Traitez d’abord les mails récents au retour de vacances! [fr]

Quand vous revenez de vacances ou d’absence et que vous êtes devant une pile de mails, traitez les mails les plus récents en premier.

Je réalise régulièrement que cette façon de procéder ne va pas forcément de soi. C’est vrai qu’on a tendance à penser chronologiquement, ou bien commencer par le début, et donc se dire qu’on va faire les choses dans l’ordre.

Mais la réalité c’est que le mail d’il y a trois semaines a bien des chances d’être caduque, surtout s’il était un peu urgent. Les urgences d’il y a trois semaines ne sont plus des urgences, par contre les urgences d’aujourd’hui le sont encore. Il vaut donc mieux commencer par elles.

Ce mail d’il y a trois semaines a peut-être aussi été suivi par un mail il y a une semaine qui dit “laisse tomber, j’ai trouvé une solution”. Ne vaut-il donc pas la peine de voir ce mail-là en premier?

A plus forte raison si vous êtes en copie d’une “discussion mail” à plusieurs, il vaut mieux voir l’état de la discussion aujourd’hui (qui est peut-être close) plutôt que de répondre d’abord au premier mail, puis au deuxième, etc. – pour ensuite découvrir que nos réponses sont inutiles parce que la situation a évolué entre-temps.

Il arrive aussi que l’on ait tellement de mails qu’on n’arrive pas à tout rattraper. Dans la plupart des cas de figure, ce n’est pas un désastre, pour autant que l’on traite d’abord les mails récents! Si un mail envoyé reste sans réponse et était important, la personne va se manifester à nouveau et donc se retrouver en haut de votre boîte de réception, et son mail sera traité.

Il vaut aussi la peine, avant de passer beaucoup de temps sur une ancienne demande, de vérifier avec l’expéditeur si celle-ci est toujours d’actualité.

Bonne reprise!

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The Tweak to Google Tasks That Makes it Work [en]

I like Google Tasks. Most of my task management is paper-based, but when it comes to getting through my day, I’m married to Google Calendar. That’s where all my meetings are, and where, for a few months now, I’ve been scheduling my various activities for the day (including free time).

Here is what I use Google Tasks for:

  1. to pin a reminder for a “small thing” I want to get done today, but that I don’t think I need to schedule in order to get it done
  2. to pre-plan on which day of the week I’m going to get something done.

The second use-case isn’t much of a problem. When I get around to preparing my schedule for the day, the task in my calendar helps remind me that I need to plan time for that task on that day.

The first one is trickier: regularly, I will not get around to doing the task on that day (another story, but for the sake of this post, let’s just take this as a fact of life). This is where the handy “new” (I actually don’t know how new it is) feature that Google Tasks provides comes in really handy: if you let tasks slide, today’s task listing also provides one-click access to “pending tasks”.

Pending tasks are those from previous days that haven’t been done. From that list, you can easily mark them as done or edit them.

One of the reasons I had stopped using Google Tasks in the past was precisely because of what happen – rather, didn’t happen – when I let tasks slide. They would simply disappear from my awareness and get forgotten until they came back to bite me. The “pending tasks” feature prevents this, and it’s a godsend.

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Getting Older: How I Use Technology [en]

At lunch my colleague ordered delivery for us. On her phone.

Of course I know this exists. But it hasn’t “worked” that well in Switzerland for all that long, and I think I’d never ordered food with an app. I felt like a fumbling doofus not knowing where to find the fries in the menu.

This got me thinking (and we had a chat around this topic with a bunch of my – quite – younger colleagues, and one my age).

The idea that you can easily and cheaply get food delivered is very new to me. This is not something we could do when I was young. I think I only really started ordering food during lockdown (when Quintus died, actually), and I only did it a handful of times. Maybe once before. But I call, speak to a human being, place my order. I don’t really feel confident doing it through a website.

Weird, huh?

We were also musing on why so many people seem to want paper versions of certain documents when a digital version can be sent instantly by e-mail (and printed, if need be). Some people just aren’t comfortable having important things on their phones. I recalled how long it took me (me!) to be comfortable travelling with only a “phone” version of my airline ticket. In all honesty, depending on where I’m going, I still am not really.

So, here’s a little list of stuff I do and don’t do with technology.

  • I use ebanking and cash transfer apps (I’m almost completely cashless)
  • I use an app to track my public transport use and bill me at the end of the day
  • I order(ed) books and CDs online from amazon, before I went completely digital
  • I buy plane and train tickets online (but am always slightly uneasy not carrying a print version when abroad)
  • I make concert reservations online
  • To book a restaurant, I’ll call them up
  • I chat and interact with people I “don’t know” online all the time
  • I’ve been meeting people “from the internets” for over twenty years (completely blasé about it)
  • I never managed to really get into snapchat or tiktok
  • I rarely print things, I tend to photograph paper stuff to digitally store it
  • I order groceries online when needed but I’d rather go into the store (when needed: post-lockdown, overworked)
  • I message people, rarely cold-call (except with family or purely utilitarian stuff, I generally schedule my calls)
  • I don’t order clothes online
  • I rarely print photos, they are first and foremost digital beings
  • I trust digital storage at least as much as physical storage
  • I know how to use a paper map
  • I navigate using google maps most of the time
  • I don’t have a CD or DVD player anymore
  • I have a Kindle and prefer most of my books as e-books
  • I type rather than write on pen and paper
  • I dictate to my phone regularly (my thumbs get fed up though I thumb-type really fast)
  • I rarely send people voice messages (never without consent – I hate receiving cold voice messages)
  • I have a location tracker on my cat, and home surveillance cameras (for the cats) but haven’t connected the cat-flap to the internet

When I was talking with my colleagues, I realised that the first phone I had which could usefully connect to the internet (through GPRS) was around 2007 or so (it wasn’t an iphone). I could check my mails and even Twitter. Load slow web pages that weren’t mobile-friendly. I was 33 in 2007. So until that age, I lived and functioned without a constant connection to the internet. And I’m realising, now, as years turn into decades, that I’m starting to see my age in my level of comfort with certain technology usages.

Quoting Douglas Adams:

1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.

2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.

3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

What about you?

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Early Thoughts on Clubhouse [en]

Sometime back, I got an invitation to Clubhouse. I joined. I was very perplexed. I thought I would write down some thoughts while my eyes are still fresh.

Clubhouse reminds me of Seesmic, a space in which one could disappear for days on end. It reminds me of the excitment of the early days of blogging and social platforms like Twitter and even Facebook. It reminds me of the of videoblogging and audioblogging, later to become podcasting. It reminds me of Netmeeting and chat networks, way back before I left for India.

If you haven’t heard of Clubhouse, or don’t know what it is exactly, here is what you need to know. It’s a live audio social network. Audio only. It’s like Facebook live without the video. It’s like live podcasts, or little private radio stations. Like audio-only zoom, with an audience.

When I say audio-only, it really is audio only. There is no way to communicate with other users. You can start a room and invite people and start talking. And that’s it. Oh ! I nearly forgot. You can set a topic for your room. That’s the only non-audio content you’re allowed on Clubhouse. Apart from your profile bio, of course.

Now, hearing just this, one would be justified in thinking a Clubhouse room would be one big mess of people talking over each other and background noises. But no. Each room has a « stage » : these are the people who can talk. The rest of the room is the « audience ». People in the audience can raise their hand to ask to be invited on stage. The room moderator can invite people on stage, put people back in the audience, mute microphones if necessary.

Most rooms I see in my feed are huge, with hundreds or even thousands of people in the audience. But I see a potential for smaller, niche, « amongst friends » discussions. Many years ago, Suw and I had a short-lived podcast called Fresh Lime Soda. We would catch each other on Skype, talk about interesting stuff, and post it. Clubhouse would be great for this kind of things. Set a time, invite one or two friends and talk about stuff.

You could also organise a « virtual conference » there. Of course, you can already do that on zoom or meet or wherever, but maybe Clubhouse would make such an event more discoverable. There is no friction to joining a room, raising your hand, inviting somebody on stage.

If Clubhouse was mainstream, I’d hold a weekly Q&A for my diabetic cat group on there.

One thing to ponder about, and that we discussed with Arne on the occasion of our first « real » attempt at figuring out this Clubhouse thing, was the lack of video. I really see it as an advantage. The barrier to joining is lower without video. I can jump onto a call without worrying about how I look, what I’m wearing, or people seeing what it looks like where I am. Audio is less invasive. You can « do stuff » while listening to audio, but you can’t do much while watching video. You can hang out in the audience of your favorite Clubhouse room with your phone in your pocket while you do the dishes or go for a walk – just like you would listen to a podcast.

So, if you’d like an invite, or if you’re over there and would like to seize the occasion to play around with the new tool and catch up while we’re at it, let me know !

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So You Know My Users and Community Better Than Me? [en]

Sometime back I joined a pile of “Group/Page Admin Help” support groups on Facebook. As you may or may not know, I manage a rather busy and intense support group for diabetic cat owners on Facebook. One thing I would love to be able to do is identify members who haven’t posted in a given time-frame to check in on them.

We screen people who want to join the group through welcome questions, so every person who joins the group has a sick cat (a few exceptions). The thing with diabetic cats is that if you don’t do things right, you run the risk of ending up with a disaster. When those disasters happen at night or on week-ends (as they do), the group ends up having to deal with panicked owner and sometimes dying cat that the on-call vet doesn’t want to see (I guess they have their reasons). So in addition to wanting to be helpful to our members, we have a vested interest as a community in making sure that our members are actually using the group to follow best practices, keep their cat safe, and therefore avoid being the source of a midnight crisis.

This is just to give you a bit of background.

So what we do in my group is each member gets a personalised welcome publication when they join, with instructions to get started and pointers to our documentation. At the end of the week. all the people who joined during the week get a “group welcome” publication with some more info and links. (Think “onboarding”.) Two months later, another message (the first six months after diagnosis are critical, so two months in is a good time to get your act together if you haven’t yet). I used to do a “you’ve been here six months, wow!” group post too, but now I’ve moved it up to a year (the group turned two years old last January).

When I posted in these “admin support groups” to explain what we did and that I would like a way to identify inactive members, I was immediately piled upon (honestly there is no other word) by people telling me that they would quit a group which mentioned them like that in publications, that people should be allowed to lurk, etc. etc. I was Wrong to want to identify inactive members and Wrong to actively onboard new members.

I have to say I was a bit shocked at the judgement and outrage. Why do these people assume they understand my community better than I do? Anyway, it was a very frustrating experience.

For the record, there isn’t a way of identifying inactive members in a Facebook group.

Yesterday, somebody else posted the same question on one of those groups. They also wanted a way to identify inactive members to encourage them to participate, in a group based on active participation. Again, the onslaught of judgemental comments regarding the group’s rules and philosophy.

Seriously, what is wrong with people?

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Le message vocal, entre amour et haine [fr]

A la base, je déteste les messages vocaux. Mais j’ai appris à les aimer. Je vous raconte.

Premièrement, le message vocal souffre du défaut propre à l’audio et à la vidéo, par rapport au texte: on ne peut pas y jeter un rapide coup d’oeil ou l’écouter en diagonale. Soit on l’écoute, soit on ne l’écoute pas. L’écouter monopolise l’entier de notre attention. Et avant de l’écouter, on ne sait pas ce qu’il y a dedans.

Impossible de “trier”, de décider s’il mérite ou non une consultation immédiate, s’il va nous remuer ou simplement nous donner une information anodine. Le message vocal, comme la séquence audio ou vidéo, est simple à produire, mais impose à celui qui le reçoit une plus grande charge pour y accéder.

Deuxièmement, et ça c’est un élément personnel, comme je suis malentendante, écouter un message vocal représente potentiellement toute une gymnastique: ôter mes appareils, trouver mon mains libres, etc. Et il y a toujours la crainte que la qualité audio ne soit pas suffisamment bonne et que je doive réécouter des bouts.

Voilà pour le message vocal “haine”: celui qui débarque sans explications ni annonce, imprévu, une boîte noire qui réclame que je lâche tout pour je-ne-sais-quoi.

Et l’amour alors?

Le message vocal, c’est de la voix. On entend l’autre. On s’exprime parfois plus facilement qu’à l’écrit. Pour raconter quelque chose, ou rentrer dans des subtilités, c’est génial. C’est moins prenant qu’un appel, mais il y a une proximité similaire. Il y a des gens avec qui j’ai des conversations par messages vocaux. J’adore.

Mais le pré-requis, c’est le consentement. Vérifier que je vais pouvoir écouter, par exemple. C’est aussi le message vocal envoyé avec un peu de contexte: “je te raconte ça, tu écouteras à l’occasion”.  C’est le message vocal poli, au final, qui tient compte de l’autre, et pas juste de la grande facilité qu’il y a à le produire.

Et vous, comment vivez-vous les messages vocaux?

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Moving From Apple Photos to Adobe Lightroom Classic CC [en]

God have mercy on me. A few months ago I decided I was coming back to Lightroom. Now is the time to actually move my stuff out of Apple Photos and into Lightroom. It’s not so much emptying Apple Photos that concerns me as transferring albums, favorites, and editing over to Lightroom.

I had foreseen the headache, and so I am documenting what I’m doing here first of all for myself (because I might end up abandoning halfway through, as usual, and picking up six months later, having forgotten everything), and also for other poor souls out there who might be in the same situation.

First, the easy part: exporting from Apple Photos.

  1. One thing I wanted to “export” was my albums. I went through each album I wanted to keep, selected all the photos in it, displayed information and added a keyword like “my cats album” to all the photos. Kludgy and a little tedious, but does the trick.
  2. When viewing photos Apple lets you display “only edited” photos. This allowed me to export both the edited photo and the unmodified original for photos I had edited in Apple Photos. I then exported the unmodified originals of photographs I hadn’t touched in Apple Photos separately.
  3. I exported these photos into three separate folders, without any subfolders: “Apple edited”, “Apple originals”, “Apple unedited”. I renamed the edited photos to avoid file name conflicts later on, but left the originals/unedited file names untouched, in the hope it would help Lightroom detect duplicates/updated photos later on.
  4. For the original files, I told Apple Photos to write IPTC to XMP. This works great for RAW files (Lightroom grabs the metadata from the XMP sidecar) but not for JPG originals (who are not supposed to have a sidecar). After fumbling around I found my solution: a simple command-line command for exiftools. The person posting had pretty much the same problem as I did, and I just used the solution offered as-is. It throws some errors (when XMP files don’t have anything interesting in them, I think) but works fine.

Now for the real fun: importing into Lightroom.

  1. For this, I used a temporary working catalog, rather than mess up my master catalog directly. I made the working catalog by exporting some photos as a catalog from the master catalog, and then removing those photos from the temporary catalog (not the files though, beware!)
  2. I started with the edited photos, followed by their original files. I moved them into a month-based folder structure parallel to the one I use for my main library (in a folder called “Apple import”). Upon importing, I gave each batch a keyword to be able to figure out who was who later on (“appleedited” and “master of apple edited”).
  3. I ran Find Duplicates 2 on those photos and it turned out quite a pile of them. Not that surprising. I decided to have a look, and saw that there were indeed a lot of “edited” photos that were so close to the original (or unimportant) that I wasn’t going to bother importing a bloated redundant JPG of those “edits”.
  4. I proceeded to cull those “duplicates”. I started out by giving all those photos a keyword to recognise them later (see how I abuse keywords?). I then rejected all the “mess” (screenshots, photos of bank statements…) that comes with exporting photos from your phone.
  5. I then went painstakingly (but as efficiently as possible) through the unflagged photos and used a label to identify those where I was indeed going to keep both the edited version and the master. I could have skipped this but I figure less bloat is better.
  6. Amongst the unflagged and unlabeled photos with the “duplicate” keyword, I filtered for those with “edited” in the file name (remember how I renamed the edited photos upon export from Apple Photos? handy; I could also have used the keyword I attributed the edited versions upon export, come to think of it. Oh well.) I rejected all those edited photos I decided not to keep.
  7. Similarly, I selected the originals for those photos and changed their keyword to indicate they were not a master photo for an edited version anymore. I also removed the duplicate tag and then cleaned up my mess of coloured labels.
  8. I am not deleting any rejected photos until I get everybody back into my master catalog. Hopefully this will clean up a bit of the “smartphone mess”…or not.
  9. I then proceeded to import the photos from Apple Photos which hadn’t been edited. Just 20k of them. It was loooooong.

Now… how to merge all this back into the master catalog without losing any information and without multiplying photos excessively… I’m not sure I have the solution, and I’m going to err on the side of not losing data. I can always hunt for duplicates later.

I picked a year where I had only a couple of hundred Apple photos, and exported a working catalog from the Apple import catalog for only that year. I then imported those photos into my master catalog, without moving the files. To my dismay Lightroom didn’t recognize any as duplicates or updated files. After looking at things manually it’s clear there are duplicates and I was very wise to not try and move the files to their right place in the catalog yet (filenames are identical!)

I set Find Duplicates loose on all the photos for that year. As I’ve previously cleaned up my whole catalog of duplicates, and marked “fake duplicates” with a keyword that allows me to filter them out, I end up with a shortlist of duplicates between my newly imported photos and those that were already in the master catalog. The “edited” photos in the duplicates are not much of a problem, as they are strictly speaking “fake duplicates”. The master photographs are more of a problem: I’d like to retain the keywords from the new photo and whatever keywords/ratings were on the old photo. I can do that by manually synchronising metadata, but it’s super tedious.

For the time being I’ll just mark those duplicates “appledupes” until I can figure out what to do with them.

Next in line:

  • moving those photos into the “final” folders (will involve renaming the Apple photos)
  • trying a year with more photos.

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More blogging in the world? [en]

Originally meant as a comment on the post Back to the Blog by Dan Cohen.

Over the years (quite some years ago) I ran a handful of “back2blog” challenges, to try and get people writing on their blogs again. They worked, but once the challenge was over, we all folded back into Facebook.

I’ve been writing more on my blog these last six months or so. One thing that helped me was to try and go back to the early days of pre-social-media blogging, when I’d write much shorter pieces than the essay-like ones. I realised that one of the things that made me write things that could very well have been blog posts on facebook rather than on my blog was that I had come to see blog posts as “articles”, complete with a proper title, appropriate categories and tags, and to make it worse, as I’m bilingual, a short summary of what I was writing in my “other language”.

To do that, I started posting things as “asides” — a post type WordPress provides with for somewhat lesser content. I also decided that my 45-minute commute on the train was more than enough time to crank out a quick post, and when I’m not travelling with colleagues, I really make an effort to write stuff.

I really believe that unless Facebook et al backpedal in making their platforms less addictive (cf. Clay Shirky’s segment in this OTM episode) we are definitely going to see people falling back on their blogs.

Now let me go and find a no-nonsense-no-frills newsreader so I can subscribe to Dan’s blog.

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