What I’m Good At [en]

[fr] Un petit point sur mes compétences professionnelles, telles que je suis en train de les comprendre grâce à mon emploi actuel. Moins de digital, plus de relationnel et de systèmes!

Having an “employed” job has been extremely rewarding so far. Yes, the commute is tiring, but I’ve been really lucky regarding work atmosphere, colleagues, the project I’m working on, and the view from the office. Not kidding about the view:

Over the last months I’ve learned/confirmed a few things about myself regarding what I do well/like doing jobwise.

I like interacting with people, preferably 1-1. I’m good at listening, getting people on board, establishing a relationship.

I love figuring out complex systems or situations with lots of moving parts.

I’m good at looking at things from various points of view and taking multiple interests into account when looking for solutions.

Day-to-day operations are not what I prefer, but when it comes to making things happen, implementing change, making a project move forward, here I am.

Learning & Networking
The two go together. I’m a fast learner, so I’m quick to absorb new information (even in a completely new field), identify and connect with key people.

I like understand how things work and fit together, and I’m good at seeing “gaps” where things could be done differently, either better for the people involved, or more rational for the organisation, particularly (but not limited to) around digital transformation.

There might be more, or different/better ways to put this, but I thought I’d throw this out there already.

One thing I love about being employed, and that I had lost on the way during my freelance years, is the feeling of being really appreciated and valued. I really needed it.

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You Never Know [en]

[fr] On ne sait jamais d'où (et par qui) viendront les opportunités qui nous permettront d'avancer dans notre vie professionnelle. C'est la raison pour laquelle je préconise de "ratisser large" quand il s'agit de réseautage. Cibler, c'est se limiter. C'est fermer la porte aux surprises que peuvent nous apporter nos "liens faibles". Le monde en ligne est le paradis des liens faibles. Mais pour en profiter, il faut y être en tant que personne, car c'est entre les personnes humaines (et authentiques) que se tissent les relations.

One of the points I strived to drive home during my talk on the professional importance of a personal online presence is that you never know where opportunities might come from.

I do not believe in a guiding hand or external mystical forces which direct our lives. I believe there is no inherent meaning in the world other than the meaning we humans inject into it. This means that I accept that luck and circumstance can play big roles in our lives. Meeting the love of my life “by chance” does not mean that the universe conspired in bringing us together at one incredible moment in time. It just means that it happened, and something huge grew out of it, but it could just have well not have happened.

Left or right

Back to opportunities. Think of the jobs you got, the gigs that came your way. The important people and moments in your life and how they came to be. With hindsight, we deliver sense in everything. But let that go for a minute. Could you have planned for it? Could you have made it happen?

Granted, we sometimes make things happen. Of course. But more often than not, we don’t. We’re happy to overestimate how much control we have on our lives. It’s less scary.

People who have “made it” will come and tell you how they did it. Again, hindsight.

I had a really eye-opening moment about that myself just three years ago, when I was asked to come and give a workshop on how to build a successful online presence for oneself.

I’d already noticed that when it came to social media strategy, most people telling us about their success story would come up with something along the lines of “we had no idea what we were doing, we were lucky, but here is how we should have done it and how you should do it”.

Halfway through my workshop, I realised that I was doing some variation of that: I was giving the participants an exercise to try and put them on the track I had followed — but actually, there was no exercise I could give them, because I had arrived where I was precisely because I wasn’t trying to get there. I had just followed my interests (chatting, people, more chatting, writing stuff, reading stuff, people, chatting) and opportunities had sprung out of that. Then, I had made something of those opportunities. But I had no intentional hand in creating them. It was a very humbling moment.

I think it took the last three years for this realisation to fully mature into one of the cornerstones of the slightly revamped way I present what I do for a living.

Back to my talk. Once you understand that you are not fully in control or in charge of making opportunities happen, you can try to examine what circumstances are favorable to them. And I would answer: “a diversity of circumstances”.

You know how diverse teams are more creative? I think there is something very similar at play when it comes to networking.

A diverse network — diverse in terms of the people it contains, the reasons that connect them, the strength of those relationships — will generate opportunities you could not have seen coming.

So when it comes to building a business, or finding a job, or clients, or partners, or ideas, it pays to have “a good network”. By “good”, I mean “diverse”. Cast the net wide. You never know who amongst the people you know is likely to lead you to the next big step in your career, or your next client, or the breakthrough which will see you out of the problem you’ve been stuck in forever. You never know.

Autour du chalet, colliers de perles

Weak ties are those who open the most doors. These are the people you may not know that well, or be somewhat out of touch with. These are the people you have met in a context that seems completely irrelevant to the work you are doing. They are the people who connect you to networks beyond your own, to schools of thought your network is unfamiliar with. Weak ties make for better introductions, because the stakes are lower: our acquaintances put us in touch with others more easily than our close friends and family, who know our faults too intimately, and may fear the fallback of a failed connection.

For this reason, I see no sense in being overly focused on one’s “personal brand”, or having an overly intentional online presence. Your network is made of relationships, and relationships are had between human beings. In networking, there is more being than doing. Caring gets you further than needing.

Go where there are people. Be open. Be generous. Be curious. See others, so that they may see you. Be helpful. Ask what you can do for them, rather than what they can do for you. Find the balance of depth and breadth that suits you: too much depth leaves no space for others, too much breadth will see you forgotten like a business card in a pile of papers.

Don’t sell. Make friends. It doesn’t matter what brings you together, as long as you connect. You never know what it is that you do or say that might attract people to you. So be you. Better to be loved or hated for what you are, than for a mask that you’re wearing.

You never know who will come around to be your most precious business (or life!) contact until that day in the future arrives.

The kind of communication between people fostered by social media is perfectly suited to weak ties. It’s not very intrusive. We can stay connected with far more people than we could ever in the physical world, scrolling through our timelines or newsfeeds. Ambient intimacy creates rapport in sometimes surprising and unexpected ways. Distance and time do not get in the way anymore.

But to take advantage of that, for your online presence to play a role in nurturing your network, you need to be a person.

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Talk: Be Your Best Offline Self Online [en]

[fr] La conférence que j'ai donnée mercredi à Women in Digital Switzerland à Lausanne.

Kelly invited me to be the guest speaker for the Women in Digital meetup in Lausanne on Wednesday, with a talk titled “Be Your Best Offline Self Online: How your personal online presence helps your business/career“.

It was streamed live on Facebook, which means that even if you weren’t able to attend in person, you can still listen to my talk now. I’ve put it up on YouTube for easier access outside of Facebook.

(Feel free to go “audio only”, the slides aren’t that important.)

There is a lot to write about this topic, and hopefully I will, but for now I’m at least making sure that you have access to the video! This makes me think I should get the various videos of my talks I have collected over the years on YouTube, even if the quality of most of them is not that great, and make a playlist of them.

A big thanks to Kelly who held her iPhone as steady as possible to capture this talk. I’m extremely grateful to have a recording of it.

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Bloggy Friday, #back2blog, et l'eclau [fr]

[en] Motivating these days: Bloggy Friday, still going strong after all these years; #back2blog challenge, picked up by 20 or so bloggers; and eclau, the coworking space I manage in Lausanne, which turns 4 today.

Je fais partie de ces personnes qui vit sa vie en ayant le sentiment de ne jamais avoir assez de temps. Oh, je suis lucide. J’ai autant de temps que tout le monde, je sais que c’est plutôt que j’ai du mal à prioriser, hiérarchiser, décider, me frustrer.

Like a crazy hoarder I mistake the root cause of my growing mountain of incomplete work. The hoarder thinks he has a storage problem (when he really has a ‘throwing things away problem’). I say I am ‘time poor’ as if the problem is that poor me is given only 24 hours in a day. It’s more accurate to say… what exactly? It seems crazy for a crazy person to use his own crazy reasoning to diagnose his own crazy condition. Maybe I too easily add new projects to my list, or I am too reluctant to exit from unsuccessful projects. Perhaps I am too reluctant to let a task go, to ship what I’ve done. They’re never perfect, never good enough.

On Task Hoarding and ToDo Bankruptcy (Leon Bambrik)

Donc, je fais plein de trucs, et pas juste des trucs qui rapportent de l’argent, et ces temps, j’avoue être particulièrement motivée par ces “activités non lucratives”.

Le Bloggy Friday continue son bonhomme de chemin après toutes ces années — on était une douzaine hier soir. J’ai pris conscience il y a quelques mois que malgré l’échelle assez modeste de cette rencontre (entre 5 et 10 personnes par souper, une fois par mois), elle avait permis à de belles amitiés et des relations d’affaires de naître, au fil des années. C’est ce genre de chose qui me motive à continuer.

Sur un coup de tête, j’ai lancé le “Back to Blogging Challenge” (#back2blog) qu’une vingtaine de personnes (dépassant toutes mes espérances!) est en train de relever. Il y a une super énergie, on lit les articles des autres, on commente… cette excitation palpable me rappelle mes premières années de blogueuse. Ça me fait particulièrement plaisir de voir qu’il y tant des blogueurs chevronnés que débutants qui y prennent part (y compris une poignée d’étudiants de la formation SAWI sur les médias sociaux!) et qu’on y blogue en au moins cinq langues!

Finalement l’eclau (Espace Coworking LAUsanne), qui fête ses 4 ans aujourd’hui et se porte extrêmement bien: grande variété de professions représentées, personnes lumineuses et passionnées, excellente entente et riches échanges entre les coworkers, bon équilibre entre “possibilité de travailler” et “possibilité de socialiser”, et un lunch mensuel qui commence à prendre son rythme de croisière et trouver sa place dans nos vies.

Merci à vous tous sans qui ces petites activités communautaires n’existeraient pas!

#back2blog challenge (5/10):

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A la grande école d'internet: vive le réseau [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).

Internet, c’est un paradis pour autodidactes. Toute l’information est à portée de doigts!

J’y repense ces jours, alors que je suis en train d’essayer un nouveau programme de gestion (et retouche!) de photos (Lightroom) et que je me torture à tenter de décider si je veux acheter un nouvel appareil photo, et si oui, lequel.

Comment est-ce que je m’y prends? Par où est-ce que je commence? Je me rends compte qu’en tant que passionnée des médias sociaux, je ne pars de loin pas de zéro. Du coup, ma “marche à suivre” ne peut pas servir de modèle à ceux qui n’ont pas l’habitude d’utiliser ainsi Internet.

En fait, cette marche à suivre est simple: je demande autour de moi.

Je regarde ma liste de messagerie instantanée, et parmi les dizaines de personnes actuellement en ligne, je pose directement la question qui me turlupine à ceux qui me paraissent pouvoir détenir la réponse.

Des fois on me répond, des fois on me donne un lien, des fois on me donne simplement une suggestion de piste à explorer.

J’envoie un message sur Twitter. Idem. Certains répondent, et parfois de petits joyaux d’information tombent ainsi du ciel. Bien sûr, ça marche parce qu’il y a près de 3000 personnes qui me suivent sur Twitter.

Peut-être que je mets à jour mon statut Facebook pour rendre visible ma quête.

Et je vais sur IRC, dans le repère de geeks que je fréquente — et suivant le sujet du jour, je choisis le canal approprié (#macosx, peuplé de fous du mac qui savent tout, #photogeeks, rempli de passionnés de photographie, #wordpress… pour ce qui touche à WordPress, etc.)

Des fois, j’écris un article sur mon blog, si rien ne tombe du ciel.

Vous voyez, l’état d’esprit c’est “faciliter l’arrivée de l’information à moi”. Et quand j’ai de la chance, elle vient effectivement à moi.

Mais il n’y a pas que ça.

Il y a Google, le grand frère toujours dispo. Il suffit parfois de quelques mots-clés pertinents pour toucher le jackpot (en règle générale, les recherches précises ont souvent plus de succès). Il y a Wikipédia, qui est un point de départ extraordinaire pour commencer à s’éduquer sur un sujet dont on ne connaît rien, par exemple les capteurs photographiques.

Et il y a aussi le fait que toutes les entreprises (presque) sont présentes en ligne. Je me mets à Lightroom? Adobe a des tutoriaux. Je m’intéresse aux micro 4/3? Il y a un site dédié à ce nouveau format d’appareil photo. Je cherche à comprendre les différences entre les multiples séries Powershot? Le site Canon permet de les comparer.

Mieux encore, il existe des sites spécialisés dans les critiques et comparatifs, comme Digital Photography Review.

Alors bon, me direz-vous, il faut déjà savoir que ça existe. Mais finalement, tout ce que je sais, c’est soit que quelqu’un me l’a dit, soit que j’ai passé assez de temps à taper des mots-clés dans Google ou à cliquer sur des liens d’un site à un autre. Il n’y a là rien de magique… sauf le réseau. Les gens que je connais, à qui je suis connectée, à qui j’ai rendu service et qui me le rendront en retour.

Ah oui, et ça aide de comprendre un peu l’anglais. C’est vrai!

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Bad With Faces, Good With Names [en]

[fr] Je suis très peu physionomiste mais dès qu'on me donne un nom, je sais exactement qui vous êtes. Pensez-y la prochaine fois qu'on se croise en vitesse quelque part, à une conférence par exemple!

I have a problem. I am really bad at recognizing faces. Really very bad. Bordering on hopeless.

This makes social occasions like conferences very difficult for me, because people keep coming up to me, saying hello, and though their face might seem familiar, I have not the slightest idea who they are.

Even with people I know, it’s sometimes difficult. My good friend Kevin Marks came up to me to say hi this morning, and it took me 4 excruciatingly long seconds to recognize him.

One might think that it’s because I meet too many people, or have too many people in my network, and can’t keep up. I’m happy to say it isn’t the case — I haven’t reached such a celeb status, luckily.

How do I know that?

I know that because the moment the person who just walked up to me gives me their name, I know exactly who they are.

I am deadly good with names.

That’s why I like conference badges.

The way I explain this to myself is that my “internal database” of people I know has an index on the name column, and not the face one. It’s as if I were “colour-blind to faces”.

I’m really good at remembering people, actually. I just need names.

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A Networking Secret [en]

[fr] Pour "réseauter", la meilleure méthode reste encore d'oublier le réseautage, et de s'intéresser aux personnes.

Without really trying to, I’ve ended up with a rather large and powerful network. Often, I’m asked how I did it. “How do you network?”

A lot of it comes naturally to me, and I honestly don’t really know what advice to give apart from the following:

All you really need to do is be interested in people. Forget about “networking”.

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Becoming a Professional Networker: Tags in Address Book OSX Needed! [en]

[fr] Besoin, de toute urgence: plugin Address Book.app permettant de taguer ses contacts.

For some time now, I’ve been aware that I’m becoming a professional networker. Almost all I do to promote [Going Solo](http://going-solo.net), for example, relies on my reputation and the connections I have to other people.

Now, I’ve never been somebody to collect contacts just for the sake of collecting contacts, but until [LeWeb3 last year](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/12/12/news-from-leweb3/), I had just been content with butterflying around and stacking business cards somewhere near by desk. At LeWeb3, when I started telling people about Going Solo, I also started realising that the people I met and contacts I made were going to have more importance for my business than before.

And if I’ve learnt something during these last two months, it’s the importance of getting back to people. I’ve figured out how [iGTD and GMail](http://seesmic.com/v/32zdGimgth) can play nice together to help me with that, but it’s not sufficient. I need to keep track of who I’ve asked what, of who can help me with what, who has this or that connection. And yes, I have too many people in my business network to keep everything in my head.

As I explain in the video above, the lovely [Cathy Brooks](http://www.otherthanthat.com/) put me on the right track: use Address Book.app. I don’t really need to keep all the contact details related to a person close at hand (ie, phone number, e-mail, etc.) because I have that in LinkedIn, Facebook, GMail address book, or on business cards. I’m not interested in keeping an exhaustive repository of all the contact details of all the people I’ve met. What I’m interested in, however, is keeping the names of these people somewhere I can attach meaningful information to them.

Where we met. What we talked about. Stuff that’ll help me remember who people are.

So, I started simply adding names (Firstname Lastname) into my OSX address book, along with a few words in the Notes field. The nice thing about the Notes field is that you don’t have to toggle edit mode on to add stuff in the Notes. So, of course, I started using the notes field to tag people. Not too bad (smart folders allow me to “pull out” people with a certain tag) but not great either, because tags get mixed up with notes, and it’s a bit clunky.

Somebody suggested I create a custom “Tags” field (a “Names” type field is fine). Unfortunately, though this looks like a good idea at first, it fails because you have to edit a contact each time you want to add tags. Also, you can’t create a smart folder based on the contents of that field — you need to search through the whole card. Clunky too.

I don’t know how to write Address Book plugins, but I know they exist, and I have an idea for a plugin that would save my life (and probably countless others) and which doesn’t seem very complex to build. If there’s anybody out there listening… here’s a chance to be a hero.

I want a “tag your contacts” plugin for Address Book.app. What would it do? Simple, add a “Tags” field that behaves similarly to the “Notes” field. That would allow me to separate notes and tags — they aren’t quite the same thing, don’t you agree?

In addition to that, the plugin could display a list of all contacts tagged “thisorthat” when you double-clicked the tag. That would be nice.

Does anybody else want this? Does it already exist? Would anybody be willing to build it? (If other people are interested, I’d be willing to suggest we pool some cash to donate to the kind person building this life-saving plugin.)

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End-Of-Travel Musings [en]

[fr] Peu de photos, d'articles, ou encore de vidéos de mon mois de voyage en Irlande, au Texas, et à San Francisco. Thierry trouve dommage, mais pas moi. J'apprends à prendre la vie un peu plus à la légère, à ne pas me mettre sous pression plus que nécessaire pour tirer toujours le maximum de profit de tout ce que je fais, tout ce que je vois, tout ce que je visite, chaque personne que je rencontre. A force de documenter sa vie, on court le risque d'oublier de la vivre.

Retour de San Francisco le coeur un peu lourd, car j'aime cet endroit et il abrite des gens qui me sont chers, mais heureuse de rentrer à Lausanne, que j'adore, et de revoir mon chat, bêtement. J'ai appris à "lâcher prise" concernant mon réseau social éclaté, à moitié en ligne, et dispersé aux quatre coins de la planète. On se recroisera, je le sais. Dans une conférence, lors de mes voyages ou des vôtres. On est à quelques clics de souris en ligne, jamais très loin. On est partout, au fond.

These two weeks here in San Francisco have been really nice. I got to relax and catch up with some friends (not all of them, unfortunately, and some less than I wanted to), make a few new ones, and also make good progress in the work department. I caught up with most of the stuff I’d fallen behind with during the previous month (stress and travel), and amongst other things, this means that [Going Solo is now ready to accept sponsorships](http://going-solo.net/2008/03/26/be-a-going-solo-sponsor/). It’s also time for us to strike up some media partnerships — get in touch if you’re interested. For media partnerships: [email protected] — that’s me! — and for sponsorships, [email protected] — Lily Yacobi is managing sponsor relations (she’s great!).

My travels started in a rather intense manner, with BlogTalk in Cork and SXSW in Austin. Two conferences back-to-back, one presentation on a new topic to speak about for me, two panel moderations (I’d never moderated a panel before), and a conversation to co-host (great format, by the way). Lots of people, new and known, two 2-hour nights before even landing in the US — I can tell you I reached Austin in a sorry state. Thank goodness I had a little halt in Dallas (thanks again, Adam!) to help me land.

[As I mentioned](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/03/14/conference-experience-evolution-and-the-paradox-of-choice/), the solution I found to survive SXSW without burning out was to keep a low profile and go with the flow. I kept that up somewhat in San Francisco: not too many plans, low expectations on what I wanted to accomplish, no frantic blogging/photographing/visiting/videoing. Some people [think it’s a shame](http://seesmic.com/v/9GNlZx3cPG), but I don’t.

Sometimes documenting your life can get in the way of living it, and I know that the pressure I put upon myself to “make the most” out of every occasion, every trip, every conference, every visit, every relationship, and simply every moment of life is wearing me down. I’ve been learning, over the past six months, that I need to cut myself some slack. Miss out on things.

So this trip, I hardly took any photos. I didn’t do any tourism. I stuck with what and who I knew, mainly. There is a whole bunch of people and businesses I regret not seeing/visiting (have I said it enough), but I don’t regret pacing my life so that I can leave here more rested than I arrived, and less stressed.

[Going Solo](http://going-solo.net) is a lot of work, but though I have a great [team of advisors and helpers](http://going-solo.net/about/), I remain the only one in charge, and I’m slowly learning how to delegate. Delegating is not something I’m familiar with or ever really had to do in my life, so I’m learning the skill — and it’s not easy for me. In the end, I end up with the feeling that I’m carrying too much weight on my shoulders, and that giving some of it to others creates even more. (See the idea?) Not to be dramatic, it’s a great experience and I think I’m doing well with it — it’s just not a trip to the beach (who would have thought that!?)

So, here I am, terminal A of San Francisco airport, at the Firewood Grill, where they make pretty decent cheeseburgers. I’ve eaten here before, I remember, a bit over a year ago after [my first trip to San Francisco](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/01/12/im-really-liking-san-francisco/) “in this life”. I like the music they’re playing on the radio, and I’m trying to sort through the mixed feelings in me.

I’m looking forward to going home, of course. I’m very attached to my hometown, as many of you have noticed, and whenever I’m away, I miss my cat a lot. It’s silly, but oh well. My brother will be home too, after a year spent in South America. It will be good to see him again.

But I’m leaving San Francisco with a heavy heart, too. I’m leaving behind the sunshine and people who are dear to me, as well as a community (however you want to understand that word) which means I get to bump into people I know when I go to parties. This happens in Lausanne, too, of course — bumping into people I know. Lausanne is a small village. But strangely, the San Francisco geekworld seems even smaller. And I like it. To state the obvious, “things are happening” here and it’s nice to be around. I like the city, too — even if I sometimes struggle a bit with the differences in culture between here and where I grew up and live.

I think I’ve become more relaxed about when I’ll see people again. I don’t know when I’ll be back, but I will be. I’ll bump into you at a conference, or at a geek dinner somewhere when we’re both travelling. Maybe we didn’t get to say goodbye, but we’re just a few keystrokes away online anyway — so is it really that important? I don’t know what my life will be like in a year, and neither do you, probably. We live and work in this fast-changing world, somewhere on the edge, and we eat [Black Swans](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/10/15/reading-the-black-swan/) for breakfast.

We’re everywhere.

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Conference Experience Evolution and The Paradox of Choice [en]

[fr] Mes réflexions sur l'expérience vécue lors de conférences comme LIFT08, LeWeb3, SXSW, BlogTalk, à la lumière de ma lecture du livre The Paradox of Choice. Surcharge cognitive et sociale, trop de décisions à prendre. Evolution également, entre les premières conférences où je ne connaissais presque personne, et où l'accent était mis sur "faire de nouvelles connaissances", et les dernières conférences, où je me rends compte que je ne peux pas passer du temps (ni même parfois dire bonjour) à toutes les personnes que je connais déjà.

There’s a lot going on in my head these days, and unfortunately I’ve been too [busy/exhausted](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/02/25/stalling/) (that damn anaemia is still around, fwiw) to blog about it. Since a week or so before LIFT08, actually, I feel like I’ve been desperately running behind the train, and the distance between my hand and the handlebar that will allow me to climb back on is just increasing.

One book I’ve been reading these last weeks (months?) is [The Paradox of Choice](http://www.amazon.com/Paradox-Choice-Why-More-Less/dp/0060005688). If you haven’t read it yet, take a few minutes to order it now. It’s turning out to be a really important book for me, on the one hand for understanding a few things about how the world we live in functions and affects us in the areas of freedom, responsibility, and of course, choice — and on the other hand for understanding myself.

I suffer a lot from having too many options to choose from: I’m really bad at being a “satisficer” in certain areas (somebody who will be satisfied with an option as long as it meets certain criteria) as opposed to being a “maximizer” — wanting the *best* option available. In particular in my professional life and my intellectual pursuits, each choice is agonizing, because my brain wirings keep me very focused on everything I’m possibly missing out upon each time I pick a particular option over others. I do my best to tone this tendency down, of course, but it’s there.

There’s a lot I could comment upon in relation to this book and all it is helping me understand (it delves deep into the mechanisms of choice, and that’s fascinating), but suffice to say right now that it’s colouring a lot of my thinking in general these days.

One of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot recently is conferences. Obviously, as a [conference organizer](http://going-far.com/) ([Going Solo](http://going-solo.net/) early bird price ends soon, by the way!), it’s on my mind, but I’ve also been attending quite a few conferences recently and reflecting of how my experience of these events has evolved (due to [“burn-out”](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/10/06/too-many-people/), increased [network and public profile](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/02/11/from-lift06-to-lift08/), and maybe other factors).

For online people like me, conferences are an occasion to see their usually scattered network of relations (friends or business contacts) coalesce in one single geographical location over the space of a few days. It can be very exciting, especially when you get to meet many of these people offline for the first time, but it can also be overwhelming. During my first conferences, I also got to know a lot of new people. People I wasn’t interactive with online. People who “grew” (ew) my network. People I liked and decided I wanted to stay in touch with. People who were interesting business contacts.

As conferences went by, I would find myself in a crowd of more and more people I already knew and appreciated and wanted to spend time with. I think [FOWA](http://futureofwebapps.com/) last November was a breaking point for me — I realized that it was impossible for me to catch up with all “my people” there in the space of two short days. It was quite distressing to realize this, actually.

A few weeks after that, I was in Berlin for [Web2.0Expo](http://climbtothestars.org/tags/web2expo/). A bit burnt, I took things way more lightly. Attended a few sessions. Didn’t even show up on certain mornings. Hung out with people I met there. Didn’t try to blog all the sessions I attended. It went much better.

Conferences are hard. There is a lot of intellectual stimulation (sessions and conversations), and a lot of social stimulation too. As I mentioned earlier in this post, I already feel life is simply too full of interesting things and people. In my everyday life, I struggle with the feeling that there is “too much out there” for me to “deal” or “cope” with — and a conference just concentrates this feeling over 2-3 days. Lots of fascinating (hopefully) sessions to attend. Great corridor conversations. Old friends to catch up with. New friends to make. Business contacts to touch base with. Dinners, lunches and parties. Take photos, blog, video the sessions or interview fellow attendees. To do all that well, you’d need to be superhuman.

I had two “different” conference experiences during these last six months, and they were LeWeb4 and LIFT08. Both times, I attended the conference with a rather clear [business objective](http://going-solo.net). It was tiring, but less overwhelming, because I’d decided in advance what I was in for. LeWeb4 (LeWeb3 actually, 2nd edition — don’t ask me why) actually turned out better than LIFT08 for me, because I simply didn’t attend any sessions (aside from half of [JP](http://confusedofcalcutta.com/)’s). At LIFT08, I had a press pass, so I did feel pressure to live-blog — and also, it’s my “home conference”, and I really like their programme. I was also [giving a speech](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/02/07/lift08-my-going-solo-open-stage-speech/), so, although this conference experience “went well”, it was [overwhelming](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/02/11/my-lift08-recap/).

So, what am I learning about conferences? They’re “too much”. So, you have to go to them knowing you’ll miss out (which brings us back to what The Paradox of Choice is about). The more connected you are, the more socially unmanageable it’s going to be. People you won’t see. Not saying goodbye. Not spending as much time as you wanted with certain people, but in exchange spending more time with others. So, I’ve come to accept that. I don’t know who I’m going to be able to catch up with. I know I won’t be able to catch up with everyone. I do my best not to plan — and if there is a small number of people (1, 2, 3) that I really want to see, I make plans with them, and that’s it.

The sessions are also “too much”. You can’t sit in sessions for the whole day, take notes, blog about them (or whatever you do) and then do the same thing the next day. Well, you can, but chances are your brain will fry at some point. I know that I can’t do it for two days in a row. At [SXSW](http://2008.sxsw.com/interactive/), I decided at one point to officially give up on attending sessions. I felt bad, because there were lots of them which sounded interesting, and lots of people I wanted to hear, but I also felt relieved because all of a sudden the pressure of making choices had been removed. If I happened to be hanging out with people who went to a panel, or if I stumbled into one — well, good. But I wasn’t going to make decisions about them other than on the spur of the moment. That worked out pretty well.

I did the same for the parties. Too much choice => I refuse to agonize on decisions before the last moment. All open. Go with the flow.

So, bottom-line: very little planning, lots of improvisation, and setting low expectations about doing precise stuff or hanging out with precise people.

To change the subject a little, I noticed at LIFT08 how at one point, there seems to be a physiological limit to taking in new people (certainly some relation to the [Dunbar number](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar’s_number) department). At LIFT08, I was just so socialed out (or over-socialized), between running around promoting Going Solo and being the object of some attention after my speech ([watch video](http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8270350768335569204)), that I realized at some point that I was doing horrible things like:

– trying to hand out moo cards twice to people I actually already knew (in this case, it was [Robert](http://scobleizer.com/)) in the space of a few minutes
– asking people for their name 3 times in a row
– forgetting I’d talked to people, even when they took the trouble to remind me what we had talked about a few hours before
– and of course, totally not recognizing anybody I’d been introduced to recently or at a previous conference

In this kind of situation, you can do two things. “Fake it”, as in “oh, hi! how’s business, blah blah blah” and hope that the person will drop enough info to help you out, or just fake it till the end. To be honest, I hate the idea of doing that, and I can’t bring myself to do it (plus, I’m sure I’d be quite bad at it). So, I prefer the second option, which is being honest. I apologize for not recognizing people (mention that I’m [hopeless with faces](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/12/14/badges-at-conferences/) — people who know me can attest), explain that I’m over-socialized and have simply been meeting and interacting with too many people. In my experience, this approach works out fine.

There’s also a lot to be said about “micro-fame” — the first couple of conferences I went to, the number of people I “didn’t really know” who were interested in talking to me (as in “walked up to me to introduce themselves”) was close to zero. Today, people show up out of nowhere, know me, want to speak to me. Friends want to introduce me to people they know (which is good, by the way!) My first conferences involved a lot of just meeting a nice person or two, and hanging out with them for the whole conference. This is more difficult today (except maybe at small conferences like BlogTalk) because I just know too many people (or too many people know me).

There also seems to be a subculture of highly-travelled, highly-conferenced people I’m suddenly finding myself part of — and I’m sure it would be worth taking a closer look to what’s going on here (hmm… [a conference](http://going-far.com), maybe?)

I’ll stop here, after dumping these thoughts in this not-very-organized post. It felt good to write all this down. If you have comments or thoughts, agree or disagree, experiences to share — my comments and trackbacks are yours to use.

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