My Twitter Usage Answers [en]

[fr] Voici les réponses que j'ai données à danah boyd (chercheuse dans le domaine des espaces numériques) suite au questionnaire sur Twitter qu'elle a envoyé à ses "Twitter-friends". Le questionnaire est ouvert à tous si vous désirez lui envoyer vos réponses (mais en anglais, elle ne parle pas français!)

Yesterday, [danah]( sent me and a bunch of other Twitter users [a few questions to answer about our Twitter usage]( Here are my answers to her questions.

**1 Why do you use Twitter? What do you like/dislike about it?**

Twitter helps me stay connected to my “tribe”. I get little snippets
from them about what’s going on in their lives or minds, and they get
the same from me. It gives me the same kind of “in touch” feeling as
hanging out in an IRC channel, but with the added bonus that it’s “an
IRC channel populated by my IM buddylist” (well, not exactly of
course, not everybody is on Twitter, but close enough). And it’s IRC
with permalinks.

I can dump thoughts of the moment into it which are two short for a
blog post, and find them again later (micro-blogging). It’s an easy
way to let people know what I’m upto, as I publish my feed on my blog.

I like the people who hang out on Twitter. Most of “my important
online people” (people I like, those who count, in my world) are
there. I like being able to send messages to Twitter whether I’m
online or offline. I like the 140 character limit.

I don’t like the current “all or nothing” way of dealing with people
you follow. It makes getting twitters on my phone impossible, there
are too many of them. I’d like to be able to define groups, and
follow/unfollow certain groups easily on my phone. I don’t really like
the “all or nothing” privacy system: sometimes there is one message
I’d like to show only my friends, and not publish on my website like
the rest of my twitter stream. Or show a group of friends.

Oh, and I don’t like that direct twitters almost systematically come
up as two text messages on my phone.

But these things are are missing are “nice to haves” for me. What I
like most is that twitter sets out to do one thing (let you send short
status messages), and does it (in my opinion) pretty well.

**2 Who do you think is reading your Tweets? Is this the audience you want? Why/why not? Tell me anything you think of relating to the audience for your Tweets.**

At the beginning I kept my twitters/Tweets private. It felt too
IRC-like for me to make public. But then I realised that I wanted to
include the feed on my site, and that for that I had to go public. I
had a good think about this, also because I realised that if I started
out private, I was going to put private stuff in Twitter, and that
would prevent me from going public in future, as it would reveal my
past private twitters. So I decided the “safer” option was to go
public straight away (make sense?)

So, my main, most active audience is the people who are following me
on Twitter. I know many of them (my “friends”) but there are also many
I don’t know (“fans”?!). As my Twitter feed is published on my blog, I
know anybody who reads my blog or lands there can read them.

My attitude towards twittering (what do I twitter? what don’t I?) is
the same as with blogging: I assume everyone and anyone can read my
twitters, or is likely to at some point, whether friend, stranger, or
as-of-today-offline-person. So I make sure I’m reasonably comfortable
with anybody reading what I twitter, and balance risks when I’m saying
things about people. I’m aware that things I send to twitter have less
visibility for the “non 2.0” crowd, so I know I can get away with
certain things, even though the risk of being read is there.

I’m more “personal” in my Facebook status, for example — because I
know that (normally) future clients are not my friends on Facebook.
But I assume future clients read my blog 😉

As I mentioned in reply to your first question, I think selective
privacy would be a great thing for Twitter. Maybe I’d like my twitters
to be public by default, but every once in a while I’d like to send a
twitter which is visible only to my friends, or (if there is some kind
of [grouping feature]( to the group of [people I’ve tagged “my

**3 How do you read others’ Tweets? Do you read all of them? Who do you read/not read and why? Do you know them all?**

I skim twitters of the people I’m following, at regular intervals
during the day. Sometimes, I’ll click on a single person’s Twitter
page and read the last 10-20 they sent. There are a few people I’m
very close to for which I’ll do that a few times a day.

I usually follow people I know (and not strangers), though by the
magic of one-sided conversations on Twitter, I have come to add people
who were friends with a friend of mine (one could say we were
twitter-introduced), and who have since then become “my friends”.
There are a few people I follow “as a fan” — I wouldn’t expect them
to follow me back — but those are not the most important people in my

**4 What content do you think is appropriate for a Tweet? What is inappropriate? Have you ever found yourself wanting to Tweet and then deciding against it? Why?**

I guess my answer to the second question is also relevant here. My
twitters are public, so I’m not going to twitter stuff I would not
generally consider “blog-safe” (ie, I don’t speak about my love life,
I don’t comment on arguments I might be having with people who are
close to me, I’m quite careful when speaking of others in general, and
I don’t usually give details of my last visit at the doctor’s).

So, yes, of course I’ve found myself wanting to send something to
twitter and deciding against it — just like it happens every now and
again with blogging, on IRC, or in a conversation with a friend.
Sometimes I decide it is best not to say what I am tempted to say,
because it is not appropriate for this situation/relationship/medium.
But it’s not an attitude I relate to Twitter as such.

**5 Are your Tweets public? Why/why not? How do you feel about people you don’t know coming across them? What about people you do know?**

They’re public, for the reasons I explained in answer to question 2. I
adapt my twittering so that I’ll be comfortable with the audience it
technically makes available (ie, “everyone”, strangers and friends —
online or off — alike). Just as with my blogging.

**6 What do i need to know about why Twitter is/is not working for you or your friends?**

I’ve heard quite a few complaints about people who twitter a lot
(which can be me, on some days). I think the ability to be more
selective about whose twitters one receives on phone/im could help
with that (it’s already possible to unfollow a person from the phone,
but it’s a rather drastic “general” action, instead of saying “I’m
following him, but don’t give me his twitters on my phone, thanks”.

I think it works because it’s simple.

I think it “doesn’t work” for many people before they ever start using
it because it’s hard to “get”. Many people out there don’t “get it”,
because they reduce it to some kind of totally egocentric
micro-blogging spewing messages which have no value to the world. So
it can be rather hard to bring in people who are not familiar with
online presence.

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MindMeister: Google Docs-Style Mind Mapping [en]

[fr] MindMeister est un logiciel de mind-mapping (comme FreeMind ou Mind Manager) en ligne, à la Google Docs. J'ai des invitations si vous désirez essayer. On peut collaborer sur des documents à plusieurs et les publier sur le web.

A quickie before I head out to write more hopefully useful stuff for teenagers: my friend [Gabriel]( sent me an invitation to [MindMeister](, an [online mind-mapping service]( Actually, I almost spammed it, but luckily had a closer look just in time.

Sign up is nice and easy, I was able to import a mindmap from [Freemind]( in three effortless clicks, and the whole interface is very Google Docs-like. If you like Google Docs and have use for mind mapping (you should!), then you’ll probably like MindMeister. It’s still a little green, of course, but trust me — this is screaming for an acquisition 🙂

You can of course collaborate on mind maps and share them with the public (I just did that with the [very ugly brainstorming]( related to [my reboot talk proposal]( They autosave, so you don’t have to worry about losing your work (like I almost did — [again!]( — with this blog post). You can also [export to Mind Manager or FreeMind](, of course (guys, you need to make your permalinks more visible in the blog; I had to go through the RSS feed to find that one).

Interested? It’s a closed beta, but I have invites. Just ask!

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Twitter, c'est quoi? Explications… [fr]

Cet après-midi, je ramasse 20minutes dans le bus, et je vois qu'[on y parle de Twitter]( Bon sang, il est grand temps que j’écrive le fichu billet en français que je mijote depuis des semaines au sujet de ce service [que j’adore]( “Ma page Twitter.”) (après l’avoir [mentionné en anglais]( il y a plusieurs mois). Allons-y, donc: une explication de [Twitter](, pour vous qui n’avez pas la moindre idée de ce que c’est — et à quoi ça sert.

“Twitter” signifie “gazouillis” en anglais. Ce nom reflète bien le contenu relativement anodin qu’il se propose de véhiculer: **des réponses à la question “que faites-vous?”**.

Ça n’a pas l’air fascinant, a première vue, un service dont l’objet est d’étaler sur internet les réponses somme toute souvent très banales à cette question. “Est-ce que ça intéresse le monde entier, le fait que je sois [confortablement installée dans mon canapé](” Certes non. Par contre, **cela intéresse peut-être mes amis**.

Oh, très clairement pas dans le sens “tiens, je me demandais justement ce que Stephanie était en train de faire maintenant, ça tombe à pic!” Mais plutôt **dans un état d’esprit “radar”**: avoir une vague idée du genre de journée que mène son entourage. En fait, ce mode “radar” est tellement omniprésent dans nos vies qu’on ne le remarque même plus, et qu’on n’a pas conscience de son importance.

Pensez aux gens que vous fréquentez régulièrement, ou à vos proches. Une partie de vos intéractions consiste en échanges de cet ordre: “je t’appelle après la danse”, “je dois rentrer, là, parce qu’on a des invités”, “je suis crevé, j’ai mal dormi” ou encore “tu vas regarder le match, ce soir?”

Sans y faire vraiment attention, on se retrouve ainsi au courant de **certaines “petites choses” de la vie de l’autre** — et cela vient nourrir la relation. Plus on est proche, en général, plus on est en contact avec le quotidien de l’autre. Et corrolairement, **être en contact avec le quotidien d’autrui nous en rapproche**. (Vivre ensemble, que cela soit pour quelques jours ou à long terme, ce n’est pour cette raison pas anodin.)

On a tous fait l’expérience qu’il est plus difficile de garder vivante une relation lorque nos occupations respectives ne nous amènent pas à nous fréquenter régulièrement. Combien d’ex-collègues dont on était finalement devenus assez proches, mais que l’on a pas revus depuis qu’on a changé de travail? Combien de cousins, de neveux ou même de parents et d’enfants qu’on adore mais qu’on ne voit qu’une fois par an aux réunions familiales? Combien d’amis perdus de vue suite à un déménagement, ou simplement parce qu’il a fallu annuler la dernière rencontre et que personne n’a rappelé l’autre? Et à l’heure d’internet et des vols low-cost, combien de ces rencontres fortes mais qui se dissipent dès que la distance y remet ses pieds?

C’est ici qu’intervient Twitter.

**Twitter me permet de diffuser auprès de mon entourage ces petites parcelles de vie si anodines mais au final si importantes pour les liens que l’on crée** — et de recevoir de la part des gens qui comptent pour moi les mêmes petites bribes de quotidien. Cela permet de rester en contact, et même de renforcer des liens.

Ceux d’entre vous qui chattez le savez: échanger quelques banalités de temps en temps, ça garde la relation en vie, et on a ainsi plus de chances de prévoir de s’appeler ou de se voir que si on avait zéro contact. Les chatteurs savent aussi que les fameux “statuts” (“parti manger”, “disponible”, “ne pas déranger”) jouent un rôle non négligeable dans la communication avec autrui. C’est d’ailleurs en partie inspiré par ces statuts que [Jack]( a eu l’idée [qui est un jour devenue Twitter]( (Un autre ingrédient important était la page des “amis” sur [Livejournal](

Une des qualités majeures de Twitter et que **ce service n’est pas limité à internet**. En fait, à la base, il est prévu pour fonctionner par SMS. On peut donc envoyer (et recevoir!) les messages via le web, via un service de messagerie instantanée ([Google Talk](, ou par SMS — selon ses préférences du moment.

Concrètement, cela se passe ainsi: on [s’inscrit]( et on donne à Twitter son [numéro de portable et/ou son identifiant GTalk](, ce qui nous permet déjà d’envoyer des messages. Ensuite, on [invite]( ses amis (ou bien on les ajoute depuis leur page s’ils sont déjà sur Twitter — voici [la mienne]( afin de se construire un petit réseau social de personne que l’on “suivra”. Tous les messages de ces contacts sont rassemblés sur une page web (voici [la mienne](, et on peut choisir de les recevoir en plus par SMS ou par chat.

On peut envoyer des messages privés, bien entendu, et il y a toute une série de commandes qui permettent facilement d’ajouter ou d’enlever des contacts et de contrôler les alertes que l’on reçois — même si on est loin de son ordinateur. Un billet consacré à ces considérations plus techniques suivra.

Il faut aussi préciser que **recevoir les SMS de Twitter ne coûte rien** (enfin cela dépend de l’opérateur, mais en Suisse c’est gratuit), et qu’envoyer un message par SMS coûte simplement le prix d’un SMS envoyé à l’étranger (à ma connaissance, de nouveau, en Suisse cela revient au même prix qu’un SMS envoyé à un numéro suisse).

A venir, donc, un billet avec des informations techniques et pratiques sur l’utilisation de Twitter, et un autre qui poussera plus loin la réflexion sur le rôle d’un tel service, la façon dont les gens l’utilisent actuellement, et certaines critiques qui lui sont faites.

**Mise à jour 09.2007:** une [explication audio]( avec la complicité de M. Pain.

**Mise à jour 03.2010:** depuis mi-2008, nous ne recevons plus de SMS Twitter en Europe. C’est nettement moins important aujourd’hui qu’à l’époque, vu l’explosion des iPhones et autres téléphones similaires.

**Mise à jour 04.2010:** à lire aussi, Comment démarrer avec Twitter, moins technique et plus stratégique.

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Not All Switzerland Speaks German, Dammit! [en]

Here we go, yet another misguided attempt at localisation: [my MySpace page]( is [now in German](

[MySpace]( now joins [PayPal](, [eBay](, [Amazon](, [Google]( in defaulting to German for Swiss people.

[Switzerland]( is a multilingual country. The linguistic majority speaks Swiss-German (reasonably close to German but quite un-understandable for native German-speakers who have not been exposed to it). Second language in the country is French. Third is Italian, and fourth is… (no, not English) …[Romansh](

You know how linguistic minorities are. [Touchy.]( Oh yeah.

As a French speaker with rather less-than-functional German, I do find it quite irritating that these big “multinational” web services assume that I speak German because I’m Swiss. I’d rather have English, and so would many of my non-bilingual fellow-cititzens (particularly amongst web-going people, we tend to be better at English than German).

Yes, I’ve said that [English-only is a barrier to adoption]( But getting the language wrong is just as bad, if not worse (most people have come to accept the fact that English is the “default” language on the internet, even if they don’t understand it). If I want my Amazon books to be shipped here free of charge, I have to use [](, which is in German, and doesn’t have a very wide choice of French books. [My wishlist]( is therefore on too, which maybe explains why I never get anything from it.

Paypal is almost worse. I can’t really suggest it to clients as a solution for “selling stuff over the internet”, because all it offers in its Swiss version is a choice between German (default) and English. You can’t sell [a book in French]( with a payment interface in German or English.

So please, remember that country != language, and that there is a little place called Switzerland scrunched up in the middle of Europe, caught between France, Italy, Germany and Austria ([Liechtenstein]( is even worse off than us I suppose), and that not everyone in that little country speaks German.

Thank you.

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My Heritage Celebrity Collage and Tumblr [en]

[fr] My Heritage Celebrity Collage prend une de vos photos et cherche à quelles célébrités vous ressemblez. Tumblr est un endroit où bloguer, mais style "degré zéro du blog".

While I was [waiting for Dreamhost to give me back CTTS]( so that I could finally post [On the Road to Being a Healthier Geek](, both [Facebook]( and [Google Reader]( offered me new toys to try out. I guess I’m [a joiner]( too — I spend my time signing up for things.

#### [My Heritage Celebrity Collage](

This one is [Francesca’s fault]( It’s a photo recognition thing that will analyse a photo of you and match it to celebrity photos.

**What I liked**

* sign-up without a glitch
* allows me to [upload a photo by URL]( (yesss!)
* allows direct posting to FaceBook
* saves my collages silently

**What I liked less**

* finding guys in my celebrity lookalikes (yeah, I know)
* default “spam all your friends with this” when posting to FaceBook
* [ugly album URLs](

About the quality of recognition itself: it seems that things like hairstyle, face inclination, etc. have quite a lot of impact on who you’ll be matched to. I tried three different photos, and got three different sets of faces. (I’ve been told at times I bear some resemblence to Reese Witherspoon, Tilda Swindon, Nicole Kidman, or Sandrine Kiberlain — but never any of the names I saw in the collages. The names are gone now, but I’ll let you judge.)

#### [Tumblr](

OMG, the fragmentation of the online self! The disappearance of the letter “e” in the web2.0 world! What shall we do?

Seriously, Tumblr has some interestingness to it. It aims at what I call “zero-level blogging” (*le degré zéro du blog*) — something I know I tend to use [Twitter]( for at times. I’ve been using Facebook for that too, and my [Cheese Sandwich Weblog](

**What I liked**

* easy sign-up (that’s always good)
* I can make it [pink](
* bookmarklet (like Facebook) to share stuff on my Tumblelog

**What I liked less**

* [failing to post a Flickr photo](
* ew! no permalink to the post besides through the admin interface!
* yet another space of mine to manage…

If this continues, I won’t just be [blogging about the need for integration of my online presence](, I’ll be screaming. Be warned.

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English Only: Barrier to Adoption [en]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s look at some examples.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Please Make Holes in My Buckets! [en]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Share your wild ideas here if you have any.

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Stowe Boyd: Building Social Applications [en]

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

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

Questions to play ball with:

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

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

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

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

LIFT'07... Stowe Boyd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

my passions — my people — my markets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**Me, Mine, and Market.**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

Groups try to be symmetric.

Community of tags. They happen automatically.

**Power Laws**

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

Accept and work with the imbalance of power.

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


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

Reputation is not transportable from one network to another.

**Deep Design**

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

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

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

Mistake? tags aren’t source of groupings.

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

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

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

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

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

**Cautionary Tales**

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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Flock Sync Issue Solved! [en]

[fr] Problème de synchro de bookmarks avec Flock réglé!

Yay! The really [exasperating]( behavior Flock was putting up by [refusing to sync my favorites unless I restarted the browser]( has now come to an end.

It seems that a file named flock_fq_default_in.rdf (in Library, Flock stuff, profile, you’ll find it if you need to) was corrupted. So I shut down Flock a couple of times, made sure my bookmarks were in sync, and deleted the file.

Now everything seems to be running smoothly! Thanks to [Mike]( for being my liaison in the resolution of this problem — and for the information to drop into the offices [when I’m in San Francisco]( I might very well do so!

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You Should Twitter [en]

[fr] A découvrir absolument, Twitter, un service au croisement du moblogging et de la messagerie instantanée. Inscrivez-vous et essayez! Je vois du potentiel ici pour les adolescents, dans le sens où ça permet de s'envoyer des SMS sans devoir donner à l'autre son numéro de mobile.

[Twitter]( is a cross between moblogging and instant messaging. You can send messages by SMS or by IM and they are displayed on [your page]( “Here’s mine.”).

In addition to that, [people who have chosen to “follow” you]( “My followers (!)”) get updates by IM or SMS. It’s easy to add/remove a person from those you are following using the [mobile lingo](

I see great things for this product once they implement groups and allow some granularity regarding privacy (ie, stuff only for my friends, stuff only for my family, stuff only for my co-workers, public stuff, stuff for my girlsfriends). I already see the potential of Twitter as an SMS anonymizer (think teenagers and dating sites).

Go and [grab an account](, register your cell number (if it works with a Swiss phone number, it should work with anything!) and start [twittering]( “All the public twitters.”)! You can even try to [ping Technorati with your new TwitterBlog]( But can you claim it, [Mr. Marks](

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