Notes From San Francisco [en]

So, roughly half-way through my five-week trip to San Francisco, what’s going on? I haven’t been blogging much lately, that’s for sure.

For once, I took some photographs from the plane. Unfortunately my camera batteries ran out just as we were coming down on San Francisco, and my spare ones were in the luggage compartment above my head. Oh, well.

Flying to San Francisco 31

I got some first-level questioning at immigration coming in. No, not the sort where they take you to a separate room, become much less friendly, and have boxes of rubber gloves on the counter. This is how it went:

– …And what is the duration of your stay?
– Five weeks.
– …And what do you do in… over in Switzerland?
– I’m a freelance… internet consultant. *OMG that sounds bad.* …I’m actually here to work on a book project. *Yeah I know I should never volunteer information.*
– What’s the book about?
– Er… teenagers and the internet.
– And…?
– Er… Well, the situation with teenagers and the internet, and what we’re doing about it in Switzerland.
– And what are you doing about it?
– Well, not enough!
– And? Come on, tell me more about it.
– Er… OK. *OMGOMG* Well, see, teenagers are really comfortable with computers and the internet, and so they’re chatting, blogging, etc. — they’re digital natives, see? — and parents, well, they’re clueless or terrified about the internet, and they don’t always understand what’s going on in their kids lives online, so basically, we have teenagers who are spending a lot of time online and sometimes getting into trouble and parents don’t know or don’t care about what they’re doing there, so we have this… chasm between generations and…
– Thank you. You can go.

The pick-up from the airport was wonderfully orchestrated and much appreciated. Being driven into town by somebody friendly rather than having to use unfamiliar public transportation really makes a difference. Thanks to all those involved (yes, it took that many people!)

Waiting on the Sidewalk

Then, through some freak breakdown of all modern forms of communication (partially documented on Twitter), I ended up waiting outside on the sidewalk for almost an hour while my kind host Tara waited for me inside her appartment. We worked it out finally, and I was introduced to my (nice and spacious) room before going to hang out at [Citizen Space]( A nice dinner out with Chris, Tara and Jimmy to end the day, and I happily collapsed in my bed at a respectable local hour. You will have taken note that I did not collapse at 4pm feeling like a zombie, thanks to having taken [melatonin]( on the plane. (It [doesn’t seem to work that well for Suw](, but it works perfectly on me, and I’m never traveling between continents without it again.)

The four next days went by in [a blur of Supernova madness]( too many people, too many sessions, food with ups and downs, parties with [cupcakes]( and others at the top of [skyscapers]( I took [lots of photographs]( and even [a video sequence that got some attention](

Supernova First Day 33

During the next week, I started settling down. Met and hung out with old friends, made new ones, unpacked my suitcases, went walking around in town, saw [Dykes on Bikes](, the [Gay Pride Parade](, and the [iPhone launch](, photographed [skyscrapers in the night](, ordered a new camera, got my MacBook (partly) repaired, and even [dropped in at Google to take notes of Suw’s talk there](

All this, actually, is documented in [my Twitter stream]( — maybe I should add a whole lot of links? — be sure to keep an eye on it if you’re interested in a more day-by-day account of what I’m doing here.

Overall, things have been good. A small bout of homesickness a few days ago, but I’m feeling better now. I need to start focusing on the things I want to get done (blogging, writing, book, writing, fixing things for clients…) — holiday over now!

Downtown San Francisco By Night 9

I’ve been thinking about my “work career” a little, too. I’m very happy doing what I’m doing, but I’m not going to be doing “Blog 101” for ever — I can feel my interests shifting somewhat already. I’ve been interested in the “social tools at large” department for a long time, but unfortunately it seems to translated to “blogging” in most of the work I do, so I’d like to expand my horizons in that direction a little. I’ve had a couple of talks with people in startups recently, and I realize it’s a kind of environment I wouldn’t mind working in — at least part-time. We’ll see what happens.

I’m also realizing that there is more potential than I first thought around [the two main things I care about these days]( teenagers online and internet language issues. Hence, the book, and also a talk on the subject of languages on the internet which I’ll be giving at Google this coming Tuesday.

Also in the “work” department, two other things have been on my mind. First, the idea of opening up a coworking space in or around Lausanne ([Ollie is having the same kind of thought]( — we’re talking). Second, trying to find a solution so that I don’t have to do maintenance on my clients’ WordPress installations once all is rolling, or spend hours swimming in HTML, CSS and WordPress theme PHP template tags. Not that I don’t know how to do it or don’t enjoy it once in a while, but it’s really not the kind of work I want to spend my time doing. So, I’ve been starting to ask around for names of people who might do this kind of thing (for a reasonable fee), and even thinking of recruiting some students in Lausanne that I could coach/train so that they can do most of the work, and call me up only for major problems. So, see, I’ve been thinking.

Some people have been asking me if I was planning to move here. Indeed, 5 weeks in the city looks suspiciously like a scouting operation. Actually, traveling has an interesting side-effect for me: I tend to come back home thinking “gee, Lausanne is *such* a great place to live! I’m never moving!” Sure, I have some underlying personal issues which contribute to making me overly attached to my hometown, and I know that someday I might end up living elsewhere. But really, for the moment, I don’t think I’d want that.

And even though I’m told San Francisco is very “European” compared to the rest of the US (which I have yet to see) I can’t help seeing how “horribly American” it is. Don’t get me wrong, I really like this city and am enjoying my time here. I know that what I say can give wrong impressions (for example, people — especially Indians — read [the story of my year living in India]( and think that I hated the country; it’s not true, I really loved it, and can’t wait to go back). But I walk around San Francisco and see all the signs with rules and regulations and “stupid” warnings (like, God, the pineapple chunks I buy at Whole Foods haven’t been pasteurized and may contain harmful germs! or, don’t use the hairdryer in the bath tub!), the AT&T Park and other manifestations of what to me is “consumerism gone mad”, I hear about health care and [“you’re expected to sue” horror stories](, visa lotteries for non-renewal, the education system…

So, yes, I’m focusing on the negative. And Switzerland, even though it’s a wonderful country ;-), has its negatives too. Like many natives all over the world, I’ve developed a selective blindness to what is “wrong” in the land I come from, considering much of it “normal” as I have been brought up with it. I know that. But too much of what I see here makes my skin crawl. I’m really enjoying spending some weeks here, I love my friends, the food and the sunshine, but I don’t think I’d be happy living here.

Misty Skyscrapers in Downtown San Francisco 10

Well, this was one of these longer-than-expected posts, and it’s occupied most of my morning. My tasks for this afternoon are (in this order):

– one WordPress install for a client
– spending a little more time trying to see if there is hope for the aggravating Google Groups problem I bumped into, and if not, setting up a Yahoo! Group instead
– writing a post for []( or working on my book — whichever I most feel like.

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De la "prévention internet" [en]

[fr] Thursday evening, I went to listen to a conference given by a local high-ranking police officer who has specialised in tracking down pedophiles on the internet. His presentation was titled "Dangers of the Internet", and I was expecting to hear warnings about excessive pornography consumption and predators lurking in chatrooms.

That's exactly what I heard.

Before going, I had intended to blog viciously about the conference. I changed my mind. I changed my mind because first of all, I spoke up a few times during the conference to ask for numbers, give information I had gathered from other sources, or simply state my discomfort with some of the "official" messages targeted at kids to "keep them safe".

Then, after the talk, I went to have a chat with the speaker. I realised that we agreed on quite a few things, actually. Our angle is different when presenting, of course, and more importantly, his job is to hunt down pedophiles, not talk about the internet and teenagers to the public (which, in a way, is mine).

To cut a long story short, I had a few interesting conversations during that evening, which left me more motivated than ever to get on with my book project on the subject of teenagers and the internet. Problems are complex, solutions aren't simple. And around here, there is little money available to run awareness operations correctly.

Jeudi soir, je suis allée assister à une conférence sur les dangers d’internet, donnée par Arnold Poot, Inspecteur principal adjoint à la police cantonale vaudoise, spécialisé dans la traque au matériel pédophile sur internet. J’y suis allée prête à me retrouver devant le “discours attendu” au sujet des prédateurs sexuels sur internet. Je n’ai pas été déçue. Pour être brutalement honnête, j’avais aussi la ferme intention de bloguer tout ça, de prendre des notes, et de montrer méchamment du doigt les insuffisances d’une telle approche.

J’ai changé d’avis. Pas sur le fond, non. Je pense toujours qu’on exagère grandement le problème des prédateurs sexuels sur internet, et qu’à force de placer des miroirs déformants entre la réalité et nos discours, on finit par ne plus s’y retrouver. Par contre, je n’ai plus envie de démonter point par point la présentation qui nous a été faite.

Ceci n’est donc pas le billet que j’avais l’intention d’écrire. Attendez-vous donc à quelques ruminations personnelles et questionnements pas toujours faciles dans le long billet que vous avez commencé à lire.

Qu’est-ce qui a amené ce changement d’état d’esprit? C’est simple: une conversation. Au lieu de fulminer dans mon coin et de cracher du venin ensuite sur mon blog (mon projet initial — pas très reluisant, je l’admets), je suis à intervenue à quelques reprises durant la présentation pour apporter des informations qui m’amènent à avoir un autre regard sur certaines choses dites, et même pour exprimer mon désaccord face à une certaine conception de la prévention internet (“ne pas donner son nom ni d’informations personnelles”).

Il y a des semaines que je désire écrire un billet (toujours pas fait, donc) en français qui rend compte de [la table ronde sur la victimisation des mineurs]( à laquelle [a participé]( mon amie [danah boyd](, chercheuse travaillant sur la façon dont les jeunes construisent leur identité dans les espaces numériques. A cette table ronde, trois autres chercheurs actifs dans le domaine des crimes commis à l’encontre de mineurs. Je rentrerai dans les détails plus tard, mais si vous comprenez un peu d’anglais, je vous encourage vivement à lire ce que dit le Dr. David Finkelhor, directeur du *Crimes against Children Research Center*, en pages 3 à 6 de la [retranscription PDF de cette discussion]( (Le reste est fascinant aussi, je n’ai d’ailleurs pas fini de lire les 34 pages de la retranscription, mais l’essentiel pour comprendre ma prise de position ici se trouve dans ces trois-quatre pages.)

Mais ce n’est pas tout. Après la conférence, je suis allée discuter avec l’intervenant. Pour m’excuser de lui être ainsi rentré dans le cadre durant sa présentation, d’une part, mais aussi pour partager mon malaise face à certains messages véhiculés de façon générale autour de la question des pédophiles sur internet. Et j’ai été surprise.

Parce qu’en fin de compte, on était d’accord sur de nombreux points. Parce que son discours, comme il le dit, c’est celui “d’un flic qui arrête des pédophiles” — et pas autre chose. Son métier, c’est d’être policier, j’ai réalisé. Il nous a fait une présentation sur les dangers d’internet tels qu’ils apparaissent dans son quotidien de professionnel — ce qui n’est pas forcément la même chose que “rendre compte de la situation sur internet dans sa globalité” ou même “faire de la prévention”.

J’ai discuté longuement avec lui, puis avec deux enseignantes (dont une avait assisté à ma rapide présentation de l’internet social à la HEP en début d’année scolaire) qui font de la prévention internet dans les classes du primaire. Discussions intéressantes et sympathiques, mais où encore une fois, je n’ai pu que constater à quel point nous manquons de moyens (en fin de compte, cela reviendra toujours à une question d’argent) pour faire de la prévention “correctement”.

Je voudrais pouvoir former des gens à faire le genre d’intervention que je fais dans les écoles — et pas juste en leur donnant un survol de la situation durant 45 minutes. Mais qui, comment, avec quel argent? De plus, je réalise de plus en plus que pour faire de la prévention intelligente, d’une part il faut avoir identifié le problème (les dangers) correctement — ce qui est à mon avis souvent [pas le cas lorsqu’il s’agit d’internet]( — et d’autre part, on retombe inévitablement sur des problèmes éducatifs de base (la relation parents-enfants, le dialogue) qui renvoient à un contexte de société encore plus général.

Que faire? Allez toquer chez Mme Lyon? Peut-être. Mais honnêtement, je n’aime pas “démarcher les gens à froid”, et je n’ai pas l’énergie pour ça. (Peut-être que je devrais le faire plus, mais pour le moment, c’est comme ça que je fonctionne.) Il y a assez de travail à faire avec les gens motivés, à moitié convaincus, ou au moins curieux, qui me contactent d’eux-mêmes. Oui, on critiquera peut-être, mais j’attends qu’on vienne me chercher. Ça changera peut-être un jour, mais je n’en suis honnêtement pas certaine.

Donc, que faire? Du coup, je retrouve un bon coup de pêche (pas que je l’avais perdue) pour mon projet de livre. Je crois que le public le plus important à toucher, c’est les parents, en l’occurrence. Et les gens “en charge de la prévention”. Peut-être qu’un livre serait utile.

J’ai fait plusieurs lectures ces derniers temps qui m’ont marquée. Tout d’abord, “[Blink](” et “[The Tipping Point](” de [Malcolm Gladwell]( Le premier s’intéresse à l’intuition, d’un point de vue scientifique. J’y ai retrouvé, exposées de façon bien plus précises, fouillées et argumentées, de nombreuses idées que j’avais fini par me faire, au cours des années, sur la question. Le deuxième examine ce qui fait “basculer” certains phénomènes: qu’est-ce qui fait qu’une idée ou une tendance à du succès? Il y parle de la propagation des idées, des différents types de personnalité qui y jouent un rôle clé, et donne aussi quelques exemples d’application des ces principes à… des problématiques de prévention.

Ensuite, livre dans lequel je suis plongée en ce moment: “[The Culture of Fear](” (Barry Glassner) — une critique sans complaisance de la façon dont la peur est promue par les médias et les gouvernements pour, entre autres, encourager à la consommation. C’est américain, oui. manchettes-peur Mais on est en plein dedans ici aussi: les chiens dangereux, le loup, l’ours maintenant, les étrangers bien sûr, les jeunes, la technologie… et les pédophiles tapis dans les chats sur internet, prêts à se jeter sur nos enfants sans défense. Ce n’est pas pour rien que [le premier obstacle au bonheur est la télévision](, où l’on nous rappelle sans cesse et si bien de quoi avoir peur et à quel point notre monde va mal.

Mes réflexions ces temps ont pour toile de fond ces lectures. Il y a aussi, dans la catégorie “billets jamais écrits”, “The Cluetrain Manifesto”. [Achetez ce livre.]( Lisez-le. Ou si vous ne voulez pas l’acheter, [lisez-le gratuitement sur le site]( Ne vous arrêtez pas aux [95 thèses traduites en français]( que vous pouvez trouver sur internet. Le livre est bien moins obscur et va bien plus loin.

Bref, preuve en est ce billet destructuré, écrit petit bout par petit bout dans les transports publics de la région lausannoise, ça bouillonne dans mon cerveau. Et je me dis que la meilleure chose à faire, juste là maintenant, c’est de formaliser tout ça, par écrit. J’en parle, j’en parle, mais je réalise que je blogue très peu à ce sujet, parce qu’il y a trop à dire et que je ne sais pas très bien par où commencer. Quand j’ai décidé de partir cinq semaines aux Etats-Unis, je me suis dit que si rien ne se présentait côté “travail payé” (ce qui est le cas pour le moment, même si ça peut tout à fait changer une fois que je serai là-bas) ce serait une excellente occasion de me plonger sérieusement dans la rédaction de mon livre. Et là, je me sens plus motivée que jamais à le faire — même si au fond, je n’ai aucune idée comment on fait pour écrire un livre.

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Getting Things Done: It's Just About Stress [en]

[fr] Getting Things Done: non pas un moyen d'accomplir plus de choses, mais un moyen de passer moins de temps sur ce qu'on a décidé qu'on devait accomplir. Moins de stress. Plus de liberté. Plus de temps à soi.

Anne seems to have struck a chord with [thing #8 she hates about web 2.0](

> Getting Things Done. The productivity virus so many of us have been infected with in 2006 and 2007. Let’s move on. Getting lots of stuff done is not the way to achieve something important. You could be so busy planning next actions that you miss out on what your real contribution should be.

[Stowe](, [Shelley]( and [Ken]( approve.

It’s funny, but reading their posts makes GTD sound like “a way to do an even more insane number of things.”


That’s not at all the impression I got when I read and started using GTD. To me, GTD is “a solution to finally be able to enjoy free time without feeling bogged down by a constant feeling of guilt over everything I should already have done.”

Maybe not everyone has issues doing things. If you don’t have trouble getting stuff out of the way, then throw GTD out of the window and continue enjoying life. You don’t need it.

But for many people, procrastination, administrivia piling up, not-enough-time-for-stuff-I-enjoy-doing and commitments you know you’re not going to be able to honour are a reality, and a reality that is a source of stress. I, for one, can totally relate to:

> Most people have been in some version of this mental stress state so consistently, for so long, that they don’t even know they’re in it. Like gravity, it’s ever-present–so much so that those who experience it usually aren’t even aware of the pressure. The only time most of them will realize how much tension they’ve been under is when they get rid of it and notice how different it feels.

David Allen, Getting Things Done

GTD, as I understand it, isn’t about cramming more on your plate. It’s about freeing yourself of what’s already on it, doing the dishes straight after the meal and spending your whole afternoon walking by the lake with a friend without this nagging feeling that you should rather be at home dealing with the paperwork, but you just don’t want to face it.

Here are the very few sentences of “Welcome to *Getting Things Done*”, the forward to GTD (and yeah, there’s a bit of an upbeat, magical-recipe tone to it, but bear with me):

> Welcome to a gold mine of insights into strategies for how to have more energy, be more relaxed, and get a lot more accomplished with much less effort. If you’re like me, you like getting things done and doing them well, and yet you also want to savor life in ways that seem increasingly elusive if not downright impossible if you’re working too hard.

David Allen, Getting Things Done

And a bit further down the page:

> And *whatever* you’re doing, you’d probably like to be more relaxed, confident that whatever you’re doing at the moment is just what you need to be doing–that having a beer with your staff after hours, gazing at your sleeping child in his or her crib at midnight, answering the e-mail in front of you, or spending a few informal minutes with the potential new client after the meeting is exactly what you *ought* to be doing, as you’re doing it.

David Allen, Getting Things Done

I don’t hear anything in there about “doing more things is better” or “you should be doing things all the time”. The whole point of GTD is to get **rid** of stuff so that it’s done and you can then go off to follow your heart’s desire. It’s about deciding not to do stuff way before you reach the point where it’s been on your to-do list stressing you for six months, and you finally decide to write that e-mail and say “sorry, can’t”.

That frees your mind and your calendar for what is really important in your life (be it twittering your long-distance friends, taking photographs of cats, spending time with people you love or working on your change-the-world project).

You’ll notice that I didn’t use the word “productivity” in this post a single time. “Productivity” is a word businesses like. If people are “productive”, it means you get to squeeze more out of them for the same price. That isn’t an idea I like. But being “productive” can also simply be understood to mean that it takes you less time to do the things that you’ve decided you needed to do. In that way, yes, GTD is a productivity method. But I think that calling it that does it disservice, because people hear “squeezing more out of ya for the same $$$” and go “eek, more stress”.

Bottom line? (I like ending posts with bottom lines.) If you see GTD as something that takes away your freedom and free time, turns you into an even worse workaholic, and encourages you to become indiscriminate about interests you pursue and tasks you take on because you “can do everything”, think again — and re-read the book. If you spend your whole time fiddling with your GTD system, shopping around for another cool app to keep your next action lists in, and worrying about how to make it even more efficient, you’re missing the point. But you knew that already, didn’t you?

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On the Road to Being a Healthier Geek [en]

[fr] Il y a un mois environ, une petite conversation avec mon médecin a eu des conséquences remarquables sur mon mode de vie:

  • je mange plus équilibré (pas dur de faire mieux que le régime pizzas)
  • je me déplace plus souvent à pied et je vais vendre ma voiture.
  • Sans rentrer dans tous les détails relatés dans la version anglaise de ce billet, mon médecin a réussi le tour de force de me motiver à faire quelques aménagements dans mon mode de vie, sans me culpabiliser (ce que je faisais déjà bien assez toute seule). J'ai pris conscience que ma mauvaise alimentation et mon manque d'exercice étaient probablement en train d'avoir un impact sur ma santé (physique et psychique), et qu'il n'était pas nécessaire de bouleverser complètement ma vie pour arranger un peu les choses.

    Côté nourriture, j'essaie vraiment de viser 3 repas et 2 collations par jour, avec 5 portions de fruits/légumes (pas si dur si on construit autour), de la viande ou du poisson une fois par jour, moins de féculents et moins de produits laitiers. En gros, les machins verts/rouges/jaunes, c'est la base. Ah oui, et du poisson 3 fois par semaine, c'est bien.

    Puis l'exercice... les fameuses 30 minutes par jour, ce n'est pas si dur si on décide d'aller à pied au centre-ville plutôt que de prendre la voiture ou le bus (Chauderon c'est à 20 minutes de chez moi). Du coup, ma voiture s'empoussière presque sur sa place de parc depuis un mois. J'ai décidé de la vendre, et l'argent ainsi économisé me permettra moult taxis et voitures Mobility...

This is the [long-overdue]( post about the groundbreaking chat I had with my doctor about a month ago.

I went through a rather rough patch in November/December. Those months are usually tough for me, but this year was particularly stressful and tiring. Of course, there were objective reasons for that: I started working for myself in the summer, burnt the candle from both ends during my first months of school-less freedom (yay! I can go to bed at 4am and not feel guilty about it!) and generally had a hard time saying no to clients’ requests even if it meant a packed agenda, because, hey, it was stuff I was excited to do **and** it was paying the bills. So yeah, I had every reason to be feeling tired. However, I was a bit concerned about the fact that I didn’t feel less tired even if I got more than enough sleep, and I decided to go to the doctor for a check-up, just in case I was “missing something” by putting the blame on my lifestyle as a freelance consultant.

After taking a blood test (I will now remember to systematically present the person holding the needle with my right arm, as the left one has non-cooperative vein) I sat at my doctor’s desk for a little chat. He asked me what was bringing me there, and I told him the story. He asked me how I was sleeping — not quite enough, but reasonably regular hours and overall good quality. He asked me how I was doing in the food department — and that’s where it suddenly got very interesting.

#### Food

**I’ve known for years that my eating habits are disastrous.** Diet based on pizza, bread, and cheese. Skipping meals. Not enough fruit or veggies. I used to joke about it and say my main source of vegetables was pizza. I’d evaluate my meat intake as roughly ok, but not enough fish — everybody knows you never eat enough fish, and I hardly ate any. The only thing I knew I was doing right was the fluids part: I drink a lot, and most of it (if not all) is tap water (healthier than bottled water around here). I hardly drink any alcohol at all and I don’t smoke.

I told my doctor I’d been gaining weight (it’s not so much the weight itself that bothers me than the fact I feel too tight in some of the clothes I love to wear them anymore), and that during the summer I had tried to eat more veggies, but my effort had collapsed after a few weeks when my life became too busy.

This is where my doctor earns extra bonus points and good karma. Without making me feel more guilty than I was about my unhealthy diet, he managed to encourage me to try and improve things in small steps by explaining to me in what way one’s diet influences general health and well-being, and walking me through a few simple, concrete things I could easily do to eat better.

**A balanced diet is the starting point for all the rest.** When your diet is unbalanced, before getting into the really nasty stuff that shows up in blood tests, you are going to suffer minor hormonal imbalance, for example. This can make you a little more tired, fall ill a little more easily, and introduce subtle imbalance in your neurotransmitter levels. Neurotransmitters? Whee. I had never given thought to the impact food I ate could have on the chemical balance of stuff in my brain, and therefore my mood and general psychological health.

So that would seem to say: “a healthy diet might help me be less tired and in better psychological health” — did I get that right, doc? Now that’s encouraging.

Then he pulled out a food pyramid from a recent presentation he had just given a bunch of professional dancers on nutrition. I’ve found quite a bunch of those pyramids online, but they all seem to be different (here [the closest match I found](, so I’ll just tell you what I remember of the one he showed me and our discussion.

The bottom of the pyramid is fluids (non-alcoholic). I’m good with that one. The second floor, however, is veggies and fruit (five portions a day). Then cereals, pasta, bread… three portions. Meat/fish/eggs are on the fourth floor (once a day, fish three times a week), sitting next to dairy products (here’s the catch… I can’t remember if it was once or three times a day for those… I suspect once).

Three solid meals a day **and** two snacks is the way to go. Oh my god, how on earth do I squeeze **five** veggie/fruit portions in there (two of them raw)? It’s not that hard, actually:

– orange juice at breakfast = 1 portion
– those little Andros fruit mushes you can buy at Migros = 1 portion
– a fruit for snack = 1 portion (or 2, if I do two snacks)
– stick pizza in oven, [grab a fruit or two, peel, chop up]( and stick in a bowl for dessert = 1 potion (leaving them in the fruit basket doesn’t work, I won’t eat them)
– stick pizza in oven, grab a handful of pre-packaged fresh salad (Migros, Coop), add sliced tomato, sprinkle with a mix of pumpkin/sunflower/flax/sesame seeds (Migros), a little oil and vinegar = 1 portion with added [Omega-3]( bonus
– aubergine or other veggie sliced and steamed, add salt/lemon/whatever to taste = 1 portion (my best acquisition over the last year was my [Tefal Steam Cuisine](– easy to use, great for fish, little washing-up after).

The trick is to think about eating as organised around the veggies. Before, I tended to have mono-meals: either a piece of meat, or some pasta, or a huge salad, or a pizza. Now, any of these things would *at least* be accompanied with a salad or fruit.

Three-minute salad One trick I’ve discovered for salads is to **not** prepare them in a salad bowl. It sounds silly, but one of the biggest hassles with food for me is the washing up. I have a bottle of balsamic vinegar which is made to be *sprayed* on things, so I just put the green things on a plate, spray them with balsamic vinegar and add a little oil. One possible result of this effortless process can be seen here in the photo.

Another trick (for fruit, particularly) is **not** to buy packages with 10 kiwis or 6 apples. If I buy two apples and put them in my fruit bowl, I’ll eat them. If I have 6 of them, that’s too much — and I won’t. I also noticed that so-called organic fruit, or simply fruit that you by individually, is more tasty.

Fish three times a week isn’t too difficult to achieve using the steamer (stick fish in steamer, cook five/eight minutes, yum!) — concentrate on the [Omega-3 rich ones]( like tuna/salmon/sardines. Fresh raw tuna is delicious too, but don’t [overestimate how much you can eat](

One month later, I’m still happy with the improvements I’ve made to my diet. I have to say that the simple fact I “have this food thing under control” has taken away a lot of guilt and stress, and is in itself making me feel much, much better. Of course, it’s not perfect — but my experience with life tells me that striving for perfection is the best way to Not Get Things Done ™. I suspect I don’t usually get my three meals **and** two snacks each day. When I eat out, things go to the dogs (though I do now always order a salad with my pizza). I don’t think I get my five portions of veggie/fruit, it’s probably more around four. Well, you get the idea — but I’m headed in the right direction.

One thing I plan to do is to conjure up some kind of monitoring sheet where I can cross out my veggie portions, meat/fish consumption, meals etc. I tend to have very little awareness of what I’m doing/not doing — for example, I was totally incapable of answering many of my doctor’s questions on what I was/wasn’t eating. So writing it down would allow me to be aware of how regularly I skip meals, for example, or to notice if my fish consumption goes down to once a week or less. I’ll blog the document if I get around to doing it.

#### Exercise

Another painful chapter was opened when my doctor asked “so, what about physical exercise?”


What? But, don’t I, like, do [a helluvalot of judo]( What do I have to worry about exercise? Well, the “helluvalot” part might have been true ten years ago, when I was training 4-5 times a week, but for the last years, between things like [injuries](, too much work, and [car accidents](, it’s more around once a week on average over the year. And, let’s face it, with thirteen years of judo underneath my black belt, I can also go to training and not tire myself out if I’m feeling lazy or out of shape.

So, I need another source of exercise. Leading a [geeky lifestyle]( is all very well, but even without being [addicted to the internet]( (it might just be [technological overload](, one has to agree that sitting in front of a computer all day, many days a week, is not exactly physical exercise, and probably not what the human body was designed for. Specially when you’re working from home and you live alone — trips to the kitchen and the bathroom don’t really add up to very much.

First, as with food, motivation and encouragement: something like cutting the risk of developing breast, stomach or colon cancer by 50%, just by doing 30 minutes of exercise per day. Wow. There are a whole lot of other benefits on your health, of course, but this is the one that struck me. So, 30 minutes a day? Damn, that would mean I have to take “time off” to exercise.

In summer, I go rollerblading by the lake. It’s nice, it’s good exercise (an hour or so from university to Ouchy and back), but it’s not so great when it rains. I need something I can do whatever the weather, says my doctor. Hmmm. I don’t like swimming. Dancing counts, he tells me — I don’t really like dancing either. Walking is ok, if it’s a brisk walk and not a gentle stroll in Ouchy on a Sunday afternoon. Cycling is ideal, he adds, specially on an indoor bike. Well, I have a bit of a space problem — but as he says, it’s all a matter of me deciding how important it is. You can buy a kind of tripod that you can stick a real outdoor bike on to turn it into an indoor bike, so it’s not that expensive (150CHF). Unfortunately, I don’t already own a bicycle.

So I decided to give walking a try. [All the walking I did in San Francisco]( certainly helped me take the plunge. Minimal duration for the walk to be worth anything is 10 minutes (so 3×10 minutes = 30 minutes, good!) [Café-Café]( rehearsals, my brother’s place, shopping, post office — all those are 10-15 minutes away. No more taking the car to go there. I tried walking down to town, without taking the bus. Gosh, Place Chauderon is only 20 minutes away! Café de l’Evêché, 30 minutes! That’s about as central as it gets. No more taking the car to go into town either. There’s a bus-stop a minute away from where I live if I’ve done enough walking for the day and don’t want to walk home. And overall, the [Lausanne bus system]( is pretty good and can take you more or less anywhere in the city.

One added advantage of walking places is that it means longer commutes (OMG! who would want that!) and allows me to listen to podcasts on the way. I miss the singing-at-the-top-of-my-lungs sessions in the car somewhat, though. Longer commutes are also good because they force me to reduce the pace of my sometimes mad days — I can’t pack meetings or activities wall-to-wall in three different places in and around Lausanne because I think “it’ll just take me five minutes to get there”. I get breathing space, and I get alone-time (time spent on the computer blogging, IMing, Skypeing and IRCing does **not** count as alone-time).

#### Going No-Car

I was telling a friend all this during [LIFT’07](, and the fact that my as my car was now spending many a day sitting on my parking space I was certainly not going to get a bigger one, when he flat-out suggested that I sell my car. Yeah, but… I need it to go to my sister’s, to my dad’s, etc. “Rent a car when you need it.” Hmmm, why not, but rental agencies are at the station, which is quite far off… Anyway, I dismissed the idea and enjoyed the rest of the conference.

A few days later, the background process had worked its magic, and I ended up spending a fair amount of time on the [Mobility website](, looking up prices and figuring out how it worked. Basically, it’s a web-based car rental service which allows you to book your car, open it with your magnetic card, use it and bring it back — without having to involve another human being. You can also [rent cars from AVIS and Hertz through them at a reduced rate]( And more importantly, they have cars **everywhere**. At the Migros where I usually do my shopping. At the Coop in Prilly. Down the road. Up the road. All within walking distance.

It made sense to have a car when I had to drive daily to Saint-Prex or Bussigny, which is not a practical journey by public transport from my place. But now that I’m not commuting regularly anymore… The amount of money I pour into the car sitting in that parking space could just as well be spent on taxis and rental cars and leave me with extra aeroplane budget.

Bottom line? I’ve taken a four-month Mobility trial subscription, and I’m selling my car for March 9th. I’m losing my license for a month on that date because of my car accident this summer — so it’s a good time.

Thanks for the nudge, [Stowe](! 😉

#### Wrap-Up

I don’t know how many people will have the courage to read through this horribly long post, so here’s a quick wrap-up of what I’ve effortlessly changed about a month ago, and kept up with. All because the importance of a reasonably balanced diet and regular exercise for my (mental and physical) health really sunk in.

– 3 meals a day, plus two snacks (I’m still working on turning my breakfast into a “meal”)
– 5 veggie/fruit portions a day — build the rest of the food around those
– fish 3 times a week if you manage, meat/fish/eggs once a day
– eating frozen or ready-made stuff isn’t disastrous, just add salad/fruit
– commute on foot — many distances aren’t that huge if you take the trouble to try
– if you don’t use your car regularly, it might be more economical to go cab/rental.

More important than the specifics, what’s to note here is a change of attitude. Details are important, of course, as they are often what’s needed to make an intention into Things That Happen (check out GTD again). But alone, they are not sufficient. In my case, it took a few months of feeling rather unwell, and the fact that my doctor **took the trouble** to talk to me about these issues, for me to realise (a) they were important (b) they were probably having an impact on my life right now and (c) I wanted to do something about them.

Today, instead of thinking “what do I feel like eating” or “do I want to go rollerblading/walking”, I think “where am I with my quota of veggies/exercise, and what do I need to eat/do to reach it”. I don’t do it in an obsessive way, mind you. It’s just that food and exercise have become goal-driven, and there are rather effortless things I can do to move towards a goal I find worthwhile — so I do them.

On the road to being healthier geeks!

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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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Conversation Feeds [en]

A couple of weeks back, I was having a chat with Max, one of our new developers. We were discussing improvements that could be made to the “My Conversations” page, and the conversation drifted towards RSS feeds (well, feeds in general). I started thinking about how feeds could be made more useful for conversations (because, frankly, I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of trouble following conversations through feeds). I’d like to share some of my thoughts with you, and you can let me know what yours are.

  • When they are blog posts, feed items are reasonably independent from one-another. You can read a single feed item and it makes sense on its own.
  • When the elements of a feed are parts of a conversation, however, that changes. Whether the conversation is a comment stream on a blog post or the replies to a forum topic, the different elements in it are closely linked, and it’s difficult to understand one of them without seeing it really in context. Context here is two things: the initial article, forum topic, or even web page which sparked the conversation; the other comments which led the conversation to that point, or at least a number of the comments immediately preceding it in the conversation.

Now, if you keep that in mind, you’ll understand that feeds are pretty adequate for following:

  • a series of loosely joined articles (blog posts)
  • a single conversation

They are not the ideal solution for following multiple conversations simultaneously.

However, the very reason one would want to subscribe to conversation, usually, is because there is more than one to follow. (If you’re just having one conversation, or read only one blog, subscribing becomes less useful.)

So, how could we organise comment/conversation feeds to make them more usable?

The main problem I have with multiple conversation feeds is that the conversations are all mixed up. Unless I check the feed very frequently and have all the ongoing conversations present in my mind, and they’re not too busy, the main function of the feed will be to let me know which conversations have been updated, and give me a handy link to go and check them out on the original webpage.

I think a conversation feed should do more than that. Here’s how I, as a user, would like to see the conversations I’m following.

  • First, make the conversation the feed element, instead of the comment. I know this sounds bad, because we expect a feed element to be atomic, and a conversation is clearly not atomic — a comment or conversation element is. But from the reader’s point of view, the unit of meaning here is the conversation. As I said above, a comment alone usually has little value.
  • Second, provide context. If there are two new comments in a conversation I’m following, give me those two, plus 2-3 older ones to help me remember where I left off. Give me the title of the blog/forum and the post/topic name. And give me a link to the original publication page if I want to read everything.

Obviously, this can’t be done with a traditional RSS/atom implementation. You need something somewhere to count the new comments, distribute them into their respective conversations, and package it all neatly. This is where I see a service like coComment step in.

Do you think that presenting conversation feeds in this way would make them more useful for you? What other ideas would you have?

I’d like to stress that this is just my personal thinking. We’re not planning to replace the current coComment feeds by this system (and if that were to happen, we’d leave the “traditional” ones in too, I’m certain).

So. How would you like to read your conversation feeds?

*[Initially posted on the coComment blog.](*

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