Tag Archives: fame

Enjoying Bangalore

This year, I spent just two and a half days in Bangalore, at Anita’s. And this year, unlike two years ago, I was ready for the way in which Bangalore is different from the India I’m used to (understand: Pune in 99-00 ;-) ).

Prestige Shantiniketan, Bangalore 1

Prestige Shantiniketan, Bangalore 7

I enjoyed staying in a modern housing complex which is pretty much a self-sustaining village (coffee shop, pharmacy, swimming pool, tennis courts and probably many other things), eating in nice restaurants (pizza and delicious lettuce, at Chez Mariannick, vietnamese food, at Phobidden Fruit), going to the cinema (Life if Pi with totally scratched 3D glasses you had to hand back before the credits finished rolling), the huge mall, even though we didn’t do any shopping (complete with bomb-check of the car as we entered the parking), having a driver to take us to the girls’ karaoke night out at Opus — and more importantly, back.

The mall

Cinema security in Bangalore

I had a little “hero moment” at Opus. The menu cards there are a piece of paper surrounding a candle, like what we would call a “photophore” in French. One of the women of the table below us (we were sitting at the floor tables) was leaning against the empty take next to ours. She didn’t notice that she was also leaning against the menu card and candle.

I smelled something burning, burning hair actually, looked around, and saw the menu card had caught fire just behind her. I move it away, and saw there was a patch of burning hair on the side of her neck — flames and all, maybe the surface of half a hand. I swatted it repeatedly with my hand — hitting her, in fact — and the put out the flames.

I think it took her a little while to figure out what had happened (from her point of view, somebody was suddenly hitting her quite hard on the neck) — but she thanked me profusely afterwards, of course.

Being in Bangalore also gave me a chance to see Ranjita’s beautiful pottery, after meeting her for the first time in Goa a few weeks ago. Check out the My Artitude India Facebook page if you like her stuff. She’s very talented and there is a lot of demand for her pottery.

Ranjeeta's beautiful pottery 1

Ranjeeta's beautiful pottery 2

I definitely plan on visiting her in Pondicherry next time I come to India.

At Anita’s also were of course Kitkit and Tikki — first cat in my lap for weeks. I miss my cats!

Kitkit 2

Tikki 2

It was nice seeing you, Bangalore. I’ll be back for longer next time I have a chance.

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Posted in India, Travels | Tagged anita, bangalore, Chez Mariannick, cinéma, fame, india 2012-2013, mall, My Artitude India, Opus, pottery, prestige shantiniketan, Ranjita, travelling | 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

Too Many People

[fr] J'ai atteint un point où je n'ai plus envie de faire de nouvelles connaissances. Je n'arrive déjà pas à voir les gens qui me sont chers autant que je voudrais. En ligne, les relations "délicates" (asymétriques, par exemple) sont plus faciles à gérer qu'hors ligne. De plus, les outils de "réseautage en ligne" nous aident à rester en contact avec plus de personnes qu'il ne nous serait normalement possible. Quand tout ça passe hors ligne, cela frise l'overdose.

This is a post in which I expect to be misunderstood, judged, and which will probably upset some. But it’s something that needs to be spoken about, because I’m certain I’m not the only one going through this, and I think it’s strongly related to what changes the internet is bringing into our lives when it comes to relating to people.

I’ve argued many times that online relationships and behaviors in general reproduce what goes on offline, so it may seem that I’m contradicting myself somewhat. But I think it’s also clear for everybody in this space that technology does change the way we live with others. Right now I see that our world is changing — it’s a bit blurry ahead, and actually I’m quite scared to see more clearly — and in our lifetimes, chances are the nature of human relationships will be deeply impacted by the technologies we are using and developing.

If all this doesn’t make sense, don’t worry. I’m not sure I understand what I’m saying myself. These might just be the tired rantings of a burnt-out and frustrated node in the network.

“Being an online person”, as I call it, means two things:

  • there are people out there who know you, sometimes quite well, but that you have never heard of
  • the “presence” dimension of our social tools allow you to keep in touch with more people (and better) than you would be able to offline

With their consequences, when your “online social life” goes offline:

  • micro-celebrity, micro-fame, fans
  • more relationships to nurture than the limited space and time permits

Our online social network does not necessarily translate well offline.

Let’s have a look at a few aspects of our relationships with others that we are maybe not necessarily the most proud of:

  • we like (or even love) some people more than others — or perhaps simply differently
  • we find some people more interesting than others
  • some people we are happy to spend long periods of time with, but infrequently — if we saw them every day they would drive us up the wall
  • some people we are happy to see a little each day, but would not want to spend a whole afternoon with
  • we sometimes want to spend time with one person (or some people) at the exclusion of others (others who can be people we care about, too)
  • we keep in touch with some people or are nice to them because they are useful to us
  • we like some people less than they like us (and vice-versa)
  • some people are business contacts to us, but would like to be our personal friend (or even get into our pants)

I think that if you look honestly, you will recognize yourself here. These facts about our social life are uncomfortable to deal with, and awkward. We don’t like thinking about them, much less talking about them. And we very rarely deal with them directly in the relationships they apply to.

Offline, we deal with a lot of this social awkwardness by avoiding it. This is why I argue that contact tagging, if done to structure our personal social network, must remain a private matter. We don’t tell some people certain things. We don’t mention that we’re meeting with Judy after lunch. We act a bit more distant with Tom than with Peter, hoping he’ll “get the message”. We tell Susie we’re too busy to see her, but drop everything when Mike invites us on a date.

Online, it’s even easier. We don’t respond to IMs or e-mails. We read certain blogs but not others. We chat absent-mindedly with Joe who is telling us his life-story, while we have a heart-to-heart discussion with Jack. We mark our status as DND but still respond to our best friend. We receive Twitter notifications on our phone from a select few, and keep a distracted eye on others’ updates. We lie more easily.

So, online, we actually have more freedom of movement (mainly because our emotional reactions are not so readily readable on the moment) to deal with some of these “awkward relationships” than offline — particularly, I would say, what I’d call the asymmetrical ones. From a networking point of view, being online is a huge advantage: the technology allows you to “stay in touch” with people who are geographically estranged from you, with a greater number of people than you could actually manage offline (“continuous partial friendship“), and it also allows you to keep in your network people who would probably not be in your offline circle, because it helps you tone down relationship awkwardness.

Conferences have lost their magic for me. I know, I know, I’m coming to this 18 months after everybody I know (I mean, I know I’m not alone and this is a normal process — but I’m still interested in analysing it). The first conferences I went to were bloody exciting. I got to meet all these people who were just names in my online universe, or with whom I’d been chatting for months or years, or whose blog I’d been reading in awe for ages. I made a lot of friends. (Maybe they wouldn’t agree, but that’s what it was like for me.) I met many people that I found interesting, likeable, wonderful, even. Some of them who also seemed to appreciate me back (as far as I can tell).

Over the last six months, conferences have become more and more frustrating. I’m speaking only of the social/networking aspect here. A dozen if not twenty people I really like are in town, sometimes more. Getting to see them offline is a rare occasion for me, and I’d like to spend half a day with each of them. But there is no time for that. People are here, and gone. They also have their other friends to see, which might not be mine.

To some, maybe, I’m “just another fan” — that I can live with, even if nobody likes being “just another fan”. But does one have to make conversation and appreciate every reader of one’s blog? If you like somebody’s blog, does that automatically mean they’re going to like you? Find your presence or conversation interesting? The hard reality of celebrity and fandom, even micro, is that the answer is “no”. It doesn’t mean that as a fan, I’m not an interesting person in my own right. It doesn’t mean that if I got to spend enough time with the person I’m fan of, they wouldn’t appreciate my company and find it enriching. But the fact I’m a fan, or a reader, doesn’t earn me any rights.

And increasingly, I’ve noted over the four or five last conferences I attended that there seem to be more people who want to get to know me than people I want to get to know. Or people who are interested in me for business reasons, but of the type where they get something out of me, and I don’t get much out of them. Or people who have been reading my blog for ages and are happy to be able to talk to me, but I know nothing of them.

I’ve reached a point where I don’t want any more people. I can’t keep up with my people, to start with. I feel spread too thin. I want to deepen relationships, not collect superficial ones. Contacts are useful for business, and though I’ve said many a time that the line between business and personal is more and more blurred, business contacts do not have to become personal friends. I know there are lots of wonderful people out there I don’t know. Lots of wonderful people I’ve maybe brushed aside or pushed away when suffering from “people overload”, when all I want to do is climb into my cave and stay there.

But you know, there are way too many great, interesting, fascinating people in the world to give them all the attention they deserve. Even if the world, here, is just “Web2.0-land”. But there is also a limit to how many meaningful conversations one can have in a day, and to how many meaningful relationships one can fit in a life. Those limits are personal. They vary from person to person. Some have them low, some have them high. But when the limit is reached, it’s reached.

So at some point, I need to choose who I spend my time with. In a very selfish way, I choose to give priority to the people in my life that I care for, and who bring me something. I’m there for me first, others after. I consider that one can only truly give and bring value to others when it is not at one’s own expense. I think this is valid in the economy of social relationships too. Being spread too thin impairs my ability to care — and I don’t want that.

Choosing who I spend my time with online is rather easy. I can tell the umpteenth guy who wants to “be friends” with me on IM that I have enough friends, I’m not looking for more, don’t chat with people I don’t know, and really can’t chat with him now. If he insists, I can ask him to leave me alone, and tell him that if he doesn’t, I’m going to have to block him. I can keep him out.

Offline, in a conference, it’s way more difficult. Maybe we need to take inspiration from Aram Bartholl and hang status messages around our necks, or chat windows (with curtains?) that we can close. I’m kidding, I honestly don’t think there is a real solution apart from being honest — in a socially acceptable and non-rejecting way (easier said than done).

I think we need more awareness of the complications offline to online transitions bring about. Maybe we’re going to have to start being explicit about these “social awkwardnesses” that I mentioned above — because changing the setting from online to offline makes it much more difficult to resolve them by ignoring them.

We’ve all been through the very unpleasant experience of being “stuck” in a conversation we don’t find interesting, but which is obviously fascinating for the other party. It happens even with our friends: I’m talking with Jill, and hear with my spare ear that Bill and Kate are talking about something much more interesting to me, but I can’t just dump Jill, can I? But what if Jill is somebody I’ve met 3 minutes ago — does that change anything? And of course, this dreadful thought: heck, could it be that I’m his/her Jill? Have I been the dreadful boring person one tries to shake off, without noticing?

These are human problems — they’re not technological. I feel I’m getting tired now and before I ramble too much (I feel I’m not very coherent anymore), I’ll don my flame-retardant suit (you never know) and hit publish. I’m looking forward to reading your reactions — whether you agree or disagree with me, of course.

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Posted in Conferences, Connected Life, Personal | Tagged awkward, blogging, conférences, Events, fame, fan, microfame, networking, offline, online, Online Culture, overload, people, Pieces of Me, Psychological, Psychology / Sociology, relationships, Theories, Theories on Life and the World, Thinking | 41 Comments

Visibility is in Feedback Loops

[fr] Ce qui est populaire le reste, et devient plus populaire encore, justement parce que c'est populaire. De temps en temps un pic de visibilité se présente à  nous (comme le montre l'illustration ci-dessous). Est-ce que ceux qui sont les plus connus le sont simplement parce qu'ils proposent un menu qui convient à  la majorité, et qu'ils savent tirer avantage de ces pics pour rester la tête hors de l'eau? Est-ce vrai? Est-ce bien? Est-ce mal? Qu'en dites-vous?

Last month, I had a jump in my Cheese Sandwich stats:

Traffic peak graph.

This was because the post Get an iBook! had for some reason or another made it to the “Fastest growing weblogs” list which appears in every WordPress.com dashboard. And it stayed stuck there. I think there was a bug or something and it got stuck there, but it might also have been a little feedback loop: what is popular becomes more popular because it is popular — I’ve discussed this briefly regarding a photograph of mine which suddenly became ‘interesting’ in Flickr.

So, let’s first note one thing: this little peak of traffic finally had no long-term effects for me. My traffic is back down to what it was before. Sometimes a feedback loop can send you into another playground, but most times it doesn’t. So either you try to create another popularity burst, or you just keep plodding along your way.

My second thought is that popularity, visibility, fame, or whatever-you’ll-call-it mainly has to do with feedback loops. If something is very visible, you’re more likely to know about it. Sounds stupid, doesn’t it? I think I’m coming to accept it’s a rule of the game. But to stay in the limelight once the feedback loop has put you there, you need certain qualities. Which ones? Look at the latest interesting photos on Flickr. What do they have in common?

I think you can have a great mind, great style, great many things, and still stay in the shadow if the right feedback loop doesn’t come along. Is being successful just a case of managing feedback loops and getting them to work for you? Is this bad?

I know nothing about feedback loops, actually, so what I’m saying here might very well be a lot of BS. I’ll let you decide. I’m feeling very conversational after LIFT.

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Posted in Social Media and the Web | Tagged Blogger musings, célébrité, dynamique, fame, feedbackloop, fréquentation, Geek / Technical, pic, popularité, popularity, smartness, Theories, visibilité, visibility | 8 Comments