Lift09 — Vint Cerf [en]

Story of the talking dog. Excitement, but nobody is paying attention to what the dog is saying.

Vint feels like the talking dinosaur.


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The Internet works because there are standards, and people cooperate to work together around those standards.

Jan 1983, 400 computers, official launch of the Internet.

Now: 542 mio hosts, 1.464 mio users. Doesn’t count computers behind firewalls.

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Other relevant phenomenon: 3.5 bio mobiles have come into the system. The first experience of the internet for many people in the world is going to be through mobile.

More internet users in China than in the US

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Asia biggest number of users, then Europe. Hard to make predictions about Europe as it keeps adding countries.

Astonishing: the kinds of things that people put on the net! Fridges and picture-frames! (Sounded about as useful as an electric fork…)

steph-note: internet-enabled picture frames sound cool, to share photos with family around the world

Internet-enabled surfboard. Surf the internet while waiting to surf the next wave, with wifi hotspot on the beach 🙂

Vint seems to have the house of the future: sensors all over the place, network, monitors temperature of the wine cellar for example, and sends and SMS when something is wrong (happened to him when nobody was home, so got one SMS for every five minutes for the next three days of his trip, and when he got back the cellar was a bit warm…)

For the moment, all Vint can tell is that the lights have been on in the wine cellar, but not if somebody took wine. RFID: could put a chip on the bottle, so would know if it walks away. But you could drink it and leave the bottle! So put something in the cork… steph-note: wild!

This year is a significant year of change for the internet. moving to run in parallel with the IPv6 something or other (steph-note: fuzzy for me)

In the seventies, nobody could decide how much address space was needed for this “experiment”. Someone wanted variable length fields, too much computing power. 128-bit addresses (3.4 X 10^38 sounded like a preposterous number of addresses to ask for for an experiment).

The experiment never ended… we’re living in it.

Non-latin characters in domain names — that’s happening now. Hard to integrate that in the current domain name system without disrupting it.

Multi-core chips. (steph-note: technical stuff I’m not following, about clock speeds and chips and stuff and how this relates to the internet)

Conventional relational databases are not scaling up to the sizes people are looking at today. Petabytes of data…

Bit-rot problem: it’s 3000, can you interpret a 1997 Powerpoint? Big big problem. Application software needed to interpret our bits not available anymore. Need to maintain access to application software after support is dropped.

Before: computing utility = big building. Today, big buildings with lots of computers and people use the internet to access it = Clouds. Cloud makers don’t usually worry about dealing without other clouds. No vocabulary to talk about other clouds. How does one cloud communicate with the other? How do you tell Cloud B to protect the data that’s just been copied to it in the way that Cloud A was protecting it?

Privacy and acceptable behavior: how will we agree on what privacy is online, and what is acceptable or not there?

Big clash between copyright policies and the structure of the internet. Legislators and technologists will have to come together to figure out stuff that will hold in a world built by copying.

Digital libraries. Most works will hopefully be available in online form.

In 100 years we’re going to say “can you imagine that at some point, we had books that did not talk to each other?” How do you navigate a dynamic world of books.

Non-Google project here: Interplanatary stuff. Point-to-point transmission is ok if you don’t have to talk to too many devices or spacecraft. Design a space communication system that is as rich as the internet. Why not use TCP/IP? doesn’t work because the distance between planets is astronomical… it takes 3.5 minutes for a signal to propagate to mars (20 minutes at the furthest). TCP/IP is not designed for 40 minute delays. Other problem: celestial motion. Planets have the nasty habit of rotating and we haven’t figured out how to stop that yet.

Disruptive and highly delayed environment. Devised new protocols. Went to test them in tactical military communications because it’s also a highly disrupted environment. DTN.

DTN transfered way more data than TCP/IP, and the marine corps ran away with it. Where is my experiment?

NASA: Deep Impact Testing. launch a probe and get data, but the spacecraft is still going round the sun, so they used it to test data transmission from and to it. Neat!

This summer they upload the protocols to the space station. August, another craft. October, another, so three nodes. By the end of the year, will have formally qualified the interplanatary protocols, and they’ll be able to offer them to standardize communication in space. => interoperability between space missions, if desired!

Next step: interstellar network. But… today it takes long to get over there to the other stars. So need to work on a propulsion system to fix that. Lot of work to be done!


  • Are you happy? Yes, internet shows people are willing to come together and collaborate. And the WWW has demonstrated that sharing information is power. Happy to be at Google, because they’re too young to know “you can’t do that” and so they just go and do it. The reason things didn’t work out 25 years ago might not be true anymore.

  • Can we keep the internet open? Amazing pressures in the network today. At the time, academic geeks who were happy to work together. Pressures to try and control the network and the way people use it. Not necessarily all bad. Privacy questions. Protecting people. Legal system needs to be adapted. Tension between the open internet and being so shut down that nothing is possible. Somewhere in between the network is openly accessible, things can be tried out. Committed to keeping it as open as possibly.

  • Semantic Web, will it become reality? You should ask TBL… Was feeling sorry for TBL because the idea of the semantic web was moving as quickly as IPv6 into the public internet… Link = “something over there that is of interest”. What if we could add a “semantic hyperlink”? Jaguar can be a car, operating system, animal… (steph-note: this is what wikipedia disambiguation pages do) More hopeful.

  • Is Google the real Big Brother? Doesn’t think so and hopes it never does become it. Helping people manage their information. How well is the information managed and protected? Google recognizes that separate access and privacy is important. E-mail is always read by programmes. The one that puts ads in Gmail just does pattern matching.

Lift09 — Frank Beau — MĂ©tromantiques [fr]

Notes prises Ă  l’occasion de la confĂ©rence Lift09. Bla-bla habituel de prise de notes: je fais de mon mieux, mais ce ne sont que des notes, qui peuvent contenir des erreurs et inexactitudes.

Coup de foudre dans le mĂ©tro. Comment sera le mĂ©tro du XXe siĂšcle? A la fois un moyen de transport et d’Ă©changes.

Paradoxal! Un vĂ©hicule qui circule, qui voudrait organiser la circulation interne des “particules” qui l’habitent.

Est-ce qu’internet permet d’Ă©clairer cette question?

En France, sites de “retrouvailles” pour personnes qui se sont croisĂ©es furtivement dans le mĂ©tro. Bouteille Ă  la mer pour retrouver la personne qu’on a croisĂ©e. 600 annonces en un an. 600 histoires. => quelques pistes.

Matrice commune du rĂ©cit: montĂ©s ensemble, tu es sortie Ă  l’arrĂȘt X, nos regards se sont croisĂ©s… plusieurs fois… => bouteille Ă  la mer.

– la connexion s’Ă©tablit avec le regard (dans le mĂ©tro, on cherche une ligne de regard oĂč on croise personne, et quand on croise… en mĂȘme temps on n’arrĂȘte pas de regarder les autres. “L’Ă©lectricitĂ© du regard.” => comment on passe au sourire?
– sourire
– contact des corps (le Tetris des corps… uniquement dans le mĂ©tro) — typologie des contacts corporels dans le mĂ©tro
– on partage le mĂȘme temps — pour les pendulaires
– accĂ©lĂ©rateurs du contact: Ă©couter de la musique, mĂȘme si on est dans sa bulle; livres!; tĂ©lĂ©phones portables;

Romantisme urbain de la mobilité. Tutoiement.

Anti-internet par certains aspects:

Co-présence, force du hasard, non verbal, zone temporairement autonome, on est tous acteurs et spectateurs, le métro est un théùtre.

Espace public qui a des propriĂ©tĂ©s qu’on ne trouve nulle part d’autre. Ces propriĂ©tĂ©s expliquent la quantitĂ© de coups de foudre dans le mĂ©tro. *steph-note: comme sur internet.*

Culture de l’ephĂ©mĂšre.

Le mĂ©tro, c’est pas un espace si terrible que ça. Internet est une camĂ©ra du rĂ©el, et un excellent lieux pour les bouteilles Ă  la mer du XXIe siĂšcle.

L’amour existe toujours!

=> mobile dating, rencontre à travers le téléphone portable, bluetooth, wifi, culture de 15 mÚtres. Phéromones?

3 approches:

– laissez faire! l’amour n’est pas de maths!
– technophĂ©romonisons le mĂ©tro et voyons ce qui se passe
– le sujet est en fait les codes sociaux de l’amour

Scénario de SF:

Edit, 8 mars 2009: Ă  la demande expresse de Frank Beau, les photos que j’ai prises de son “scĂ©nario de SF” ont Ă©tĂ© retirĂ©es de cet article. J’avoue avoir Ă©tĂ© trĂšs surprise et déçue par cette demande (faire une prĂ©sentation en public, devant 800 personnes munies d’appareils photos et de connexions wifi, et espĂ©rer pouvoir “contrĂŽler” la diffusion des visuels utilisĂ©s lors de celle-ci, cela dĂ©note Ă  mon sens d’une assez grande naĂŻvetĂ© et d’une incomprĂ©hension de comment fonctionnent les nouveaux mĂ©dias — cf. Streisand Effect.) Ceci dit, je ne suis pas lĂ  pour chercher querelle, donc je m’exĂ©cute, mais Ă  regret. Si j’en ai le courage, je reproduirai le contenu de ces slides ici (ça allait trop vite pour prendre des notes) — mais ne retenez pas trop votre souffle, j’en ai assez sur mon assiette ces temps, comme on dit.

Lift09 — Baba WamĂ© — L'appropriation de l'Internet par les femmes camerounaises [fr]


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Cameroun: petit pays d’Afrique Centrale (11 fois plus gros que la Suisse). 18mio d’habitants. Langues officielles: anglais et français. Villes: YaoundĂ©, Douala, Bafoussam, Garoua, Maroua, Bamenda.

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Internet dÚs 1997, 400000 utilisateurs internet, dont 50000 en connexion directe. 2500 cybercafés dont 500 à Yaoundé.

Chatteuses camerounaises: sur internet pour chercher un mari. Profil bien dĂ©fini. Entre 18 et 34 ans, niveau scolaire assez bas, Ă©lĂšves/Ă©tudiantes. Parfois inscrites comme cĂ©libataires alors qu’elles sont mariĂ©es (mari peut-ĂȘtre d’accord). Sud = chrĂ©tien, Nord musulman. Chatteuses plutĂŽt du sud.

Motivations. Que font-elles sur internet, que cherchent-elles en ligne, et quels sont les facteurs qui les font revenir?

  • changer sa vie et celle de sa famille par le mariage
  • avoir des enfants mĂ©tis, prestige du mariage avec un blanc (mĂ©tisses privilĂ©giĂ©s dans la sociĂ©tĂ© camerounaise)
  • facilitĂ© d’utilisation d’internet
  • amĂ©lioration des lieux de connexion.

DifficultĂ©s socio-Ă©conomiques au Cameroun, peut-ĂȘtre 50% de taux de chĂŽmage => dur de trouver un travail, donc possibilitĂ© de changement et d’amĂ©lioration en partant Ă  l’Ă©tranger.

Vision nĂ©gative de l’homme camerounais (irresponsable, voleur, menteur — Baba YamĂ© nous prĂ©cise qu’il ne correspond Ă  aucune des ces descriptions!)

Les sites de rencontre sont beaucoup plus ergonomiques qu’avant. Aussi, Photoshop, c’est extraordinaire. La webcam facilite la communication entre personnes Ă©loignĂ©es. Les sites de rencontre sont gratuits pour les femmes aussi, pas pour les hommes.

CybercafĂ©s climatisĂ©s, avec boxes privĂ©s Ă  l’abri des regards… Fibre optique. “Connexion haricot” — le haricot doit cuire longtemps, donc on utilise cette expression pour parler d’une connexion trĂšs lente, genre 10 minutes pour ouvrir Google. Avec la fibre optique, plus de ça.

Techniques pour approcher les hommes sur internet? Pour que ça marche, il faut de la technique!

  • choix judicieux des fiches (Ăąge, pays, race) — les camerounaises sont trĂšs pointilleuses (dans quel pays veux-je vivre? en premiĂšre position: la Suisse!) et elles ne veulent pas des jeunes, au moins 35-55 ans. Les jeunes sont exigeants et barbants! Puis, bon, il faut ĂȘtre blanc.
  • bons rapports avec les moniteurs de cybercafĂ©s (apprendre Ă  surfer sur le net, si on n’est jamais allĂ© Ă  l’Ă©cole… il y a des moniteurs qui tapent pour elles!)
  • rĂ©gularitĂ© dans les Ă©changes, au moins 4-5 fois dans la semaine, ça prend du temps et de l’argent (par mois, 150€ alors qu’on vit lĂ -bas avec moins de 2$ par jour — la famille participe, elles ont des sponsors!)
  • le mystique: marabouts (ne pas boire ceci, aller Ă  tel jour Ă  telle heure…) — catastrophe Ă  YaoundĂ© (?) le marabout est mort… obsĂšques avec des tonnes de jeunes filles, incroyable (Baba y est allĂ©)

  • Le coĂ»t de la recherche: 8€ par jour

  • l’apport de l’entourage (famille, groupe de monitrices qui animent des groupes — elles sont organisĂ©es)

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Les valeurs chrétiennes (affichées sur le profil):

  • fidĂ©litĂ© (“si vous ĂȘtes mariĂ©, passez votre chemin”)
  • Dieu (“je suis croyante” — “si vous croyez en Dieu comme moi, vous ĂȘtes l’homme de ma vie”)
  • la prose (textes trĂšs bien Ă©crits: du Voltaire, Montesquieu, RenĂ© Char)


  • entre 10 et 15% se marient
  • 60% de celles-ci se retrouvent se retrouvent dans un rĂ©seau de prostitution! (et ne rentrent jamais en Afrique — rentrer pauvre en Afrique, c’est impensable, on est un paria)


  • une Suissesse est une camerounaise qui s’est installĂ©e en Suisse et revient montrer ses bijoux et sa rolex
  • chercher son Blanc
  • Mon Western Union (l’Ă©change a commencĂ©, on teste en demandant de l’argent pour l’Ă©cole et ça arrive par Western Union)
  • Couple Internet (couple qu’on voit passĂ© dont le mari est blanc et la femme noire)
  • Mariage (mariage fait par le biais d’internet)

Immeubles des “Suissesses” (qui sont rentrĂ©es et ont construit): “elles ont construit ces immeubles Ă  la sueur de leurs fesses”

Les femmes qui se tournent vers internet pour tenter d’arriver en Europe, plutĂŽt que par bateau (90% de morts!), c’est une trĂšs bonne chose.

"Je fais des sites internet" [fr]

[en] I've decided to start targeting small local businesses (shops, the plumber, etc.) who do not have a web presence, and offer them a cheap-clean-simple solution to have one.

Je traverse au vert, en sortant de la Migros. Une voiture dont le conducteur a regardĂ© un peu paresseusement les feux (il y a un machin orange clignotant, lĂ , pour indiquer que les piĂ©tons ont aussi le vert) manque me renverser. Enfin, j’exagĂšre un tantinet: il s’arrĂȘte un peu brusquement et me regarde comme si je n’avais rien Ă  faire lĂ . Je le regarde en retour, de mon regard-qui-arrĂȘte-les-autos.

Un monsieur d’un certain Ăąge m’interpelle, et nous faisons causette sympathique en continuant notre chemin. Non, je n’Ă©tais pas au Comptoir Suisse (ou le Foutoir Suisse, comme on dit par ici — rĂ©fĂ©rence aux perturbations de la circulation qu’il occasionne dans le quartier). Je lui raconte d’oĂč je viens, je lĂąche que je suis indĂ©pendante.

– Ah… Et vous faites quoi?

– Je fais des sites internet.

– C’est encore Ă  la mode ces trucs-lĂ ?

(Oui, je sais, c’est site web, mais faut s’adapter au vocabulaire courant, mĂȘme s’il est un peu douteux. Cf. web-deux-(point-)zĂ©ro.)

C’est la premiĂšre fois de ma vie que je me dĂ©cris comme ça. Il y a une annĂ©e ou deux, quand le tĂ©lĂ©phone sonnait et qu’on me disait “il paraĂźt que vous faites des sites?” je rĂ©pondais, gentiment mais fermement, que je ne “faisais” pas des sites, mais que je pouvais les aider Ă  faire le leur. Ou leur montrer comment on fait.

Entre-deux, l’Ă©puisement du rĂ©seau direct que traversent pas mal d’indĂ©pendants Ă  un moment donnĂ©, et crise financiĂšre accompagnĂ©e d’une bonne dose de pragmatisme: si les gens veulent un site-vitrine, cela ne sert pas Ă  grand-chose de s’Ă©chiner Ă  leur vendre l’idĂ©e que c’est dĂ©passĂ©, et qu’il leur faut un site-conversations. MĂȘme s’ils trouvent que c’est une bonne idĂ©e, hein. Mais ils n’en ressentent pas vraiment le besoin, et en plus, ça fait plus cher.

Donc, voilĂ , pourquoi pas. Si les gens veulent des sites pour avoir une “prĂ©sence sur internet”, un site un peu “brochure sur Ă©cran”, c’est un dĂ©but. Il faut bien commencer quelque part. Et ça, je peux le faire. Du coup, j’ai rapidement mis en ligne deux sites de dĂ©monstration, et (vous voyez quelle clientĂšle je compte approcher pour commencer), et pondu un petit PDF pas-beau-mais-c’est-un-dĂ©but. On parle ici du degrĂ© zĂ©ro du site internet. Quelques pages, adresse, une photo ou deux, heures d’ouverture, bref descriptif. Mais c’est dĂ©jĂ  sous WordPress, et le jour oĂč le client voudra aller plus loin (blog, ou 50 pages supplĂ©mentaires) tout est en place.

Que je rassure mes fidĂšles lecteurs: je suis toujours une de ces “spĂ©cialistes-gĂ©nĂ©ralistes” d’internet, qui peut faire tout un tas de choses, et continue Ă  faire tout ce qu’elle faisait. Mais des fois, pour que ça tourne, il faut un fond de commerce.

Demain, je vais toquer aux portes dans le quartier.

AprÚs-demain, je prépare un prospectus à envoyer aux écoles de la région.

Back Home [en]

[fr] Retour en plaine.

So, I’m back home. I haven’t turned on the router yet. Arriving in my flat a bit less than two hours ago, I saw myself preparing to leave, frantic, packing late, rushing to do things before my week offline (most of which I did not manage to do). I didn’t want to go on my holiday. If I hadn’t set the dates in advance with a friend, I certainly would have cancelled.

Back here after five days in the mountains, I feel different. I feel slowed down. I realize that I’m taking the time to do things. Unpack my toiletries. Empty my backpack. Take a bath. And I want to sit down and write a bit before I go back online, because I’m not sure what will happen when I will. It’s silly, isn’t it? I’m in charge, so I should decide — but there are different me’s, and it’s not always the one I want which wins.

Online — my office — is a fast-paced world. Spending five days away from my world of too many choices did me a lot of good. Nothing but walk, eat, sleep, read, and sort photos. In discreet but present company.

I can slowly feel it starting — this feeling that I need to quickly do this, quickly do that. But I don’t want to live my life quickly. I want to take the time to enjoy it. Slowly, more slowly.

As I was soaking in my bath a little earlier, I realized that I could enjoy this slowness whenever I wanted. I mean, there is nothing material to prevent me from doing so. Thing is… how do I switch into the mood? That’s the big question.

I’m a bit apprehensive right now. I want to go and check on my office, see what happened while I was away. It’s exciting, in a way. But I’m afraid of getting caught up completely. Where will I start? Do I just jump in? Do I take advantage of my “rested” state of mind (physically exhausted, mind you) to try and do things differently? Plan ahead? Tomorrow is catching up day. Go through e-mail (oh yes) and decide what I need to do next. Deal with emergencies. That’ll be enough for a day.

Online is fast-paced, but it’s also noisy, busy, full of people (and very quiet of course). It’s a busy city. As I’m “always on”, I think my life has become a bit of a “busy city”. So has my flat. Part of why I get sucked up in it has to do with how I deal (badly) with alone-ness. But maybe now that I’ve had a few silent days of walking in the mountains with myself, things will be different.

It’s quiet outside.

Second day offline [en]

[fr] DeuxiĂšme jour de vacances Ă  la montagne hors-ligne.

My legs hurt. So do my feet. And my bum. We walked about 4.5 hours today. Not bad for two out-of-shape girls. The first bit was the steepest (quite steep actually) — about 45 minutes to the top of Chaux Ronde (I understood yesterday that there are two mountains around here called that, so this was the one with the cross). We sat at the top and just looked at all the mountains around us. A few yellow butterflies kept hovering around us and I got some photographs.

Bagha is settling down, after an encounter with his local “twin” (I got a photo with both the cats last time I came up here, about a year ago — even I mistake the other one for Bagha if I’m not careful). He’s not very enthusiastic about going out — quite out of character for him. But then, this isn’t his territory.

I’ve been completely offline today, except for a few TwitPics (wanting to make my offline friends jealous). A work phone came in and almost got me “worrying” about how to deal with it, but I quickly decided to put it out of my mind and deal with it when I came back to work.

It’s hard keeping my mind in “holiday-mood”. Well, not very hard actually, but every now and again I think about all I haven’t done for Going Solo and feel a surge of panic. Oh well. What’s not done isn’t done, and it will work out even so. I’ll be late for certain things, but hey, worse things have happened.

What’s important is that I’m realising how much I love being up in the mountains and the woods (we had both today). I’ve been in town way too long. I’ve been spending too much time in cities. I grew up in a house bordering the forest. After school fun was outdoors, playing with a few kids in the neighbourhood, but also flying my kite in the fields, howling like a dog wearing my home-made yellow cape at the top of our drive (and listening in delight at all the dogs answering me), running in the forest and building (rather unsuccessful) tree-houses.

Family week-ends and holidays were skiing in winter, of course, and in summer, walking in the mountains, sailing, or camping all over Europe (well, not always camping, and not quite all over Europe, but that kind of holidays — not hotels on the beach or city-life).

I spent an important part of my late teens with the scouts, making fires in the woods, camping, walking — again.

I love living in town. When I left my parents’ home at 22, I wanted to live in the city, near the centre. To be close to everything, instead of 15 minutes on foot from the closest bus stop. To be able to invite people over easily. It was great to be so close to everything, and I still love it, though when I came back from India, I moved to a more quiet and green part of town (still just 5 minutes from the centre by bus).

But somewhere along the way, I stopped going out of town. Once I had my own life (and wasn’t just following around my parents’) all my activities became more and more city-centric.

Over the last years, I’ve felt a need to get out a bit more. I ask my Dad to go sailing a few times a year. I keep telling myself I want to find some friends to go walking with in the mountains, like I used to do when I was a kid. And most of all, I remember that I own part of this chalet I’m staying in now, and that I hardly ever go there.

There are some family-luggage issues around it, of course. But my excuse is usually that it’s “too complicated”, specially now that I don’t have a car. Actually, as I experienced this time, it isn’t too bad. First of all, it’s one of the rare places I can take Bagha with me. Leaving Bagha behind when I travel is always difficult, particularly now that his health isn’t as good as it used to be, between FIV and old age. It’s 90 minutes by train from Lausanne, and with a taxi to the station it honestly isn’t much of a hassle.

There is also the fact that as I don’t come regularly, the chalet itself is not practical for me. If I came more often, I’d leave stuff here (or acquire it) to make coming here easier. Stuff as stupid as bedsheets (I have plenty at home) so I don’t need to bring back the “common” ones, wash them, and worry about how they are going to get back up to the chalet.

We’re hiring somebody to come and cut the grass (the garden is a real jungle, and it’s our turn this year to deal with the grass) and my brother is coming up tomorrow, so we’ll be spending the day armed with various tools to reduce the amount of greenery which is literally swallowing up the chalet. I looked at the garden with an owners eye for the first time, maybe (OK, co-owner). “If it was up to me, I’d knock some of those trees down.”

As we were walking down from Taveyanne to Villars, and I was realising I needed “more of this”, I made up a plan: come to the chalet for an extended week-end (3-5 days) every three weeks or so. Book in advance. Find a friend to come with me and go walking. I’ve half a mind to come back on the 9th of August: they’re calling out for voluntary help to remove bushes and saplings from Taveyanne on that day, to keep the forest from taking over the “pĂąturage” (no clue what that’s called in English).

A day of physical work, completely away from what my professional life is.

On the way up here, the friend who came with me was telling me she’d taken up cross-stitch (she started doing it to keep herself busy during the ads while watching TV). I thought of Suw and her lace and jewellery again, and the penny dropped. I need some kind of creative activity that does not involve words. Painting, maybe. I’m crap at it, of course, but I always enjoyed painting when we had to do it at school during art class. Mixing colours, putting them on paper. I wanted to buy a box of paint when we went grocery shopping, but unfortunately they didn’t have any.

Gosh, that’s a lot of writing for a day offline. I took lots of close-up photos of flowers — I’m looking forward to seeing them on the computer screen. But not today: I’m dead, and the grass guy is showing up tomorrow at 8am.

This entry was back-posted upon my return online.

Reading the Ofcon Report on Social Networking: Stats, Stranger Danger, Perceived Risk [en]

[fr] Le Daily Mail remet ça aujourd'hui, abasourdi de découvrir que les adolescents rencontrent "offline" des étrangers d'internet. Il va donc falloir que j'écrive le fameux billet auquel j'ai fait allusion derniÚrement, mais avant cela, je suis en train de lire le rapport sur lequel se basent ces articles alarmés et bien-pensants.

Ce billet contient quelques commentaires sur la situation en général, ainsi que mes notes de lecture -- citations et commentaires -- du début de ce rapport de l'Ofcon.

I don’t know if I’ll get around to writing about the teen cleavage scare before the story goes completely cold, but in my endeavour to offer a balanced criticism of what’s going on here, I’m currently reading the Ofcon Social Networking Report which was released on April 2 and prompted this new wave of “think of the children” media coverage. The Daily Mail is at it today again, with the stunning and alarming news that teenagers are meeting “strangers” from the internet offline (big surprise). I find it heartening, though, that the five reader comments to this article as of writing are completely sensible in playing down the “dangers” regularly touted by the press and the authorities.

Here are the running notes of my reading of this report. I might as well publish them as I’m reading. Clearly, the report seems way more balanced than the Daily Mail coverage (are we surprised?) which contains lots of figures taken out of context. However, there is still stuff that bothers me — less the actual results of the research (which are facts, so they’re good) than the way some of them are presented and the interpretations a superficial look at them might lead one to make (like, sorry to say, much of the mainstream press).

Here we go.

Social networking sites also have
some potential pitfalls to negotiate, such as the unintended consequences of publicly posting
sensitive personal information, confusion over privacy settings, and contact with people one
doesn’t know.

Ofcon SN Report, page 1

Good start, I think that the issues raise here make sense. However, I would put “contact with people one doesn’t know” in “potential pitfalls”. (More about this lower down.)

Ofcom research shows that just over one fifth (22%) of adult internet users aged 16+ and
almost half (49%) of children aged 8-17 who use the internet have set up their own profile on
a social networking site. For adults, the likelihood of setting up a profile is highest among
16-24 year olds (54%) and decreases with age.

Ofcon SN Report, page 5

This is to show that SNs are more popular amongst younger age groups. It makes sense to say that half of 8-17 year olds have a profile on SN site to compare it with the 22% of 16+ internet users or the 54% of 16-24 year olds. Bear in mind that these are percentages of internet users — they do not include those who do not go online.

However, saying “OMG one out of two 8-17 year olds has a profile on a SN site” in the context of “being at risk from paedophiles” is really not very interesting. Behaviour of 8 year olds and 17 year olds online cannot be compared at all in that respect. You can imagine a 16 year old voluntarily meeting up to have sex with an older love interest met on the internet. Not an 8 year old. In most statistics, however, both fall into the category of “paedophilia” when the law gets involved.

27% of 8-11 year olds who are aware of social networking sites say that they have a profile on a site

Ofcon SN Report, page 5

I’d like to draw you attention on the fact that this is 27% of 8-11 year olds who are aware of social networking sites.

Unless otherwise stated, this report uses the term ‘children’ to include all young people aged 8-17.

Ofcon SN Report, page 5

I don’t like this at all, because as stated above, particularly when it comes to concerns about safety one cannot simply lump that agegroup into a practical “children”, which plays well with “child abuse”. In the US, cases of “statutory rape” which might very well have been consensual end up inflating the statistics on “children falling victim to sexual predators online”.

Although contact lists on sites talk about ’friends’, social networking sites stretch the
traditional meaning of ‘friends’ to mean anyone with whom a user has an online connection.
Therefore the term can include people who the user has never actually met or spoken to.
Unlike offline (or ‘real world’) friendship, online friendships and connections are also
displayed in a public and visible way via friend lists.
The public display of friend lists means that users often share their personal details online
with people they may not know at all well. These details include religion, political views,
sexuality and date of birth that in the offline world a person might only share only with close
While communication with known contacts was the most popular social
networking activity, 17 % of adults used their profile to communicate with
people they do not know. This increases among younger adults.

Ofcon SN Report, page 7

Right. This is problematic too. And it’s not just the report’s fault. The use of “friend” to signify contact contributes to making the whole issue of “online friendship” totally inpenetrable to those who are not immersed in online culture. The use of “know” is also very problematic, as it tends to be understood that you can only “know” somebody offline. Let’s try to clarify.

First, it’s possible to build relationships and friendships (even loves!) online. Just like in pre-internet days you could develop a friendship with a pen-pal, or kindle a nascent romance through letters, you can get to know somebody through text messages, IM, blog postings, presence streams, Skype chats and calls, or even mailing-list and newsgroup postings. I hope that it will soon be obvious to everybody that it is possible to “know” somebody without actually having met them offline.

So, there is a difference between “friends” that “you know” and “SN friends aka contacts” which you might in truth not really know. But you can see how the vocabulary can be misleading here.

I’d like to take the occasion to point out one other thing that bothers me here: the idea that contact with “strangers” or “people one does not know” is a thing worth pointing out. So, OK, 17% of adults in the survey, communicated with people they “didn’t know”. I imagine that this is “didn’t know” in the “offline person”‘s worldview, meaning somebody that had never been met physically (maybe the study gives more details about that). But even if it is “didn’t know” as in “complete stranger” — still, why does it have to be pointed out? Do we have statistics on how many “strangers” we communicate with offline each week?

It seems to me that because this is on the internet, strangers are perceived as a potential threat, in comparison to people we already know. As far as abuse goes, in the huge, overwhelming, undisputed majority of cases, the abuser was known (and even well known) to the victim. Most child sexual abuse is commited by people in the family or very close social circle.

I had hoped that in support of what I’m writing just now, I would be able to state that “stranger danger” was behind us. Sadly, a quick search on Google shows that I’m wrong — it’s still very much present. I did, however, find this column which offers a very critical view of how much danger strangers actually do represent for kids and the harmful effects of “stranger danger”. Another nice find was this Families for Freedom Child Safety Bulletin, by a group who seems to share the same concerns I do over the general scaremongering around children.

Among those who reported talking to people they didn’t know, there were significant
variations in age, but those who talked to people they didn’t know were significantly more
likely to be aged 16-24 (22% of those with a social networking page or profile) than 25-34
(7% of those with a profile). In our qualitative sample, several people reported using sites in
this way to look for romantic interests.

Ofcon SN Report, page 7

Meeting “online people” offline is more common amongst the younger age group, which is honestly not a surprise. At 34, I sometimes feel kind of like a dinosaur when it comes to internet use, in the sense that many of my offline friends (younger than me) would never dream of meeting somebody from “The Internets”. 16-24s are clearly digital natives, and as such, I would expect them to be living in a world where “online” and “offline” are distinctions which do not mean much anymore (as they do not mean much to me and many of the other “online people” of my generation or older).

The majority of comments in our qualitative sample were positive about social networking. A
few users did mention negative aspects to social networking, and these included annoyance
at others using sites for self-promotion, parties organised online getting out of hand, and
online bullying.

Ofcon SN Report, page 7

This is interesting! Real life experience from real people with social networks. Spam, party-crashing and bullying (I’ll have much more to say about this last point later on, but in summary, address the bullying problem at the source and offline, and don’t blame the tool) are mentioned as problems. Unwanted sexual sollicitations or roaming sexual predators do not seem to be part of the online experience of the people interviewed in this study. Strangely, this fits with my experience of the internet, and that of almost everybody I know. (Just like major annoyances in life for most people, thankfully, are not sexual harrassment — though it might be for some, and that really sucks.)

The people who use social networking sites see them as a fun and easy leisure activity.
Although the subject of much discussion in the media, in Ofcom’s qualitative research
privacy and safety issues on social networking sites did not emerge as ‘top of mind’ for most
users. In discussion, and after prompting, some users in the qualitative study did think of
some privacy and safety issues, although on the whole they were unconcerned about them.
In addition, our qualitative study found that all users, even those who were confident with
ICT found the settings on most of the major social networking sites difficult to understand
and manipulate.

Ofcon SN Report, page 7-8

This is really interesting too. But how do you understand it? I read: “It’s not that dangerous, actually, if those people use SN sites regularly without being too concerned, and the media are making a lot of fuss for nothing.” (Ask people about what comes to mind about driving a car — one of our regular dangerous activities — and I bet you more people than in that study will come up with safety issues; chances are we’ve all been involved in a car crash at some point, or know somebody who has.) Another way of reading it could be “OMG, even with all the effort the media are putting into raising awareness about these problems, people are still as naive and ignorant! They are in danger!”. What will the media choose to understand?

The study points out the fact that privacy settings are hard to understand and manipulate, and I find this very true. In doubt or ignorance, most people will “not touch” the defaults, which are generally too open. I say “too open” with respect to privacy in the wide sense, not in the “keep us safe from creeps” sense.

This brings me to a comment I left earlier on an article on ComMetrics about what makes campaigns against online pedophiles fail. It’s an interesting article, but as I explain in the comment, I think it misses an important point:

There is a bigger issue here — which I try to explain each time I get a chance, to the point I’m starting to feel hoarse.

Maybe the message is not the right one? The campaign, as well as your article, takes as a starting point that “adults posing as kids” are the threat that chatrooms pose to our children.

Research shows that this is not a widespread risk. It also shows that there is no correlation between handing out personal information online and the risk of falling victim to a sexual predator. Yet our campaigns continue to be built on the false assumptions that not handing out personal information will keep a kid “safe”, and that there is danger in the shape of people lying about their identity, in the first place.

There is a disconnect between the language the campaigns speak and what they advocate (you point that out well in your article, I think), and the experience kids and teenagers have of life online (“they talk to strangers all the time, and nothing bad happens; they meet people from online, and they are exactly who they said they were; hence, all this “safety” information is BS”). But there is also a larger disconnect, which is that the danger these campaigns claim to address is not well understood. Check out the 5th quote in the long article I wrote on the subject at the time of the MySpace PR stunt about deleting “sex offenders'” profiles.

I will blog more about this, but wanted to point this out here first.

Yes, I will blog more about this. I think this post of notes and thoughts is long enough, and it’s time for me to think about sleeping or putting a new bandage on my scraped knee. Before I see you in a few days for the next bout of Ofcon Report reading and commentating, however, I’ll leave you with the quote I reference in the comment above (it can’t hurt to publish it again):

Now, on the case of internet sex crimes against kids, I’m concerned
that we’re already off to a bad start here. The public and the
professional impression about what’s going on in these kinds of
crimes is not in sync with the reality, at least so far as we can
ascertain it on the basis of research that we’ve done. And this
research has really been based on some large national studies of
cases coming to the attention of law enforcement as well as to large
national surveys of youth.

If you think about what the public impression is about this crime,
it’s really that we have these internet pedophiles who’ve moved
from the playground into your living room through the internet
connection, who are targeting young children by pretending to be
other children who are lying about their ages and their identities and
their motives, who are tricking kids into disclosing personal
information about themselves or harvesting that information from
blogs or websites or social networking sites. Then armed with this
information, these criminals stalk children. They abduct them.
They rape them, or even worse.

But actually, the research in the cases that we’ve gleaned from
actual law enforcement files, for example, suggests a different
reality for these crimes. So first fact is that the predominant online
sex crime victims are not young children. They are teenagers.
There’s almost no victims in the sample that we collected from – a
representative sample of law enforcement cases that involved the
child under the age of 13.

In the predominant sex crime scenario, doesn’t involve violence,
stranger molesters posing online as other children in order to set up
an abduction or assault. Only five percent of these cases actually
involved violence. Only three percent involved an abduction. It’s
also interesting that deception does not seem to be a major factor.
Only five percent of the offenders concealed the fact that they were
adults from their victims. Eighty percent were quite explicit about
their sexual intentions with the youth that they were communicating

So these are not mostly violence sex crimes, but they are criminal
seductions that take advantage of teenage, common teenage
vulnerabilities. The offenders lure teens after weeks of
conversations with them, they play on teens’ desires for romance,
adventure, sexual information, understanding, and they lure them to
encounters that the teams know are sexual in nature with people who
are considerably older than themselves.

So for example, Jenna – this is a pretty typical case – 13-year-old
girl from a divorced family, frequented sex-oriented chat rooms, had
the screen name “Evil Girl.” There she met a guy who, after a
number of conversations, admitted he was 45. He flattered her, gave
– sent her gifts, jewelry. They talked about intimate things. And
eventually, he drove across several states to meet her for sex on
several occasions in motel rooms. When he was arrested in her
company, she was reluctant to cooperate with the law enforcement

David Finkelhor, in panel Just The Facts About Online Youth Victimization: Researchers Present the Facts and Debunk Myths, May 2007

A Theory About Freelancers in the Internet Industry [en]

[fr] Une petite théorie à moi qui tente d'expliquer pourquoi l'industrie du web attire tant d'indépendants. En deux mots, c'est une industrie qui bouge trÚs vite, donc les grandes entreprises, plus inertes que les individus, manquent de postes adaptés aux nouvelles compétences qui se développent. (Vous connaissez beaucoup de grandes boßtes qui ont des postes dédiés au "social media", ou qui engagent des "experts en blogs et disciplines associées"?)

De plus, ces indépendants sont souvent autodidactes: la formation, elle aussi, a inévitablement un temps de retard sur les nouveaux développements qui ont lieu au sein de la culture numérique. On se met à son compte non pas parce qu'on a des compétences extraordinaires cÎté business ou management, mais parce qu'on sait faire des choses pour lesquelles il y a un marché, et qu'on est attiré par la liberté qu'offre une telle "formule".

This is some copy I wrote a while back, and which I wasn’t quite happy about. I’m publishing it here, however, because it contains a little theory of mine about why there are so many soloists in the internet industry. Reactions welcome on the Going Solo blog, where it was initially posted. Reminder: today is the last day of March, and Early Bird prices for Going Solo end at midnight, GMT+1 — that’s in a few hours.

The internet industry generates an important number of freelancing professionals. There are two reasons to this, both related to how fast the world of technology is evolving.

First, formal education inevitably tends to lag behind cutting-edge developments. Though this is true for any industry, it is of particular consequence for a very fast-moving one like the web. The most skillful people in such an industry are often passionate amateurs, who at some point decide to turn their passion into a full-time job.

Second, large companies suffer from the same kind of inertia as education. Many highly competent professionals feel frustrated by the fact that the institution for which they work is not yet ready to take full advantage of what they could offer, and as a result, can be tempted by the more stimulating prospect of going solo and freelancing—or setting up their own business.

The fact that education and corporations move more slowly than pioneers is something which is inherent to their nature. To some extent, it is a problem we must try to act upon, but mainly, it is simply the way things are.

Many freelancers find themselves in this business because of a passion for what they get paid to do. Unfortunately, having great skills in an area there is some demand for is not sufficient to sustain a successful freelancing career. One also needs to be good at dealing with the business side of things: setting rates, finding the right clients, defining what has to offer in the current state of the market, dealing with accounting, taxes, and various laws, as well as managing to find a sense of balance in a life which is very different from a 9-5 with a clear distinction between work and non-work, holidays, and a regular paycheck at the end of the month.

Most freelancers go solo because they are good at doing something that people are willing to pay for, and attracted by the freedom of being one’s own boss and the perspective of possible lucrative earnings. Business skills are not usually paid much attention to until they are suddenly needed, although they are what will determine how successful one can be in the long run. At that point, it’s common for the soloist to feel lost and isolated.

Going Solo is a one-day event that was designed to address this issue. We will gather 150 soloists and small business owners around a core group of speakers who are experienced freelancers and will share their knowledge on a variety of business topics. We also want to give freelancers an occasion to come in direct contact with others like them and build a European community where they can support each other.

Cross-posted from the Going Solo blog.

Vidéo de ma conférence sur le multilinguisme à Paris Web 2007 [fr]

[en] For once, I was asked to give one of my multilingual talks in French. Here is the video recording of it.

Il y a un dĂ©calage qui me perplexe parfois un peu entre les confĂ©rences que je donne en français et celles que je donne en anglais. En français, on me demande immanquablement de parler d’ados et internet ou Ă©ventuellement des blogs en gĂ©nĂ©ral ou en entreprise. Dans le monde anglophone, c’est une tout autre histoire, et ce sont des sujets beaucoup plus pointus, comme le multilinguisme sur internet, par exemple.

Je suis contente qu’on m’ait enfin demandĂ© de traiter de ce sujet en français, lors de la confĂ©rence Paris Web 2007. Voici l’enregistrement vidĂ©o de ma confĂ©rence,intitulĂ©e “En attendant le Poisson de Babel”.

Sur le site de Paris Web, vous trouverez des liens vers l’enregistrement audio et autres ressources ainsi que d’autres formats vidĂ©o. Voici la prĂ©sentation que j’ai utilisĂ©e:

Voici une liste (pas forcĂ©ment complĂšte) de ce que d’autres ont Ă©crit au sujet des diverses incarnations de cette confĂ©rence — en français et en anglais.

Hoosgot: The Lazyweb is Back! [en]

[fr] Hoosgot, réincarnation du lazyweb d'antan, est en ligne. Merci à Dave Sifry, fondateur de Technorati!

One of the great things about the internet is that it brings people and ideas closer. One of the ways I (and many others) use it is to find things, or make sure the great idea we just had hasn’t already been implemented somewhere before we start building it.

Many years ago, when trackbacks were young and the the Internet Topic Exchange was hot, some brave folks put their heads and fingers together to give birth to The Lazyweb. If you had a request or a question, you would blog about it, send a trackback and a small prayer to the lazyweb, and maybe the lazyweb would answer with a solution. (As you’ve understood, the “lazyweb” is the community of people sending requests and keeping an eye on those from their brethren.)

I sent a few requests its way at the time.

Unfortunately,spam killed the lazyweb.

Yesterday, Dave Sifry announced the birth of hoosgot, reincarnation of the lazyweb.

So, how do you send your requests over to hoosgot? Simply mention hoosgot in post or Twitter message, and it will appear on the website and in the associated RSS feed — which you should definitely subscribe to and keep an eye on.

Thanks, Dave!