Tag Archives: rss

Anil Dash Writes About The Web We Lost

[fr] Le web qu'on a perdu. Nostalgie.

Yes, there are people who have been blogging for longer than me. Quite a few of them, actually. Anil Dash is one. You should read him.

His most recent article (found thanks to danah, who has also been blogging for longer than me, and whom you should also read) is titled The Web We Lost. It hits right on the nostalgia that has been creeping up on me these last years, expressed for example in A Story About Tags, and Technorati, and Tags or Ye Olde-School Blogs Are Still Around.

Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr and Pinterest are all great, but they tend to suck us in, and I feel we are all collectively high on real-time content and interaction. I miss the slower days. I miss the sense of “community” I felt with other bloggers in the old days, as I mention in the wrap-up post to my “Back to Blogging” challenge. I feel that on Twitter and Facebook community has been replaced with network. Networking is great. I love spending time with my network. But it’s not the same thing.

Most of all, the timeline we now live in is made up of transient content. It’s there and gone. It’s the world of orality, of the spoken word which evaporates once pronounced, even though we are typing. We are going back to an oral tradition. Blogs and wikis, however, are still part of the written tradition. We are losing searchability. We are also using content portability due to the lack of RSS feeds on certain platforms, and increasingly restrictive API access. APIs seem to be the promise for more holes in our buckets, but they seem more and more to be a way to control tightly what happens to the content locked in a given platform.

That’s sad. That’s not the way I hoped things would go.

There is more. Go and read Anil’s piece. And leave a comment there through Facebook.

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Posted in Thinking | Tagged blogs, facebook, history, lock-in, nostalgia, openness, rss, twitter, web | 2 Comments

Survivre à l’heure du trop d’informations

[en] The key to surviving in our age of "too much information out there at our fingertips" is to give up all hope of keeping up. Keep your network and connections healthy. Dip in the river of updates the network provides you with (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, RSS feeds maybe) when you feel like it, and take a snack. Some snacks make you feel like a full meal -- just go for it. I view these streams of updates as a 24/7 radio that I switch on for a few minutes every now and again.

If you've taken care to build and maintain a quality network (and that is your responsibility), then important news will find its way to you, through more than one channel. You never have to be worried about "missing something" again.

Of course, if you're in the breaking news business, this won't apply to you. But honestly, who really wants to be in the breaking news business? Can one outlet really beat the network to it?

Lors du très sympathique Bloggy Friday d’hier soir, la conversation est à un moment donné partie sur les fils RSS, Twitter, le temps que ça prend, et la quantité d’informations à s’enfiler chaque jour, si on rentre là-dedans.

Je vous présente donc ma recette pour survivre à l’heure de la pléthore d’informations à portée de nos souris qui est la nôtre. Elle est très simple, la recette:

  • lâcher prise et abandonner tout espoir d’être “à jour” ou de “tout lire”
  • mettre l’accent sur les connexions et le réseau (quelles personnes je suis sur Twitter, connexions facebook, abonnements RSS)
  • considérer que tous ces flux sont comme une rivière où l’on fait trempette de temps en temps, ou comme une station radio diffusant en continue et qu’on allume lorsqu’on en a envie.

Quelques éléments supplémentaires:

  • si l’information est importante et que le réseau est de qualité (voir le point ci-dessous), elle vous parviendra par de multiples chemins (exit donc l’angoisse de “rater” quelque chose de vital)
  • la qualité du réseau est cruciale: ce n’est pas juste une question de quantité de connexions ou de contacts (même si cette dimension joue un rôle), et chacun est entièrement responsable du réseau qu’il construit et maintient autour de lui.

Pour ma part, j’ai depuis longtemps accepté que je ne suis pas une lectrice régulière de blogs. Je sais, cette information en surprend plus d’un, car je suis perçue comme une personne très connectée et “au courant”. Mes lectures sont des butinages, incités par ce que je vois passer dans ces différents flux (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, surtout). De temps en temps, je vais expressément voir le blog de telle ou telle personne, ou son compte Facebook, ou son Twitter — parce que j’ai envie d’en savoir plus sur ce qu’elle raconte récemment.

Mais je ne cherche pas à “tout lire”, oh non, au grand jamais. Et je m’en porte fort bien!

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Posted in Connected Life | Tagged abonnement, blogs, facebook, flux, information, information overload, network, réseau, réseautage, rss, stress, surcharge, surcharge cognitive, surcharge d'informations, twitter | 1 Comment

Feedly: More Than a Newsreader, Maybe Your Search Engine of Tomorrow?

A bit over a year ago, I switched from Google Reader to Feedly. I have a troubled history with newsreaders: I tend to not use them, partly because I don’t really read blogs. But I used Google Reader for some time, and then Feedly. I really like Feedly. Really. (Plus, it saved 4 months of posts for CTTS after the dropped database disaster.)

All this to say that for many months, I have not really opened Feedly, and I feel kind of sad/bad about it. Twitter and Tumblr are my main sources of “new information”, and I’d love to find a way to use Feedly in a way that works for me. But it just doesn’t seem to happen.

A couple of weeks back, I saw this tweet from Ewan:

Twitter _ Ewan McIntosh: Over the hols I managed to ...

He says that he has sorted his feeds into “30 must-read-daily RSS feeds, with the other 2000 sitting behind as personal search engine”.

Whee! For some time now, I’ve been convinced that the future lies with allowing search in subsets of the web. There’s too much stuff out there, right? Also, in this era of partial attention (which I don’t consider to be a bad thing, in the “keeping a distracted eye on” sense), you often end up trying to “refind” something you know you’ve seen (but where?) — just like I had to dig out Ewan’s tweet ten days after I’d seen it in passing.

That’s why I like Lijit, for example (I’ve put the search box back here on CTTS, by the way): it allows me or my readers to do a search on “my stuff”, including CTTS, Digital Crumble, Twitter, del.icio.us… Sometimes I know I’ve said something, but I can’t for the life of me remember where (see this? having to search your own words…)

Feedly is pretty good at allowing you to search all the stuff you’ve subscribed to:

feedly | explore facebook

It offers a mix of a little bit of generally popular stuff with “your sources”. I like that. So, I like Ewan’s idea of feed subscription as “add this to my search sources” rather than “oooh, I’m going to read this every day”.

I have to say I’m interested in hearing about how you use Feedly or Google Reader (particularly the social aspects) if you’re not a “religious-daily” newsreader enthusiast. There has to be something between “keeping up with my feeds” and “never opening my feedreader”.

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Posted in Social Media and the Web | Tagged feedly, feeds, google reader, lijit, rss, search, Social Software, subscription, syndication, tumblr, twitter | 2 Comments

De la lecture des blogs

[en] I'm not a regular blog reader. I check a small handful of blogs religiously, and that's (with one or two exceptions) because they belong to close friends. I go on blog-reading binges, either person-centred ("well, I wonder what such-and-such has written about lately, or how she is doing") or topic-centred (digging deeper into an issue, or trying to solve a problem I'm facing).

Do you find it paradoxical for a blogger to not have a "blog subscriber" profile?

Ça m’embarrasse parfois un peu qu’à cause de ma réputation en tant que blogueuse, on parte du principe que je suis une lectrice de blogs assidue.

Bien sûr, je lis des blogs. Mais pas comme certains.

Je n’ai pas une liste de blogs que je lis religieusement. J’ai un lecteur RSS (j’aime Google Reader, et encore mieux, feedly) mais depuis six à huit mois, j’avoue que je l’ai à peine ouvert.

Il y a une poignée de blogs appartenant à des amis proches que je lis régulièrement. Ce sera peut-être vexant pour certains, mais les blogs que je lis, je les lis plus parce que j’ai une relation personnelle avec leur auteur, que parce que leur contenu me faisait revenir (quelques exceptions notables: Kathy Sierra, Zeldman, Tom Reynolds).

Pourtant, je lis des blogs. Mais comment?

De temps en temps je fais une crise de lecture. Il y en a deux sortes:

  • les thématiques
  • les personnelles.

Les crises de lectures “personnelles” (ou centrées sur la personne) sont de l’ordre de “oh, je me demande ce que devient tel et tel, ou ce qu’il a écrit récemment, hop, un petit tour sur son blog”.

Le problème avec les blogs (enfin, je dis ça, mais c’est une de leurs qualités) c’est qu’une fois qu’on commence à lire, on n’en finit pas. On suit un lien qui nous emmène ailleurs, on plonge dans les archives, bref, parfois, une heure plus tard, je lis encore.

Ou bien du coup, je me mets à rédiger un billet sur un sujet qui m’aura interpellé.

Quant aux crises de lecture “thématiques”, je pars sur un sujet qui m’intéresse (souvent lié à un problème à résoudre ou un enjeu concret dans mon présent, mais pas forcément), et je fais du blog-hopping pour en faire le tour. Google, Technorati, articles en rapport, tout y passe.

En résumé, je n’ai pas le profil “abonné” ou “lecteur fidèle”, mais plutôt “butineuse” voire “boulimique”. Twitter a en grande partie remplacé mon lecteur RSS, même si celui-ci n’est pas mort.

Et vous, comment lisez-vous les blogs? Trouvez-vous paradoxal qu’on soit blogueur mais non lecteur régulier d’autres blogs? A plus forte raison si l’on prêche, comme c’est mon cas, que la lecture de blogs est indispensable à leur écriture? Est-ce que je nage en plein paradoxe?

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Posted in Connected Life, Social Media and the Web | Tagged blogging, Blogosphere Interest, blogs, habits, habitude, lecture, Online Culture, reading, rss, Social Software, subscription, user/07467067922840649993/state/com.google/read | 4 Comments

Démarrer avec Google Reader

[fr] Getting started with Google Reader, for my French readers.

Comme ces temps je n’arrête pas d’initier des gens de mon entourage à Google Reader, je me suis dit, allez, hop, quelques instructions par écrit.

Google Reader, c’est un lecteur RSS (ah oui, c’était en 2003 que j’expliquais ça, un peu trop en avance, pour changer) auquel vous avez accès si vous avez un compte GMail (qui n’en a pas?). En bref, ça permet de centraliser en un seul endroit toutes vos lectures de blogs et de nouvelles.

Dans votre GMail, cliquez sur “Reader” en haut à droite. Ça ressemble à ça:

Google Reader: accueil

Première chose à faire: ajouter un abonnement.

Google Reader: ajouter un abonnement

Définissez (si vous le désirez) un dossier pour votre abonnement. Vous pouvez ainsi séparer vos lectures par centre d’intérêt. C’est utile, car ensuite vous pouvez regarder toutes les “nouveautés” dans une seule catégorie sans vous soucier des autres. Exemples: blogs, mes amis, trucs préférés, nouvelles, horticulture, technique… bref.

Google Reader: s'abonner à un blog

Ajoutez autant d’abonnements que vous voulez:

Google Reader: détail d'ajout d'abonnement

Voilà, c’est aussi facile que ça!

Google Reader: tour du proprio

Au prochain épisode, je vous montrerai comment profiter des fonctionnalités “sociales” de Google Reader, et je vous présenterai Feedly, une extension Firefox qui “habille” Google Reader de tout un tas de trucs sympas (sans compter que c’est beaucoup plus agréable à l’oeil).

Google Reader: changer la langue

A bientôt!

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Posted in Social Media and the Web | Tagged abonnements, explications, fil rss, google, google reader, greader, Kit du blogueur, lecteur de news, lecteur rss, rss, tutorial | 3 Comments

Le futur n’est pas encore ici de façon homogène

[en] What I'm doing these days: getting my "offline crowd" acquainted with newsreaders (Google Reader and Feedly, in particular).

Ces temps, je me retrouve régulièrement à initier les gens à Google Reader ou Feedly. C’est où en sont gentiment ceux de mon entourage qui sont moins connectés que moi, mais qui par contagion, s’y mettent gentiment. Il y a deux ans, c’était les comptes GMail, Skype, et doucettement GTalk.

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Posted in Social Media and the Web, Technology | Tagged feedly, futur, future, google reader, newsreader, rss, Social Software, technologie, Technology | Leave a comment

Please Don’t Be Rude, coComment. I Loved You.

[fr] J'étais une inconditionnelle de la première heure de coComment. Je les ai même eus comme clients. Aujourd'hui j'ai le coeur lourd, car après le désastre de la version 2.0 "beta", le redesign du site qui le laisse plus confus qu'avant, les fils RSS qui timent out, le blog sans âme et les pubs qui clignotent, je me retrouve avec de grosses bannières autopromotionnelles dans mon tumblelog, dans lequel j'ai intégré le flux RSS de mes commentaires.

Just a little earlier this evening, my heart sank. It sank because of this:

Steph's Tumblr - rude cocomment

That is a screenshot of my Tumblr. And what coComment is doing here — basically, inserting a huge self-promotional banner in their RSS feed — is really rude.

I’m really sad, because I used to love coComment. I was involved (not much, but still) early on and was a first-hour fan. They were even my client for over six months, during which I acted as a community manager, gave feedback on features to the team, and wrote a whole bunch of blog posts. This ended, sadly, when coComment finally incorporated, because we couldn’t reach an agreement as to the terms of my engagement.

Inserting content in the RSS feeds is only the latest in a series of disappointments I’ve had with the service. I used to have a sidebar widget to show the last comments I’d made all over the place on my blog, but I removed it at some point — I can’t remember when — because it had stopped working. I tried adding it again, but for some reason WordPress can’t find the feed. It seemed very slow when I tried to access it directly, so maybe it’s timing out — and I think I recall that is what made me remove it in the first place.

I’m sad also to see blinking ads on the coComment site, confusing navigation, pages with click here links, and a blog which has no soul, filled with post after post of press-release-like “we won this contest”, “we’re sponsoring this event”, “version xyz released”, “we were here too” — all too often on behalf of a mostly faceless “coComment Team”. CoComment used to have something going, but to me it now seems like an exciting promise that lost its way somewhere along the line.

Last August, the version 2.0 beta disaster made me cringe with embarrassment for my former love (who on earth takes all their users back to beta when 1.0 was stable?) and left many blogs paralyzed, including my own. I started writing a blog post, at the time, which I never published, as other things got in the way. Here’s what I’d written:

I reinstalled the extension yesterday (I’d removed it a few months ago because I suspected it might be involved in a lot of browser hang-ups) but had to uninstall it a couple of hours later:

  • too many non-comment textareas get the coco-bar
  • blacklisting seems broken
  • pop-up requesting info confirmation for website blocking form submission of non-comment forms, even though coco-bar was removed AND extension was deactivated for the page.

It would be nice to be able to read some clear and detailed information about these issues and their resolution on the blog, so that I know when it’s worth trying the extension again.

Also, a major issue is that when the coComment server isn’t responding, people cannot leave comments on integrated/enhanced blogs (like this one, or my personal blog). I had to remove coComment integration from my blog so that coComment downtime doesn’t prevent my readers from leaving comments.

Update: in case this wasn’t clear first time around, these problems have since then been solved and coComment apologized for the mess. It doesn’t erase the pain, though.

So, coComment — and Matt — are you listening?

You’re in the process of alienating somebody who was one of your most passionate users — if you haven’t lost me already. I cared. I forgave. I waited. I hoped. But right now, I don’t have the impression you care much about me. I’ve seen excuses, I’ve even seen justifications, and now I see large ugly banners in my Tumblr. What happened to you?

You’ll have understood, I hope, that this is not just about me. This is about the people who use your service. The service you provide is for us, right?

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Posted in Connected Life, Social Media and the Web | Tagged antipattern, badpractice, banner, blog, cluetrain, coComment, comment, criticism, disappointment, downhill, feed, Online Culture, passionate users, rss, Social Software, Software and Tools, tool, tracking, tumblr, Venting | 25 Comments

Blog Host Ugliness

[fr] Une amie Serbe s'est vu poser un ultimatum par son hébergeur de blogs: 24 heures pour supprimer commentaires d'un autre blogueur et liens vers ses sites, ou voir son blog disparaître.

L'hébergeur en question (qui utilise WordPress multi-utilisateurs, comme WordPress.com) avait en outre désactivé la fonction d'exportation de blog.

On s'en est sortis comme on a pu (voir ici).

Mis à part le côté technique de l'affaire, il est absolument scandaleux qu'un hébergeur de blogs se permette d'agir ainsi. Certes, tout hébergeur est libre de "virer" des clients -- mais déactiver au préalable la fonction d'exportation des blogs, cela atteint des sommets de mesquinerie. A bon entendeur.

Edit: sur Seesmic, l'histoire en français et en vidéo.

Note: I’ve updated this post as I gathered information allowing me to see more clearly in this whole mess. Please read the comment if you’re going to jump in the conversation or blog about this.

Wednesday night, my friend Sanja from BlogOpen (she was my very kind and competent hostess) pinged me on IM. She had less than 24 hours to export her blog before her blog host shut it down.

It was a blog hosted by WordPress multi-user [Edit: not WPMU]. Easy enough, I thought. There is an export function. Unfortunately, when I logged in (the interface was in Serbian, but I can find my way through WordPress with my eyes closed), this is what I found:

WordPress (MU?) with no Export

Even if you don’t understand Serbian, you can see there is a missing tab. I tried calling /wp-admin/export.php directly, but the file had been removed.

Well, after a bit of poking, prodding and thinking, this is what I came up with (reminder: WPMU means that you can’t there was no possibility to install plugins and no direct access to the server):

Last Hope Export of WordPress MU Blog

I went into Options > Reading. I set the feeds to “entire post”. As there were 110 posts in this blog, I set the home page to display all of them, with a little margin for error. There were more than 1400 comments, so I set the maximum number of items in a feed to 1500.

Then I did three things:

  • saved /feed (an RSS dump of the blog posts)
  • saved /comments/feed (an RSS dump of the comments)
  • scraped the blog (with single blog post pages) as an extra backup by running wget -r -l1 -w1 BLOGURL (thanks, John) from my server (also to save the images).

The blog was saved. I couldn’t import the RSS dump of blog posts into WordPress.com, where I told Sanja to open a new blog account, so I quickly set up a regular WordPress install on my server, imported it there, and exported it in WXR format. Great.

Comments, however, are another story. If you’re in a hackish mood, any help would be appreciated.

We’ll probably have to deal with the images too once the blog has been completely wiped off the 381.com server — for the moment it seems like it was disabled, but the images are still there (see this one for example).

There, that was for the technical part.

Now for a personal comment. I find it utterly disgusting and shocking that a blog host owner would give people an ultimatum to leave and disable the export function in the blogging software. Sanja tells me that they had the export function until a few days before the ultimatum.

Of course, a blog host can choose not to host certain people. But trying to lock people in by disabling export of their own data is simply evil. If you’re kicking people off your system, you damn well better make sure they can take their data with them.

Edit, 27.01, 12:00: I’m happy to learn that it seems the disabling of the export function was not related to the ultimatum, and that the blog381 people were not actually trying to actively lock people in. However, it remains that it’s pretty delicate in a conflictual situation to tell people to “submit or leave” when they don’t have a way to export their data on their own.

So, people, please. If you need a blog host, choose a serious one. WordPress.com for example. Or Blogger. Or Typepad. Putting your precious blog between the hands of an individual is risky (weblogs.com, anybody? and if you remember, people on weblogs.com at least had the guarantee they could export their data…)

How did this happen?

I got some details about the situation, but a word of warning about that, first. The source material to this Serbian blogosphere drama is all in… Serbian. I’m relying here on what my friend Sanja told me about the situation, and I do not doubt her good faith. I know, though, that stories do have multiple sides, and that there might be more to the background than what I’m telling you here — but whatever the background story, it cannot justify the behaviour of this blog host.

From what I gathered, what brought about this crisis is a quarrel between two bloggers: Tatjana aka Venus aka Lang (Update: Tatjana is not happy that I’m linking to her and has redirected visitors to this site elsewhere; to see her blog, copy-paste the link http://www.laluve.com/ in your browser), the owner of the Serbian blogging platform blog381.com (not the Tatjana who organized BlogOpen!), and another pretty popular blogger. At some point, Tatjana decided to forbid the people using her platform from linking to this other blogger or harbouring his comments.

Here is the warning she posted on the community forums:

Vlasnik blogova
http://bruh.org/ludizmaj/,
http://www.blogoye.org/pecina/,
http://www.blogoye.org/Mudrosti/,
http://www.blogoye.org/sujeta/
(ima verovatno jos ali ne mogu da trazim)

je ovom blog sistemu naneo stetu laziranjem glasova oko izbora za najblogera (na kom je on bio ‘pobednik’), ‘miniranjem’ sledeceg izbora, sirenjem neistina, traceva, vrbovanjem novih blogera sa tri osam jedan sistema, a sve u cilju da se naskodi ovom sistemu a poveca sopstveni traffic i “ugled”.

Za one koji nisu dovoljno informisani i sve ostale koji su slusali ili nisu, samo jednu stranu price od gore pomenutog, necu dodatno iznositi nikakve detalje, niti vise imam nameru da se borim sa provincijalizmima pojedinih ljudi koji su bili ili jesu na neki nacin u komunikaciji sa blogom381 i njegovim korisnicima.

Slobodna volja svakog od nas da pise kako i gde hoce, ali oni koji se odluce da i dalje pisu ovde nece moci da imaju linkove ka ovim blogovima niti komentare vlasnika istih.

Ukoliko imate zelju,nameru ili potrebu da ostanete na ovom blog sitemu, obrisite linkove i komentare gore pomenutog blogera u roku od 24h.

Translation (Sanja was a bit tired, so forgive the wobbliness):

The owner of these blogs http://bruh.org/ludizmaj/, http://www.blogoye.org/pecina/, http://www.blogoye.org/Mudrosti/, http://www.blogoye.org/sujeta/

has caused damage to this blog system by faking votes for the election of “The best blogger” (where he was “the winner”), and was undermining the next election by spreading gossip, lies, and recruiting new 381 bloggers, with only one aim: to damage this community and increase his own blog traffic and “reputation”.

For those who are not informed well enough, and all others who were listening or didn’t, only one side of the story of the person mentioned above, I will not give any additional details, nor do I have the intention to fight with provincialism of some people who were or in some way are connected to blog381 communication and their users.

It is the free will of each of us to write how and where we want to, but those who decide to keep writing here, will not be able to have links to these blogs or comments by their owner.

Those of you who have the wish, intention or need to stay on this blog system, should delete links and comments of the blogger (mentioned above) within 24 hours.

Sanja learnt about this because the owner of the blogging platform left a comment on one of her posts (not the most recent) to let her know about it. Given that the “other blogger” in question is a friend of Sanja’s, she wasn’t going to comply.

Other bloggers have also seen their blogs deleted, or at least de-activated (actually, before the 24-hour limit was up). A dozen or so, says Sanja.

If you want to chime in on the “political” side of this story (particularly if you’re involved in this story or a direct witness), you’re welcome to use my comments. However, I ask (as always) that everybody remain civil and refrain from personal attacks (commonsense blogging etiquette, y’know).

Update: It seems that since Sanja’s blog was deactivated, the whole blogging platform has been shut down, with a message that people can e-mail the administrator to get an export of their blog. This message was not there during the ultimatum period.

In a comment to this post, Tatjana aka Lang asked me to remove the link to her blog, http://www.laluve.com/ , which I had placed upon her name. As I have refused to remove it (linking to the people involved in this story is perfectly relevant, and on the web, you can link to who you want, anyway), she has set up a redirection which sends visitors from this site straight off to CNN. So, I’ve left the link in, of course, but provided you with a handy copy-paste if you want to go and visit her all the same.

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Posted in Wordpress | Tagged blog host, blog381, blogging, blogging platform, Blogosphere Interest, blogs, code of conduct, data, dump, ethics, export, Real Live Code, rss, wget, Wordpress, wpmu | 113 Comments

BlogCamp: Multilingual Blogging Session

[fr] Mise par écrit des notes de préparation pour ma présentation hier au sujet des blogs multilingues, lors du BlogCamp à Zürich. En deux mots: il faut des gens pour faire le pont entre les îles linguistiques sur internet, et la façon dont sont conçus nos outils n'encourage pas les gens à être multingues sur leurs blogs. C'est pourtant à mon avis la formule la plus viable pour avoir de bons ponts.

I presented a session about multilingual blogging at BlogCamp yesterday in Zürich. Thanks to all of you who attended (particularly as I was competing with Xing’s Nicolas Berg!) and wrote about the session (Bruno of course, Sarah, Sandra, Maira, Jens-Rainer, Waltraut, Jokerine, Antoine…let me know if I need to add you here), and to Greg in particular for filming the session.

Although I’m rather used to giving talks, this was the first time my audience was a bloggy-geek crowd, so it was particularly exciting for me. I prepared my talk on the train between Lausanne and Bern, and unfortunately prepared way too many notes (I’m used to talking with next to no notes), so I got a bit confused at times during my presentation — and, of course, left stuff out. Here’s a rough transcript of what I prepared. Oh, and don’t forget to look at this photo of my cat Bagha from time to time to get the whole “experience”.

Steph giving her talk. Photo by Henning

Talk notes

In the beginning there was the Big Bang. Space, time and matter came to exist. (Physicists in the audience, please forgive me for this.) We know it might end with a Big Crunch. Internet looks a bit like this Big Crunch, because it gets rid of space. With the right link to click on, the right URI, anybody can be anywhere at any time.

However, we often perceive the internet as a kind of “space”, or at least as having some sort of organisation or structure that we tend to translate into spatial terms or sensations. One way in which the internet is organised (and if you’re a good 2.0 person you’re acutely aware of this) is communities.

Communities are like gravity wells: people tend to stay “in” them. It very easy to be completely oblivious to what is going on in other communities. Barrier to entry: culture. Language is part of a culture, and even worse, it’s the vehicle for communication.

What is going on in the other languageospheres? I know almost nothing of what’s going on in the German-speaking blogosphere. The borders on the internet are linguistic. How do we travel? There is no digital equivalent of walking around town in a foreign country without understanding a word people say. Note: cultural divides are a general problem — I’m trying to focus here on one of the components of the cultural divide: language.

Who speaks more than one language? In the audience, (almost) everyone. This is doubly not surprising:

  • Switzerland is a multilingual country
  • this is the “online” crowd (cosmopolitan, highly educated, English-speaking — though English is not a national language here)

Two episodes that made me aware of how strong language barriers can be online, and how important it is to encourage people to bridge the language barriers:

  • launching Pompage.net because at the time of the browser upgrade initiative I realised that many French-speaking people didn’t have access to all the material that was available in Anglophonia, because they just didn’t understand English well enough;
  • the very different feelings bloggers had about Loïc Le Meur when he first started being active in the blogosphere, depending on if they were French- or English-speaking, particularly around the time of the Ublog story.

A few questions I asked the audience (mini-survey):

  • who reads blogs in more than one language? (nearly everyone)
  • who blogs in more than one language?
  • who has different blogs for different languages?
  • who has one blog with translated content in both languages? (two courageous people)
  • who has one blog with posts in various languages, mixed? (half a dozen people if my memory serves me right)
  • who feels they act as a bridge between languages?

So, let’s have a look at a few multilingual blogging issues (from the perspective of a biased bilingual person). Despite the large number of people out there who are comfortable writing in more than one language (and the even larger number who are more or less comfortable reading in more than one language), and the importance of bridging cultural/linguistic gaps, blogging tools still assume you are going to be blogging in one language (even though it is now accepted that this language may not be English).

What strategies are there for using more than one language on a blog, or being a good bridge? Concentrate first on strategy and then worry about technical issues. Usage is our best hope to make tool development evolve, here.

A. Two (or more) separate blogs

  • not truly “multilingual blogging”, it’s “monolingual blogging” twice
  • caters well to monolingual audiences
  • not so hot for multilingual audiences: must follow multiple blogs, with unpredictable duplication of content

B. Total translation

  • a lot of work! goes against the “low activation energy for publiction” thing that makes blogging work (=> less blogging)
  • good for multilingual and monolingual audiences
  • technical issues with non-monolingual page (a web page is assumed to be in a single language…)

C. Machine translation!

  • getting rid of the “effort” that makes B. fail as a large-scale solution, but retaining the benefiits!
  • problem: machine translation sucks
  • too imprecise, we don’t want more misunderstanding

D. A single blog, more than one language (my solution)

  • easy for the blogger, who just chooses the language to blog in depending on mood, bridge requirements, etc.
  • good for the right multilingual audience
  • technical issues with non-monolingual pages
  • how do you take care of monolingual audiences? provide a summary in the non-post language

“Monolingual” audiences are often not 100% monolingual. If the number of people who are perfectly comfortable writing in more than one language is indeed rather small, many people have some “understanding” skills in languages other than their mother tongue. Important to reach out to these skills.

For example, I’ve studied German at school, but I’m not comfortable enough with it to read German-language blogs. However, if I know that a particular post is going to be really interesting to me, I might go through the trouble of reading it, maybe with the help of some machine translation, or by asking a German-speaking friend.

A summary of the post in the language it is not written in can help the reader decide if it’s worth the trouble. Writing in a simple language will help non-native speakers understand. Making sure the number of typos and grammar mistakes are minimal will help machine translation be helpful. And machine translation, though it is often comical, can help one get the gist of what the post is about.

Even if the reader is totally helpless with the language at hand, the summary will help him know what he’s missing. Less frustrating. And if it’s too frustrating, then might give motivation to hunt down a native speaker or do what’s required to understand what the post is about.

Other bridging ideas:

  • translation networks (translate a post or two a month from other bloggers in the network, into your native language)
  • translation portal (“news of the world” with editorial and translation work done) — check out Blogamundo

Problem I see: bloggers aren’t translators. Bloggers like writing about their own ideas, they’re creative people. Translating is boring — and a difficult task.

Some more techy thoughts:

  • use the lang= attribute, particularly when mixing languages on a web page (and maybe someday tools will start parsing that)
  • CSS selectors to make different languages look different (FR=pink, EN=blue for example)
  • language needs to be a post (or even post element) attribute in blogging tools
  • WordPress plugins: language picker Polyglot and Basic Bilingual
  • excerpt in another language: what status in RSS/atom? Part of the post content or not? Can RSS/atom deal with more than one language in a feed, or do they assume “monolingualism”?
  • indicating the language of the destination page a link points to

Extra reading

The nice thing about having a blog is that you can dive back into time and watch your thinking evolve or take place. Here is a collection of posts which gravitate around language issues (in a “multilingual” sense). The Languages/Linguistics category is a bit wider than that, however.

Blogging in more than one language:

About the importance of language, etc.:

Similar Posts:

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