Tag Archives: Books

Three Good Things

[fr] Un truc que je fais pour cultiver mon optimisme (une chose qui contribue à rendre heureux, nous dit la recherche sur le bonheur): prendre quelques minutes le soir pour noter "trois bonnes choses" de la journée. Ça peut être des choses qui se sont bien passées, des choses que j'ai appréciées, des choses que j'ai faites ou qui simplement sont -- c'est égal. Juste l'occasion de braquer la torche sur des choses positives. Même dans une période extrêmement sombre, il y a du bon à trouver.

Cet exercice aide à se "brancher" sur un mode plus optimiste. En général, au bout de 2-3 jours je me sens déjà mieux! J'utilise Path pour faire ça, une application que j'adore parce qu'elle est faite pour partager avec ses proches, un petit nombre de personnes.

Traductions françaises des livres auxquels je fais référence -- ils sont tous bien, ne vous fiez pas aux titres un peu bof: Comment être heureux et le rester, La force de l'optimisme, L'intelligence émotionnelle. Bonne lecture!

Here’s something I do regularly that really quickly improves my mood — within a few days: take a moment each evening to make a note of “three good things” for the day. Things that went well. Positive things. Even in the shittiest times, you can find three things to look at positively.

I started doing it after reading The How of Happiness. One of the intentional activities that has been shown to make people happier is practicing optimism. Some time before, I head read Learned Optimism, which really changed the way I viewed the inner workings of my psyche. I had not realized that optimism was something you could train yourself into. And reasonably easily.

Making note of three good things during the day past is a way of tuning your brain into a “positive” mode. Positive attracts positive, negative attracts negative (that’s one thing I learned over a decade ago reading Emotional Intelligence: why it may make sense in certain gloomy times to just go watch a funny movie and laugh to “switch gears”).

You know when you start to spiral downwards, making a mental list of all the things that are going wrong today/in your life/this year? Well, you can do the same thing to go upwards. And all it may take is a few mindful minutes of your time to shine the light on good things.

I use Path for this. I love Path, though I’m connected to precious few people on it — scratch that, because I’m connected to few people. A dozen, maybe fifteen at the most. My good things are kind of private, not really blog or facebook material. Path works really well for this. And I have two-three Path friends who have started doing “three good things” too — I love reading those postings.

I usually do “three good things” for a while, then forget or drop off the wagon, and if I start feeling down or discouraged, I remember to get started again. And as I said, within a few days I’ve usually perked up.

This is one of the things I love about growing older: knowing yourself so much better. Fifteen or twenty years ago it would have taken me months to crawl out of what is now a slight dip that lasts a few days, a week at the most.

Have you tried this? Do you do anything similar?

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Posted in Personal, Psychology | Tagged Books, exercise, happiness, optimism, path, positive psychology, reading, three good things | 2 Comments

Books Read in 2011

[fr] La liste des livres que j'ai lus en 2011 (entre crochets... pas encore finis!)

Last year, I stumbled upon a blog which had a list of a books the blogger had read over the last year. I cannot for the life of me remember who it is. I do remember, though, that I asked him how he did it. He told me he kept a running list in which he added each new book he started, between brackets — and removed the brackets when he’d finished reading the book. Or so I remember, and so I did.

Some books have comments after them, in brackets too. Almost all the “started” books are still “ongoing” — as you can see, I’m somebody who has many many books going at once. It can take me over a year to get through certain books. But I rarely abandon them mid-way forever, though I’m starting to do that now with certain books I find disappointing. This list is somewhat chronological.

  • Apprendre à vivre, Luc Ferry [life-changing]
  • Illium, Dan Simmons
  • Olympos, Dan Simmons
  • Elephants on Acid, Alex Boese
  • Les Miscellanées du chat (*partial)
  • Does Anything Eat Wasps?, ed. Mick O’Hare
  • Madhouse, ed. Urmilla Deshpande, Bakul Desai
  • Je croyais qu’il suffisait de t’aimer, Jacques Salomé
  • Tales From Firozsha Baag, Rohinton Mistry
  • Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert
  • What You Can Change… and What You Can’t, Martin Seligman
  • The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom
  • Simon’s Cat, Simon Tofield
  • Zima Blue, Alastair Reynolds
  • [Mediocre But Arrogant, Abhijit Bhadhuri]
  • The Dip, Seth Godin [disappointing]
  • Eat That Frog!, Brian Tracy [disappointing]
  • Learned Optimism, Martin Seligman [life-changing]
  • The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch
  • [The Power of Slow] [disappointing]
  • Indian Take-Away, Hardeep Singh Kohli [funny]
  • [The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson]
  • [Simon's Cat beyond the fence, Simon Tofield]
  • L’intimité au travail, Stefana Broadbent
  • How We Decide, Jonah Lehrer
  • [Confessions of a Public Speaker, Scott Berkun]
  • [Influence (the psychology of persuasion), Robert B. Cialdini]
  • Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
  • Three-Legged Friends (and other animals in a vet’s life), Caitlin Barber
  • The Wild Life of the Domestic Cat, Roger Tabor
  • [The Moral Animal, Robert Wright]
  • [La société émergente du XXIe siècle, Michel Cartier & Jon Husband]
  • [Facebook, Twitter et les autres…, Christine Balagué & David Fayon] [disappointing, too basic]
  • Argleton, Suw Charman
  • Simon’s Cat in Kitten Chaos, Simon Tofield
  • Rama II, Arthur C. Clarke
  • Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts [epic]
  • Clicker Training for Cats, Karen Pryor
  • Terminal World, Alastair Reynolds
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger
  • [The Long Tail, Chris Anderson]
  • Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman
  • The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky [even more life-changing]
  • Le Petit Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • [L'Esprit de Solitude, Jacqueline Kelen]
  • Coraline, Neil Gaiman
  • American Gods, Neil Gaiman

2011 was the year of grieving, for me, and some of my readings reflect this. “Apprendre à vivre”, which was an important stepping-stone in helping me start figuring out how to make sense of life and death, as a person who does not have the consolation or support of believing in any kind of afterlife or higher power.

“Learned Optimism”, and even more importantly, “The How of Happiness”, have prodded me to question some of my beliefs about what to do and not to do to keep oneself happy. The very practical nature of these two books has actually resulted in my doing things quite differently now than I did a year ago, and I believe this is lasting change in the way I approach my life. You’ll find blog posts about this if you search a bit.

I love SF, and as you can see I’m an Alastair Reynolds fan. I pre-order his books now, and I’ve read everything he’s written that I could lay my hands on. Dan Simmons is great too. During the autumn I finally read my first Neil Gaiman book (after years of following him idly on Twitter) and I’m hooked. I have a pile of books with his name on it waiting to be read.

I loved pretty much all the books I read during this year. I usually like the books I read, funny, eh? Maybe by now I’m a pretty good judge of the kind of stuff that interests me.

If you want to ask me anything about any of the books on the list, peruse the comments, I’ll be happy to oblige!

Sorry for the absence of links in this post, the sheer number I could have added managed to discourage me. I might add them later hope hope ;-)

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Posted in Books | Tagged 2011, Books, lives, reading list | 6 Comments

Different Kinds of Downtime

[fr] Déconnecter ou se décontracter peut prendre plusieurs formes, et je viens de réaliser que malgré tout le temps de libre que j'ai pris pour récupérer de mon printemps un peu intense côté travail, je ne me suis pas laissé beaucoup d'espace pour penser. Laisser vagabonder mon esprit sans arrière-fond de musique, d'activité, de TV ou de jeux iPhone.

At two points in my “grown-up” life, I’ve been through phases of intense work which drove home the importance of making sure I had enough downtime. One was when I started teaching (I ended up on sick leave) and the other was when I was preparing Going Solo (a welcome cat bite probably prevented me from burning out completely).

I learned that when you do nothing but work, you can’t recuperate. Since then, I’ve always paid attention to preserving enough time “for myself”. Even when I have a lot of work and have “no time”, I still make time to eat with friends, watch TV series, read, sleep, etc. I never work until two in the morning, I take my week-ends off (there are exceptions), and generally am pretty good at setting boundaries between “work” and “non-work” modes (which might make certain people feel I’m hard to reach ;-) ).

Over my lunch break today, I think I understood something really important — and funnily, just after saying that I don’t feel like writing anything these days, I feel an urge to blog about it here.

The thing I understood is the following: there are different kinds of downtime.

I’ve been thinking about this these last days — for example, I use both iPhone games and TV series to relax or take my mind off stuff, but for different purposes.

One of my ongoing grievances about life these last months is that I feel tired and worn-out and don’t seem to be able to recuperate despite having taken a lot of time off (holidays here and elsewhere) since working too much this spring.

I go home for lunch break (it’s just two floors above my coworking space eclau, so it’s not much of a commute). I needed to sit a bit before preparing lunch, so I took a book and sat down on my balcony couch (yes, you can be jealous).

But I didn’t open the book. I just stared outside at the garden, looked at my plants, stared into space some more, did some low-level plant maintenance, stared into space, looked at the garden… See the idea? All that time, my mind was wandering idly around, thinking about this and that, and that and this, going back in time, forward in time… Just undirected thinking about… “stuff”.

And I realised that I don’t actually give myself much time for that. Thinking without doing anything else while I think. Maybe my discomfort these days months has to do with the fact that I have things to process and haven’t really been making appropriate space for that — despite all my downtime.

So, what kind of downtime do I give myself, and what need does it fulfill? And what are your types of downtime?

Fiction

Fiction (whether books or TV) takes me out of my life. It disconnects me from what is preoccupying me. At the same time, it’s like an emotional catalyst. I’m the kind of person who’ll end up crying whilst watching CSI. I like movies that take you on an emotional roller-coaster. So in that respect, fiction also helps me reconnect.

Games

I’m the kind of “on-off” casual gamer, but ever since I downloaded Angry Birds (end of last year) I’ve been playing iPhone games regularly. Games allow me to wind down and distract me, but without the emotional component I get from fiction. Games are also more active, and speak to my obsessive streak.

Physical Activity

I have an exercise bike at home I try to use regularly, I do judo, sing, and go sailing. Physical activity empties my head and tires my body — vital for something with a desk-bound job like mine. Sometimes my mind wanders off and I do some light thinking, but most of the time, I’m just completely taken by what I’m doing.

Online Downtime

Online downtime includes idly chatting, catching up with people, reading random articles… It’s a way of keeping busy without being productive, and maybe of avoiding “more down” downtime. It also leads to new ideas and insights, new interests to explore. It’s good for a breath of fresh air but at times like now where I feel worn out, overworked and oversocialized, I avoid it.

Socializing

I’m not sure if socializing is a “downtime” activity for me. I’m not much of a bar/club person, so for me socializing is either “networking” (and that’s work) or long (often personal) discussions with people I’m close to. I also know I switch modes when I’m around people. I guess it is a kind of downtime I need, but there are times when I’m more in an introvert mood and seeing people adds to my stress (maybe — hypothesis — because it’s stressful for me to be around people when I’m unsatisfied with something I do not manage to put in words; hmmm, maybe blogging is to be included under “socializing”?)

Thinking

Thinking is just that. Thinking. Not really doing anything. It happens when I clean the flat or the dishes or do laundry, but only if I’m taking all the time in the world and not really paying much attention to what I’m doing. Going for a walk or sitting on the balcony (without a book or an iPhone!) is also an opportunity for this kind of downtime where I let my mind wander around freely and think about whatever it is I want to be thinking, without real aim or purpose.

I’m sure that when watching TV, or exercising, or reading a book, there is some background processing going on in my brain. I’m sure it’s useful and necessary. But this is more like frontground processing.

And this, I think, is what’s been missing — and might be the reason why I’m having trouble identifying what is behind my feeling of “not quite right” (although objectively, everything is going fine).

Having understood this, I’m going to make sure I have time every day to sit on my balcony and stare into space. We’ll see what happens.

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Posted in Life Improvement, Personal | Tagged Books, downtime, exercise, fiction, games, reading, recuperation, rest, Thinking, tv, work-life balance | 1 Comment

Quelques recommandations de lecture

[en] A bunch of books I recommend reading. Descriptions are in French, but titles are in English!

A l’occasion du premier module du cours MCMS au SAWI, j’ai brièvement présenté quelques livres qui me semblaient intéressants/pertinents aux participants. Je vous redonne la liste ici — un jour je ferai une page correcte avec mes recommandations de lecture, mais c’est un début!

Les liens sont vers Amazon.de parce que c’est par là qu’il faut passer en Suisse pour avoir les frais de port gratuits.

Naked Conversations: un livre qui commence à dater un peu mais qui reste néanmoins une splendide collection d’exemples d’utilisation des blogs (et des conversations en ligne) par des entreprises/organisation. Inspiration, exemples concrets, modèles à suivre (ou pas). [amazon.de]

The Long Tail: la longue traîne de Chris Anderson. Je ne l’ai personnellement pas encore lu (shhh, motus!) mais c’est une référence pour ce qui est de la diversification des marchés à l’heure d’internet. [amazon.de]

Drive: pas encore lu non plus (je l’ai commandé il y a peu), Drive est un livre sur ce qui motive les gens. J’ai parlé de Dan Pink dans Carotte et créativité ne font pas bon ménage et vous pouvez déjà regarder sa conférence TED en vidéo pour vous faire une idée. [amazon.de]

Predictably Irrational: ce livre, qui n’a de prime abord pas de lien direct avec les médias sociaux, fait partie de la catégorie « a changé ma façon de comprendre le monde ». On est fondamentalement manipulables, nos réactions sont irrationnelles même quand on les comprend. Qu’en faire? A lire absolument pour comprendre tout un tas de phénomènes qui sont en jeu dans le milieu « organique » en ligne. [amazon.de]

Everything is Miscellaneous: David Weinberger, co-auteur du Cluetrain Manifesto, explique comment s’organisent tous ces « objets numériques », dans un ordre qui va parfois à l’encontre de notre conception de ce qu’est l’organisation. Ils peuvent être à plusieurs endroits à la fois, comportent des méta-données sur lesquelles on peut effectuer des recherches, etc. Un ouvrage important pour comprendre les caractéristiques physiques du monde numérique. [amazon.de]

The Culture of Fear: un regard (un poil polémique et qui date un peu) sur le rôle des peurs collectives dans notre société. Il y a toujours quelque chose qui fait peur. A mon sens, ce livre est pertinent pour remettre en contexte toutes les peurs qui circulent autour des nouvelles technologies, internet, les médias sociaux, etc. [amazon.de]

The Myths of Innovation: huit idées préconçues sur l’innovation, exposés de manière claire avec plein d’anectodes à l’appui. (En résumé, Gutenberg ne s’est pas réveillé un matin en se disant « hmm, qu’est-ce que je vais faire aujourd’hui… Eurêka, je vais inventer l’imprimerie! ») [amazon.de]

L’âge de peer: un livre (en français!) sur la co-création et l’économie du monde du peer-to-peer (P2P). Le chapitre « nouveaux modèles économiques » et « nouveaux modèles de création »… [amazon.de]

We Are Smarter Than Me: utiliser en business le pouvoir de l’intelligence collective. Livre co-écrit en ligne avec une myriade de contributeurs. [amazon.de]

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Posted in Books, Social Media and the Web | Tagged Books, livres, recommendations | Leave a comment

SF Reading Recommendation: Alastair Reynolds

[fr] Si vous aimez la science-fiction, je vous recommande vivement de vous intéresser de près à ce qu'écrit Alastair Reynolds.

If you like science fiction, specially the space opera techie kind, you should try reading something by Alastair Reynolds (he has a blog, too).

I actually first encountered his writing in one of the SF short story collections that I own, but really noted his name down after reading Pushing Ice, which was given to me by a friend. I was, honestly, completely blown away by the story.

Some time later, another friend sent me Chasm City off my wishlist. Again, I couldn’t help but wonder how on earth a human being can come up with such incredible worlds and stories.

When I was in Leeds a few weeks ago, I went on a shopping spree (clothes, DVDs, books) and bought both Revelation Space and Redemption Ark, the two first volumes of the Revelation Space trilogy.

I finished them at the chalet, and as soon as I got back online, made an order from Amazon. It’s just arrived, have a look:

Amazon Order Arrived!

Just in time to keep me busy for the rainy week-end that’s about to start!

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Posted in Books | Tagged alastair reynolds, Books, reading, recommendation, science fiction, sf | 1 Comment

Books That Changed My Life

[fr] Une série de livres qui m'ont marquée.

Picked up on Lifehacker (via Feedly, which I really like!), What Books Have Changed Your Life? — so, off the top of my head, and way too late in the night to do any serious thinking/writing/linking, a bunch of books that were groundbreaking reads for me:

  • The Web of Belief (Ullian & Quine)
  • Emotional Intelligence (Goleman)
  • Comment gérer les personnalités difficiles (André & Lelord)
  • Naked Conversations (Scoble & Israel)
  • The Black Swan (Taleb)
  • Getting Things Done (Allen)
  • The Paradox of Choice (Schwartz)
  • Buddhism Without Beliefs (Batchelor)
  • India: A Million Mutinies Now (Naipaul)
  • The Cluetrain Manifesto (Searls, Weinberger, Locke, Levine)

There are certainly more that I’m not thinking about now, and the list is certainly skewed towards these past years (the near past is always fresher in memory, and old changes tend to be forgotten). I could give an explanation for each of them… but some other time, maybe.

I read a lot of fiction, too — not just essay-like books. But I wouldn’t say that any work of fiction (that I can recall) really changed my life in a major way.

I might come back to this. Or I might not. Who knows?

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Posted in Books | Tagged Books, influence, life, people, reading, Thinking, world | 1 Comment

Conference Experience Evolution and The Paradox of Choice

[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 (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. 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 (Going Solo 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”, increased network and public profile, 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 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. 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. 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‘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, so, although this conference experience “went well”, it was overwhelming.

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, 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 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), 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) 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 — 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, 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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Posted in Books, Connected Life, Event Musings, Travels | Tagged attendee, blogtalk2008, book, Books, choice, choosing, cognitive overload, conference, connectors, decision, dunbar's number, Events, experience, fame, fowa, friends, leweb3, leweb32007, lift08, microfame, networking, Online Culture, overload, Pieces of Me, Psychology / Sociology, social overload, socializing, stress, sxsw, sxsw2008, the paradox of choice, Thinking, Travels | 8 Comments

An Experiment (Seesmic and The Black Swan)

[fr] Une de mes frustrations avec la lecture de livres c'est la difficulté que j'ai à partager le fruit de mes lectures en ligne. Recopier des citations c'est chiant! Donc là, une expérience. Utiliser Seesmic pour commenter ce que je suis en train de lire d'intéressant, et lire des citations.

Feedback sur l'expérience bienvenu.

I love reading, and I have a pile of interesting books waiting for me to dig through them. I’ve just picked up The Black Swan where I left it over a month ago.

One of my frustrations with reading, I realise, is the difficulty in sharing the interesting stuff I discover. Being an online person, I’m used to being able to share all the interesting stuff I find or think of very easily. Going from printed book to the web is not that simple.

I painstakingly typed up quotes in my tumblr but honestly, it’s not the best solution. Maybe somebody will offer me a pen-scanner one day (that would be fun!) but in the meantime, I’m a bit stuck without a good bridge between my dead-tree reading and my online community.

So, I just did an experiment with Seesmic. I read out quotes and commented some of the stuff I was reading. There are two videos because (as I just discovered!) Seesmic cuts you off at 10 minutes. In total, here are 16 minutes or so of me rambling on and reading quotes to you.

The Black Swan I

The Black Swan II

Sorry for those of you who can’t see the videos. For those of you who can, do let me know if you think this is a good idea or not.

Update: more videos…

The Black Swan III

The Black Swan IV

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Posted in Books | Tagged Books, experiment, offline, online, reading, seesmic, sharing, taleb, the black swan, video, Videos | 8 Comments

Reading The Black Swan

[fr] Notes de lecture de "The Black Swan", sur l'impact des événements hautement improbables.

One of the things I did yesterday during my time offline was read a sizeable chunk of The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

It’s a fascinating read. (Thanks again to Adam Hill for saying I should read it.) I just find myself a little frustrated that I can’t effortlessly copy-paste quotes from the book into a text file or my Tumblr as I read. (And no, I wouldn’t want to be reading this online. I like books. They just lack a few features. Like searchability, too.)

Anyway, I’ve been twittering away while I read, and here are a few things I noted. These are not exact quotes, but paraphrases. Consider them “reading notes.” (And then a few me-quotes, hehe…).

  • oh, one quote I did copy to Tumblr (check it, if you’re lucky, you might find more quotes!)
  • Finding Taleb’s concepts of Mediocristan and Extremistan fascinating and insightful.
  • Probably in Extremistan: number of contacts, length of relationships? Not sure.
  • High-impact, low-probability events (Black Swans) are by nature unpredictable. Now apply that to the predator problem.
  • We confuse ‘no evidence of possible Black Swans’ with ‘evidence of no possible Black Swans’ and tend to remember the latter.
  • ‘No evidence of disease’ often interpreted as ‘Evidence of no disease’, for example.
  • Taleb: in testing for a hypothesis, we tend to look for confirmation and ignore what would invalidate it.
  • Interesting: higher dopamine = greater vulnerability to pattern recognition (less suspension of disbelief)
  • So… Seems we overestimate probability of black swans when we talk about them. Terrorism, predators, plane crashes… And ignore others.
  • Anecdotes sway us more than abstract statistical information. (Taleb)
  • That explains why personal recommendations have so much influence on our decisions. Anecdotes, rather than more abstract facts or stats. (That’s from me, not him.)
  • Journalists according to Taleb: ‘industrial producers of the distortion’

Update: Anne Zelenka wrote a blog post taking the last and, unfortunately, quite incomplete citation as a starting-point. Check my clarification comment on her blog. And here’s the complete quote:

Remarkably, historians and other scholars in the humanities who need to understand silent evidence the most do not seem to have a name for it (and I looked hard). As for journalists, fuhgedaboutdit! They are industrial producers of the distortion. (p. 102)

Update 2: Anne edited her post to take into account my comment and our subsequent discussion. Thanks!

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Posted in Books | Tagged blackswan, book, Books, essay, fear, impact, improbable, life, notes, philosophy, probability, Psychology / Sociology, reading, society, statistics, taleb | 6 Comments

A Day at the Frankfurter Buchmesse

[fr] Etat des lieux sur mes recherches de fonds et exploration du monde de l'édition pour mon livre sur les ados et internet. Envies de publier (via internet) des livres avec mes photos, aussi.

A month or two ago, I was chatting about my book project and decision to find funding to Joi. He suggested that a trip to the Frankfurt book fair might be useful.

First on, the Messe is just huge. I spent a morning there and just walked, and walked, and walked. Overall, I found my visit rather disappointing, though I did learn some useful things (though they weren’t exactly what I wanted to hear). Here’s the information I gathered, from a visit to the Swiss booth and discussions with a few people.

  • I have a list of Swiss (French-speaking) publishers, and a shortlist of 4-5 who could be suitable for my project.
  • Publishers, distributors, and bookstores are all part of the same organisation (in CH).
  • The market is saturated, publishers are swamped with manuscripts, and it’s even worse in France than Switzerland (so, I should stick with local publishers — the fact I’m already recognised as a local authority also pushes in that direction).
  • I can forget about a deal with an advance, so I need to look at other sources to finance the writing part (Loterie Romande, educational associations, foundations… I’ll hunt around a bit to compile a list.)
  • Swiss publishers don’t like agents, and having one might make it even more difficult for me to find a publisher.
  • The publisher deals with the printing guys to get the book published, and deals with the distribution guys to get it distributed. Hunter, a seasoned bookwriter, tells me that unless I’m getting a huge advance, having a publisher is not worth it — I can deal with printers and distributors myself. Will just have to check if this is a viable approach in the Swiss market.
  • The publisher is precious for the editing process, because he knows what is good and what is not, the head of this Swiss association tells me. Hunter, on the contrary, tells me this mostly gets in the way. A good editor can be precious but chances are I won’t be getting one.
  • If I go the self-publishing way (offline), then I’ll need funding for the printing, which could be a problem.
  • One option, which Joi suggests and I’d been getting at, is to start off by online-self-publishing (Lulu, Blurb, or another), and once there is enough buzz, sales, reviews, etc, approaching publishers.
  • I really need to work on a proper proposal, and I have a better understanding of what such a proposal needs to look like. I got some advice from talking with a publisher over dinner (thanks again!) and Chris Webb left me a pointer to his interesting series on book proposals in the comments to my previous post. From what I gather, the more there is in the proposal, the better.

So, where do I go from now?

  • Write a proper proposal in French (as the book will be in French). This obviously needs to be broken down into manageable pieces (GTD-style), and I realise that the big nasty bit for me is the outline. I have tons of ideas of stuff that I want to put in the book, but I’m not sure how to organise it all yet. I’ve been mind-mapping, but it’s a bit overwhelming and messy. So I’ll start by writing all the rest (the easy bits).
  • Write a project funding proposal which will probably not be as detailed as the one for the publisher.
  • Ask around for leads to getting funding, compile a list, send out funding requests with proposal.
  • Send the proposal to the 4-5 publishers on the list, once it’s done.

Language? Isn’t it kind of weird I’m speaking about this in English? On the other hand, I don’t want to “cut out” my English network by blogging exclusively in French about this book project.

All this thinking about self-publishing has given me the desire to put together one or more photo books. I’ve barely been printing since I went digital, and it’s nice to have photos in physical form too, as Moo‘s success demonstrates. My friend Andrea Lindenberg has put together a collection of her best riding show photographs — if you like horses, you should definitely check it out. She’s very talented.

My Flickr photo collection is approaching 10’000 photos. So, again, the inevitable choice problem. I’ll certainly make a book of my best Indian photos at some point (most of them aren’t on Flickr but are either slides (first trip), negatives (second trip), or digital-dumped-in-directories (third trip). I have a set called My Favourites, but it’s very out-of-date and doesn’t contain any recent photos. I can probably dig out the photos I use for Moo cards or stickers and add them, though.

Any opinions? If you see any photos of mine that you think deserve ending up in the (a) photo book, don’t hesitate to tag them “forthebook”. Thanks!

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Posted in Books, Digital Youth, Livre, My corner of the world | Tagged adolescents, book fair, Books, buchmesse, Digital Youth, édition, financement, frankfurt, frankfurter buchmesse, french, funding, Livre, My Photos, Photography, project, projet, publication, publishing, suisse romande, switzerland | 7 Comments