Ingress: My Leveling-Up Advice So Far [en]

[fr] Conseils de base pour passer rapidement les "premiers niveaux" (L4, L5, L6...) quand on joue à Ingress: so concentrer sur la construction, et surtout la création de fields, plutôt que d'attaquer des portails ennemis que l'on passera beaucoup de temps à détruire vu notre faible puissance de frappe et qui rapporteront relativement peu d'AP. Un résonateur détruit = 75AP, un field fermé = 1250AP, un portail entièrement déployé de la capture aux mods = 2000AP.

I haven’t been around the game that long, but I have noticed different progression profiles:

  • players who dive in completely, reach L8 in a few weeks
  • players who don’t play quite as much and stay “stuck” somewhere around L4-L5 for a bit

When it comes to having offensive power that can actually make a bit of a difference in the game, L6 is where it starts. L6 XMP bursters can do a reasonable amount of damage, and it makes progressing more encouraging to be able to have that kind of impact.

So, how do you get there and avoid staying stuck? A few things to understand so you put your efforts in the right place when you’re starting out.

Look at how much AP you need — 20K may feel like a lot when you’re starting out, but if you realise that it just means deploying 10 portals or making a handful of fields it suddenly seems much more attainable.

Hack, hack hack

Hack every portal you see, whatever its level or yours, whatever its colour. After verifying your account by SMS code, you have space for 2000 items in your inventory, which is more than enough when you’re starting out, even though it feels like an overstuffed sock drawer when you’ve been playing for a bit.

You can hack a portal again after 5 minutes have gone by. So do it. Not sure if you have? Just try. Nothing bad will happen if you don’t wait, it’ll just tell you you’re being a bit impatient.

So… just make it a habit of hacking everything that comes within range on your scanner. Again and again.

Deploy, link, field

To progress until level 8, all you need is AP (action points). This means you want to concentrate on actions which will bring you the most AP, so that you will quickly have access to higher level objects that allow you to better take part in the game.

If you google ingress ap leveling you’ll find a bunch of links to tables listing AP required by level and AP gained by action. They’re not all up-to-date. Here is the important stuff to remember:

  • capturing a portal is 500AP, each resonator and mod deployed is 125AP, completing deployment is an extra 250AP; this means that a complete portal deployment (from capture to placing two mods) is 2000AP
  • creating a link is 313AP, closing a field is 1250AP; this means that if you capture three portals, deploy them as above and link them together in a triangle to create a field, you will have gained 8189AP (barring any calculation mistake on my part) => capturing, deploying, linking and fielding is the best way to gain AP
  • if you destroy an enemy portal, you gain 75AP per resonator destroyed, 187 per link destroyed, 750 per field destroyed; less than if you’re building, and that’s assuming you have the firepower to destroy the portal in question (you probably don’t)

TL;DR: concentrate on deploying portals whenever you can and creating links and field.

Pay attention particularly in high portal density environments (cities) to always link to the closest portals possible and not throw long links across towns — other players will not be happy with you if you do. (Once you’ve done a few fielding sessions you’ll completely understand why.)

Also, remember to deploy your resonators as far as possible from the portal centre, as it makes them more difficult to destroy.

Play with others

Ingress is a multiplayer game. Though you can have fun playing alone, it’s even more fun with other people, and for certain types of gameplay (large fielding operations, or deploying L8 portals) you need to work as a group.

When it comes to leveling up and learning how to play, experienced players will greatly accelerate the process. They’ll show you tips and tricks, you’ll be included in your local community, and — last but not least — you will gain AP more quickly.


If you go out for a fielding session alone:

  • you have to get all the keys you need yourself (remember you can only hack a portal 4 times, with a 5-minute timeout between hacks)
  • you’ll probably struggle a bit orienting yourself with the scanner and high portal density
  • if you stumble upon well-deployed and shielded opposite faction portals you probably won’t be able to take them down

With an experienced player:

  • they will help you pick a good spot for your fielding session
  • two people hacking = double the keys, they will drop those they pick up for you so you can spend more time deploying and linking, and less time walking back and forth or waiting next to portals to hack them again
  • they will help you figure out what to link to what and tell you where the portals are
  • they might give you gear you need
  • you’ll get to know another player who is part of the community!

Know the “key drop” trick

When you hack a portal that you already have the key to, it will not give you another key. When fielding, you will need more than one key per portal (more like 2 or 3, or even more).

If you drop the key before hacking the portal, the portal will probably give you a key. You can then pick up the key you just dropped and you will have two of them.

Make each hack count, when it comes to collecting keys!

Anything else?

If you’re currently leveling up and have received good advice to accelerate your progress, or if you’re an experienced player who has advice I haven’t listed here, share in the comments.

Adopting a New Cat: 10 Tips for Newbies [en]

[fr] Quelques conseils et tuyaux pour les personnes peu familières avec les chats.

Not everybody is familiar with cats. Here are some tips and advice for those of you who might find themselves a little at loss with their first adopted cat (or first “real” cat you have the full responsibility of).

Cats (2013 11) -- Mon petit panier de légumes

1. Cat psychology

The main thing to understand about cats is that they are naturally shy animals. They like sheltered places (under then bed) rather than big empty spaces (in the middle of the living room).

If your cat is spooked, leave it alone. It will end up exploring and coming to you, even though it might take weeks. The worst thing you can do is chase after a spooked cat to try and make friends with it. It’s said that cats like those who don’t like them, and there is some truth in there: people who don’t like cats leave them alone.

Cats don’t either like loud noises or brusque movements. To make yourself cat-friendly, avoid speaking too loudly and making scary noises. Move gently. (This is why cats often have trouble with children, who traditionally make a lot of noise and tear about the place ;-))

2. Cat language

Some cats are talkative and meow, others don’t. Meowing is a way of communicating with humans, so if a cat is meowing, chances are it wants something. Usually one of:

  • food
  • water
  • litter
  • to be let out of where they are
  • reassurance (which might not necessarily mean being scooped up and carried, but maybe just visual contact and hearing your voice)

Sushi en septembre 2

Cat body-language is unlike the dog’s: tail flapping is usually sign of annoyance or discontent (again, some cats have more wavy tails than others and might whip their tail around even when purring — but generally less tail movement = better). Ears backwards is fear. Big dilated pupils too. (Or anger.) Purring is usually good, growling and hissing isn’t.

3. How a cat explores

Most cats will explore only at the speed they’re comfortable. They might spend a lot of time exploring with their eyes/ears/nose first before coming out of their hidey-place. They’ll explore a little and then retreat to safety.

Cuisery 24

You and other humans are part of the territory to explore. If you’re away during the day, be sure the cat is making good use of that time to explore — or sleep!

4. Food, drink, and litter

At the beginning make sure that food, drink, and litter are close at hand for the cat. You don’t want it to go days without food because it’s scared (cats actually don’t do well without food for anything more than 24 hours). If the cat is not eating try and tempt him with something specially tasty.

Keep the litter tray as far as possible from the food and water. The cat might take a while to use it (they’re champions at “holding it in”, specially the “big business”, for what might be days). If you’re worried about time passing by and not enough going in or out of the cat, call a vet for advice with the specifics, they’ll be able to tell you if the cat needs medical attention or just a bit more time.

Most cats don’t like their water near their food. More than one water bowl is a good idea (I spread them around the flat). Avoid plastic for food/water bowls as many cats are allergic and develop acne on their chins.

Keep the litter tray very clean (remove whatever the cat does in it as soon as you see it). Open litter trays are more appreciated than covered ones. A few drops of bleach in the litter will encourage the cat to use it. (Remember, what smells nice to you doesn’t smell nice to the cat, so go gently on those litter deodorants or perfumed litter.)

5. Petting and carrying your cat

Cats usually like to be petted once they’re comfortable (and it can reassure them). Not all cats like to be carried. Scratching under the chin, on the head, stroking on the shoulders is usually safe. Scratching the lower back can be either much appreciated or set the cat off. Bellies are best avoided until you know for sure the cat wants it (rolling and showing you its belly does not always imply it wants you to touch it).

When you carry a cat, make sure you support its behind with one hand. Cats have their habits, so maybe your cat has been used to being carried a certain way. Try and see what your cat does when you pick it up and listen to its body-language, it might give you hints.

If your cat hits you or bites you when you pet it, it might mean

  • that it’s not comfortable enough with you yet (specially if it’s at the beginning and it’s still scared)
  • that it’s “over-stimulated” — there is a fine line between pleasant contact and contact that feels like an agression. In that case, learn to stop petting before it becomes unpleasant for the cat. Watch out for flicking tail, ears backwards, dilated pupils. With time (months/years) you will learn to know when to stop, and the cat will gently stretch out its comfort zone.

Max et Lilly à Saint-Prex -- Max

6. Approaching your cat

If your cat is shy, and even if it isn’t, avoid standing full height when you first approach it. Also avoid looking at it directly (staring is an agressive attitude). Look at the cat, look away, look at the cat, blink, look away, etc. Gently stretch an arm forward as far as you can and point your index finger at cat-height in direction of your cat — as if your finger was another cat’s nose.

Cats greet each other by touching noses, and you can mimic that with a finger. Approach your cat with your finger, very gently, and let it do the last bit (don’t ram your finger in its nose, leave your finger a few centimetres away and let your cat do the last bit). If your cat is scared and retreats, retreat too and try again later. Speak gently/softly when you do this.

Once the cat has touched your finger it will probably retreat a bit, or come and rub its head against your hand. Let it do it a bit, and then see if you can pet it a bit with a finger or scratch head or cheeks!

7. Enrichment: toys, outdoors, cat tree

Cats are hunters. They sleep a lot (upto 16 hours a day, mostly when you’re not around). If your cat is an indoor cat you are going to have to play with it every day. Here’s an article (in French) about how to care properly for an indoor cat. Expensive toys are not necessary (they bring more pleasure to you than the cat, so spend wisely). A piece of string or a rolled ball of paper you can throw are fine. Corks on a string and ping-pong balls are great. Fishing-rod style toys are good as they really help you be active with your cat. Clicker training is also something you might consider, as it’s a nice cat-human activity, and it can do wonders in getting a shy/less-sociable cat to bond with you.

An indoor cat absolutely needs a scratching post. It should be really sturdy and tall enough for the cat to stretch out completely when scratching (that can be over 1m high for a big cat!)

If your cat is going outdoors, wait at least 3 weeks to a month before letting it out. More if the cat is still not comfortable with you, doesn’t come when called, or is not quite at ease indoors. Here is an article (in French) that explains how I proceed for letting my cats outdoors.

A cat is going to be happier in a cluttered environment than in a place full of open spaces. It doesn’t mean you need to live in a mess, but particularly at the beginning if you can leave paper bags and cardboard boxes lying around, or a chair in the hallway, etc., it will make it easier on the cat (you’re creating hiding-places). It’s also important that the cat has somewhere to look outside. They’ll spend a lot of time “virtually hunting” just by observing the outside world.

Max et Lilly à Saint-Prex -- Attentive

You can create more “space” for your cat inside by thinking in 3D: where can the cat climb? This adds surface to its territory.

And indoor cat should have access to “cat grass” (usually wheat). You can get it in supermarkets or pet stores depending on your area or plant it yourself. They use it to purge themselves of the fur they ingest while grooming.

8. Education

The golden rule of education is: be firm and consistent. Imitate a mother cat with her kittens: if you decide your cat is not allowed on the kitchen table, a sharp “no!” and swift removal of the cat should work (just pick it up and put it on the floor, or if it’s skittish enough, chase it off with your hand — or it might just jump off as you approach). I usually continue saying “no!” in a stern tone until the cat is back in “permitted” territory. (Be reasonable though: a cat needs to be allowed on the furniture in general!)

It’s usually unnecessary (just sayin’!) to hit your cat. If you have a specially stubborn cat like my Tounsi you might have to swat it on the top of the head with two fingers (imitate a cat paw coming down sharply) but use this with care and circumspection.

What works better for cats who insist on getting into trouble (destroying your houseplants for example) is to run/walk fast towards them, yell or make a huge hissing sound when you get near (like an angry cat), and when they move, chase them away by running after them. This is really imitating what another cat would do.

This technique can also be used for a cat who does not know play limits and bites or scratches you. Stop interacting immediately, hiss and chase the cat away. Then ignore it.

Clicker training can also be a very useful tool for education. (Watch videos on YouTube if you don’t know what it can do.) It can help replace unwanted behaviours by wanted behaviours. Not to mention it can help with useful things like getting a cat into a carrier or having it let you examine its paws.

Quintus has no shame, comfort before everything 1

9. Safety

Open windows and unsecured balconies. Cats do fall from windows and balconies and injure themselves (the cat never getting hurt by a fall is a myth). Tilt open windows are dangerous for cats as they might try and get out through them and get caught in the crack (and die).

Some plants are toxic to cats (famously, lilies — Google will serve you umpteen lists). Antifreeze is very attractive to them, and deadly.

Be careful with power cords (risk of electric shock) and electric/ceramic cookers (burns). Don’t let them swallow string or ribbons (risk of intestinal occlusion).

Chocolate is toxic to cats. So are tomatoes and a whole lot of other human food that doesn’t agree with them well. Cats don’t digest milk, it gives them diarrhoea. They are strict carnivores and should normally not eat anything besides high-quality cat food. (Ask your vet for advice. Supermarket cat-food is usually suboptimal but some brands are good.)

Permethrin, which is found in some insecticides (including dog anti-flea products) is deadly for cats.

A cat which has not eaten for 24 hours is a medical emergency (risk of hepatic lipidosis).

10. Vet and carrier box

If you can, make sure you can get your cat into the carrier box before you need it (but don’t over-spook an already spooked cat by doing it unnecessarily). Leave the carrier outside for a few days instead of taking it out of wherever it is just when you use it. Lure the cat inside with treats. Let it come back out. Put a treat in the back of the carrier, close the door, give a treat, open the door again to let it out. With a bit of practice chances are you’ll have a cat that runs into its carrier to get a treat.

Ask your cat friends for a vet recommendation before you need one. If your cat seems to be settling ok, it can be a good thing to take it to the vet for an initial check-up. Like that the vet gets to meet the cat when it’s in good health and doesn’t need to be tortured too much 😉

Safran aime mon jardin palette 3

Eye issues shouldn’t wait before seeing a vet. Cats are fragile with colds, so a coughing, sneezing, or sniffling cat should see a vet quickly. Cats hide pain very well, so often the first sign you will notice of a cat not being well is that it’s more quiet, doesn’t want to play, isn’t eating much — or simply doesn’t follow its usual habits. If you notice such changes in behaviour, call your vet for advice and probably a check-up. It’s better to catch something minor early than wait too long and end up with a dead cat (sorry to be dramatic but these things happen).

Have fun with your cat!

There, I think I’ve covered the essentials. If you have any questions, use the comments. And have fun with your new cat 🙂

Pédophiles et hébéphiles [fr]

[en] Listen to Dan Savage's podcast episode about pedophilia. Enlightening.

Si vous n’avez jamais écouté le podcast de Dan Savage où lu ses chroniques, je vous encourage à y remédier tout de suite. Attention cependant, si le franc-parler autour de la sexualité vous heurte, ou que vous avez une vision très traditionnelle de ce que devrait être une relation amoureuse, vous risquez de trouver parfois dérangeant. Mais des fois c’est bien d’être dérangé.

Dan prodigue ses conseils sur tout ce qui touche au sexe et aux relations depuis 1999. Il prend des appels de gens venant de tous horizons, il est extrêmement ouvert et je trouve ses conseils très avisés (même si pas toujours très polis ;-)).

Il n’est donc pas surprenant qu’il soit parfois approché de ceux ou celles qui ne savent plus vers qui se tourner. Ce fut le cas dans l’épisode 272, avec l’appel d’une femme dont le compagnon est pédophile et qui — ça se comprend — ne sait pas quoi faire.

Pédophile, c’est un mot qui me dérange. Il me dérange parce qu’il est usé à toutes les sauces dans les médias, et a fini par devenir synonyme de “prédateur sexuel”. Revenons un peu au sens premier: un pédophile, c’est quelqu’un qui est attiré sexuellement par les enfants pré-pubères. C’est tout.

Le lecteur consciencieux aura noté qu’on parle ici d’attirance (ou de désir) et non pas de passage à l’acte.

Je ne crois pas que l’on choisit son orientation sexuelle. Pas plus qu’on ne choisit quel genre d’homme ou de femme nous attire. Et je ne crois pas non plus que l’on choisit d’être sexuellement attiré par de jeunes enfants.

Ecoutez cet épisode (du moins le début) dans lequel Dan fait appel à un spécialiste de la pédophilie pour faire le point. Qu’il y ait une crispation telle (compréhensible lors de passage à l’acte!) qu’il est impossible aux Etats-Unis pour une personne sujette à ce genre de pulsions d’aller consulter pour chercher du soutien afin de les garder sous contrôle, c’est terriblement attristant, je trouve. Aussi intéressant, la distinction entre “pédophile” (attiré par les enfants pré-pubères, moins de 11 ans) et “hébéphile” (attirée par les enfants pubères, 11-14 ans) — a force de brandir le mot “pédophile” quand un ado de 16 fréquente un adulte de 28, on finit par le vider de son sens.

Bref, écoutez ce spécialiste. C’est si facile de se contenter de condamner en bloc.

#back2blog challenge (3/10):

Bien bloguer: l'art de faire des liens [fr]

[en] Some guidelines and advice for making links. Blogging is more than just shoving text in WordPress!

Pour bloguer, il ne suffit pas d’écrire des articles à la suite les uns des autres. Il faut apprendre à écrire en 2D — écrire en hypertexte. Bien maîtriser l’art du lien est indispensable pour celui ou celle qui veut bloguer un tant soit peu sérieusement.

Editeur visuel

Je donne ici les indications pour WordPress, que je vous conseille vivement d’adopter comme outil de blog.

  1. Si nécessaire, aller chercher l’URL (=adresse web) de la page web de destination et la copier.
  2. Dans le texte de son article, sélectionner les mots sur lesquels on veut mettre ce lien — ceux qu’on veut rendre cliquables.
  3. Cliquer sur le bouton représentant un maillon de chaîne dans la barre d’outils.
  4. Coller dans le pop-up qui apparaît l’adresse du lien précédemment copié, et appuyer sur entrée.

WordPress: faire un lien

Editeur HTML

Si on écrit en HTML directement, on sait en principe ce qu’on fait. Il peut arriver néanmoins qu’on doive aller farfouiller dans le code pour réparer des accidents. Dans ce cas, c’est utile de comprendre un peu ce qu’on voit. Un lien comme “Climb to the Stars“, ça ressemble à:

<a href="" title="Le blog de Stephanie.">Climb to the Stars</a>

Les parties en gras sont les bouts à ne pas toucher. Ce qui n’est pas en gras peut être modifié à volonté (destination du lien, texte pour quand on survole le lien, texte cliquable).

Etre efficace

Quand on écrit article après article, et qu’on veut les enrichir de liens joyeusement, et qu’on ne veut pas que ça prenne des plombes, il faut absolument abandonner sa souris et utiliser le clavier. De façon générale, moins on utilise la souris, plus on est rapide.

Voici donc comment ajouter un lien sous WordPress avec le clavier (sous OSX). Pour apprendre, n’hésitez pas à exercer cette séquence 10-20 fois pour bien l’intégrer.

  1. Seule manipulation à la souris autorisée (mais on peut aussi faire ça au clavier!): sélectionner les mots sur lesquels on veut mettre le lien 😉
  2. ⌘T — ouvre un nouveau tab de navigateur
  3. Ouvrir la page vers laquelle on veut que notre lien pointe: taper l’URL, les mots-clés pour chercher dans Google… Ne pas oublier d’utiliser les flèches pour naviguer dans les suggestions de complétion et la touche entrée pour valider. Pas besoin de souris!
  4. ⌘L — sélectionne l’URL dans la barre de navigation
  5. ⌘C — copie l’URL
  6. ⌘W — ferme le tab qu’on avait ouvert pour charger l’URL de destination, et nous ramène donc sur notre page WordPress avec les mots sélectionnés
  7. ⌥⇧A — ouvre la petite boîte de dialogue pour insertion du lien
  8. ⌘V — colle l’URL de destination. Pas besoin d’appuyer sur quoi que ce soit pour effacer le “http://” déjà dans le champ, il est sélectionné et sera écrasé quand on colle
  9. ⏎ [entrée] — pour valider tout ça.

Ça peut sembler long et compliqué écrit comme ça avec tous les détails, mais quand on a mémorisé la séquence et qu’elle est bien entraînée, ça prend quelques secondes (et on remarque par exemple que les étapes 5-6-7 sont quasi instantanées: on garde la touche ⌘ enfoncée et on appuie sur L, C, W à la suite). Exercez-vous, cela en vaut la peine: vous vous en féliciterez bientôt!

Faire les choses proprement

On rentre un peu dans les détails. Ils sont importants même si tout le monde n’est pas capable de les identifier, parce que comme les finitions d’un meuble ou la typographie d’un document imprimée, ils influent sur la perception globale qu’on aura de votre blog ou de vos articles.

  • Choix du lien de destination: vérifiez que celui-ci est pertinent par rapport à votre texte.
  • Quand on fait un lien vers un article, attention de bien prendre l’adresse de l’article (en cliquant sur le titre) et non simplement l’adresse du blog ou de la page d’accueil du site.
  • Après avoir publié votre article (ou avant, si vous prévisualisez), cliquez sur vos liens pour vérifier s’ils mènent là où vous le désirez. Surtout si vous débutez 😉
  • Nettoyez l’URL du lien de destination (suivant comment vous y êtes arrivés, il peut contenir des indications de source, comme ?utm_source=fb&utm_medium=fb... etc.). Enlevez des morceaux, appuyez sur entrée, regardez si vous arrivez toujours sur la bonne page.
  • Choix des mots sur lesquels on met le lien: d’une part, le lien met en évidence les mots sur lesquels il est (c’est l’occasion de les faire ressortir pour le lecteur); d’autre part, ces mots vont compter pour l’indexation du site de destination (et possiblement du vôtre) par les moteurs de recherche. Des fois, il vaut la peine de remanier sa phrase pour avoir une jolie suite de mots sur laquelle mettre son lien.
  • Espaces et signes de ponctuation: ne jamais les inclure dans le lien sauf si le lien porte sur toute la phrase. Attention au mode “sélection automatique des mots” qui sélectionne toujours l’espace après le dernier mot. Ça fait chenit, les espaces qui traînent à la fin des liens!
  • Si on met un lien sur une expression ou un nom, éviter de remettre le lien à chaque fois qu’on cite ce nom ou cette expression.
  • Ne cochez jamais la case “ouvrir le lien dans une nouvelle fenêtre” — target="_blank" c’est très bien pour les applications web comme Twitter et Facebook, mais vraiment pas top pour un blog ou un site web.
  • Eviter d’utiliser les URLs raccourcies (bitly et autres). Une URL raccourcie a toujours une espérance de vie plus courte que l’URL originale. Réserver les URLs raccourcies à Twitter, là où le nombre de caractères compte.
  • Trouver le bon équilibre entre pas assez de liens et trop de liens…

Bloguez bien! Avec des liens!

SWITCH Conference, Coimbra: Entrepreneurship [en]

Running notes from the SWITCH conference in Coimbra. Are not perfect. Feel free to add info in the comments, or corrections.

Celso Martinho

CTO of Sapo. A frog’s perspective on entrepreneurship.

University project became startup. 6 students in the beginning. Now, 250 people. Celso does not consider himself an entrepreneur anymore — was once, but not anymore.

Was there a secret formula to create Sapo? Beer + time + a black swan 🙂 (they had a lot of fun doing stuff they liked, had a lot of time on their hands to do it, and… luck) steph-note: read the book if you haven’t

Open source rules.

Growing is painful. Accountability vs. Flexibility. Had to build in processes as they grew, but wanted to keep the spirit and flexibility they had when they started — big challenge they face today.

Success is a balance between the things you do right and the things you do wrong. OK to do things wrong, but you have to be doing enough things right for the balance. Learn from mistakes.

Stay close to talent. (Some kind of programming contest, workshops, emergent technology…) Keep the work environment fun. Work hard and don’t give up. Irreverence.

Fred Oliveira

Fred (@f) is a UX designer and founder of We Break Stuff. Non-funny talk: do NOT become and entrepreneur. (Fred doesn’t consider himself an entrepreneur.) Joined TechCrunch in 2005 (early one), joined another company, and came back to Portugal and thought it was a good idea to found his own company.

Do not do what he did, he tells us. Your life will become a mess!

“Entrepreneurs are idiots because…”

  • their brains act differently from normal people => work work work work work lobes all over the brain
  • they do not have clocks or watches, no sense of time (when they go to bed, when they get up…) — the hand of the clock si always on “work”
  • they wallets are empty; weird relationship with bank accounts: empty, then get a lot of money, then spend it all… (emo-piggy-banks)
  • their social life resembles that of a carrot (carrots do not have fun, go out to night clubs, have coffee… — they sit at their computers all day)

What motivates these people? (you must be crazy to be an entrepreneur, so…?)

  • take pride in working for themselves, are their own boss
  • they get to work on “new ideas”
  • they fix “real problems” (whatever that means, look at foursquare)
  • they enjoy failure (WTF)

Odd, awkward, often lonely people, as you can see. But they’re actually changing the world. Even if I’m not using foursquare now, it doesn’t mean it’s not going to be a big thing at some point. You CAN change the world.

That being said, Fred is really happy with his life. Go make something special (but don’t become a carrot). Ask him anything.

Robert Boogaard

One of the fun things about being an entrepreneur is you can wake up in the morning thinking you’re just going to the SWITCH conference, and around 11:30 you learn that you’re giving a talk after lunch! 🙂

The tough time Ricardo and his team have been through these last days show exactly what entrepreneurs need to be made of. You take risks. Portuguese entrepreneurship.

Robert has always been an entrepreneur. Now invests in startups.

There are a lot of great people with great ideas in Portugal, but because of the fear of failure, not many happen. Entrepreneurial spirit is picking up. In Portugal it’s really hard to raise money. So: Financing Your Dream. Actually, Robert believes raising money here is quite easy: the competition is pretty low. If you have a good idea, you have your chances. Investors in Portugal struggle to find good projects and good entrepreneurs.

Most people, when they start out, are very bad at raising money. First of all, you need to identify what your dream is. Being an entrepreneur is not for everyone. You need to decide if your dream is something you want to do for a living, or actually enjoy 😉

Being an entrepreneur is a very unstable life, you don’t make that much money, you work hard. It’s not for everyone.

How do you raise cash, once you have that fantastic idea you want to make a living of? Most people go for the “easy” options, business angels, etc. One of the best ways of financing an entrepreneurial venture is actually your job. Work part-time and grow your business on the side. steph-note: exactly what I recommend too for freelancing!

Second source of finance: bootstrapping. Make sure you don’t spend much, and reinvest all the money you make into the company. The company remains yours!

If you really need additional funds, friends and family, but be really careful. There are also a lot of support structures in Portugal but it’s a lot of paperwork.

Expensive ways of getting money: Business Angels and VCs. Expensive because they take away a chunk of your company. Robert doesn’t understand how somebody would give away 80-90% of their company! Investors invest money as well as know-how.

VCs look for scale. Not a good first step. Identify the right source of finance.

You need to be clear about how much you want the finance, once you’ve identified the right source. How much do you want? Not realistic to want a huge chunk of money to be all expenses paid for the next x years. (You’ll also have to give away a huge part of the company!)

Also, for valuation: what makes your company worth what you claim it is when you’re raising money? You need to be able to explain that.

Right time of investing: not easy to figure that out. Research the people you approach. Know who you’re talking to. Tailor your approach. The more passionate you are, the more chances. Be yourself. Don’t tell the investors what you think they want to hear. (steph-note: just like with dating, no use pretending you’re somebody you’re not!)

If you have weaknesses, talk about them, and say how you’re adressing them. Entrepreneurs tend to get carried away by their dreams. Investors receive tons of proposals. You need to capture their attention immediately, stand out.

Follow the process your investor asks you to follow.

Loïc Le Meur

Loïc by Skype! steph-note: not an easy way to give a talk

If you’re thinking about launching a startup, stop thinking and try doing as much as you can. Do something, even if it’s a bit broken.

It doesn’t matter if you change course. Many businesses start out by being something else (Skype, Seesmic, Flickr…).

Start small, and start collecting support and people around an idea. Go for something you have a passion for. Loïc has a passion for social networking, so working on seesmic doesn’t feel like working at all. Invest time and energy in gathering a community around your project.

Another rule: share your idea. Don’t go the NDA route. Develop your idea openly. It will be enriched by others. steph-note: this way of doing things puts the idea at the centre, rather than the person — it’s more selfless, benefits the community more, and therefore has more chances of actually happening and making a difference

Don’t pay too much attention to the people who tell you that you will fail.

Ship a product, then ask for feedback! Use that feedback, and learn. Interact with people directly. Gather all the feedback on a site which will help you decide what’s possible to do. Then you need to act on it. People like a company that listens — and answers.

Read Loïc’s do’s and don’ts about starting a business.

Some Advice on Being Your Own Boss (My SWITCH Conference Talk) [en]

[fr] Une conférence que je viens de donner à Coimbra. Quelques conseils (de survie ;-)) pour indépendants.

I just gave a talk this morning on some advice on being a freelancer (dearly learned along the 4 years of my solo career), at the SWITCH conference here in Coimbra. Here’s the presentation:

This presentation is really aimed at people who are already working freelance, and are doing so as a result of turning a passion into a job. “How to become a freelancer” is a completely different talk (which I might give some day!)

Also, there was a misunderstanding about what I mean when I say “be expensive”. I mean “ask for what you’re worth” — no way do I mean “overcharge”. Most people who are freelancers by passion are a bit like hippies when it comes to money, and most people undercharge and feel they are being horrendously expensive when they ask for the right price.

This talk is not either advice for people who want to become freelancers out of nothing. Start out with a passion, something you’re good at. Maybe you might be able to turn it into a job. Only then will this advice come in handy.

If you’re interested in seeing more on this topic, you should check out the videos of the talks given at Going Solo, a conference on freelancing I organized in 2008. I also have a series of posts about procrastination that might come in handy to some (but don’t read them now, do it tomorrow ;-)).

Oh, and here’s Why the 15-minute timer dash works, and Let’s buddy work. My office and coworking space (in Lausanne, Switzerland) is eclau. I’ll add related posts here as I think of them.

*Here’s a crappy video of the talk (SWITCH will provide a better one) which I shot so I could make it available quicker ;-)*

Happy iPhone Owner: Newbie Tips and Comments [en]

[fr] Propriétaire très heureuse d'un nouvel iPhone. Voici quelques tuyaux et commentaires pour nouveaux utilisateurs.

A few weeks ago I took the plunge and became a happy iPhone owner. I had a few doubts (crappy camera and battery life) before that, but to be honest, I’m used to recharging my phone all the time and when I want to take real photos, I have a real digital camera for that.

Here are a few tips that might come in handy to the new user, and I’ll follow up with a post about some apps I like.

The first thing I had to figure out to get started was how to install apps on the phone: just go to the iTunes store, make a search on the keyword you want, and “buy” the app. It installs automatically. (I wrote “buy” because many of them are free.)

I added one of my e-mail accounts to the mail application, even though I use the Gmail web interface all the time: using the mail client is the only way I found to send photo attachments.

I really like the fact that you can disable data roaming. Living this close to France, if you’re somewhere with bad reception you often end up on the French networks without knowing it, so it’s nice to not end up with extra data roaming charges without realising it.

One thing I like is that applications do not work in the background. They’re never going to be sitting there leeching at your data allowance without you knowing it. That was a big change from my previous phones. So, I learned not to worry and leave Safari windows open with stuff in them. They’ll just sleep until I return.

I also like that most applications return to the state they were at when you left them to go back to the main screens, next time you open them.

I’m getting used to the keyboard, though I regret the absence of a Swiss-French layout (hey Apple? have you forgotten we exist, or what?) and would like to be able to have a t9 mode (show me a t9 layout instead of a querty keyboard if I want it). I also regret not being able to “touch-text” anymore — I used to do that a lot.

I added the French Canadian keyboard for French, and switching between French and English layouts and dictionaries is nice and easy — though I wish it could be automatic. To access accented characters, keep your finger on a vowel for a second or two. To edit text you’ve already written, put your finger on it and wait a bit until the magnifying glass comes up, then move it around.

Warning: if you turn the sound of your iPhone down using the side volume control, it affects the sound of your alarm clock too. If you “silence” your iPhone, however, the alarm still rings. (I missed a train and almost was late to see a client because of the side volume control thing).

I like the fact that you recharge it by plugging it into the computer — otherwise, I think I’d forget to sync it all the time!

Easy access to SMS history and recent calls is nice, though I find it a bit too easy to call somebody by mistake by accidentally touching the screen.

I didn’t jailbreak my phone. For the moment I’m not sure what good it would do me (but I’m not against doing it if I have a reason to).

I love that it uses wifi as soon as it has access to it.

For those of you in Switzerland, I took an Orange offer with a 1 year contract extension and the iPhone Maxima price plan. I already had Maxima before so I’m just paying 10 francs extra, and getting free text messages, 1Gb of data, and 1 hour on WLAN (I should start using that, actually). Who knows, maybe my phone bill will even drop?

Oh, another thing I like is that it has the time displayed in big type on the “locked” screen. Apple obviously know what people use their mobile phones more the most. And it’s a great flashlight, too, with that big screen it’s got.

Other People's Problems [en]

[fr] Je pense qu'une des raisons pour lesquelles il est plus facile de trouver des solutions aux problèmes des autres est que nous avons moins d'informations à disposition pour essayer de choisir "la meilleure solution".

A few days ago I had a sudden insight. And yes, amongst other things, I blame Fooled by Randomness.

We all know that it’s easier to solve other people’s problems than one’s own.

And we also know that being away from home with no computer access makes it easier to relax and do other things. Or working in the office instead of at home means you are not “tempted” by home stuff while you should be working. That basically, being in a context where you physically have less options reduces stress.

I just realised that it’s similar for with problems. One of the things Taleb insists on in Fooled by Randomness is that more information does not mean you make a better decision. More information is bound to get you fooled by randomness.

So, two things here:

  • less choice means less stress
  • less information can mean better decisions

I think that both come into play in a way when dealing with other people’s problems. You have less data about the issue than the person who is stuck in the problem. That makes it easier for you to take a decision about it (or give advice), because you aren’t burdened by tons of possibly useless data that you still try to process.

Makes sense?

5 Lessons in Promoting Events Using Social Media (Back to Basics) [en]

[fr] Leçons apprises lors de la promotion de Going Solo:

  • communiquer directement avec les gens (messagerie instantanée, conversation offline, téléphone) est le mode de communication le plus efficace
  • ne pas négliger l'e-mail, les dossiers de presse, le matériel imprimable: tout le monde ne lira pas le blog ou Twiter
  • rien ne devient automatiquement "viral" parce que c'est sur internet: aider les gens à vous aider à passer l'info, par exemple avec un e-mail "forwardable"
  • aller où sont les gens, les retrouver dans leur communauté (Facebook, MySpace, Rezonance, LinkedIn... partout)
  • ça prend du temps... beaucoup de temps

J'ai été surprise à quel point tout ceci a été difficile pour moi, alors qu'une partie de mon métier consiste à expliquer aux gens comment utiliser les nouveaux médias pour communiquer plus efficacement. Une leçon d'humilité, et aussi un retour à certaines choses basiques mais qui fonctionnent, comme l'e-mail ou le chat. En récompense, par contre, un événement qui a été un succès incontesté, et tout cela sans le soutien des médias traditionnels (pour cause de communiqué de presse un poil tardif) -- mis à part nouvo, qui a répercuté l'annonce, mais qui trouvait que c'était cher!

One of the big lessons I learnt while organising Going Solo is that promoting and communicating about an event through social media requires a huge amount of time and energy. In this post, I’d like to share a few of the very practical things I (re-)discovered.

Even though part of what I do for a living is explain social media and its uses in marketing to my clients, I found it quite a challenge when I actually had to jump in and do it. (Yes, I’m aware this may sound pretty lame. By concentrating on the big picture and the inspiring success stories, one tends to forget some very basic things. Sending managers back to the floor every now and then is a good thing.)

The main lesson I learnt is the following:

  • 1. The absolute best channel to promote anything is one-on-one personal conversation with somebody you already have some sort of relationship with.

Any other solution is a shortcut. And all shortcuts have prices.

This means I ended up spending a lot of time:

  • talking to people on IM, IRC, and offline at conferences
  • sending out personal messages on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Anytime you do something to spare you this time (like sending out a collective e-mail, writing a blog post, or even tweeting — situations where you’re not adressing one specific individual directly) you dilute what you’re communicating. You open the door to:

  • imperfect understanding of what you’re trying to say
  • people not feeling like it’s really addressed to them (lack of interest, or lack of awareness that their actions are important to you)
  • people simply not seeing it.

I have many examples of this. I created a page with material people could use to promote Going Solo, in particular, blog sidebar badges. But not many people put them up spontanously, even amongst my friends. But when I started pinging people on IM and asking them if they would please put up a badge to support my event, they did it. They just hadn’t got around to doing it, hadn’t realised that them doing it was important for me, or it had simply slipped their mind. It’s perfectly understandable: it’s “my” event, not theirs.

Another example is when I started sending out my “forwardable e-mails” (lesson #3 is about them), most people stopped at “well, I’m not a freelancer” or “I can’t come”. It took some explaining to make sure they understood that the main reason I was sending them the e-mail was that they might know somebody who would like to come to the event, or who could blog about it, or help with promoting it. If I spared myself the personal conversation and just sent the e-mail, people were much less likely to really understand what I expected from them, even through it was spelled out in the e-mail itself.

And that was a big secondary lesson I learnt while preparing Going Solo: it’s not because people don’t get back to you, or don’t act, that they aren’t interested or don’t want to. The burden is on you to make it as easy as possible for them to help you.

Let’s continue on to the next lessons.

  • 2. Blogs and Twitter are essential, but don’t neglect less sexy forms of communication: newsletter, press release, printable material.

The first thing I did for Going Solo was to create a blog and a Twitter account. Getting a blog and Twitter account off the ground isn’t easy, and it took quite a lot of one-on-one communication (see lesson #1) (and blogging here on CTTS) to get enough people to link to them so that they started taking off.

But the lesson here is that not everybody is on Twitter, and not everbody reads blogs. We highly-connected types tend to forget that. It didn’t take me that long to get the feeling that I had “exhausted” my immediate, social-media-enabled network — meaning that all the people who knew me directly had heard what I was talking about, linked to stuff if they were going to, or registered for the event if they were interested.

So, here are some less “social media cutting-edge” forms of communication I used, most of them very late in the process (earlier next time):

Some comments.

Our press release came out so late that we got no coverage at all from traditional media, bar one exception, which focused on how expensive the event was. This means Going Solo Lausanne is a great case study of successful event promotion entirely through social media.

When I created the newsletter, I spent a lot of time following lesson #1 and inviting people personally to sign up, through IM most of the time. I sent out invitations through the Google Groups interface, of course (to the extent that I got flagged as a potential spammer). But I also went through the process of inviting people directly through IM.

A word of warning about newsletters: don’t add people to your newsletter unless you’ve checked beforehand that they were OK with it, or if you have a very good reason to do so (they are the speakers/attendees for your event) — but even then, it can be risky. I was recently added to a bunch of mailing-lists without having asked for it, rather than invited, and I find it really annoying. It’s way more impolite to unsubscribe from a newsletter than refuse an invitation to subscribe, so adding people can put them in an embarrassing situation (be impolite vs. be annoyed at getting newsletters one doesn’t want).

  • 3. Don’t expect “viral” or “organic” spreading of your promotion to happen, but prepare the field so it can: the forwardable e-mail.

There is so much talk about the fact that social media allows things to spread all by themselves (and indeed, there is an important potential for that, and when it happens, it’s very powerful) — that we tend to expect it to happen and be disappointed when it doesn’t. And let’s face it, it’s not something that we can control (sorry for stating the obvious again, I’m doing that a lot in this post) and it takes quite a bit of skill to create the right conditions so that it may happen.

So, now that we’ve set our expectations, what can be done to help things spread? I mentioned having exhausted my immediate network higher up, so I needed to come up with a solution which would help me reach beyond it. How could I get my friends to mention Going Solo to their friends?

Of course, our use of social media in general allows that. Blogs, Facebook Groups and Events, sidebar badges… all this is material which can spread. But again — what about the people who aren’t bathing in social media from morning to evening?

Back to basics: e-mail. E-mail, be it under the shape of a newsletter, a discussion list, or simple personal messages, has a huge advantage over other forms of online communication: you’re sure people know how to use it. It’s the basic, level 0 tool that anybody online has and understands.

So, I started sending out e-mail. A little bit of push is good, right? I composed a rather neutral e-mail explaining what Going Solo was about, who it was for, giving links to more information, and a call to action or two. I then sent this impersonal text to various people I knew, with a personal introduction asking them to see if they knew anybody who could be interested in information about this event, and inviting them to forward the message to these people. Nothing extraordinary in that, right?

I of course applied lesson #1 (you’re starting to know that one, right?) and tried as much as possible to check on IM, beforehand, if it was OK for me to send the “forwardable e-mail” to each person. So, basically, no mass-mailing, but an e-mail written in such a way that it was “forwardable” in a “here’s what my friend Steph is doing, could interest you” way, which I passed along as a follow-up to a direct chat with each person.

In a more “social media” spirit, of course, make sure that any videos you put online can easily be shared and linked to, etc. etc — but that will be pretty natural for anybody who’s familiar with blogging and “being online”.

  • 4. Go where people are. Be everywhere.

Unless your event is already very well known, you need to go to people, and not just wait for them to come to you. If you’ve set up a blog, Twitter account, newsletter, then you have a place where people can come to you. But that’s not enough. You need to go where people are:

  • Facebook
  • Upcoming
  • LinkedIn
  • Xing
  • MySpace
  • Pownce
  • Seesmic
  • Existing communities big and small… (blogs, forums, chatrooms)

Again, this is a very basic principle. But it’s not because it’s basic that it’s invalidated by the magic world of social media. Where you can create an event, create an event (Upcoming, Facebook, Pownce, Rezonance — a local networking thingy); where you can create a group, create a group — I waited a lot before creating a Facebook group for Going Solo, because I had a fan page for it already, but as you can see the group worked much better.

  • 5. It’s a full-time job.

Honestly, I didn’t think I’d spend weeks doing nothing else but send e-mails, update Facebook pages, blog, send e-mails, talk to people, IM, tweet, e-mail again… to promote Going Solo. It’s a huge amount of work. It’s so much work that one could imagine having somebody full time just to do it. So when you’re (mainly) a one-person shop, it’s important to plan that a significant amount of your time might be spent on promotion. It’s easy to underestimate that (I did, and in a major way).

Working this way doesn’t scale. At some point, one-on-one communication takes up too much time and energy to compensate for the benefits it brings over more impersonal forms of communication. But that only happens once your event is popular enough. Before you’ve held your first event (which was the situation I was in with Going Solo Lausanne), you don’t have a community of advocates for your work, you don’t have fans (you might have personal fans, but not fans of your event) or passionate attendees ;-), you don’t have other people doing your work for you.

At the beginning, every person who hears about your event is the result of sweat and hard work. Hopefully, at some point it’ll take off and you’ll start seeing more and more people blogging about the event you’re organising — but even then, it might take a while before you can just sit back and watch things happen. But in case this moment comes earlier than planned, you’re all set: you have a blog, a Twitter account, a Facebook group and a newsletter. Until then, though, you’re going to be stuck on IM and sending out e-mails.

A few last words

I hope that by sharing these lessons with you, I’ll have contributed to making things a little easier for somebody else in the same situation I was. You’ll have understood that I haven’t tried to be exhaustive about how to use social media for promotion — indeed, I’ve skipped most of the “advanced” stuff that is more often spoken about.

But I think it’s easy to get so taken up with the “latest and greatest” tools out there that we forget some of the basic stuff. I, for one, was guilty of that initially.

Also, one thing I haven’t spoken about is how to talk to people. Of course, some of what you’re doing is going to be impersonal. Own up to it, if you’re mass e-mailing. Don’t pretend to be personal when you aren’t — it’s hypocritical, doesn’t come across well, and can be smelled a mile away.

I haven’t quite finished reconciling my practical experience with how I believe things “should” work. I’ve learnt a lot, but I certainly haven’t figured everything out yet. I would have wanted to do a lot more, but time simply wasn’t available, so I tried to prioritize. I made choices, and some of them were maybe mistakes. But overall, I’m happy with how things went and what I learnt.

If you have had similar experiences, I’d be really happy to hear from you. Likewise, if you disagree with some of the things I’ve written, or think I’m wrong on certain counts, do use the comments. I’m open to debate, even though I’m a bit hard-headed ;-).

Advice for a Translating Tool [en]

[fr] Quelques conseils pour mettre en place un outil de traduction d'interfaces en ligne.

I was asked for some advice for a soon-to-be-released online interface translation tool. (Hint: maybe my advice would be more useful earlier on in the project…) Here’s what I said:

  1. allow for regional forking of languages. e.g. there was a merciless
    war on the French wikipedia between the French and the Belgians over
    “Endive” which is called “Chicon” in Belgium. One is not more right than
    another, and these differences can be important.

  2. remember that words which are the same in English can have two
    different translations in other languages. e.g. “Upload” can be
    translated as “Téléchargez” (imperative verb form) or “Téléchargement”

  3. if you’re doing some sort of string-based thing (which I suppose
    you are) like, let people see what they’re
    translating in context. (See the interface in English, with the place
    the string is in highlighted, and then see the interface in French,
    with the string highlighted too.)

Note: yes, this person had already watched my Google Tech Talk on languages online — and yes, I’m going to collect my language stuff somewhere neat on a static page at some point.