How I Got Into Beer

Ramblings about my passions for beer and experimentation.

Was doing some homebrewing experimentation (sour mash, watermelon, honey, complex yeast cultures…) and I got to think about what I’d say in an interview about my brewing activities.

It’s a bit more personal than my usual posts in English (my more personal blogposts are usually in French), but it seems fitting.

I also have something of a backlog of blogposts I really should do ASAP. But blogging is also about seizing the moment. I feel like writing about beer. 😛


As you might know, the drinking age in Quebec is 18, as in most parts of the World except for the US. What is somewhat distinct about Qc with regards to drinking age is that responsible drinking is the key and we tend to have a more “European” attitude toward alcohol: as compared to the Rest of Canada, there’s a fair bit of leeway in terms of when someone is allowed to drink alcohol. We also tend to learn to drink in the family environment, and not necessarily with friends. What it means, I would argue, is that we do our mistakes in a relatively safe context. By the time drinking with peers becomes important (e.g., in university or with colleagues), many of us know that there’s no fun in abusing alcohol and that there are better ways to prove ourselves than binge drinking. According to Barrett Seaman, author of Binge: What Your College Student Won’t Tell You, even students from the US studying at McGill University in Montreal are more likely to drink responsibly than most students he’s seen in the US. (In Montreal, McGill tends to be recognized as a place where binge drinking is most likely to occur, partly because of the presence of US students. In addition, binge drinking is becoming more conspicuous, in Qc, perhaps because of media pressure or because of influence from the US.)

All this to say that it’s rather common for a QuĂ©bĂ©cois teen to at least try alcohol at a relatively age. Because of my family’s connections with Switzerland and France, we probably pushed this even further than most QuĂ©bĂ©cois family. In other words, I had my first sips of alcohol at a relatively early age (I won’t tell) and, by age 16, I could distinguish different varieties of Swiss wines, during an extended trip to Switzerland. Several of these wines were produced by relatives and friends, from their own vineyards. They didn’t contain sulfites and were often quite distinctive. To this day, I miss those wines. In fact, I’d say that Swiss wines are among the best kept secrets of the wine world. Thing is, it seems that Swiss vineyards barely produce enough for local consumption so they don’t try to export any of it.


By age 18, my attitude toward alcohol was already quite similar to what it is now: it’s something that shouldn’t be abused but that can be very tasty. I had a similar attitude toward coffee, that I started to drink regularly when I was 15. (Apart from being a homebrewer and a beer geek, I’m also a homeroaster and coffee geek. Someone once called me a “Renaissance drinker.”)

When I started working in French restaurants, it was relatively normal for staff members to drink alcohol at the end of the shift. In fact, at one place where I worked, the staff meal at the end of the evening shift was a lengthy dinner accompanied by some quality wine. My palate was still relatively untrained, but I remember that we would, in fact, discuss the wine on at least some occasions. And I remember one customer, a stage director, who would share his bottle of wine with the staff during his meal: his doctor told him to reduce his alcohol consumption and the wine only came in 750ml bottles. 😉

That same restaurant might have been the first place where I tried a North American craft beer. At least, this is where I started to know about craft beer in North America. It was probably McAuslan‘s St. Ambroise Stout. But I also had opportunities to have some St. Ambroise Pale Ale. I just preferred the Stout.

At one point, that restaurant got promotional beer from a microbrewery called Massawippi. That beer was so unpopular that we weren’t able to give it away to customers. Can’t recall how it tasted but nobody enjoyed it. The reason this brewery is significant is that their license was the one which was bought to create a little microbrewery called Unibroue. So, it seems that my memories go back to some relatively early phases in Quebec’s craft beer history. I also have rather positive memories of when Brasal opened.

Somewhere along the way, I had started to pick up on some European beers. Apart from macros (Guinness, Heineken, etc.), I’m not really sure what I had tried by that point. But even though these were relatively uninspiring beers, they somehow got me to understand that there was more to beer than Molson, Labatt, Laurentide, O’Keefe, and Black Label.

The time I spent living in Switzerland, in 1994-1995, is probably the turning point for me in terms of beer tasting. Not only did I get to drink the occasional EuroLager and generic stout, but I was getting into Belgian Ales and Lambics. My “session beer,” for a while, was a wit sold in CH as Wittekop. Maybe not the most unique wit out there. But it was the house beer at Bleu LĂ©zard, and I drank enough of it then to miss it. I also got to try several of the Trappists. In fact, one of the pubs on the EPFL campus had a pretty good beer selection, including Rochefort, Chimay, Westmalle, and Orval. The first lambic I remember was Mort Subite Gueuze, on tap at a very quirky place that remains on my mind as this near-cinematic experience.

At the end of my time in Switzerland, I took a trip to Prague and Vienna. Already at that time, I was interested enough in beer that a significant proportion of my efforts were about tasting different beers while I was there. I still remember a very tasty “Dopplemalz” beer from Vienna and, though I already preferred ales, several nice lagers from Prague.

A year after coming back to North America, I traveled to Scotland and England with a bunch of friends. Beer was an important part of the trip. Though I had no notion of what CAMRA was, I remember having some real ales in diverse places. Even some of the macro beers were different enough to merit our interest. For instance, we tried Fraoch then, probably before it became available in North America. We also visited a few distilleries which, though I didn’t know it at the time, were my first introduction to some beer brewing concepts.

Which brings me to homebrewing.

The first time I had homebrew was probably at my saxophone teacher’s place. He did a party for all of us and had brewed two batches. One was either a stout or a porter and the other one was probably some kind of blonde ale. What I remember of those beers is very vague (that was probably 19 years ago), but I know I enjoyed the stout and was impressed by the low price-quality ratio. From that point on, I knew I wanted to brew. Not really to cut costs (I wasn’t drinking much, anyway). But to try different beers. Or, at least, to easily get access to those beers which were more interesting than the macrobrewed ones.

I remember another occasion with a homebrewer, a few years later. I only tried a few sips of the beer but I remember that he was talking about the low price. Again, what made an impression on me wasn’t so much the price itself. But the low price for the quality.

At the same time, I had been thinking about all sorts of things which would later become my “hobbies.” I had never had hobbies in my life but I was thinking about homeroasting coffee, as a way to get really fresh coffee and explore diverse flavours. Thing is, I was already this hedonist I keep claiming I am. Tasting diverse things was already an important pleasure in my life.

So, homebrewing was on my mind because of the quality-price ratio and because it could allow me to explore diverse flavours.

When I moved to Bloomington, IN, I got to interact with some homebrewers. More specifically, I went to an amazing party thrown by an ethnomusicologist/homebrewer. The guy’s beer was really quite good. And it came from a full kegging system.

I started dreaming.

Brewpubs, beerpubs, and microbreweries were already part of my life. For instance, without being a true regular, I had been going to Cheval blanc on a number of occasions. And my “go to” beer had been Unibroue, for a while.

At the time, I was moving back and forth between Quebec and Indiana. In Bloomington, I was enjoying beers from Upland’s Brewing Co., which had just opened, and Bloomington Brewing Co., which was distributed around the city. I was also into some other beers, including some macro imports like Newcastle Brown Ale. And, at liquor stores around the city (including Big Red), I was discovering a few American craft beers, though I didn’t know enough to really make my way through those. In fact, I remember asking for Unibroue to be distributed there, which eventually happened. And I’m pretty sure I didn’t try Three Floyds, at the time.

So I was giving craft beer some thought.

Then, in February 1999, I discovered Dieu du ciel. I may have gone there in late 1998, but the significant point was in February 1999. This is when I tried their first batch of “Spring Equinox” Maple Scotch Ale. This is the beer that turned me into a homebrewer. This is the beer that made me changed my perspetive about beer. At that point, I knew that I would eventually have to brew.

Which happened in July 1999, I think. My then-girlfriend had offered me a homebrewing starter kit as a birthday gift. (Or maybe she gave it to me for Christmas… But I think it was summer.) Can’t remember the extent to which I was talking about beer, at that point, but it was probably a fair bit, i.e., I was probably becoming annoying about it. And before getting the kit, I was probably daydreaming about brewing.

Even before getting the kit, I had started doing some reading. The aforementioned ethnomusicologist/homebrewer had sent me a Word file with a set of instructions and some information about equipment. It was actually much more elaborate than the starter kit I eventually got. So I kept wondering about all the issues and started getting some other pieces of equipment. In other words, I was already deep into it.

In fact, when I got my first brewing book, I also started reading feverishly, in a way I hadn’t done in years. Even before brewing the first batch, I was passionate about brewing.

Thanks to the ‘Net, I was rapidly amassing a lot of information about brewing. Including some recipes.

Unsurprisingly, the first beer I brewed was a maple beer, based on my memory of that Dieu du ciel beer. However, for some reason, that first beer was a maple porter, instead of a maple scotch ale. I brewed it with extract and steeped grain. I probably used a fresh pack of Coopers yeast. I don’t think I used fresh hops (the beer wasn’t supposed to be hop-forward). I do know I used maple syrup at the end of boil and maple sugar at priming.

It wasn’t an amazing beer, perhaps. But it was tasty enough. And it got me started. I did a few batches with extract and moved to all-grain almost right away. I remember some comments on my first maple porter, coming from some much more advanced brewers than I was. They couldn’t believe that it was an extract beer. I wasn’t evaluating my extract beer very highly. But I wasn’t ashamed of it either.

Those comments came from brewers who were hanging out on the Biéropholie website. After learning about brewing on my own, I had eventually found the site and had started interacting with some local Québécois homebrewers.

This was my first contact with “craft beer culture.” I had been in touch with fellow craft beer enthusiasts. But hanging out with BiĂšropholie people and going to social events they had organized was my first foray into something more of a social group with its associated “mode of operation.” It was a fascinating experience. As an ethnographer and social butterfly, this introduction to the social and cultural aspects of homebrewing was decisive. Because I was moving all the time, it was hard for me to stay connected with that group. But I made some ties there and I still bump into a few of the people I met through BiĂšropholie.

At the time I first started interacting with the BiĂšropholie gang, I was looking for a brewclub. Many online resources mentioned clubs and associations and they sounded exactly like the kind of thing I needed. Not only for practical reasons (it’s easier to learn techniques in such a context, getting feedback from knowledgeable people is essential, and tasting other people’s beers is an eye-opener), but also for social reasons. Homebrewing was never meant to be a solitary experience, for me.

I was too much of a social butterfly.

Which brings me back to childhood. As a kid, I was often ostracized. And I always tried to build clubs. It never really worked. Things got much better for me after age 15, and I had a rich social life by the time I became a young adult. But, in 2000-2001, I was still looking for a club to which I could belong. Unlike Groucho, I cared a lot about any club which would accept me.

As fun as it was, BiĂšropholie wasn’t an actual brewclub. Brewers posting on the site mostly met as a group during an annual event, a BBQ which became known as «XĂš de mille» (“Nth of 1000”) in 2001. The 2000 edition (“0th of 1000”) was when I had my maple porter tasted by more advanced brewers. Part of event was a bit like what brewclub meetings tend to be: tasting each other’s brews, providing feedback, discussing methods and ingredients, etc. But because people didn’t meet regularly as a group, because people were scattered all around Quebec, and because there wasn’t much in terms of “contribution to primary identity,” it didn’t feel like a brewclub, at least not of the type I was reading about.

The MontreAlers brewclub was formed at about that time. For some reason, it took me a while to learn of its existence. I distinctly remember looking for a Montreal-based club through diverse online resources, including the famed HomeBrew Digest. And I know I tried to contact someone from McGill who apparently had a club going. But I never found the ‘Alers.

I did eventually find the Members of Barleyment. Or, at least, some of the people who belonged to this “virtual brewclub.” It probably wasn’t until I moved to New Brunswick in 2003, but it was another turning point. One MoB member I met was Daniel Chisholm, a homebrewer near Fredericton, NB, who gave me insight on the New Brunswick beer scene (I was teaching in Fredericton at the time). Perhaps more importantly, Daniel also invited me to the Big Strange New Brunswick Brew (BSNBB), a brewing event like the ones I kept dreaming about. This was partly a Big Brew, an occasion for brewers to brew together at the same place. But it was also a very fun social event.

It’s through the BSNBB that I met MontreAlers Andrew Ludwig and John Misrahi. John is the instigator of the MontreAlers brewclub. Coming back to Montreal a few weeks after BSNBB, I was looking forward to attend my first meeting of the ‘Alers brewclub, in July 2003.

Which was another fascinating experience. Through it, I was able to observe different attitudes toward brewing. Misrahi, for instance, is a fellow experimental homebrewer to the point that I took to call him “MadMan Misrahi.” But a majority of ‘Alers are more directly on the “engineering” side of brewing. I also got to observe some interesting social dynamics among brewers, something which remained important as I moved to different places and got to observe other brewclubs and brewers meetings, such as the Chicago Beer Society’s Thirst Fursdays. Eventually, this all formed the backdrop for a set of informal observations which were the corse of a presentation I gave about craft beer and cultural identity.

Through all of these brewing-related groups, I’ve been positioning myself as an experimenter.  My goal isn’t necessarily to consistently make quality beer, to emulate some beers I know, or to win prizes in style-based brewing competitions. My thing is to have fun and try new things. Consistent beer is available anywhere and I drink little enough that I can afford enough of it. But homebrewing is almost a way for me to connect with my childhood.

There can be a “mad scientist” effect to homebrewing. Michael Tonsmeire calls himself The Mad Fermentationist and James Spencer at Basic Brewing has been interviewing a number of homebrewer who do rather unusual experiments.

I count myself among the ranks of the “Mad Brewers.” Oh, we’re not doing anything completely crazy. But slightly mad we are.

Through the selective memory of an adult with regards to his childhood, I might say that I was “always like that.” As a kid, I wanted to be everything at once: mayor, astronaut, fireman, and scholar. The researcher’s spirit had me “always try new things.” I even had a slight illusion of grandeur in that I would picture myself accomplishing all sorts of strange things. Had I known about it as a kid, I would have believed that I could solve the PoincarĂ© conjecture. Mathematicians were strange enough for me.

But there’s something more closely related to homebrewing which comes back to my mind as I do experiments with beer. I had this tendency to do all sorts of concoctions. Not only the magic potions kids do with mud  and dishwashing liquid. But all sorts of potable drinks that a mixologist may experiment with. There wasn’t any alcohol in those drinks, but the principle was the same. Some of them were good enough for my tastes. But I never achieved the kind of breakthrough drink which would please masses. I did, however, got my experimentation spirit to bear on food.

By age nine, I was cooking for myself at lunch. Nothing very elaborate, maybe. It often consisted of reheating leftovers. But I got used to the stove (we didn’t have a microwave oven, at the time). And I sometimes cooked some eggs or similar things. To this day, eggs are still my default food.

And, like many children, I occasionally contributing to cooking. Simple things like mixing ingredients. But also tasting things at different stages in the cooking or baking process. Given the importance of sensory memory, I’d say the tasting part was probably more important in my development than the mixing. But the pride was mostly in being an active contributor in the kitchen.

Had I understood fermentation as a kid, I probably would have been fascinated by it. In a way, I wish I could have been involved in homebrewing at the time.

A homebrewery is an adult’s chemistry set.


Social Networks and Microblogging

Event-based microblogging and the social dimensions of online social networks.

Microblogging (Laconica, Twitter, etc.) is still a hot topic. For instance, during the past few episodes of This Week in Tech, comments were made about the preponderance of Twitter as a discussion theme: microblogging is so prominent on that show that some people complain that there’s too much talk about Twitter. Given the centrality of Leo Laporte’s podcast in geek culture (among Anglos, at least), such comments are significant.

The context for the latest comments about TWiT coverage of Twitter had to do with Twitter’s financials: during this financial crisis, Twitter is given funding without even asking for it. While it may seem surprising at first, given the fact that Twitter hasn’t publicized a business plan and doesn’t appear to be profitable at this time, 

Along with social networking, microblogging is even discussed in mainstream media. For instance, MĂ©dialogues (a media critique on Swiss national radio) recently had a segment about both Facebook and Twitter. Just yesterday, Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart made fun of compulsive twittering and mainstream media coverage of Twitter (original, Canadian access).

Clearly, microblogging is getting some mindshare.

What the future holds for microblogging is clearly uncertain. Anything can happen. My guess is that microblogging will remain important for a while (at least a few years) but that it will transform itself rather radically. Chances are that other platforms will have microblogging features (something Facebook can do with status updates and something Automattic has been trying to do with some WordPress themes). In these troubled times, Montreal startup received some funding to continue developing its open microblogging platform.  Jaiku, bought by Google last year, is going open source, which may be good news for microblogging in general. Twitter itself might maintain its “marketshare” or other players may take over. There’s already a large number of third-party tools and services making use of Twitter, from Mahalo Answers to Remember the Milk, Twistory to TweetDeck.

Together, these all point to the current importance of microblogging and the potential for further development in that sphere. None of this means that microblogging is “The Next Big Thing.” But it’s reasonable to expect that microblogging will continue to grow in use.

(Those who are trying to grok microblogging, Common Craft’s Twitter in Plain English video is among the best-known descriptions of Twitter and it seems like an efficient way to “get the idea.”)

One thing which is rarely mentioned about microblogging is the prominent social structure supporting it. Like “Social Networking Systems” (LinkedIn, Facebook, Ning, MySpace…), microblogging makes it possible for people to “connect” to one another (as contacts/acquaintances/friends). Like blogs, microblogging platforms make it possible to link to somebody else’s material and get notifications for some of these links (a bit like pings and trackbacks). Like blogrolls, microblogging systems allow for lists of “favourite authors.” Unlike Social Networking Systems but similar to blogrolls, microblogging allow for asymmetrical relations, unreciprocated links: if I like somebody’s microblogging updates, I can subscribe to those (by “following” that person) and publicly show my appreciation of that person’s work, regardless of whether or not this microblogger likes my own updates.

There’s something strangely powerful there because it taps the power of social networks while avoiding tricky issues of reciprocity, “confidentiality,” and “intimacy.”

From the end user’s perspective, microblogging contacts may be easier to establish than contacts through Facebook or Orkut. From a social science perspective, microblogging links seem to approximate some of the fluidity found in social networks, without adding much complexity in the description of the relationships. Subscribing to someone’s updates gives me the role of “follower” with regards to that person. Conversely, those I follow receive the role of “following” (“followee” would seem logical, given the common “-er”/”-ee” pattern). The following and follower roles are complementary but each is sufficient by itself as a useful social link.

Typically, a microblogging system like Twitter or qualifies two-way connections as “friendship” while one-way connections could be labelled as “fandom” (if Andrew follows Betty’s updates but Betty doesn’t follow Andrew’s, Andrew is perceived as one of Betty’s “fans”). Profiles on microblogging systems are relatively simple and public, allowing for low-involvement online “presence.” As long as updates are kept public, anybody can connect to anybody else without even needing an introduction. In fact, because microblogging systems send notifications to users when they get new followers (through email and/or SMS), subscribing to someone’s update is often akin to introducing yourself to that person. 

Reciprocating is the object of relatively intense social pressure. A microblogger whose follower:following ratio is far from 1:1 may be regarded as either a snob (follower:following much higher than 1:1) or as something of a microblogging failure (follower:following much lower than 1:1). As in any social context, perceived snobbery may be associated with sophistication but it also carries opprobrium. Perry Belcher  made a video about what he calls “Twitter Snobs” and some French bloggers have elaborated on that concept. (Some are now claiming their right to be Twitter Snobs.) Low follower:following ratios can result from breach of etiquette (for instance, ostentatious self-promotion carried beyond the accepted limit) or even non-human status (many microblogging accounts are associated to “bots” producing automated content).

The result of the pressure for reciprocation is that contacts are reciprocated regardless of personal relations.  Some users even set up ways to automatically follow everyone who follows them. Despite being tricky, these methods escape the personal connection issue. Contrary to Social Networking Systems (and despite the term “friend” used for reciprocated contacts), following someone on a microblogging service implies little in terms of friendship.

One reason I personally find this fascinating is that specifying personal connections has been an important part of the development of social networks online. For instance, long-defunct (one of the earliest Social Networking Systems to appear online) required of users that they specified the precise nature of their relationship to users with whom they were connected. Details escape me but I distinctly remember that acquaintances, colleagues, and friends were distinguished. If I remember correctly, only one such personal connection was allowed for any pair of users and this connection had to be confirmed before the two users were linked through the system. Facebook’s method to account for personal connections is somewhat more sophisticated despite the fact that all contacts are labelled as “friends” regardless of the nature of the connection. The uniform use of the term “friend” has been decried by many public commentators of Facebook (including in the United States where “friend” is often applied to any person with whom one is simply on friendly terms).

In this context, the flexibility with which microblogging contacts are made merits consideration: by allowing unidirectional contacts, microblogging platforms may have solved a tricky social network problem. And while the strength of the connection between two microbloggers is left unacknowledged, there are several methods to assess it (for instance through replies and republished updates).

Social contacts are the very basis of social media. In this case, microblogging represents a step towards both simplified and complexified social contacts.

Which leads me to the theme which prompted me to start this blogpost: event-based microblogging.

I posted the following blog entry (in French) about event-based microblogging, back in November.

Microblogue d’évĂ©nement

I haven’t received any direct feedback on it and the topic seems to have little echoes in the social media sphere.

During the last PodMtl meeting on February 18, I tried to throw my event-based microblogging idea in the ring. This generated a rather lengthy between a friend and myself. (Because I don’t want to put words in this friend’s mouth, who happens to be relatively high-profile, I won’t mention this friend’s name.) This friend voiced several objections to my main idea and I got to think about this basic notion a bit further. At the risk of sounding exceedingly opinionated, I must say that my friend’s objections actually comforted me in the notion that my “event microblog” idea makes a lot of sense.

The basic idea is quite simple: microblogging instances tied to specific events. There are technical issues in terms of hosting and such but I’m mostly thinking about associating microblogs and events.

What I had in mind during the PodMtl discussion has to do with grouping features, which are often requested by Twitter users (including by Perry Belcher who called out Twitter Snobs). And while I do insist on events as a basis for those instances (like groups), some of the same logic applies to specific interests. However, given the time-sensitivity of microblogging, I still think that events are more significant in this context than interests, however defined.

In the PodMtl discussion, I frequently referred to BarCamp-like events (in part because my friend and interlocutor had participated in a number of such events). The same concept applies to any event, including one which is just unfolding (say, assassination of Guinea-Bissau’s president or bombings in Mumbai).

Microblogging users are expected to think about “hashtags,” those textual labels preceded with the ‘#’ symbol which are meant to categorize microblogging updates. But hashtags are problematic on several levels.

  • They require preliminary agreement among multiple microbloggers, a tricky proposition in any social media. “Let’s use #Bissau09. Everybody agrees with that?” It can get ugly and, even if it doesn’t, the process is awkward (especially for new users).
  • Even if agreement has been reached, there might be discrepancies in the way hashtags are typed. “Was it #TwestivalMtl or #TwestivalMontreal, I forgot.”
  • In terms of language economy, it’s unsurprising that the same hashtag would be used for different things. Is “#pcmtl” about Podcamp Montreal, about personal computers in Montreal, about PCM Transcoding Library…?
  • Hashtags are frequently misunderstood by many microbloggers. Just this week, a tweep of mine (a “peep” on Twitter) asked about them after having been on Twitter for months.
  • While there are multiple ways to track hashtags (including through SMS, in some regions), there is no way to further specify the tracked updates (for instance, by user).
  • The distinction between a hashtag and a keyword is too subtle to be really useful. Twitter Search, for instance, lumps the two together.
  • Hashtags take time to type. Even if microbloggers aren’t necessarily typing frantically, the time taken to type all those hashtags seems counterproductive and may even distract microbloggers.
  • Repetitively typing the same string is a very specific kind of task which seems to go against the microblogging ethos, if not the cognitive processes associated with microblogging.
  • The number of character in a hashtag decreases the amount of text in every update. When all you have is 140 characters at a time, the thirteen characters in “#TwestivalMtl” constitute almost 10% of your update.
  • If the same hashtag is used by a large number of people, the visual effect can be that this hashtag is actually dominating the microblogging stream. Since there currently isn’t a way to ignore updates containing a certain hashtag, this effect may even discourage people from using a microblogging service.

There are multiple solutions to these issues, of course. Some of them are surely discussed among developers of microblogging systems. And my notion of event-specific microblogs isn’t geared toward solving these issues. But I do think separate instances make more sense than hashtags, especially in terms of specific events.

My friend’s objections to my event microblogging idea had something to do with visibility. It seems that this friend wants all updates to be visible, regardless of the context. While I don’t disagree with this, I would claim that it would still be useful to “opt out” of certain discussions when people we follow are involved. If I know that Sean is participating in a PHP conference and that most of his updates will be about PHP for a period of time, I would enjoy the possibility to hide PHP-related updates for a specific period of time. The reason I talk about this specific case is simple: a friend of mine has manifested some frustration about the large number of updates made by participants in Podcamp Montreal (myself included). Partly in reaction to this, he stopped following me on Twitter and only resumed following me after Podcamp Montreal had ended. In this case, my friend could have hidden Podcamp Montreal updates and still have received other updates from the same microbloggers.

To a certain extent, event-specific instances are a bit similar to “rooms” in MMORPG and other forms of real-time many-to-many text-based communication such as the nostalgia-inducing Internet Relay Chat. Despite Dave Winer’s strong claim to the contrary (and attempt at defining microblogging away from IRC), a microblogging instance could, in fact, act as a de facto chatroom. When such a structure is needed. Taking advantage of the work done in microblogging over the past year (which seems to have advanced more rapidly than work on chatrooms has, during the past fifteen years). Instead of setting up an IRC channel, a Web-based chatroom, or even a session on MSN Messenger, users could use their microblogging platform of choice and either decide to follow all updates related to a given event or simply not “opt-out” of following those updates (depending on their preferences). Updates related to multiple events are visible simultaneously (which isn’t really the case with IRC or chatrooms) and there could be ways to make event-specific updates more prominent. In fact, there would be easy ways to keep real-time statistics of those updates and get a bird’s eye view of those conversations.

And there’s a point about event-specific microblogging which is likely to both displease “alpha geeks” and convince corporate users: updates about some events could be “protected” in the sense that they would not appear in the public stream in realtime. The simplest case for this could be a company-wide meeting during which backchannel is allowed and even expected “within the walls” of the event. The “nothing should leave this room” attitude seems contradictory to social media in general, but many cases can be made for “confidential microblogging.” Microblogged conversations can easily be archived and these archives could be made public at a later date. Event-specific microblogging allows for some control of the “permeability” of the boundaries surrounding the event. “But why would people use microblogging instead of simply talking to another?,” you ask. Several quick answers: participants aren’t in the same room, vocal communication is mostly single-channel, large groups of people are unlikely to communicate efficiently through oral means only, several things are more efficiently done through writing, written updates are easier to track and archive…

There are many other things I’d like to say about event-based microblogging but this post is already long. There’s one thing I want to explain, which connects back to the social network dimension of microblogging.

Events can be simplistically conceived as social contexts which bring people together. (Yes, duh!) Participants in a given event constitute a “community of experience” regardless of the personal connections between them. They may be strangers, ennemies, relatives, acquaintances, friends, etc. But they all share something. “Participation,” in this case, can be relatively passive and the difference between key participants (say, volunteers and lecturers in a conference) and attendees is relatively moot, at a certain level of analysis. The key, here, is the set of connections between people at the event.

These connections are a very powerful component of social networks. We typically meet people through “events,” albeit informal ones. Some events are explicitly meant to connect people who have something in common. In some circles, “networking” refers to something like this. The temporal dimension of social connections is an important one. By analogy to philosophy of language, the “first meeting” (and the set of “first impressions”) constitute the “baptism” of the personal (or social) connection. In social media especially, the nature of social connections tends to be monovalent enough that this “baptism event” gains special significance.

The online construction of social networks relies on a finite number of dimensions, including personal characteristics described in a profile, indirect connections (FOAF), shared interests, textual content, geographical location, and participation in certain activities. Depending on a variety of personal factors, people may be quite inclusive or rather exclusive, based on those dimensions. “I follow back everyone who lives in Austin” or “Only people I have met in person can belong to my inner circle.” The sophistication with which online personal connections are negotiated, along such dimensions, is a thing of beauty. In view of this sophistication, tools used in social media seem relatively crude and underdeveloped.

Going back to the (un)conference concept, the usefulness of having access to a list of all participants in a given event seems quite obvious. In an open event like BarCamp, it could greatly facilitate the event’s logistics. In a closed event with paid access, it could be linked to registration (despite geek resistance, closed events serve a purpose; one could even imagine events where attendance is free but the microblogging backchannel incurs a cost). In some events, everybody would be visible to everybody else. In others, there could be a sort of ACL for diverse types of participants. In some cases, people could be allowed to “lurk” without being seen while in others radically transparency could be enforced. For public events with all participants visible, lists of participants could be archived and used for several purposes (such as assessing which sessions in a conference are more popular or “tracking” event regulars).

One reason I keep thinking about event-specific microblogging is that I occasionally use microblogging like others use business cards. In a geek crowd, I may ask for someone’s Twitter username in order to establish a connection with that person. Typically, I will start following that person on Twitter and find opportunities to communicate with that person later on. Given the possibility for one-way relationships, it establishes a social connection without requiring personal involvement. In fact, that person may easily ignore me without the danger of a face threat.

If there were event-specific instances from microblogging platforms, we could manage connections and profiles in a more sophisticated way. For instance, someone could use a barebones profile for contacts made during an impersonal event and a full-fledged profile for contacts made during a more “intimate” event. After noticing a friend using an event-specific business card with an event-specific email address, I got to think that this event microblogging idea might serve as a way to fill a social need.


More than most of my other blogposts, I expect comments on this one. Objections are obviously welcomed, especially if they’re made thoughtfully (like my PodMtl friend made them). Suggestions would be especially useful. Or even questions about diverse points that I haven’t addressed (several of which I can already think about).



What do you think of this idea of event-based microblogging? Would you use a microblogging instance linked to an event, say at an unconference? Can you think of fun features an event-based microblogging instance could have? If you think about similar ideas you’ve seen proposed online, care to share some links?


Thanks in advance!

My Year in Social Media

In some ways, this post is a belated follow-up to my last blogpost about some of my blog statistics:

Almost 30k « Disparate.

In the two years since I published that post, I’ve received over 100 000 visits on this blog and I’ve diversified my social media activities.

Altogether, 2008 has been an important year, for me, in terms of social media. I began the year in Austin, TX and moved back to Quebec in late April. Many things have happened in my personal life and several of them have been tied to my social media activities.

The most important part of my social media life, through 2008 as through any year, is the contact I have with diverse people. I’ve met a rather large number of people in 2008 and some of these people have become quite important in my life. In fact, there are people I have met in 2008 whose impact on my life makes it feel as though we have been friends for quite a while. Many of these contacts have happened through social media or, at least, they have been mediated online. As a “people person,” a social butterfly, a humanist, and a social scientist, I care more about these people I’ve met than about the tools I’ve used.

Obviously, most of the contacts I’ve had through the year were with people I already knew. And my relationship with many of these people has changed quite significantly through the year. As is obvious for anyone who knows me, 2008 has been an important year in my personal life. A period of transition. My guess is that 2009 will be even more important, personally.

But this post is about my social media activities. Especially about (micro)blogging and about social networking, in my case. I also did a couple of things in terms of podcasting and online video, but my main activities online tend to be textual. This might change a bit in 2009, but probably not much. I expect 2009 to be an “incremental evolution” in terms of my social media activities. In fact, I mostly want to intensify my involvement in social media spheres, in continuity with what I’ve been doing in 2008.

So it’s the perfect occasion to think back about 2008.

Perhaps my main highlight of 2008 in terms of social media is Twitter. You can say I’m a late adopter to Twitter. I’ve known about it since it came out and I probably joined Twitter a while ago but I really started using it in preparation for SXSWi and BarCampAustin, in early March of this year. As I wanted to integrate Austin’s geek scene and Twitter clearly had some importance in that scene, I thought I’d “play along.” Also, I didn’t have a badge for SXSWi but I knew I could learn about off-festival events through Twitter. And Twitter has become rather important, for me.

For one thing, it allows me to make a distinction between actual blogposts and short thoughts. I’ve probably been posting fewer blog entries since I became active on Twitter and my blogposts are probably longer, on average, than they were before. In a way, I feel it enhances my blogging experience.

Twitter also allows me to “take notes in public,” a practise I find surprisingly useful. For instance, when I go to some kind of presentation (academic or otherwise) I use Twitter to record my thoughts on both the event and the content. This practise is my version of “liveblogging” and I enjoy it. On several occasions, these liveblogging sessions have been rather helpful. Some “tweeps” (Twitter+peeps) dislike this kind of liveblogging practise and claim that “Twitter isn’t meant for this,” but I’ve had more positive experiences through liveblogging on Twitter than negative ones.

The device which makes all of this liveblogging possible, for me, is the iPod touch I received from a friend in June of this year. It has had important implications for my online life and, to a certain extent, the ‘touch has become my primary computer. The iTunes App Store, which opened its doors in July, has changed the game for me as I was able to get a number of dedicated applications, some of which I use several times a day. I’ve blogged about several things related to the iPod touch and the whole process has changed my perspective on social media in general. Of course, an iPhone would be an even more useful tool for me: SMS, GPS, camera, and ubiquitous Internet are all useful features in connection to social media. But, for now, the iPod touch does the trick. Especially through Twitter and Facebook.

One tool I started using quite frequently through the year is I use it to post to: Twitter,, Facebook, LinkedIn, Brightkite, Jaiku, FriendFeed, Blogger, and (on another blog). I receive the most feedback on Facebook and Twitter but I occasionally get feedback through the other services (including through Pownce, which was recently sold). One thing I notice through this cross-posting practise is that, on these different services, the same activity has a range of implications. For instance, while I’m mostly active on Twitter, I actually get more out of Facebook postings (status updates, posted items, etc.). And reactions on different services tend to be rather different, as the relationships I have with people who provide that feedback tend to range from indirect acquaintance to “best friend forever.” Given my social science background, I find these differences quite interesting to think about.

One thing I’ve noticed on Twitter is that my “ranking among tweeps” has increased very significantly. On Twinfluence, my rank has gone as high as the 86th percentile (though it recently went down to the 79th percentile) while, on Twitter Grader, my “Twitter grade” is now at a rather unbelievable 98.1%. I don’t tend to care much about “measures of influence” but I find these ratings quite interesting. One reason is that they rely on relatively sophisticated concepts from social sciences. Another reason is that I’m intrigued by what causes increases in my ranking on those services. In this case, I think the measures give me way too much credit at this point but I also think that my “influence” is found outside of Twitter.

One “sphere of influence” which remained important for me through 2008 is Facebook. While Facebook had a more central role in my life through 2007, it now represents a stable part of my social media involvement. One thing which tends to happen is that first contacts happen through Twitter (I often use it as the equivalent of a business card during event) and Facebook represents a second step in the relationship. In a way, this distinction foregrounds the obvious concept of “intimacy” in social media. Twitter is public, ties are weak. Facebook is intimate, ties are stronger. On the other hand, there seems to be much more clustering among my tweeps than among my Facebook contacts, in part because my connection to local geek scenes in Austin and Montreal happens primarily through Twitter.

Through Facebook I was able to organize a fun little brunch with a few friends from elementary school. Though this brunch may not have been the most important event of 2008, for me, I’ve learnt a lot about the power of social media through contacting these friends, meeting them, and thinking about the whole affair.

In a way, Twitter and Facebook have helped me expand my social media activities in diverse directions. But most of the important events in my social media life in 2008 have been happening offline. Several of these events were unconferences and informal events happening around conferences.

My two favourite events of the year, in terms of social media, were BarCampAustin and PodCamp Montreal. Participating in (and observing) both events has had some rather profound implications in my social media life. These two unconferences were somewhat different but both were probably as useful, to me. One regret I have is that it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to attend BarCampAustinIV now that I’ve left Austin.

Other events have happened throughout 2008 which I find important in terms of social media. These include regular meetings like Yulblog, Yulbiz, and PodMtl. There are many other events which aren’t necessarily tied to social media but that I find interesting from a social media perspective. The recent Infopresse360 conference on innovation (with Malcolm Gladwell as keynote speaker) and a rather large number of informal meetups with people I’ve known through social media would qualify.

Despite the diversification of my social media life through 2008, blogging remains my most important social media activity. I now consider myself a full-fledged blogger and I think that my blog is representative of something about me.

Simply put, I’m proud to be a blogger. 

In 2008, a few things have happened through my blog which, I think, are rather significant. One is that someone who found me through Google contacted me directly about a contract in private-sector ethnography. As I’m currently going through professional reorientation, I take this contract to be rather significant. It’s actually possible that the Google result this person noticed wasn’t directly about my blog (the ranking of my diverse online profiles tends to shift around fairly regularly) but I still associate online profiles with blogging.

A set of blog-related occurences which I find significant has to do with the fact that my blog has been at the centre of a number of discussions with diverse people including podcasters and other social media people. My guess is that some of these discussions may lead to some interesting things for me in 2009.

Through 2008, this blog has become more anthropological. For several reasons, I wish to maintain it as a disparate blog, a blog about disparate topics. But it still participates in my gaining some recognition as an anthroblogger. One reason is that anthrobloggers are now more closely connected than before. Recently, anthroblogger Daniel Lende has sent a call for nominations for the best of the anthro blogosphere which he then posted as both a “round up” and a series of prizes. Before that, Savage Minds had organized an “awards ceremony” for an academic conference. And, perhaps the most important dimension of my ow blog being recognized in the anthroblogosphere, I have been discussing a number of things with Concordia-based anthrobloggers Owen Wiltshire and Maximilian Forte.

Still, anthropology isn’t the most prominent topic on this blog. In fact, my anthro-related posts tend to receive relatively little attention, outside of discussions with colleagues.

Since I conceive of this post as a follow-up on posts about statistics, I’ve gone through some of my stats here on Disparate.  Upgrades to also allow me to get a more detailed picture of what has been happening on this blog.

Through 2008, I’ve received over 55 131 hits on this blog, about 11% more than in 2007 for an average of 151 hits a day (I actually thought it was more but there are some days during which I receive relatively few hits, especially during weekends). The month I received the most hits was February 2007 with 5 967 hits but February and March 2008 were relatively close. The day I received the most hits was October 28, 2008, with 310 hits. This was the day after Myriade opened.

These numbers aren’t so significant. For one thing, hits don’t imply that people have read anything on my blog. Since all of my blogs are ad-free, I haven’t tried to increase traffic to this blog. But it’s still interesting to notice a few things.

The most obvious thing is that hits to rather silly posts are much more frequent than hits to posts I actually care about.

For instance, my six blogposts with the most hits:

Title Hits  
Facebook Celebs and Fakes 5 782 More stats
emachines Power Supply 4 800 More stats
Recording at 44.1 kHz, 16b with iPod 5G? 2 834 More stats
Blogspot v., Blogger v. Wo 2 571 More stats
GERD and Stress 2 377 More stats
University Rankings and Diversity 2 219 More stats

And for 2008:

Title Hits  
Facebook Celebs and Fakes 3 984 More stats
emachines Power Supply 2 265 More stats
AT&T Yahoo Pro DSL to Belkin WiFi 1 527 More stats
GERD and Stress 1 430 More stats
Blogspot v., Blogger v. Wo 1 151 More stats
University Rankings and Diversity 995 More stats

The Facebook post I wrote very quickly in July 2007. It was a quick reaction to something I had heard. Obviously, the post’s title  is the single reason for that post’s popularity. I get an average of 11 hits a day on that post for 4 001 hits in 2008. If I wanted to increase traffic, I’d post as many of these as possible.

The emachines post is my first post on this new blog (but I did import posts from my previous blog), back in January 2006. It seems to have helped a few people and gets regular traffic (six hits a day, in 2008). It’s not my most thoughtful post but it has its place. It’s still funny to notice that traffic to this blogpost increases even though one would assume it’s less relevant.

Rather unsurprisingly, my post about then-upcoming recording capabilities on the iPod 5G, from March 2006, is getting very few hits. But, for a while, it did get a number of hits (six a day in 2006) and I was a bit puzzled by that.

The AT&T post is my most popular post written in 2008. It was a simple troubleshooting session, like the aforementioned emachines post. These posts might be useful for some people and I occasionally get feedback from people about them. Another practical post regularly getting a few hits is about an inflatable mattress with built-in pump which came without clear instructions.

My post about blogging platform was in fact a repost of a comment I made on somebody else’s blog entry (though the original seems to be lost). From what I can see, it was most popular from June, 2007 through May, 2008. Since it was first posted, has been updated quite a bit and Blogger/Blogspot seems to have pretty much stalled. My comment/blogpost on the issue is fairly straightforward and it has put me in touch with some other bloggers.

The other two blogposts getting the most hits in 2008 are closer to things about which I care. Both entries were written in mid-2006 and are still relevant. The rankings post is short on content, but it serves as an “anchor” for some things I like to discuss in terms of educational institutions. The GERD post is among my most personal posts on this blog, especially in English. It’s one of the posts for which I received the most feedback. My perspective on the issue hasn’t changed much in the meantime.

Influence and Butterflies

The social butterfly effect shouldn’t be overshadowed by the notion of influence.

Seems like “influence” is a key theme in social media, these days. An example among several others:

Influenceur, autoritĂ©, passeur de culture ou l’un de ces singes exubĂ©rants | Mario tout de go.

In that post, Mario Asselin brings together a number of notions which are at the centre of current discussions about social media. The core notion seems to be that “influence” replaces “authority” as a quality or skill some people have, more than others. Some people are “influencers” and, as such, they have a specific power over others. Such a notion seems to be widely held in social media and numerous services exist which are based on the notion that “influence” can be measured.
I don’t disagree. There’s something important, online, which can be called “influence” and which can be measured. To a large extent, it’s related to a large number of other concepts such as fame and readership, popularity and network centrality. There are significant differences between all of those concepts but they’re still related. They still depict “social power” which isn’t coercive but is the basis of an obvious stratification.
In some contexts, this is what people mean by “social capital.” I originally thought people meant something closer to Bourdieu but a fellow social scientist made me realise that people are probably using Putnam’s concept instead. I recently learnt that George W. Bush himself used “political capital” in a sense which is fairly similar to what most people seem to mean by “social capital.” Even in that context, “capital” is more specific than “influence.” But the core notion is the same.
To put it bluntly:
Some people are more “important” than others.
Social marketers are especially interested in such a notion. Marketing as a whole is about influence. Social marketing, because it allows for social groups to be relatively amorphous, opposes influence to authority. But influence maintains a connection with “top-down” approaches to marketing.
My own point would be that there’s another kind of influence which is difficult to pinpoint but which is highly significant in social networks: the social butterfly effect.
Yep, I’m still at it after more than three years. It’s even more relevant now than it was then. And I’m now able to describe it more clearly and define it more precisely.
The social butterfly effect is a social network analogue to the Edward Lorenz’s well-known “butterfly effect. ” As any analogy, this connection is partial but telling. Like Lorenz’s phrase, “social butterfly effect” is more meaningful than precise. One thing which makes the phrase more important for me is the connection with the notion of a “social butterfly,” which is both a characteristic I have been said to have and a concept I deem important in social science.
I define social butterflies as people who connect to diverse network clusters. Community enthusiast Christine Prefontaine defined social butterflies within (clustered) networks, but I think it’s useful to separate out network clusters. A social butterfly’s network is rather sparse as, on the whole, a small number of people in it have direct connections with one another. But given the topography of most social groups, there likely are clusters within that network. The social butterfly connects these clusters. When the social butterfly is the only node which can connect these clusters directly, her/his “influence” can be as strong as that of a central node in one of these clusters since s/he may be able to bring some new element from one cluster to another.
I like the notion of “repercussion” because it has an auditory sense and it resonates with all sorts of notions I think important without being too buzzwordy. For instance, as expressions like “ripple effect” and “domino effect” are frequently used, they sound like clichĂ©s. Obviously, so does “butterfly effect” but I like puns too much to abandon it. From a social perspective, the behaviour of a social butterfly has important “repercussions” in diverse social groups.
Since I define myself as a social butterfly, this all sounds self-serving. And I do pride myself in being a “connector.” Not only in generational terms (I dislike some generational metaphors). But in social terms. I’m rarely, if ever, central to any group. But I’m also especially good at serving as a contact between people from different groups.
Yay, me! 🙂
My thinking about the social butterfly effect isn’t an attempt to put myself on some kind of pedestal. Social butterflies typically don’t have much “power” or “prestige.” Our status is fluid/precarious. I enjoy being a social butterfly but I don’t think we’re better or even more important than anybody else. But I do think that social marketers and other people concerned with “influence” should take us into account.
I say all of this as a social scientist. Some parts of my description are personalized but I’m thinking about a broad stance “from society’s perspective.” In diverse contexts, including this blog, I have been using “sociocentric” in at least three distinct senses: class-based ethnocentrism, a special form of “altrocentrism,” and this “society-centred perspective.” These meanings are distinct enough that they imply homonyms. Social network analysis is typically “egocentric” (“ego-centred”) in that each individual is the centre of her/his own network. This “egocentricity” is both a characteristic of social networks in opposition to other social groups and a methodological issue. It specifically doesn’t imply egotism but it does imply a move away from pre-established social categories. In this sense, social network analysis isn’t “society-centred” and it’s one reason I put so much emphasis on social networks.
In the context of discussions of influence, however, there is a “society-centredness” which needs to be taken into account. The type of “influence” social marketers and others are so interested in relies on defined “spaces.” In some ways, if “so-and-so is influential,” s/he has influence within a specific space, sphere, or context, the boundaries of which may be difficult to define. For marketers, this can bring about the notion of a “market,” including in its regional and demographic senses. This seems to be the main reason for the importance of clusters but it also sounds like a way to recuperate older marketing concepts which seem outdated online.
A related point is the “vertical” dimension of this notion of “influence.” Whether or not it can be measured accurately, it implies some sort of scale. Some people are at the top of the scale, they’re influencers. Those at the bottom are the masses, since we take for granted that pyramids are the main models for social structure. To those of us who favour egalitarianism, there’s something unpalatable about this.
And I would say that online contacts tend toward some form of egalitarianism. To go back to one of my favourite buzzphrases, the notion of attention relates to reciprocity:

It’s an attention economy: you need to pay attention to get attention.

This is one thing journalism tends to “forget.” Relationships between journalists and “people” are asymmetrical. Before writing this post, I read Brian Storm’s commencement speech for the Mizzou J-School. While it does contain some interesting tidbits about the future of journalism, it positions journalists (in this case, recent graduates from an allegedly prestigious school of journalism) away from the masses. To oversimplify, journalists are constructed as those who capture people’s attention by the quality of their work, not by any two-way relationship. Though they rarely discuss this, journalists, especially those in mainstream media, typically perceive themselves as influencers.

Attention often has a temporal dimension which relates to journalism’s obsession with time. Journalists work in time-sensitive contexts, news are timely, audiences spend time with journalistic contents, and journalists fight for this audience time as a scarce resource, especially in connection to radio and television. Much of this likely has to do with the fact that journalism is intimately tied to advertising.

As I write this post, I hear on a radio talk show a short discussion about media coverage of Africa. The topic wakes up the africanist in me. The time devoted to Africa in almost any media outside of Africa is not only very limited but spent on very specific issues having to do with Africa. In mainstream media, Africa only “matters” when major problems occur. Even though most parts of Africa are peaceful and there many fabulously interesting things occuring throughout the continent, Africa is the “forgotten” continent.

A connection I perceive is that, regardless of any other factor, Africans are taken to not be “influential.” What makes this notion especially strange to an africanist is that influence tends to be a very important matter throughout the continent. Most Africans I know or have heard about have displayed a very nuanced and acute sense of “influence” to the extent that “power” often seems less relevant when working in Africa than different elements of influence. I know full well that, to outsiders to African studies, these claims may sound far-fetched. But there’s a lot to be said about the importance of social networks in Africa and this could help refine a number of notions that I have tagged in this post.

Ce que mes amis sont devenus

Quelques anciens de Notre-Dame-de-PontmainOn a bien vieilli!
Quelques anciens de Notre-Dame-de-Pontmain

C’est-tu pas une belle gang, ça? Nous Ă©tions quelques anciens de l’Ă©cole primaire Notre-Dame-de-Pontmain de Laval Ă  bruncher ensemble en ce dimanche, 26 octobre 2008. Une journĂ©e Ă  marquer d’une pierre blanche.

via Facebook | Photos de Notre-Dame-de-Pontmain

Il y a quelque-chose de profond dans le fait de revoir des amis d’enfance. Vraiment. C’est un peu difficile Ă  verbaliser, mais ça se comprend bien.

Il y a un peu plus d’un an, je me demandais ce que mes amis Ă©taient devenus. Je cherchais alors Ă  contacter quelques personnes pour les inviter Ă  mon anniversaire de mariage. C’est d’ailleurs en prĂ©parant cet anniversaire que j’ai parcouru des rĂ©seaux d’anciens. Suite Ă  cet anniversaire, j’ai manifestĂ© ma fiertĂ© d’avoir des amis si fascinants. Aujourd’hui, je souhaite de nouveau cĂ©lĂ©brer l’amitiĂ©.

Pour un papillon social, c’est pas trĂšs surprenant. J’aime entrer en contact avec les gens, que je les aie connus plus tĂŽt ou non. Que voulez-vous, j’aime le monde. Tel que mentionnĂ© dans un billet prĂ©cĂ©dent, je me suis autrefois senti ostracisĂ©. Je sais pas s’il y a une causalitĂ© entre mon identitĂ© comme papillon social et mon enfance, mais je trouve que c’est un pattern intĂ©ressant: le type portĂ© vers les autres, qui passe une enfance plutĂŽt solitaire, devient un papillon social Ă  l’Ăąge adulte. L’image de la «chenille sociale» est assez forte aussi!

Outre la publication de cette photo, ce qui me motive Ă  Ă©crire ce billet c’est Facebook. Si si! Parce que ce petit groupe d’anciens poursuit la discussion. Parce qu’on se «retrouve», dans un sens trĂšs profond, grĂące Ă  Facebook. Et parce que j’ai revisitĂ© ma liste d’amis sur Facebook et je suis encore plus fier.

Voyez-vous, je crĂ©ais une «liste d’amis» sur Facebook, pour ces anciens du primaire. Cette fonction de liste d’amis sur Facebook est un peu limitĂ©e mais elle peut ĂȘtre utile si, comme tout semble l’indiquer, notre groupe d’anciens dĂ©cide d’organiser d’autres Ă©vĂ©nements. Pour organiser le brunch, j’ai fait parvenir une invitation Ă  tous les membres du groupe Facebook des anciens de notre Ă©cole alors que j’aurais mieux fait de cibler ceux de ma «cohorte». C’est un petit dĂ©tail pratique, mais ça m’a permis de rĂ©flĂ©chir.

Parce qu’en crĂ©ant cette liste d’amis, je me suis rendu compte Ă  quel point j’ai une idĂ©e assez prĂ©cise de ce qui me lie Ă  chacun de mes contacts sur Facebook. Dans ce cas-ci, j’ai rapidement pu sĂ©lectionner ceux que j’ai rencontrĂ©s au primaire, ceux que j’ai connus au secondaire et ceux avec qui je suis allĂ© au CĂ©gep. Parmi les autres, il y a des blogueurs, des musiciens, des spĂ©cialistes de la biĂšre et/ou du cafĂ©, des collĂšgues du milieu acadĂ©mique, quelques amis de mes amis, quelques anciens Ă©tudiants et quelques personnes qui ont manifestĂ© un intĂ©rĂȘt spĂ©cifique Ă  mon Ă©gard. Pour le reste, ce sont des gens que j’ai rencontrĂ© en-ligne ou hors-ligne, gĂ©nĂ©ralement dans un contexte spĂ©cifique. Sur 471 contacts que j’ai sur Facebook Ă  l’heure actuelle, moins d’une trentaine (27, pour ĂȘtre prĂ©cis) que je n’Ă©tais pas en mesure d’identifier immĂ©diatement. Parmi eux, peut-ĂȘtre trois ou quatre par rapport auxquels persiste une certaine ambiguĂŻtĂ©. Et plusieurs personnes qui font partie de mon rĂ©seau direct mais que je n’ai pas rencontrĂ© trĂšs directement. En d’autres termes, des gens avec qui j’ai des liens moins Ă©troits mais dont la prĂ©sence dans mon rĂ©seau social est «pleine de sens», surtout si on pense aux fameux «liens faibles» (“weak ties”). D’ailleurs, ces liens faibles constituent une part importante de ce que j’ai tendance Ă  appeler «l’effet du papillon social», par rĂ©fĂ©rence Ă  l’effet papillon d’Edward Lorenz. Pour mĂ©moire (selon TF1):

PrĂ©visibilitĂ© : est-ce que le battement des ailes d’un papillon au BrĂ©sil peut dĂ©clencher une tornade au Texas?

Enfin… J’inclue surtout cette citation pour conserver quelques notes au sujet de cet effet. C’est une sorte de digression assez Ă©goĂŻste.

Toujours est-il que… Nous disions donc… Ah… Oui!

«Retrouver» mes amis, mes connaissances, mes liens, ça fait battre mes ailes de papillon social.

Flap flap!

Apologies and Social Media: A Follow-Up on PRI’s WTP

I did it! I did exactly what I’m usually trying to avoid. And I feel rather good about the outcome despite some potentially “ruffled feathers” («égos froissĂ©s»?).

While writing a post about PRI’s The World: Technology Podcast (WTP), I threw caution to the wind.

Why Is PRI’s The World Having Social Media Issues? « Disparate.

I rarely do that. In fact, while writing my post, I was getting an awkward feeling. Almost as if I were writing from a character’s perspective. Playing someone I’m not, with a voice which isn’t my own but that I can appropriate temporarily.

The early effects of my lack of caution took a little bit of time to set in and they were rather negative. What’s funny is that I naĂŻvely took the earliest reaction as being rather positive but it was meant to be very negative. That in itself indicates a very beneficial development in my personal life. And I’m grateful to the person who helped me make this realization.

The person in question is Clark Boyd, someone I knew nothing about a few days ago and someone I’m now getting to know through both his own words and those of people who know about his work.

The power of social media.

And social media’s power is the main target of this, here, follow-up of mine.


As I clumsily tried to say in my previous post on WTP, I don’t really have a vested interest in the success or failure of that podcast. I discovered it (as a tech podcast) a few days ago and I do enjoy it. As I (also clumsily) said, I think WTP would rate fairly high on a scale of cultural awareness. To this ethnographer, cultural awareness is too rare a feature in any form of media.

During the latest WTP episode, Boyd discussed what he apparently describes as the mitigated success of his podcast’s embedding in social media and online social networking services. Primarily at stake was the status of the show’s Facebook group which apparently takes too much time to manage and hasn’t increased in membership. But Boyd also made some intriguing comments about other dimensions of the show’s online presence. (If the show were using a Creative Commons license, I’d reproduce these comments here.)

Though it wasn’t that explicit, I interpreted Boyd’s comments to imply that the show’s participants would probably welcome feedback. As giving feedback is an essential part of social media, I thought it appropriate to publish my own raw notes about what I perceived to be the main reasons behind the show’s alleged lack of success in social media spheres.

Let it be noted that, prior to hearing Boyd’s comments, I had no idea what WTP’s status was in terms of social media and social networks. After subscribing to the podcast, the only thing I knew about the show was from the content of those few podcast episodes. Because the show doesn’t go the “meta” route very often (“the show about the show”), my understanding of that podcast was, really, very limited.

My raw notes were set in a tone which is quite unusual for me. In a way, I was “trying it out.” The same tone is used by a lot of friends and acquaintances and, though I have little problem with the individuals who take this tone, I do react a bit negatively when I hear/see it used. For lack of a better term, I’d call it a “scoffing tone.” Not unrelated to the “curmudgeon phase” I described on the same day. But still a bit different. More personalized, in fact. This tone often sounds incredibly dismissive. Yet, when you discuss its target with people who used it, it seems to be “nothing more than a tone.” When people (or cats) use “EPIC FAIL!” as a response to someone’s troubles, they’re not really being mean. They merely use the conventions of a speech community.

Ok, I might be giving these people too much credit. But this tone is so prevalent online that I can’t assume these people have extremely bad intentions. Besides, I can understand the humour in schadenfreude. And I’d hate to use flat-out insults to describe such a large group of people. Even though I do kind of like the self-deprecation made possible by the fact that I adopted the same behaviour.



So, the power of social media… The tone I’m referring to is common in social media, especially in replies, reactions, responses, comments, feedback. Though I react negatively to that tone, I’m getting to understand its power. At the very least, it makes people react. And it seems to be very straightforward (though I think it’s easily misconstrued). And this tone’s power is but one dimension of the power of social media.


Now, going back to the WTP situation.

After posting my raw notes about WTP’s social media issues, I went my merry way. At the back of my mind was this nagging suspicion that my tone would be misconstrued. But instead of taking measures to ensure that my post would have no negative impact (by changing the phrasing or by prefacing it with more tactful comments), I decided to leave it as is.

Is «Rien ne va plus, les jeux sont faits» a corrolary to the RERO mantra?

While I was writing my post, I added all the WTP-related items I could find to my lists: I joined WTP’s apparently-doomed Facebook group, I started following @worldstechpod on Twitter, I added two separate WTP-related blogs to my blogroll… Once I found out what WTP’s online presence was like, I did these few things that any social media fan usually does. “Giving the podcast some love” is the way some social media people might put it.

One interesting effect of my move is that somebody at WTP (probably Clark Boyd) apparently saw my Twitter add and (a few hours after the fact) reciprocated by following me on Twitter. Because I thought feedback about WTP’s social media presence had been requested, I took the opportunity to send a link to my blogpost about WTP with an extra comment about my tone.

To which the @worldstechpod twittername replied with:

@enkerli right, well you took your best shot at me, I’ll give you that. thanks a million. and no, your tone wasn’t “miscontrued” at all.

Call me “naĂŻve” but I interpreted this positively and I even expressed relief.

Turns out, my interpretation was wrong as this is what WTP replied:

@enkerli well, it’s a perfect tone for trashing someone else’s work. thanks.

I may be naĂŻve but I did understand that the last “thanks” was meant as sarcasm. Took me a while but I got it. And I reinterpreted WTP’s previous tweet as sarcastic as well.

Now, if I had read more of WTP’s tweets, I would have understood the “WTP online persona.”  For instance, here’s the tweet announcing the latest WTP episode:

WTP 209 — yet another exercise in utter futility! hurrah! —

Not to mention this puzzling and decontextualized tweet:

and you make me look like an idiot. thanks!

Had I paid attention to the @worldstechpod archive, I would even have been able to predict how my blogpost would be interpreted. Especially given this tweet:

OK. Somebody school me. Why can I get no love for the WTP on Facebook?

Had I noticed that request, I would have realized that my blogpost would most likely be interpreted as an attempt at “schooling” somebody at WTP. I would have also realized that tweets on the WTP account on Twitter were written by a single individual. Knowing myself, despite my attempt at throwing caution to the wind, I probably would have refrained from posting my WTP comments or, at the very least, I would have rephrased the whole thing.

I’m still glad I didn’t.

Yes, I (unwittingly) “touched a nerve.” Yes, I apparently angered someone I’ve never met (and there’s literally nothing I hate more than angering someone). But I still think the whole situation is leading to something beneficial.

Here’s why…

After that sarcastic tweet about my blogpost, Clark Boyd (because it’s now clear he’s the one tweeting @worldstechpod) sent the following request through Twitter:

rebuttal, anyone? i can’t do it without getting fired. —

The first effect of this request was soon felt right here on my blog. That reaction was, IMHO, based on a misinterpretation of my words. In terms of social media, this kind of reaction is “fair game.” Or, to use a social media phrase: “it’s alll good.”

I hadn’t noticed Boyd’s request for rebuttal. I was assuming that there was a connection between somebody at the show and the fact that this first comment appeared on my blog, but I thought it was less direct than this. Now, it’s possible that there wasn’t any connection between that first “rebuttal” and Clark Boyd’s request through Twitter. But the simplest explanation seems to me to be that the blog comment was a direct result of Clark Boyd’s tweet.

After that initial blog rebuttal, I received two other blog comments which I consider more thoughtful and useful than the earliest one (thanks to the time delay?). The second comment on my post was from a podcaster (Brad P. from N.J.), but it was flagged for moderation because of the links it contained. It’s a bit unfortunate that I didn’t see this comment on time because it probably would have made me understand the situation a lot more quickly.

In his comment, Brad P. gives some context for Clark Boyd’s podcast. What I thought was the work of a small but efficient team of producers and journalists hired by a major media corporation to collaborate with a wider public (Ă  la Search Engine Season I) now sounds more like the labour of love from an individual journalist with limited support from a cerberus-like major media institution. I may still be off, but my original impression was “wronger” than this second one.

The other blog comment, from Dutch blogger and Twitter @Niels, was chronologically the one which first made me realize what was wrong with my post. Niels’s comment is a very effective mix of thoughtful support for some of my points and thoughtful criticism of my post’s tone. Nice job! It actually worked in showing me the error of my ways.

All this to say that I apologise to Mr. Clark Boyd for the harshness of my comments about his show? Not really. I already apologised publicly. And I’ve praised Boyd for both his use of Facebook and of Twitter.

What is it, then?

Well, this post is a way for me to reflect on the power of social media. Boyd talked about social media and online social networks. I’ve used social media (my main blog) to comment on the presence of Boyd’s show in social media and social networking services. Boyd then used social media (Twitter) to not only respond to me but to launch a “rebuttal campaign” about my post. He also made changes to his show’s online presence on a social network (Facebook) and used social media (Twitter) to advertise this change. And I’ve been using social media (Twitter and this blog) to reflect on social media (the “meta” aspect is quite common), find out more about a tricky situation (Twitter), and “spread the word” about PRI’s The World: Technology Podcast (Facebook, blogroll, Twitter).

Sure, I got some egg on my face, some feathers have been ruffled, and Clark Boyd might consider me a jerk.

But, perhaps unfortunately, this is often the way social media works.


Heartfelt thanks to Clark Boyd for his help.

Éloge de la courtoisie en-ligne

Nous y voilĂ !

AprĂšs avoir terminĂ© mon billet sur le contact social, j’ai reçu quelques commentaires et eu d’autres occasions de rĂ©flĂ©chir Ă  la question. Ce billet faisait suite Ă  une interaction spĂ©cifique que j’ai vĂ©cue hier mais aussi Ă  divers autres Ă©vĂ©nements. En Ă©crivant ce billet sur le contact social, j’ai eu l’idĂ©e (peut-ĂȘtre saugrenue) d’Ă©crire une liste de «conseils d’ami» pour les gens qui dĂ©sirent me contacter. Contrairement Ă  mon attitude habituelle, j’ai rĂ©digĂ© cette liste dans un mode assez impĂ©ratif et tĂ©lĂ©graphique. C’est peut-ĂȘtre contraire Ă  mon habitude, mais c’est un exercice intĂ©ressant Ă  faire, dans mon cas.

Bien qu’Ă©noncĂ©s sur un ton quasi-sentencieux, ces conseils se veulent ĂȘtre des idĂ©es de base avec lesquelles je travaille quand on me sollicite (ce qui arrive plusieurs fois par jour). C’est un peu ma façon de dire: je suis trĂšs facile Ă  contacter mais voici ce que je considĂšre comme Ă©tant des bonnes et mauvaises idĂ©es dans une procĂ©dure de contact. Ça vaut pour mes lecteurs ici, pour mes Ă©tudiants (avant que je aie rencontrĂ©s), pour des contacts indirects, etc.

Pour ce qui est du «contact social», je parlais d’un contexte plus spĂ©cifique que ce que j’ai laissĂ© entendre. Un des problĂšmes, c’est que mĂȘme si j’ai de la facilitĂ© Ă  dĂ©crire ce contexte, j’ai de la difficultĂ© Ă  le nommer d’une façon qui soit sans Ă©quivoque. C’est un des mondes auxquels je participe et il est liĂ© Ă  l’«écosystĂšme geek». En parlant de «cĂ©lĂ©brité» dans le billet sur le contact social, je faisais rĂ©fĂ©rence Ă  une situation assez prĂ©cise qui est celle de la vie publique de certaines des personnes qui passent le plus clair de leur temps en-ligne. Les limites sont pas trĂšs claires mais c’est un groupe de quelques millions de personnes, dont plusieurs Anglophones des États-Unis, qui entrent dans une des logiques spĂ©cifiques de la socialisation en-ligne. Des gens qui vivent et qui oeuvrent dans le mĂ©dia social, le marketing social, le rĂ©seau social, la vie sociale mĂ©diĂ©e par les communications en-ligne, etc.

Des «socialiseurs alpha», si on veut.

C’est pas un groupe homogĂšne, loi de lĂ . Mais c’est un groupe qui a ses codes, comme tout groupe social. Certains individus enfreignent les rĂšgles et ils sont ostracisĂ©s, parfois sans le savoir.

Ce qui me permet de parler de courtoisie.

Un des trucs dont on parle beaucoup dans nos cours d’introduction, en anthropologie culturelle, c’est la diversitĂ© des normes de politesse Ă  l’Ă©chelle humaine. Pas parce que c’est une partie essentielle de nos recherches, mais c’est souvent une façon assez efficace de faire comprendre des concepts de base Ă  des gens qui n’ont pas (encore) de formation ethnographique ou de regard anthropologique. C’est encore plus efficace dans le cas d’Ă©tudiants qui ont dĂ©jĂ  Ă©tĂ© formĂ©s dans une autre discipline et qui ont parfois tendance Ă  ramener les concepts Ă  leur expĂ©rience personnelle (ce qui, soit dit en passant, est souvent une bonne stratĂ©gie d’apprentissage quand elle est bien appliquĂ©e). L’idĂ©e de base, c’est qu’il n’y a pas d’«universal», de la politesse (malgrĂ© ce que disent Brown et Levinson). Il n’y a pas de rĂšgle universelle de politesse qui vaut pour l’ensemble de la population humaine, peu importe la distance temporelle ou culturelle. Chaque contexte culturel est bourrĂ© de rĂšgles de politesse, trĂšs souvent tacites, mais elles ne sont pas identiques d’un contexte Ă  l’autre. Qui plus est, la mĂȘme rĂšgle, Ă©noncĂ©e de la mĂȘme façon, a souvent des applications et des implications trĂšs diffĂ©rentes d’un contexte Ă  l’autre. Donc, en contexte, il faut savoir se plier.

En classe, il y en a toujours pour essayer de trouver des exceptions Ă  cette idĂ©e de base. Mais ça devient un petit jeu semi-compĂ©titif plutĂŽt qu’un rĂ©el processus de comprĂ©hension. D’aprĂšs moi, ç’a un lien avec ce que les pĂ©dagogues anglophones appellent “Ways of Knowing”. Ce sont des gens qui croient encore qu’il n’existe qu’une vĂ©ritĂ© que le prof est en charge de dĂ©voiler. Avec eux, il y a plusieurs Ă©tapes Ă  franchir mais ils finissent parfois par passer Ă  une comprĂ©hension plus souple de la rĂ©alitĂ©.

Donc, une fois qu’on peut travailler avec cette idĂ©e de base sur la non-universalitĂ© de rĂšgles de politesse spĂ©cifiques, on peut travailler avec des contextes dans lesquelles la politesse fonctionne. Et elle l’est fonctionnelle!

Mes «conseils d’ami» et mon «petit guide sur le contact social en-ligne» Ă©taient Ă  inscrire dans une telle optique. Mon erreur est de n’avoir pas assez dĂ©crit le contexte en question.

Si on pense Ă  la notion de «blogosphĂšre», on a dĂ©jĂ  une idĂ©e du contexte. Pas des blogueurs isolĂ©s. Une sphĂšre sociale qui est concentrĂ©e autour du blogue. Ces jours-ci, Ă  part le blogue, il y a d’autres plates-formes Ă  travers lesquelles les gens dont je parle entretiennent des rapports sociaux plus ou moins approfondis. Le micro-blogue comme et Twitter, par exemple. Mais aussi des rĂ©seaux sociaux comme Facebook ou mĂȘme un service de signets sociaux comme Digg. C’est un «petit monde», mais c’est un groupe assez influent, puisqu’il lie entre eux beaucoup d’acteurs importants d’Internet. C’est un rĂ©seau tentaculaire, qui a sa prĂ©sence dans divers milieux. C’est aussi, et c’est lĂ  que mes propos peuvent sembler particuliĂšrement Ă©tranges, le «noyau d’Internet», en ce sens que ce sont des membres de ce groupe qui ont un certain contrĂŽle sur plusieurs des choses qui se passent en-ligne. Pour utiliser une analogie qui date de l’Ăšre nationale-industrielle (le siĂšcle dernier), c’est un peu comme la «capitale» d’Internet. Ou, pour une analogie encore plus vieillotte, c’est la «MĂ©tropole» de l’Internet conçu comme Empire.

Donc, pour revenir Ă  la courtoisie…

La spĂ©cificitĂ© culturelle du groupe dont je parle a crĂ©Ă© des tas de trucs au cours des annĂ©es, y compris ce qu’ils ont appelĂ© la «Netiquette» (de «-net» pour «Internet» et «étiquette»). Ce qui peut contribuer Ă  rendre mes propos difficiles Ă  saisir pour ceux qui suivent une autre logique que la mienne, c’est que tout en citant (et apportant du support Ă ) certaines composantes de cette Ă©tiquette, je la remets en contexte. Personnellement, je considĂšre cette Ă©tiquette trĂšs valable dans le contexte qui nous prĂ©occupe et j’affirme mon appartenance Ă  un groupe socio-culturel prĂ©cis qui fait partie de l’ensemble plus vaste auquel je fais rĂ©fĂ©rence. Mais je conserve mon approche ethnographique.

La Netiquette est si bien «internalisĂ©e» par certains qu’elles semblent provenir du sens commun (le «gros bon sens» dont je parlais hier). C’est d’ailleurs, d’aprĂšs moi, ce qui explique certaines rĂ©actions trĂšs vives au bris d’Ă©tiquette: «comment peux-tu contrevenir Ă  une rĂšgle aussi simple que celle de donner un titre clair Ă  ton message?» (avec variantes plus insultantes). Comme j’ai tentĂ© de l’expliquer en contexte semi-acadĂ©mique, une des bases du conflit en-ligne (la “flame war”), c’est la difficultĂ© de se ressaisir aprĂšs un bris de communication. Le bris de communication, on le tient pour acquis, il se produit de toutes façons. Mais c’est la façon de rĂ©Ă©tablir la communication qui change tout.

De la mĂȘme façon, c’est pas tant le bris d’Ă©tiquette qui pose problĂšme. Du moins, pas l’occasion spĂ©cifique de manquement Ă  une rĂšgle prĂ©cise. C’est la dynamique qui s’installe suite Ă  de nombreux manquements aux «rĂšgles de base» de la vie sociale d’un groupe prĂ©cis. L’effet immĂ©diat, c’est le dĂ©coupage du ‘Net en plus petites factions.

Et, personnellement, je trouve dommage ce fractionnement, cette balkanisation.

Qui plus est, c’est dans ce contexte que, malgrĂ© mon relativisme bien relatif, j’assigne le terme «éthique» Ă  mon hĂ©donisme. Pas une Ă©thique absolue et rigide. Mais une orientation vers la bonne entente sociale.

Qu’on me comprenne bien (ça serait gĂ©nial!), je me plains pas du comportement des gens, je ne jugent pas ceux qui se «comportent mal» ou qui enfreignent les rĂšgles de ce monde dans lequel je vis. Mais je trouve utile de parler de cette dynamique. ThĂ©rapeutique, mĂȘme.

La raison spĂ©cifique qui m’a poussĂ© Ă  Ă©crire ce billet, c’est que deux des commentaires que j’ai reçu suite Ă  mes billets d’hier ont fait appel (probablement sans le vouloir) au «je fais comme ça me plaĂźt et ça dĂ©range personne». LĂ  oĂč je me sens presqu’obligĂ© de dire quelque-chose, c’est que le «ça dĂ©range personne» me semblerait plutĂŽt myope dans un contexte oĂč les gens ont divers liens entre eux. DĂ©solĂ© si ça choque, mais je me fais le devoir d’ĂȘtre honnĂȘte.

D’ailleurs, je crois que c’est la logique du «troll», ce personnage du ‘Net qui prend un «malin plaisir» Ă  bousculer les gens sur les forums et les blogues. C’est aussi la logique du type macho qui se plaĂźt Ă  dire: «Je pince les fesses des filles. Dix-neuf fois sur 20, je reçois une baffe. Mais la vingtiĂšme, c’est la bonne». Personnellement, outre le fait que je sois fĂ©ministe, j’ai pas tant de problĂšmes que ça avec cette idĂ©e quand il s’agit d’un contexte qui le permet (comme la France des annĂ©es 1990, oĂč j’ai souvent entendu ce genre de truc). Mais lĂ  oĂč ça joue pas, d’aprĂšs moi, c’est quand cette attitude est celle d’un individu qui se meut dans un contexte oĂč ce genre de chose est trĂšs mal considĂ©rĂ© (par exemple, le milieu cosmopolite contemporain en AmĂ©rique du Nord). Au niveau individuel, c’est peut-ĂȘtre pas si bĂȘte. Mais au niveau social, ça fait pas preuve d’un sens Ă©thique trĂšs approfondi.

Pour revenir au «troll». Ce personnage quasi-mythique gĂ©nĂšre une ambiance trĂšs tendue, en-ligne. Individuellement, il peut facilement considĂ©rer qu’il est «dans son droit» et que ses actions n’ont que peu de consĂ©quences nĂ©gatives. Mais, ce qui se remarque facilement, c’est que ce mĂȘme individu tolĂšre mal le comportement des autres. Il se dĂ©bat «comme un diable dans le bĂ©nitier», mais c’est souvent lui qui «sĂšme le vent» et «rĂ©colte la tempĂȘte». Un forum sans «troll», c’est un milieu trĂšs agrĂ©able, “nurturing”. Mais il n’est besoin que d’un «troll» pour dĂ©molir l’atmosphĂšre de bonne entente. Surtout si les autres membres du groupes rĂ©agissent trop fortement.

D’ailleurs, ça me fait penser Ă  ceux qui envoient du pourriel et autres Plaies d’Internet. Ils ont exactement la logique du pinceur de femmes, mais menĂ©e Ă  l’extrĂȘme. Si aussi peu que 0.01% des gens acceptent le message indĂ©sirable, ils pourront en tirer un certain profit Ă  peu d’effort, peu importe ce qui affecte 99.99% des rĂ©cipiendaires. Tant qu’il y aura des gens pour croire Ă  leurs balivernes ou pour ouvrir des fichiers attachĂ©s provenant d’inconnus, ils auront peut-ĂȘtre raison Ă  un niveau assez primaire («j’ai obtenu ce que je voulais sans me forcer»). Mais c’est la sociĂ©tĂ© au complet qui en souffre. Surtout quand on parle d’une sociĂ©tĂ© aussi diversifiĂ©e et complexe que celle qui vit en-ligne.

C’est intĂ©ressant de penser au fait que la culture en-ligne anglophone accorde une certaine place Ă  la notion de «karma». Depuis une expression dĂ©signant une forme particuliĂšre de causalitĂ© Ă  composante spirituelle, cette notion a pris, dans la culture geek, un acception spĂ©cifique liĂ©e au mĂ©rite relatif des propos tenus en-ligne, surtout sur le vĂ©nĂ©rable site Slashdot. MalgrĂ© le glissement de sens de causalitĂ© «mystique» Ă  Ă©valuation par les pairs, on peut lier les deux concepts dans une idĂ©e du comportement optimal pour la communication en-ligne: la courtoisie.

Les Anglophones ont tendance Ă  se fier, sans les nommer ou mĂȘme les connaĂźtre, aux maximes de Grice. J’ai beau percevoir qu’elles ne sont pas universelles, j’y vois un intĂ©rĂȘt particulier dans le contexte autour duquel je tourne. L’idĂ©e de base, comme le diraient Wilson et Sperber, est que «tout acte de communication ostensive communique la prĂ©somption de sa propre pertinence optimale». Cette pertinence optimale est liĂ©e Ă  un processus Ă  la fois cognitif et communicatif qui fait appel Ă  plusieurs des notions Ă©laborĂ©es par Grice et par d’autres philosophes du langage. Dans le contexte qui m’intĂ©resse, il y a une espĂšce de jeu entre deux orientations qui font appel Ă  la mĂȘme notion de pertinence: l’orientation individuelle («je m’exprime») souvent lĂ©galiste-rĂ©ductive («j’ai bien le droit de m’exprimer») et l’orientation sociale («nous dialoguons») souvent Ă©thique-idĂ©aliste («le fait de dialoguer va sauver le monde»).

Aucun mystĂšre sur mon orientation prĂ©fĂ©rĂ©e…

Par contre, faut pas se leurrer: le fait d’ĂȘtre courtois, en-ligne, a aussi des effets positifs au niveau purement individuel. En Ă©tant courtois, on se permet trĂšs souvent d’obtenir de rĂ©els bĂ©nĂ©fices, qui sont parfois financiers (c’est comme ça qu’on m’a payĂ© un iPod touch). Je parle pas d’une causalitĂ© «cosmique» mais bien d’un processus prĂ©cis par lequel la bonne entente gĂ©nĂšre directement une bonne ambiance.

Bon, Ă©videmment, je semble postuler ma propre capacitĂ© Ă  ĂȘtre courtois. Il m’arrive en fait trĂšs souvent de me faire dĂ©signer comme Ă©tant trĂšs (voire trop) courtois. C’est peut-ĂȘtre rĂ©aliste, comme description, mĂȘme si certains ne sont peut-ĂȘtre pas d’accord.

À vous de dĂ©cider.

Le petit guide du contact social en-ligne (brouillon)

Je viens de publier un «avis Ă  ceux qui cherchent Ă  me contacter». Et je pense Ă  mon expertise au sujet de la socialisation en-ligne. Ça m’a donnĂ© l’idĂ©e d’Ă©crire une sorte de guide, pour aider des gens qui n’ont pas tellement d’expĂ©rience dans le domaine. J’ai de la difficultĂ© Ă  me vendre.

Oui, je suis un papillon social. Je me lie facilement d’amitiĂ© avec les gens et j’ai gĂ©nĂ©ralement d’excellents contacts. En fait, je suis trĂšs peu sĂ©lectif: Ă  la base, j’aime tout le monde.

Ce qui ne veut absolument pas dire que mon degrĂ© d’intimitĂ© est constant, peu importe l’individu. En fait, ma façon de gĂ©rer le degrĂ© d’intimitĂ© est relativement complexe et dĂ©pend d’un grand nombre de facteurs. C’est bien conscient mais difficile Ă  verbaliser, surtout en public.

Et ça m’amĂšne Ă  penser au fait que, comme plusieurs, je suis «trĂšs sollicité». Chaque jour, je reçois plusieurs requĂȘtes de la part de gens qui veulent ĂȘtre en contact avec moi, d’une façon ou d’une autre. C’est tellement frĂ©quent, que j’y pense peu. Mais ça fait partie de mon quotidien, comme c’est le cas pour beaucoup de gens qui passent du temps en-ligne (blogueurs, membres de rĂ©seaux sociaux, etc.).

Évidemment, un bon nombre de ces requĂȘtes font partie de la catĂ©gorie «indĂ©sirable». On pourrait faire l’inventaire des Dix Grandes Plaies d’Internet, du pourriel jusqu’Ă  la sollicitation  intempestive. Mais mon but ici est plus large. Discuter de certaines façons d’Ă©tablir le contact social. Qu’il s’agisse de se lier d’amitiĂ© ou simplement d’entrer en relation sociale diffuse (de devenir la «connaissance» de quelqu’un d’autre).

La question de base: comment effectuer une requĂȘte appropriĂ©e pour se mettre en contact avec quelqu’un? Il y a des questions plus spĂ©cifiques. Par exemple, comment dĂ©montrer Ă  quelqu’un que nos intentions sont lĂ©gitimes? C’est pas trĂšs compliquĂ© et c’est trĂšs rapide. Mais ça fait appel Ă  une logique particuliĂšre que je crois bien connaĂźtre.

Une bonne partie de tout ça, c’est ce qu’on appelle ici «le gros bon sens». «Ce qui devrait ĂȘtre Ă©vident.» Mais, comme nous le disons souvent en ethnographie, ce qui semble Ă©vident pour certains peut paraĂźtre trĂšs bizarre pour d’autres. Dans le fond, le contact social en-ligne a ses propres contextes culturels et il faut apprendre Ă  s’installer en-ligne comme on apprend Ă  emmĂ©nager dans une nouvelle rĂ©gion. Si la plupart des choses que je dis ici semblent trĂšs Ă©videntes, ça n’implique pas qu’elles sont bien connues du «public en gĂ©nĂ©ral».

Donc, quelle est la logique du contact social en-ligne?

Il faut d’abord bien comprendre que les gens qui passent beaucoup de temps en-ligne reçoivent des tonnes de requĂȘtes Ă  chaque jour. MĂȘme un papillon social comme moi finit par ĂȘtre sĂ©lectif. On veut bien ĂȘtre inclusifs mais on veut pas ĂȘtre inondĂ©s, alors on trie les requĂȘtes qui nous parviennent. On veut bien faire confiance, mais on veut pas ĂȘtre dupes, alors on se tient sur nos gardes.

Donc, pour contacter quelqu’un comme moi, «y a la maniĂšre».

Une dimension trĂšs importante, c’est la transparence. Je pense mĂȘme Ă  la «transparence radicale». En se prĂ©sentant aux autres, vaut mieux ĂȘtre transparent. Pas qu’il faut tout dĂ©voiler, bien au contraire. Il faut «contrĂŽler son masque». Il faut «manipuler le voile». Une excellente façon, c’est d’ĂȘtre transparent.

L’idĂ©e de base, derriĂšre ce concept, c’est que l’anonymat absolu est illusoire. Tout ce qu’on fait en-ligne laisse une trace. Si les gens veulent nous retracer, ils ont souvent la possibilitĂ© de le faire. En donnant accĂšs Ă  un profil public, on Ă©vite certaines intrusions.

C’est un peu la mĂȘme idĂ©e derriĂšre la «gĂ©olocation». Dans «notre monde post-industriel», nous sommes souvent faciles Ă  localiser dans l’espace (grĂące, entre autres, Ă  la radio-identification). D’un autre cĂŽtĂ©, les gens veulent parfois faire connaĂźtre aux autres leur situation gĂ©ographique et ce pour de multiples raisons. En donnant aux gens quelques informations sur notre prĂ©sence gĂ©ographique, on tente de contrĂŽler une partie de l’information Ă  notre sujet. La «gĂ©olocation» peut aller de la trĂšs grande prĂ©cision temporelle et gĂ©ographique («je suis au bout du comptoir de CaffĂš in Gamba jusqu’Ă  13h30») jusqu’au plus vague («je serai de retour en Europe pour une pĂ©riode indĂ©terminĂ©e, au cours des six prochains mois»). Il est par ailleurs possible de guider les gens sur une fausse piste, de leur faire croire qu’on est ailleurs que lĂ  oĂč on est rĂ©ellement. Il est Ă©galement possible de donner juste assez de prĂ©cisions pour que les gens n’aient pas d’intĂ©rĂȘt particulier Ă  nous «traquer». C’est un peu une contre-attaque face aux intrusions dans notre vie privĂ©e.

Puisque plusieurs «Internautes» ont adoptĂ© de telles stratĂ©gies contre les intrusions, il est important de respecter ces stratĂ©gies et il peut ĂȘtre utile d’adopter des stratĂ©gies similaires. Ce qui implique qu’il faudrait accepter l’image que veut projeter l’individu et donner Ă  cet individu la possibilitĂ© de se faire une image de nous.

Dans la plupart des contextes sociaux, les gens se dĂ©voilent beaucoup plus facilement Ă  ceux qui se dĂ©voilent eux-mĂȘmes. Dans certains coins du monde (une bonne partie de la blogosphĂšre mais aussi une grande partie de l’Afrique), les gens ont une façon trĂšs sophistiquĂ©e de se montrer trĂšs transparents tout en conservant une grande partie de leur vie trĂšs secrĂšte. Se cacher en public. C’est une forme radicale de la «prĂ©sentation de soi». Aucune hypocrisie dans tout ça. Rien de sournois. Mais une transparence bien contrĂŽlĂ©e. Radicale par son utilitĂ© (et non par son manque de pudeur).

«En-ligne, tout le monde agit comme une cĂ©lĂ©britĂ©.» En fait, tout le monde vit une vie assez publique, sur le ‘Net. Ce qui implique plusieurs choses. Tout d’abord qu’il est presqu’aussi difficile de protĂ©ger sa vie privĂ©e en-ligne que dans une ville africaine typique (oĂč la gestion de la frontiĂšre entre vie publique et vie privĂ©e fait l’objet d’une trĂšs grande sophistication). Ça implique aussi que chaque personne est moins fragile aux assauts de la cĂ©lĂ©britĂ© puisqu’il y a beaucoup plus d’information sur beaucoup plus de personnes. C’est un peu la thĂ©orie du bruit dans la lutte contre les paparazzi et autres prĂ©dateurs. C’est lĂ  oĂč la transparence de plusieurs aide Ă  conserver l’anonymat relatif de chacun.

D’aprĂšs moi, la mĂ©thode la plus efficace de se montrer transparent, c’est de se construire un profil public sur un blogue et/ou sur un rĂ©seau social. Il y a des tas de façons de construire son profil selon nos propres besoins et intĂ©rĂȘts, l’effet reste le mĂȘme. C’est une façon de se «prĂ©senter», au sens fort du terme.

Le rĂŽle du profil est beaucoup plus complexe que ne semblent le croire ces journalistes qui commentent la vie des «Internautes». Oui, ça peut ĂȘtre une «carte de visite», surtout utile dans le rĂ©seautage professionnel. Pour certains, c’est un peu comme une fiche d’agence de rencontre (avec poids et taille). Plusieurs personnes rendent publiques des choses qui semblent compromettantes. Mais c’est surtout une façon de contrĂŽler l’image,

Dans une certaine mesure, «plus on dĂ©voile, plus on cache». En offrant aux gens la possibilitĂ© d’en savoir plus sur nous, on se permet une marge de manƓuvre. D’ailleurs, on peut se crĂ©er un personnage de toutes piĂšces, ce que beaucoup ont fait Ă  une certaine Ă©poque. C’est une technique de dissimulation, d’assombrissement. Ou, en pensant Ă  l’informatique, c’est une mĂ©thode de cryptage et d’«obfuscation».

Mais on peut aussi «ĂȘtre soi-mĂȘme» et s’accepter tel quel. D’un point de vue «philosophie de vie», c’est pas mauvais, Ă  mon sens.

En bĂątissant son profil, on pense Ă  ce qu’on veut dĂ©voiler. Le degrĂ© de prĂ©cision varie Ă©normĂ©ment en fonction de nos façons de procĂ©der et en fonction des contextes. Rien de linĂ©aire dans tout ça. Il y a des choses qu’on dĂ©voilerait volontiers Ă  une Ă©trangĂšre et qu’on n’avouerait pas Ă  des proches. On peut maintenir une certaine personnalitĂ© publique qui est parfois plus rĂ©elle que notre comportement en privĂ©. Et on utilise peut-ĂȘtre plus de tact avec des amis qu’avec des gens qui nous rencontrent par hasard.

Il y a toute la question de la vie privĂ©e, bien sĂ»r. Mais c’est pas tout. D’ailleurs, faut la complexifier, cette idĂ©e de «vie privĂ©e». Beaucoup de ce qu’on peut dire sur soi-mĂȘme peut avoir l’effet d’impliquer d’autres personnes. C’est parfois Ă©vident, parfois trĂšs subtil. La stratĂ©gie de «transparence radicale» dans le contact social en-ligne est parfois difficile Ă  concilier avec notre vie sociale hors-ligne. Mais on ne peut pas se permettre de ne rien dire. Le tout est une question de dosage.

Il y a de multiples façons de se bĂątir un profil public et elles sont gĂ©nĂ©ralement faciles Ă  utiliser. La meilleure mĂ©thode dĂ©pend gĂ©nĂ©ralement du contexte et, outre le temps nĂ©cessaire pour les mettre Ă  jour (individuellement ou de façon centralisĂ©e), il y a peu d’inconvĂ©nients d’avoir de nombreux profils publics sur diffĂ©rents services.

Personnellement, je trouve qu’un blogue est un excellent moyen de conserver un profil public. Ceux qui laissent des commentaires sur des blogues ont un intĂ©rĂȘt tout particulier Ă  se crĂ©er un profil de blogueur, mĂȘme s’ils ne publient pas de billets eux-mĂȘmes. Il y a un sens de la rĂ©ciprocitĂ©, dans le monde du blogue. En fait, il y a toute une nĂ©gociation au sujet des diffĂ©rences entre commentaire et billet. Il est parfois prĂ©fĂ©rable d’Ă©crire son propre billet en rĂ©ponse Ă  celui d’un autre (les liens entre billets sont rĂ©pertoriĂ©s par les “pings” et “trackbacks”). Mais, en laissant un commentaire sur le blogue de quelqu’un d’autre, on fait une promotion indirecte: «modĂ©rĂ©e et tempĂ©rĂ©e» (dans tous les sens de ces termes).

Ma prĂ©fĂ©rence va Ă et Disparate est mon blogue principal. Sans ĂȘtre un vĂ©ritable rĂ©seau social, a quelques Ă©lĂ©ments qui facilitent les contacts entre blogueurs. Par exemple, tout commentaire publiĂ© sur un blogue par un utilisateur de sera automatiquement liĂ© Ă  ce compte, ce qui facilite l’Ă©criture du commentaire (nul besoin de taper les informations) et lie le commentateur Ă  son identitĂ©. Blogger (ou a aussi certains de ces avantages mais puisque plusieurs blogues sur Blogger acceptent les identifiants OpenID et que procure de tels identifiants, j’ai tendance Ă  m’identifier Ă  travers plutĂŽt qu’Ă  travers Google/Blogger.

Hors du monde des blogues, il y a celui des services de rĂ©seaux sociaux, depuis (Ă  l’Ă©poque) Ă  OpenSocial (Ă  l’avenir). Tous ces services offrent Ă  l’utilisateur la possibilitĂ© de crĂ©er un profil (gĂ©nĂ©ral ou spĂ©cialisĂ©) et de spĂ©cifier des liens que nous avons avec d’autres personnes.

Ces temps-ci, un peu tout ce qui est en-ligne a une dimension «sociale» en ce sens qu’il est gĂ©nĂ©ralement possible d’utiliser un peu n’importe quoi pour se lier Ă  quelqu’un d’autre. Dans chaque cas, il y a un «travail de l’image» plus ou moins sophistiquĂ©. Sans qu’on soit obligĂ©s d’entreprendre ce «travail de l’image» de façon trĂšs directe, ceux qui sont actifs en-ligne (y compris de nombreux adolescents) sont passĂ©s maĂźtres dans l’art de jouer avec leurs identitĂ©s.

Il peut aussi ĂȘtre utile de crĂ©er un profil public sur des plates-formes de microblogue, comme et Twitter. Ces plates-formes ont un effet assez intĂ©ressant, au niveau du contact social. Le profil de chaque utilisateur est plutĂŽt squelettique, mais les liens entre utilisateurs ont un certain degrĂ© de sophistication parce qu’il y a une distinction entre lien unidirectionnel et lien bidirectionnel. En fait, c’est relativement difficile Ă  dĂ©crire hors-contexte alors je crois que je vais laisser tomber cette section pour l’instant. Un bon prĂ©alable pour comprendre la base du microbloguage, c’est ce court vidĂ©o, aussi disponible avec sous-titres français.

Tout ça pour parler de profil public!

En commençant ce billet, je croyais Ă©laborer plusieurs autres aspects. Mais je crois quand mĂȘme que la base est lĂ  et je vais probablement Ă©crire d’autres billets sur la mĂȘme question, dans le futur.

Quand mĂȘme quelques bribes, histoire de conserver ce billet «en chantier».

Un point important, d’aprĂšs moi, c’est qu’il est gĂ©nĂ©ralement prĂ©fĂ©rable de laisser aux autres le soin de se lier Ă  nous, sauf quand il y a un lien qui peut ĂȘtre Ă©tabli. C’est un peu l’idĂ©e derriĂšre mon billet prĂ©cĂ©dent. Oh, bien sĂ»r, on peut aller au-devant des gens dans un contexte spĂ©cifique. Si nous sommes au mĂȘme Ă©vĂ©nement, on peut aller se prĂ©senter «sans autre». DĂšs qu’il y a communautĂ© de pratique (ou communautĂ© d’expĂ©rience), on peut en profiter pour faire connaissance. S’agit simplement de ne pas s’accaparer l’attention de qui que ce soit et d’accepter la façon qu’a l’autre de manifester ses opinions.

Donc, en contexte (mĂȘme en-ligne), on peut aller au-devant des gens.

Mais, hors-contexte, c’est une idĂ©e assez saugrenue que d’aller se prĂ©senter chez les gens sans y avoir Ă©tĂ© conviĂ©s.

Pour moi, c’est un peu une question de courtoisie. Mais il y a aussi une question de la comprĂ©hension du contexte. MĂȘme si nous rĂ©agissons tous un peu de la mĂȘme façon aux appels non-solicitĂ©s, plusieurs ont de la difficultĂ© Ă  comprendre le protocole.

Et le protocole est pas si diffĂ©rent de la vie hors-ligne. D’ailleurs, une technique trĂšs utile dans les contextes hors-ligne et qui a son importance en-ligne, c’est l’utilisation d’intermĂ©diaires. Peut-ĂȘtre parce que je pense au Mali, j’ai tendance Ă  penser au rĂŽle du griot et au jeu trĂšs complexe de l’indirection, dans le contact social. Le rĂ©seau professionnel LinkedIn fait appel Ă  une version trĂšs fruste de ce principe d’indirection, sans Ă©toffer le rĂŽle de l’intermĂ©diaire. Pourtant, c’est souvent en construisant la mĂ©diation sociale qu’on comprend vraiment comment fonctionnent les rapports sociaux.

Toujours est-il qu’il y a une marche Ă  suivre, quand on veut contacter les gens en-ligne. Ce protocole est beaucoup plus fluide que ne peuvent l’ĂȘtre les codes sociaux les mieux connus dans les sociĂ©tĂ©s industriels. C’est peut-ĂȘtre ce qui trompe les gens peu expĂ©rimentĂ©s, qui croient que «sur Internet, on peut tout faire».

D’oĂč l’idĂ©e d’aider les gens Ă  comprendre le contact social en-ligne.

Ce billet a Ă©tĂ© en partie motivĂ© par une requĂȘte qui m’a Ă©tĂ© envoyĂ©e par courriel. Cette personne tentait de se lier d’amitiĂ© avec moi mais sa requĂȘte Ă©tait dĂ©contextualisĂ©e et trĂšs vague. Je lui ai donc Ă©crit une rĂ©ponse qui contenait certains Ă©lĂ©ments de ce que j’ai voulu Ă©crire ici.

Voici un extrait de ma réponse:

Si t’as toi-mĂȘme un blogue, c’est une excellente façon de se prĂ©senter. Ou un compte sur un des multiples rĂ©seaux sociaux. AprĂšs, tu peux laisser le lien sur ton profil quand tu contactes quelqu’un et laisser aux autres le soin de se lier Ă  toi, si tu les intĂ©resses. C’est trĂšs facile et trĂšs efficace. Les messages non-sollicitĂ©s, directement Ă  l’adresse courriel de quelqu’un, ça Ă©veille des suspicions. Surtout quand le titre est trĂšs gĂ©nĂ©rique ou que le contenu du message est pas suffisamment spĂ©cifique. Pas de ta faute, mais c’est le contexte.

En fait, la meilleure mĂ©thode, c’est de passer par des contacts prĂ©Ă©tablis. Si on a des amis communs, le tour est jouĂ©. Sinon, la deuxiĂšme meilleure mĂ©thode, c’est de laisser un commentaire vraiment trĂšs pertinent sur le blogue de quelqu’un que tu veux connaĂźtre. C’est alors cette personne qui te contactera. Mais si le commentaire n’est pas assez pertinent, cette mĂȘme personne peut croire que c’est un truc indĂ©sirable et effacer ton commentaire, voire t’inclure dans une liste noire.

J’utilise pas Yahoo! Messenger, non. Et je suis pas assez souvent sur d’autres plateformes de messagerie pour accepter de converser avec des gens, comme ça. Je sais que c’est une technique utilisĂ©e par certaines personnes sĂ©rieuses, mais c’est surtout un moyen utilisĂ© par des gens malveillants.

Si vous avez besoin d’aide, vous savez comment me contacter! 😉

How Do I Facebook?

In response to David Giesberg.

How Do You Facebook? | david giesberg dot com

How have I used Facebook so far?

  • Reconnected with old friends.
    • Bringing some to Facebook
    • Noticing some mutual friends.
  • Made some new contacts.
    • Through mutual acquaintances and foafs.
    • Through random circumstances.
  • Thought about social networks from an ethnographic perspective.
    • Discussed social networks in educational context.
    • Blogged about online forms of social networking.
  • “Communicated”
    • Sent messages to contacts in a relatively unintrusive way (less “pushy” than regular email).
    • Used “wall posts” to have short, public conversations about diverse items.
  • Micro-/nanoblogged, social-bookmarked:
    • Shared content (links, videos…) with contacts.
    • Found and discussed shared items.
    • Used my “status update” to keep contacts updated on recent developments on my life (something I rarely do in my blogposts).
  • Managed something of a public persona.
    • Maintained a semi-public profile.
    • Gained some social capital.
  • Found an alternative to Linkup/Upcoming/MeetUp/GCal?
    • Kept track of several events.
    • Organized a few events.
  • Had some aimless fun:
    • Teased people through their walls.
    • Answered a few quizzes.
    • Played a few games.
    • Discovered bands through contacts who “became fans” of them (I don’t use iLike).

Austin FOAFs

It surely is a small world. Especially between similar regions of the same continent.

My friend Jenny Cool tells me about her friend Jordan Weeks, a fellow blogging Austinite. And a fellow expat. Interestingly enough, he’s also a fellow beer aficionado and knows fellow Austin brewclub member Charles.

Where it gets even funnier is that Jordan is apparently a fellow ze frank fan.

So I feel the need to reach out to the fella.

Problem is, his blog doesn’t seem to allow for comments and I have no direct way to reach him. Oh, sure, I could ask Jenny or Charles for his email. But writing a blog entry just to ping someone is much more fun. 🙂

RĂ©seaux d’anciens

En prĂ©paration pour l’anniversaire de mon mariage avec Catherine (dĂ©jĂ  sept belles annĂ©es!) et fĂȘte de dĂ©part dĂ©finitif, j’effectue quelques recherches pour retracer de vieux amis. J’avais des vieux numĂ©ros de tĂ©lĂ©phone qui ne sont plus valides depuis longtemps, des adresses de courriel qui ne sont plus en service, des informations assez vagues sur les allĂ©es et venues de l’un ou de l’autre…

Peu de grandes rĂ©ussites dans mes tentatives. Quoique…

  • Les adresses des «copies conformes» peuvent se rĂ©vĂȘler utiles pour retracer plusieurs personnes Ă  la fois.
  • nĂ©cessite une localisation relativement gĂ©nĂ©rale mais m’a permis de retrouver au moins deux personnes.
  • Les liens d’un ami Ă  l’autre peuvent s’avĂ©rer de bonnes pistes si quelques-uns d’entre eux ont gardĂ© des contacts.
  • Quelques personnes sont vraiment trĂšs stables.
  • Il y a plusieurs groupes pour les anciens de diverses Ă©coles.

Et c’est ce dernier point qui me pousse Ă  bloguer.

Par exemple, en cherchant des informations sur mon Ă©cole primaire, je tombe sur Il s’agit de ce genre de site qui nĂ©cessite un abonnement payant pour ĂȘtre vraiment utile (Ă  la mais c’est amusant d’y voir quelques noms connus, surtout des anciens du «Mont», la cĂ©lĂšbre Ă©cole secondaire Mont-de-La Salle. D’ailleurs, cette mĂȘme Ă©cole a deux groupes Facebook pour les anciens. Au premier juillet 2007, le premier groupe d’anciens du Mont a 127 membres et le deuxiĂšme en a 35 mais avec une belle photo du Mont. En fait, il y a aussi un groupe pour les immigrants qui Ă©taient au Mont, avec 41 membres.

Ce type de dĂ©marche, ça met beaucoup de choses en perspective. Je ne suis encore jamais allĂ© Ă  une rĂ©union d’anciens Ă©tudiants (j’Ă©tais gĂ©nĂ©ralement hors du QuĂ©bec quand elles se sont produites). Mais l’effet me semble assez similaire.

À la prĂ©sente Ă©tape de ma quĂȘte, il vaut mieux pour moi attendre les rĂ©sultats de quelques tentatives de prise de contact. Peut-ĂȘtre que rien ne va fonctionner, mais c’est amusant d’essayer.

Quoi qu’il en soit, je crois que notre cĂ©lĂ©bration sera trĂšs agrĂ©able dans l’ensemble. Ce qui sera peut-ĂȘtre le plus amusant, c’est que des gens de diffĂ©rents rĂ©seaux vont se croiser Ă  cette occasion et certains vont peut-ĂȘtre entretenir des rapports plus Ă©troits dans le futur.

Friendship and Schools

The recent controversy over Facebook connects with an interesting issue. Here’s a comment from the Buzz Out Loud podcast.
Show Notes 307 – CNET Buzz Out Loud Lounge Forums

Bill sticks up for FacebookIf you look closer into the anti-News Feeds/Mini-Feed groups on
Facebook, 90 percent of the people that are protesting this “invasion of
privacy” are the people with hundreds of friends that they likely just
added to boost their “e-cred.” Most level-headed people that add only
their real-life friends myself included are finding the new additions
extremely useful. I love that I can go to Facebook on my cell phone and
find out everything that has happened since I last checked the site
without wandering aimlessly all over the place. Its a lot better than
wasting a 15-cent text message to be told that I was poked.

Maybe people need to learn the meaning of the word “friend” before they
complain about their friends being updated on what theyre doing.

Love the show, keep up the good work,


Well, my observation is that, in the U.S., and especially in schools, colleges, and universities (Facebook’s target market), the term “friend” is applied to almost anyone with whom one is on friendly terms. People in a hierarchical relationship (say, professor and student) typically don’t call each other friend even when their relationship is sound. “Friend” isn’t necessarily the opposite of “ennemy” or “competitor” and friends do compete in many situations. There’s a whole lot more to say about this and anthropologists have been surprisingly silent about the importance of friendship in U.S. society.

Another thing to think about is that a special notion of friendship is at the basis of what O’Reilly calls “Web 2.0” and was already present in (now defunct) as well as today’s and other