Writing: Desired Distraction [en]

[fr] Quand j'écris, j'ai besoin de m'interrompre, écrire un bout, repartir, revenir... De temps en temps je suis "avalée" par le processus d'écriture pendant un bon bout de temps, mais la plupart du temps le processus est bien plus fragmenté. Dès que les mots cessent de couler de mon clavier, je file vite quelques minutes faire autre chose. Je pense que mon cerveau travaille en tâche de fond pour préparer ce que je vais dire ensuite.

A topic I’m very sensitive to is multi-tasking. I stand somewhere in between the multitasking fanatics and those who point to it as the worst evil computers have brought us.

I’m very much aware of the benefits of the flow state, and how interruptions (what multitasking is all about) jerk you out of it. I’m convinced, though, that smooth and steady multitasking can in itself be an activity which can bring about a flow state (guess this would have to be demonstrated).

There are a certain number of things I have done to decrease interruptions in my daily activities: turn off e-mail (and other) notifications to almost nothing, put GMail in a different application than my browser, for example.

One activity during which I realised that I actively multitasked is when I’m writing. I write a bit, chat a bit, write a bit, fool around on the web a bit, write a bit, e-mail a bit… Every now and again I get sucked up and write-write-write, diving deep into it and coming out an hour later, but most of the time my writing process is more fragmented.

I realized that my brain needs the “off-time” between spurts of writing. Probably while I’m chatting or looking at my e-mail, my brain is preparing what I’ll write next in the background. When the words stop flowing to my fingers, I don’t stop and think hard to try to figure out what to say. I head out and come back a few minutes later. Sometimes I do this two or three times before I actually start writing again.

Basically, being distracted (or distracting myself) helps me write.

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I'm Going to Write an eBook [en]

For some time now, I’ve been toying with the idea of writing an eBook (well, more precisely, of starting to write eBooks in general). Now that my life is un-hectic and a little under control (fingers crossed, let’s make it last) I’ve decided to get to work on this project.

First, obviously, I need something to write about. My general problem rears its ugly head again here: I’m not sure what to choose (too much choice often turns into “no ideas”).

I’ve used the poll below to jot down some ideas that I could imagine writing a short eBook about.

– My survival guide to starting to blog
– Utiliser WordPress.com pour créer son site très simplement
– Freelancing: lessons learned
– Some advice for first-time conference organisers
– De l’usage sage de Facebook
– Adolescents sur internet: des chiffres, quelques principes, pas de panique!
– My life improvement tricks
– …

I’m open to other ideas, of course, but please use the poll below to let me know what you think would be the best pick? What would you want to read? What would you share with your friends? What seems most useful?

Thanks a lot for your participation and help!

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50 Words [en]

[fr] Ce soir, j'ai eu pas moins de 13 idées d'histoires courtes (50 mots). J'en ai écrites 5 dans le train en rentrant, et 8 attendent d'être développées. Du coup, j'ai décidé de les reposter ici, au lieu de squatter les commentaires de Vince systématiquement. Va aussi falloir que je m'y mette en français, pardi!

Tonight was almost magical. On the train home, I wrote no less than five 50 word short stories. Then on the way home from the station (bus and walking), thought up starting-points for eight more.

I started out feeling a little shy about posting them here, so have been parasiting Vince’s comments in the post above. I feel like I want to have these stories here, too, so I’m going to be back-posting them to CTTS. I’ll use the tag “50words” to keep track of them, so you can see them all on one page by clicking on that link.

One thing I understood tonight is that I don’t have to feel capable of writing a novel based on the idea I develop in 50 words. I can make up a 50 word story about a serial killer, even if I know I wouldn’t have the beginning of a clue how to portray one.

It’s liberating.

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Writing Stories [en]

[fr] Depuis toujours, j'ai envie d'écrire des romans, mais je me sens fondamentalement incapable d'inventer des histoires. Je sais raconter une histoire (enfin, de façon relativement compétente, je pense), mais si mon cerveau fonctionne en surchauffe pour produire des idées d'article ou des pensées à développer dans mon blog, il reste désespérément muet pour ce qui est de la construction de scénario.

Après quelques conversations avec Suw et son ami Vince, qui en est à son cinquième roman, j'ai décidé qu'il était temps de prendre sérieusement cette envie qui me hante (oooh... ohhh...) depuis belle lurette. L'imagination et la créativité, ça s'exerce. Je vais exercer mon cerveau à inventer des histoires.

Had some interesting conversation these last two days here in Leeds with Suw and Vince about writing fiction. Vince actually writes fiction, Suw has quite a bit at some point, and I’ve always wanted to.

I write loads and always have (mainly on and around this blog during the last years), but it’s mainly essay-ish or fact, like the many pages of my journal of the year I lived in India. What little fiction I have written, mainly in my school years (some of which you can find in the writing section) is mainly scenes, atmospheres, small episodes. No stories, really.

I’ve always wanted to write stories, but always felt myself fundamentally incapable of doing so. I remember two attempts to write meaningful fiction in my early years. First, I must have been nine or ten, and I had received a nice thick notebook. I decided I was going to write a story in it, but it fell flat after one line. Second, I was a teenager, and I spent a good part of some winter holidays diving into the creation of a science fiction novel. I think the impulse came after reading a C. J. Cherryh book. I had a main character, a bit of a world, but no story. I just started writing, and about 12 pages later it was going nowhere and my interest fizzled out. I still have what I wrote in a folder — it was called “Aurora”.

My head is always bubbling with ideas of things to blog. Stuff to comment upon, ideas about the world, life, or tools that I want to talk about. But my head is completely void of stories. It’s as if the storytelling part of my imagination was broken, or so still it couldn’t move. Well, I can tell a story if I know what the story I have to tell is (so, based on fact) but I can’t come up with one. At least, I don’t come up with stories naturally.

What the conversation with Suw and Vince made me understand was that I could excercise that skill. I can train my mind to think up stories. I just need to do it explicitly at first. I need to try to think of stories.

Vince told me to think up an ending before getting started, and I think that’s a good point. A good novel can be killed by a lousy ending, and a medium story can be redeemed by a good ending. And I remember, in school, when we started creative writing, our teacher mentioned that it was often really hard for us to come up with good endings, and that she recommended we do not try and write stories with ends, and stick to vignettes or scenes. I think it was good advice at the time, but now I’m not 12 anymore. I’ve grown up and am probably capable of thinking up endings to stories 🙂

So, yesterday, as we were driving Steph and Virginie to the airport, I found myself daydreaming and trying to come up with stories. Interestingly, what I came up with was mainly “world ideas”. Minor changes one could make to our world and which would create an interesting setting for a story.

But no stories yet. I’m going to keep working on it.

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Back Online [en]

[fr] Journal. Retour en ligne.

Maybe I’ll get back in the groove of writing at the end of each day. For years, actually, I wrote journals (paper and pen when I was a teenager, then on the computer when I was older). Not these last years, though.

So, since my last message (blog post, actually — funny for me to find myself suddenly having a spurt of journal-like blogging) I checked my e-mail, blog comments, twitter, friendfeed, etc. E-mail contained a few sources of stress (ie, “bad news”) which I’m still not sure what to do about. I noticed that as I was going down to the see the movie (X-Files première!) I was preoccupied. My mind was back on the “worry, solve problems” track.

Back from the movie, I went online again, and chatted a bit with an old friend who happened to be online and want my advice.

Writing offline is different from writing online. Online, I’m in the network, I have access to everything. Offline, I’m alone. Just like when I was a teacher, every now and again I would go and prepare classes or grade tests in my empty classroom rather than the staff room. I like talking, and honestly, given the choice between just about anything and having a chat, I’ll have a chat. So, I guess it’s normal that every now and again I need to isolate myself to do certain things. Nothing bad about that.

Time to sleep now. And try to wake up in my “holiday” mood, even though I have a day of work ahead of me.

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I Need to Blog More [en]

It’s been nagging at the back of my mind. Since before Going Solo Lausanne, actually — when I got so absorbed with the conference preparation that CTTS hardly saw 6 posts over the space of 4 weeks.

I need to blog more.

It became clear this morning, as a chat with [Suw](http://strange.corante.com/) led to a [long blog post in French](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/07/20/reflexions-freelance/) that I’d been putting off for… weeks, to be generous.

This isn’t the first time (by far) in my blogging career that I’ve been through a “dry” patch, and then one day realised that I had to get into the groove again. Life is cyclic. It’s not a stable line or curve that heads up and up or, God forbid, down and down. It’s ups and downs. Some days are better than others, some weeks are better than others. It’s the low moments in life that also make you enjoy the high ones (though I wouldn’t want you to think I’m advocating heading for “lows” just so you might have post-low “highs” — lows are just part of the colour of life, like the highs).

Some people have higher highs than others, and lower lows. Some people have more highs, some have more lows. We’re not equal — and in the matter of happiness in particular, I remember Alexander Kjerulf saying at Reboot last year that roughly 50% of our “happiness potential” is genetically determined.

So, pardon me the digression on the highs and lows, a topic that’s been on my mind a lot lately due to my own ups and [downs](http://www.bcwomens.ca/Services/HealthServices/ReproductiveMentalHealth/MentalHealth/PMSPMDD.htm). Back to blogging.

With the [supposed return of the tired “blogging is dead” meme](http://www.gapingvoid.com/Moveable_Type/archives/004603.html), which we long-time bloggers have seen poking its silly head up every year or two, oh, “blogging is so yesterday”, I once again sit down and wonder at what’s kept me going for over [eight years](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/07/13/eighth-blogversary/) now.

I know part of the answer: I’ve never been in the arms race — or at least, never very long. Arms race to first post, arms race to breaking news, arms race to most comments, arms race to more visitors, more visitors, yes, ad revenue, monetize, recognize. Oh, I want my share of recognition and limelight — I won’t pretend I’m above all that — and there are times when I feel a bit bitter when I feel I’m not getting as much attention as others who have louder mouths but not necessarily better things to say. What can I say: I’m only human, and I think one constant you’ll find amongst bloggers is that each in our own way, we’re all after some form or other of recognition. Some more badly than others, yes.

So, I need to blog more.

One of the things blogging did for me, many years ago, was put me in touch with other people who shared similar interests to mine. That is one thing blogging does well, and that it always will do.

It also provided a space for me to express myself in writing — forgive me for stating the obvious. I’ve always written, always had things to write, and blogging for me was a chance to really dive into it (actually, before that — this website existed before I signed up for a Blogger.com account many years ago).

Writing helps me think. Even though it may sound a bit lame to say so, it’s something I do that feels meaningful to me. It’s not something that puts money in the bank account (one of my important and ongoing preoccupations these days, to be honest), but it’s something that connects me to myself and to others.

Organising a conference as a one-woman endeavour can feel extremely isolating, even with a large network of advisors and supporters. But more than that, I’ve been a freelancer for two whole years now: working from home most of the time, travelling a lot, getting more and more involved in personal and professional relationships outside my hometown, and often in completely different timezones.

I don’t really have any colleagues I see regularly anymore. My client relationships are usually short-lived, given the nature of my work (lots of speaking engagements). I haven’t really had any clients in the last year that I saw regularly enough to build some kind of meaningful relationship with.

It’s not without a reason that I’ve become increasingly interested in [coworking](http://blog.coworking.info/), to the extent that I’m now working at setting up a space in the very building I’m living in (quite a coincidence actually, but a nice one for me, given I like typing away with [my cat](http://flickr.com/photos/bunny/collections/72157600210295068/) purring next to me).

What does this have to do with blogging more?

My feeling of isolation isn’t only offline. It’s online too. It feels that I’ve been spending so much time “working” (ie, preparing conferences or worrying about how to earn some money) that I’ve taken a back seat in my online presence. It’s time I started driving again.

I don’t mean that in the sense “agressively fight for a place in front of the scene”. I’ve never been an A-lister and probably never will be. I just want to go back to writing more about stuff I find interesting. Hopefully, not only long rambling soul-searching posts like this one 😉

Twitter, FriendFeed, Tumblr, Feedly, Facebook and Seesmic are changing my life online. I haven’t finished figuring out in what way. But what I know is that my online ecosystem, particularly around my blog, is not what it was three years ago. I am in no way rejecting these “newer” tools in my life, but I do feel at times like I’ve been neglecting my first love.

My blog is also where I give. Over the course of my blogging career, I’ve writen posts which are still helpful or inspiring to those who read them, years after. The more you give, the more you get. Well, maye one reason I feel things are drying up a bit around me is that I’ve stopped giving as much as I used to. Oh, I know it’s not magical. I don’t believe in “balance of the universe” or anything. I do believe in human relationships and psychology, though. If you care about other people, there are more chances that they’ll care about you. That’s what makes us social animals.

Part of it, over the last years, has been the challenge of transitioning from passionate hobbyist to professional. Suddenly my online world/activities are not just where I give freely, but also where I try to earn a living. Such a transition is not easy. And I haven’t found any handbooks lying around.

I’m going to stop here, because I think that this post has already reached the limits of what even a faithful reader of friend can be expected to be subjected to without complaining.

To sum it up: for a variety of reasons I’ve tried to explore in this post, I want to blog more than I have these past months. I think it’ll make me feel better. Blogging is something I enjoy, and if the way I’m doing things doesn’t leave me time for that, then something is wrong with the way I’m doing things. I became a freelancer in this industry because I was passionate about blogging and all the “online stuff” hovering around it — and wanted to do more of it. Not less.

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Interesting [en]

[fr] Avez-vous aussi remarqué que plus on attend après avoir écrit son dernier billet sur un blog donné, plus il est difficile d'écrire ce fameux "billet après la pause"?

Have you also noticed that the longer you go without writing a blog post on a particular blog, the harder it is to write that first post “after the break”?

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November 2007 Recap [en]

[fr] Un résumé des divers billets que j'ai écrits en novembre 2007. Je sens que je devrais faire une version française complète de cet article... mais honnêtement, pas le courage de m'y remettre juste là!

A few days ago, I had an idea: why don’t I write a “recap” post of what I wrote during the month? Sometimes I go on writing binges and it gets a bit hard to follow, so maybe this will help. *Note that some of the links here point to older posts, I’m not being 100% strict about “November” — but everything is indeed related to that month.*

So, what was the deal for [November 2007](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/)? Looking back, it was a busy month. Mainly conferences, as I travelled to Berlin for Web2.0Expo, Serbia for BlogOpen, and Paris for ParisWeb in the space of two weeks, giving a talk each time — and [a fourth in Zurich](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/26/blogging-in-internal-communications/) when I got back. I also decided and announced that I was [starting a company](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/13/im-starting-a-company/), and [moved CTTS](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/28/server-move/) back to my server, [upgrading WordPress](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/29/upgrade-shmupgrade/) while I was at it.

### Talks and Conferences

#### Berlin, [Web2.0Expo](http://berlin.web2expo.com/)

Although I did [live-blog](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/08/01/on-liveblogging/) quite a few of the sessions that I attended, I didn’t write a “summary” post like I did for [FoWA](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/10/05/my-notes-of-fowa-autumn-2007/) or [WordCamp](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/07/22/a-day-at-wordcamp-2007/) earlier this year — heading off for Serbia and Paris right after, **and** being sick, I guess, didn’t exactly make for ideal conditions to be a model blogger. So, here’s a list of the sessions I blogged about:

– [Kathy Sierra: Creating Passionate Users Workshop](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/05/kathy-sierra-creating-passionate-users-web20expo-berlin/), and also [her Keynote](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/06/kathy-sierra-keynote-web20expo-berlin/) the next day (I got personal thanks from her for these notes, and many people seemed to appreciate them)
– [Jeremy Keith: The Beauty in Standards and Accessibility](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/06/jeremy-keith-the-beauty-in-standards-and-accessibility-web20expo-berlin/) (I really enjoyed his talk)
– [Jesse James Garrett: Delivering Rich Experiences](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/07/jesse-james-garrett-delivering-rich-experiences-web-20-expo-berlin/) (only got the end of the talk, unfortunately)
– [Ankur Shah & Gi Fernando: (Facebook API) Disrupting the Platform](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/07/ankur-shah-gi-fernando-facebook-api-disrupting-the-platform-web-20-expo-berlin/)
– [Lars Trieloff: i18n for Web 2.0](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/07/lars-trieloff-i18n-for-web-20-web-20-expo-berlin/)
– [Cory Doctorow: Europe’s Copyright Wars – Do We Have to Repeat the American Mistake?](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/08/cory-doctorow-copyright-wars/)

My [talk proposal](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/08/09/another-multilingual-talk-proposal-web-20-expo-berlin/) didn’t make it, but I had a chance to give [“Waiting for the Babel Fish” at Web2Open](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/05/reminder-speaking-tuesday-at-web2open-berlin/), the parallel unconference running during Web2.0Expo, in the Expo area. Somebody filmed a part of it, but unfortunately it never made it to me. It was fun, though — starting out with three people, and finishing with about 20 (the room was clearly hard to find, I myself got quite lost on the way).

I took [photos of the conference (and a few of Berlin)](http://flickr.com/photos/bunny/sets/72157602926000696/), of course.

#### Novi Sad (Serbia), [BlogOpen](http://blogopen.eu/)

I was [invited to Novi Sad in Serbia](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/12/blogopen-in-novi-sad-serbia/) to give a talk about [my experience as a blogging consultant](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/12/being-a-blogging-consultant/). I had a great time giving the talk (and before that, taking [silly facial expression photos](http://flickr.com/photos/bunny/sets/72157603111529724/) to illustrate my slides) and was taken good care of by [Sanja](http://auroraborealis.blog381.com/), who volunteered to act as my host during my stay.

Unfortunately I fell ill there (food poisoning), but did have time to go out and catch [some photos of Novi Sad](http://flickr.com/photos/bunny/sets/72157603111523044/), in addition of [those of the conference](http://flickr.com/photos/bunny/sets/72157603145532635/).

My talk got [quite a lot of coverage](http://del.icio.us/steph/coverage%2Bblogopentalk) (in Serbian!), including [two short video snippets](http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=blogopen+stephanie+booth&search=Search) (thanks again!).

My departure from Berlin had been quite hectic (wrong airport!) and I was provided with the most scary landing experience in my life, courtesy of JAT airways, when we arrived in Belgrade. Leaving through Belgrade airport to go to Paris was not exactly a fun experience, either. I tell it all in [Berlin, Belgrade: Two Contrasting Airport Experiences](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/14/berlin-belgrade-two-contrasting-airport-experiences/).

#### Paris, [ParisWeb](http://2007.paris-web.fr/)

It was nice to be in Paris, see my friend [Steph](http://unadorned.org/dandruff/) again after many years, and meet all the fine people behind ParisWeb and the francophone web standards movement — some of whom I’ve known online for years through their involvement in [Pompage.net](http://pompage.net), a [web standards-oriented translation magazine I founded](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2001/03/21/faire-part/) way back in 2001.

I was pretty ill though and just wanted to go home — no live-blogging, and not many photos. More than half of the photos in my [ParisWeb set](http://flickr.com/photos/bunny/sets/72157603546219446/) were kindly taken by [Fabien](http://arkhi.org/blog/) while I was pretending to be a window for [Chris Heilmann’s demonstration of Javascript event listeners](http://www.wait-till-i.com/2007/11/18/minified-metro-sticky-event-handling-and-and-great-new-encounters-that-was-parisweb-2007/) ((http://www.dailymotion.com/ennui/video/x3irwh_chris-heilmanns-javascript-workshop_fun)). You should definitely check out [Fabien’s photos](http://www.23hq.com/an.archi/paris%20web%202007) rather than mine if you want some visuals from the conference.

A video of the talk I gave should be available in a few weeks.

#### Zurich, ASCI

After the success of my talk [How Blogging Brings Dialogue to Corporate Communications](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/09/24/how-blogging-brings-dialogue-to-corporate-communications/) in September, I was invited to Zurich again to give a similar talk focused on internal communications: [Blogging in Internal Communications](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/26/blogging-in-internal-communications/).

### Starting a Company

November was a busy month not only because of all the speaking and the travelling, but also because I took the decision to become a full-fledged business woman and create my own company. I [announced this](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/13/im-starting-a-company/) and also blogged some of my first musings as an entrepreneur: [Competition, Colleagues, or Partners?](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/19/competition-colleagues-or-partners/). Way more about this in December or under the [Going Solo tag](http://climbtothestars.org/tags/going-solo/).

### Geeky and Other Stuff

I didn’t just blog about conferences and business stuff. As I mentioned, I also [changed servers](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/28/server-move/) and [upgraded WordPress](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/29/upgrade-shmupgrade/) on this blog, leading to [an update of my Basic Bilingual plugin](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/30/basic-bilingual-03-for-multilingual-blogging/) (update which was actually [broken, but has since then been fixed](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/12/18/nasty-problem-with-basic-bilingual-plugin/) — please upgrade if you haven’t), and some [tortured thoughts about cleaning up categories on CTTS](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/30/tags-and-categories-oh-my/) (I still haven’t done anything about this).

I also [tried creating a Netvibes widget](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/17/netvibes-widget-of-my-shared-items/) (a rather disappointing experience, in hindsight, though it was some fun geeking out).

Last but not least, I [created a focus page on experiential marketing](http://climbtothestars.org/focus/experiential-marketing/) after a [quick round-up of Stowe Boyd’s writings on the topic](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/20/stowe-boyd-on-experiential-marketing/). (I’ve done some more thinking since then and need to update the page, by the way).

### Selection

If you were to read only three posts?

– [Kathy Sierra: Creating Passionate Users (Web2.0Expo, Berlin)](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/05/kathy-sierra-creating-passionate-users-web20expo-berlin/)
– [Being a Blogging Consultant](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/12/being-a-blogging-consultant/)
– [Experiential Marketing](http://climbtothestars.org/focus/experiential-marketing/)

Five? Add these two:

– [Blogging in Internal Communications](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/26/blogging-in-internal-communications/)
– [I’m Starting a Company](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/13/im-starting-a-company/)

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First Draft of Book Presentation [en]

[fr] Un premier jet de ce que pourrait être une présentation de mon projet de livre, en anglais.

*// Here’s a first draft of what a short presentation of [my book project](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/10/08/a-book-on-teenagers-and-the-internet/) would be. Comments and nitpicking welcome. Is this convincing? Does it sound solid?*

#### A Book About Teenagers and the Internet

Teenagers are very active internet users. Parents and educators, however, less so. There is often quite a bit of confusion over what teenagers are doing online and how risky their online occupations are. Attitudes range from complete lack of interest (probably fuelled by fear of technological incompetence) to outright panic (particularly about sexual predators, with complicity of the media).

Adults who are not particularly internet-savvy (and even those who are familiar with it) need a sane guide to precisely what all this “online stuff” is about. What is beneficial? What is harmless? Where are the real dangers? How does being “totally wired” (in Anastasia Goodstein’s terms) influence relationships and social life?

This book will be is a guide to understanding today’s online world, aimed at parents, teachers, and educators. It will helps them make informed educational decisions about teenagers’ use of the internet. The focus will be is on de-dramatizing a lot of the “risks” the mainstream media have been very vocal about (sexual predators, for instance) and on promoting a deep understanding of how online and offline are integrated in teens’ lives. This brings about new issues with are maybe not dramatic, but which can be challenging for our youth, and which they should not have to face without the support of the adults they love or trust in their lives.

Part “tourist guide to the online world”, part essay, this book should be is a precious ally for those living or working with teenagers, and who sometimes feel at loss with what the internet is all about;, as well as contributing it also contributes to a more general understanding of how the internet is changing our lives.

#### About the Author

Stephanie Booth has been a very active and respected online citizen for close to ten years. After graduating in arts (Indian religions and culture, philosophy, French), she worked first as a project manager and then as a middle-school teacher. She left teaching in 2006 to devote herself exclusively to helping others understand internet culture and technology, and make good use of it.

An important part of her work has been giving lectures in French-speaking Switzerland about “the living internet” (blogging, instant messaging…) to teenagers, parents, and schoolteachers. Her extensive personal experience of “internet life” married to a strong academic background and her ability to explain tricky concepts to a variety of audiences in a down-to-earth and convincing fashion have led her to be recognized by both the media and school authorities as an expert on “teenagers and internet” issues.

She has been writing regularly on her blog Climb to the Stars for over seven years, both in English and in French. A lot of her thinking about the internet can be found there.

#### Contents

– Kids online, parents offline: why is it a problem?
– How teenagers use the internet: it’s a town, not a library
– Where can it go wrong?
– Core online publication issues: anonymity, permanence, findability
– How afraid should we be of sexual predators?
– How online communication affects relationships
– What can parents do?
– The bigger picture: media education

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FOWA: Copy is Interface (Erika Hall) [en]

[fr] Notes prises à l'occasion de la conférence Future of Web Apps (FOWA) à Londres.

*Here are my live notes of this [Future of Web Apps (FOWA)](http://www.futureofwebapps.com/) session. They are probably incomplete and may contain mistakes, though I do my best to be accurate. Chances are I’ll be adding links to extra material and photos later on, so don’t hesitate to come back and check. [Read Suw’s notes, too.](http://strange.corante.com/archives/2007/10/04/fowa07b_erika_hall.php)*

FOWA 2007 131

Words are the most important components of your user interface.

Caveat: interface language found in the wild… American. So, not talking about internationalisation, different versions of languages, cultural issues…

Exciting interfaces: gesture thing Tom Cruise is using, Wii, iPhone… But not yet for data/information stuff.

You don’t know how people are going to access your application. Nabaztag. Applications people love today are made from text. Even interacting with our TV with a text-based interface.

Language is an interface.

Dopplr philosophy. Device independant. User benefits by having direct access to information. In our everyday life, our priority isn’t shiny stuff, but things that work. *steph-note: interpreting somewhat, here.*

How will the application developer benefit?

Though it takes a lot of skill to use language well, it’s easy to iterate. People will freak out when you change the colours of your site, but won’t budge much if you change language.

5 ways to get words right:

– **be authentic**; [consumating](http://consumating.com) vs. [eharmony](http://eharmony.com) (Erika’s pet peeve: the “submit” button. If you change one piece of copy, change that. People don’t “submit” anything.) Twitter has good “we’re down” messages. Sounds like there are real people behind that application. *steph-note: when putting a quote on a slide, read the quote in full.*
– **be engaging**; schoolofeverything.com, virgin-atlantic.com (“Hello gorgeous!”) Citybank: “Who was your arch rival when you were growing up?” as proposed security question. Pownce genders.
– **be specific** with the language you use. emusic.com
– **be appropriate**: it would be disconcerning if my bank tried to be my buddy. Amazon: “where’s my stuff?” Flickr “Talk Like a Pirate” day. But… some people were afraid the site had been hacked!
– **be polite**: rude doesn’t get much forgiveness. Feedburner: “Activate Feed” and “Cancel and do not activate”, including type size to help you do what you want to do. subtraction.com: “remarks”. particletree.com adding “Everyone needs a hug” as default text in their comment box, when they were dealing with terrible flame wars.

Things that have gone wrong:

8 kinds of bad:

– **vague**: basecamp, “file *should* be under 10Mb”; Apple: “some warnings occured. would you like to review them?”; Bank: “expand your relationship” (creepy!) Ask real people how they would call this thing they want to do.
– **passive**
– **too clever/cute**; “Murder your darlings.” Be ready to kill your pet phrases.
– **don’t be rude** or stupid unhelpful.
– **oblivious to your surroundings**: CNN — “*Don’t miss*: Bodies trapped in wreckage.”
– **inconsistent**: the whole “my/your” inconsistency. Read your interface aloud to see if it sounds dumb.
– **don’t be presumptuous**

You will still need designers. We’re sociable and entertaining, shouldn’t lose those skills when developing our application. Language isn’t going away. It will pay to pay a lot of attention to it.

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