The Podcast With No Name (Steph+Suw), Episode 2 [en]

[fr] Nouvel épisode du podcast conversationnel que je fais avec mon amie Suw Charman.

Long, long overdue, here is Steph and [Suw](’s Podcast With No Name, episode 2, February 15th, 2007. Some rough shownotes, with some links. Hope you enjoy it, and let us know what you think. We’re down to 35 minutes! *Show notes might suffer updates…*

* conferences: [LIFT’07]( and [Freedom of Expression](
* not everybody has the internet (God, I need to stop laughing so loud when we’re recording)
* mobile phones in other cultures (e.g. Nigeria)
* “technology overload” at LIFT’07 [turned into “internet addiction”]( (interesting [Stefana Broadbent](
* note-taking on a computer: expected in some contexts, but feels really out-of-place in others (cultural issue)
* do we end up publishing our handwritten notes? trade-offs: handwritten and rewriting vs. direct blogging ([Steph’s crappy workshop notes](
* scanning vs. [photographing written material](, document management and shredding
* GTD status update ([inbox zero](…)
* [FOWA]( coming up and other fun London stuff
* Wedding 2.0 will be blogged on [CnV](, but will there be a webcast?
* technology as a way to stretch our [Dunbar number](’s_number), wedding 2.0 with IRC backchannel and crackberries galore
* the [Wedding Industrial Complex](, trying to find an affordable venue in Dorset
* IRC or SL would be cheaper, but is SL a registered venue?
* physical words for “virtual” places
* gap between us heavy users, and people who get a few e-mails a day, book holidays online and that’s it
* exploring how new tools could help us — most people aren’t curious about new stuff
* winning over new users: finding holes in people’s processes
* [Facebook]( is really cool, very usable, and for keeping in touch with people you know (has smart walls and smart feeds)
* who’s on Facebook? on the non-desire to join new social networks…
* [LinkedIn]( for business
* Facebook as a mashup to keep up with what your friends are upto — but isn’t that what blogs are for?
* outlet overload, tools need to talk to each other ([holes in buckets](, profile multiplication, Facebook share bookmarklet to “push” stuff
* clumsy wrap-up and episode three when we manage!

Did you miss [episode 1](

**Note:** PodPress seems to have collapsed, so here is a [direct link to the 14Mb mp3 file]( just in case.

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English Only: Barrier to Adoption [en]

*Foreword: this turned into a rather longer post than I had expected. The importance of language and localization online is one of my pet topics (I’ve just decided that it would be what I’d [talk about at BlogCamp](, rather than teenagers and stuff), so I do tend to get carried away a little.*

I was surprised last night to realise that this wasn’t necessarily obvious — so I think it’s probably worth a blog post.

**The fact a service is in English only is a showstopper for many non-native speakers, hence a barrier to wider adoption in Europe.**

But doesn’t everybody speak English, more or less? Isn’t it the *lingua franca* of today that **everybody** speaks? It isn’t. At least not in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and I’m certain there are many other places in Europe where the situation is similar.

Come and spend a little time in Lausanne, for example, and try communicating in English with the man on the street. Even if many people have done a couple of years of English at school, most have never had any use for it after that and have promptly forgotten it. German is a way more important “foreign language” around here, as it is the linguistic majority in Switzerland, and most administrative centers of big companies (and the government) are in the German-speaking part of the country (which doesn’t mean that everybody speaks German, either).

The people who are reasonably comfortable with English around here will most often be those who have taken up higher academic studies, particularly in scientific subjects (“soft” and “hard” science alike).

And if I’m the person who comes to your mind when you think “Swiss”, think again — my father is British, I was born in England, went to an English medium school and spoke English at home until I was 8, conversed regularly with English-speaking grandparents during my growing years, and never stopped reading in English: all that gave me enough of a headstart that even though my English had become very rusty at the end of my teens, I dove into the English-speaking internet with a passion, and spent an anglophone [year in India](/logbook/). So, no. I’m not your average Lausanne-living French-speaker. I’m a strange bilingual beast.

Imagine somebody whose native language is not English, even though they may theoretically know enough English to get around if you parachuted them into London. (Let’s forget about the man on the street who barely understands you when you ask where the station is.) I like to think of [my (step-)sister]( as a good test-case (not that I want to insist on the “step-“, but it explains why she isn’t bilingual). She took up the “modern languages” path at school, which means she did German, English, and Italian during her teenage years, and ended up being quite proficient in all three (she’s pretty good with languages). She went to university after that and used some English during her studies. But since then, she honestly hasn’t had much use for the language. She’ll read my blog in English, can converse reasonably comfortably, but will tend to watch the TV series I lend her in the dubbed French version.

I’m telling you this to help paint a picture of somebody which you might (legitimately) classify as “speaks English”, but for whom it represents an extra effort. And again, I’d like to insist, my sister would be very representative of most people around here who “speak English but don’t use it regularly at work”. That is already not representative of the general population, who “did a bit of English at school but forgot it all” and can barely communicate with the lost English-speaking tourist. Oh, and forget about the teenagers: they start English at school when they’re 13, and by the time they’re 15-16 they *might* (if they are lucky) have enough knowledge of it to converse on everyday topics (again: learning German starts a few years before that, and is more important in the business world). This is the state of “speaking English” around here.

A service or tool which is not available in French faces a barrier to adoption in the *Suisse Romande* on two levels:

– first of all, there are people who simply don’t know enough English to understand what’s written on the sign-up page;
– second, there are people who would understand most of what’s on the sign-up page, but for whom it represents and extra effort.

Let’s concentrate on the second batch. An *extra effort”?! Lazy people! Think of it. All this talk about making applications more usable, about optimizing the sign-up process to make it so painless that people can do it with their eyes closed? Well, throw a page in a foreign language at most normal people and they’ll perceive it as an extra difficulty. And it may very well be the one that just makes them navigate away from the page and never come back. Same goes for using the service or application once they have signed up: it makes everything more complicated, and people anticipate that.

Let’s look at some examples.

The first example isn’t exactly about a web service or application, but it shows how important language is for the adoption of new ideas (this isn’t anything groundbreaking if you look at human history, but sometimes the web seems to forget that the world hasn’t changed that much…). Thanks for bearing with me while I ramble on.

In February 2001, I briefly mentioned [the WaSP Browser Push]( and realised that the French-speaking web was really [“behind” on design and web standards ressources]( I also realised that although [there was interest for web standards](, many French-speaking people couldn’t read the original English material. This encouraged me to [blog in French about it](, [translate Zeldman’s article](, [launching]( the translation site []( in the process., and the [associated mailing-list](, followed a year or so later by [OpenWeb](, eventually became a hub for the budding francophone web standards community, which is still very active to this day.

([What happened with the Swiss Blog Awards]( is in my opinion another example of how important language issues are.)

Back to web applications proper. [Flickr]( is an application I love, but I have a hard time getting people to sign up and use it, even when I’ve walked them through the lengthy Yahoo-ID process. [](, on the other hand, exists in French, and I can now easily persuade my friends and clients to open blogs there. There is a strong [French-speaking WordPress community]( too. A few years ago, when the translation and support were not what they are now, a very nice little blogging tool named [DotClear]( became hugely popular amongst francophone bloggers (and it still is!) in part because it was in French when other major blogging solutions were insufficient in that respect.

Regarding WordPress, I’d like to point out the [community-driven translation effort]( to which everybody can contribute. Such an open way of doing things has its pitfalls (like dreadful, dreadful translations which linger on the home page until somebody comes along to correct them) but overall, I think the benefits outweigh the risks. In almost no time, dozens of localized versions can be made available, maintained by those who know the language best.

Let’s look at teenagers. When [MySpace]( was all that was being talked about in the US, French-speaking teenagers were going wild on [skyblog]( MySpace is catching up a bit now because it [also exists in French]( [Facebook]( In English, nobody here has heard of it. [Live Messenger aka MSN]( Very much in French, [unlike ICQ](, which is only used here by anglophile early adopters.

[Skype]( and [GMail]([GTalk]( are really taking off here now that they are available in French.

Learning to use a new service, or just trying out the latest toy, can be challenging enough an experience for the average user without adding the extra hurdle of having to struggle with an unfamiliar language. Even though a non-localized service like Flickr may be the home to [various linguistic groups](, it’s important to keep in mind that their members will tend to be the more “anglophone” of this language group, and are not representative.

**The bottom line is that even with a lot of encouragement, most local people around here are not going to use a service which doesn’t talk to them in their language.**

***9:52 Afterthought credit:***

I just realised that this article on [why startups condense in America]( was the little seed planted a few days ago which finally brought me to writing this post. I haven’t read all the article, but this little part of it struck me and has been working in the background ever since:

> What sustains a startup in the beginning is the prospect of getting their initial product out. The successful ones therefore make the first version as simple as possible. In the US they usually begin by making something just for the local market.

> This works in America, because the local market is 300 million people. It wouldn’t work so well in Sweden. In a small country, a startup has a harder task: they have to sell internationally from the start.

> The EU was designed partly to simulate a single, large domestic market. The problem is that the inhabitants still speak many different languages. So a software startup in Sweden is still at a disadvantage relative to one in the US, because they have to deal with internationalization from the beginning. It’s significant that the most famous recent startup in Europe, Skype, worked on a problem that was intrinsically international.

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Livre: je me jette à l'eau [en]

[fr] Prompted this evening by a conversation with Peter Hogenkamp about what I might talk about at BlogCampSwitzerland, I've decided that after many months of not acting upon my decision to write a book, it was time to take a deep breath and jump in. The conversation I had at LIFT with Sarah, Stowe and Trine-Maria clearly also prepared me to take the plunge.

The book will be in French, so I'm afraid this is not very exciting news for my English-speaking-only readers. I'm more comfortable writing in French than English, and also, there is already a clear local and francophone interest for the book topic: teenagers, blogs, the internet, the chasm between parents and children when it comes to social media and online culture, and what can/should be done about it in terms of "media education".

The first draft of the book contents was made in English, though, so you'll get a copy of it when that post comes up. Oh, and if you were thinking of suggesting that I write the book in French and English at the same time... you probably haven't thought it through ūüėČ

Il y a plusieurs mois, suite √† une longue discussion avec mon ami [David Galipeau](, je me suis retrouv√©e en fin de soir√©e un peu surprise et la t√™te l√©g√®re √† me dire qu'[√©crire un livre paraissait soudain possible](, et que je tenais un sujet. Le lendemain, j’ai rapidement √©tabli un plan g√©n√©ral de ce que pourrait √™tre le livre dans [Freemind](

Puis, j’ai pass√© pr√®s de six mois √† ne pas avancer. Je souffrais d’un acc√®s aigu de [TMS](/tms/), donc pas question de me mettre √† r√©diger avant d’avoir install√© [Parallels et le Dragon]( L’op√©ration a √©chou√©, entre autres pour cause de mal aux mains qui m’emp√™chait de mener √† terme l’installation (ironie!). Aussi, j’avais d√©cid√© que je voulais [bloguer l’√©criture du bouquin]( “Le cas qui fait √©cole: Naked Conversations.”), et je n’√©tais pas trop s√Ľre si j’allais le faire sur ce blog ou un autre. Puis, last but not least, √©crire √ßa prend du temps, et j’√©tais un peu inqui√®te √† l’id√©e de me lancer dans une entreprise comme √ßa chronophage alors que je n’√©tais pas encore tr√®s s√Ľre dans quelle mesure [mon job de consultante ind√©pendante]( me permettrait de tourner confortablement ou non.

Bref, des tas de tr√®s bonnes raisons, mais franchement, surtout la trouille de me lancer dans quelque chose que je veux faire depuis aussi longtemps que je me souvienne (√©crire un livre), mais qui m’intimide.

Ce soir, discussion avec [Peter Hogenkamp](, un des organisateurs de [BlogCampSwitzerland](, auquel je me suis [inscrite]( un peu plus t√īt. Je ne sais pas encore vraiment [de quoi je vais parler]( √† BlogCamp, et je lui disais que je pourrais peut-√™tre faire quelque chose au sujet des ados, des blogs, et d’internet, comme c’√©tait aussi le sujet du livre que je mijotais (enfin, l√†, je suis encore en train d’√©plucher les patates, pour √™tre tout √† fait honn√™te). Du coup, on a parl√© du livre, je lui ai racont√© tout ce que j’ai r√©crit plus haut dans ce billet, j’ai dit un peu en riant que je pourrais m’y mettre et en parler √† BlogCamp. Dont acte: il est temps d’arr√™ter d’en parler √† tout mon entourage et de me lancer √† l’eau. Le [travail que j’ai fait derni√®rement pour]( m’aide aussi √† trouver le courage de m’y mettre, car si ce n’est pas le m√™me public, c’est bien le m√™me sujet.

Donc, quelques décisions et remarques:

– Je vais √©crire le livre en fran√ßais. J’ai h√©sit√©, bien s√Ľr, mais d’une part je suis quand m√™me plus √† l’aise dans l’√©criture en fran√ßais (faudra que je fasse la chasse aux anglicismes, tout de m√™me), et d’autre part, il y a d√©j√† un int√©r√™t local et francophone pour ce que j’ai √† apporter √† la probl√©matique blogs-ados-internet.
РJe vais bloguer le processus et le contenu du livre au fur et à mesure que je le produirai ici sur CTTS (je ne crois pas à la multiplication des blogs). (Catégorie [Livre](/categories/livre/).)
РLe livre sera mis à disposition/publié sous une [licence Creative Commons](
– Je ne sais pas trop comment je vais m’y prendre, c’est la premi√®re fois que je fais √ßa, et vous allez donc me voir patauger joyeusement.
– Je n’ai pas encore de titre pour le livre. Lorsque j’ai fait le premier jet du plan (en anglais!), je l’ai appel√© “The Blogging Divide” — je ne sais honn√™tement plus si √ßa me pla√ģt ou pas (il y a des wagons, avec des mots pareils). De toute fa√ßon, je ne pense pas qu’il faille un titre pour que je m’y mette. On verra bien ce que je trouverai.
– Si je choisis de construire ce livre en public, c’est parce que je pense qu’il sera plus riche de vos remarques et de vos critiques que si je l’√©cris seule dans mon coin. Mon but est avant tout de faire un livre utile. N’h√©sitez donc pas √† r√©agir √† ce que je publierai.
– J’ai encore besoin de clarifier un peu le sujet du livre, et ce sera l’objet d’un billet futur. Mais √ßa tournera autour des adolescents, de l’internet social, du foss√© entre “adultes” relativement peu branch√©s et ados “digital natives”, et de ce qu’il y a √† faire en mati√®re d’information et de pr√©vention — ce pour quoi j’aime utiliser le terme “√©ducation aux m√©dias”. Le public cible se situera plut√īt du c√īt√© des parents, enseignants, √©ducateurs que des ados ou des geeks.
РJe publierai dans un autre billet (et un autre jour, il se fait tard, là) ma première ébauche de plan, une fois récrite en français.

Voil√† pour ce soir. C’est donc parti!

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Please Make Holes in My Buckets! [en]

[fr] Tour d'horizon de mes différents "profils" à droite et a gauche dans le paysage des outils sociaux (social tools). Il manque de la communication entre ces différents services, et mon identité en ligne s'en trouve fragmentée et lourde à gérer. Ajouter des contacts en se basant sur mon carnet d'adresses Gmail est un bon début, mais on peut aller plus loin. Importer ses livres préférés ou des éléments de CV d'un profil à l'autre, par exemple.

[Facebook]( is [Stowe](’s fault. [Twitter]( was because of [Euan]( [Anne Dominique]( is guilty of getting me on [Xing/OpenBC]( I can’t remember precisely for [Flickr]( or [LinkedIn]( or — OMG! — [orkut](, but it was certainly somebody from [#joiito]( The culprits for [](, [DailyMotion]( and [YouTube]( “Even got there early enough to grab ‘steph’ — now I get password reminders almost everyday, great…”) have disappeared into the limbo of lost memories. [Kevin]( encouraged me to [sign up for a good dozen of blogging platforms](, open a [MySpace account](, and he’s probably to blame for me being on [Upcoming]( As for [](, I’ll blame [Matt]( because he’s behind all that.

Granted, I’m probably the only one responsible for having [gotten into blogging]( “Story here, abbreviated version.”) in the first place.

Let’s get back on track. My aim here is not primarily to point an accusing finger to all my devious friends who introduced me to these fun, [addictive](, time-consuming tools (though it’s interesting to note how one forgets those things, in passing). It’s more a sort of round-up of a bunch of my “online selves”. I feel a little scattered, my friends. Here are all these buckets in which I place stuff, but there aren’t enough holes in them.

Feeds are good. Feeds allow me to have Twitter, [](, Flickr, and even stuff in my blog sidebar. It also allows me to connect my blogs to one another, and into Facebook. Here, though, we’re talking “content” much more than “self”.

One example I’ve already certainly talked about (but no courage to dig it out, my blog is starting to be a huge thing in which I can’t find stuff I know it contains) is contacts or buddies — the “Mine” in [Stowe’s analysis of social applications]( I have buddy lists on IM and Skype, contacts on Flickr and just about every service I mentioned in this post. Of *course*, I don’t want to necessarily have the same contacts everywhere. I might love your photos on Flickr and add you as a contact, but not see any interest in adding you to my business network on LinkedIn. Some people, though — my **friends** — I’ll want to have more or less everywhere.

So, here’s a hole in the buckets that I really like: I’ve seen this in many services, but the first time I saw it was on Myspace. “Let us peek in your GMail contacts, and we’ll tell you who already has an account — and let you invite the others.” When I saw that, it scared me (“OMG! Myspace sticking its nose in my e-mail!”) but I also found it really exciting. Now, it would be even better if I could say “import friends and family from Flickr” or “let me choose amongst my IM buddies”, but it’s a good start. Yes, there’s a danger: no, I don’t want to spam invitations to your service to the 450 unknown adresses you found in my contacts, thankyouverymuch. [Plaxo]( is a way to do this (I’ve seen it criticised but I can’t precisely remember why). Facebook does it, which means that within 2 minutes you can already have friends in the network. Twitter doesn’t, which means you have to painstakingly go through your friends of friends lists to get started. I think [coComment]( and any “friend-powered” service should allow us to import contacts like that by now. And yes, sure, privacy issues.

But what about all my **profile information**? I don’t want to have to dig out my favourite movies each time I sign up to a new service. Or my favourite books. Or the schools I went to. I mean, some things are reasonably stable. Why couldn’t I have all that in a central repository, once and for all, and just have all these neat social tools import the information from there? Earlier today, [David]( was telling me over IM that he’d like to have a central service to bring all our Facebook, LinkedIn, OpenBC/Xing, and MySpace stuff together. Or a way to publish his CV/r√©sum√© online and allow Facebook to access it to grab data from it. Good ideas, in my opinion.

I’ll mention [OpenID]( here, but just in passing, because although in my dreams in used to hold the promise of this centralised repository of “all things me”, I don’t think that it’s what it has been designed for (if I get it correctly, it is identity **verification** and doesn’t have much to do with the **contents** of this identity). [Microformats]( could on the other hand certainly come in handy here.

So, please, make more holes in my buckets. Importing Gmail contacts in sticking feeds here and there is nice, but not sufficient. For the moment, Facebook seems promising. But let me use Twitter for my statuses, for example, or at least include the feed somewhere (I can only include one feed, so I’ve included my [suprglu one](, but it has a huge lag and is not very satisfying). Let me put photographs in my albums directly from Flickr. Talk with the profiles I made with other similar services. Grab my school and work info from LinkedIn and OpenBC. Then make all this information you have about me available to republish how I want it (feeds, feeds, feeds! widgets! buttons! badges!) where I want it.

Also, [more granularity]( Facebook has a good helping of it: I can choose which type of information I want to see from my contacts. I can restrict certain contacts from seeing certain parts of my profile. I’d like fine control on who can see what, also by sorting my people into “buddy groups”. “Friends” and “Family” as on Flickr is just not enough. And maybe Facebook could come and present me with [Stowe-groupings]( of my contacts, based on the interactions I have with them.

Share your wild ideas here if you have any.

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Addicted to Technology! [en]

[fr] Une longue tirade, malheureusement pas vraiment traduisible vu l'heure et la longueur, sur la dépendance à internet, qui est à mon avis un faux problème. J'y parle de notre définition de la technologie (une voiture, c'est aussi de la technologie, et on ne s'alarme pas des gens qui seraient "dépendants de leur voiture" comme on le fait de ceux qui sont "dépendants de leur ordinateur"), de la valeur (petite) généralement accordée aux rapports humains qui passent à travers un ordinateur, de l'insuffisance de la "déconnexion" pour résoudre un problème d'utilisation excessive de cet outil, puisqu'il reste un outil valable et même indispensable pour certains, même si c'est un lieu privilégié de fuite.

Help! we’re all becoming [addicted to technology]( “Panel on technological overload which concluded by asking for the best way to unplug.”)! Think of it… we’re soon going to be merged to our computers and cellphones, and we already have a hard time living without them. Heck, we can’t even spend a day without chatting or checking our e-mail! Or our blog comments! Where is the world going?

#### What technology?

Let’s take a few steps back, shall we? First of all, please define technology. Do we consider that we are “addicted” on our cars? Our clothes? Our flats? The postal system, goods manufacturing and distribution, the newspaper? Oh, but those things are actually *necessary*, not superfluous like all this internet/computer/techy stuff. *That’s* what we mean by “technology”. People could communicate very well without IM and cellphones and e-mail, couldn’t they? So, shouldn’t we strive to remember that “real” human relationships happen outside the realm of all this “technology-mediated” communication?


Cars are technology. The banking system, and similar infrastructures our world relies on, are in their way a form of technology, and certainly, built upon technology. People who argue that cars, fixed landlines, or shoes are more “necessary” than IM are simply stuck with [views on what “technology” is and its value that are dictated by the state of the world when they came into it]( (Read [original material by Douglas Adams](

We consider things like fixed phones and the postal system like something we *need* because they have been around for so long that our society and the individuals inside it have completely adapted to having them around, relying upon them, and using them. It is “normal” to feel uncomfortable or jittery if your phone landline is cut or if your watch breaks down. But somehow, it is not “normal” to feel uncomfortable or jittery when we can’t check our e-mail for 24 hours.

Computers, the internet, and the various programs we use are *tools*, like the phone and our vehicles. They allow us to get things done, interact and connect with others, and also enjoy some recreation. Of course, they can be over-used. Of course, some people will have an unhealthy or even pathological utilisation of them. But they differ from the classical objects of “addiction”, like drugs, which (usually) do not serve a directly constructive purpose.

#### Addicted to our cars

I find it very problematic to speak about “addiction” regarding computers or the internet, partly because it makes it look like the problem is with the tool (instead of the person), and partly because it is very difficult to draw the line between healthy and unhealthy use of the tool without taking in many environmental and personal factors.

I think that making a comparison between computer and car usage is quite enlightening in that respect. They have in common that they are a form of technology, they have a use, and can be abused. Yet we worry about addiction to computers, but not so much about addiction to cars. Let’s have a closer look.

A car is not a vital necessity. Before cars existed, humanity managed to survive for quite a long time, and wasn’t necessarily worse off (I guess that judgement depends on one’s view of progress). However, nowadays, depending on where you live and what your lifestyle is, it’s hard to get by without a car (though [possible]( by making some arrangements). Would we consider somebody who uses their car everyday “addicted”? Most certainly not, because probably the main reason the car is needed is to commute to work. But what if one likes going to drive around in the countryside every week-end? Or takes the car to drive to the store when it is 5 minutes away on foot? Or uses the car for comfort, when public transport could be used? What about the distress one can end up when a car breaks down and has to be taken to the garage? Would anybody dream of speaking of addiction here?

Just as the car allows us to easily cover long distances, the computer allows us to do things we could not normally do without. It’s technology. Now, if the way we live tends to require or expect us to do these things, the technology becomes “necessary”, and not “superfluous”. Makes sense?

#### Nurturing online relationships has little value (not)

One problem with applying the reasoning I did for the car to the computer has in my opinion been touched upon in the [LIFT’07 panel I mentioned previously]( the blurring of the distinction between what is “work” (ie, “necessary”) and “personal” (“not that necessary”). Aimlessly chatting on IRC can actually be very important for my professional life. In general, taking care of one’s network (really: taking care of the relationships we have with other human beings we know) is something which should not be considered “superfluous”. During the panel, Stefana Broadbent mentioned that technology allowed us to actually keep alive (“manage”) a greater number of relationships than what we would be capable of without. Which leads us to the second problem: human relationships which take place “through the internet” are less valued in today’s world than the “real” ones which take place face-to-face.

What’s missing here is that “virtual” (how I hate that word in this context) interaction is not there to “replace” face-to-face interaction, or traditional communication technologies like the written letter, the fax, or the phone. IM, chat, blogging and e-mail most often keeps people in touch when they would *not* be communicating at all. I would not be keeping friendships alive across the Atlantic without my computer. And some of these friendships are no less valuable than the relationships I have with people I get to see in the flesh more often because they live in my hometown.

But more than that, these “poorer” channels of communication open up different dimensions in the way we relate to others. I’ve heard this said twice recently (though I’ve been aware of it through personal experience for years). First by [Regina Lynn]( in her (well worth reading) book [The Sexual Revolution 2.0]( At some point, she explains that for those who are used to texting and IMing in the context of a romantic relationship, the absence of these “channels” makes it feel like there is something missing in the relationship. Second, Stefana Broadbent (again on the LIFT’07 panel, link above) mentioned that the arrival of Skype and VoiP did not kill chat — people are still chatting even though they could use the richer communication channel and actually talk.

This is not surprising. We know that some things are easier to say or more adapted to this or that communication channel. It’s not news either — using letters or the phone rather than face-to-face is not always a choice made for questions of distance or availability.

#### If not addiction, then what?

Of course, as I mentioned, there are unhealthy uses of computer technology. And computer technology has [characteristics that help us get “hooked”](, so it won’t be surprising that people might use it compulsively or excessively. And for people who for a reason or another (and I at times can include myself in that lot) need to “escape” life/reality/pain, goofing around aimlessly online or chatting for hours with random strangers can be used as an alternative to getting drunk/stoned/passing out in front of the TV/reading all Harry Potter books cover-to-cover without interruption. But is it right to talk about “addiction” in such cases?

Whatever you call it, the problem here is that you can’t just tell the people to “unplug” as a solution. For most people who have built part of their life around the internet, the computer is a valuable tool for work and social life. And anyway, even with substance abuse addictions, [going “cold turkey” does not solve the real problem](, though it’s usually better for your health. (I have personal experience from “the other side”, here: I have never in my whole life even tried smoking a cigarette, because I sense that if I did, there are high chances I would turn into a heavy smoker. I’m not free. One could say I have an addiction problem, even though it is not manifest in substance abuse. It’s latent and finds an expression in total abstinence.)

If the computer is used excessively, it is necessary to address the *real* underlying problem. The “thing” that makes people need to escape to somewhere. Because the line between “normal use of the tool” (I need to chat to some extent to keep in touch with my friends/family/collegues) and “excessive use” (I spend all my free time chatting, forget to eat, and don’t go out anymore) is drawn in *quality* rather than *quantity* and does not comprise a clear border like a different environment, schedule, or tool, the “easy” solution of “quitting” does not work.

Then, how does one determine if one’s use of the computer is *excessive*? I like to say that the main defining criteria for this kind of problem is **pain**. Is the intensity with which one uses the computer (or cellphone, or whatever) a source of suffering? Does the person feel that it’s out of control, and would like to do something about it? Is it having concrete effects like work loss, strain on relationships, or is there dissimulation regarding the time spent at it, hinting at a general unease about the time that is used on the computer? The secondary criteria would be **purpose**. Addiction or escape serve a purpose (shields one from something). Is it the case? What is this purpose? It’s not a simple question, and it often doesn’t have a simple answer, and addressing it might even involve a therapist.

#### Not that addicted…

I find that the mainstream press and certain specialists (doctors or teachers I’ve met) are a bit quick to shout “addiction” when faced with the importance the computer and the internet have taken in our lives. I’m not an “addict” because I get uncomfortable if I haven’t accessed my e-mail in 24 hours. I’m not an “addict” because I chat to my friends from the other side of the pond every day. I’m not an addict because when I think of something interesting, I feel an urge to write about it on my blog. I’m not an addict because I need my computer to take notes during a conference, rather than a paper and pen with which I’m illegible and which [hurts me]( “I can type OK and be readable if I have very mild pain, but handwriting hurts a lot and is just useless.”). I’m not an addict because I sometimes choose to stay in and catch up with what people I know are saying on their blogs rather than go out clubbing.

Yes, when I’m not doing too well I will easily turn to my computer to escape from the world or myself. Before I had a computer and a social life on the internet, I used to turn to the TV in such occasions, or drown myself in books or music. One isn’t better than the other. But here, clearly, the problem is me, and not the nasty technology.

*If you’ve read all this, let me know what you think. I suspect I might have taken a few shortcuts here and there, and I’ll be more than happy to make them explicit if you point out what isn’t convincing.*

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Technological Overload Panel [en]

Technological overload (oh, I hadn’t realised this was a panel!) — again, [Bruno has some nicely-written notes]( to share.

Fun crackberry video from YouTube.

The moderator loves his crackberry, but he’s an addict.

The panelists don’t blog! What a shame! Not much IM either… *(that was a steph-note)*

*steph-note: We’re asked to close laptops for Nada Kakabadse’s presentation. Reminds me of “Le Test du Moi” where they wanted to take my laptop away for a week — not realistic given my line of work. In my case, I’m using the computer to take notes because my handwritten notes are illegible because of my RSI. => no notes on the first part of the presentation, but I took photographs of the slides.*

Internet Addiction Slides 1

Internet Addiction Slides 2

Internet Addiction Slides 3

Internet Addiction Slides 3

Internet Addiction Slides 5

Panelists seem to agree that one can’t assume people are “addicted” because they resist closing their laptops in a given situation (I resisted, saying I was using it to take notes, but was asked to close it).

Stefana has seen the private come into the workplace much more than the opposite, carried by technology (e-mail, IM, etc). Keeping our social network alive at work too.

Trick question: how many of you use e-mail for personal use during work? Trick, because the line between personal and private is not clear. *steph-note: agreed — I didn’t raise my hand. In my situation, it’s worse, because my “private life” and “work” have merged to a great extent.*


Information overload, burn-out, addiction: are we mixing things up here?

Sharing: burn-outs? addiction? “My name is … and I’m an internet addict.” *steph-note: is this turning into an AA session?*

Robert Scoble: too many feeds, too many e-mails. Solution? Maybe addiction, but also allows him to do his work, and happy about that. *steph-note: if I got that correctly, Robert…*

Risk in curing addiction: reduction of productivity. (Stefana)

“poorer” channels actually have something that allows more than “richer” channels like VoIP (people have Skype, but continue to chat hours a day). (Stefana)

Bruno Giussani: where exactly is the addiction? not to the Blackberry.

Stefana: average number of contacts for non-social-networking person is around 20. The digital channels actually *allow* people to maintain this high number of contacts. *steph-note: wow, technology actually allows us to handle more relationships…*

Quality of online/offline relationships? Stefana: there is anyway a multiplicity of qualities of relationships.

Question: can we really multitask? (cf. continuous partial attention, etc *steph-note: done to death imho*)

Stefana: with routine, things that seem to require attention actually have become only monitoring.

*steph-note: wow, all this talk about addiction. Looking forward to my talk at the Centre for Addictions in Geneva very soon.*

Stefana: real issue = what is the acceptable response time for an e-mail (20 minutes, half a day, a day, a week?) The pressure comes from what **we** consider an acceptable response time. For IM? *steph-note: you can **not** respond, cf. Stowe*

Wrap-up: how do you unplug?

Stefana: what is the cost of unplugging? it can be compared to “stop talking to everyone!” *steph-note: totally agree*

Fred Mast: no need to switch off, we can be addicted and happy *steph-note: don’t agree, “addicted” contains unhappy — if you’re not unhappy, you’re not addicted*

Nada Kakabadse: upto each and every one.

*steph-note: “quality-time” **can** also happen online, folks. This session is getting me slightly worked up.*

Stefana: keep in mind the overload issue is touching a tiny amount of people, most people would be thrilled to have 7 instead of 5 e-mails a day!

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Some Notes of Florence Devouard's LIFT Talk (Wikipedia) [en]

***My unedited notes of the talk, may be inaccurate.*** Check out [Bruno’s notes]( too, they look more complete.

What is the big picture of wikipedia?

Florence Devouard, Wikipedia

– First barrier to remove: languages. 250 languages. Some of these languages have no encyclopedia outside wikipedia.
– Free of charge (to read, to re-use)
– Created by you… her — problem: not everybody has a computer

In the top10 most visited websites in the world.

Collect local, collect global.

L’Encyclop√©die de Diderot et D’Alembert: had a political purpose, changed society, and played a role in the French Revolution.


– unlimited space
– no restraints to information sharing

NPOV (neutral point of view): informing rather than manipulating.

Empowering people. People recognised as sources of information. (! panicked people e-mailing “I don’t know what happened, I clicked on something, and I can edit the website!” — not a bug, it’s a features)

Wikipedia: a priori trust. Open the gates rather than close them. This is *your* website, *your* responsability.

Gift economy.

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Stowe Boyd: Building Social Applications [en]

***Warning: these are my notes of [Stowe](’s workshop at [LIFT](, meaning my understanding and interpretation of what he said. They might not reflect accurately what Stowe told us, and might even be outright wrong in some places. Let me know if you think I really messed up somewhere.***

**Update 05.2007:** enjoy the ( and the ( (not the workshop!).

Questions to play ball with:

1. What makes social applications social (or not)
2. How can we make applications more social?
3. What are the common factors in successful social applications?
4. What is worth building?

1. iTunes vs.; also non-social applications which implement, at some point, some social component.

“Software intended to shape culture.” Stowe Boyd, in Message, August 1999

*steph-note: a step further than “groupware”*

LIFT'07... Stowe Boyd

Applications which are qualitatively different. But they haven’t replaced the rest: people are still building applications which allow people to buy stuff online. But we’re looking for ways to stick the humans back in there (“what do the top 10 authorities on cellphones recommend?”)

Read: The Great Good Place by Ray Oldenburg (Third Place, not home and not work)

Decreasing affiliation in the USA (Putnam — sp?). People spend less time “hanging out” with people. *steph-note: cf. danah/MySpace* More TV. Commuting isn’t that significant, but hours in front of the TV is. The light at the end of the tunnel, the only hope we’ve got left, is the internet. Social hours spent on the internet are hours not spent watching TV *(steph-note: yep!)*

TV is not involvement in people, but in this “entertainment culture”. TV reached lowest numbers in the USA since ’50s.

One way we can measure the success of a social application is how much it moves us in that direction.

Social: me first. Put the individual in the centre. Look at the difference between traditional journalism (disembodied third voice) and blogging (first person, you know who’s writing and who’s reading). Need to start with needs and desires of the people using it (?).

Adoption happens in stages. First, the application needs to satisfy the needs of an individual, in such a way that he/she comes back. And then, there needs to be stuff to share that encourages the individual to invite his friends in.

my passions — my people — my markets

Start with the people. Put the people in the foreground (but how?) Easy to fail if you don’t do that right. How are people going to find each other? Second, support their networks/networking.

Only third: realisation of money — markets — shipping etc.

Give up control to the users: “the edge dissolves the centre”.

To review a social app, you need to use it “for real” over an extended period of time.

Xing: the edge doesn’t dissolve the centre. E.g. can’t create a group. Need to ask them by e-mail, and they try to control group creation and management.

Build an environment in which people are “free”. Allow them to find each other.

Success factors for a social application: me first and bottom up. Otherwise, it won’t spread.

Blogging: primary goal is social interaction and networking *(steph-note: half agree, there is the “writing and being read and getting some recognition” goal too — and that is not necessarily social **interaction** and does not necessarily lead to **network contacts**)*

What suicide girls get right: low price, real people, real lives, social stuff like chat, pictures, etc. They have the connections between the people as the primary way to go around.


– iTunes
– Pandora (until recently)
– After the fact (eBay: reputation, Netflix: friends in a tab, Amazon: recommendations from other users, Basecamp: not that social, fails some of the critical tests)

**The Buddylist is the Centre of the Universe…**

A case against IM being disruptive: the user chooses how disruptive the client is (blings, pop-up messages, etc… same with e-mail)

Totally acceptable to not answer on IM. But also, maybe at times your personal productivity is less important than your relationship with the person IMing you.

“I am made greater by the sum of my connections, and so are my connections.”

(Give to others, and they’ll give to you. Help your buddies out, be there for them, and others will be there for you when you need them.)

List of hand-picked people who are on *your* list.

Groups help huge communities scale, in the way they bring them down to manageable sizes for human beings again. (Dunbar constant, roughly 150 people.)

Six degrees of connection doesn’t work. People are strangers. Even second degree is really weak.

Difference between people you really talk to, and “contacts” (often people will have two accounts => should build this kind of thing into the service — cf. Twitter with “friends” and “people you follow”).

**Me, Mine, and Market.**

Market: it’s the marketplace where the application builders are going to be able to make money by supporting my interaction/networking with “mine”.

You can’t “make an app social”, you need to start over most of the time.

Think about the social dimension first, and then what the market is. E.g. social invoicing app, what could the market be? Finding people to do work for you. And then you can invoice them using the system.

E.g. Individual: “I need a perfect black dress for that dinner party.” => who knows where to shop for the most fashionable stuff? => market = buying the perfect black dress, with commission to the recommender. (New social business model!)

Facebook profile: all about flow, it’s not static. It’s a collection of stuff going on in my world. Information about my blog (posts), friends… I don’t have to do anything, and it changes.

It represents my links to the world. People want to *belong*. Be in a context where what they do and say matters. Make it easy for users to find other people who will care about them.

Orkut failed because it was just social networking for the sake of social networking. Not targeted at a specific group of people. Nobody who cares! Disease-like replication and then died down. Nothing to do there.

Swarm intelligence. People align around authority and influence. Some people are more connected then others. Inevitable. Swarmth = Stowe-speak for measure of reputation. As soon as reputation brings something to those who have it, charlatans step in and try to figure out how to game the system. Need to be aware of that, to discover those cheating mechanisms and counter them.

General principle: things are flowing, and we want to support the rapid flow of information (ie, stuff that goes in my profile). “traffic”: do you make it possible for people to get information from a variety of sources delivered quickly to them? (e.g. Facebook bookmarklet) (traffic=possible metric).

The media hold the pieces, but not the sense of the conversation. You need to immerse yourself into the flow to get it. How transformative is it to get a constant flow of information from people you care about? Can’t evaluate that from the outside.


cf. David Weinberger: tags matter for social reasons. The power of classification is handed out to the users. They use it to find information and to find each other. They define implicit social groupings.

If people don’t “get” tags, the interface isn’t good. Because the concept is really simple. (e.g. Flickr, get it right)


Primary abiding motivator of anybody on the internet: discovery (things, places, people, self)

**One of Stowe’s pet peeves: Groups and Groupings**

Networks are asymmetric, accept it. Everybody is **not** equal in a group. The groups are always to some extent asymmetric.

Groupings are ad hoc assemblages of peope with similar interests (from my point of view). (My buddy list categorisation.)

Groups try to be symmetric.

Community of tags. They happen automatically.

**Power Laws**

There will always be people with more power than others, get over it. The recommendation of somebody with more swarmth should count more than that of one with no swarmth.

Accept and work with the imbalance of power.

But careful! The people decide who has more swarmth. And you need to constantly counter the games. Natural social systems are self-policient (sp?).


Measure and reward swarmth *(steph-note: !== popularity, quantity)*

Reputation is not transportable from one network to another.

**Deep Design**

– (neighbours!)
– (events are nothing without people!!)
– Facebook
– ThisNext (about design and fashion)

First, just build the social app. Once the social stuff is in place, build the market (see

Journal where you can integrate music references. With backlinks from artists.

Mistake? tags aren’t source of groupings.

*steph-thought: Flickr groups are not just about people, they are about editing content (creating collective photo albums).*

If you have an existing social app, and an entrenched body of users, to make people switch to your new product you need to be an order of magnitude better.

Tag beacons: a recommended tag (e.g. lift07)

If you make people tag an item, the tags used stabilize over time. After a while, the same 10-15 tags. Little chance a new user two years latter will suddenly introduce another tag.

ThisNext is pretty. A piece of social interaction stuff missing however — can’t communicate with other people. Profile just leads to recommendations.

**Cautionary Tales**

Basecamp and the Federation of Work: multiple logins, domains — fragmentation. Wanted to be able to pull everything in a single place. Not simple to keep track of everything one has in the system. Pervasive static models with hardly any flow. It’s an online groupware app, not a social app. It doesn’t put me in the foreground. is about finding people who are in your zipcode. I remember Stowe did a post on this some time back. “Where’s the people?”

You only get one first launch. What’s the point of missing it by doing it before you got to the social tipping point?

Blinksale: where’s the market? (invoicing thing)


Where is all this going? All commerce on the internet in the future will be social. Put in context of social recommendations etc (perfect little black dresses). A social iTunes — what would it look like? They could acquire and integrate them to iTunes, for example. I could recommend music to my friends via iTunes…

Calendars are hard! We’re still waiting for the perfect (at least good) calendar-sharing system.

Social browsing… “What should I look at today, based on recommendations of these n people I really find smart?”

Safety/privacy concerns: solutions we have in the offline world need to be emulated online.

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Tomorrow Will LIFT You Up! [en]

[fr] Demain commence la conférence LIFT à Genève. Deux questions capitales: est-ce que la conférence sera retransmise en direct, et y a-t-il un backchannel officiel?

Yes, [the LIFT conference]( will be taking place in Geneva from tomorrow Wednesday until Friday. If you’re there and want to meet up, [drop me a line]( — and if you’re not there, you can [drool over the program]( and vow that you’ll be there next year.

[Kevin](, who is taking that vow as we speak, asked me two important questions:

– will the talks be streamed? (this, by the way, is the [only situation streaming really makes sense](
– what is the backchannel? (just in case, we’ve joined #lift07 on [freenode](

**Update:** I’ve just [announced the backchannel]( on the collaborative [LIFT Flow blog](

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Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us [en]

[fr] Une vidéo qui vaut vraiment la peine d'être regardée (si vous comprenez l'anglais).

I really enjoyed this video and want to share it with you.

Thanks to [Joi]( for pointing it out on IRC.

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