Cherche blogueurs branchés voyages (pour blog ebookers) [en]

[fr] As the editor of the upcoming ebookers blog in French, I'm looking for a few motivated French-speaking bloggers to write about travel-related topics (paid blogging).

Ceux qui me suivent sur Twitter ont peut-être déjà vu passer un appel ou deux. Voici les détails.

Vous connaissez certainement ebookers, la première agence de voyages en ligne suisse. Ils ont depuis un moment déjà un blog en allemand, et désirent à présent en lancer un en français.

La rédactrice en chef de ce nouveau blog couvrant toutes sortes de sujets touchant au voyage, c’est bibi. Nous publierons une vingtaine de billets par mois. Les auteurs seront rémunérés (quelques dizaines de francs par article; ce ne sont donc pas des sommes folles, mais un contributeur régulier peut espérer faire quelques centaines de francs par mois suivant la quantité de publications) et on commence en janvier. De plus, participer ainsi à un projet de blog collectif permet d’augmenter sa visibilité en tant que blogueur, et d’acquérir une expérience professionnelle originale.

Donc, opération recrutement: je recherche trois-quatre blogueurs motivés et passionnés par les voyages, intéressés à contribuer régulièrement à ce “blog de voyages” (mélange de sujets libres et de sujets “sur commande”). Plusieurs personnes m’ont déjà signifiée leur intérêt. Histoire de formuler tout ça (et aussi parce que tout ce qui est “sous” passera par Blogwerk, l’entreprise qui gère ce projet pour ebookers), j’ai préparé un petit formulaire de candidature que vous trouverez ci-dessous. On vous demande 5 idées d’articles et un exemple d’article. N’hésitez pas à étudier un peu le blog en allemand pour vous faire une idée des sujets possibles (destinations, tuyaux pratiques, voyage en général, actualités, récits de voyage&)

J’attends avec impatience vos candidatures, et je me réjouis du démarrage de ce blog! Si vous avez des questions, les commentaires sont là pour ça.

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From Airport to Airport [en]

[fr] Me voici à nouveau dans un aéroport. Celui de Bruxelles, pour être précise. Je n'avais jamais mis les pieds à Bruxelles. Et là, après une visite éclair de 24 heures à peine, je peux mettre un drapeau dans la carte, mais je ne peux pas dire que j'aie vu grand chose de la ville.

Ainsi va ma vie de voyages, enviable et excitante vue depuis le monde stable du sédentaire, mais qui comporte son lot de frustrations. J'ai dû accepter il y a un peu plus d'une année que mon insistance à rajouter 3-4 jours à chaque voyage pour "visiter" générait une quantité de stress que je n'avais pas à m'imposer.

Oui, diront certains, quel gâchis d'avoir la chance de mettre pied dans toutes ces villes, mais de ne pas même prendre le temps de faire un peu de tourisme!

Le tourisme, ça nous relaxe et nous plaît précisément parce que l'on ne le fait pas tous les jours. Une ville étrangère, c'est exotique quand on en visite une ou deux par an. Quand elles s'empilent les unes sur les autres, eh bien, comme avec tout, la routine s'installe.

Mais si je me lamente un peu, ce n'est pas tant que ma vie me déplaît -- au contraire, je préfère mille fois mieux "trop voyager" que me lever avant 7h chaque matin -- mais plus en réaction à l'incompréhension un peu systématique (mais bien pardonnable) des personnes qui peinent à voir en quoi tous ces voyages peuvent bien être pénibles.

Alors, aéroport, aéroport. Encore une ville où j'ai mis les pieds sans l'avoir vue. Une journée de travail fatiguante mais sympa et efficace, avec un chouette projet. Retour tard à la maison. Je vais tenter de profiter un peu de mon week-end, toutefois!

Airports all look the same. Well, not quite the same, but similar. All the excitement of being in one has long since disappeared. They’ve become tame and familiar, just like the airplanes that buzz in and out of them.

Another plane, another airport, another city. This was my first time in Brussels. barely 24 hours on Belgium soil. I’m starting to get used to this kind of trip. In, business, out. A bit over a year ago, I realized that all this traveling was stressful (though it may sound glamourous to some) and that if I wanted to spare myself a little, I had to stop insisting on tacking along extra days to each travel opportunity to “visit”. So, in, business, out.

This is what my life looks like at times. Oh, don’t get me wrong: I had a very good day (nice people, good business, fun project), the trip was rather painless (plane coming here 30 minutes late, searched at security), and I’m not unhappy or particularly travel-weary. And I know that compared to others, the amount of traveling I do in a year is a week-end trip to the mountains.

I’m just taking a step back and looking at my life. I wonder what my past self of a few years back would say, had I known. I never imagined this for me. This wasn’t part of the plan — but that’s what I have, and to be honest, I’m quite happy with it. I’d rather travel a bit too much than have to get up before 7am every morning. As downsides of the job go, this isn’t too bad.

I think that what frustrates me is that people who don’t travel much for work tend to assume that my traveling is as exciting as their traveling. “Oh, how exciting, you travel all the time and get to visit all these foreign cities!” In truth, as anybody who travels “too much” knows, traveling is exciting precisely because you don’t do it often. Visiting a foreign city is a great adventure when you do it once or twice a year. When it’s your seventh or eighth in a row, you’re sick of visiting and don’t go out to walk around if you don’t feel like it.

So, here is my life of travel (and again, aware that I travel less than many).

Another airport, another city I’ve visited but haven’t seen. A fun but tiring day of work, and a late night home. I’ll try and have a bit of a week-end, though. :-)

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Update From Berlin [en]

[fr] Etat des lieux. Beaucoup à faire, beaucoup à bloguer. J'ai besoin de m'organiser.

So, here I am in Berlin, for another 24 hours or so. I’m giving my talk for the <head> Web Conference this evening at 6pm. You can still buy tickets — it’s an online conference, so there is no commuting involved to attend, and it’s going on today evening and tomorrow too.

I have many blog posts to write, and I don’t know what to start with. One about conference endings (I was very disappointed with the way Web 2.0 Expo fizzled out), one about the opening of ECLAU, the Lausanne Coworking Space (November 3rd I get the keys!), one about the blogger outreach programme for Web 2.0 Expo (it was a huge hit), and a bunch of others that I’ve forgotten about, though I remember myself saying out loud “gosh, I have to write a blog post about this” quite a few times during this trip. Oh, here’s one I just remembered: a blog post on selling wine online, for a Lausanne guy I met at a networking event a few weeks back who was telling me blogs have no role to play in business and that you can’t sell wine online. Oh, and how I read blogs. And others.

As you can probably make out, I’ve got lots of “stuff” going on these days. Good stuff, luckily. Stuff including business opportunities. It’s very encouraging to see that since I’ve been a bit more direct about stating that I need work, things have been picking up. My financial situation is still far from sorted out, but it’s now headed in the right direction. I’m still trying to come to terms with the idea that I can be good at my job whilst being crap at managing finances and actually selling my services. This is some of the stuff I’ll be talking about tonight, by the way.

So, beware, braindump. It makes me feel better, and it’s a way of giving news without really going into the details.

  • send out a newsletter: and to say I was afraid of sending them out too often!
  • write the damn blog posts: as I said above…
  • coworking space: get internet, compose “sign-up” form, draft out house rules, set up blog, set up mailing-list, set up wiki, organise furniture arrival, scare up people to help cleaning, supervise knocking down wall, plan walling out conference room, look at finances
  • work for various clients: a couple of wordpress upgrades, back-to-back meetings all week when I get home, get back to silent ones to make things move forward, get back to people who contacted me during my travels, look at calendar and scream silently…
  • LeWeb blogger accreditation: send codes out to about 200 people, set up mailing-list, hash out details, monitor everything, deal with edge cases (there are always edge cases…)
  • Spread The Tech: not yet announced, keep the ball rolling, wiki + basecamp + blog about it, prepare announcement, start organising…
  • personal: review finances, get organised, prepare travel (yes, more travel), continue working on self-promotion, deal with post-conference business cards (not too many this time, thankfully), catch up on Flickr upload + tagging backlog, blog maintenance like upgrade thesis, remove disqus (?)

There! I’m feeling a little lighter now. Sorry if you didn’t follow everything.

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Stephanie's October Conference Tour: Web 2.0 Expo Europe [en]

[fr] Après Lisbonne, direction Berlin pour la conférence Web 2.0 Expo, dont j'assure (avec Suw Charman-Anderson et Nicole Simon) la gestion des accréditations blogueurs.


Web 2.0 Expo Europe 2008
After [speaking at SHiFT](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/10/12/stephanies-october-conference-tour-shift/), I will head over to Berlin for the next stop in my October Conference Tour. Second conference:

Web 2.0 Expo Europe, 21-23 October 2008, Berlin

I attended Web 2.0 Expo Europe last year, taking notes (go to the beginning of the month) and giving one of my Babel Fish talks at Web2Open. At the height of my conference burn-out after FoWA, I was pretty cranky and critical of the conference (particularly the infrastructure), and it’s where I decided to start a company to organize my own events.

This year, I’m co-heading the Blogging Web 2.0 Expo Europe programme with Suw and Nicole (French post). I’ll be going to the event to have a chance to meet all the participating bloggers we’ve been working with over the last month (they’re listed in the Web 2.0 Expo blog sidebar) — and [Janetti](http://twitter.com/janerri), who initiated this outreach programme.

If you haven’t registered yet, go and visit these blogs — all bloggers have 35% discount codes to distribute, so if you know one of them, ask! Here’s a short video of Suw and I where we tell you why you should come to the conference :-).

Setting up and running this programme has been a fascinating experience, and you can expect some blogging about what we did once the event is over. (Note: I’m doing something similar in spirit, though a little different in form, with [blogger accreditations for LeWeb in Paris](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/10/06/blogger-accreditations-for-leweb-paris/) — we have more than enough French- and English-language bloggers but are still looking for people to cover the conference in other languages.)

While I’m at it, I will be taking part in Suw Charman-Anderson’s discussion about Gender Issues in Web 2.0 Careers as a panelist. Neither of us are fans of “women in technology” discussions, as you can see from the title of the discussion, and I’m really looking forward to see where we’ll take these issues.

As an aside, when I organised Going Solo, I did not put tons of effort into “involving women”, and it turns out over half the speaker roster was female. Does it have anything to do with the fact I’m a woman?

So, see you in Berlin?

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Educational Versus Inspirational Events [en]

[fr] Going Solo vise à être une conférence qui non seulement donne de l'inspiration, mais qui enseigne également. Du coup, préparer le programme ne consiste pas simplement à trouver des orateurs pouvant faire des présentations autour d'un thème donné, mais ressemble beaucoup plus à la préparation d'un plan d'études: il y a tant de matière à couvrir, et il faut trouver les bonnes personnes pour le faire.

It was clear to me from the start, when I started imagining [Going Solo](http://going-solo.net/), that the programme would be built in such a way as to cover a range of topics I thought were relevant. What I didn’t realize is that this is quite different from having a conference/event “theme” and hunting for speakers who have something to say around that theme.

I’ve many times tried to express that although Going Solo is not a workshop or a training session, it is training-like, but I never quite seemed to find a way to explain this clearly. I wanted to say “yes, it’s a conference, but the aim is for people to learn stuff they can use when they walk out.” I think I’ve nailed it now, though: Going Solo is educational more than inspirational.

Most conferences I go to fall in the “inspirational” category. Of course, I learn things there, but mainly, I am inspired, or lifted (if the conference is LIFT). When I planned my Open Stage speech to present Going Solo to the audience at LIFT (watch the video), I wanted it to be inspirational. It’s not a video that teaches you anything, but that inspires you to attend Going Solo (and it did indeed inspire people!)

Even if the conference theme is more technical, and the sessions actually teach you stuff, most often it is a series of related sessions grouped together around a given theme. Reboot is a perfect example of how a theme is used to collect all sorts of contributions.

Not so for Going Solo. Putting together the [programme for Going Solo](http://going-solo.net/programme/sessions/) feels much more like being in charge of defining the teaching programme for an academic year (only it’s a day, thank goodness, not a year). At the end of the day, I want the programme to have covered this, that and that. I try to organize the content into sessions, and then I talk with my speakers to see who can cover what.

I’m realizing now that this is the difficult bit — and as a speaker myself, I should have thought of this before. “Speaker topics” do not necessarily match “Steph-defined sessions” — which means I need to go back and reshuffle my sessions (perfectly doable, but it’s more work) to avoid overlaps and important topics slipping through the cracks.

Has anybody had similar experiences? And for any people reading who speak at conferences, if you agree on a topic with the chair and you’re asked to make sure your talk covers aspects x, y and z of the topic, does it make you feel micro-managed? Or is it something that happens regularly?

Partial cross-post from the Going Solo blog. Also on the Going Far blog.

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End-Of-Travel Musings [en]

[fr] Peu de photos, d'articles, ou encore de vidéos de mon mois de voyage en Irlande, au Texas, et à San Francisco. Thierry trouve dommage, mais pas moi. J'apprends à prendre la vie un peu plus à la légère, à ne pas me mettre sous pression plus que nécessaire pour tirer toujours le maximum de profit de tout ce que je fais, tout ce que je vois, tout ce que je visite, chaque personne que je rencontre. A force de documenter sa vie, on court le risque d'oublier de la vivre.

Retour de San Francisco le coeur un peu lourd, car j'aime cet endroit et il abrite des gens qui me sont chers, mais heureuse de rentrer à Lausanne, que j'adore, et de revoir mon chat, bêtement. J'ai appris à "lâcher prise" concernant mon réseau social éclaté, à moitié en ligne, et dispersé aux quatre coins de la planète. On se recroisera, je le sais. Dans une conférence, lors de mes voyages ou des vôtres. On est à quelques clics de souris en ligne, jamais très loin. On est partout, au fond.

These two weeks here in San Francisco have been really nice. I got to relax and catch up with some friends (not all of them, unfortunately, and some less than I wanted to), make a few new ones, and also make good progress in the work department. I caught up with most of the stuff I’d fallen behind with during the previous month (stress and travel), and amongst other things, this means that [Going Solo is now ready to accept sponsorships](http://going-solo.net/2008/03/26/be-a-going-solo-sponsor/). It’s also time for us to strike up some media partnerships — get in touch if you’re interested. For media partnerships: steph@going-solo.net — that’s me! — and for sponsorships, lily@going-solo.net — Lily Yacobi is managing sponsor relations (she’s great!).

My travels started in a rather intense manner, with BlogTalk in Cork and SXSW in Austin. Two conferences back-to-back, one presentation on a new topic to speak about for me, two panel moderations (I’d never moderated a panel before), and a conversation to co-host (great format, by the way). Lots of people, new and known, two 2-hour nights before even landing in the US — I can tell you I reached Austin in a sorry state. Thank goodness I had a little halt in Dallas (thanks again, Adam!) to help me land.

[As I mentioned](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/03/14/conference-experience-evolution-and-the-paradox-of-choice/), the solution I found to survive SXSW without burning out was to keep a low profile and go with the flow. I kept that up somewhat in San Francisco: not too many plans, low expectations on what I wanted to accomplish, no frantic blogging/photographing/visiting/videoing. Some people [think it’s a shame](http://seesmic.com/v/9GNlZx3cPG), but I don’t.

Sometimes documenting your life can get in the way of living it, and I know that the pressure I put upon myself to “make the most” out of every occasion, every trip, every conference, every visit, every relationship, and simply every moment of life is wearing me down. I’ve been learning, over the past six months, that I need to cut myself some slack. Miss out on things.

So this trip, I hardly took any photos. I didn’t do any tourism. I stuck with what and who I knew, mainly. There is a whole bunch of people and businesses I regret not seeing/visiting (have I said it enough), but I don’t regret pacing my life so that I can leave here more rested than I arrived, and less stressed.

[Going Solo](http://going-solo.net) is a lot of work, but though I have a great [team of advisors and helpers](http://going-solo.net/about/), I remain the only one in charge, and I’m slowly learning how to delegate. Delegating is not something I’m familiar with or ever really had to do in my life, so I’m learning the skill — and it’s not easy for me. In the end, I end up with the feeling that I’m carrying too much weight on my shoulders, and that giving some of it to others creates even more. (See the idea?) Not to be dramatic, it’s a great experience and I think I’m doing well with it — it’s just not a trip to the beach (who would have thought that!?)

So, here I am, terminal A of San Francisco airport, at the Firewood Grill, where they make pretty decent cheeseburgers. I’ve eaten here before, I remember, a bit over a year ago after [my first trip to San Francisco](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/01/12/im-really-liking-san-francisco/) “in this life”. I like the music they’re playing on the radio, and I’m trying to sort through the mixed feelings in me.

I’m looking forward to going home, of course. I’m very attached to my hometown, as many of you have noticed, and whenever I’m away, I miss my cat a lot. It’s silly, but oh well. My brother will be home too, after a year spent in South America. It will be good to see him again.

But I’m leaving San Francisco with a heavy heart, too. I’m leaving behind the sunshine and people who are dear to me, as well as a community (however you want to understand that word) which means I get to bump into people I know when I go to parties. This happens in Lausanne, too, of course — bumping into people I know. Lausanne is a small village. But strangely, the San Francisco geekworld seems even smaller. And I like it. To state the obvious, “things are happening” here and it’s nice to be around. I like the city, too — even if I sometimes struggle a bit with the differences in culture between here and where I grew up and live.

I think I’ve become more relaxed about when I’ll see people again. I don’t know when I’ll be back, but I will be. I’ll bump into you at a conference, or at a geek dinner somewhere when we’re both travelling. Maybe we didn’t get to say goodbye, but we’re just a few keystrokes away online anyway — so is it really that important? I don’t know what my life will be like in a year, and neither do you, probably. We live and work in this fast-changing world, somewhere on the edge, and we eat [Black Swans](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/10/15/reading-the-black-swan/) for breakfast.

We’re everywhere.

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Healthcare in San Francisco Experiences [en]

[fr] Expériences nettement plus positive avec le système de soins ici à San Francisco.

After my [trip to Walgreens in Austin, TX](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/03/10/a-trip-to-walgreens/), I honestly hoped I wouldn’t have to deal with anything healthcare-related in the US, ever again. Oh well, I was wrong.

A few days ago I started having a sore throat, and went down to the Walgreens on First and Mission (I’m in San Francisco) to ask about some antiseptic spray or something. I had braced myself for another less-than-pleasant experience, and was positively surprised when a nice and smiling pharmacist listened to me, discussed options, gave me advice, and made me feel like she was happy to do her job. Quite a change from the grumpy guy in Austin, who maybe needed a job change!

A day or two later, I realised that one of my toe nails was starting to become way too painful (said toe nail was traumatized on the judo mats some 10+ years ago, and has been bothering me at times since then — but this was starting to be really problematic). I tried heading for the pedicure first, who politely turned me away after a few prods at it and a few yells on my part: it was already infected, and I needed to see a doctor. Oh, heck.

There was a Walgreens nearby, on 4th and Townsend, so I dropped by to ask about doctors. Where/how/what? A very nice and friendly pharmacist (wow, two of them in the same city!) told me to head for the clinic behind the AT&T ballpark (24 Willie Mays Plaza) to see a Dr. Zee (or Zak — short for Zacharewicz, and easier to pronounce). I found the clinic quite easily (between the ballpark and the canal), checked in as best I could (forms are clearly not designed for patients visiting from abroad), and waited — quite a bit, but hey, I was a walk-in.

A friendly nurse/assistant (?) showed me in, asked me a few questions about what brought me here (I got to tell her the sad story of my poor toe nail) took my blood pressure, and left me to wait a few minutes for Dr. Zee.

Dr. Zee was as nice as I’d been told. She listened to my story, prodded my toe nail a little, thought a bit, and gave me instructions for warm soapy foot-baths, keeping me toe out of the dirty San Francisco street-dust, and a prescription. A really lovely doctor that I heartily recommend if you’re in SF and in need of one.

I left, $90 poorer but feeling almost warm and fuzzy about healthcare in San Francisco, and decided to drop in at the Walgreens which had sent me to pick up my prescription. That’s where I learned that I had to wait 15-20 minutes to get my medication (some antibiotic cream) instead of just being able to hand in the prescription slip and walk out with my meds (as I expected, based on my — limited and Swiss — previous experience). I decided to drop in later that evening as I was going out.

Fast-forward a few hours. I’m back at Walgreens to pick up my prescription. I’m told they can’t give it to me, because the doctor did not specify on the prescription if it was *cream* or *ointment*. They’d tried to call the doctor’s office but it was already closed, so I had to wait until tomorrow. I said I really didn’t care if it was cream or ointment, they could give me either. They said they couldn’t, that the doctor needed to confirm if it was the cream or ointment. I insisted, arguing that the difference in between cream and ointment really wasn’t important in this case, that all I cared about was to be able to start the treatment for my toe as soon as possible. The pharmacist (who was a different one from the one who recommended Dr. Zee to me) kept on like a broken record, telling me they couldn’t make the decision or give me one or the other. I insisted more, saying that no insurance would bother them about this because I was from abroad and would be paying myself, that I wasn’t going to sue them, etc. No success: the doctor had to decide, **by law** they were forbidden from giving me the medicine without her confirmation.

I stomped out, feeling powerless and furious, then stomped back in to ask for my prescription. If was going to have to wait until tomorrow for my prescription, I would go to a pharmacy closer to where I was staying, like the one on 1st.

So, this morning, after 11 hours of sleep (!), I went down to the Walgreens on 1st to get my prescription. I also needed some other medication for my cough and eye. The pharmacist (honestly not sure if she was the same one as the other day) was lovely. She actually took the trouble to explain me how the medication I’d been recommended for my eye in Austin worked (basically, does nothing else than shrink the blood vessels, so that it’s less red). Checked that there was no discharge, and said “OK, so it’s not conjunctivitis then” (a contrast with “I can’t tell you, you have to see a doctor” or some other stupid by-the-book answer). Discussed the other drug I needed with me too. Nice and helpful.

And when my prescription arrived (less than 5 minutes later — and I don’t know if they called the doctor’s office, but they didn’t bring it up) she mentioned that it was quite expensive: $70. I told her I was probably going to back out then, because it was just for an ingrown toe nail which had already started to get better with the soapy water baths. She agreed with me that the cream was maybe a bit overkill given that, and that I’d probably be OK with over-the-counter antibiotic cream. *Over-the-counter antibiotic cream?!* Yes, that have that here.

So, overall, a much more pleasant experience of healthcare services here in San Franciso (despite one episode of “we follow rules, here” broken-recorditis).

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Conference Experience Evolution and The Paradox of Choice [en]

[fr] Mes réflexions sur l'expérience vécue lors de conférences comme LIFT08, LeWeb3, SXSW, BlogTalk, à la lumière de ma lecture du livre The Paradox of Choice. Surcharge cognitive et sociale, trop de décisions à prendre. Evolution également, entre les premières conférences où je ne connaissais presque personne, et où l'accent était mis sur "faire de nouvelles connaissances", et les dernières conférences, où je me rends compte que je ne peux pas passer du temps (ni même parfois dire bonjour) à toutes les personnes que je connais déjà.

There’s a lot going on in my head these days, and unfortunately I’ve been too [busy/exhausted](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/02/25/stalling/) (that damn anaemia is still around, fwiw) to blog about it. Since a week or so before LIFT08, actually, I feel like I’ve been desperately running behind the train, and the distance between my hand and the handlebar that will allow me to climb back on is just increasing.

One book I’ve been reading these last weeks (months?) is [The Paradox of Choice](http://www.amazon.com/Paradox-Choice-Why-More-Less/dp/0060005688). If you haven’t read it yet, take a few minutes to order it now. It’s turning out to be a really important book for me, on the one hand for understanding a few things about how the world we live in functions and affects us in the areas of freedom, responsibility, and of course, choice — and on the other hand for understanding myself.

I suffer a lot from having too many options to choose from: I’m really bad at being a “satisficer” in certain areas (somebody who will be satisfied with an option as long as it meets certain criteria) as opposed to being a “maximizer” — wanting the *best* option available. In particular in my professional life and my intellectual pursuits, each choice is agonizing, because my brain wirings keep me very focused on everything I’m possibly missing out upon each time I pick a particular option over others. I do my best to tone this tendency down, of course, but it’s there.

There’s a lot I could comment upon in relation to this book and all it is helping me understand (it delves deep into the mechanisms of choice, and that’s fascinating), but suffice to say right now that it’s colouring a lot of my thinking in general these days.

One of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot recently is conferences. Obviously, as a [conference organizer](http://going-far.com/) ([Going Solo](http://going-solo.net/) early bird price ends soon, by the way!), it’s on my mind, but I’ve also been attending quite a few conferences recently and reflecting of how my experience of these events has evolved (due to [“burn-out”](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/10/06/too-many-people/), increased [network and public profile](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/02/11/from-lift06-to-lift08/), and maybe other factors).

For online people like me, conferences are an occasion to see their usually scattered network of relations (friends or business contacts) coalesce in one single geographical location over the space of a few days. It can be very exciting, especially when you get to meet many of these people offline for the first time, but it can also be overwhelming. During my first conferences, I also got to know a lot of new people. People I wasn’t interactive with online. People who “grew” (ew) my network. People I liked and decided I wanted to stay in touch with. People who were interesting business contacts.

As conferences went by, I would find myself in a crowd of more and more people I already knew and appreciated and wanted to spend time with. I think [FOWA](http://futureofwebapps.com/) last November was a breaking point for me — I realized that it was impossible for me to catch up with all “my people” there in the space of two short days. It was quite distressing to realize this, actually.

A few weeks after that, I was in Berlin for [Web2.0Expo](http://climbtothestars.org/tags/web2expo/). A bit burnt, I took things way more lightly. Attended a few sessions. Didn’t even show up on certain mornings. Hung out with people I met there. Didn’t try to blog all the sessions I attended. It went much better.

Conferences are hard. There is a lot of intellectual stimulation (sessions and conversations), and a lot of social stimulation too. As I mentioned earlier in this post, I already feel life is simply too full of interesting things and people. In my everyday life, I struggle with the feeling that there is “too much out there” for me to “deal” or “cope” with — and a conference just concentrates this feeling over 2-3 days. Lots of fascinating (hopefully) sessions to attend. Great corridor conversations. Old friends to catch up with. New friends to make. Business contacts to touch base with. Dinners, lunches and parties. Take photos, blog, video the sessions or interview fellow attendees. To do all that well, you’d need to be superhuman.

I had two “different” conference experiences during these last six months, and they were LeWeb4 and LIFT08. Both times, I attended the conference with a rather clear [business objective](http://going-solo.net). It was tiring, but less overwhelming, because I’d decided in advance what I was in for. LeWeb4 (LeWeb3 actually, 2nd edition — don’t ask me why) actually turned out better than LIFT08 for me, because I simply didn’t attend any sessions (aside from half of [JP](http://confusedofcalcutta.com/)’s). At LIFT08, I had a press pass, so I did feel pressure to live-blog — and also, it’s my “home conference”, and I really like their programme. I was also [giving a speech](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/02/07/lift08-my-going-solo-open-stage-speech/), so, although this conference experience “went well”, it was [overwhelming](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/02/11/my-lift08-recap/).

So, what am I learning about conferences? They’re “too much”. So, you have to go to them knowing you’ll miss out (which brings us back to what The Paradox of Choice is about). The more connected you are, the more socially unmanageable it’s going to be. People you won’t see. Not saying goodbye. Not spending as much time as you wanted with certain people, but in exchange spending more time with others. So, I’ve come to accept that. I don’t know who I’m going to be able to catch up with. I know I won’t be able to catch up with everyone. I do my best not to plan — and if there is a small number of people (1, 2, 3) that I really want to see, I make plans with them, and that’s it.

The sessions are also “too much”. You can’t sit in sessions for the whole day, take notes, blog about them (or whatever you do) and then do the same thing the next day. Well, you can, but chances are your brain will fry at some point. I know that I can’t do it for two days in a row. At [SXSW](http://2008.sxsw.com/interactive/), I decided at one point to officially give up on attending sessions. I felt bad, because there were lots of them which sounded interesting, and lots of people I wanted to hear, but I also felt relieved because all of a sudden the pressure of making choices had been removed. If I happened to be hanging out with people who went to a panel, or if I stumbled into one — well, good. But I wasn’t going to make decisions about them other than on the spur of the moment. That worked out pretty well.

I did the same for the parties. Too much choice => I refuse to agonize on decisions before the last moment. All open. Go with the flow.

So, bottom-line: very little planning, lots of improvisation, and setting low expectations about doing precise stuff or hanging out with precise people.

To change the subject a little, I noticed at LIFT08 how at one point, there seems to be a physiological limit to taking in new people (certainly some relation to the [Dunbar number](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar’s_number) department). At LIFT08, I was just so socialed out (or over-socialized), between running around promoting Going Solo and being the object of some attention after my speech ([watch video](http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8270350768335569204)), that I realized at some point that I was doing horrible things like:

– trying to hand out moo cards twice to people I actually already knew (in this case, it was [Robert](http://scobleizer.com/)) in the space of a few minutes
– asking people for their name 3 times in a row
– forgetting I’d talked to people, even when they took the trouble to remind me what we had talked about a few hours before
– and of course, totally not recognizing anybody I’d been introduced to recently or at a previous conference

In this kind of situation, you can do two things. “Fake it”, as in “oh, hi! how’s business, blah blah blah” and hope that the person will drop enough info to help you out, or just fake it till the end. To be honest, I hate the idea of doing that, and I can’t bring myself to do it (plus, I’m sure I’d be quite bad at it). So, I prefer the second option, which is being honest. I apologize for not recognizing people (mention that I’m [hopeless with faces](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/12/14/badges-at-conferences/) — people who know me can attest), explain that I’m over-socialized and have simply been meeting and interacting with too many people. In my experience, this approach works out fine.

There’s also a lot to be said about “micro-fame” — the first couple of conferences I went to, the number of people I “didn’t really know” who were interested in talking to me (as in “walked up to me to introduce themselves”) was close to zero. Today, people show up out of nowhere, know me, want to speak to me. Friends want to introduce me to people they know (which is good, by the way!) My first conferences involved a lot of just meeting a nice person or two, and hanging out with them for the whole conference. This is more difficult today (except maybe at small conferences like BlogTalk) because I just know too many people (or too many people know me).

There also seems to be a subculture of highly-travelled, highly-conferenced people I’m suddenly finding myself part of — and I’m sure it would be worth taking a closer look to what’s going on here (hmm… [a conference](http://going-far.com), maybe?)

I’ll stop here, after dumping these thoughts in this not-very-organized post. It felt good to write all this down. If you have comments or thoughts, agree or disagree, experiences to share — my comments and trackbacks are yours to use.

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A Trip to Walgreens [en]

[fr] Une petite visite à la pharmacie aux Etats-Unis.

This is just too good a story to not write about it while I wait for somebody around here in Austin to come up with dinner plans.

Around noon, I noticed my left eye was bloodshot. Nothing terrifying. Over the afternoon, it started feeling a bit dry and painful, so I asked the hotel clerk if there was a pharmacy nearby. (Cutting a long story short, I figured out that this was the best course of action given the situation.)

A $20 taxi fare and a bottle of Visine later ($3.99), I have just been through the most surreal pharmacy experience in my whole life. I mean, I’d heard jokes, but I’d never seen it in person.

First, the pharmacist. For those of you who do not know the US, pharmacies are not privately owned (as far as I can see), as they are in Switzerland for example, but are part of a chain: Walgreens, CVS… There is a little booth where you can go to speak to the pharmacist and get advice — in that, it seems to match the kind of services I’m used to in a pharmacy. It stops there.

He finally puts down the phone and comes over to me.

– How can I help? *(in a “let’s get it done with” tone of voice — friendliness optional, obviously, and I ain’t getting none of it)*
– Well, my eye is red, and it hurts, and it might just be too much travel, too much A/C, not enough sleep, but it could be conjunctivitis…
– If you have conjunctivitis, then you have to see a doctor. Otherwise, you can *shmbl glmp znfgh — inaudible*
– Well, I don’t *know* if I have conjunctivitis.
– …
– Er, so, how do I know if I have to go see a doctor? How long do I wait before going to see the doctor if it doesn’t get better?
– I can’t tell you that. *(or something in that direction)*
– I mean… assuming it’s not conjunctivitis, and I use those drops, in how many days should it be over?
– Can’t say — it depends on the person. *(at this point, I feel like saying *I’m not going to sue you, you know, just looking for some kind of indication…”)*
– …
– Is there any discharge?
– No… just feels dry and painful
– OK, so it’s probably not conjunctivitis. If you have conjunctivitis, there is a discharge… so you should be ok with *shgmphh fgb*, over-the-counter.
– OK, thanks — can you repeat the name again?
– Visine A.C.
– Where do I find it?
– Aisle 8D.

I thank him and potter off to aisle 8D, not far away. There is a sign that says eye and ear stuff. The aisle is full of feminine hygiene products and sports elastic bands. I have no clue what Visine A.C. looks like, and it doesn’t seem to jump out at me.

I head back to the counter and ask for help. It is provided rather gracefully.

The shop assistant leads me down the *neighbouring* aisle (I could have searched for a long time in the wrong one) and shows me the drops. I spot another bottle just next to it, Visine L.R. Being a curious bunny, I wonder what the difference between the two products is. This is where it gets really bad.

– So, what’s the difference between those two?
– Well… let me see. They don’t have the same active ingredients. See… this one has a different active ingredient, and astringent.
– Er, OK, but what’s the difference?
– They have different active ingredients… This is the one the pharmacist recommends for you.
– I mean, what’s the difference in effect… what does the difference in active ingredients change?
– Well, this one will be more effective.
– But… how? what is the difference going to be?
– I can’t make any recommendation, but this one is what the pharmacist recommended, so it’ll be more effective for what you told the pharmacist you had…

Before I have a chance to confront his robotic, scripted, lawsuit-proof behaviour (which probably wouldn’t have done much good), the pharmacist comes walking by, and he passes on the problem (me) to him.

The pharmacist looks at the two bottles while I repeat my request for information.

– They don’t have the same active ingredients. This is the one I recommended. Actually, here, this is what you need.

He hands me the Visine L.R.

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