Novembre [fr]

[en] Novembre. Another year comes to a close.

Novembre. L’année 2008 touche bientôt à sa fin. Comme chaque fin d’année, je n’en reviens pas. Le printemps semble si proche. Je n’ai pas vu passer l’été. Inexorablement, les semaines et les mois défilent, l’hiver arrive, et les chiffres si familiers du calendrier changent à tout jamais.

Jamais plus 2008. Une année de l’histoire. Une année de mon histoire. Une année comme tant d’autres, unique mais justement banale par son unicité.

Quand bien d’autres années semblables et différentes de ma vie auront passé, je me souviendrai de 2008, des espoirs, des joies, des chagrins, du chat au chalet et de mon ordinateur rose.

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Learning to Have an Office [en]

[fr] C'est étrange pour moi d'avoir un "bureau", maintenant que l'ECLAU est en fonction. Mon salon est à moitié vide maintenant que j'ai descendu de deux étages bureau et étagères, et j'avoue avoir un peu de peine à trouver mes marques (le chat également). Je suis par contre ravie de l'esprit qui règne déjà dans l'espace coworking. On est une chouette équipe et je me réjouis de voir qui va venir s'y adjoindre!

With the opening of the coworking space in the basement of my building, I am now learning to live with an office.

Eclau 5 - settling down even more

This first week has of course involved a lot of settling down, but already, I have a few comments to make.

I didn’t imagine how disruptive it would be for me to have all this “extra space”. I’m the person renting the space downstairs, so in a way it’s “mine” (even if it’s shared — I have the lease, and provide a service to the other people who use the space). So, all of a sudden, instead of “having” a flat (“having” because in Switzerland, you rent, you don’t buy — unless you’re settling down for life), I “have” a flat and this space downstairs which is actually bigger than my flat, and which a bunch of other people will be using too.

I like that bit. I like the idea of creating a space where people are welcome to hang out and drop in and work regularly. I brought a whole bunch of my books downstairs (many of them my “recommended reading”) and I’m really excited to be able to share it with the other coworkers like that. Somebody bought biscuits and fruit juices, so we’re starting to have a little stock of shared snacks — all this will be a bit more organised later on, but the spirit is right.

Moving away from the “coworking” bit, what is changing for me now that I have an “office”?

  • my flat is in chaos, as I have emptied half my living-room (desk and bookcase) and swapped the old drawers in my room for a newer set (most of the furniture for the space actually comes from my Dad’s house, which he has emptied to rent out)
  • I’m working at a desk now most of the time, rather than sitting on a mattress as I am now
  • I like having a desk, but I miss the mattress/floor moments. I have half a mind to set up something similar downstairs — maybe move the couches and create some “ground space” in the corner near the windows?
  • I spend my day in a room with people, rather than alone. Even though we work independantly, that’s a lot of interaction for me compared to my “usual” days. I realise I’ve become quite a recluse.
  • neither Bagha nor I have really found our balance — he comes downstairs with me and has adopted the sofa, but I realise he needs to spend time in the flat (which is “his home”), and by extension, I realise it’s the same for me
  • I think having a separate working place is going to help me “not work” — and like now, feel relaxed enough to blog or do “other stuff” online (or even offline!!) in the evenings
  • I’m eating at more “normal” hours — because I see other people go off or unpack their picnics at noon, and so I go and eat shortly after too

I’m looking forward to seeing how things evolve during the next weeks. I’m off to the mountains tomorrow, all the more because I’ve been on the verge of cancelling all week (too much to do!), which really shows how much I need a break. I’ll be back on Thursday.

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Let's Buddy Work! [en]

[fr] Un bon truc quand on n'avance pas dans son travail: trouver quelqu'un (souvent en ligne) avec qui travailler en tandem. "Bon, alors moi, je vais écrire cet e-mail pendant que toi tu lis ce rapport, et on se retrouve dans 30 minutes pour se donner des nouvelles." Un moyen de s'encourager et de se soutenir mutuellement -- souvent, en aidant l'autre à déterminer quelle est sa prochaine tâche, à charge de revanche.

More than once, buddy working has saved my day. I think Suw came up with the term and the idea — though I’m sure there are many other people using this kind of technique. Suw’s the person I’ve done it most with, but not the only one. I’ve done it with Delphine a couple of times, and with a few other people.

How does it work? Basically, take two people who are faffing away or procrastinating through the day. Put them in touch through IM. Each helps/supports the other in figuring out a task to accomplish (15-30 minutes). Both go off and do their task, and come back into the chat to report on progress!

One of the first times I remember doing this was not for work, actually, but for something like washing the dishes. It’s a simple trick, and it works offline too. It gives you a little nudge to do things and is encouraging when you have somebody to share it with.

Do you do this? Do you have similar tricks to share? I’d love to hear about it!

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Update From Berlin [en]

[fr] Etat des lieux. Beaucoup à faire, beaucoup à bloguer. J'ai besoin de m'organiser.

So, here I am in Berlin, for another 24 hours or so. I’m giving my talk for the <head> Web Conference this evening at 6pm. You can still buy tickets — it’s an online conference, so there is no commuting involved to attend, and it’s going on today evening and tomorrow too.

I have many blog posts to write, and I don’t know what to start with. One about conference endings (I was very disappointed with the way Web 2.0 Expo fizzled out), one about the opening of ECLAU, the Lausanne Coworking Space (November 3rd I get the keys!), one about the blogger outreach programme for Web 2.0 Expo (it was a huge hit), and a bunch of others that I’ve forgotten about, though I remember myself saying out loud “gosh, I have to write a blog post about this” quite a few times during this trip. Oh, here’s one I just remembered: a blog post on selling wine online, for a Lausanne guy I met at a networking event a few weeks back who was telling me blogs have no role to play in business and that you can’t sell wine online. Oh, and how I read blogs. And others.

As you can probably make out, I’ve got lots of “stuff” going on these days. Good stuff, luckily. Stuff including business opportunities. It’s very encouraging to see that since I’ve been a bit more direct about stating that I need work, things have been picking up. My financial situation is still far from sorted out, but it’s now headed in the right direction. I’m still trying to come to terms with the idea that I can be good at my job whilst being crap at managing finances and actually selling my services. This is some of the stuff I’ll be talking about tonight, by the way.

So, beware, braindump. It makes me feel better, and it’s a way of giving news without really going into the details.

  • send out a newsletter: and to say I was afraid of sending them out too often!
  • write the damn blog posts: as I said above…
  • coworking space: get internet, compose “sign-up” form, draft out house rules, set up blog, set up mailing-list, set up wiki, organise furniture arrival, scare up people to help cleaning, supervise knocking down wall, plan walling out conference room, look at finances
  • work for various clients: a couple of wordpress upgrades, back-to-back meetings all week when I get home, get back to silent ones to make things move forward, get back to people who contacted me during my travels, look at calendar and scream silently…
  • LeWeb blogger accreditation: send codes out to about 200 people, set up mailing-list, hash out details, monitor everything, deal with edge cases (there are always edge cases…)
  • Spread The Tech: not yet announced, keep the ball rolling, wiki + basecamp + blog about it, prepare announcement, start organising…
  • personal: review finances, get organised, prepare travel (yes, more travel), continue working on self-promotion, deal with post-conference business cards (not too many this time, thankfully), catch up on Flickr upload + tagging backlog, blog maintenance like upgrade thesis, remove disqus (?)

There! I’m feeling a little lighter now. Sorry if you didn’t follow everything.

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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]( 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](, 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](, 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]( is a lot of work, but though I have a great [team of advisors and helpers](, 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]( “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]( 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]( (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]( 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]( ([Going Solo]( 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”](, increased [network and public profile](, 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]( 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]( 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]( 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](’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](, so, although this conference experience “went well”, it was [overwhelming](

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](, 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](’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](, 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]( 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]( — 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](, 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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From LIFT06 to LIFT08 [en]

[fr] Un petit coup d'oeil sur les différences majeures entre mon expérience de LIFT06 et de LIFT08, à deux ans d'écart.

As I said in my [open stage speech](, two years (and a few days) ago I was sitting in the CICG conference hall, but things were very different from today. [LIFT06]( was, if I remember correctly, my second conference. I’d been to [BlogTalk2]( in 2004 and met a few people there ([live-blogging already!]( So, in 2006, there were very few people at the conference which I had actually met. I knew Lee Bryant. I knew Martin Röll. I knew Laurent Haug. I knew [Björn Ognibeni]( (I *think* he was at LIFT06, but couldn’t swear it). I knew a few local bloggers, and some people from online. (My memory is a bit fuzzy.) But most of the people who make up my *network* (both online and offline, personal and professional) were not part of my world yet.

LIFT06 is where I met [Robert Scoble](, [Bruno Giussani](, [David Galipeau](, [Euan Semple](http://), [Hugh McLeod](, and a bunch of others. It’s where I got to know [Anne Dominique Mayor]( (we both sat down smack in front of Robert Scoble by pure chance, because we were going for power sockets — that’s how I met him), and she has since then become part of my close circle of friends. LIFT06 felt a bit [like San Francisco felt a year later]( my online world had suddenly materialized offline.

Retrospectively, I’d say that in 2006, I was introduced to people, but that today, in 2008, it is people who introduce themselves to me. It’s not as clear-cut, of course, but it’s the general trend.

At LIFT08, I’ve lost count of the people present whom I’ve already met. There are almost too many for me to say hello to each one. I’m holding a workshop, and giving an open stage speech, so I’m much more public — more people know me than I know them.

It’s a bit scary. I don’t know who I want to spend my time with anymore, for one (old friends? new, unknown people?) — and my brain just can’t keep up. I forget who I’ve met. I try giving [Going Solo]( moo cards to old friends more than once. I feel like I’ve become a networking automaton, and I don’t like it. I’m not good at faking it, I’d rather tell people that I’m over-socialized and that I have trouble processing all this.

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On Being Wiped Out [en]

[fr] Epuisée mais contente. Si je ne vous reconnais pas, si je vous demande trois fois votre nom, si j'essaie de vous donner des cartes de visite trois fois... soyez indulgents. Je suis hyper contente de la réception de mon discours sur l'histoire de Going Solo.

My poor brain can’t follow anymore. I’m loosing track of who I speak to, who I’ve met, who I’ve given [Going Solo]( moo cards too (even to my friends). I’m delighted with the reception of my [speech about Going Solo]( — swept off my feet, even.

Many people have come to tell me they liked my speech, that it was inspiring, that they are going to come to Going Solo, that they want to interview me (I’ve lost track of the number of interviews I’ve given today, honestly), or talk about partnerships or possible synergies.

I’m feeling bad, because I was [invited as one of the electronic media crowd]( to live-blog the event, and I think I’ve done a really crappy job of it. I hope to earn my pass tomorrow.

I’m not feeling [overwhelmed as I was at FoWA](, because I’m happy rather than frustrated and anxious. But I can’t keep up. Don’t get me wrong, I want to speak to you, and I’m going to. I also know that this is important for my event 🙂 — but if I look a little exhausted, if I ask you your name three times, try to give you Moo cards twice, or forget what you just told me… please be indulgent!

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Christmas [en]

[fr] Quelques réflexions au sujet de Noël -- des grandes fêtes de mon enfance avec tous les cousins jusqu'aux fêtes plus intimes des familles fragmentées d'aujourd'hui.

Pour une fois, je ne suis pas stressée par les cadeaux de Noël. Je m'y suis prise "à l'avance" (dès jeudi au lieu de tout le 24), et j'ai même pris plaisir à choisir du joli paper d'emballage.

Les publications frénétiques sur ce blog ne reprendront sans doute pas avant la fin des fêtes de Noël.

Joyeux Noël à tous. Prenez le temps d'être avec ceux qui vous sont chers.

As a kid, I used to like Christmas. It was a chance to get together with all my cousins, uncles and aunts, eat nice food, light the Christmas tree and distribute presents. I like to think we are a family which didn’t go overboard with presents. A CD, a book, a nice vase, a jumper, or a couple of beautiful candles — sometimes bigger presents from parents to children, obviously, but overall, I’m pretty proud of us, looking back.

As I grew older and the “next generation” of kids started arriving (and we became proper adults), the annual Christmas gathering broke up into smaller parts. I don’t see my cousins at Christmas any more. We all celebrate in our smaller, nuclear families.

Then there are break-ups, divorces, and more fragmentation.

My brother and I get two Christmas parties nowadays. One with my dad and “his” side of the family, and a similar one with my stepmum. Four-five people, smaller than the gatherings of my childhood, but cosy. Sometimes, these small family gatherings seem a better site for tensions between individuals to surface — but maybe this has more to do with me being an adult now than the size of the group. As a child, one isn’t always aware of all that is going on in the “grown-up world”.

So, overall, I like Christmas — even if over the last years there have been some parties which have not turned out as fun as we hoped.

The one thing I don’t like is shopping for Christmas presents.

I don’t like the commercial overload one is subjected to in the shops. I don’t like the fact that there are too many people. And I don’t like the fact that usually, I leave Christmas shopping until the last minute, and have to find/buy my presents in a rush on the 24th before going to the party in the evening.

This year, things are different.

I decided to start early. “Early”, for me, means that I went Christmas shopping two days ago, on Thursday. I bought a couple of presents. I went again yesterday. Bought another few presents. And today: a few more.

The result of all this is that I had a nice time walking around town, looking at things in shops (which is something I like doing!), bumping into friends (because particularly around Christmas, Lausanne is a little village), choosing presents, and even buying pretty wrapping paper and cards.

Even my sprained big toe last night at judo hasn’t managed to make me feel stressed about these pre-Christmas times.

There isn’t much blogging here these days as you’ve noticed, as I’m spending a fair amount of time away from the computer — but no fear: I still have a pile of posts to write “asap”, ideas, and energy to keep things going. Might just have to wait until after Christmas, though.

Merry Christmas everyone. Enjoy your time with those you hold dear. Remember it’s about love.

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Too Many People [en]

[fr] J'ai atteint un point où je n'ai plus envie de faire de nouvelles connaissances. Je n'arrive déjà pas à voir les gens qui me sont chers autant que je voudrais. En ligne, les relations "délicates" (asymétriques, par exemple) sont plus faciles à gérer qu'hors ligne. De plus, les outils de "réseautage en ligne" nous aident à rester en contact avec plus de personnes qu'il ne nous serait normalement possible. Quand tout ça passe hors ligne, cela frise l'overdose.

This is a post in which I expect to be misunderstood, judged, and which will probably upset some. But it’s something that needs to be spoken about, because I’m certain I’m not the only one going through this, and I think it’s strongly related to what changes the internet is bringing into our lives when it comes to relating to people.

I’ve argued many times that online relationships and behaviors in general reproduce what goes on offline, so it may seem that I’m contradicting myself somewhat. But I think it’s also clear for everybody in this space that technology does change the way we live with others. Right now I see that our world is changing — it’s a bit blurry ahead, and actually I’m quite scared to see more clearly — and in our lifetimes, chances are the nature of human relationships will be deeply impacted by the technologies we are using and developing.

If all this doesn’t make sense, don’t worry. I’m not sure I understand what I’m saying myself. These might just be the tired rantings of a burnt-out and frustrated node in the network.

“Being an online person”, as I call it, means two things:

– there are people out there who know you, sometimes quite well, but that you have never heard of
– the “presence” dimension of our social tools allow you to keep in touch with more people (and better) than you would be able to offline

With their consequences, when your “online social life” goes offline:

– micro-celebrity, micro-fame, fans
– more relationships to nurture than the limited space and time permits

Our online social network does not necessarily translate well offline.

Let’s have a look at a few aspects of our relationships with others that we are maybe not necessarily the most proud of:

– we like (or even love) some people more than others — or perhaps simply differently
– we find some people more interesting than others
– some people we are happy to spend long periods of time with, but infrequently — if we saw them every day they would drive us up the wall
– some people we are happy to see a little each day, but would not want to spend a whole afternoon with
– we sometimes want to spend time with one person (or some people) at the exclusion of others (others who can be people we care about, too)
– we keep in touch with some people or are nice to them because they are *useful* to us
– we like some people less than they like us (and vice-versa)
– some people are business contacts to us, but would like to be our personal friend (or even get into our pants)

I think that if you look honestly, you will recognize yourself here. These facts about our social life are uncomfortable to deal with, and awkward. We don’t like thinking about them, much less talking about them. And we very rarely deal with them directly in the relationships they apply to.

Offline, we deal with a lot of this social awkwardness by avoiding it. This is why I argue that contact tagging, if done to structure our personal social network, must remain [a private matter]( We don’t tell some people certain things. We don’t mention that we’re meeting with Judy after lunch. We act a bit more distant with Tom than with Peter, hoping he’ll “get the message”. We tell Susie we’re too busy to see her, but drop everything when Mike invites us on a date.

Online, it’s even easier. We don’t respond to IMs or e-mails. We read certain blogs but not others. We chat absent-mindedly with Joe who is telling us his life-story, while we have a heart-to-heart discussion with Jack. We mark our status as DND but still respond to our best friend. We receive Twitter notifications on our phone from a select few, and keep a distracted eye on others’ updates. We lie more easily.

So, online, we actually have more freedom of movement (mainly because our emotional reactions are not so readily readable on the moment) to deal with some of these “awkward relationships” than offline — particularly, I would say, what I’d call the asymmetrical ones. From a networking point of view, being online is a huge advantage: the technology allows you to “stay in touch” with people who are geographically estranged from you, with a greater number of people than you could actually manage offline (“[continuous partial friendship](”), and it also allows you to keep in your network people who would probably not be in your offline circle, because it helps you tone down relationship awkwardness.

Conferences have lost their magic for me. I know, I know, I’m coming to this 18 months after everybody I know (I mean, I know I’m not alone and this is a normal process — but I’m still interested in analysing it). The first conferences I went to were bloody exciting. I got to meet all these people who were just names in my online universe, or with whom I’d been chatting for months or years, or whose blog I’d been reading in awe for ages. I made a lot of friends. (Maybe they wouldn’t agree, but that’s what it was like for me.) I met many people that I found interesting, likeable, wonderful, even. Some of them who also seemed to appreciate me back (as far as I can tell).

Over the last six months, conferences have become more and more frustrating. I’m speaking only of the social/networking aspect here. A dozen if not twenty people I really like are in town, sometimes more. Getting to see them offline is a rare occasion for me, and I’d like to spend half a day with each of them. But there is no time for that. People are here, and gone. They also have their other friends to see, which might not be mine.

To some, maybe, I’m “just another fan” — that I can live with, even if nobody likes being “just another fan”. But does one have to make conversation and appreciate every reader of one’s blog? If you like somebody’s blog, does that automatically mean they’re going to like you? Find your presence or conversation interesting? The hard reality of celebrity and fandom, even micro, is that the answer is “no”. It doesn’t mean that as a fan, I’m not an interesting person in my own right. It doesn’t mean that if I got to spend enough time with the person I’m fan of, they wouldn’t appreciate my company and find it enriching. But the fact I’m a fan, or a reader, doesn’t earn me any rights.

And increasingly, I’ve noted over the four or five last conferences I attended that there seem to be more people who want to get to know me than people I want to get to know. Or people who are interested in me for business reasons, but of the type where they get something out of me, and I don’t get much out of them. Or people who have been reading my blog for ages and are happy to be able to talk to me, but I know nothing of them.

I’ve reached a point where **I don’t want any more people**. I can’t keep up with *my people*, to start with. I feel spread too thin. I want to deepen relationships, not collect superficial ones. *Contacts* are useful for business, and though I’ve said many a time that the line between business and personal is more and more blurred, *business contacts do not have to become personal friends*. I know there are lots of wonderful people out there I don’t know. Lots of wonderful people I’ve maybe brushed aside or pushed away when suffering from “people overload”, when all I want to do is climb into my cave and stay there.

But you know, there are way too many great, interesting, fascinating people in the world to give them all the attention they deserve. Even if the *world*, here, is just “Web2.0-land”. But there is also a limit to how many meaningful conversations one can have in a day, and to how many meaningful relationships one can fit in a life. Those limits are personal. They vary from person to person. Some have them low, some have them high. But when the limit is reached, it’s reached.

So at some point, I need to choose who I spend my time with. In a very selfish way, I choose to give priority to the people in my life that I care for, and who bring me something. I’m there for me first, others after. I consider that one can only truly give and bring value to others when it is not at one’s own expense. I think this is valid in the economy of social relationships too. Being spread too thin impairs my ability to care — and I don’t want that.

Choosing who I spend my time with online is rather easy. I can tell the umpteenth guy who wants to “be friends” with me on IM that I have enough friends, I’m not looking for more, don’t chat with people I don’t know, and really can’t chat with him now. If he insists, I can ask him to leave me alone, and tell him that if he doesn’t, I’m going to have to block him. I can keep him out.

Offline, in a conference, it’s way more difficult. Maybe we need to take inspiration from [Aram Bartholl]( and hang status messages around our necks, or chat windows (with curtains?) that we can close. I’m kidding, I honestly don’t think there is a real solution apart from being honest — in a socially acceptable and non-rejecting way (easier said than done).

I think we need more awareness of the complications offline to online transitions bring about. Maybe we’re going to have to start being explicit about these “social awkwardnesses” that I mentioned above — because changing the setting from online to offline makes it much more difficult to resolve them by ignoring them.

We’ve all been through the very unpleasant experience of being “stuck” in a conversation we don’t find interesting, but which is obviously fascinating for the other party. It happens even with our friends: I’m talking with Jill, and hear with my spare ear that Bill and Kate are talking about something much more interesting to me, but I can’t just dump Jill, can I? But what if Jill is somebody I’ve met 3 minutes ago — does that change anything? And of course, this dreadful thought: heck, could it be that I’m his/her Jill? Have I been the dreadful boring person one tries to shake off, without noticing?

These are human problems — they’re not technological. I feel I’m getting tired now and before I ramble too much (I feel I’m not very coherent anymore), I’ll don my flame-retardant suit (you never know) and hit publish. I’m looking forward to reading your reactions — whether you agree or disagree with me, of course.

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