Blogging in the Morning: Lift12, 3615, StartupWeekend [en]

Here we go again. Inspired by one of my good friends who has been working in her studio in the morning and doing paid work in the afternoon, I’m going to have another go at “blog in the morning”.

I have, as always, a ton of things I want to write about. This post will be random.

I spent three days at Lift conference last week. For those of you who have never been to Lift, you must put it on your calendar for next year. Buy the tickets in the summer, so you get the early-early bird price. Lift is a wonderful conference. The talks are fascinating, the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly, the fondue is awesome.

I live-blogged the conference, like I do each year. I’m never happy with the job I do as a live-blogger (I always think others like Adam or Suw do a way better job than I do), but I’ve come to accept that live-blogging is gift not that many people have, and that I’m good enough at it to do a decent job of it and deserve my pass year after year (until now, at least).

Speaking of Lift, Lift’s founder Laurent Haug has started a podcast/show I haven’t yet had time to catch up with (I’m dying to) called 3615 (reference to old French Minitel codes). It’s in French. I think it’s great that it’s in French. What’s it about? It basically calls itself “3615, the show that wonders if the 21st century is a good idea or not”. Neat.

Lift this year properly lifted me ;-). I feel excited about technology again: 3D printing for example, I’m actually very tempted to order a RepRap kit and build one for eclau. Or robots.

I’ve decided to take part in the next Lausanne StartupWeekend. It’s this coming week-end! There are still a few open spots if you want to sign up, by the way. Julien Dorra is the guilty one: his talk made me realize I’d love to take part in the kind of events he was talking about. Actually, I’ve been inspired more than once to organize hack-dayish events: Website Pro Day, World Wide Paperwork and Administrivia Day, and more recently (still at the idea stage) “important but not urgent” days for eclau. Basically, “let’s get together and do stuff”. I also find Addict Lab fascinating, even though I still (after a lunch with Jan) can’t quite wrap my brain completely around it.

I like playing with ideas and doing a variety of things. Maybe putting myself in the kind of context StartupWeekend offers will also help me understand better what it is that I do. Plus, it’s going to be great fun.

So, anyway, I’m going to StartupWeekend. I even have an idea to pitch (I think). Who else is coming?

While I’m rambling on about Lift, one major take-away for me was the idea that information overload is part of the human condition. Go read my notes of Anaïs Saint-Jude’s talk, and once the video is online, listen to it. Well, listen to the whole Lift conference, actually. That’s what week-ends are for!

There is a whole lot more to say about Lift (3 days, folks!) but I’ll stop here. I feel like reading through my notes again, I have to say. Live-blogging, even if it’s not particularly difficult for me, requires a lot of concentration (it’s tiring) and it does mean I suffer a little from the post-effort brainwash syndrome. You know, like how after an exam you can’t remember a thing you wrote? That.

As for the other stuff I want to write about… let’s keep some for these coming mornings, OK?

What do bloggers do at conferences? [en]

In the process of getting ready for managing blogger accreditations for LeWeb’10 in Paris (for the third time, but warning, the system will be different this year!), I’m having a good hard think about what bloggers actually do at conferences that makes them a valuable audience.

I mean, everybody today is live-tweeting (a bit of a pleonasm). Clearly, if a conference is to invite “new media people” or have “official bloggers”, something more is expected than a brain-dump in the real-time stream. (Not that I have anything against that, but the interest of such a dump fades quickly with time.)

Bloggers (and podcasters) have various talents. I’ve finally learned (after years of finding what I did pretty normal) that mine is live-blogging. Others, like Charbax, catch people in the corridors and interview them — I was so impressed by his Lift’08 videos (you can find his interview of me somewhere on the 2nd or 3rd page) that I invited him to come and do the same thing at Going Solo. These are just two examples amongst many others.

So, here’s where I need your help: I’m trying to make a list of “blogger/podcaster missions” for conferences. Here’s what I’ve got:

  • live-blogging of sessions
  • synthetic/critical blogging of sessions/event (somewhat less live)
  • photography (live and less live)
  • speaker interviews (written, audio, video)
  • corridor interviews (written, audio, video)
  • start-up/entrepreneurial scene coverage (maybe this needs to be broken up into sub-missions?)
  • “off” coverage: parties, networking events…

What else can you think of? If you’re a blogger or podcaster who likes to attend tech conferences, what value do you consider you bring to the event? I’m all ears 🙂

La blogueuse et les conférences [fr]

[en] I write a weekly column for Les Quotidiennes, which I republish here on CTTS for safekeeping.

Chroniques du monde connecté: cet article a été initialement publié dans Les Quotidiennes (voir l’original).

Les conférences, c’est l’occasion idéale de créer des contacts et de renforcer les liens existants. Et si l’on a la chance d’avoir un blog, c’est doublement l’occasion de le faire.

En 2004, j’assiste à ma première conférence “de geeks” (à l’époque, c’est clairement ce qu’on était, nous les blogueurs). Fraîchement sortie des études (elles ont été longues!), il m’est difficilement concevable d’écouter un orateur sans prendre des notes. Blogueuse depuis plusieurs années, il m’est difficilement concevable de prendre des notes sans les publier. Ça deviendra une habitude par la suite: je prends des notes aux conférences auxquelles j’assiste, et je les publie sur mon blog.

Pourquoi est-ce que je vous raconte ça? Parce que je me suis rendu compte, au détour d’une conversation ou deux avec d’anciens et nouveaux participants à la conférence Lift en fin de semaine dernière, à quel point c’est mon activité de blogueuse au fil des conférences qui a servi de catalyseur (voire de détonateur!) dans la construction de mon réseau. (Je n’aime pas trop le mot “construction” ici, qui donne l’impression d’une démarche délibérée alors que c’est plutôt un processus organique qui se fait un peu tout seul, mais faute de mieux…)

En me positionnant comme “celle qui prend des notes et les publie sur son blog”, j’initie des contacts tant avec les autres participants que les orateurs — ou même les organisateurs de la conférence. On pourrait dire que c’est la recette “faites quelque chose qui ait de la valeur pour la communauté, et elle vous en sera reconnaissante”.

Je ne sais pas comment c’est pour vous, mais pour ma part, si je me retrouve dans une salle pleine de personnes et que je n’en connais aucune, je trouve très difficile de faire connaissance avec les gens autour de moi (à plus forte raison si ces personnes se connaissent déjà). Par contre, si je connais une ou deux personnes pour commencer, ça aide énormément. Bloguer est un excellent moyen de provoquer ces quelques premiers contacts qui mèneront plus loin.

Bien entendu, plus on fait ça de façon désintéressée, et mieux ça marche. C’est d’ailleurs comme ça avec plus ou moins tout ce qui touche au réseautage et aux médias sociaux.

Live-Blogging vs. Live-Tweeting at Conferences [en]

[fr] Live-tweeter une conférence, c'est l'équivalent d'être actif dans le backchannel IRC de la belle époque des conférences de blogs. Il n'y a rien de mal à ça, mais il ne faut pas confondre ça avec le live-blogging: en effet, passés quelques jours, semaines, mois ou même années, qui va replonger son nez dans le fouillis des tweets ou des logs IRC de telle ou telle journée? Comparez ça avec un article sur un blog, qui sera lu, relu, et encore relu -- qui conserve donc sa valeur une fois que l'excitation du temps réel est passée.

One of the things bloggers brought with them when they started attending conferences is live coverage. Unlike the traditional press, which would provide you with a summary of the proceedings the next day, bloggers would be madly photographing, taking notes, uploading, and hitting publish in the minutes following the end of a presentation.

Live-blogging was born.

(For my personal history with it, see my BlogTalk 2.0 posts (2004) about collaborative note-taking using SubEthaEdit and a wiki, and my notes of LIFT06 (2006). Real proper live-blogging had to wait until LIFT’07 and Martin Roell’s workshop on getting started with consulting (2007), however.)

Then Twitter showed up, and everybody started a-tweeting, and more particularly live-tweeting during conferences.

But live-tweeting does not replace live-blogging. It replaces the IRC backchannel, allowing people to comment on what is going on as it happens, and letting people who are not physically present take part in the fun.

(I’m not going to talk about backchannels here: they’re great, but can also have unpleasant consequences in certain situations. A whole series of blog posts could be devoted to them.)

So when bloggers at conferences neglect their blogs and spend all their time live-tweeting, they are in fact fooling around in the backchannel instead of doing what bloggers do, which is produce content which retains value months, sometimes years, after it was published.

Don’t get me wrong: live-tweeting is fine, so is participation in a more traditional IRC-based backchannel. But don’t confuse it with live-blogging.

Tweets of the moment, just like IRC conversations, tend to be great when consumed in real time. But as the days and weeks go by, they become just as pleasant to read as an IRC log. (Understand: not pleasant at all.)

So, dear bloggers, when you’re at a conference to provide coverage, do not forget who you are. Not everybody is a live-blogger, of course, and some produce very valuable writing about an event they attended once they are home and have allowed the dust to settle.

But tweeting does not replace blogging.

Do you think I got my point across, now? 😉

Welcome to LeWeb'08! [en]

[fr] A la conférence LeWeb'08 à Paris.

Here we are& it’s started! Here I am at LeWeb’08 — and now that I’m here, very happy :-) (I’ve come to dread events in a way, but that’s the subject of another post and has nothing to do with LeWeb’08).

For those of you who are not here with us, keep up with what’s going on by following the live video feed by Ustream.

Tweets, photos and posts tagged “leweb083 are aggregated in the LeWeb’08 sixgroups livecommunity and @eventtrack.

If you are blogging about LeWeb’08, you might want to add the Livecommunity bar to your site (I have to approve them but if I see stuff about LeWeb’08 on your site it won’t be a problem). Here’s the code:

<script type="text/javascript" src=""></script>
<div id="sgBarContainer"><span style="font: 9px Arial, sans-serif; color: #ccc; ">Livecommunity powered by <a style="font: 9px Arial, sans-serif; color: #ccc; " href="" title="Community Software"></a></span>
<script type="text/javascript">if(sg){ = "27px";sg.addWidget({type: "sgBar", vposition: "fixed"});}</script>

You can see it at work on this site.

There is also a Bloggersbase blog (with contest) that you can contribute to. Official bloggers (bloggers who received a blogger accreditation from me), don’t forget to add your publications to the “Coverage” page. (The general public doesn’t have access to this page, so if you’re not an official blogger you won’t be able to see it.)

The first five rows have small tables, each fitted with an ethernet cable and power. Most of the seats there are taken, but I still see a few empty ones. I’m on the wifi, which is behaving nicely (fingers crossed).

Right, I’m going to leave you and continue listening to David Weinberger :-)

Oh, and you can find me (and others) on in channel #leweb08&

FOWA: FireEagle (Tom Coates) [en]

[fr] Notes prises à l'occasion de la conférence Future of Web Apps (FOWA) à Londres.

Here are my live notes of this Future of Web Apps (FOWA) session. They are probably incomplete and may contain mistakes, though I do my best to be accurate. Chances are I’ll be adding links to extra material and photos later on, so don’t hesitate to come back and check.

FOWA 2007 134

Share your location online. Capture and make sense of your location, share it with your friends, share it programmatically.

How Fire Eagle works.

Apps either get your location or use it in some way. Too heavily enmeshed with one another. Flickr is good at using your information, but bad at getting it (you have to enter it by hand). Plazes is good at getting location. So, problem, each time you build such an app you have to work on both sides.

Better model: one brilliant way of capturing location, then a whole bunch of services based on it.

Open APIs mean anyone can build a client and anyone can access the data (with permission). Central repository.

Input: postcode, address, GPS trace, co-ordinates, neighbourhood name, village/town/city…

The service: a way of handling the data in the middle and APIs on the outside. A bit like PayPal, a service in the middle.

You give other services permission to access your information.

Example: Dopplr gives my location (London) to FireEagle. Then, I manually update my location on mobile site (“Victoria Dock Thingy”). Or I could broadcast location from my phone. (The app exists for certain phones already.) Then I can decide to share more or less precisely where I am with various applications. I open my laptop at a café, Plazes sends Fire Eagle my location. Then, I take a picture and send a geotagged picture to the web. Site updates my location.

Twitter maps application: I only want updates from my friends if they’re in London. steph-note: that would be great!! Proximizer: know how close your boss is. Friends and family widgets.

Being honorable with your data (privacy, ethics, etc). Because, in fact, why would I want to put that information anywhere? Because it’s profoundly useful and fun to do so. Possible to share location without being invasive. Also, exposing your logs to you. Possibility to purge your data. If you’re doing something naughty (buying your partner a present secretly), “hide me” button. Private places.

Possible problem: people forget they’re sharing. The app can check back and remind them.

FOWA 2007 135

FOWA: Copy is Interface (Erika Hall) [en]

[fr] Notes prises à l'occasion de la conférence Future of Web Apps (FOWA) à Londres.

Here are my live notes of this Future of Web Apps (FOWA) session. They are probably incomplete and may contain mistakes, though I do my best to be accurate. Chances are I’ll be adding links to extra material and photos later on, so don’t hesitate to come back and check. Read Suw’s notes, too.

FOWA 2007 131

Words are the most important components of your user interface.

Caveat: interface language found in the wild… American. So, not talking about internationalisation, different versions of languages, cultural issues…

Exciting interfaces: gesture thing Tom Cruise is using, Wii, iPhone… But not yet for data/information stuff.

You don’t know how people are going to access your application. Nabaztag. Applications people love today are made from text. Even interacting with our TV with a text-based interface.

Language is an interface.

Dopplr philosophy. Device independant. User benefits by having direct access to information. In our everyday life, our priority isn’t shiny stuff, but things that work. steph-note: interpreting somewhat, here.

How will the application developer benefit?

Though it takes a lot of skill to use language well, it’s easy to iterate. People will freak out when you change the colours of your site, but won’t budge much if you change language.

5 ways to get words right:

  • be authentic; consumating vs. eharmony (Erika’s pet peeve: the “submit” button. If you change one piece of copy, change that. People don’t “submit” anything.) Twitter has good “we’re down” messages. Sounds like there are real people behind that application. steph-note: when putting a quote on a slide, read the quote in full.
  • be engaging;, (“Hello gorgeous!”) Citybank: “Who was your arch rival when you were growing up?” as proposed security question. Pownce genders.
  • be specific with the language you use.
  • be appropriate: it would be disconcerning if my bank tried to be my buddy. Amazon: “where’s my stuff?” Flickr “Talk Like a Pirate” day. But… some people were afraid the site had been hacked!
  • be polite: rude doesn’t get much forgiveness. Feedburner: “Activate Feed” and “Cancel and do not activate”, including type size to help you do what you want to do. “remarks”. adding “Everyone needs a hug” as default text in their comment box, when they were dealing with terrible flame wars.

Things that have gone wrong:

8 kinds of bad:

  • vague: basecamp, “file should be under 10Mb”; Apple: “some warnings occured. would you like to review them?”; Bank: “expand your relationship” (creepy!) Ask real people how they would call this thing they want to do.
  • passive
  • too clever/cute; “Murder your darlings.” Be ready to kill your pet phrases.
  • don’t be rude or stupid unhelpful.
  • oblivious to your surroundings: CNN — “Don’t miss: Bodies trapped in wreckage.”
  • inconsistent: the whole “my/your” inconsistency. Read your interface aloud to see if it sounds dumb.
  • don’t be presumptuous

You will still need designers. We’re sociable and entertaining, shouldn’t lose those skills when developing our application. Language isn’t going away. It will pay to pay a lot of attention to it.

FOWA: Data Visualisation (Eric Rodenbeck) [en]

[fr] Notes prises à l'occasion de la conférence Future of Web Apps (FOWA) à Londres.

Here are my live notes of this Future of Web Apps (FOWA) session. They are probably incomplete and may contain mistakes, though I do my best to be accurate. Chances are I’ll be adding links to extra material and photos later on, so don’t hesitate to come back and check. Suw also has notes on this session.

From Stamen.

FOWA 2007 115

Data visualisation is a medium. steph-note: this seems like a lot of stuff to see

Slide of the US, last elections: blue and red states. Break down by county, quite another picture. Break down more, looks all mixed up. The way you present things changes the story you’re telling.

FOWA 2007 119

FOWA 2007 120

FOWA 2007 121

FOWA 2007 122

Cabspotting: GPS positions of taxi cabs in SF. Empty cabs and full cabs. Obvious thing is to animate this, and you see the cabs moving, with pick-ups and drop-offs. Other obvious thing to do is to show speed (slow downtown!). And animate that too.

  • Oakland crime. There isn’t one single view that will solve all your problems.

FOWA 2007 124

  • Animation of digg users digging stories.

FOWA 2007 125

FOWA 2007 126

FOWA 2007 127

  • Twitter Blocks: interesting because it shows me stuff about the contacts of my contacts. Can tell me if some of my contacts are also contacts of my contacts. steph-note: finally understanding why Twitter Blocks can be interesting… sorry, guys, I’m slow.
  • real estate flow: housing information visualised. Map of dates that houses were built in SF animated over time.
  • visualisation of what towns people are searching about based on where they are. Also, what towns they search for after having searched for a given place.

FOWA: Launch Late to Iterate Often (Dick Costolo) [en]

[fr] Notes prises à l'occasion de la conférence Future of Web Apps (FOWA) à Londres.

Here are my live notes of this Future of Web Apps (FOWA) session. They are probably incomplete and may contain mistakes, though I do my best to be accurate. Chances are I’ll be adding links to extra material and photos later on, so don’t hesitate to come back and check.

Dick: a bunch of startups, last one successful (FeedBurner), so now people think he knows what he’s talking about. 😉

FOWA 2007 136

We hear a lot about how cheap it is to start a company now. Lessons learned that are somewhat counter-intuitive to what is usually thought in this industry.

It’s true that you can get a company started without much money, but it still costs a lot to scale.

Cofounders: unequal equals. Better to treat all cofounders as equal. Unequal brings problems (“yeah, sure you want to do that, you have 75%”).

Dick and cofounders never build business plans anymore. Business plans are things that people write to try to make things they want happen the way they want them to happen. Dick doesn’t think investors read them anyway.

Disagrees with trying to evaluate the size of the market. You can’t know. e.g. eBay.

Location: FeedBurner, everybody in Chicago. Believes there is no strategic benefit in locating a company in the Silicon Valley. Actually, better to be away, you’re distant from the echo chamber. Self-perpetuating myth. Benefit in buzz in being in the Silicon Valley, but do you really need buzz to be successful? For Dick, no benefit in the long-term success of the business.

Cash. You always need way more cash than what you think that you’re going to need. Estimate, then multiply by 2.5, and it was even a bit tight. The leading cause of companies going out of business is running out of money. So raise as much as you can. Don’t run out of business.

VC funding is great. Find the right investors. Raise money when you don’t need it. You can get better terms for venture investors. When you start raising a few millions from VCs, you’ll start seeing legal/jargon VC terms (preference, multiples, participation). They’ll tell you they’re standard deals, but there is no such thing. So learn to understand those terms. (e.g. on Dick’s blog, and other places).

It’s better to own a smaller piece of a bigger pie than the opposite. Everybody needs to be happy about what’s going on. Everybody employed needs the same kind of deal (options, equity etc.), keeps goals aligned, and everyone is treated the same way. Even if it’s the “only way I could get that guy”.

Hiring. Take the guy who runs the fastest and then figure out where to put him. Don’t go out to hire a VP of sales. Look for people who are best available athlete, well-rounded person for this kind of role, but able to zig if necessary. steph-note: …any startups looking to hire? 😉 Dick prefers flat organisations. Hierarchy begets bureaucracy. Problem with flat organisations: when there are under-performers. Replace hierarchy with tools. Deal with this by having employees come up with their own KPIs (measurable!)

Growing the team: mistake = hiring sales and marketing too soon. Once you start selling and marketing, things need to be cooked and ready to go. Without that, you can iterate rapidly. Speed of execution is a competitive advantage of small companies over big ones. Wait until you’re ready to go to market.

Product development and business strategy (1-4 years)

Visit to the eye doctor. Iterate on everything. Disagrees with “get a crappy version out there”, because then you have to iterate with that version that is out there.

Day 1: feed stats, but knew they wanted to do more later. They waited until they had a basic underlying architecture to be able to extend the service before they launched. It didn’t do much, but was ready for building more. So that allowed them to iterate very rapidly. “How are you guys rolling out features every month?!” Spent the first 5 months building that underlying architecture for extensibility.

Let the market tell you what the business model is (cf. Twitter). Open system with APIs, help the market tell you what the business model is. Lock-in is bad for business. APIs lower the barrier to entry and to third-party service development. Lock-in creates barriers to entry. steph-note: so does the fact you don’t own your data.

Revenue plan: don’t kid yourself. Goes along with “don’t run out of money”. You’ll never make as much money as you plan, or as fast. VCs don’t pay much attention to it. Those plans are always wrong and at least a year late.

Don’t spend months and months trying to get your pricing right.

Strong advice: don’t worry about your exit strategy, worry about everything else, and also be competitive on your merits, not on how much the other guys suck.

FOWA 2007 138

Let your company have a voice and a culture. It’s harder to make your language sound antiseptic.