More Musings on My Blogging [en]

I’ve been a blogger for the better part of my adult life. At 34 this summer, I’ll have spent 9 years of my life writing in this blog (which started its life as Tara Star’s Weblog) — and you can add to that an extra year of online publication experience before I discovered Blogger.

I have never really tried to accomplish much with my blog: it’s really mainly a place for me to dump stuff in written form, reaching a certain number of people who happen to read it every now and again. Though I do try to “think of the reader” to some extent when I write, it’s probably obvious to most of you that I have not put a huge amount of effort into tailoring my blog to make it as successful as possible (define “successful”, while you’re at it).

In that respect, I’m a bit of an anti-ProBlogger. Not that I have anything against Darren at all — he seems to be doing good stuff, but… well, I guess I just can’t be bothered.

The result, I’ll admit, is that CTTS is not exactly very reader-friendly: long periods with nothing, then spurts of posts during a week or two, huge long unreadable essays, and don’t get me started on categories and cross-post navigation in general. It also doesn’t do the best job it could of showcasing my writing and expertise (as my most valuable or important stuff is drowned amongst the over 2000 posts).

So, in a way, despite the modest success CTTS has attracted over the years, I tend to consider myself a Bad Blogger. Not that I don’t know how to do it (I do it for my clients pretty well)… but I wouldn’t say I’m a role-model 😉

All this to tell you that I’ve realised, again, that the less you blog… the less you blog. Specially when you have a tendency to write long-winded essay-like posts that take days (or at least a full whole day) to write. Blogging, for me, used to be about jotting down quick tidbits, Tumblr-like, and I keep having to drag myself back into that here on CTTS, because otherwise I just remain stuck not writing posts about Big Ideas and Serious Research. When I do things, I like to do things well. It’s a disease some call perfectionism, and it gets in the way of doing things — I’m mostly cured but I relapse regularly.

When I don’t blog, it’s not that I’ve run out of things to say. It’s usually that I have so many things to say I don’t have the time to do it properly. So I don’t. Because maybe a part of me would like to be a Good Blogger, writing well-researched and well-built posts, and Getting It Right.

Once again, then: back to the messy writing you’re used to see around here. Oh, and if you have suggestions for 20 or so categories in which to sort my posts… I’m listening.

Commentaires et bonnes maniĂšres: 8 conseils [fr]

Allez, je vais faire un peu ma Nadine de Rothschild, et vous proposer une petite sĂ©ance de savoir-vivre blogosphĂ©rique. Les maniĂšres pour les maniĂšres, c’est clair, c’est barbant, mais elles ont gĂ©nĂ©ralement un sens. En l’occurence, faire preuve de bonnes maniĂšres lorsque l’on laisse un commentaire sur le blog de quelqu’un, c’est avant tout:

  • s’assurer que celui-ci ne sera pas confondu avec du spam
  • lui assurer au moins une chance de publication.

Mais de quelles bonnes maniĂšres est-ce que je parle? Etre poli, c’est bien joli (en effet, mĂȘme sur un blog, ĂȘtre respectueux et Ă©viter d’insulter son prochain passe toujours bien) — mais est-ce que ça m’Ă©vitera d’ĂȘtre confondu avec un spammeur?

Je m’explique un peu avant de vous donner ma petite liste de prĂ©ceptes Ă  suivre (ou ne pas suivre). Les spammeurs sont malins. Les crĂ©ateurs de filtres anti-spam (comme Akismet) le sont aussi. On assiste Ă  une vĂ©ritable course aux armements, et les spammeurs font tout ce qu’ils peuvent pour embrouiller les filtres Ă  spam, et faire en sorte que leur spam ressemble Ă  un vĂ©ritable commentaire. (C’est exactement le mĂȘme processus pour ce qui est du spam d’e-mails.) Parfois, il n’est pas aisĂ© de reconnaĂźtre au premier coup d’oeil (mĂȘme pour un blogueur expĂ©rimentĂ©) s’il s’agit ou non de spam.

Une autre plaie des commentaires de blog, c’est la dĂ©ferlante de marketeux ou autres individus auto-promotionnels maladroits ou carrĂ©ment imbĂ©ciles: mon blog n’est pas une plate-forme de promotion pour autrui, et l’art de ramener du traffic vers son blog en laissant ailleurs des commentaires est dĂ©licat, et doit ĂȘtre maniĂ© avec goĂ»t.

Donc, histoire d’Ă©viter que votre commentaire se retrouve Ă  la poubelle (ou pire, dans le piĂšge Ă  spam), voici ce que je vous recommande.

  1. Signez de votre nom: vous avez un nom, utilisez-le. Une discussion a lieu entre ĂȘtres humains. Si vous signez du nom de votre boĂźte, c’est au mieux dĂ©plaisant (je ne discute pas avec des boĂźtes, moi), au pire une utilisation de mon blog comme plateforme publicitaire. Il va sans dire qu’un pseudonyme bien Ă©tabli peut servir de nom, mais attention: je ne fais pas une enquĂȘte en ligne au sujet de l’auteur de chaque commentaire que je dois approuver, donc Ă  vos risques et pĂ©rils.
  2. Donnez une URL personnelle: Ă  la base, les commentaires se faisaient entre blogueurs, et le champ URL ou “site web” Ă©tait lĂ , bien Ă©videmment, pour qu’on y mette l’adresse de son blog. L’adresse, donc, d’un site personnel qui pourra informer sur l’auteur du commentaire. En prĂšs de neuf ans, le paysage a certes changĂ©, mais si l’URL que vous fournissez ne semble pas mener au “site de quelqu’un”, mauvais point. Faire un lien vers un article particulier pue l’auto-promo excessive, la plupart du temps. Un lien vers le site de son entreprise, c’est limite: n’avez-vous pas d’autre identitĂ© que celle d’employĂ©? Si vous ĂȘtes lĂ  pour reprĂ©senter votre boĂźte, Ă  la limite… mais cela ne marchera bien que dans un contexte de support.
  3. Orthographe! Je sais que je suis parfois une pinailleuse sur ce sujet (ex-prof de français, on ne se refait pas), mais lĂ  aussi, il y a les limites raisonnables et le dĂ©passement de ces limites. Language SMS-kikou-lolllll? Passez votre chemin (votre commentaire, en tous cas, passera le sien). Ponctuation et orthographe frisant l’illĂ©trisme? PrĂ©fĂ©rez un commentaire vidĂ©o (lien Seesmic en bas de chaque champ de commentaires). On a le droit de faire des fautes, tout comme on a le droit de sortir mal vĂȘtu. Mais pas tout nu.
  4. Ajoutez de la valeur: de nombreux spammeurs essaient de pourrir les filtres en laissant des commentaires gentils comme “super article!” ou encore “merci, ça m’a Ă©tĂ© trĂšs utile”. On apprend vite Ă  ne pas se laisser aveugler par la flatterie! Si vous laissez un commentaire, assurez-vous que vous apportez quelque chose aux lecteurs futurs de l’article commentĂ©. Sinon… abstenez-vous. Si on se connaĂźt, c’est diffĂ©rent, mais si on ne se connaĂźt pas, s’arrĂȘter pour “lĂącher un comm'” un peu vide, ce n’est pas une entrĂ©e en matiĂšre trĂšs respectueuse de l’autre.
  5. Freinez vos Ă©lans dissertatifs: les commentaires sont lĂ  pour apporter des complĂ©ments d’information Ă  l’article principal, ou hĂ©berger un dĂ©bat ou une discussion y prenant naissance. Veillez donc Ă  ce que vos contributions soient digĂ©rables dans un contexte conversationnel. S’il vous prend l’envie de partir dans une envolĂ©e lyrique sans fin, ou de rĂ©diger sur un coup de tĂȘte votre travail de thĂšse, votre blog est le meilleur endroit pour le faire. Laissez ensuite un commentaire aux dimensions modestes incluant un lien vers votre article. Pas de blog? C’est par ici. Je ne dis pas qu’on ne peut pas faire de longs commentaires, juste… qu’il y a des limites. (Une dissertation dans les commentaires d’autrui, c’est soit dit en passant le meilleur moyen de tuer toute conversation en ayant justement l’air de lancer le dĂ©bat.)
  6. Restez dans le sujet: l’article que vous commentez parle d’un problĂšme de ventilateur MacBook? Evitez d’y laisser un commentaire dĂ©taillant votre derniĂšre visite de Rome (sauf Ă©ventuellement si c’est en lien avec un problĂšme de ventilateur MacBook). Les conversations dĂ©vient, on peut parler de choses en rapport par association, mais si le lien n’est pas Ă©vident, ça ne fait pas de mal d’expliquer pourquoi on laisse le commentaire qu’on laisse.
  7. Publicisez avec doigtĂ©: si vous ĂȘtes lĂ  pour (entre autres, on l’espĂšre) attirer l’attention sur un autre produit ou article, rĂ©flĂ©chissez Ă  deux fois et dĂ©gainez votre tact. Est-ce que votre commentaire apporte vĂ©ritablement quelque chose aux autres lecteurs, ou n’est-il qu’un prĂ©texte Ă  pousser un lien, un nom, ou une idĂ©e? Avez vous assez de “capital social” pour le faire? (Tiens, une idĂ©e d’article vient de germer dans mon cerveau…) — Chez moi, les commentaires trop franchement publicitaires (Ă  plus forte raison si je n’en connais pas l’auteur) passent direct Ă  la trappe. Dans le doute, abstenez-vous.
  8. Politesse, respect, tout ça: ça ne fait jamais de mal de le redire, mais personne n’est obligĂ© d’accepter dans son salon un individu irrespectueux, malpoli, et qui crache par terre. Vos commentaires sont votre prĂ©sence dans le salon du blogueur qui les hĂ©berge. On peut ne pas ĂȘtre d’accord (c’est mĂȘme lĂ  pour ça, les commentaires) — mais un minimum de politesse et de respect s’impose.

Comme vous le voyez, les trois premiers conseils ont vraiment trait Ă  la forme ou aux mĂ©tadonnĂ©es de votre commentaire. C’est la premiĂšre chose que regardera celui qui modĂšre les commentaires (avec un coup d’oeil au contenu).

Et vous autres blogueurs, quelle politique exercez-vous pour la validation de commentaires sur votre blog? Durant longtemps, j’ai tout tout tout publiĂ© (sauf le spam), mais ces derniĂšres annĂ©es, le spam devient parfois franchement difficile Ă  distinguer de certains commentaires vides de contenu et de prĂ©sence humaine, et je sabre donc plus lourdement qu’auparavant dans les commentaires “douteux”.

About Visibility [en]

[fr] Vous connaissez certainement des personnes qui excellent dans l'art de se mettre en avant ou de promouvoir ce qu'elle font. S'il est bon de savoir le faire, une réputation qui repose principalement sur des compétences marketing/vente plutÎt que sur ce que l'on produit réellement, ça ne force pas tellement le respect. S'il n'y a aucun mal à utiliser de temps en temps des "tactiques marketing" pour se mettre en avant, et faciliter de façon générale la diffusion de ce que l'on fait/écrit, gare à l'excÚs. Si l'on se cantonne à "jouer avec le systÚme", on n'est au final qu'une coquille vide avec une grande gueule.

Here’s another post I wrote offline while waiting at the cinema. I was going to post it tomorrow but I just bumped into this blog post by Seth Godin which is on a very similar topic (and way better than mine). So… I’m posting it now, and will go to bed a bit later!

Quite a few months ago I came upon a blog post explaining how to become a successful blogger. How to become “known” amongst the blogging crowd. It had some good advice, but it bothered me. And it’s only a few weeks ago that I understood why.

I’ve tried to dig out this post again, but (ironically?) I can’t make it surface. It was of the “x ways to …” type, “here’s how I did it”, “you can do it too” type.

See, as in the real, offline world, there are two things: the product, and marketing it. Of course, they aren’t really that separate, but please bear with the simplification for the sake of the argument. For a blogger, it comes down to what you actually blog about/do, and how you promote yourself/what you do.

As somebody who’s pretty bad at self-promotion overall (not hopeless, but not a natural by far), I’m pretty sensitive to those who are better at it than me, in a sometimes “jealous” kind of way. I hate to say it, but I sometimes resent it. Some people come across as “noisy empty shells” — good at marketing themselves and putting themselves forward, but not much behind when you start to dig a bit.

Now, some lucky (and talented) people both have something to say, and have got the “self-promotion” bit figured out. And I have no problem with that.

Back to the blog post I was mentioning: what made me uneasy was that I used some of the techniques described there myself. Was I dirty?

And now, I figured it out. There’s nothing wrong with using “tried and tested” techniques to drive traffic to your blog, get people to link to your entries or comment on them, or basically, to put your stuff out there.

However, if that’s all your online reputation is built on, you’re just an empty shell with a loud mouth. If you’re “being good at promoting yourself” and use it to give yourself a boost every now and again, I don’t have a problem with that.

Here’s what it comes down to, because, in the end, this is about my opinion on something and the advice I’d give to those who are interested in it. I’ll respect you more if your reputation is built on your content and actual doings than if it’s built on you making use of every possible technique to maximise visibility of what you do.

Angst: My Categories are Still a Mess [en]

[fr] Mes catégories, c'est toujours le chenit. J'ai les outils qu'il faut maintenant pour faire le ménage, mais il me manque l'essentiel: quelles catégories un monstre comme CTTS devrait-il avoir?

My categories are a long-standing source of worry.

They were created in an unenlightened effort to “go ontological”, when I switched to Movable Type. By the time I switched to WordPress over four years ago, I was already thinking about cleaning up my categories (lo and behold, the birth of Batch Categories — I didn’t waste any time, did I?)

My categories are still a mess. WordPress has had native tagging for a while now (I’ve happily retired the Bunny’s Technorati Tags plugin), Rob has taken over Batch Categories, so it now works rather than just sit there in lists, and Christine from the Internet has written a nice Tag Managing Thing (which seems a bit broken in 2.5.x but might still work).

So, I could use the category to tag converter and get rid of all my categories. I would feel much lighter. Then I can use a combination of Tag Managing Thing and Batch Categories (which allows search by tag, and, actually, I see it now, allows not only addition of categories to selected posts, but tags, so maybe I don’t need Tag Managing Thing for this, and this sentence is a bit long so it’s going to end here, sorry) to re-create nice categories for my blog.

But as always, here is where I stall. What categories should a monster like CTTS have?

Want to listen rather than read? It’s here:

Tumblr to Capture Comments? [en]

[fr] J'aimerais un systĂšme permettant de publier directement sur mon Tumblr les commentaires que je laisse sur d'autres blogs, sans passer par coComment.

The other evening, I was explaining that I still used coComment to capture the comments I made on other blogs. As always, people try to suggest alternatives: co.mments or disqus, for example. I appreciate the suggestions, but they show me that I haven’t managed to make myself clear.

CoComment does two main things:

  • track conversations you participate in (or want to keep an eye on) so that you are alerted when a new comment is added to the thread
  • capture the comments you make on other blogs so that you can collect them somewhere or republish them.

I use mainly the second feature. I’m not that interested in tracking all the conversations I take part in. Every now and again I am, and co.mments does indeed do the job, in an ad hoc way. Disqus is quite exciting and also allows centralization of the comments I make with the system (if I got it right), but it has the great disadvantage of still being too “blogger-centric” instead of “commenter-centric”: sure, I can install disqus on my blog (as a blogger), but it isn’t going to help me capture or track all my comments until all the blogs I visit have done the same.

So, like at the end of a messy break-up where you’re still sleeping with your ex, I’m still using coComment for the following:

  • capture the comments I make all over the place and republish them in my Tumblr.

That’s it. One thing coComment does pretty well, despite all the criticism I can make to the service, is capture comments I leave in a variety of comment forms (from WordPress to FriendFeed and Typepad and Blogger and even home-made in some cases) and spit them out in an RSS feed.

Yesterday, an idea dawned on me: what I really want is for my comments to be published in my Tumblr. Maybe we can come up with a way to do that directly?

I use Tumblr loads, and love it. The main thing I actively use it for (I’ve embedded a few RSS feeds in it) is for quoting interesting passages off blog/articles that I read. It’s very easy:

3 Steps to Share a Quote on Tumblr

  1. highlight some text on a page
  2. click on the Tumblr bookmarklet
  3. Tumblr automagically recognizes it as a quote, and pops up a window which you use to publish it.

The result of all this is that I have a Tumblr which is full of quotes, comments (thankfully coComment seem to have removed the nasty ads from the RSS feed I complained about), and other things (videos and screenshots, for example).

I’ve been thinking a lot (but not writing, I know) about how these new tools in my landscape, which weren’t there 8 years ago (in a few days!) when I started blogging, are modifying my publishing and interaction habits. The panel I moderated at BlogTalk in Cork was about that, actually, but I think we only brushed the surface.

So, back to the point for this post: I’d like a hack for my Tumblr bookmarklet — or maybe a separate bookmarklet (by Tumblr or a third party) which will publish the comment I’m submitting to my tumblelog. It would work a bit like the coComment bookmarklet: click it to activate it at some point before hitting submit — and it does its magic when you submit the comment.

If you like the idea, head over the Get Satisfaction and add your 2 cents.

About Not Reading [en]

[fr] Je me suis rendu compte tout derniÚrement à quel point il est facile de répondre à une question sans l'avoir lue en entier, de commenter sur un billet de blog sans avoir cliqué sur le lien. FriendFeed pousse un peu à ça, avec sa manie de lister des titres de billets sur lesquels on peut commenter (je prétends pas avoir une meilleure solution).

Récemment, je demandais à mon entourage leur avis sur une question de workshops avant ou aprÚs Going Solo (j'en parlerai ailleurs plus en détail, ce n'est pas le propos de ce billet), et j'ai été étonnée de la quantité de réponses qui semblaient indiquer que mon interlocuteur n'avait en fait pas lu le lien que je lui avais donné.

Je ne vais pas jeter la pierre, je me rends rĂ©guliĂšrement coupable du mĂȘme raccourci (commenter sans avoir lu) mĂȘme si j'essaie vraiment de me limiter. Ça me rappelle les Mythologiques de LĂ©vi-Strauss, qu'on cite Ă  tout va mais que personne n'a en fait lues en entier...

I’m guilty too. I sometimes read the title of a blog post, or a few sentences of an article, and comment on it.

It struck me recently how common this practice is, and also how it impairs communication. It’s the shortcut, the bet we make that we guessed or assumed correctly, the easy way out. Communication with no parasites requires work, and patience.

These last two days I’ve been trying to make up my mind about whether to place workshops before or after the main day of conferences for Going Solo. It’s a tricky problem which I don’t want to start discussing right now (I’m going to blog about the issues I face more precisely on the Going Solo blog shortly).

So, I chatted with people, Twittered about it, got into e-mail conversations, and decided to sum up some of my thoughts in a Tumblr entry, which allowed me to simply point people there and ask them what their thoughts were.

And I was amazed at how many people didn’t actually respond to my point of concern (“are there any economical/sales/marketing reasons for putting a workshop before a conference, if there are other good reasons to place it after”) because the title, visible in the URL, led them to believe it was a simpler question: http://steph.tumblr.com/post/37831000/workshops-before-or-after.

Now, I’m guilty as much as they are. I took a shortcut too by blogging my thoughts and giving them a link, rather than engaging with each of them personally from ground zero.

But setting aside the question or workshops (which I’ll expound in another post), it did serve as an enlighting reminder that people (me included) do not always read what they react to.

It reminds me of one of my university teachers who told us the following story. When he was doing his PhD, he started trudging through the four volumes of Claude LĂ©vi-Strauss’s Mythologiques. For those who are not familiar with LĂ©vi-Strauss, Mythologiques is his master work and is oft-cited in many disciplines of the academic world. Well, as he was stumbling upon some particularly nasty passages, he started asking collegues and professors what they had thought of them. And to his surprise, he realised that nobody he could find had actually read through the four volumes. Everyone was talking about this work, but nobody had actually read it in its entirety.

Isn’t that incredible?

Well, not so incredible if you think of it — at least not in the academic world. And obviously, not in the blog world either.

Against Threaded Conversations on Blogs [en]

[fr] J'avoue une prĂ©fĂ©rence marquĂ©e pour les conversations linĂ©aires plutĂŽt que hierarchiques (en arbre). Les conversations linĂ©aires gĂ©nĂšrent peut-ĂȘtre moins de commentaires, mais elles ont un rapport signal/bruit plus favorable, n'encourageant pas le hors-sujet. Elles sont plus faciles Ă  suivre et me semblent plus adaptĂ©es aux blogs.

So, now that Going Solo Lausanne is behind me and I can come back to a slightly more sane pace of life (and blogging here, hopefully), I’m starting to read blogs again, a little. Don’t hold your breath too long though, contrary to popular belief, I’ve never been much of a blog-reader.

Blog commenting

One topic I’ve read about a bit, and which is of particular interest for me, is blog commenting. Aside from the fascinating topic (I’m not kidding) of blog comment ownership, which I touched upon myself more than 18 months ago, there is the age-old debate: threaded vs. non-threaded comments.

On the backdrop of my break-up with coComment (impending, in the process, fresh) and their post about commenter’s rights, I’ve taken a closer look at Disqus. It looks promising, it does some stuff I like, but also stuff I really don’t like, like the dreaded threaded comments.

So, here’s an attempt to try to explain why I think that threaded comments in a blog context are not necessarily a good thing — although popular wisdom would have that they are “better” than normal, flat, conversations.

I did a little research to see if I could find anything solid to back up my claims (if anyone knows of proper research on these issues, let me know), but I didn’t find anything really solid. So, I’ll just have to try to make this logical enough that it can be convincing.

The appeal of threaded conversations

Threaded conversations are as old as the internet itself. Usenet, e-mail discussion list archives. So, they’re nothing new, and have been around a while.

When blogs started including comments — oh yes, there were blogs way before there were comments, and the commenting script I used on this blog was for many years a popular destination — so, when blog started including comments, those comments were not threaded (in the sense that they allowed hierarchy in the comments, or branching off, or a tree-like view).

For many years, all I saw on blogs was linear conversations, as opposed to threaded, tree-like conversations. Most forum software also functions like that.

Then, of course, with some regularity, I’ve heard people asking for plugins to make the conversations on their blogs “threaded”. And I wondered. Why the attraction to hierarchical conversations?

When we have a conversation, be it with a single other person, or around a big table, it flows in one direction: the direction of time. There is before, and there is after. One might say “you said something 10 minutes ago that I’d like to answer” — and we’re quite capable of following this kind of conversation. We do it every day.

If we chat, be it on IRC or on IM, or any other kind of chatroom, we know that there are often multiple intertwined conversations going on at the same time. With a bit of practice, it doesn’t bother us too much. But the important point remains: the conversation is ordered chronologically.

So, be it offline or online, most of the conversations we have are time-ordered.

I think the appeal of threaded hierarchical conversations lies in the fact that they seem more “orderly” than one long stream of posts, ordered not necessarily by the logic of the conversation topic, but by the flow of time in which it takes place. It’s hierarchical. It’s organized. It’s neat, mathematical, logical. Algorithmic. Computer-friendly.

But is it brain-friendly?

Human-friendly conversations

Human beings do not think like computers. Though some human beings who spend lots of time programming or give excessive importance to logico-mathematical thinking might like approaching problems and the rest of life in a binary way, that is simply not how most people function. (Literary backdrop for this paragraph: A Perfect Mess.)

I think people who like threaded conversations like them because they have a higher order of organisation than non-threaded conversations. And better organised should be… better.

You won’t be surprised that I disagree with this. A good conversation online, for me, is one that can be easily followed, caught up with, and participated in. In that respect, a linear suite of comments is much easier to read or catch up with than a huge tree. When it comes to participating, the linear conversation offers only one option: add a comment at the end. In the tree, you first have to decide where in the tree you’re going to post. (Literary backdrop for this paragraph: The Paradox of Choice.)

How the format impacts the conversation

Another way to tackle this is to examine what impact hierarchical and linear comment threads have on the conversations they host.

Hierarchical – Threaded:

  • off-topic comments branch off into separate conversations
  • overall, more comments
  • lots of parallel conversations

Linear:

  • conversation stays reasonably focused
  • less comments
  • limited number of parallel conversations

I personally do not think that “more comments = better”. On a blog post, I like to see the conversation stay reasonably focused on the initial topic. For that reason, I think that linear comments are best on a blog.

More conversation is not always better

Of course, there are always parallel conversations going on. On Twitter, on FriendFeed, in IM windows I’ll never know about. As a blogger, I would like a way to point to these conversations from my post, so that a person reading could then have access easily to all the public conversations going on about what they read. Conversation fragmentation is not something we’re going to get rid of, but we can try to minimize it.

Increasingly, our problem is becoming one of signal-to-noise ratio and chatter. These are subjective notions. My signal is somebody else’s noise, and vice versa. I’m happy that there is chatter and small talk in the world and online (it’s a big part of human interaction and what relationships can be made of), also about what I write. But on my blog, I’d like to keep the chatter somewhat down, even if that means my “number of comments per post” or “conversational index” is not high. I’d rather have less conversation here, and give it a chance to be more interesting and accessible to outsiders, than huge 50+ comment threads that nobody is going to read besides the hardcore die-hard social media types.

More reading and listening

You’ll find some of the links I found on del.icio.us. If you’re into videos, the topic was raised about 6 months ago on Seesmic. Here’s what I had to say at the time:

I’ve also dug up a few quotes I found in some old discussions on MeFi. They’re in my Tumblr, but as Tumblr tumbles along, I’m reproducing them here:

If you’re trying to build community, it is clear that linear, non-threaded discussions are superior. There is a good body of research on this – it’s not new, it’s not a novel idea. For tech support stuff, hierarchical tree structures are better, in general.

Micheal Boyle (mikel)

One of the arguments for adding any feature that is designed to hide noise is that it gives it a permanent home. When Slashdot added moderation and auto-hiding to their threads, they gave the -1 NATALIE PORTMAN’S BOOBS brigade a permanent home on the site.

I checked out digg’s new setup earlier this week and 75% of all the comments were complaining about mod points. I don’t know if that’s an improvement.

Matt Haughey

This place is like a pub.

One does not have threaded conversations in a pub.

five fresh fish

Going Solo Venues, Open Stage, and Link Love [en]

[fr] Sur le site de Going Solo, vous trouverez le récit de mon aprÚs-midi passée à visiter des salles de conférences à Lausanne. Ma proposition d'Open Stage pour LIFT'08 semble avoir du succÚs mais a encore besoin de vos votes.

Je me pose ensuite des tas de question sur les raisons pour lesquelles Going Solo ne semble pas attirer plus l'attention des blogueurs. Est-ce trop tÎt? Pas assez d'informations? Ai-je épuisé mon capital social? Est-ce que tout le monde pense que les autres s'en chargent?

Pour que des personnes en-dehors de mon réseau direct puissent entendre parler de Going Solo et s'y intéresser, j'ai besoin de votre aide. Voici la (modeste) collection de liens couvrant Going Solo. Julien a parlé plusieurs fois de Going Solo en français (merci!), mais je crois que c'est à peu prÚs tout cÎté couverture francophone. Oui, la conférence est en anglais. Mais vos lecteurs francophones ne sont pas tous nécessairement anglophobes, ni les personnes qu'ils connaissent à leur tour.

Que ce soit clair: je ne veux forcer la main Ă  personne. Si vous trouvez Going Solo inutile ou mĂȘme bĂȘte, ne perdez pas votre temps Ă  en parler (ou mieux, en fait, racontez pourquoi vous pensez ainsi, ça m'intĂ©resse). Mais si vous dĂ©sirez soutenir cette confĂ©rence et que ce n'est visible nulle part sur votre blog... Prenez un petit moment pour ça.

Et si vous avez un éclairage à offrir concernant ma difficulté permanent à "rallier" les gens autour des choses que je fais (pas les choses que je blogue, hein, celles que je fais), je suis toute ouïe. Merci d'avance.

Just a note to say I’ve published a blog post on hunting for venues for Going Solo (yes, on the Going Solo blog — what? you haven’t subscribed yet? what are you waiting for?). If you have any thoughts on the points I raise there, go ahead.

In the good news departments, it seems my open stage proposal about organizing a conference for freelancers is attracting interest. It still needs votes though, so if you want to help make sure I hit the big stage and you are going to attend LIFT, be sure to vote. (Every vote counts. Thanks.)

Prepare for slight digression.

For some reason, I seem to always have trouble motivating people to “spread the word” about stuff I’m doing. There seems to be a disconnect between the picture people send back to me (“Oh, you have so much traction, you’re so influent, etc.”) and what actually happens when I try to get the word out about something.

I usually don’t have this problem when it’s somebody else’s stuff. If I sign up for your nice new shiny 2.0 service and like it, I’m going to convince dozens of people to sign up. Twitter. Dopplr. Seesmic. It’s even happening with offline stuff like the neti pot.

I guess one of the issues is that I’m not really comfortable promoting my own stuff. Some people seem to have no problem doing that — I always feel like I should shut up, and if what I’m doing is really worthwhile, other people will pick it up and blog about it. On the other hand, I am pretty comfortable page-slapping people with my own writings.

So, what is it? Do people underestimate the support I need from the community? Am I one of those annoying people who ask for too much and don’t give enough? Do I squander my social capital? Is the stuff I do so lame that nobody has any interest in talking about it? Am I simply just “missing” a little something somewhere that I still haven’t figured out? Am I just not active enough in self-promoting?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining about my technorati ranking or about the fact that some of my blog posts have already been around the world three times (my stuff on MySQL encoding problems and multiple WordPress installations have remained popular for years — the latter with spammers, maybe, I’m afraid). It’s more about stuff I do as opposed to stuff I write.

Take Going Solo. I know I haven’t really started pushing it out there, because we don’t have branding yet and the price isn’t quite set. But still. When I announced it here on CTTS (and before that, when I said I was starting a company), a lot of people stopped by to leave an encouraging comment or send me a nice tweet. I really appreciated it.

Now, not trying to make anybody feel bad here, but here’s the coverage of Going Solo that I’ve been able to round up (or the technorati cosmos. I’m getting into the habit of bookmarking any “coverage” links, because they’re easy to find on the moment, but 6 months later you can forget about it.

Is it because I haven’t explicitly said “Going Solo needs your link love”? (If that’s it, I’m saying it now.) Is it because it’s “too early) — ie, people are waiting for the venue to be set, the full programme to be announced, sidebar badges to be available and the tickets to be on sale? I personally don’t think it’s necessary to wait that long. I’m convinced Going Solo is going to be a really useful event for many freelancers out there. I want to get the word out and create interest for it, also outside my immediate network. And for that, I need you. You’re the only people who can help me reach “outside my network”. Or maybe I’m being difficult, naive, or expecting too much?

I’d like to understand what’s happening. I’d like more people to talk about Going Solo and try to promote it to their networks, of course, but my main issue here is understanding. So any insight will be… more than welcome. If you think Going Solo is worthwhile, but you haven’t blogged about it, it would help me if you left a comment to tell me why you haven’t (yet, hopefully!) blogged about it. Again — I’m not asking for justifications, just insight from “the other side of the fence”.

This week-end, as I was hurrying to get my LIFT workshop out of the door, I was astonished (in a disappointed sort of way) to see how few people had come up with proposals for LIFT. I know people wait until the last minute to do it, but I also realised that I hadn’t really blogged about LIFT this year. I guess I was thinking that it was so popular anyway, a blog post of mine wouldn’t really make much difference. “The others” were already blogging about it.

Then I took a step back and thought of Going Solo — how my frustration that people weren’t talking about it more. So I wrote a blog post to tell people it was the last minute to send a contribution to LIFT. Did anybody make one because I blogged about it, I wonder?

So, done with the angst-ridden rambling. I welcome your comments. And Going Solo needs your link love.

Interview with Serbian Magazine [en]

[fr] Une interview que j'ai accordée il y a un mois environ au magazine serbe InfoM pour leur numéro de décembre.

I gave this interview to the Serbian magazine InfoM about a month ago, for their December issue. I thought you might be interested in hearing what answers I gave to their questions.

1) What do you think about serbia and serbian bloggers?

Honestly, I haven’t seen much of Serbia or Serbian bloggers, besides
what I saw at BlogOpen. The people I met were nice. It seems to me —
from the outside, but as I don’t understand a word of Serbian, this
has to be taken with a grain of salt — that blogging in Serbia is
only beginning to make itself known. For example, the whole
“journalists vs. bloggers” debate seems very old to me.

2) What needs to be done to make this kind of communication more
popular?

More people need to blog 🙂

3) What is your opinion on recent comments that bloggers are not
“serious” journalist?

It’s an old and tired debate. Being a journalist is a profession,
particularly if you think of high-quality investigative journalism.
Not all bloggers are interested in news or commentary on the world, so
what they do has not much to do with journalism. For the bloggers who
do, however, comment on the news or even break it, they are doing a
job similar to that of journalists, though they often aren’t being
paid.

More and more, people are turning to blogs as their primary news
source — if “journalism” is just the re-hashing of press releases,
then yes, journalism is right to be “afraid” of blogging. Serious
investigative journalism will not disappear, but superficial or
manipulative journalism is directly challenged by the work of some
bloggers — and I think this is a good thing.

4) What is commercial potential of blogging in small countries like
Serbia?

I think it’s like everywhere else: people won’t make money “with”
blogs, but “because” of blogs. Freelancers can use a blog to
demonstrate their expertise, whether they live in a large or small
country does not change anything to that. Companies can use blogs to
engage differently with their customers and users. They can use blogs
internally to build new relationships with their employees.

5) Could you give me definition (and example) of successful blog?

A successful blog is a blog that has an influence, in a very general
way. People write blogs for different reasons, so their measure of
success will vary. If I want to connect with other people who have the
same interests as me, my blog will be successful if it allows me to do
so.

Things like counting comments, visitors, incoming links are in my
opinion very superficial (and sometimes dangerous) ways of measuring
how successful a blog is.

Blogging is about opening conversations, and building relationships.
How do you measure that?

6) What is blog consulting and where emerged the need for this kind of
experts from?

Blogging (and the rest of social media) is a new media. Not everybody
understands its characteristics — actually, only a rather small
number of people really do. A social media consultant like myself
steps in when there is a need for specialised knowledge about blogging
or other social media.

For example, if you have a company, and you’re wondering “how could I
use blogging in my company?” or “what are the advantages of blogging
for somebody in my situation?” or even “I want to start blogging, but
how do I do it?” — that is where a social media or blogging
consultant will be able to help you.

7) Where bloggers want to see themselves? Is blogging just the road to the
goal or goal itself?

One important aspect of blogging is passion. You need to be passionate
about the things you’re blogging about. In that respect, blogging is
the goal. You’re passionate about something, and you want to share it.

But blogging is also a means to an end. However, if it is done /only/
as a means to an end, without real, authentic passion, it will fail.