course turn out rather different. Different people, different questions. I like it (particularly with small audiences) when instead of giving a lecture-like talk, there are lots of questions and I am derailed from what I had planned.

That’s a bit what blogging is about, isn’t it? Having a dialogue. So, when the setting permits it, I try to do the same thing with my talks. My impression is that people get more out of them that way. (Do feel free to correct me if you think I’m mistaken.)

You should probably go and have a look at [the notes from my previous talk](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/09/24/how-blogging-brings-dialogue-to-corporate-communications/), as I’m not going to rewrite everything here. I’ll just concentrate on what seems to me was the important additional stuff we talked about. If you were there and want to add things to what I’m writing here, please feel free to leave a comment. I’d be very happy if you did.

If you look at the slides, they’re very similar in the beginning, aside from slides 9-10-11 in which I try to clarify the difference between blog and wiki, as I was told confusion was common.

Blogs

Content on blogs is organised based on the time they were written. From an editorial point of view, blogs also put the author(s) forward. He has a very different status from the commentators, who are guests on his blog.

Wikis

Wikis, on the other hand, are organised solely through the links created between the various pages. The focus is on the documentation produced rather than on who produced it. The various author voices tend to merge into a uniform community voice.

Both blogs and wikis are part of the larger class of tools one can name “social media”. These are the online tools which help us publish information in a way that connects us to other people, and encourages us to engage in conversations and relationships with them. You’ll also come upon the expression “social software” used with roughly the same meaning (though the emphasis is in this way more on the technology than on its usage). “Social tools” can be considered a wider category including all technology that explicitly connects its users to one another. (I have to say, though, that many people — I included — will sometimes use these terms interchangeably.)

Short version: it’s “social media” that is important in this discussion, more than “just blogging”. I’m talking of “blogging” inasmuch as it is a popular incarnation of social media.

We spent quite some time commenting the [blog examples]() I showed. These are of course examples of blogging externally, because unfortunately, it’s kind of hard to find examples of internal blogging on the internet ;-).

There are a lot of “damage control” or “crisis” examples, because blogging is a good tool to use in this kind of situation where real communication is required.

Here are a few quotes I read out. First, the beginning of the open letter to Palm on Engadget:

> Dear Palm,

> Man, what a crazy year, right? We know things haven’t really been going your way lately, but we want you to know that we haven’t given up on you, even though it might seem like the only smartphone anyone wants to talk about these days is the iPhone. It can be hard to remember right now, but you used to be a company we looked to for innovation. You guys got handhelds right when everyone else, including Apple, was struggling to figure it out. And it was the little things that made those early Palm Pilots great — you could tell that someone had gone to a lot of trouble to think about what made for a great mobile experience, like how many (or rather, few) steps it took to perform common tasks.

> The problem is that lately we haven’t seen anything too impressive out of you guys. Sure, over the past few years the Treo has emerged as a cornerstone of the smartphone market, but you’ve let the platform stagnate while nearly everyone (especially Microsoft and HTC, Symbian and Nokia, RIM, and Apple) has steadily improved their offerings. So we’ve thrown together a few ideas for how Palm can get back in the game and (hopefully) come out with a phone that people can care about. (And we’re not talking about the Centro / Gandolf.) Read on.

Dear Palm: It’s time for an intervention

And two days later, the response of the Palm CEO, Ed Colligan

> Dear Peter, Ryan and Joshua:

> Thank you for the very thoughtful post about Palm. I really appreciate the fact that you guys and others care enough to take the time to write such a comprehensive list of actions. I forwarded it to our entire executive staff and many others at Palm have read it. Although I can’t say I agree with every point, many are right on. We are attacking almost every challenge you noted, so stay tuned. Let’s remember that it is very early in the evolution of the smartphone and there is enormous opportunity for us to innovate. We have only just begun to fight!

> Thank you for taking the time to write. I really do take your comments to heart and I know the team at Palm is totally committed to delivering the best mobile computing solutions in the world.

Ed Colligan

Not bad, huh? This is the kind of openness people want to see more of.

> Corporate types will always be concerned about negative comments, which is a valid concern; however, if you’ve got a product or service that’s worth blogging about, your fans should be coming out to support you — which they have, in Yahoo!’s case. Also, by allowing full comments, and better yet, responding to some of them, you gain a valuable sense of integrity and, as loathe as I am to type these words, “street cred” — that you just can’t buy.

> Negative comments are the price you’ve got to pay for having a Real Blog, and companies that have them deserve to be recognized. It shows that they believe in their own business, and they respect their customers enough to allow them to have a public opinion on their business.

Yahoo’s Blog Takes Its Blogging Lumps, Like a Real Blog Should

We talked a lot about negative comments and what to do about them (they can actually turn out to be a good thing if you respond to them openly and honestly). We also talked about ghost-writing (don’t!) and human relationships in general. Things that are true for offline relationships, I find, are also true for online ones you can establish through blogging: if somebody is willing to recognise they made a mistake, for example, or acknowledge that you are upset about something, it goes a long way. Same is true on blogs.

Here’s a link to [the corporate blogging 101](http://engineerswithoutfears.blogspot.com/2007/04/tooling-around-blogs.html) I mentioned in passing and I said I would point you to.

I also skipped a bit quickly through the Do/Don’t lists, so here they are again:

DO:

  • eat your own dog-food
  • trust your bloggers
  • read other blogs
  • be part of the community
  • use a feed-reader
  • link! even to competition, negative stuff
  • be human
  • learn the culture
  • use an existing blogging tool
  • discuss problems
  • define what is really confidential
  • give existing in-house bloggers a role (evangelists! learn from them!)
  • tag, ping, use the “kit” and other social tools

DON’T:

  • try to control
  • use a ghost-writer or outsource blogging
  • “roll your own” tool
  • ignore established blogging conventions, they’re there for a reason
  • copy-paste print material in posts
  • use corpspeak
  • force people to blog
  • write happy-clappy stuff
  • write blog posts or comments as if they were e-mails (starting with Hi… and ending with a signature)
  • be faceless (signing with the name of the company instead of the person)

Employees know (and so do internal communications people) that the best sources of information are usually one’s direct boss and… the cafeteria. If you think about it, your boss is probably one of the main people you actually have real conversations with. You don’t often have a real conversation with the CEO — but you probably have regular briefings with your boss. Hopefully, you have something resembling a human relationship with her/him.

The cafeteria or the corridors are the informal networking spaces of company life. And often, these informal relationships can actually be more useful to your work than the hierarchy. “Networks subvert hierarchies”, says the [Cluetrain](http://cluetrain.com).

Well, in a company in which employees can blog, subscribe to their feeds and leave comments on each other’s blogs, the online space can become a kind of “virtual cafeteria” — only in the public eye. This might sound scary to some. But you’re not preventing people from having conversations in the cafeteria, are you? By having these conversations online, in a “public” space (which may still be behind the firewall), you can help them be more efficient if they’re positive, and debunk them more easily if they’re rumors.

RSS is an important technology to be aware of. It’s the one that allows people to subscribe to blogs, comments, or other sources of news. In a company where employees can have their own blogs, they’ll need to learn to use an aggregator, which will enable them to create their own news channel. One can expect an employee to know best exactly what sources of information to follow or people to stay in touch with to get her work done.

People who work remotely, who are on different sites, different silos, or who simply have different working hours can all benefit from the online cafeteria.

A few key checkpoints, if you’re thinking of introducing blogs in your company (“are we ready?” style). 5 prerequisites:

– the management/CEO/company needs to **care** about their employees. Blogging won’t work well in an “abusive” relationship.
– be willing to **engage** in real, honest **dialogue**, also about problematic issues (difficult, but often the most rewarding, as with normal human relationships)
– blogging takes **time**, so it should be counted in as part of people’s workload/job
– accept and understand that communication **cannot be controlled**
– understand that blogging is not just a technology/tool, that it is mainly a **culture/strategy**

5 ingredients to “make it work”:

– **training**. Don’t assume blogging comes naturally to people. We “natural bloggers” are the exception, not the rule. The technology is cheap — put money in the training, so people have a chance to really “get” the culture.
– **eat your own dog food**. If you want to get people in your company blogging, do it yourself, too.
– blogging is a grassroots phenomenon (bottom-up), so **enable** it (top-down), knowing you can’t “make” people blog. Create a blog-friendly environment.
– **read** blogs and comments. This can easily be 50% of the workload involved in “blogging”
– speak like a **human** being.

There… that’s about it. Did we talk about anything else important that I missed?

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Ouvrir ou non les commentaires? [en]

A midi, un ami m’apprenait qu’il avait un blog déjà depuis un petit moment, mais qu’il n’avait pas osé ouvrir les commentaires (c’est-à-dire: permettre aux lecteurs de s’exprimer directement sur son site, en réaction à ses articles) de peur de se faire déborder ou d’y passer trop de temps.

Souvent, lorsque je commence à “parler blogs” avec des clients (ou futurs clients), c’est autour des commentaires que tout se crispe. On a peur de ce qu’autrui pourrait venir écrire “chez nous”, et on se retrouve aux prises avec ce bon vieux pote qui nous joue pourtant de bien sales tours: le contrôle.

Si vous avez lu [Naked Conversations](http://www.amazon.fr/Naked-Conversations-Changing-Businesses-Customers/dp/047174719X/) (fortement recommandé pour qui voudrait comprendre l’importance que les blogs prennent dans le monde économique et social d’aujourd’hui) ou bien [The Cluetrain Manifesto](http://www.amazon.fr/Cluetrain-Manifesto-End-Business-Usual/dp/0738204315/) (le “manifeste” est [traduit en français](http://www.cluetrain.com/manifeste.html) mais franchement, il m’a passé complètement par-dessus la tête plusieurs fois avant que j’attaque le livre — que je dévore en ce moment — [disponible gratuitement sur le site](http://www.cluetrain.com/book/index.html)), si vous avez donc lu un de ces deux livres, vous saurez de quoi je parle. **On ne peut plus contrôler.**

Sur internet, chacun peut en deux minutes, gratuitement et sans compétences techniques particulières, créer un blog (filez chez [WordPress.com](http://fr.wordpress.com) si vous êtes tenté) et y écrire ce qu’il souhaite. Tôt ou tard, si ce qu’il écrit présente un intérêt pour suffisamment de personnes (et ce nombre n’a pas besoin d’être bien grand), il se trouvera un public.

Le rapport avec les commentaires? Si vous avez peur de ce qu’on pourrait dire de vous ou répondre à vos écrits, ne pas avoir de commentaires ne change rien. Si vous avez des choses peu honorables à cacher, si vous êtes malhonnête, si vous refusez de dialoguer avec autrui, alors certainement, internet est un grand méchant espace effrayant, et si vous y avez un site, vous allez éviter d’encourager les gens à s’y exprimer. Oui. Laisser à ses lecteurs la possibilité de s’exprimer *chez vous*, via des commentaires, c’est inviter au dialogue — et bien des personnes qui s’expriment dans les commentaires ne l’auraient pas fait s’il leur avait fallu prendre la peine d’envoyer un e-mail ou d’ouvrir leur propre blog. Mais de l’autre côté, fermer les commentaires n’empêchera jamais quiconque de déverser du fiel à votre sujet en ligne — que ce fiel soit justifié ou non n’est ici pas la question.

Admettons cependant que la plupart des gens (et des entreprises) sont (raisonnablement) honnêtes et n’ont pas trop de vilains cadavres pourrissant au fond de leurs placards. (Il y en a toujours quelques-uns, de squelettes ou de cadavres, mais on finira par comprendre que les vrais êtres humains ont parfois des boutons d’acné sur le nez et qu’ils ne sont pas retouchés en permanence sous PhotoShop.) Donc, pourquoi cette peur des commentaires, si au fond on est relativement comfortable avec qui l’on est et ce qu’on fait? Quelques hypothèses:

1. **Les gens peuvent dire n’importe quoi!** C’est vrai. Ils peuvent aussi dire n’importe quoi ailleurs. Sur votre site, l’avantage c’est que vous pouvez immédiatement répondre au commentaire en question pour corriger le tir. Pensez-y: dans la “vraie vie” (arghl, je déteste utiliser cette expression) on agit pareil. Quand quelqu’un dit quelque chose de stupide ou de faux à notre sujet, eh bien, on répond. On discute. (La *conversation*, vous vous souvenez?) De plus, notons que la plupart des gens ne passent pas leur temps à aller laisser des commentaires débiles sur les blogs des autres. Pas dans le monde des adultes civilisés, et sur un blog qui a l’air “sérieux”, en tous cas.

2. **Ça va prendre du temps!** Là, il vaut la peine de s’arrêter une minute et de se demander ce qui va prendre tellement de temps. Déjà, réaliser que les craintes du point 1. se réalisent peu souvent. Ensuite, savoir que la plupart du temps, **le problème d’un blog n’est pas qu’il y a trop de commentaires, mais pas assez.** Sur Climb to the Stars, avec environ 2000-2500 lecteurs par jour (ça varie, mais voilà l’ordre de grandeur), j’ai entre trois et cinq commentaires par jour en moyenne. Parfois zéro. Combien de lecteurs a votre blog? Ce qui peut prendre du temps, c’est de nettoyer le spam, si l’outil de blog que l’on utilise n’a pas un bon filtre. Mais ça, ce n’est pas une question de principe, c’est une question de choix de moteur de blog (et aussi pour ça qu’en général je recommande WordPress — le filtre à spam fourni avec, [Akismet](http://akismet.com/), est assez efficace).

3. **Les gens pourraient poser des questions difficiles, ou dire des choses incomfortables…** Ça, honnêtement, je pense que c’est la seule crainte réelle à avoir. Si la conversation n’est certes pas impossible sans commentaires (on avait des conversations via nos blogs avant que ceux-ci ne comprennent cette fonctionnalité), ceux-ci invitent clairement au dialogue. Et le dialogue, cela implique une certaine ouverture à l’autre — d’assumer une certaine humanité. On ne peut pas dialoguer si l’on parle comme un communiqué de presse ou des prospectus de marketing. Oui, il y des choses qui sont imparfaites. Oui, on fait des erreurs. Non, on ne sait pas tout. Oui, la concurrence peut être bien aussi. Il vaut donc la peine de se demander si on est prêt pour ça — sachant que dans le fond, ce n’est pas si difficile que ça (discuter, c’est quelque chose que l’on fait tous les jours, sans y prêter vraiment attention), et qu’en fin de compte, l’évolution d’internet nous permet de moins en moins d’échapper à ce dialogue…

**Moralité:** ouvrez les commentaires, ne les filtrez pas, gardez un oeil attentif dessus au début si vous êtes inquiet, résolvez les problèmes posés par les commentaires “difficiles” en y répondant plutôt qu’en censurant… et si vraiment vous considérez que vous êtes débordé de commentaires, activez la modération, voire supprimez-les. Mais dans cet ordre. Essayez d’abord. Faites marche arrière ensuite si nécessaire (et je vous parie que dans 99% des cas, cela ne le sera pas).

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Taking Collaborative Notes at BlogTalk [en]

A detailed write-up of the collective note-taking operation we ran at BlogTalk. We took notes together using SubEthaEdit and then posted them to a wiki so that they can be further annotated. The story, and questions this experience raises for me.

As many of you now know, a bunch of us were taking notes together with SubEthaEdit during the BlogTalk 2.0 conference. In this post, I’d like to give some details about what we did, how we did it, and what can be said or learnt about our experience.

I’d like to stress that this was not my idea. I think this collaborative note-taking is a very good example of what happens when you put a bunch of people together with ideas and resources: the result really belongs to all, and credit should go to the group (even though in this case, I don’t think I can identify all the members of this “group”).

The Story

At the beginning of the conference, I was discovering the joys of RendezVous and eagerly saying hi to the small dozen of people I could see online. Sometime during the first panel, I was asked (by Cyprien?) if I had SubEthaEdit, because they were using that to take notes. I downloaded it (thus contributing to the death of wifi and bandwidth), and after a brief struggle managed to display a RendezVous list of users on the network (shortcut: Cmd-K) currently running SubEthaEdit.

I joined Lee Bryant‘s document, which was open for read/write sharing. It contained text (what a surprise!) mainly highlighted in yellow (Lee’s colour, the main note-taker). We were four or five in there at that point. (From Lee’s first publication of the notes I gather that the two others were Roland and Stephan — or rather Leo on Stephan’s computer, like later in the day?) It took a couple of minutes for me to feel comfortable in there, and I started contributing by adding a few links I knew of, on the subject of video blogs. The act of writing in the document made me feel quickly at home with the other note-takers. At some point, I started actively pestering those logged into RendezVous so that they would join us if they had SubEthaEdit (particularly if they were already visible in SubEthaEdit!)

Lee wasn’t there at the beginning of the third panel, so I opened up a document myself in SubEthaEdit, and with a little help managed to open it up to others for reading and writing (File > Access Control > Read/Write) and “announce” it so that other participants could see it. There had already been some hurried talk of publishing our notes, and at some point, Suw (who was keeping up with what was going on on my screen) suggested we should publish them on a wiki. After a quick check with other participants (and with Suw: “you don’t think Joi would mind, do you?”), I grabbed Joi’s wiki and started creating pages and pasting the notes into them.

We continued like that throughout the afternoon and into the next day. As soon as a speaker would have finished and the note-taking seemed to stop, I would copy and paste everything into the wiki.

Update 17:30: Malte took a screenshot of us taking notes in SubEthaEdit. It will give you a good idea of what it was like.

Reflecting on the Experience

So, now that I have told you the story, what can be said about the way we worked together during this conference? I’m trying to raise questions here, and would be really interested in hearing what others have to say.

Working as a team to take notes has clear advantages: Lee was able to go out and get coffee, and catch up with the notes when he came back. When I couldn’t type anymore, Suw took my computer over and literally transcribed the last couple of panels (OK, that could have been done without the collaborative note-taking, but I had to fit it in somewhere.)

Still in the “team theme”, different roles can be taken by the note-takers: sometimes there is a main note-taker (I noticed this had a tendancy to happen when people wrote long sentences, but there might be other factors — any theories on this welcome), sometimes a few people “share” the main note-taking. Some people will correct typos, and rearrange formatting, adding titles, indenting, adding outside links. Some people add personal comments, notes, questions. Others try to round up more participants or spend half a talk fighting with wiki pages 😉

At one point, I felt a little bad as I was missing out on the current talk with all my wiki-activity. But as Suw says about being part of the hivemind, I don’t think it matters. I acted as a facilitator. I brought out notes to people who were not at the conference. I allowed those more actively taking notes to concentrate on that and not worry about the publication. I went out to try and get other/more/new people interested in collaborating with us. I said to Suw: “keep on tzping, and don’t worrz that zour y’s and z’s are all mixed up because of mz swiss kezboard layout,” while Horst patiently changed them back.

What is the ideal number of note-takers in a SubEthaEdit session? Our sessions ranged from 5-10 participants, approximately. When numbers were fewer, a higher proportion were actively participating. When they were larger, there were lots of “lurkers”. Where they watching the others type, or had they just gone off to do something else, confident that there were already enough active note-takers?

The “Lee Bryant Experiment”, which I will blog about later, set me thinking about the nature of note-taking and notes. What purpose do notes serve? Is it useful to watch others taking notes, or does it really add something when you take them yourself? How concise should good notes be? How does a transcript (what Suw was virtually doing) compare to more note-like notes?

Formatting is an issue which could be fixed. SubEthaEdit is a very raw text editor, so we note-takers tend to just indent and visually organise information on our screen. Once pasted in the wiki, though, a lot of that spatial information is lost. It got a bit better once we knew the notes would be wikified, as we integrated some wiki mark-up (like stars for lists) in our notes, from the start. What could be useful is to put a little cheat-sheet of the wiki mark-up to be used inside the SubEthaEdit document, for the note-takers (just as I defined a “chat zone” at the bottom of the working document, so that we could “meta-communicate” without parasiting the notes themselves).

Some have found the notes precious, others wonder if we were smoking anything while we took them. Nobody really seems interested in editing them now they are on the wiki — or is it still a bit too soon after the conference? Here is the Technorati page for BlogTalkViennaNotes.

How groundbreaking was what we did? How often do people take notes collaboratively with SubEthaEdit in conferences? It seemed to be a “first time” for many of the participants, so I guess it isn’t that common. Have you done it already? What is your experience of it? How often do people put up notes or transcripts of conferences on wikis?

Discipline is needed to separate the actual notes (ie, “what the conferencer said”) from the note-taker comments (ie, extra links, commentary, questions, remarks). This isn’t a big issue when a unique person is taking notes for his or her private use, but it becomes really important when more people are involved. I think that although we did do this to some extent, we were a bit sloppy about it.

Information on the wiki page, apart from the notes, should also include pointers to the official presentation the talker made available (not always easy to find!), and I’m also trying to suggest that people who have done proper write-ups of the talks (see Philipp’s write-ups, they are impressive) to add links to them from the appropriate wiki pages (Topic Exchange is great, but lacks detail).

Participants, as far as I could make out, were: Leo, Lee, Roland, Cyprien, Horst, Mark, Malte, Björn, Omar, Paolo, Suw and myself. [to be completed] (If you took part in the note-taking, please leave a comment — I’m having trouble tracking you all down.) I did see Ben Trott online in SubEthaEdit while he and Mena were giving their talk, and was tempted to invite him into our note-taking session — but I was too shy and didn’t dare. And thanks to Joi for being so generous with the Joiwiki!

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