The Speed of Time [en]

[fr] Réflexion sur le temps au travail et le temps à la maison, les chats malades et l'hiver.

Routine is settling in. As I have mentioned, my time seems to be shrinking. Or speeding up. It’s a good sign when time flies by, but it scares me. I look at my colleagues, some of whom have been in the same position, doing pretty much the same job, for decades — and try to imagine waking up ten years from now, getting up at the same time in the morning, going to the same place, doing the same thing with the same people. This is the life of many, but there’s something scary about it for me.

A year has passed since Tounsi started being ill. It was early November. He had his MRI early December. He died January 1st. It still feels very recent. His ashes are still in a little box in my bookcase — I haven’t felt ready to spread them in the garden yet. I think I should just do it.

Quintus hasn’t been well lately. I took him for a checkup before starting my new job. He has pancreatitis, and developed diabetes as a result. He’s on insulin now (it’s been 10 days) and we are hoping to get the pancreatits under control. He’s been improving, slowly, with a bit of back and forth. But I have to face things: he’s an old cat, going on 17, and we’re lucky he’s still around. I treasure every extra week I get with him, and hope it will be months. But there are no certainties.

And so I face another winter with the prospect of possibly losing a cat. Bagha died just before Christmas, too. I don’t believe in magic, so I’m not scared winter is “more dangerous” for my cats than any other time of the year. But it does mean that I have had some difficult winters — including the one following my mother’s death when I was a child.

My preoccupation with Quintus makes me feel my hours away from home with a particular awareness. My days at work don’t feel long, but my time at home feels short. A week is a handful of waking hours. I’ve become somebody who doesn’t want to spend any more time away from home than absolutely necessary.

My professional ambition right now is a job that allows me to come back home for lunch. That would be just wonderful.

 

Similar Posts:

36h54 [fr]

[en] There is a large chunk of my time that I don't "own" anymore, as it is my employer's, in a way. It's making me reflect on how I did or didn't protect my working time as a freelancer, and how that is indicative of my priorities regarding earning money vs. "social obligations".

Aujourd’hui, 36h54 de mon temps chaque semaine appartient à mon employeur. Après plus de dix ans à mon compte, durant lesquels j’ai autant que possible essayé d’éviter de “vendre du temps”, c’est un gros changement.

Et j’ai confirmation de ce que je savais déjà, mais dont je ne mesurais peut-être pas précisément l’ampleur: quand mon temps ne m’appartient pas, je le protège bien mieux que quand c’est le mien. Quand je travaille, je travaille. Je ne m’interromps pas pour ceci ou cela, plus particulièrement, pour les autres.

En tant qu’indépendante, “libre de mon temps”, tout “oui” rognait sur mon temps de travail, et donc, au final, sur mon compte en banque. Cela ne signifie pas que je regrette ces “oui”. Mais ils ont une autre conséquence.

Aujourd’hui, un engagement hors travail signifie que je suis plus fatiguée. Mon salaire et mes heures de travail sont inchangés.

Je ne suis pas certaine que tout le monde fonctionne ainsi. C’est probablement le reflet chez moi de comment je hiérarchise mes obligations envers moi-même et mes obligations vis-à-vis des autres. De comment je hiérarchise “travailler” et mon implication sociale.

Dans un emploi salarié, il y a des gens qui attendent quelque chose de moi. Je suis là pour remplir un rôle. Il y a donc, dans le cadre de l’emploi, une “pression sociale” (positive, pour moi!) sur le travail.

Comme indépendante, si je choisis d’avoir un impact en travaillant ou en étant bénévole, c’est entre moi et moi. Et, au final, mon banquier.

Paradoxalement, n’être plus maître de cette large portion de mon temps, en échange pour un salaire, ça me libère pour mes engagements “hors travail”. Ce blog, par exemple. Ou une activité bénévole. J’ai moins de temps, mais je me sens plus libre quant à la façon de l’utiliser.

Similar Posts:

Le temps a de nouveau filé [fr]

[en] Some musings in French. Chalet, sick cats, writing in French vs in English, the US elections, where I'm at, and a silly video in English you can watch.

Pas de nouvel article depuis deux semaines, malgré mes bonnes intentions. Alors je m’y colle, sans avoir de projet spécifique, parce que pour écrire, il faut écrire. Et je m’y colle en français, parce qu’il me semble que j’écris surtout en anglais. Et parce que je me rends compte que je me censure bien plus en français.

Grand Muveran

Mes articles les plus personnels, je les écris en anglais. Je parle bien plus volontiers de mes douleurs et de mes difficultés dans cette langue. Mais pourquoi?

D’une part, mon “public perçu” est différent en français ou en anglais. La plupart de mes clients sont francophones. Même s’ils comprennent bien l’anglais, notre relation de travail est en français. Les médias qui à une certaine époque me sollicitaient régulièrement sont francophones, aussi. En français, je me sens Romande, je me sens plus surveillée, voire jugée, qu’en anglais. Je  me préoccupe plus de ce qu’on peut bien penser de moi en français qu’en anglais.

Il y a peut-être une dimension culturelle sous tout ça. Le français, pour moi, c’est la Suisse Romande, avec tout ce que ça charrie de “balaie devant ta porte”, “occupe-toi de tes oignons”, “ça ne regarde personne”. Se mettre en avant c’est mal. Parler de soi c’est mal. Il faut rester professionnel. Qu’est-ce qu’on a le culte, ici, à mon grand désespoir, du mur entre le “personnel” et le “professionnel”!

Et voyez ce que racontent ces mots: “personnel”, ça vient de personne. Au travail, on n’est pas “personnel”. On est “professionnel”. Un rôle, pas un individu. J’ai réalisé il y a quelque temps que ce mot, que j’utilise pas mal professionnellement, est certainement source de plein de malentendus. Parce que quand je dis, par exemple, “présence en ligne personnelle“, je pense avant tout à l’aspect humain, “de la personne”, avant la question de savoir si le contenu que l’on partage touche à la sphère privée ou à la sphère professionnelle. Et là aussi, un autre mot qui nous embrouille: “privé”, ça peut être par opposition à “professionnel”, mais aussi à “public. Les connotations changent.

Bref, je n’aime pas trop montrer mes failles en français. Peut-être parce que c’est ma langue principale de travail, peut-être parce que c’est la langue du lieu où je vis, peut-être parce que moi-francophone a des peurs que moi-anglophone n’a pas. On sait que langue et culture sont liées; ce qu’on sait parfois moins, c’est que langue et personnalité le sont également: grand nombre de bilingues sont aussi biculturels. C’est peut-être mon cas.

Chalet dans les arbres

Alors, qu’est-ce que je vous raconte, dans cet article que j’écris pour écrire?

Je reviens d’une courte semaine au chalet. Le programme, c’était quelques jours de congé (parce que je cours, cours), peut-être ski au glacier, un peu de bûcheronnage dans le jardin, et puis bosser, et bloguer — avancer dans tout cet empilement d’idées qui se pressent dans ma tête sans atteindre mon clavier.

Eh bien non. Foehn, donc pas de téléphérique (et franchement même pas envie de sortir du chalet avec les branches qui tombent des arbres et les tuiles qui s’envolent).

Mais surtout, urgences vétérinaires, avec Tounsi qui a fait une étrange crise dans la nuit de samedi à dimanche, vomissement, grands mouvements quasi spasmodiques des pattes arrières, sur fond d’autres histoires de pattes. Soucis neurologiques? Intoxication à la couenne de fromage à raclette? Adieu sommeil du week-end, et trois vétos en trois jours (y compris le Tierspital à Berne) pour tenter de tirer cette affaire au clair. Tounsi semble à présent remis, mais que d’inquiétude: il ne mangeait pas, ne buvait pas, ne bougeait pas. Dans le doute, on a arrêté ses calmants quelques jours, et repris aujourd’hui. Bref, je le surveille de près, pas idéal pour se concentrer sur autre chose. (Et il y a encore la cécité de Quintus, qui semble brusquement s’aggraver certains jours sans que je comprenne pourquoi; aujourd’hui son “bon” oeil le dérange, il se gratte, il ne voit rien, il se cogne, s’encouble — aussi parce qu’il n’est pas très stable sur ses pattes arthritiques. J’ai peur qu’il perde le peu de vision qui lui reste. Je le vois vieillir et je me demande comment je saurai que sa qualité de vie s’est trop détériorée pour que ça vaille la peine de continuer.)

Tounsi convalescent

Dans un autre registre, les élections américaines m’ont pas mal secouées. Pas américaine, comme vous le savez, mais j’espérais vraiment la victoire de Hillary Clinton. Et j’y croyais. Depuis, j’ai l’impression de regarder un accident de train au ralenti. Je m’inquiète pour les USA et mes amis qui y vivent, mais aussi pour les répercussions que cette présidence risque d’avoir sur le reste du monde, et aussi pour ce que ça dit de notre tissu social, parce qu’il ne faudrait pas penser que ce sont ces tarés d’américains et que nous, dans notre petite Suisse bien rangée, on n’est pas aussi en plein là-dedans.

Et puis il y a moi. Je m’inquiète un peu pour moi, aussi. Parce que même si j’ai maintenant le sentiment d’avoir retrouvé ma direction professionnelle, même si les affaires reprennent, ce n’est pas “assez”. J’ai des projets, j’ai des pistes, mais j’ai des freins, aussi. Voilà que débarque le censeur, parce que c’est pas bien de montrer ses doutes. A plus forte raison si on est une femme, à qui l’on ne pardonnera aucune de ses fautes, comme le veut la règle.

C’est aussi pour moi une des grandes tristesses de cette élection américaine: voir, de façon tellement flagrante, les poids et mesures différents qu’on applique aux hommes et aux femmes, et voir aussi à quel point tant de monde y est aveugle. Même quand on leur met le nez dessus. Tous les arguments qui contiennent “c’est pas du sexisme”, “c’est pas parce que c’est une femme”, “je fais pas de différence”, “c’est une femme qui le dit alors ça peut pas être misogyne”.

Oh, on a fait du chemin. On a des égalités inscrites dans la loi. Mais culturellement, bon dieu… on est encore loin du compte. Racisme, idem.

Allez, pour finir sur une note un peu plus amusante, après m’être remise de ma stupefaction après le visionnement d’une vidéo de youtubeuse star sur le thème du vidage de sac, j’en ai rapidement fait un petit Facebook Live à ma sauce. J’ai bien ri en le faisant, et j’ai encore plus ri en le regardant. C’est en anglais.

Similar Posts:

I Am the Bridge, the Tourist Guide, the Ferryman, the Hostess [en]

[fr] Réflexion sur mon véritable domaine d'expertise. Depuis des années, je me débats avec cette casquette "médias sociaux". Je fais à la fois plus et moins que ça. Et j'ai compris, je crois -- quatre semaines de vraies vacances ça prépare bien le terrain aux prises de conscience. Ces idées doivent encore mûrir, mais j'ai une piste: ce que je fais, c'est aider les gens à accéder aux cultures avec lesquelles ils ne sont pas familiers -- y compris la culture numérique, celle du monde en ligne. Si "médiation interculturelle" n'était pas déjà utilisé pour faire référence à autre chose, c'est ce terme que je choisirais. "Médiation technologique", pour la partie "technologique". Mais ça ne s'arrête pas là. A suivre...

Next summer I will have been fully self-employed (in a one-breadwinner-home) for ten years. I feel quite impressed saying it. I remember when I hit the 3- and 5-year milestones: most businesses don’t last that long.

In ten years, the industry my work falls in (social media) has evolved tremendously. I started out as a “blogging consultant” in a world which had no Twitter, no Facebook, no “social media”. We had blogs, forums, wikis, and “social software”. I was a pioneer, I found what we then called “the living web” fascinating, and was lucky to be at the right place and the right time in my little corner of the world to make a living introducing others to this incredible digital world I knew.

Vallée du Rhône

I helped people build websites, gave talks in schools and businesses about blogs, MySpace (yes!) and later Facebook and Twitter. I helped organisations make sense of these new tools and figure out what they could do with them. During the past five years, I have mainly facilitated relationships between bloggers and organisations, founded and directed French-speaking Switzerland’s first comprehensive course on social media and online communities, and been blog editor-in-chief more than once.

Quite a ride.

For a few years now, I’ve been feeling more and more estranged from the business of “social media”. I definitely still fit in there somewhere, but a lot of it is not really of much interest to me. It feels like it’s been eaten up by marketing: most of the time, trying to do the same old stuff in some new channel.

And in parallel, I’ve felt a growing frustration about the fact that my marketable skills are certainly wider than what I’ve been openly advertising, and that I’m staying stuck in this social media consultant career track because I haven’t managed to identify them clearly enough and figure out (even less communicate) a business proposition around them.

Transitions are great opportunities to stop and think. As my engagement as editor-in-chief for Open Ears ended, I decided to take a real holiday, a good long break to clear my head so I could look at my business with fresh eyes. Taking time away is vital for creativity, and I really hadn’t had much of that these last few years.

It seems to have worked, because it really feels like the pieces have been falling into place this last week, since my return. I’d like to share this thinking in progress with you.

Family in Sonarpur

From the beginning, what I’ve found interesting with the internet is people and relationships. The human side of technology. I have a background in humanities, in addition to being a bit of a geek, so the whole “psychology + sociology” side of social media is really what makes me tick. Not so much the “selling” or “branding” part.

A couple of months ago, I was describing my work as blog editor to a potential client. He pointed out that what I was doing was quite a balancing act, and seemed quite admirative. I had never looked at it like that, or thought much of it, but it’s quite true: whether managing a blog or a blogger relations programme, one important thing I do is balance sometimes conflicting interests from the different parties in play.

For example, the brand behind a blog might want more positive content about their products, or more promotional content, and on the other hand the blog’s editorial independence must be preserved or it will lose credibility as a space for authentic expression and relationships. The same goes for blogger relations: if an event invites bloggers, it hopes for positive coverage, but on the other hand the very reason bloggers are courted is because of their independence. So, how do we run a blog without it becoming a corporate mouthpiece, and how do we associate with bloggers without making them sell out?

This is actually a crucial part of my work, but that I hadn’t properly put my finger on until that conversation. More importantly, this means that it is value that I’ve been implicitly providing my clients, without ever selling it explicitly. (Is there a market for this? That indeed remains to be examined.)

I had previously identified this “talent” somewhat in my personal life. I would often find myself mediating between people who have trouble communicating. (Pro tip: don’t do this, it’s not good for your friendships.) I’ve done it too (with more success) in professional situations, by helping maintain communication between parties involved in a project. At one point I wondered if I should consider becoming a professional mediator, but that seemed to be taking things too far: I’m not interested in spending the whole of my professional life helping people resolve disputes.

That’s where things were when I left for India, and a discussion with a close friend and fellow freelancer upon my return revealed to me the common thread in my various professional interests — including some wild dreams and crazy brainstorms alongside stuff I have actually been doing and some I want to do more of. My unifier.

I introduce people to unfamiliar cultures. I am the bridge, the translator, the ferryman. I’m still looking for the best way to say this.

I’ve always said I considered the digital world as a culture, and that my work with social media made perfect sense with my background as a historian of religions, specialised in Indian culture.

This explains why I like working with clients who are “starting out” so much. I introduce them to the digital world. Help them understand how it works. How they can be present in it. What it can bring them.

When I was giving talks in schools, I would tell parents and teachers that I was their “tourist guide to the internet”.

During my last year with Phonak, I gave a series of digital literacy workshops — something I’ve been wanting to provide for years.

When I dream about different lives for myself, I see myself organising guided tours to “my India”, helping expats settle down in Switzerland. Outside of work, playing Ingress, I naturally settled down in the role of welcoming new players. I am the hostess.

Kolkata Streets 2015 26

In Kolkata, Aleika and I brainstormed business ideas to run in India, and all of them have to do with this same “bridging cultures” theme.

I take people by the hand and show them the way, or sit in the middle so that different worlds can collaborate.

Clearly, these skills go beyond social media, and also do not encompass all of social media. I’m understanding better why I’ve struggled so much with my “social media consultant” label these last years.

There could very well be areas in the business world where such skills are useful, but that I do not know of — or am not thinking of. The doors are open, but I’m not sure what room I’m in yet.

Does this make sense?

 

You can also find this post on LinkedIn, Medium, and Facebook.

Similar Posts:

Printemps chargé [fr]

[en] What's keeping me busy professionally this spring.

Pas beaucoup d’activité sur ce blog ces temps, mais beaucoup d’activité dans ma vie. A quoi je m’occupe, du coup?

  • Principalement, je m’occupe du blog communautaire Phonak qu’on a lancé en début d’année. Un grand projet qui me plaît beaucoup! Je cherche d’ailleurs des contributeurs: en anglais, sur ce qui touche à l’audition, l’appareillage, la surdité, etc… pas besoin d’être client Phonak (je ne le suis d’ailleurs pas) ni même appareillé pour en parler. Je suis donc de temps en temps du côté de Zurich, et je suis même allée à Budapest le mois dernier pour présenter le projet à l’occasion d’un colloque marketing interne.
  • Je travaille toujours avec l’équipe social media d’Orange, sur des choses un peu moins visibles et montrables, mais tout aussi intéressantes.
  • Deux mandats de formation ce printemps, dédiés exclusivement au blog — un pour la HEP, l’autre pour CREADIGITAL. Je suis ravie de pouvoir faire ça de façon un peu plus approfondie.
  • L’eclau va bien, de nouveaux membres nous rejoignent, et je suis allée à Genève pour présenter brièvement le “premier espace coworking de Suisse” (à ma connaissance) lors d’un RezoFirst.

Pour répondre aux questions non posées de ceux qui suivent un peu: la formation SMSCL que je co-dirigeais au SAWI, c’est terminé. Les accréditations blogueurs pour la conférence LeWeb, également.

Dans deux semaines ça va se calmer. Là, j’ai un peu la honte: j’ai lancé à mes étudiantes (sisi, toutes des femmes) HEP un challenge “3 articles par semaine”. Et je n’ai moi-même pas réussi à le tenir! Il faut faire preuve d’un peu d’humilité, parfois…

Similar Posts:

Our Relationship To Technology: Is Your Smartphone In Charge, Or You? [en]

[fr] Une réflexion sur notre relation à la technologie. C'est pas aussi simple que "addiction! addiction! au secours!".

Today’s post, again, brought to you by an article of Loïc Le Meur’s: Why are we checking our smartphones 150x a day? (Remember when Loïc was a blogger?) He links to a video with the catchy title “After I saw this, I put down my phone and didn’t pick it up for the rest of the day”.

I have mixed feelings about this kind of discussion.

  • On the one hand, I think we need to strive to be those in charge of our use of devices, and not victims of the operant conditioning of modern technology.
  • On the other hand, I think that framing the issue of our relationship with technology as addiction is counter-productive, as it puts the blame on technology and removes responsibility from users.

It’s also not a new conversation, and it pops up every now and again as “today’s big problem”. Hey, I was afraid I had “internet addiction” back in 1998. I read Silicon Snake Oil and The Psychology of Cyberspace, headed off to my chalet for a week, and stopped worrying.

As far as I’m concerned, I’m online a lot, both on my computer and on my phone, but I still perceive being on your phone when in human company as “impolite”. I try not to do it too much. So, usually, when I’m with other people, I won’t be on my phone, unless:

  • we’re playing with our phones: taking photos, looking at stuff together, etc.
  • there is something I need to attend to (I apologize and try and be quick)
  • I’m looking something up to help us solve a problem or get information we need
  • we’re spending quite some time together and are both having “phone-time”

I’m aware this doesn’t mean much: with the same description I could be glued to my phone all the time. How do you define “something I need to attend to”?

So, some context.

My phone is in silent mode, and I have very few notifications set (same on my computer). It usually lives at the bottom of my bag. When I’m working, there are chances it’s next to me on my desk. It’s often charging or abandoned in another room when I’m at home.

I’ll check it somewhat compulsively when I’m on the bus, or when I’m using it “as a computer” to hang out online. If I’m with other people, as I said, I don’t take it out too much (though they’ll be the best judges about how much — I do take it out).

I suffer from FOMO like almost everyone who is connected today, I guess. But I don’t feel that I’m a slave to it. I read The Paradox of Choice many years ago and it really opened my eyes: today’s world is so full of possibilities. If you don’t want to succumb to the anxiety of too much choice and too many options, you need to be aware of what’s going on, and accept you’ll miss out. I try to be selective. I still struggle, but I know I’m going to miss out and it’s not the end of the world. (It’s in my social media survival kit, by the way.)

Why do we end up compulsively checking our phones and stuff? I think there are many reasons, and that’s why saying it’s an “addiction” is a way to frame the problem in a way that makes it difficult to address.

  • FOMO: with the internet, we have access to everything that is going on, all the time, everywhere. If we want to be “part of it”, hang out with the cool kids, or share the video that’ll get us 20 likes, we feel a pressure to “not miss” what is going on in the real-time stream. So we overload ourselves on the input side. We think we need to consume everything.
  • Operant conditioning: I’m clicker-training one of my cats, Tounsi. He knows that a click means a reward is coming. When I’m reinforcing a behaviour, I use an intermittent reinforcement schedule: he doesn’t get a reward with each click.
    See how this fits with digital interfaces, and even more strongly, social media? I think Kevin Marks is the first one who first pointed out this phenomenon to me, when I was having trouble taking breaks from my computer even though I had bad RSI.
    Suw Charman-Anderson wrote about how it applies to e-mail back in 2008. We check our mail, there might be some candy in there. We check Facebook, there might be a like or a comment. Nothing? It only makes the urge to check again more compelling: the next time could be rewarded!
    Yeah, dopamine plays a role in there. Understand how your brain works so you’re not a slave to your hormones and neurotransmitters.
  • Validation: we want to be loved and appreciated, and some of what we’re looking for online is just that. Oh, somebody responded to my post. Oh, somebody sent me a nice e-mail. Ooh. But people who thinks that this is the only thing in play round down our issue with technology to an “ego problem” (very fashionable). It doesn’t help. But yeah, if you feel that your drive for franticly checking your phone when you’re having dinner with a friend is just that, maybe it’s worth addressing.
  • Work: the other time when I ran off to my chalet to find some peace was in 2008, and it was not to escape technology. It was to escape work. Our relationships to work and technology are very much entwined. Often, when people say they’re “addicted to their email”, and you take the trouble to dig a bit, you realise the problem is not “email” but “work”. They can’t pull away from work. They work during the week-ends, the evenings, their holidays. This is, I believe, a bigger issue than technology. Our relationship to work, as a society, is unhealthy. (And: Americans, you have a way bigger problem here than us Swissies.)
  • Not engaging: people often look at “not engaging” as a consequence of excessive use of technology. It’s the message conveyed by the video Loïc linked to in his post. I think that’s missing the point that “not engaging” can be the objective here. Relationships are difficult. Being present is difficult. Being with oneself is difficult. Being present to life is difficult. We do many things to avoid doing all this. We veg’ in front of the TV. We talk about unimportant stuff to avoid dealing with what matters in our relationship. And, increasingly, we dive into our phones.
    In the past, I used my camera a lot to “find my place” in social gatherings that would otherwise make me feel awkward. If I’m the person taking photos, I have a place. I have a pretext for interacting with others. I can remove myself from what is going on to be the observer snapping pics. It’s much more difficult to find my place and be with others if I’m just me, with no escape.
    So when we look at somebody who has his nose in his phone during a dinner party, I’d also ask “what is he avoiding by not being present?”

I think I have a reasonably healthy relationship to technology — and work. I have my drinking completely under control 😉

So, a wrap-up:

  • I check my phone in the evening before going to bed, and it sleeps on my bedside table, on but mute, and it never wakes me up (except when I ask Siri to do so).
  • I generally keep my phone muted and in my bag and my notifications off (also on my computer!)
  • I understand how FOMO and operant conditioning work, I’m aware of my need for validation and how I react to the infinity of choices in the world around me.
  • I stop working at the end of the day, and on week-ends, and I take holidays. Real holidays, not work-holidays.
  • I “switch off” a couple of times a year, taking a week or a few days off somewhere with no internet, where I don’t work and use my computer mainly for writing and having fun with my photos. This helps me remember what it is like to live more slowly, and makes me want to bring some of that back into my “normal” life.
  • I try and give priority of my attention to the people I’m with offline, without being religious about it. If I do need to attend to my phone or online stuff when in company, I try not to “disconnect” from the person I’m with offline.
  • I consider that I am the one in charge of my relationship with technology, and strive for a healthy balance between my ability to spend time totally immersed and connected and multitasking, and my ability to be completely (as completely as possible) present to the “offline”, be it a book, a person, an activity, or myself.
  • Like so many things in life, it’s about having healthy boundaries.

When I shared Loïc’s post on Facebook, he commented that we seemed to have similar points of interest these days. For some time, I’ve found what Loïc is writing about much more interesting to me. It’s more personal. Less about business, more about life. Life has always been the thing that interests me the most. My interest for the internet and social media comes from my interest in how people connect and relate to each other.

Interestingly, this is also the kind of stuff I’ve decided to shift my work focus to. Labelling myself as a “social media” person doesn’t fit with what I really do and want to do, specially in the Swiss context where “social media = digital marketing”, something I have very little interest in and want to stay the hell away of. So I’m moving towards “I help you use technology better”. Helping people have a healthy relationship with tech, use it to do their work or whatever it is they need to get done better. Some of social media fits in there too, of course. But also stuff like (yes, still in 2013), learning to use and manage email properly. (I’m actually preparing a training proposal for a client on just that these very days.)

So, how’s your relationship to technology? Who is in charge, you or the compulsion to check if there is something more exciting going on?

Note: I wrote this article in one sitting, getting up once to go to the loo (!) and checking my phone’s lock screen on the way back (it’s charging in another room) to see if I had a message from my neighbour, as we had been exchanging messages earlier and made a vague plan yesterday to maybe hang out together and look at cat photos this morning.

Similar Posts:

My Interest in Organisations and how Social Media Fits in [en]

[fr] Ce qui m'intéresse dans ces histoires d'organisations, et le lien avec les médias sociaux (du coup, aussi des infos sur mon intérêt pour ceux-ci).

I found these thoughts about organisations at the beginning of Here Comes Everybody fascinating: organisations and how they disfunction are a long-standing interest of mine, dating back to when I was a student with a part-time job at Orange. My initial interest was of course function rather than dysfunction. How does one make things happen in an organisation? What are the processes? Who knows what? It was the organisation as system that I found interesting.

Quickly, though, I bumped my head against things like processes that nobody knew of and nobody was following. Or processes that were so cumbersome that people took shortcuts. Already at the time, it seems I displayed a “user-oriented” streak, because my first impulse was to try to figure out what was so broken about those processes that people found it more costly to follow them than come up with workarounds. Or try to understand how we could tweak the processes so that they were usable. In reaction to which one manager answered “no, people must follow the processes”. I didn’t know it then, but I guess that was when I took my first step towards the door that would lead me out of the corporate world.

More recently, and I think I haven’t yet got around to blogging this, I have remembered that my initial very “cluetrainy” interest for the internet and blogging and social media really has to do with improving how people can relate to each other, access information, and communicate. The revelation I had at Lift’06 (yes, the very first Lift conference!) while listening to Robert Scoble and Hugh McLeod about how this blogging thing I loved so much was relevant to business was that it pushed business to change and humanised it. Blogging and corpepeak don’t mix well, blogging is about putting people in contact, and about listening to what is being said to you. As the Cluetrain Manifesto can be summarised: it’s about how the internet changes the way organisations interact with people, both outside and inside the organisation.

That is what rocks my boat. Not marketing on Facebook or earning revenue from your blog.

Again and again, when I talk to clients who are trying to understand what social media does and how to introduce it in their organisation, we realise that social media is the little piece of string you start pulling which unravels everything, from corporate culture to sometimes even the business model of the organisation. You cannot show the human faces of a company that treats its employees like robots. You cannot be “authentic” if you’re out there to screw people. You cannot say you’re listening if you’re not willing to actually listen.

Of course, there is the question of scale. I’ll get back to that. Personal doesn’t scale. Radical transparency or authenticity doesn’t scale. But your average organisation is so far off in the other direction…

I’ve realised that my interest lies more with organisations and forms of collaboration and group effort than with social media per se, which I see first and foremost as a tool, a means to an end, something which has changed our culture and society. I find ROWE and Agile super interesting and want to learn more about them. I have a long-standing interest in freelancing and people who “do things differently”. I’m interested in understanding how we can work and be happy, both. I’m also realising that I have more community management skills than I take credit for.

In the pile of books I brought up with me to the chalet, next to “Organisations Don’t Tweet, People Do” by my friend Euan Semple and books around freelancing there is “Delivering Happiness“, the story of Zappos, and “One From Many“, the story of VISA, the “chaordic organisation” — and “Rework” (37signals) has now joined the ranks of the “have read” books in my bookshelves.

Similar Posts:

LinkedIn Appreciation [en]

It’s no secret that I’m not a huge fan of LinkedIn. And recently, I’ve been thinking about why that is the case.

When LinkedIn started out, it was really not much more than a glorified online resumé. Facebook and Twitter and blogs were much more alive, and I pretty much wrote it off (specially when French speakers were discovering it and pronouncing it leenk-euh-deen).

Since then, LinkedIn has evolved tremendously. I’ve spent some time on it recently, and I have to say the user experience has improved tremendously, the news feed is alive, and I really like the new “skill endorsements” (as opposed to “recommendations”, which usually serve to show how good you are at getting others to write nice things about you, rather than properly reflect your professional value).

LinkedIn actually managed to make these skill endorsements fun and pretty addictive. Go to a connection’s profile (here’s mine ;-)) and endorse any skill. You’ll find yourself with a box such as the ones below at the top of the page when you scroll back up.

Screenshot%203/24/13%2016:59

Screenshot%203/24/13%2016:58

I think this works because:

  • You are asked a very simple question: “Does Kevin know about blogging?” — yeah of course he does. Endorse.
  • Don’t know? Just hit the little cross and the problematic case (!) is replaced with a new one which you may be able to answer more easily. You don’t get stuck.
  • There is an element of “intermittent rewards” here: clicking “endorse” is satisfying, and you never know if the next question you’re going to be asked will be easy to deal with or not.
  • The skills and people you are asked to endorse are “random”, so there is little pressure to endorse all the skills of a connection, or any skill — the system gives you plausible deniability (your contact or that specific skill you didn’t endorse can simply not have showed up)
  • You are asked to endorse only a small aspect of a person’s skillset, participating in some kind of crowdsourced recommendation. It’s much less “costly” socially than a proper recommendation (not to mention cognitively lighter by a few factors of ten).

Back to why I’ve shown little interest in LinkedIn so far: I think a lot of it has to do with my status as a freelancer who

  • works a bit on the fringe of big business
  • has a very strong online presence (blog, Twitter, and Facebook, mainly)
  • has very intertwined personal and professional lives.

One of the characteristics of LinkedIn is that it is “100% professional” (quotes because, as I responded to a student yesterday, I don’t believe we are ever 100% professional; we are whole human beings who behave differently in different settings, but it’s only a matter of time until a cat photo finds its way into LinkedIn).

The “professional network” brand is reassuring for those who like to keep business and personal separate, but for those like me who don’t, it’s kind of boring. Facebook is way more fun. People are on Facebook anyway to share their cat photos, and in between a status update and a funny video, there are plenty of opportunities to bring up business. It’s part of our lives, after all.

However, this means that there is a pretty different population on LinkedIn than on Facebook. Who is your audience? Who are the people you are trying to connect to or be noticed by? Go where they are.

And even for me, I have to say it’s nice to have a chance to discover more about the professional lives of those I hang out with on Facebook. But that brings us back to the online resumé, which in itself is a pretty important thing: it means that in the age of LinkedIn, we can all be on the job market without being in job hunting mode. Before, we would polish up our CV when we felt the wind turn. Now, our LinkedIn profile is part of our online identity.

If you want to share what usefulness LinkedIn has had (or has!) for you personally, I’m interested in hearing about it — specially (but not only) if you’re a freelancer.

Similar Posts:

Cockerel, Anybody? [en]

[fr] Plein de nouvelles!

So, what’s up?

I’m in the UK. I’m helping Aleika find a new home for one of her cockerels, Hercule Poirot. He’s a super-good-looking guy, and he takes his job with the hens very seriously.

Hercule Poirot Head Shots 4

Do you know anybody in the UK who has chickens (hens!) and would like a stunning rooster to look over them? Do let me know.

I have had a week of holiday planned here for months, and in between Safran’s death and Somak’s appointment as Professor of Physics at Presidency University, Kolkata (so… back to India for the three of them!), we decided I would be taking Quintus back with me.

Quintus in Birmingham 6

Do you know any good people in Calcutta/Kolkata? I’m particularly interested in getting in touch with

  • people who are into organic farming/gardening in the area
  • expats who have done the move from the UK sometime during the last three years or so (moving companies! shipping! organisation!)

For those who may not know, Bagha was also initially Aleika’s cat, and I adopted him when they moved from India to the UK, coming back home from India with him in my luggage. So, a little sense of déjà vu here 😉

On the work front, the OrangeCinema Official Bloggers project is underway. I spent a few days grading final reports for the course on social media and online communities I co-direct in Lausanne (some excellent, I have to say) and we’re preparing to welcome students for the third year of the course in September. I am looking for more writers for the ebookers.ch travel blog, and eclau is looking forward to everyone in Lausanne hearing more about coworking through the opening of a second space there, La Muse (which started out in Geneva). I will by the way be attending the Coworking Europe Conference 2012 in Paris (and probably speaking, will confirm in a couple of weeks). I have rekindled my enthusiasm for organising Bloggy Friday meetups (please do come to the next one, July 6th!) There’s more to say, but this is becoming a long paragraph 😉

What else should I tell you? I’m reading Drive, by Dan Pink, a fascinating book on motivation — and you should too, whether you’re interested in how your own motivation works, or in how to keep other people motivated (I’m thinking of taking a Sagmeister). I’ve started a group on Facebook for people in and around my area (and a bit further out) who like growing stuff on their balcony and elsewhere. I’m in the process of figuring out how to continue juggling judo, sailing, and singing (answer: be super organized). On the way to Birmingham, I stopped by for a day to stay with Steph and meet Emile The Cat.

Emile The Cat 1

I might not have told you, but Steph is my organisation inspiration (amongst many other things, which include being a very good friend!) and so I seized the occasion to face my calendar head-on and get a few holiday/travel dates sorted out. Short version: I don’t have a week-end available until June 2013 (don’t panic for me: it includes week-ends I have blocked out as “must stay at home and relax”).

I’ve also been realizing what a long way I’ve come regarding my organisational and time-management skills. Oh, I still fall in the pit every now and again, but a few discussions lately with people who seem to share the same core issues I have (had?) with time management, procrastination, perfectionism made me realize how far I have traveled.

I’m sure there was other stuff I wanted to say/blog about, but that’s the lovely thing about a blog, right? I can just write about it tomorrow, or the day after, or when I think of it. “Just.”

Similar Posts:

Hanging out Online: Why it's Important for me [en]

[fr] Aux abonnés absents: le temps passé à trainer en ligne sans but précis. La faute à trop de travail, peut-être, à trop de structure dans mon travail, et à une fuite de l'ordinateur lorsque je cherche à me détendre. Il y a un équilibre à retrouver -- parce que trainer en ligne, c'est quand même fun, et c'est ce qui m'a amené à faire le métier que je fais!

One thing I realized shortly after writing my article on downtime is that I have stopped “hanging out online”. And I think that “downtime” activity plays a more important role in my life balance than I’d realized until now.

I think two or three things led to this.

First, I’ve had lots of work this spring (nothing new, but I like to keep repeating it). I managed to preserve most of my “off the computer” downtime, and I realize now that what I sacrificed was the aimless tinkering-chatting-reading-writing-hanging-out online.

More importantly, I started using Paymo in April to give myself an idea of how much time I’ve been spending on what — and how many hours of actual work I was doing. It’s been really useful and has helped me gather precious info on my work, but it has had a side effect: I have started thinking more about what I spend my time on, and being more “monotask” in the way I work.

When I know I have the timer running on preparing my SAWI course, for example, or working on LeWeb blogger accreditations, I don’t feel free to drift off into something else, or read an article or check out Tumblr while I’m working. This is kind of twisted, because the only person who cares how much time I spend on something in this case is me.

So, I’ve changed the way I work, and I’m not sure it’s entirely a good thing. I think I’ve lost my balance.

Using the Pomodoro Technique has made it “worse”. I mean, it has accentuated this trend. It’s been really good for my productivity, it’s been really good to help me be less stressed, and it’s been really good to help me beat my procrastinative tendancies. But I think it hasn’t been good for my overall satisfaction about my work. Something is missing — that’s what I’ve been telling people all these last months. Everything is fine with my work, I have enough of it (more than enough!), it’s interesting, but something is not quite right.

And I think that part of this “not quite right” is that I’ve become too focused on just getting the “work work” done (the one that pays), and I’ve neglected the fun part of work, which is my interest for the online world and the people who inhabit it. I also suspect this can have something to do with my lack of blogging — there hasn’t been much to feed that part of me recently.

So, maybe I have to come back in part to how I was working before. Find a balance. This is not a new preoccupation of mine: for a few years now I’ve been lamenting the fact that I’m not managing to set aside enough time to tinker online, write, do research. But I think it’s become more extreme since I started focusing more exclusively on my client work.

Maybe what I need to do is do tomatoes in the morning, and work more “loosely” in the afternoon (or the opposite). Tinker, get stuff done, write, whatever I feel like doing (including dealing with emergencies or “too much work” if I feel the daily rythm of morning tomatoes isn’t cutting it). Maybe I need to have “tomato days” and “non-tomato days”. Maybe I need to watch less TV (haha!) in the evening and spend more time hanging out online on Google+. Maybe I need to find a way to allow myself to multitask more (!) when I’m working. I’m not sure what the answer is yet.

What hanging out online does for me is the following, as far as I can make out:

  • gives my brain time to wander around (cf. Downtime post)
  • allows me to keep in touch with what’s going on in the social media world, and the people who are part of it
  • gives me food for thought a something to do with those thoughts (if all I do is work and consume fiction, chances are I won’t have much to blog about, right?)
  • it’s a space to tinker with tech and new toys (something I like doing per se)

And more importantly (this is something I think I’ve already written about somewhere regarding blogging and its relation to my work), “online” is a space I enjoy. I like being there. It’s part of the reason I made my job about it. So, just as it is a warning light if my job prevents me from blogging, it’s a warning light if the way I organize my work life prevents me from hanging out online.

Now, as I’ve already said: it’s all a question of balance. Spending my whole life tinkering online and working does not work either.

But these last months (and maybe years), the balance has been off. And right now, I think I’m starting to get unstuck, and am on my way to finding (building?) more balance.

Similar Posts: